Hazrat Sir Chaudhry Zafrulla Khanra in Tanganyika’s (now Tanzania) self-help projects | The Sphere, 12 January 1963
Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra was not in the habit of slipping in English words here and there when conversing in Urdu. He made sure of that himself and advised others to do the same. I recall, a young man adopted the practice of mixing English and Urdu during a conversation with him. Chaudhry Sahibra counselled him most amicably. He said, “Look! I know both Urdu and English. Speak in whichever language you please, but do not intermingle the two.” I noticed that his advice did have the desired effect temporarily, however, the deep-rooted habit soon took over again. Undeterred, Chaudhry Sahibra persevered with this Jihad of reformation.
A memorable dinner
Once, an Ahmadi friend who resided in the suburbs of London, invited Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra to his place for dinner. Chaudhry Sahibra usually did not like late night dinners as it affected his routine of sleeping and getting up. However, on his sincere insistence, Chaudhry Sahibra agreed. During those days, the Jamaat was campaigning for inviting one or two tabligh contacts to such dinners to fulfil the obligation of tabligh. Accordingly, the host had invited a young English friend. He was seated next to Chaudhry Sahibra and throughout that time, the two were engaged in conversation centred around Islam Ahmadiyyat. Following the dua, when it was time to go after dinner, the host requested to have a group photograph with Chaudhry Sahibra.
Chaudhry Sahibra was not fond of being photographed. Whenever someone wished to have a photograph with him, he usually suggested, “You may photograph me as I am, seated or standing; I am not for formalities.”
That night it was getting quite late and we had to get back to London. Therefore, he wanted to leave as soon as possible. He agreed to the photograph on the insistence of the host but was in a hurry. Everyone gathered around Chaudhry Sahibra. Everyone except an English guest was wearing a cap.
After the photograph, the young English gentleman realised that he was the only one without the cap and wanted to have another photograph taken, this time wearing a cap. Chaudhry Sahibra could not refuse out of respect for the guest. Then the search for a suitable cap started. He tried one, looked in the mirror, asked the host if it was good. You can well imagine how the time would have appeared to drag on for Chaudhry Sahibra. Finally, when the young man got his cap sorted out and was ready for the photograph, Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra advised him in one comprehensive sentence. Very affectionately he said, “Look young man! Don’t worry about your cap. It is what is under the cap that matters!” Everyone was amused by that spontaneous advice and the guest also took it well.
Hazrat Chaudhry Muhammad Zafrulla Khan Sahibra was blessed with excellent language skills by Allah. He delivered powerful speeches in large chambers of the world, where he demonstrated his God-given intelligence, insight and reasoning. He had very good command over the English language. His style of speech-making was very effective and had an exceptional impact on the audience.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh had directed him during his stay in Holland that he should visit London monthly and devote some time for the tarbiyat of the Jamaat there. Accordingly, he used to visit London, take talim and tarbiyat classes and deliver one Friday sermon, usually in English. The members, especially the young Khuddam, benefitted greatly.
I remember that on one occasion when he stood up for the sermon, he said, “Usually, I deliver Friday sermon in English, but today it will be in Urdu because I will not be able to express a special message that I want to impress on the minds of the members in English.” That was just an example of his humility and modesty otherwise he was blessed by Allah with a good mastery of English.
The other reason was probably that vocabulary in English is not as vast as it is in Arabic or Urdu. Chaudhry Sahibra used to state in a lighter vein that English was not a language of spirituality and one cannot always find suitable words for many spiritual insights and subtleties.
Sittings with Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra used to be very beneficial and enjoyable. He would talk on scholarly points and insightful matters and, when appropriate, narrate light-hearted jokes and humorous anecdotes.
Once, he narrated that during his tour of East Africa, he happened to be in Nairobi. There he was invited to attend and address the meeting of the local Punjabi Literary Association. He added that when going there, he thought that though they were Punjabi, they would not be free of the imprint of English. Sure enough, every speaker there spoke in English.
When, at the end, his turn came, he said, “I started my speech in Punjabi and thereupon the eyes of the audience lit up. When Chaudhry Sahibracompleted his speech in typical Punjabi, a Sikh blurted out, “Aj te swad aa gya” [I really enjoyed it today].
A humorous anecdote
An interesting anecdote narrated by Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra comes to my mind. When Chaudhry Sahibra went to Tashkent, the Muslims there invited him to a dinner. Among the guests was the Mufti of Tashkent who was quite huge.
When the dinner started, some of the participants realised that the Mufti was feasting at a galloping speed. Impressed by his swiftness, one of the diners asked him rather facetiously, as if seeking his ruling on the issue, “Mufti Sahib! At what point do you say that (so and so) is fully satiated,” or “How can you tell that he is really satiated?”
Mufti Sahib was a very experienced and seasoned person; he understood fully where he was coming from. He replied very confidently, “People may have their own experiences in this regard. However, in light of my prolonged experience, you can only pronounce someone ‘satiated’ when either the food before him is finished or he himself is finished.” Chaudhry Sahib used to narrate this anecdote in such an interesting manner that each time it was amusing in a new way.
One salient feature of Hazrat Chaudhry Sahib’s life was the regularity of his habits. He did everything in a methodical and precise manner.
His style of putting his signature was also unique; he did it slowly and nicely; observing that one could guess that his life followed the same pattern.
Coming to London from Holland over the weekend, he used to give me a brief telephone call from his office in the International Court of Justice saying, “Rashed Sahib, I am about to set out, you should get going too.” Immediately, or a few minutes after the phone call, I would set out for the airport.
As I reached the airport, Chaudhry Sahibra would come out of the airport with his compact brief case. Sometimes, he would be waiting for me before my arrival. His favourite route to or from the airport was via Richmond Park, a beautiful park in the natural environment not too far from the Fazl Mosque. Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra liked going through the park because of the fresh air and scene of thousands of deer and stags roaming freely in the park. “A leisurely walk to complete the journey”, he would say.
Informal, free and easy manner of conversation
Informal sittings with Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra were wonderful experiences. He used to converse with loving kindness. He talked about religious and spiritual matters, intellectual and scholarly topics and narrated his personal anecdotes that were both very enlightening and light-hearted.
When narrating incidents, he gave full details with remarkable clarity – date, day, location, atmosphere and the weather. How he managed to remember all such details boggles my mind even to this day. Some narratives he repeated in different meetings but with remarkable consistency of details with no contradictions.
Another good quality of his was that he was never offended by any question and happily gave a brief or detailed reply as the situation demanded.
One day, while we were both seated at the dining table, a strange question sprang up in my mind out of the blue. I asked him, “Chaudhry Sahib! Allah has blessed you abundantly. He has granted you knowledge of many sciences. I would like to find out what it is that you do not know about.” He smiled and said, “You have asked a very good question. Nobody has ever asked me such question before.”
After a brief pause, he said:
“You are right. By His Grace, Allah has indeed blessed this humble one abundantly. Every bit of my being is always in obeisance to Him with gratitude. However, there are a few things that I do not know about. One is driving, and the other is typing.” He immediately added, “It is my Lord’s benevolence towards me that the lack of these skills has never caused any difficulty or hindrance in my work in my entire life.”
He elaborated further:
“I have spent my life in travels which are ongoing. Whenever I have had to go anywhere, my Lord provided me not only with a car, but also a driver as well. I have never had a problem because of not knowing how to drive.” He added, “Similarly, I have been occupied with writing throughout my life and that has been my most important engagement. It was my Lord’s Grace that whenever I had to get a letter or a composition typed, I had the services of a typist and very often, full office facilities were available and, by the Grace of Allah, all my needs were fulfilled without any problem. And such kind treatment of Allah the Exalted for me is continuing.”
I realised that while uttering these words, he was overcome with emotions time and again, and tears welled up in his eyes as he was overcome by feelings of gratitude.