Maulana Muhammad Ali
in the eyes of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
The Maulana selected by Hazrat Mirza to carry forward his mission
From The Light and Islamic Review
(Issues for July-August 1998 and November-December 1998)
Compiled by the Editor, Zahid Aziz
We show in this article that the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, entrusted the task of carrying forward the mission and the work of his Movement to Maulana Muhammad Ali, and that he pronounced the Maulana to be the fit and capable man of performing this task.
1. Hazrat Mirza’s first assessments of the Maulana
Shortly after the young Muhammad Ali joined the Ahmadiyya Movement, Hazrat Mirza wrote and published the following opinion about him in an announcement:
“Among the most sincere friends in our community is Maulvi Muhammad Ali, M.A., who, besides his other qualifications, has also just now passed his law examination. For the past few months, at much loss to his own work, he has been staying with me in Qadian to perform a service to religion by translating some of my writings into English. …
“During this period in which he has been with me, I have been observing him, both openly and discreetly, to assess his moral character, observance of religion and goodness of behaviour. So, thanks be to God, that I have found him to be a most excellent man as regards religion and good behaviour in all ways. He is unassuming, modest, of a righteous nature, and pious. He is to be envied for many of his qualities. … It is obvious that such promising young men possessing these qualities, who are able and honourable, cannot be found by searching.”
(Announcement dated 9 August 1899, Majmu‘a Ishtiharat, vol. 3, p. 137, number 206)
Two months later, in another announcement in which Hazrat Mirza mentioned several of the prominent men who had joined the Movement, he writes:
“I am very happy that another good young man, having found the grace of God, has joined our community, that is Maulvi Muhammad Ali, M.A., Pleader. I have very good expectations of him. For a long time he has borne a worldly loss in order to stay in Qadian to serve the religion, and is learning the deep knowledge of the Holy Quran from Hazrat Maulvi Nur-ud-Din.
“I am sure that my foresight will not go wrong in this, that this young man will make progress in the path of God, and I am sure that by the grace of God he will prove to be so firm in righteousness and love of religion that he will set an example worthy to be followed by his peers. O God, let it be so! Amen, again Amen.“
(Announcement dated 4 October 1899, Majmu‘a Ishtiharat, vol. 3, p. 157–158, number 208)
In this announcement, Hazrat Mirza has added here a footnote as follows:
“All those books of mine which are published after translation into English are translated by Maulvi Muhammad Ali, M.A.”
2. Expresses deepest love for the Maulana
In a letter to the Maulana in this early period, Hazrat Mirza wrote:
“I hold an extremely favourable opinion about you. This is why I have a special love for you. If your nature had not been pure in the sight of God, I could not possibly have thought so well of you, never. I love you fervently from the bottom of my heart, and often pray for you in the five daily prayers. I hope that at some future time these prayers will show their effect. … I am busy praying, with heart-felt passion, for your welfare in this world and the hereafter, and your body and soul, and I am awaiting the effects and results of the prayer.”
(Facsimile of letter published in Mujahid-i Kabir, page 50)
3. Hazrat Mirza wishes to divide Movement into two!
In another early letter to the Maulana, Hazrat Mirza writes:
“It has long been my intention to divide my community into two groups. One group consists of those who are partly for this world and partly for religion, and are not able to withstand great trials, nor can they render important services to religion. The other group consists of those who enter through this door with full sincerity and faithfulness and in reality sell themselves in this path. I wish that God would include you in the latter group.”
(Letter dated 8 May 1899; facsimile in Mujahid-i Kabir, page 32)
In these words Hazrat Mirza has presaged the division of his following into two groups — indeed he has called it his “intention” — one tainted by worldly motives and the other purely devoted to religion, and indicated that Maulana Muhammad Ali will be in the latter group.
4. Appoints Maulana editor of Review of Religions
When the Maulana decided to devote his life to the cause of the religion, Islam and the Ahmadiyya Movement, and for that purpose came to settle in Qadian in 1899, Hazrat Mirza announced his proposal to start a magazine in English. He wrote:
“It was always a matter of sadness and anxiety for me that all those truths, the spiritual knowledge, the sound arguments in support of the religion of Islam, and the teachings giving satisfaction to the human soul, which have been disclosed to me and are still being made known to me, have not yet benefited the English-educated people of this country or the seekers-after-truth of Europe. This pain was so intense that it was no longer bearable. But God Almighty intends that, before I pass away from this temporary abode, all my aims should be fulfilled so that my last journey is not one of disappointment.
“So to fulfil this object, which is the real purpose of my life, there is a suggestion that … a magazine in English be published for the fulfillment of the objectives mentioned above.”
(15 January 1901, Majmu‘a Ishtiharat, vol. 3, pages 393–394, number 234)
This magazine was started under the title The Review of Religions and Hazrat Mirza appointed Maulana Muhammad Ali as its editor. Most of the articles in the magazine were from the pen of the Maulana, many of them being translations of writings of the Promised Messiah. In a very short time this magazine acquired renown, not only in India but abroad as well.
It should be noted that what Hazrat Mirza has called above as “the real purpose of my life”, he appointed the Maulana for its fulfillment.
The following incident was also recorded and published in Hazrat Mirza’s lifetime:
“The Review of Religions was being mentioned. A man praised it and said that its articles were of high quality. Hazrat Mirza said:
‘Its editor Maulvi Muhammad Ali is an able and learned man. He has the M.A. degree, and along with it a religious bent of mind. He always passed with top marks and his name had gone forward for E.A.C. But leaving all this he has settled here. This is why God Almighty has blessed his writing.’ “
(7 November 1906, Ruhani Khaza’in No. 2, vol. 9, page 90)
5. Maulana to correct errors in publications
There were two Ahmadiyya community newspapers published in Urdu, Al-Hakam and Al-Badr (later called just Badr), which reported what Hazrat Mirza said during his daily conversations in gatherings of friends and visitors. An incident is recorded as follows concerning the publication of his speeches and spoken statements in these newspapers:
“Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad called in the editors of Al-Hakam and Al-Badr and emphasized to them that they must be very careful in writing down his speeches, in case something got misreported by mistake, which would then be used by the critics in their support. … So (added Hazrat Mirza) ‘it is proper that before publishing such articles in your newspapers you should show them to Maulvi Muhammad Ali. You will benefit by this, and also people will be saved from error.’ “
(2 November 1902, Ruhani Khaza’in No. 2, vol. 4, page 159)
This shows that the Promised Messiah had the fullest confidence in Maulana Muhammad Ali as correctly understanding his views and teachings, so much so that he could check if some statement or belief was being wrongly ascribed to the Promised Messiah.
6. Wants people like Muhammad Ali to be produced!
The Promised Messiah highly valued the services of Maulana Muhammad Ali and regarded them as unique, so much so that once he said:
“I wish that such people could be produced who would do the kind of work that Maulvi Muhammad Ali is doing. There is no certainty of life, and he is all alone. One cannot see anyone who can assist him or take his place.”
(Ruhani Khaza’in No. 2, vol. 8, page 270)
7. Appoints him secretary of the Anjuman’s executive
In 1906, by means of his will, Hazrat Mirza created an executive body, called the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya, to be the supreme ruling body in the Ahmadiyya Movement after him. He described this body as his “successor” and wrote that: “after me, the decision of this Anjuman in every matter will be final”. He appointed the Maulana as the Secretary of the Anjuman, its chief administrative officer.
According to the rules of the Anjuman, as prescribed by Hazrat Mirza, it would have full control over all the finances of the Movement. He wrote in his booklet Al-Wasiyya (The Will):
“The Anjuman, which is to hold these funds, shall not be entitled to spend the monies for any purpose except the objects of the Ahmadiyya Movement, and among these objects the propagation of Islam shall have the highest priority.”
This shows the sovereign power that Hazrat Mirza gave to the body whose secretary he appointed Maulana Muhammad Ali.
8. Gives pen to the Maulana
The Promised Messiah also regarded the Maulana as the inheritor of his knowledge, who would spread in the world the spiritual truths taught by Hazrat Mirza. A dream was related by Hazrat Mirza in which Maulvi Abdul Karim, one of his top-most followers who had died sometime earlier, gave him a pen which had a modern device attached to it that was shaped like a tube, making the pen work very easily without effort. Hazrat Mirza then relates that the following took place in the dream:
“I said: ‘I did not send for this pen’. Maulvi [Abdul Karim] sahib replied: ‘Maulvi Muhammad Ali must have sent for it’. I said I would give it to him.”
This pen came from heaven, as it was brought by a great disciple of Hazrat Mirza who had died, and Hazrat Mirza passed it on to Maulana Muhammad Ali. This signifies that Hazrat Mirza passed on to the Maulana the religious knowledge that he received from God and handed to him the task of broadcasting it to the world. Hazrat Mirza’s saying “I did not send for this pen” signifies that he himself would not be wielding this pen personally in his lifetime. And so it was that Maulana Muhammad Ali wielded this pen to produce legendary writings such as his English and Urdu commentaries of the Holy Quran. The feature of the pen mentioned in the dream, that it could write very easily without effort, was also clearly fulfilled in the prolific nature of the writings authored by the Maulana.
9. Directs the Maulana to write a book about Islam
It was reported in the Ahmadiyya newspaper Badr during the life of Hazrat Mirza that on 13 February 1907 Hazrat Mirza called in Maulvi Muhammad Ali and said to him:
“I want to fulfil the duty of the propagation of Islam to the Western people by having an English book written, and this is your work. The reason why Islam today is not spreading in those countries, and if someone does become a Muslim he is very weak, is that those people do not know the truth about Islam, nor has it been presented to them. It is their right that they should be shown the true Islam which God has made manifest to me. …All those arguments that God has taught me to prove Islam to be true should be collected together in one place. If a comprehensive book along these lines is compiled it is hoped that people would benefit from it greatly.”
(Ruhani Khaza’in No. 2, vol. 9, pages 191–192)
The Maulana eventually performed the great service of writing such a book in the form of The Religion of Islam, first published in 1936. In the preface of this book he mentions that Hazrat Mirza had asked him to write such a book:
“…the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, had charged me with the writing of an English book which should contain all that was necessary for a Muslim, or a non-Muslim, to know about the religion of Islam, and to give a true picture of the religion which was largely misrepresented.”
This book was received with acclaim by many famous Islamic writers and reviewers; it prompted the following opening words in his review by Marmaduke Pickthall:
“Probably no man living has done longer or more valuable service for the cause of Islamic revival than Maulana Muhammad Ali of Lahore.”
(Islamic Culture, Hyderabad, India, October 1936, page 659)
Further on in this review, Pickthall wrote:
“Such a book is greatly needed at the present day when in many Muslim countries we see persons eager for the reformation and revival of Islam, making mistakes through lack of just this knowledge.”
This is independent confirmation that the Maulana’s book corrected the generally prevailing misconceptions about Islam, which was a chief objective laid down by Hazrat Mirza when he directed the Maulana to write such a book.
It can be seen that Hazrat Mirza handed to the Maulana one of the most important duties of his mission — the presentation of Islam to the West in English in one comprehensive book — telling him “this is your work,” and the Maulana was able to fulfil this duty to the highest standard.
10. English translation of the Holy Quran
In 1891, some five or six years before Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and Maulana Muhammad Ali had first met, Hazrat Mirza had published his book Izala Auham, in which he had expressed his heart-felt desire to prepare and send an English translation of the Quran to Western countries. He wrote:
“I wish to prepare a commentary of the Quran which should be sent to them [the Western nations] after it has been rendered into the English language. I cannot refrain from stating clearly that this is my work, and that definitely no one else can do it as I can, or as he can who is an offshoot of mine and thus is included in me.”
(Izala Auham, page 773)
Here he declares that the person who does this work would be “an offshoot of mine and thus included in me”. It was Maulana Muhammad Ali who did this work, starting it in 1909, one year after the death of Hazrat Mirza, and publishing it eight years later. Not only was it hailed by many independent reviewers at that time as a marvellous, unequalled work, but even up to today, after the appearance of other translations by Muslims, this translation and commentary is still considered as surpassing all others in scholarship and quality.
Another respect in which the Maulana’s English work excels all others is that it has spawned translations in other languages so that we have this same production available (or to be shortly available) in Dutch, French, Spanish, Russian, German and Polish. This distinction is most unlikely to fall to any other translation of the Holy Quran.
Therefore the Maulana’s translation and commentary has quite clearly fulfilled Hazrat Mirza’s bold prediction in the above quotation that it would be entirely impossible for anyone else to do this work as he could or one who was his branch. It follows that Maulana Muhammad Ali clearly fulfils the description “my branch and a part of me”. The Maulana’s life and work was thus a continuation of the life and work of Hazrat Mirza, and this is what constitutes true successorship. Real and true successorship is not based on physical descent from one’s spiritual guide, or on merely making fanciful claims, but on carrying forward his mission and aims and proving yourself as a worthy successor by virtue of hard work to attain the objectives set by him.
11. Sign of the plague
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad had prophesied the appearance of the terrible epidemic of the plague in his time and country. He also announced that, as a sign of his truth, he had been informed through Divine revelation of the protection that would be granted to his true followers from this deadly disease. One such revelation was as follows: I will safeguard everyone who is in this house except those who are rebellious and arrogant. So Hazrat Mirza declared that, while there may be plague all around in the Punjab, and some cases even in his home village of Qadian, yet those living inside his house would be safe from it. In those days of March and April 1902, an incident took place which is recounted as follows by Hazrat Mirza himself:
“Sign number 103. Once, during the days when the plague was raging and it was even in Qadian, Maulvi Muhammad Ali, M.A., got a high temperature and he thought that it was the plague. So he made his last will like a dying man … and he was living within my house, with regard to which there is the revelation of God: I will safeguard everyone who is in this house. Then I went to see him and finding him worried and anxious I said to him: If you have got the plague then I am a liar and my claim to receive Divine revelation is wrong. Having said this, I felt his pulse and saw this wonder of Divine power that his body became so cold that there was no sign or trace of high temperature.”
(Haqiqat-ul-Wahy, page 253)
This shows not only the perfect faith that Hazrat Mirza had in his revelation being from God, but also his complete conviction that Maulana Muhammad Ali was a true follower of his, without any rebelliousness or arrogance in him. The revelation contained an exception which excluded, from the promise of protection, those who may be rebellious or arrogant. But Hazrat Mirza did not say: If you have got the plague then you must be rebellious and arrogant, for such people are excluded from the promise of being safeguarded! No, Hazrat Mirza was absolutely certain that Maulana Muhammad Ali was a true and sincere follower of his, and therefore if he did have the plague then the revelation itself was false and Hazrat Mirza was not from God.
11.1 Hazrat Mirza’s brother-in-law catches plague
The conclusion above is further reinforced by another incident recorded only a little later in the same book by Hazrat Mirza. The two people referred to in this incident, i.e. Mir Nasir Nawab who was father-in-law of Hazrat Mirza, and Mir Muhammad Ishaq, the son of Mir Nasir Nawab, later on played a prominent role in creating the heretical Qadiani sect, based on entirely un-Islamic beliefs, thereby splitting the Ahmadiyya Movement into two. These two men are among the leading founders of the Qadianis. Hazrat Mirza writes:
“Sign number 143: … It so happened that I saw frightening dreams many times clearly telling of some tribulation to befall regarding the family of my father-in-law Mir Nasir Nawab.”
Then Hazrat Mirza describes one such dream in which he saw that one of his most bitter enemies, by the name of Dr. Abdul Hakim Khan, had been invited into his house by Mir Nasir Nawab’s wife. Interpreting this dream, Hazrat Mirza writes:
“If an enemy enters into your house, it means that some disaster or death is to come to that house. As Abdul Hakim Khan is these days my bitter, mortal enemy and is expecting my destruction day and night, this is why God showed him in the dream as wanting to enter my house, and Ishaq’s mother, that is Mir Nasir Nawab’s wife, is inviting him. The interpretation of inviting is that the inviter, due only to certain weaknesses of faith which are known to God, invites disaster into his house. … To sum up, when I received so many revelations which made it absolutely clear to me that some disaster was to befall the family of Mir Nasir Nawab I engaged myself in prayer…”
He then describes the disaster which struck and how it was averted by his special prayers:
“The following morning Mir sahib’s son Ishaq got a high temperature and severe agitation, and tumours appeared at the top of both thighs. It was certain that it was plague because in some parts of this district this disease was spreading. Then I realized that this was the fulfillment of the dreams mentioned above, and I became desperately worried. I told the family of Mir Nasir Nawab that although I was praying, they must repent greatly and seek forgiveness of God because I had seen in a dream that they had invited an enemy into the house and this pointed to some failing on their part.
“Although I know that death is, from eternity, a law of nature, but it occurred to me that if someone died of plague in my house then the biggest storm would arise in my falsification. Then if I were to put forward even a thousand signs of my truth, it would have no effect against that criticism because I have written scores of times, and published it and told it to thousands of people, that all the residents of my house will be safe from death by plague. I cannot describe the state of my heart at that time. So I immediately had recourse to prayer, and after the prayer I saw the wonder of the power of God that in two or three hours his temperature came down in an extraordinary manner, no sign of the tumours remained, and he sat up, and not only that, but the boy started moving about, playing and running, as if he had never been ill.”
(Haqiqat-ul-Wahy, pages 327–329)
Hazrat Mirza has plainly written here that his father-in-law’s family suffered from weakness of faith, and as a result they let a calamity enter into the house. He told them to repent because his dream indicated some failing on their part, which had led to the striking of the plague, and he himself engaged in special prayers so that he may not be falsified in the world because of someone dying of plague in his house.
We notice the complete and utter contrast between what happened in this case and the incident of Maulana Muhammad Ali described by Hazrat Mirza a few pages earlier. In the Maulana’s case, Hazrat Mirza did not say to the Maulana: if you have got plague, it means that there must be some weakness of faith in you, and so you must repent of your sins while I will say special prayers to prevent disgrace befalling my name! Entirely the contrary, Hazrat Mirza was absolutely certain with no doubt whatsoever that it could not be plague because the Maulana was a true and sincere follower of his.
11.2 Further significance of letting enemy into the house
The dream in which Hazrat Mirza saw his father-in-law’s family letting a bitter enemy like Dr. Abdul Hakim Khan into the house has another significance as well. Dr. Abdul Hakim Khan had made various false allegations about certain teachings and beliefs of Hazrat Mirza, one of which is referred to elsewhere by Hazrat Mirza in the same book from which we have been quoting above, as follows:
“In his booklet, Al-Masih al-Dajjal, Dr. Abdul Hakim Khan levels the allegation against me of having written in a book that a man who does not believe in me, even though he may not have heard of my name, and even though he may live in a country to which my call has not reached, he shall nonetheless be a kafir and enter hell. This is a complete fabrication of the aforementioned doctor. I have not written this in any book or announcement. He ought to produce any book of mine in which this is written.”
(Haqiqat-ul-Wahy, page 178)
Exactly the same claim was made by the Qadiani leadership in regard to Hazrat Mirza’s beliefs, as their head Mirza Mahmud Ahmad wrote:
“all those so-called Muslims who have not entered into his bai‘at formally, wherever they may be, are Kafirs and outside the pale of Islam, even though they may not have heard the name of the Promised Messiah.”
(The Truth about the Split, by Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, page 55)
By introducing this doctrine into the Ahmadiyya Movement, the Qadiani leadership, which included Mir Nasir Nawab and his son Ishaq among its prominent men at the time of the Split, let the mortal enemy Abdul Hakim Khan enter into the Movement. This was how the Promised Messiah’s dream was fulfilled: due to their weakness of faith these people fell prey to the temptation of setting up a family dynasty, and for this purpose they did not hesitate to bring in un-Islamic beliefs into the Movement.
12. The Maulana to be with Hazrat Mirza in after-life
In the life to come, also, the position of Maulana Muhammad Ali is alongside Hazrat Mirza, as he has described in a vision related by him as follows:
“Saw Maulvi Muhammad Ali in a dream. You also were righteous and sincere. Come and sit by me.”
(Tazkira, page 518; June 1904)
This vision refers to what is promised in verse 4:69 of the Holy Quran to those who obey Allah and the Messenger: that they shall be in the company of the righteous of the highest grade (i.e. the saints and the prophets) in the next life.