Originally Published in May 1932 Edition of The Review of Religions
The original description for this article in the 1932 Edition read: “A globe-trotter who visited Qadian in November, last year and stayed here for about 7 weeks. His article entitled “My Visit to Qadian” in our May issue will be read with great benefit by those westerners who are interested in Islam.”
First of all, I want to relate how it came about that I visited Qadian. From 1924 to 1929, I lived in the Eastern part of China. My best Chinese friend there was a Muslim. I dwelt also for a period of three months in a mosque at Peking. In 1929-30 I returned to Europe by the somewhat unusual way through Central-Asia. I was able, due to my knowledge of the Chinese language, to travel all the long way entirely alone. During this journey, I had many opportunities to come into direct contact with Muslims. (Was it ordained to prepare me for my later visit to Qadian?) I crossed the Himalaya mountains by way of the Karakorum Pass, to return via India to Germany. Up to this time, though I had many conversations about Islam, I had never heard a word about Qadian. It was only at Leh (Ladakh), that one of the officials there (Khan Bahadar Ghulam Muhammad with whom I had several friendly talks), drew my attention to Qadian. I learned that Qadian was not very far from Lahore and that it could be reached easily by railway. This enabled me to include a short visit to Qadian in my itinerary.
It was on November 29,1930, about noon, that I arrived at Qadian. My original intention was to stay only for some hours, at the most for one day, and then to proceed further to Bombay. But it happened otherwise. In spite of my not very imposing outward appearance, which too, had suffered much on the long, strenuous journey I had behind me, I was received at once in the most cordial way and given the best lodging available at the time. It was not long that I was friendly invited to stay at least for a week. It was hard to withstand the kind invitation. So I accepted it and stayed on, beyond my plans. And I stayed not only for one week but being asked repeatedly to prolong my sojourn, for about seven weeks in all. In this way I was able to see also the big Annual Gathering of the members of the Ahmadiyya Movement, who had come to Qadian from many parts of the country. This Gathering marks the highest point in the otherwise very busy life of Qadian. My impressions of this Gathering were the very best. It was on January 15, 1931, that I could depart.
Mr. Abdullah R. Scott has given his impressions of Qadian in No. 8 (August 1931) of The Review of Religions. I can only say that I agree in every respect with him with this difference that he has written his impressions as a Muslim, and I am giving them as a Christian.
Certainly there are many Christians who would like to obtain a deeper knowledge about Islam. To achieve this there are two ways; either by reading books about Islam or by studying Islam at first hand by living for sometime in Islamic countries. Amongst books on Islam there are many which contain misstatements and are not good on the whole. One of the activities of the Ahmadis is to clear up such misconceptions about Islam by publishing well and carefully written books. He who cannot afford to travel to Islamic countries should at least try to read some of their more recent publications. The second way up-to-now was only open to those who could master one of the main Islamic languages. But for many it was not possible to learn one of these languages. This difficulty has now been removed. When such seekers after truth will go to Qadian, they will find a large number of Muslims who speak excellent English. They will also find a number of missionaries returned from Europe or America, who know the conditions in Christian countries from their own experience. Every visitor to Qadian will find at least one person, but most probably several with whom he will be best able to exchange his views.
It is a spiritual atmosphere which one feels at Qadian, an atmosphere quite different from the material world outside. Here, the religious thoughts dominate. It is a centre which gives one the spiritual strength to fight the struggle of daily life in the material world. It is a centre of peace, a centre for the recreation, not of the body, but of the mind. This is partly due to the physical conditions of the place. There is hardly a motor-car there. The railway is distant. There are to be found modern things but they do not predominate. Qadian is a centre of people of many different countries; this means also many different views and different branches of knowledge. He who only endeavours to seek and dig out, will find very much to his satisfaction. It is not too much to say that he will never come to the end and will continue to find new treasures.
At Qadian, I had conversation of all kinds and I read many different books (amongst these ‘The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam’, the well-known book by the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, which came into my hands for the first time, and has made the deepest impression upon me). I was thus able to increase my knowledge of Islam. And l could correct many erroneous views about the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, which had originated in my mind from misrepresentation in European books. I discerned the simplicity and clarity of Islam more and more. How many good and beautiful things Islam contains! I only wish that all this may become widely known in Europe and America, so that much of it may be accepted by and in Christian countries. Islamic teaching is so clear that even the most simple man can easily understand it. Christianity with its many different teachings and dogmas could very well take a lesson from Islam. Both Islam and Chistianity could give much to each other and thus grow and develop and appreciate each other in a better way. And why should one always look to the dark side of a religion other than his own? No, we should look to the bright points and accept them as well. By doing so, we would help in perfecting the belief that there is only one God, Who is Almighty and All-Merciful. And I believe that the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement received his revelations from the Almighty God. And I believe that the Almighty God in sending these revelations wanted besides other aims in view, to give a new impulse to the untiring efforts towards an understanding and rapprochement between different religions.
It was very pleasant for me to note the very sympathetic attitude that is observed in Qadian towards the followers of other religions. His Holiness Khalifatul Masih, the present Head of the Ahmadiyya Community, who, in spite of his busy time, received me several times, declared at one occasion to me, that it was under his influence that the apathetic attitude which the Ahmadis had taken in former years had become softened and even changed. l believe that it is this attitude which will contribute very much towards the killing of old religious controversies and enmities and will thus open the way to mutual understanding. This hope gives me so much joy. It is not out of place here to remark that Iwent to Qadian and lived there as a Christian and never denied this. And in spite of that, I always received the best treatment. On one occasion I overheard (involuntarily) what my companion said about me to an inquirer: “He (that is me) is a pakka (real, genuine) Christian.”
I would advise any one who may afford to pay a visit to Qadian, that he should make it a point to stay there for several days because it is after a stay of some days, that the real spirit of Qadian will begin to reveal itself to him. He who goes there only for the sake of sight-seeing will hardly find it interesting. Qadian is not Delhi or Agra in respect of splendid buildings. But it is a place whose spiritual treasures never exhaust. Each day more at Qadian gives more to the new-comer. There will be only very few, who will leave Qadian taking nothing with them. And that which a visitor takes back with him cannot be measured in coins. No, it is something much more precious and really invaluable.
And to revert to my own story; on my long journey across Asia I had visited many a place. Amongst those there are such which I would like to see again, and there are others which would not attract me again. Qadian is one of the places which l would like to see again, and amongst these it stands in first rank. This also shows how much Qadian has given me and is capable of giving everybody who visits it. I take this opportunity, before I close, to express my heartiest thanks to all those who contributed to make my visit to Qadian such a pleasant remembrance!
We are working to procure accounts by people who stayed in Qadian for the latest Jalsa Salana held in December 2014 and hope to present these in one of our upcoming editions—Ed.