In February 2018, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who served The Review of Religions for over 20 years, including 10 as its chief editor, passed away. We explore his life and legacy.
In February 5, 2018, former Chief Editor of The Review of Religions, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, passed away at the age of 78.
Having worked at The Review of Religions for over 20 years in various capacities, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad worked on the magazine from its offices in Rabwah, Pakistan, through the sixties and seventies, serving as chief editor for nearly ten years before the publication moved to its current home in London.
Born in 1939, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a lifelong devotee of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and a great-grandson of the Promised Messiahas, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Having moved to Pakistan in his childhood after the partition of India and Pakistan, he graduated from Government College Lahore with a Master’s degree in political science. He then sat the CSS, or public service exam, and passed the exam handily, even though it was known to be a difficult examination to pass. Having succeeded at this worldly endeavor, however, he passed up the opportunity to look for careers in government service and promptly devoted his life to work for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Indeed, that had always been his intention, having sat the exam only to show that he had not chosen to commit his life in service to the Community because he had not been successful in a worldly career. So, in May 1962, he officially joined the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community as a life devotee.
The Review of Religions was his first posting, where he assisted then-chief editor Syed Mir Daud Ahmad in editing and producing the magazine, and he worked in this capacity until 1973, when, at the death of Syed Mir Daud Ahmad, he became the sole chief editor until 1983. In the ensuing three decades, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad served in a number of administrative capacities. For many years he served as Nazir Taleem, Director of Education for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s educational services in Pakistan. He also served as Nazir Diwan, Director of Human Resources for Sadr Anjuman. His final post was as Nazir-e-Aala, or the Chief Director of Sadr Anjuman (central administrative body of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community located in Pakistan.)
In addition to these official posts, he also had the honour of serving as private secretary to the third worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmadrh. Moreover, he served on countless committees and served as Naib Afsar [Deputy Event Organiser] Jalsa Salana. (Jalsa Salana is the annual convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, held in every country. In Pakistan, however, the convention has not been held since 1983, due to the state-sponsored persecution of Ahmadi Muslims. In its final few years, the event drew over 100,000 people, all of whom were fed and accommodated.)
In addition to his various work commitments, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad also had the honour of being imprisoned for a few days in 1989, under article 298C of the Pakistan Penal Code, under which Ahmadi Muslims performing any acts of worship within Islam (such as reciting the five daily prayers or saying the call to prayer) can be charged with the crime of ‘posing as a Muslim’.
As might be expected of one who had devoted himself at a young age to the service of the Community, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s work ethic was also remarkable. He would frequently leave for work in the morning and not come back until late in the evening. Indeed, there was a period of time in the 1974 when he was working so much with His Holiness Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh, that he would not come home at all for days at a time. In another example of his efficiency and work ethic, he was once given a 150-200 page book manuscript to proofread. The next morning, he had completed corrections for the entire book and had returned the manuscript.
Another outstanding attribute was his devotion to Khilafat. A convert living in Malaysia, Shahid Abbas, stated: ‘I performed the Bai’at [oath of initiation] in 2005 and went to visit the headquarters. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Sahib [term of respect used in the subcontinent] was going to his office and the mualim [local preacher] Daniyal Sahib, who was with me, said, “He is a very close relative of the Khalifah of the time. You should request prayers of him.” I approached him and told him that I had accepted Ahmadiyyat after being Shia and requested that he pray for me. He embraced me and then firmly gripped my hand and said with a very passionate voice, “Should I not inform you of a person from whom I also request prayers?” I enquired who that would be. He replied, “The Khalifah of the time. You should write to him for prayers”…The love and passion I witnessed in his eyes for the Khalifah of the time was extremely moving and those few moments have become etched in my memory.’
In addition to the above qualities, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was also notable in his care for the poor and for his loyalty and assistance to his friends and for the care he took of his family. As His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba, the fifth and current worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, said in his Friday Sermon of February 9, 2018, in which he remembered Mirza Ghulam Ahmad: ‘May Allah the Almighty elevate his status. He has departed to go to a place where each one of us will go at the appointed time. However, fortunate are those who spend their lives striving to attain the pleasure of God Almighty. May Allah the Almighty elevate his status and enable his children to continue his virtuous deeds. Also all the Waqfeen [life devotees of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community] and office bearers should strive to fulfil their Waqf [pledge to devote one’s life to the service of the Community] with sincerity, just as he did and also to continue their services. May Allah grant everyone the opportunity to fulfil their pledges. May Allah continue to grant the Community pious and righteous workers who serve with sincerity and passion in the future as well.’