The life of Hadhrat Maulana Abdur Raheem Dard(ra) is proof enough that the blessings of God are infinite, and if we were to try and count them, the inks of the ocean would run dry. We are fortunate and blessed that we are born in the era of that Messiah promised for the latter days by the scriptures of various religions, an era as Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru), Khalifatul Masih IV, Fourth Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, once described as being destined since the dawn of time itself. In this age the world would witness wonder upon wonder and the heavens would be pressed into service of the one who was to not only rekindle but also revive the kingdom of the Holy Prophet(saw) to its full glory by revitalising its true message and reviving its soul. That glorious ambassador of the Seal of the Prophets was none other than the Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as), the Promised Messiah, and with his advent a new golden age of Islam was heralded.
We read in history about the great Companions of early Islam whose services and dedication shine like stars – they are a testament to the beauty and glory of Islam and the Holy Prophet(saw). So too with the advent of the Promised Messiah(as), God’s promise of connecting the era of the awwaleen (people at the inception of Islam – the time of the Holy Prophet(saw)) with the aakhireen (people of the latter days at the time of the Promised Messiah(as)) has been fulfilled. When we study the lives of the Companions of the Promised Messiah(as) we see in them a clear reflection of the piety, nobility, simplicity, and love of God as was found in the case of the Companions of the Holy Prophet(saw).
One such shining star in the galaxy of stars was the illustrious Companion of the Promised Messiah(as), Hadhrat Maulana Abdur Raheem Dard(ra). A study of his life, character and service reveals his immense contribution, a contribution that spanned nearly four decades and took him across numerous countries in two continents with the single objective of serving God and his Khalifa and putting into action every gift that he had been bestowed by God, for the sake of pleasing Him. He carried himself with such simplicity, such devotion and with such passion for his faith that he blazed a trail for future generations. Let us dip into the life and soul of this luminescent and blessed personality and a mere dip it will be for as is the case of all those who are touched by the spark of the divine it is almost impossible to capture the vastness of their contribution.
Maulana Dard(ra) was born on 19 June 1894 in Ludhiana to Hadhrat Master Qader Bakhsh(ra) and Basheerun Sahiba(ra) of Ludhiana, both of whom in 1892 had the honour of taking Bai’at (initiation) at the hands of the Promised Messiah(as). For this noble deed, Maulana Dard(ra)’s father, Hadhrat Master Qader Bakhsh(ra), was punished and beaten by his own father. Sometimes the beatings were so severe that he fell unconscious, yet his faith was unshakeable and resolute.
To him such actions only proved the truth of the Promised Messiah(as).1 Maulana Dard(ra)’s father’s spirit of steadfastness, patience and forbearance was inculcated into his son who went on to honour his father sacrifice in the best possible manner, by serving a cause for which he had suffered.
Maulana Dard(ra) was named Raheem Bakhsh at birth. This was later changed to ‘Abdur Raheem Dard’. This is due to an incident that took place many years later in 1920 whilst on tour with Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II(ra) in Dalhousie. At Dalhousie they received the good news that Hadhrat Chaudhry Fateh Muhammad Sial(ra) (the first Ahmadi missionary in England) had just acquired land for the construction of a mosque. A Jalsa of thanks was held at which Hudhur (Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II(ra)) asked people to prepare and recite poetry. Hudhur was so impressed with Maulana Dard(ra)’s poetry that he said that he has turned out to be a hidden gem.
Later that evening he asked Maulana Dard(ra), what is your ‘Takhallus’ i.e. poetic name. Maulana Dard(ra) said he had none; Hudhur then bestowed upon him the poetic name of ‘Dard’ meaning ‘pain’ or ‘hurt’ in line with the sentiments of his poetry2.
Later in Qadian Maulana Dard(ra)’s father was asked by Hudhur if the Promised Messiah(as) had named Maulana Dard(ra). Master Qader Bakhsh said no, so Hudhur then changed the name from Raheem Bakhsh to Abdur Raheem Dard3.
Maulana Dard(ra) was blessed to have the opportunity to meet the Promised Messiah(as) at the very young age of about five when he went with his father to the Promised Messiah(as)’s house4 – an encounter that he held close to his heart throughout his life.
Maulana Dard(ra) undertook his primary education in Ludhiana, Lahore and Patiala. From an early age he displayed an aptitude for both education and sports – aspects that won him admiration from his teachers. He was described by his school Principal as being:
“…the best in the playground and the best in the classroom.”
In childhood, he often fell ill as a result of which his uncle (mother’s brother), Hadhrat Mian Abdullah Sanauri(ra)5, once advised Maulana Dard(ra)’s father that Maulana Dard(ra) should leave his studies because he was very weak and always falling ill. However, Hadhrat Master Qadir Bakhsh(ra) was a man of unyielding faith and responded that he was fully assured of his son’s future success as he had requested many prayers for him from the Promised Messiah(as). As a result of those prayers, not only did Maulana Dard(ra) achieve full health and complete his primary education but also he went on to excel in his studies – achieving a BA in Lahore in 1914 and then an MA followed by a BT. He also completed the ‘Civil Service’ exam in 1919 (although he never entered government service).
Even during his studies his utter respect for and obedience to Khalifat was evident. He was studying for his Masters in English when Hudhur invited more people to study Arabic. Maulana Dard(ra) immediately left his English Masters and took up a Masters in Arabic and successfully completed it6.
Marriage and Family Life
Maulana Dard(ra) was married twice; once in December 1915 to Sara Begum, daughter of Mian Muhammad Ismail, and then to Maryam Begum daughter of Hadhrat Mian Abdullah Sanauri(ra) in December 1917. On both occasions, he was blessed to have Hudhur perform the Nikah (Islamic marriage pronouncement ceremony). It is relevant to point out that this second marriage occurred due to the wish of the Promised Messiah(as) expressed when Maulana Dard(ra) was young and which later was brought to the attention of Maulana Dard(ra)’s father.
Maulana Dard(ra) also did his best to uphold his duties to his family – he had 14 children, yet despite his extremely busy schedule that left almost no time for his family, Maulana Dard(ra) knew how to make his presence felt even when he was physically absent, often thousands of miles away. Whilst in London, he used to write to each of his 14 children regularly to keep up their spirits. This shows how conscious he was of his role as a father, husband as well as his role as a servant of the community.
Waqfe Zindagi in Qadian
After completing his studies in 1919 at the age of 25 in the holy citadel of Qadian, he devoted his entire life to God and became Waqif-e-Zindagi (i.e. a life devotee) and thus started a journey of one of the most illustrious services rendered in the history of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.
Just two years later – at the age of just 26 – he held the post of ‘Post Officer’ (1920 – 1922), which may not sound like an important or senior post, but it certainly was, for it was during his period in this office that it was renamed as ‘Private Secretary’. So he had the distinction of being the very first person to hold the title of Private Secretary to a Khalifa. His wisdom and humility in this senior position can be gauged from the following incident narrated by a prominent member of the Ahmadiyya community, Saqib Zervi, who said:
‘Once I remember visiting Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II for some advice. As I was coming downstairs Dard Sahib [sahib is used in Urdu to refer to someone with respect] was standing there and asked me what I was advised. I had worked out in my mind the gist of my understanding and so explained that to Dard Sahib. He replied “but these are your words aren’t they? Tell me what Hadhrat Sahib [i.e. Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II] said. I repeated myself and he laughed gently and said, “I know you are very intelligent and I will listen to your understanding in detail, but first tell me what Hudhur advised. I then told Hudhur’s words and he chuckled and then explained in detail the actual matter.’ (Seerat Hadhrat Maulana Abdur Raheem Dard(ra) by Hamid Maqsood Atif)
Saqib Zervi adds that upon hearing Maulana Dard(ra)’s explanation Saqib Zervi realised that he was thinking the complete opposite and had it not been for Maulana Dard(ra)’s guidance the results would have been completely wrong.
Furthermore, he relates that later he heard Maulana Dard(ra) talking about the success of that work to Hudhur and all he could hear from Maulana Dard(ra) were words of praise for Saqib Zervi; Maulana Dard(ra) did not even mention his own name. This was the selfless nature and humility of Maulana Dard(ra) that he would never let his own personal gain get in the way.
1924 – To London
Hudhur always valued and held in high regard Maulana Dard(ra)’s knowledge and wise counsel and hard work as a result of which Maulana Dard(ra) had the opportunity to accompany Hudhur on many visits – one of these historic trips was for the Wembley Conference on world religions in 1924 where Hudhur selected 12 special Companions to accompany him to London. One of them was Maulana Dard(ra).
The historic journey to London took them through many places including Damascus, Palestine and Egypt. They also visited Italy and France and finally reached England on 22 August 1924. The Conference on 23rd, September 1924 – at which Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan read out Hudhur’s speech ‘Ahmadiyyat, the True Islam’ – was a resounding success.
It was during this visit, on the 19th of October, 1924 when Hudhur laid the foundation stone of the Fazl Mosque7, the very first Mosque in London (also commonly known as the London Mosque) and appointed Maulana Dard(ra) as Missionary In-charge of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community UK8. In this day and age where every modern facility is available this does not seem to be a major issue but it was a huge sacrifice to live thousands of miles away from home in a foreign land with meagre resources and without the modern communications we take for granted. Yet he bore this challenge with pride and he devoted his time to preaching, not only in the UK, but across Europe as well. He was phenomenally successful.
During his time, Maulana Dard(ra) oversaw the construction of the very first mosque in London that was opened in October 19269, and he had the honour of being appointed as its first Imam. The mosque has since played a critical role in the history of the Ahmadiyya community and indeed the wider world.
The opening of the mosque received extensive coverage in almost all of the national newspaper, and also regional newspapers, from the Bristol Evening News to the Manchester Guardian.
As well as conveying the message of Islam to the elite of society, Maulana Dard(ra) never neglected his responsibilities to the wider society and always sought ways to reach them. Regarding his time in London he recalled that:
‘The Promised Messiah said to keep links with neighbours. In London it was very difficult at the start due to the nature of British society but one day some children came who were collecting stamps and through this more children came and so developed a good relationship with the whole neighbourhood.’ (Seerat Hadhrat Maulana Abdur Raheem Dard(ra) by Hamid Maqsood Atif)
His approach was replete with obedience to Khilafat as explained by Hudhur himself. Hudhur said that there is much wisdom in this incident as he had advised Maulana Dard(ra) and all missionaries to befriend neighbours otherwise there always remains suspicion in society. Maulana Dard(ra) had tried hard but was in the difficult position where there was no response from his neighbours. However, God always answered his prayers and through these children he achieved what he could not otherwise achieve. Children were the key and by winning the hearts of children he reached their homes and through that reached out to society. Hudhur added that perhaps the children thought that he was a magician of Bengal who could supply stamps, but it opened the door to others. What a wonderful testimony to Maulana Dard(ra)’s obedience and attention to detail of Hudhur’s instructions. Sometimes people look for big ideas and big solutions and fail to see the beauty and value of living in accordance with the guidelines of the Khalifa – Maulana Dard(ra) knew that what may appear to be minor instructions, are in fact real gems, real pearls of wisdom that can conquer hearts of people, and open doors to success in this world and the next – as they surely did for Maulana Dard(ra).
Maulana Dard(ra) was a scholar of immense repute and whilst in London Hudhur appointed him as Editor of this publication, The Review of Religions, and moved the publication of the magazine from Qadian to London. Maulana Dard(ra) also established the Muslim Times (weekly) – the first Muslim newspaper in London.
He was a prolific writer and wrote dozens of articles and books in English and Urdu on topics such as Islamic Khilafat, Book of Common Prayer, The History of Spain, Freedom & Christianity and Islam and Spiritualism.
His knowledge and intellect can furthermore be seen by the fact that Maulana Dard(ra) also was on the Board of Translators that translated the Tafseer (commentary) of the Qur’an into English, in which he worked with the great scholars, namely Hadhrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad(ra), Hadhrat Maulawi Sher Ali(ra), and Hadhrat Malik Ghulam Farid(ra) (who towards the end carried out most of the work).
Of all his works perhaps his greatest was the first biography in English of the Promised Messiah(as), entitled Life of Ahmad – an excellent and detailed account, spanning 800 pages, of the Promised Messiah(as)’s life up to 1901. First published in 1948, it is a testament to Maulana Dard(ra) that no other biography has been written in English since that matches this iconic piece of work. He gave a copy of this book to the President of the Rotary Club in London and asked him to check it for mistakes; he could not find a single mistake! Indeed, despite the fact that English was not his first language if one reads his many articles one cannot but be impressed at his majestic command of English, his fluency and power of expression. Without doubt he was a true follower of the Sultan ul Qalam (i.e. King of the Pen, an epithet granted to the Promised Messiah(as) by God) of this era. He was also a natural poet and wrote many poems.
Representing Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II(ra) and Official Roles
Maulana Dard(ra) had the full confidence of Hudhur and on countless occasions he was called upon to represent Hudhur and was involved in numerous projects for the advancement of the Community. After the creation of Pakistan, for example, Maulana Dard(ra) was the Amir (head) of the delegation that was sent by Hudhur (i.e. Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II) to Karachi to meet the Prime Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin of Pakistan. Maulana Dard(ra)’s astuteness and diplomacy impressed the Prime Minister and the meeting with the Prime Minister met with great success and assured him of the Community’s support for Pakistan. Some other notable roles played by Maulana Dard(ra) include when he represented Hudhur in a delegation to meet Lord Irwin (Viceroy of India – i.e. the top representative of the British Empire in India)10; he played a founding role in the formation of the proposals for an Ahmadi University; he was appointed by Hudhur as a committee member of Madrassah Ahmadiyya – a college for top students and was involved in developing it into a more advanced institution for Arabic studies11. On the occasion of the Khilafat Jubilee committee he oversaw the celebrations of 25 years of Khilafat in 1939. Maulana Dard(ra) was the secretary of this committee. In 1947, at the time of the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan when Muslims faced severe cruelty from extremist Hindus, Maulana Dard(ra) was routinely tasked with speaking to the government of Pakistan and government of India to secure their cooperation in providing basic provisions for Ahmadis who were surrounded by hostile forces in Qadian, and to organise transport via Pakistan government to bring those people to Pakistan. After Pakistan was created Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II established Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya Pakistan (The Executive Committee) and the immense respect and significance of Maulana Dard(ra) can be seen from the fact that he was appointed as Nazir Amoor-e-‘Aama, Nazir Amoor-e-Kharija and Nazir Ta‘leem-o-Tarbiyyat (i.e. Director of General Affairs, Director of Foreign Affairs, and Director of Education and Moral Training). Such was his standing! Maulana Dard(ra) also had the honour of attending the first meeting of Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya and was moreover secretary of the Furqan Force established to defend Kashmir.
These examples provide just a tiny flavour of the wide range of activities, posts and responsibilities with which Maulana Dard(ra) was entrusted and of the many occasions he represented Hudhur and the Community. It seems that for every great task Maulana Dard(ra) was there and was successful – such were his range of talents.
All India Kashmir Committee
One of the key political roles played by Maulana Dard(ra) was in the All India Kashmir Committee. The origins of this committee lay in Hudhur’s concern for the plight of the Muslims of Kashmir and by 1931 the situation had deteriorated dramatically and Muslims were facing severe persecution at the hands of a tyrant Maharaja.
Hudhur was moved to bring together leading Muslims of India to help alleviate the suffering of Muslims in Kashmir and the All India Kashmir Committee was formed. At the recommendation of Dr Sir Muhammad Iqbal, Hudhur was elected the first president of the committee and Hudhur appointed Dard sahib its first secretary.
When Hudhur was granted a meeting with the Viceroy of India at Shimla, Maulana Dard(ra) was with him. In Shimla he met with political leaders and ministers and they were so impressed with his knowledge and political acumen that this opened doors to further discussions and resulted in great progress in helping the Kashmiri Muslims.
A great attribute of Maulana Dard(ra) was that despite the fact the he was regularly meeting and mixing with the highest authorities he never let such matters get to him and always remained humble and clear of the purpose of his mission. Once, Hudhur sent him to Sri Nagar on behalf of the Kashmir Committee to independently assess the situation. The Ahrar (an organisation that was opposed to Muslims) found out about this visit and they alerted the Maharaja of Kashmir to this. The Maharaja sent a full delegation to meet Maulana Dard(ra) at the border and they insisted that he stayed at the palace as their official guest. However, Maulana Dard(ra) refused and never moved an inch from his mission so that his impartiality could not be called into question. Despite the strenuous attempts by the Maharaja’s representative, he remained firm and stayed in a houseboat instead. Such was his sense of duty and purpose of mind. It was such acts that won him acclaim and respect12.
Second Term as Imam
In 1933, Maulana Dard(ra) was again appointed to England for a second term as Imam of The London Mosque. As he left for England someone made a derogatory remark about him, perhaps out of jealousy or mischief. When Hudhur heard about this he was so furious at the disrespect shown to this great servant of the community that he ordered that Maulana Dard(ra) be honoured again during his stopover in Bombay. At this occasion Sheikh Yaqub Ali Irfani (Editor of Al-Hakm) said:
‘Most respected Maulana Dard sahib. The great and honourable cause for which you are travelling overseas today is a cause of envy for every Muslim. Nowadays there are many reasons why people travel but it is this reason of preaching Islam which is the best and you have been given this honour.’
Under the specific direction of Hudhur, Maulana Dard(ra) was decorated with garlands by Seth Ismail Adam (Sadr Bombay Jama’at) – one from Hudhur and then four others on behalf of Ahmadis who dwell in the east, west, north and south.
What a clear sign of the stature of Maulana Dard(ra) this was! Here is a shining example of the high esteem in which he was held that not only did he receive one garland from Hudhur but four others that reflected his impact and dedication to the community the world over.
Jinnah and Creation of Pakistan
Such impact can be seen from his second period as Imam of The London Mosque that Maulana Dard(ra) was to play perhaps one of his greatest roles in the service of the community and indeed all Muslims of India. This was a historic role that resulted in the creation of a new country, Pakistan. Had Maulana Dard(ra) not succeeded in his task then Pakistan may never have come into being. So significant was this event.
History records that Muhammad Ali Jinnah had quit the Indian political scene and out of the frustration left Indian politics. He retreated to London after attending the second Round Table Conference in 1932, where he established his legal practice. But his destiny lay elsewhere.
Hudhur instructed Maulana Dard(ra) to get in touch with Jinnah – who was a very resilient man – and try to persuade him to return to India and take up, and fight for, the cause of the Muslims.
Maulana Dard(ra) was courageous and very wise. He understood how to win people over. Sometimes even where cold truths had to be told they were expressed with love and genuine affection – it was this that allowed him to be so successful. In the case of Jinnah he said to him that if Jinnah did not return to Pakistan he would be remembered as a traitor. Jinnah asked Maulana Dard(ra) what he meant by referring to him as a traitor and Maulana Dard(ra) explained that there were two kinds of traitors – those who are traitors to their country and those who do not hearken to the call of their people when the people are in need of them. This hard-hitting dose of reality disturbed Jinnah very much and within three hours of talks, Jinnah was persuaded to change his mind and accede to Maulana Dard(ra)’s request.
Maulana Dard(ra)’s role was publicly acknowledged by Jinnah in a public statement at a reception at The London Mosque in which he said:
‘The eloquent persuasion of the Imam left me no way of escape.’ (Sunday Times, 9 April, 1933)
Indeed it is ironic that the very country of Pakistan that owes its existence to him as much as anyone else now shamelessly denies the role of Maulana Dard(ra) and the Ahmadiyya community in its history! May God open the eyes and hearts of all Pakistan to the truth!
Not only did Hudhur appoint Maulana Dard(ra) with political and official duties but he also trusted him implicitly in personal matters as well for he was tasked by Hudhur to oversee the studies and care of several members of Hudhur’s family including Hadhrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad(rh), later to become the Third Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya community, who at that time came to London for studies. Hudhur entrusted Maulana Dard(ra) to be personally responsible for the management of the finances of Hadhrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad(rh). The closeness and affection Hudhur’s family had with Maulana Dard(ra) can be seen from the fact that when the nikah of Hadhat Mirza Nasir Ahmad(rh) took place, his mother sent some of the celebratory dates to Maulana Dard(ra) in London so that he could also partake in the celebrations.
Public Relations and Preaching
Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan(ra) said that Maulana Dard(ra) had encyclopaedic knowledge of British history and people used to say he used to talk as if he were one of them – such was his ability to gain friendship and trust and through such friendship he carried out tremendous preaching. So respected was he in the press that the archive of The Times for his period in London is studded with his name. He also travelled across Europe and at each and every step remained faithful to preaching Islam.
In 1928, he had already visited Damascus, Constantinople and Baghdad and during his second term he visited Spain, Albania, Holland, Belgium and Germany. All the time he was engaged in preaching to people he met whilst on travel. In one incident he met a Christian missionary on a ship and discussed the Islamic beliefs about Jesus(as) and his survival, by presenting proofs from the Promised Messiah’s book Aeena-e-Kamalat-e-Islam. Maulana Dard(ra) said to the missionary that if he truly sought guidance then he should pray by prostrating before God so that God would have mercy on him and guide him to the right path. He conveyed this so convincingly that not only were the eyes of the missionary opened to the truth but there and then the missionary prostrated on the floor of the ship and prayed for guidance!
What a wonderful example of the gift he possessed in conveying the message of Islam so eloquently that it moved hearts. This in fact was an embodiment of the true and only method of preaching in Islam expounded by the Holy Prophet(saw); that is, to win over people’s hearts with reason and love, rather than with force and compulsion.
On his travels in Spain he met the Deputy Bishop of Gibraltar, visited Malaga, Cordoba where he met the Governor of Cordoba as well as the Bishop of Cordoba, the Alhambra at Grenada where he met librarians, university professors and spoke at the Rotary club in Cordoba, and used every opportunity to preach Islam – such was his passion, such was his desire and such was his sense of duty.
Maulana Dard(ra)’s skills at public relations were truly unique so much so that upon Maulana Dard(ra)’s demise Hadhrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad(ra) remarked that he could not see anyone in the foreseeable future in the community as successful in the post of Nazir Amoor-e-Kharija (Director of Foreign Affairs) as Maulana Dard(ra).
On this point Hadhrat Mirza Aziz Ahmad(ra) said that once he went for a morning walk with Maulana Dard(ra) in London and people would greet him by saying good morning, Maulana Dard(ra) would respond quite casually, almost as if he was not that enthusiastic. When asked who these people were he would say they were ministers of various departments! Hadhrat Mirza Aziz Ahmad(ra) said he was surprised that Maulana Dard(ra) had such stature in London! Such were his contacts and reach yet such too were his simplicity and humility, with which he won over the elite of London and its political and diplomatic community.
His ability and skills can be further seen from remarks from Muhammad Muneer, the Chief Justice of Pakistan and Maulana Dard(ra)’s class-fellow. When someone made a disparaging remark about Maulana Dard(ra), Chief Justice Muneer was enraged and said to the clerk that,
“Had my friend not discarded worldly wealth and instead accepted willingly the poor life style of a Muslim missionary, he would have been the Chief Justice of Pakistan instead of me!”
and he reprimanded the clerk never to make such remarks again. This tribute to Maulana Dard(ra) is further supported by the following narrative. Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan(ra) came to Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II(ra), and said: Once I met Lord Wellington who described Maulana Dard(ra) as an extremely simple man and was very surprised at his appearance. The Lord said that his meeting with Maulana Dard(ra) on Kashmir was to last 15 minutes, but actually lasted 45 minutes. The viceroy commented to Sir Zafrullah Khan(ra) that:
“I am a Lord yet I did not have knowledge of the topmost secrets that Maulana Dard(ra) knew.”
Apart from acknowledging the profound knowledge of Maulana Dard(ra) what is also noteworthy here is that it refers to the simple style of Maulana Dard(ra)’s clothes. People were often surprised that such a plain-looking person could possess such a sharp mind. Hadhrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad(ra) described his clothes as almost resembling those of a dervish, but they belied his immense intellect.
Once Maulana Dard(ra) went to meet Jinnah in his usual slightly frayed clothes. On arrival the secretary said that Jinnah was expecting someone important and instructed Maulana Dard(ra) to wait in the waiting room. Two hours later Jinnah came out and enquired in a frustrated manner where his guest was. The secretary said that he had not arrived but only this person (meaning Maulana Dard(ra)) had arrived. Jinnah exclaimed that this was the very person he was waiting for! Maulana Dard(ra)’s simplicity in dress and humbleness in attitude show that he did not consider himself anyone special, despite his greatness12.
After having served the community for more than 40 years, Maulana Dard(ra) had earned many distinctions. This glorious service came to an abrupt end on 7 December 1955 when Maulana Dard(ra) suffered a heart attack whilst working in his office, and within a few hours, at 2.30pm, he breathed his last. Surely to God we belong and to Him shall we return. He was aged 61. The news shocked all around him.
Abdul Aziz Bhambri recalls that when he informed Hudhur that Maulana Dard(ra) had passed away Hudhur sat down, put his head in his hands and said:
‘Today I have lost my team.’
Such was the stature and high regard Hudhur had for this servant of God. Thousands attended his funeral each trying to have the blessed opportunity to carry the coffin. Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II(ra) also carried the coffin and led funeral prayers, and after burial at Bahishti Maqbara (the heavenly graveyard), Hadhrat Maulana Ghulam Rasool Rajeki(ra) led silent prayer.
Many glowing tributes flowed in from the many who acknowledged Maulana Dard(ra)’s service, including Hadhrat Maulana Jalaluddin Shams(ra) – who said Maulana Dard(ra) was one of the shining jewels and a true faithful servant of the Ahmadiyya community and had shown how to choose faith over worldly objects. He said that Maulana Dard(ra)’s college students had progressed on to very well paid jobs but Maulana Dard(ra) used his abilities and talents for the sake of Ahmadiyyat and a simple life.
Dr Abdus Salam acknowledged Maulana Dard(ra)’s love of Khilafat and also the fact that Maulana Dard(ra) was a wise counsel and said that Maulana Dard(ra) always advised him to study maths and do research – wise advice that has benefited the world since.
Maulana Abu Ata Jalandari’s comments sum up well the mood of that time. He said that there is an Arabic saying to the effect that:
‘A scholar’s death is the death of a nation’ because the existence of a true scholar profits a nation, as his life fulfils the wish of the Creator by its being spent for the benefit of mankind. The fact of the matter is that the departure of such souls spreads a kind of death over the world. Dard Sahib was one such soul.’
On Friday 9th December, 1955 in his Friday Sermon, Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II(ra) reflected on the life and times of Maulana Dard(ra) and paid glowing tributes to him in affectionate terms. So strong was the bond between Hudhur and his servant that as he delivered the sermon and recalled the services of Maulana Dard(ra) he had tears in his eyes. He said that:
‘I remember, the salary of Dard Sahib was one hundred rupees when he was sent to London as a missionary. After the payment of Chanda and making other deductions he would get sixty rupees per month. He would give a big share out of it to his mother. He had two wives with four or five children each. They were residing in a portion of our house, which was built with mud-bricks. Today even the clerical staff would not like to live in it. I was shocked to learn that each of his wives with four or five children each would get only fourteen rupees per month… Look at this. He had acquired a master’s degree. He was given an offer to be appointed as a sub-judge. He goes abroad as a preacher and Jama’at [i.e. the Ahmadiyya community] had not enough means to give a reasonable allowance to his family… In the face of all these hardships he showed great steadfastness and served the Jama’at for forty long years.
Dard Sahib was in his mid-twenties when he rendered his services to Jama’at. Despite his young age he had such a dignity and grace that we would send him to meet any of the high officials and he would always be very successful. If we ordered him to see the viceroy he would be ready without any delay and very successfully accomplished the given task. If he had been instructed, he would go to see the members of the council without any hesitation. He had never been overawed by them…I don’t think that even the college professors, if sent to see the governor, can accomplish any tasks as succesfully. Dard Sahib had a conviction that the mission given to him was Divine, therefore, even a humble person like him can do it. I think everyone must have this sort of trust in God Almighty Who then blesses the speech of such a person and people do pay heed to him.’ (The Daily Al-Fazal, 18 December 1955)
In a letter to Maulana Dard(ra)’s daughter, Razia Dard Sahiba, Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IV(rh) recalled:
‘Dard Sahib was an outstanding administrator. He had a full command over the English language with an excellent pronunciation. He was well versed in Urdu literature with a very good taste in poetry. Although he was a mild-mannered person, he could implement discipline in his office very firmly. The late Dard Sahib had a very lively, attractive and pleasant personality. He was a very popular, extraordinarily intelligent, loving and humble person. He had no affectation at all and had nothing to do with showing off.’
Such was the life of one of the most distinguished and humble servants and an early devotee of the second Khilafat. So outstanding were his services that at each and every turn of that period of the Ahmadiyya community’s history, the name of Dard Sahib appears again and again with glory and honour. His life is replete with examples of his simplicity and austerity but at the same time of his unquestionable success.
It had such an impact at a personal, social, political and educational level that is rare indeed in the world. As private secretary, imam, political adviser, poet and scholar his services are as vast as they are great.
Maulana Dard(ra)’s father was beaten for his allegiance to the Promised Messiah(as) but such is the promise of God and such are His rewards that those who suffer for His sake are never forgotten.
In our world today wherever the Ahmadis are attacked, and persecuted and even martyred, there is every assurance in the history of Ahmadiyyat that such sacrifices are the source of great fruits, and the nourishment of the success of Ahmadiyyat.
Maulana Dard(ra)’s life was but a spark of this brilliant blaze that has dazzled the world and continues to dazzle the world and his services will live on, shining with glory and greatness.
The lifelong and far-reaching services of this great Companion and servant of the second Khalifa, carried out with passion, devotion and humbleness, are but a manifestation of God’s blessings that illumine our souls and leave us in awe and they will InshaAllah continue to shine bright so that future generations can take heart from his life example and vow to never let such selfless services be forgotten.
May Allah bless Maulana Dard(ra) with a lofty station in paradise and may Allah enable all of us to follow in his footsteps and continue to march on, attaining success upon success for the glory of Islam and Ahmadiyyat. Amin!
1. It is Hadhrat Master Qader Bakhsh’s greatness that his father’s stance softened over time – and indeed when later in life in 1905 his father caught a glimpse of the Promised Messiah(as) he was in awe of him and described the Promised Messiah(as) as a ‘Lion of God’ and a great spiritual personality who would stand out in a crowd of thousands.
2. At this point Maulana Dard(ra) then asked Hudhur to also kindly give him the last couplet for his poem (as a tradition) at which Hudhur said with a smile that, ‘What you are saying is that having given me pain now please also give me the medicine [for it]!’ A short while later Hudhur wrote the couplet:
Kabhi kar ke himmat jo ham-Dard utthe,
To dushmun ko ba-chashm-e-tar dekh lena
(When the sympathiser is moved to act with determination, Then behold the enemy laden with tears)
3. What makes this account even more interesting is that it was not just Maulana Dard(ra) who was named in those days, for it was in Dalhousie that the Jama’at’s first mosque in London, the Fazl Mosque, was given its name as well – no doubt it was God’s will, that this blessed mosque and Maulana Dard(ra) – who was later to become its first Imam – were destined to be named together and destined to be remembered together for their contribution to the Jama’at and the world.
4. In fact this is also a special blessing of the Promised Messiah(as) that his spiritual presence inspired and deeply impressed those around him so much so that even at a young age people remembered the blessed occasion in remarkable detail despite being young of age.
5. Hadhrat Mian Abdullah Sanauri(ra) was the famous companion who was with the Promised Messiah(as) when the miracle of the red drops took place.
6. During his studies Maulana Dard(ra) was fortunate to stay at Ahmadiyya hostel in Lahore, whose spiritual aura nourished his being, for there the holy person of Maulana Ghulam Rasool Rajeki(ra) used to deliver Dars and Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II(ra) used to stay there at every trip to Lahore – a blessing that used to spark into life the spirit of the students and nurture their soul and imbibe them with a vastness of knowledge – both secular and spiritual. Maulana Dard(ra)’s class-fellows included the son-in-law of the Promised Messiah(as) (Hadhrat Nawwab Muhammad Abdullah Khan), Hadhrat Malik Ghulam Farid(ra), Chaudhry Ali Akbar and Mirza Abdul Haq to name but a few.
7. The foundation ceremony was attended by the top dignitaries including ministers, ambassadors, diplomats and other VIPs of Japan, Syria, Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia, Egypt, America, Italy, Australia and Hungary.
8. As mentioned the first missionary sent to England was Hadhrat Chaudhry Fateh Muhammad Sial(ra). After him there was Qazi Muhammad Abdullah(ra), and Hadhrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiq(ra). Maulana Dard(ra) was therefore the 4th to be appointed to England.
9. The mosque was opened by Khan Bahadur Sheikh Abdul Qadir – a Barrister-at-Law and the Indian delegate to the League of Nations – before a distinguished gathering of 600 guests.
10. At this occasion a special book was presented on Hudhur’s behalf to the Viceroy.
11. An institution that to this day is serving the Jama’at and preparing its students for a global spiritual mission to spread Islam.
12. It is relevant to note that even whilst on official tours or visits accompanying Hudhur, Maulana Dard(ra) did not neglect his duties. When he was Nazir Isha’at (Director of Publications) he used to use this time to write various articles in Al Fazl through which he inspired the youth to serve the Jama’at and to break the shackles of customs and traditions.
He used to say that through the Promised Messiah(as) Ahmadis had been granted a ‘right’ over the world (to spread its teachings) and to exercise this right one would have to break the chains of customs and traditions. He wrote:
“The truth is that when one joins Ahmadiyyat one must first kill one’s self and then get a new life. And such a person is happier that he has acquired a precious jewel even though the world mocks him for this; but the person is surprised at the fact that these people are still in darkness and ignorance and wonders why they do not also seek this spiritual light. So he strives to bring all others under the bountiful radiance of this light.”
13. There is another similar incident when Jinnah became Governor General of Pakistan. Maulana Dard(ra) was in Karachi and decided to pay Jinnah a visit. He went to the Governor General’s house and asked the guard if Jinnah was in. The guard was taken aback that someone so casually dressed could dare just turn up and ask to meet the Governor General. He rebuked Maulana Dard(ra), saying that this was no ordinary house and to meet the Governor General he would have to make an appointment months in advance and anyway one cannot just turn up at his door and ask to meet him. Maulana Dard(ra) quietly handed the guard a note and requested that he hand the note to the Governor General and just say that he had hoped to meet him. He then walked away. As it happened, Jinnah was sitting in the garden and noticed that the guard was slightly agitated with someone at the gate and summoned him over. The guard then explained what had happened and handed over the note. On reading the note Jinnah rushed up and ran to meet Maulana Dard(ra) and reprimanded the guard, saying: If this gentleman ever turns up and wishes to see me then he must be brought in straight away.
Such was the respect in which Maulana Dard(ra) was held!
- Seerat Hadhrat Maulana Abdur Raheem Dard(ra) by Hamid Maqsood Atif.
- Life of Ahmad, by Hadhrat Maulana Abdur Raheem Dard(ra).
- Al Fazl Daily, 18 December 1955.
Jazakumullah for this post, I was not aware of Maulana sahib’s amazing and great personality and such great devotion to Ahmadiyyat, May Allah bestow His great love and blessings upon him in heaven, Ameen.