Syed Taalay Ahmed, UK
When I began collecting accounts of Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra), a son of the Promised Messiah (as), I hoped any ensuing article may begin with an incident related by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), worldwide head and Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. At that time, it just so happened that an elder in my family showed a photo to our beloved Caliph.
In this picture, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra), the second Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, is seen at the centre of his nephew’s wedding. Seated two spaces to his right is his younger brother, Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra).
On seeing the image, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) remarked how modest and simple the wedding arrangements once were.
Certainly, the photo took us back to a different time. Yet, much of Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad’s (ra) own writings deal with a period even further back – the era in which he enjoyed being a companion of the Promised Messiah (as) and of which he wrote: ‘what a time it was!’
It is in this era, the time of the Promised Messiah (as), that the first part of our article begins.
‘I, the writer of these lines, was born in the home of the Promised Messiah (as) and am one of his sons and this is a blessing of Allah for which I fail to find adequate words of thanks. In fact, it is true that even in my imagination I can never conceive that I shall ever be able to render sufficient thanks to God for this great and priceless boon. But I know very well that one of these days I shall have to yield my soul into the hands of God, and knowing this, and calling upon this heavenly Master as a witness, I state that within my knowledge it has never happened that any slight reference was made to the Holy Prophet (sa), or only his name mentioned, without a film of tears welling up in the eyes of the Promised Messiah (as). His whole heart and mind, in fact every fibre of his being, was intoxicated with the love of the Holy Prophet (as).’
—Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra), Jalsa Salana Rabwah 1959 Address.
Three Adult Sons
How Hazrat Amma Jan (ra), the wife of the Promised Messiah (as), must have felt as she first travelled to Qadian. Only 18, she was leaving behind her home in Delhi, the historical capital of the Mughal Empire, for a small and inconsequential village 400 kilometres north. The chieftains of Qadian may have been important men a century earlier, but the village had been fading for some time.
Hazrat Amma Jan (ra) was moving for a marriage she had accepted at her parents’ proposal, but of which her wider family disapproved. Her husband, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), was not a wealthy man. Most of Ahmad’s (as) direct relatives were already deceased and those who remained barely tolerated him; rather than striving to improve the family’s standing, Ahmad (as) devoted himself to worship and religious pursuits.
On arriving in Qadian, the young bride stayed for a month before visiting her parents, where she received a letter from her new husband. ‘In a dream, I have seen your three adult sons,’ Ahmad (as) wrote.
Five years passed before the couple was blessed with a child who survived the early part of life: Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra). Soon after, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) announced he was the Promised Messiah (as) and began publishing literature in support of his claim. In February 1893, the book Aina-eKamalat‐e‐Islam was distributed, including the revelation: ‘We shall grant you success a second time and shall convert your fear into security. The Moon of the Prophets will come and your affair will become manifest. Allah will make your countenance cheerful and will illumine your reasoning. Soon will a son be born to you and grace will come close to you. My light is near.’
The Promised Messiah (as) would later explain: ‘This son was born according to this prophecy on April 20, 1893, as is set out in the announcement of that date, and he was named Bashir Ahmad.’
(‘Moon of the Prophets’ was not the only revelation concerning young Bashir. At a young age his eyes became sore and had not responded to medical treatment for some time. The Promised Messiah (as) continued to pray, at which he received the words ‘My boy Bashir is cured.’ Within a week the child had recovered.)
A third son, Mirza Sharif Ahmad (ra) was born in 1895. Then came the first daughter, Nawab Mubarka Begum (ra). By the turn of the century, the Promised Messiah (as) and Hazrat Amma Jan (ra) welcomed yet another boy, Mubarak Ahmad, while a second daughter, Amtul Hafeez Begum, arrived soon after.
In 1907 the family faced a crisis. Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra) writes: ‘When our younger brother Mubarak Ahmad became ill, the Promised Messiah (as) would remain busy day and night in his care and he nursed him with great vigilance and conscientiousness. Because the Promised Messiah (as) loved him dearly, people thought if, God forbid, he passes away the Promised Messiah (as) will be left in a great depression.’
As the boy’s condition worsened, Hazrat Nooruddin (ra), one of the Promised Messiah’s (as) closest friends and a physician (and later the first Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community), was called. On one visit, the great doctor checked Mubarak and simply said: ‘The pulse is very weak.’ The Promised Messiah (as) began to search a chest for medicine when Hazrat Nooruddin (ra) again explained: ‘It has become extremely weak.’ The Promised Messiah (as) hurried his search, but his friend repeated a third time: ‘The pulse is extremely weak.’
At this, the Promised Messiah (as) understood there was some news the doctor could not deliver to his beloved master. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) left the medicine and searched instead for a pulse.
‘To Allah we belong and to Allah we all return,’ he said.
Far from falling into depression, the Promised Messiah (as) resolutely continued with his mission, immediately accepting the loss as the will of Allah; from time to time he had reminded his wife of the dream of adult sons: ‘I saw three and I wrote three.’
The Promised Messiah’s (as) extended family treated him and Hazrat Amma Jan (ra) contemptuously. At the outset of his religious mission the mockery grew to outright opposition led by two brothers, Mirza Imamuddin and Mirza Nizamuddin.
They employed various schemes to dismay and discredit the Promised Messiah (as) and Mirza Imamuddin even resorted to publishing polemics including Did‐e‐Haq: The Story of Two Kafirs in which he accused the Promised Messiah (as) of being a disbeliever. As his attempts to turn away the followers of the Promised Messiah (as) continued to fail, he became less subtle. Mirza Imamuddin and his siblings owned some land which was being used as a public pathway. On this, he built a brick wall blocking the Mubarak Mosque. This inconvenienced the Promised Messiah’s (as) family and his visitors.
At this time, the Promised Messiah (as) received a revelation which he immediately published in the Al-Hakam newspaper promising that after some delay he would be granted victory in this matter, because Allah the Almighty had not forgotten a long-hidden secret: ‘Verily, my Lord does not err nor does He forget. An open victory. He is only delaying it for them till an appointed term. Thou art with Me and I am with thee. Say, everything is in the hands of Allah, and then leave him that he may strut in his transgression. He is with thee; and He knows that which is hidden and that which is a greater secret than that.’
The Promised Messiah (as) sent some companions to amicably resolve the dispute. Imamuddin refused. Some Ahmadis appealed to the Deputy Commissioner, but he would not get involved. Criminal proceedings failed and finally a civil case was brought. Even this seemed hopeless and a lawyer advised the Ahmadis to seek a settlement. Imamuddin again refused and began to boast he would now build so many walls that the Promised Messiah’s (as) entire household would be kept indoors.
Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra) writes: ‘[The Promised Messiah (as)] was forced to resort to legal means – apart from this instance he never himself brought a case against anyone. I saw in a dream that the wall was being demolished and I was passing over its fallen parts. I told him. He listened very carefully and made a note. At this time I was a very small child.’
For more than a year the wall remained intact, but things turned when a representative of the Promised Messiah (as) discovered a case from 1867, when a man had sued Imamuddin in relation to this land and listed in the case was the co-owner of the property: Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Murtaza, the Promised Messiah’s (as) father. The Promised Messiah (as) had inherited co-ownership of the land and so a court ordered the wall’s demolition.
Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra) would later write of these same relatives: ‘Once the Promised Messiah (as) was talking to Hazrat Amma Jan (ra) when the two were standing in a room that had been newly built. Playing around in my childhood with some other boys, I also happened to reach the spot at this same time. The window in this room was open which gave a view of a portion of the building nearby where lived a cousin of the Promised Messiah (as) whose name was Mirza Nizamuddin. Intent on my preoccupation with the game of the moment I happened to remark to my playmates: ‘Look, that is the house of Nizamuddin’. These words, uttered by me in a kind of childish unconcern, happened to catch the ears of the Promised Messiah (as). At once he turned to me and said: ‘Look, my boy, he is after all your uncle. You should not name him without respect like that.’
‘…Even though Mirza Nizamuddin was a close relation of the Promised Messiah (as), having been a first cousin, he was extremely hostile to Hazrat Ahmad (as), and this was the reason why the ties of relationship lay in a general abeyance and there was a feeling of remoteness between the two families. It was as a result of this general atmosphere that I referred to my uncle in this manner in the careless way of children, which seemingly was a one of a certain measure of disrespect. But such was the high moral state of mind of the Promised Messiah (as) that immediately as the words dropped from my lips I was suitably reprimanded and corrected. The effect of this admonition was so deep on me that his words sank into my mind like a steel nail and I have never again dared to refer to any elder of mine in the same casual manner, nor even those who are younger than myself.’
‘…It is well to remember here that this Mirza Nizamuddin is the same gentleman who instituted a number of court cases against the Promised Messiah (as), without any basis, simply to cause him annoyance. He even went to the length of building up a wall, which blocked the way to the mosque for the Promised Messiah (as) and his followers. Here one can only marvel at the grandeur of the share which the Promised Messiah (as) received from the grace and mercy of God.’
‘Make Sure He Gets a Master’s Degree’
Once at the dinner table Sahibzada Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra) turned to his younger brother and asked: ‘Bashir, which of the two is more valuable, knowledge or wealth?’
The question had been set as an assignment by Talimul Islam High School, but before any answer could be offered the Promised Messiah (as) interjected: ‘Repent Mahmud. Neither knowledge nor wealth is good unless there is the mercy of God.’
The Promised Messiah (as) took a keen interest in the training of his sons. On another occasion he called young Bashir (ra) and said: ‘While you are my son, you will not read novels.’
Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra) writes: ‘I do not remember this incident. However…I have noticed that I do not have any interest in reading novels, neither in childhood nor youth nor now. In fact I have always been uninterested in this, even though youngsters are normally quite enthusiastic and even in our family some people have read novels occasionally. By the grace of God, the Promised Messiah’s (as) attention meant I was saved from this useless activity.’
Rather than promoting novels, the Promised Messiah (as) would tell his children short stories underpinned by moral lessons. Far greater emphasis was placed on studying the Qur’an and when Mirza Bashir (ra) and his siblings Mirza Sharif Ahmad (ra) and Nawab Mubarka Begum (ra) completed their first reading, an ameen feast, to celebrate their first complete recitation of the Holy Qur’an, was held at which orphans and the poor were fed. On this occasion, the Promised Messiah (as) wrote a special poem.
Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra) would later recall: ‘In the ameens of his children he has prayed for them in such soulful and melting words that whenever I read them I cannot help feeling a kind of mortification in myself that perhaps our weaknesses and frailties do not make us deserving of such blessings from God and such good wishes from the Promised Messiah (as).’
All the while, the Promised Messiah (as) was laying foundations for the future. Once, when Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra) was in the second grade, the Promised Messiah (as) entered the room to find him busy jumping upon a bed and performing acrobatic rolls. At this the Promised Messiah (as) smiled and remarked to Hazrat Amma Jan (ra): ‘Look what he is doing,’ before adding: ‘make sure he gets a Master’s degree.’
Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (as) noted: ‘This phrase may seem like an everyday comment, but on deeper examination it contains two or three prophecies.’
It seems Bashir found jumping an integral activity. His sister, Hazrat Nawab Mubarka Begum (ra) writes: ‘My first memory of my middle brother’s childhood, which I remember very clearly, is that the Promised Messiah (as) had returned from somewhere outside to the house, at which there was a wave of happiness. He came and sat down and I sat with him. Amma Jan (ra) and the rest were also sat when a broad-chested, wide-faced, cheerful, smiling boy wearing a red hat displayed his great delight in front of the Promised Messiah (as) by standing and beginning to jump. This was my beloved middle brother. The Promised Messiah (as) smiled and was happy at the sight.’
Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra) enjoyed childhood banter with his siblings. He writes: ‘Once in front of the Promised Messiah (as), we children of the house began to tease Sharif Ahmad in unison that ‘Abba [father] does not love you and he loves us.’ Sharif would become very annoyed. The Promised Messiah (as) stopped us too: ‘Do not tease too much,’ but we were children and we continued. Finally, Sharif began to cry and his habit was that when he cried his nose became very runny.’
‘The Promised Messiah (as) stood and wished to hug him, so his doubts may be removed. However because his nose was running, [Sharif] would pull back. The Promised Messiah (as) would think perhaps he moves away because he is in pain. Therefore for quite some time this continued: that the Promised Messiah (as) would pull him towards himself and he would move away. And because we knew what was actually happening we stood by and continued laughing.’
Not even his elder brother was safe; Bashir (ra) was often on the opposing team to Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra) in their childhood games. However, the siblings also shared a deep bond: ‘Once, we three brothers jointly planned to order a hunting gun,’ writes Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra). ‘However, we could not decide which to order. Finally we wrote the names on paper and asked the Promised Messiah (as) to draw a lot and we ordered the gun that came out. And with this we hunted a great deal.’
Hazrat Amma Jan (ra) also enjoyed the comical antics of her middle son. While she never beat her children, she found it impossible to maintain even the pretence of a threat in the case of Bashir, as he disarmed her through laughter. On one occasion she found he had soaked his clothes. She raised her hand, as though to chastise him, when he exclaimed: ‘No Amma [mom]! Your bangles will break.’
The Promised Messiah (as) was equally patient. Writes Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra): ‘When we were children, even if the Promised Messiah (as) was working or whatever his condition, we would go to him and say, “Abba, give us money,” and he would open his handkerchief, take some money and give it. If we would have too great an effect on some work he would say, “At this time I am working. Do not disturb me too much.”’
As we read above, Mirza Bashir (ra) referred to his father as Abba. In fact, Bashir employed tu – the very least formal form of the local dialect – to address the Promised Messiah (as). Hazrat Amma Jan (ra) pleaded with him to stop, but the Promised Messiah (as) would say: ‘Do not stop him. From his mouth I love being called tu.’
Nevertheless, Bashir’s (ra) respect for his father grew to such an extent that not only did he drop the word tu, as a teenager he could not address him directly at all. Eventually, he would not even use the word Abba, instead exclusively referring to him as the Promised Messiah (as).
The Promised Messiah (as) once wrote: ‘I wish my children should be married to such ladies who have religious knowledge and who have, to some extent, sought education in Arabic, Persian and English and also possess the intelligence to manage a large household…’
In fact, the Promised Messiah (as) took meticulous care in finding his son’s wives. Hazrat Musleh Maud (ra) would say: ‘I remember when the time came for Bashir Ahmad’s marriage. At that stage the Promised Messiah (as) inquired: “In this family how great is their progeny?” When he found out they had seven boys, before focusing on other things, the Promised Messiah (as) stated: “This is very good. The marriage should take place here.” The suggestions for [both] Bashir Ahmad’s and my marriages took place at the same time.’
Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra) married Hazrat Sarwar Sultan Begum (ra) when both were around 13 years old, which was a normal age in India and much of the world at the time.
His grandson, Capt. M. A. Khan (Nawab Mahmood Ahmad Khan), says: ‘Abba Jan (ra) [Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra)] told me that his father-in-law repeatedly instructed his daughter how she must respect the Promised Messiah (as) and stand whenever she sees him, to such an extent that once when he entered a room in which she was sitting upon a charpai bed, in a surprised rush she stood there and then atop of the bed.’
A year or so later, the happy couple were blessed with their first daughter, Amtus Salam. Amtus Salam, though, was very lucky. She was held by the Promised Messiah (as) himself and, until her own marriage some years later, Hazrat Amma Jan (ra) and Hazrat Musleh Maud (ra) would take responsibility for her care.
Meanwhile, Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra) would prove himself an excellent husband. Many decades later, Hazrat Sarwar Sultan Begum (ra) endured a prolonged illness. Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra), despite being elderly himself, continued to care for her with typical patience, affection and good‐humour. Once a very young grandson, who had only seen his grandmother during her illness, inquired: ‘Why did you marry her? You should have found someone who could walk and work.’ At this, Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra) laughed a great deal and continued to share the joke for some days, particularly with his beloved wife.
In May 1908, the Promised Messiah (as) was visiting Lahore when his health began to deteriorate. Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra) writes: ‘At the time when the Promised Messiah (as) passed away (this was in front of my own eyes) and when he was in the very last throes, Hazrat Amma Jan (ra) seated herself on the floor by the side of the sick bed, and addressed herself to God in the following memorable words: “O God, he is now leaving us, but please, please Thou do not abandon and forsake us!”’
Elsewhere he continues: ‘When the Promised Messiah (as) passed away, our home was literally empty of material wealth. My sister, Mubarka Begum, relates – and I myself too remember it – that our mother Hazrat Ummul Mominin [Mother of the Believers; another name for Hazrat Amma Jan (ra)] called her children together, immediately afterward or a little later and enjoining patience and fortitude on us all she counselled and consoled us in these memorable words: “My children, seeing the house empty, you should not begin to think that your father had left nothing for you. For on the heavens he has left for you untold treasure in the form of priceless prayers he offered in your behalf, which shall continue to reach and benefit you, always, at its own proper time.”‘
Although there was little wealth left to them, the children were able to share items of sentimental value. In particular, the three simple rings of the Promised Messiah (as) – inscribed either with a phrase from the Qur’an or a revelation – were divided by Hazrat Amma Jan (ra) through lots, with one being bestowed on each of her three sons. Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra) also treasured a lock of the Promised Messiah’s (as) hair.
Meanwhile, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was blessed with a second manifestation of Allah the Almighty’s support and an institution of spiritual succession was established, with Hazrat Nooruddin (ra) becoming the first Caliph.
During this period Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra) continued his studies. Once, while at college, he was asked a question in relation to his faith. Still a young man, in his late teens or early twenties, he was unable to answer. Until now, the Promised Messiah (as) and then his elder companions had taken on the bulk of the community’s work, but the next generation’s era of responsibility was drawing near and Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra) had perhaps been caught off guard. He decided to leave college and returned to Qadian, where he began learning the Qur’an personally from the first Caliph. Dreams of completing an MA would have to wait.
Serialisation of this article will continue in the next edition.
About the Author: S. Taalay Ahmed (1990-2021) served The Review of Religions as the Team Leader of the Indexing and Tagging Project. He also served in Muslim Television Ahmadiyya International (MTA) and the Press & Media department of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
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