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Chaudhri Muhammad Zafrulla Khan

Chaudhri Muhammad Zafrulla Khan (Prof. Abdus Salaam) Chaudhri Muhammad Zafrulla Khan was one of the greatest human beings I have had the privilege and good fortune of knowing in my life. I saw Chaudhri Sahib first in December 1933 on the occasion of the annual gathering. I was then around eight years old. I can still see him in my mind’s eye as very handsome figure with a most impressive bearing. I believe the first occasion when he knew of me was when my father wrote to him in 1940 seeking his advice about my future career. He wrote in reply that he would pray for me and he offered three pieces of advice. First, that I should look after my health; health was the basis of all achievement. Second, in respect of studies, he advised that whatever lectures in the classroom were due for tomorrow, I should prepare for them the day before. And whatever I learned today, I should revise the same day so that it became forever part of me. Third, I should broaden my mind; in particular, whenever I got the opportunity to make an educational j ourney — or even a j ourney for pleasure —I should take it, for journeying to new places was conducive to a broadening of one’s range of interests. My first personal contact with Chaudhri Sahib came in October 1946, when I sailed to the UK to join Cambridge University for studies. Our boat — the P.&O. Franconia — docked at Liverpool. It was a cold and misty morning. Chaudhri Sahib had come to the dockside to meet his nephew who was also travelling on the “Franconia”. Chaudhri Sahib was at that time an Indian Federal judge. When we got down from the boat, our heavy cases — my mathematics books which I had packed —• were lying around in the customs shed. There were few porters due to post-war conditions. Chaudhri Zafrulla Khan said to me, “Take hold of the case from one side and I will take it from the other and we shall carry it to the waiting boat train.” This was an amazing reception for a humble student, who had never before encountered such gracious unselfconsciousness on the part of a personage so highly placed. We travelled together to London. During the journey he kept pointing out the beauties of the English countryside, of which he was inordinately fond. The weather was very cold. Seeing me shiver, he kindly gave me one of his 26 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS (enormously heavy) winter coats. This, in spite of 40 years of use, still survives in the family. I met him again in 1951 when he was Foreign Minister of Pakistan and came to the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study where I was a fellow. I spent two days in his company. He was then attending the General Assembly of the United Nations. With him I had the privilege of visiting some of the historical places on the East Coast. Fresh from his duels at the United Nations forum, fought with highest ranking adversaries, on behalf of the Palestine Arabs, Libya, Morocco and for Kashmir, my major recollection of him is of someone who would not suffer fools gladly. But I really got to know him after 1973 when he came to live at the London Mosque after his retirement from the Presidentship of the International Court of Justice. He was gracious enough to accept to come to my house at Campion Road, nearby, for Sunday breakfasts whenever I was in London. It could be breakfast only because his day, which he spent working on his translation of the Holy Book or Books of the Hadith and the like, started regularly at 9 a.m. every day including Sundays and could not be interrupted. These breakfasts were memorable occasions when sometimes we would go over some of the episodes in his life which are so beautifully described in his books, particularly his last book, “Servant of God”. But the book does not convey the details which he would narrate to us. For example, he tells the story on pages 67-69 of his encounter with Mr. Churchill, but he omits the earlier parts of this story when Mr. Churchill was cross-examined by Sardar Boota Singh of the Indian Party and the hilarity of that examination. Even so, I shall quote here the story as he tells it in the book to convey some of the wonderful flavour of his narration: “The public sittings of the Joint Select Committee commenced in the spring of 1933. A large variety of witnesses, Indian and British representing a diversity of interests and views was examined by the Committee. Participation in the proceedings of the Committee proved a very instructive experience. The most outstanding witness who appeared before the Committee was Mr. (later Sir) Winston Churchill. His examination extended over four days. He was firmly opposed to the proposals contained in the White Paper. He condemned them lock, stock and barrel. He looked upon them as a betrayal of its trust by Britain. The barrage of questions directed at him failed to move him a single inch from his stand. His eyes twinkled, he wore a smile, he waved his cigar, he was all courtesy and urbanity, but he was utterly unyielding. His questioners could win nothing from him. He held his own against all comers. “Having watched the drama for a whole day, the Punjab Muslim Delegate felt that it would serve no useful purpose to cross-examine so formidable an adversary as Mr. Churchill. On the morning of the second day the Secretary of CHAUDHRI MUHAMMAD ZAFRULLA KHAN 27 State accosted him before the meeting was called to order and enquired: “Do you intend to put any question to Mr. Churchill?” “No Sir. I consider it would be a profitless exercise.” “Well, he is our cleverest debater in the House, and it is no use trying to catch him out on his previous speeches in which he supported Dominion Status for India. You have seen how he gets out of them. Yes, Dominion Status, but status is one thing and function is quite another. India already has Dominion Status. It sent a delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, it is a signatory of the Treaty of Versailles, it is a member of the League of Nations. That is status. But it is not yet ready to function as a Dominion! He thinks India is still what it was when he was serving as a subaltern at Bangalore.” “(The Muslim delegate) thought over it. His turn came an hour before the close of the afternoon sitting of the Committee. His attitude was deferential, his tone respectful, bordering almost on the apologetic, with a slight touch of deference. Mr. Churchill was cautious, but made a reluctant concession here, a grudging admission there, hedged round with ifs and buts and provideds. When he perceived that he was letting himself be persuaded to yield ground, he began to evade the question put to him, so that it had to be reframed with great care. On one occasion he slipped out of answering the question in one direction, and when the question was carefully rephrased he slipped out in another direction. The questioner’s tone became even more bland, almost humble: Mr. Churchill I beg to be forgiven. I am under a disadvantage. English is not my mother tongue. I have twice failed to make my meaning clear. Will you permit me to try once more? The response was gracious: Please, please. The question was put a third time in a shape that did not admit of evasion. Thereafter both the examiner and the witness became more alert. The Committee adjourned. The examination was resumed next morning and continued for another hour. When the questioner concluded with an expression of thanks to the eminent witness, the witness went on record with: My Lord Chairman, may I be permitted to say that I have not noticed that Mr. Zafrulla Khan suffers any disadvantage from lack of knowledge of the English language? “When at the end of the fourth day his examination was completed, the cheers of The Committee had the quality of an ovation. (Mr. Churchill) rose from his seat, came over to his Muslim interrogator, shook him by the hand and growled: You have given me the two most difficult hours before the Committee. The questioner acknowledged the growl as if it were an accolade and a token of friendship and so it proved. In subsequent meetings the great Prime Minister would every time present him with a volume of his letters or speeches, and the inscriptions beginning with: Inscribed for Zafrulla Khan, W. S. Churchill; went on mounting the scale; To Zafrulla Khan, from W. S. 28 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Churchill; To Zafrulla from his friend W. S. Churchill. Magnanimity was not the least among the many great qualities of the great Prime Minister.” The amazing thing was that Chaudhri Sahib’s memory was faultless, not only about persons, but also about dates and even times of day for matters which had occurred 50 or 60 years earlier. I also recall with great fondness the narration of his United Nations fights with Big Powers for independence of Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria (described on pages 179-182 of “Servant of God”); likewise, the heart-warming story of his pilgrimmage to Mecca, when he was King Faisal’s personal guest, narrated on pages 279-286, was repeated on our request many times. In the retelling of all these incidents in his life, what came across strongly was the greatness of his spirit, his intense love —• bordering on near-veneration — for the Prophet of Islam, and his own complete reliance on Allah and His divine Will. Also manifest was his love of Persian poetry, particularly the mystical verse of Rumi in his Diwan-e-Shams- Tabriz which he could recite without effort from memory. Regarding his love for the Prophet, let me tell a story. Chaudhri Zafrulla Khan was taken ill with a back-ache and was confined to bed in a hospital in Wardsworth. I visited him in hospital. I took to him Shamail-i-Tirmizi, written by Imam Tirmizi, which describes the Holy Prophet’s daily life, his looks, what he wore, his daily preoccupations, his family and public life. I said I hoped that sometime in the future, if Allah decrees, I would translate this book into English. I left it with him and went away to Trieste. I came back about a couple of months later and went to see him at his residence. He presented me with a copy of a translation of Tirmizi into English, already completed and printed during these two months, with a gracious dedication to me. I was astonished at the speed with which he had worked. I mildly protested; I had wished to translate this book myself for my “ghufran”. He said “You may not have found time in the immediate future. So I thought while I was in hospital, this was the most rewarding use of my time.” I have earlier said that he was generous — almost to a fault — to those in need. The story may not be well known, but after retirement, he dedicated all his life’s savings to charitable purposes. A large part was spent in rebuilding the living quarters for the Imam next to the London Mosque as well as towards building the Mahmud Hall. The rest — of the order of half a million dollars — he spent in setting up a charitable Foundation, the Southfields Trust, to help the needy and for educational purposes. One Sunday when he honoured us with coming for breakfast, my brother protested with him on his generally neglecting own personal needs. He said he had asked his yearly pension (of around $32,000 a year) to be deposited straight into the bank account of the Foundation he had created — the Southfields Trust. He did not keep any part of his pension. But he had an CHAUDHRI MUHAMMAD ZAFRULLA KHAN 29 agreement with the Trust that it would pay him seven pounds a week for life’s necessities and once a year the Trust would permit him an economy fare to Pakistan to attend the annual gathering. He then added, “I know, through Allah’s grace, I am a good advocate, but one judicial case I always lose. That is, whenever I plead to myself for myself.” He had such a love for Islam, such a “ghairat” for its honour that one could not come away from his company without being fired with his spirit. It is well-known that he spent the last years of his life occupied in translating the Holy Quran together with twenty volumes of Hadith as well as the words of the Founder of the Community, creating single-handedly a veritable one-man Library of Islam in the English language. As he says himself, “Gradually, over the years, the consciousness of God as an experienced reality rather than as a merely believed phenomenon, was strengthened”. His love for his long-departed mother and the lessons he had learnt from her were often repeated for us. In his book, on page 297, he quotes her as saying, “It is no virtue to be kind to someone we like; virtue is to be kind to those we do not like”; and then, “A friendship is for ever, else it is no friendship at all”. His own oft-repeated saying used to be: “Call to mind when your Lord declared: If you will employ My bounties beneficiently, I will surely multiply them unto you; but if you misuse or neglect them, My punishment is severe indeed”. (14:8) I can not do better than close this note by quoting from the moving end of his book “Servant of God” when he speaks about himself. “His career as a public servant came to an end with the expiry of his second term on the International Court of Justice. He was called to the Bar at the age of twenty- one, practised as a lawyer for twenty-one years, held executive office in India and Pakistan for fourteen years, was a Judge, national and international, for twenty-one years, and a diplomat for three years. He has worn many hats, but the one he now wears is the most honorific of all, and brings him the greatest satisfaction. He is now wholly the servant of God, for which honour all praise is due to God. His one care and concern is that his Gracious Master may be pleased with him, and may continue to afford him, for such time as He may, of His grace and mercy, grant him here below, opportunities of serving Him and His creatures, and bestow upon him the strength and ability to perform that service in a manner acceptable to Him. Of his own he has nothing to devote to His service; life, faculties, capacities, means, relations, friends are all His gifts. He supplicates for wisdom and strength to employ all his gifts in His service, to the winning of His pleasure, to the true service of his fellow beings. For himself he only seeks fulfilment in his Gracious Maker, Creator and Master. He hopes for His mercy, His forgiveness, His forbearance. May He continue to cover up all his numberless faults, defaults, shortcomings, vices, sins, disobediences and transgressions under the mantle of His mercy, and 30 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS safeguard him against humiliation here and hereafter. May He wash him clean of all impurities so that death, when He is pleased to send it, may prove to be a gentle transition from illusion to reality, from faith to fulfilment and utter submission. Amen. All praise belongs to Allah. Admit Your Mistakes This precept Is nearly always a good one. No honest man need ever fearthe result of admitting an error. If the error is unnoticed do not call attention to it, if there is possibility of harm arising from its concealment. If it is noticed, and you attempt to dodge it, the result will be disastrous. A ready, straightforward acknowledgement of an error has a breezy air of frankness about it that always charms and captivates. Dishonest people generally seek to circumlocute and explain away their errors. POWER OF THE WILL You may become what you will, and it makes no difference how foreign to you mature the goal maybe; if you are really in earnest, it is yours. That you must be thoroughly and completely in earnest requires no iteration. A seemingly impossible feat may be accomplished by the magnetism of the will. POLITENESS Politeness should be studied as an art and practised as such, it is sometimes practised only before company, out the shallowness is soon discovered. A person naturally polite will be so before a beggar and before a king. (Edmund Shaftesbury)