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Martyrdom of Hazrat Sahibzada Abdul Latif

28 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS MARTYRDOM OF HAZRAT SAHIBZADA ABDUL LATIF (A.H. Ghazi) “And say not of those who are slain in the way of Allah that they are dead; nay they are living, only you perceive not.” (2:55) The Holy Quran is quite explicit about the martyrdom in the cause of Allah – that their sacrifice will not be wasted. In fact, .it was the sacrifice of those countless early Muslims that firmly laid the foundation of Islam. Sacrifice is indeed a trial, and Allah says in the Holy Quran: “And We will try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives and fruits; but give glad tidings to those who patiently perservere. Who, when a misfortune overtakes them, say, ‘Surely, to Allah we belong and to Him shall we return.’ It is these on whom descend blessings from their Lord and also mercy, and it is these who are rightly guided.” (2: 156-158) Hazrat Sahibzada Abdul Latif, Raees of Khost, Afghanistan, was a highly noble, blessed and rightly-guided Momin. Alas, he was stoned to death by the then Amir of Afghanistan Habibullah Khan on 3rd July, 1903 in Kabul for believing Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be the Promised Messiah and Mahdi. Hazrat Sahibzada was not the first Ahmadi martyr in Afghanistan; about two years earlier, Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib’s disciple Hazrat Maulvi Abdur Rehman was suffocated to death on the orders of Amir Abdul Rehman, then ruler of Afghanistan and the father of Amir Habibullah Khan. Since then many more Ahmadis have sacrificed their lives in the cause of Allah, may God be pleased with them. I intend, however, to dwell specifically on the tragic martyrdom of Fadide-Zawar Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib and to pay homage to his blessed memory as well as to refreshen our faith, God willing! Writing about these two martyrs, the Promised Messiah begins his book Tazkiratul Shahadatain’, with the following sentence: “Although many kinds of atrocities are being perpetrated under the sun these days, yet the barbarity that I shall presently MARTYRDOM OF HAZRAT SAHIBZADA ABDUL LATIF relate is so tragic that it makes the heart shudder and the body tremble. ” 29 The Promised Messiah also wrote about Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib’s martyrdom: “You have heard how Sahibzada Abdul Latif, who was one of the most respected, noble and famous chiefs of the State of Kabul, and who had nearly fifty thousand followers, was stoned to death, most cruelly, by Amir Habibullah Khan.” (The Review of Religions, February 1907) Who was Hazrat Sahibzada Abdul Latif to whom the Promised Messiah, be peace on him, paid such a glowing tribute, and why was he martyred? Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib belonged to a very noble Afghan family, his father being the chief of his tribe, and who owned about 30 thousand acres of land in his village Saidgah, in Khost District as well as in Bannu in the North West Frontier as it was then. He was educated in the religious Madrassas (school), and was well renowned for his scholarship in Islam, piety and integrity. He had about 50,000 followers, and the Amir of Afghanistan Abdur Rehman Khan appointed him as his religious adviser and tutor to his son Habibullah Khan. Afghanistan was in chaos and turmoil. The Royal family feuds had encouraged foreign powers – both Russia and Britain, to meddle in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. Amir Abdur Rehman was proclaimed Amir of Kabul on July 20th, 1880 and the British formally handed over to him the Kingdom of Kabul on 11th August, 1880. The Amir writes in his autobiography: “When I first succeeded to the throne of Kabul, my life was not a bed of roses. Here began my first severe fight against my own relations, my own subjects, my own people.” It was during hiS reign that the unpopular Durand Line was drawn in 1893, separating Afghanistan from the British Empire. Hazrat Sahibzada was one of the two members of the Afghan Government’s delegation which attended these boundary demarcation negotiations, while the British delegat- ion was headed by Lord Mortimer Durand, hence the 30 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS demarcation was called the “Durand Line”. The appointment shows Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib’s eminence and high political status. A new and fateful chapter begins at this juncture of his life. There was an Ahmadi clerk Syed Chan Badshah in the British delegation. During the course of demarcation work, Syed Chan held many conversations with Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib during which he made reference to the Promised Messiah, peace be on him. Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib was himself a ‘recipient of revelation, a man of immense learning and scholarship and fully aware of the prospects of the Promised Messiah in those prevailing times. Naturally he showed great interest in Syed Chan’s reference to the Promised Messiah. Syed Chan gave him the Promised Messiah’s book “Aaina-e-Kamalat-e-Isl- am” to read. That book changed his life, as he later commented: “I could not sleep for a moment that night. I finished the book and was fully convinced of the claims of the Promised Messiah.” The Commission finished its work on the 3rd December, 1893, and on returning to Kabul, King Abdur Rehman received the members of the delegation with great honour at a specially arranged reception and praised them in his speech at his court for the valuable work and service they had rendered to their country. Maulvi Abdur Rehman’s visit to Qadian Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib was most anxious to establish contacts with the Promised Messiah, be peace on him. Soon after returning to Kabul, he sent one of his most trustworthy and prominent disciples, Maulvi Abdur Rehman Sahib, to Qadian. He visited Qadian many times at Hazrat Sahibzada’s expense, and kept him informed about the Promised Messiah, his mission and his latest revelations. His last visit to Qadian was in 1900 and when he returned to Kabul for the last time, he took along with him some pamphlets about Jihad published by the Ahmadiyya Movement which he presented to the learned Ulemas of Afghanistan. According to the pamphlets, it was against the teachings of Islam, explained by the Promised Messiah, peace be on him, to kill the British people in the name of Jihad without a proper and open declaration of war against them. Jihad, according to Ahmadiyya teachings, can only be undertaken in the defence of religion against any enemy who is out to destroy religion by force, or who seeks to change people’s belief at the point of the sword; but in such a war the declaration of Jihad must be made by the Head of MARTYRDOM OF HAZRAT SAHIBZADA ABDUL LATIF 31 the believers. Unless responsibility for Jihad is vested in the Head, Muslims will not know when, where or how the duty of Jihad is to be pursued .. Without responsible readership and without organized effort, a Jihad would be next to useless. If conditions requiring Jihad arise, and there is responsible leadership, then every Muslim who keeps out will be a sinner. Thus when Ahmadis belonging to any country have not participated in Jihad, it was because they did not consider the circumstances warranted it. As Abdur Rehman himself admits, the Amir was under great pressure and was troubled by the internal and family feuds. One way of showing his mastery over the affairs and thus to impress his enemies at home was to wage war against the British, although he was helped to the throne of Kabul by them. It was therefore not the time and place to discuss the subject of Jihad. Hazrat Maulvi Sahib was arrested and tried by the Ulemas (religious leaders). Hazrat Maulvi Abdur Rehman, however, was fearless, and he put his views to the Amir as an Ahmadi with courage and remained steadfast. Unable to rebut his views and notwithstanding the clear teachings of Islam enunciated in the Holy Quran, the Amir succumbed to the pressures of opportunists and the forces of darkness. He pronounced as desired by the Ulemas, a guilty verdict against Hazrat Maulvi Abdur Rehman. He became the first martyr by strangulation at the hands of Amir Abdur Rehman’s government in 1901. The punishment of Allah was swift and severe. The Amir was succeeded by his son Habibullah Khan and the coronation ceremony was performed by Hazrat Sahibzada Abdul Latif. He requested and was granted leave by Amir Habibullah Khan to go on pilgrimage as well as given a generous allowance to cover expenses. He left Kabul for Lahore in the middle of October but on arrival there he learned that owing to the plague epidemic, the Turkish Government, which was then the Government of the Hejaz, had banned the Indian pilgrims from entering Arabia. He decided , instead, to visit Qadian and to meet the Promised Messiah and to find out for himself about Ahmadiyyat. Hazrat Sahibzada arrived in Qadian in the beginning of 1902 and was so struck by the piety and love of Islam of the Promised Messiah that at the very first meeting he requested to be initiated into his “Bai’at” straight way. The Proinised Messiah accepted his Bai’at and he later wrote about him that: “I found him incomparably sincere and honest in his adherence to me and in accepting my claim. His heart, like his 32 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS radiant face, was absolutely pure. The most enviable quality the deceased sage possessed was that he always gave preference to matters of religion over all worldly affairs. His zeal and enthusiasm for the faith was so highly advanced that it would not be an exaggeration if it was likened to a lofty mountain and even this resemblance would fall short of the truth. I fail to find adequate words of praise for this venerable sage who for the sake of obedience and fidelity to me, has sacrificed everything – his possessions, his honour and even his life as if all these things were mere trash.” In February 1903 Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib took leave of the Promised Messiah to return to Kabul. The Promised Messiah accompanied him as far as Batala canal, quite a few miles from Qadian, to see him off. Before departing Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib prostrated himself at the Promised Messiah’s feet and wept. The Promised Messiah was himself very much moved visibly. The news of his acceptance of Ahmadiyyat preceded his arrival in Kabul – the land of lawlessness, disorder, infidelity and rebellion, misruled by a bunch of fanatics and ignorant clowns, headed by an ‘absolute Amir’. He was lured into the trap and promptly arrested and brought to Kabul as a prisoner. Why? Because he had accepted Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as the Promised Messiah. His former pupil urged him to give up his new found faith which amounted to apostacy according to his corrupt belief. The only concession the Amir made was to arrange a public discussion at Hazrat Sahibzada’s request with the Ulemas on the question of Ahmadiyyat, and whether the belief in the Promised Messiah amounted to apostacy. The public discussion was held in the Jamia Mosque over three days and Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib put forward his arguments in favour of the ‘Claim of the Promised Messiah’, ‘the truth about J ihad’, and ‘the death of Jesus Christ’ according to the Holy Quran, the Traditions and the views held by the Muslim illuminaries down the ages. The panel of judges chosen to try Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib consisted of two sworn enemies of the Promised Messiah – Or. Abdul Ghani and Maulvi Najaf Ali, of Jalalpur Jattan, Gujrat (now in Pakistan). They had great influence at the Amir’s court at that time and their biased verdict was a foregone conclusion guilty of apostacy and punishable by death by stoning! Amir Habibullah did not even read the papers presented by Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib. No reasons were given for the verdict. Amir Habibullah tried his best to induce him to renounce Ahmadiyyat in the presence of the Ulemas so that he could set him free. But nothing could induce him to renounce the truth. It was on the 14th July 1903 (17th Rabi-us-Sani, 1321 Hijri), that Hazrat Sahibzada Abdul Latif Sahib, his feet and hands in chains and MARTYRDOM OF HAZRAT SAHIBZADA ABDUL LATIF 33 a decree of apostacy hanging around his neck, was led to the old grave yard of Kabul in a great procession. The ignorant masses were jubilant, hurling abuses and insults at him, and were led by their mullahs, the Amir Habibullah Khan and the Chief Qazi, mocking and shouting. For them it was great fun, a day of celebration, a day to remember! A day to remember it was! He was put into a two and a half feet deep pit, and buried upto his waist. It was afternoon, and the cruel and ignorant crowd, now in its most savage and hysterical state, was so eager to kill the man in the pit, who professed that he was a Muslim; who believed in the unity of God and the Messengership of the Holy Prophet, be peace on him; who prayed towards Mecca and believed in the Holy Quran, and who had committed no crime and had breached no law. Yet here he was, charged for a trumped up crime of apostacy, waiting to be stoned to death! The Amir approached him for the last time and requested him to recant in vain. He replied that he was anxious to meet his Maker and that he was already smelling the scent of heaven. The Amir asked the Qazi of the city, Abdur Razzaq, to throw the first stone but he requested the Amir to throw the first stone being the King. Amir Habibullah said to him that he being the Head of Sharia Court and being responsible for the decree of apostacy, it was his duty to throw the first stone. So he did. It is also said that the first stone was thrown by Sirdar Nasrullah Khan. Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib saw the stone coming towards him and loudly recited the Kalima-e-Shaha- dat and on being struck, turned his head towards Mecca, reciting 10udly:[Insertion] Now the reckoning. Following upon his martyrdom, there appeared a sudden storm in the evening which was so severe that the people believed this was due to the unjust killing of Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib. A certain Mr. F. A. Martin, who was Engineer-in-Chief to the Amir of Afghanistan for many years, describes this incident in his book “Under the Absolute Amir” thus: “Before being led away from the Amir’s presence to be killed, the Mullah (Hazrat Sahibzada Abdul Latif) prophesied that a great clamity would overtake the country, and that both the Amir and the Sirdat (Nasrullah Khan) would suffer. About 9 o’clock that night, the day the Mullah was killed, a great storm of wind suddenly arose and raged with violence for half an hour, and then stopped as suddenly as it came. Such a wind at night was altogether unusual, so the people said that this was passing of the soul of the M ullah.” 34 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS More punishment was soon to follow as described by Mr. Martin: “The cholera broke out and, according to former outbreaks another visitation was not due for four years to come, and this was also regarded as part of the fulfilment of the Mullah’s prophecy, and hence the great fear of the Amir and the Prince, who thought they saw in all this their own death, and it accounts also for the Prince losing control of himself when his favourite wife died. The murdered Mullah was a man with a large and powerful following a~d the two Mullahs, who gave verdict for his death, lived in constant fear of retaliation from his followers who had sworn to avenge him. One of them contacted cholera and almost died of it.” Sirdar Nasrullah Khan dreaded a similar end and constantly lived in fear. Mr. Martin writes: “Sirdar Nasrullah Khan who was of course obliged to remain in his city Palace since the Amir did not go away into the country, spent most of his time on his prayer carpet. So I was told by those who were with him when his favourite wife contracted cholera and died. He was described as being almost mad with grief at her loss and fear of disease attacking him next. ” Hazrat Sahibzada’s remains were removed after forty days by one of his disciples – Noor Ahmad Kabli, who buried it at his village Syedgah. This so infuriated Sirdar Nasrullah Khan that he had the coffin removed and buried in an unknwn place. Now let me turn to the fate of these murderers: Amir Habibullah Khan was found murdered on the morning of February 20th 1919 in his tent. He was shot through the ear. There was full guard in attendance; the assassin was never found. He was succeeded after a brief struggle by his third son Amanullah. Amanullah had his uncle, Sirdar Nasrullah Khan, arrested, and at a public Durbar held on April 13th 1919, he was declared to be guilty of instigating the murder of the late Amir Habibullah Khan. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but died shortly afterwards, most probably by strangulation, although his death was not announced until some months later. No one knows where his body was dumped. He was survived by a son and a daughter. Amir Amanullah had the boy murdered and took Sirdar’s daughter as his wife in secret. In May, 1929 he fled the country after a Tadzhik bandit leader known as Bacha Saqqa overthrew him from MARTYRDOM OF HAZRAT SAHIBZADA ABDUL LATIF 35 power, leaving her behind to face the revolutionaries’ justice. Amanullah Khan died in exile many years later. Amanullah’s cousin Nadir Khan returned from exile in October 1929, and after defeating Bacha Saqqa, proclaimed himself to be the new King, but was assassinated in 1933 and succeeded by his son Zahir Shah. He was on the throne until the mid-seventies when he was overthrown by his brother-in-law Sardar Oaud. Zahir Shah is still living in exile, but Sardar Oaud was murdered by revolutionaries in a socialist-oriented coup. The country is now under Soviet occupation, with one-third of its population driven to Pakistan, and the rest existing as serfs and prisoners in their own country. There is no viable leadership and no plan to rid the country of foreign occupation. The present rulers are totally dependent upon Soviet arms and cthose so-called Mujahideen are begging Christians and Jews for ar:ns and money to wage Jihad against the heathen non-Muslim Russians! No Muslim country is participating in their so-called Jihad! Or. Abdul Ghani who had given his verdict against Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib, was found guilty of a conspiracy against the King and was sentenced to II years imprisonment. Furthermore, his young son Abdul Jabbar was killed while shopping in Kabul bazar! His only other son died in Jalalpur Jattan where he was a mere tonga driver! I have tried very briefly to give an account of Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib’s life and have also accounted for the fate of those culprits involved in taking his life. They sought to extinguish his life in the hope of halting the march of true Islam, that is, Ahmadiyyat, yet within a short span since Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib’s martyrdom, the Afghan Royal House of long standing has either been annihilated physically or been driven out of Afghanistan’s life altogether and forever. The country itself and its people are facing a dark and bleak future. On the other hand, Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib has become an integral part of the glorious history of Ahmadiyyat, the only hope for mankind.