When the Holy Prophetsa declared his prophethood to the people of Arabia, they turned against him. Those who were once his dear friends became thirsty for his blood, so much so that they set a bounty for his capture. On the other hand, there were some who supported him and stood by his side like in the battle of Badr [the first battle fought in Islam]. There were some who, despite having only the very basic necessities of life, opted to go on preaching campaigns. This was merely because of the level of trust that they had in God Almighty, that whatever should happen to them, God would not waste their faith.
One of the moving incidents found in the history of Islam is Hazrat Imranra, whose entire family was martyred in front of his eyes but he did not let go of his trust in God, and as a result the Holy Prophetsa gave him the glad tidings that his family are in paradise.
The dedication of life at that time required the person to lay his life down for the propagation of Islam through defensive wars and other confrontations but as time elapsed, there became a change in the nature of dedication. Once the Holy Prophetsa assigned companions to teach the Holy Qur’an to some people of a certain tribe, and seventy huffaz [people who have memorised the entire Qur’an] were appointed for this task. They had no idea of what the future held for them. They presented their lives for the pleasure of God Almighty. Later there was a conflict and many were martyred.
The meaning of dedicating one’s life in accordance to the custom of the Ahmadiyya Jama’at is to serve the Jama’at whilst leaving behind all worldly desires and to take the service of the Jama’at as one’s prime objective keeping only the pleasure of God Almighty in mind. After dedication, there remains no room for personal desires or preferences, rather the life of the devotee becomes the property of the Jama’at. The following is a verse from the Holy Qur’an:
قُلْ اِنَّ صَلَاتِيْ وَ نُسُکِيْ وَ مَحْيَايَ وَ مَمَاتِيْ لِلّٰہِ رَبِّ الْعٰلَمِيْنَ
“Say, ‘My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.” [6:163]
In accordance with this verse, the first devotee in the Ahmadiyya Jama’at was Hazrat Hakeem Maulana Nooruddinra, who moved to Qadian at the instruction of the Promised Messiahas.
Upon receiving a letter from Batala (a city in India), which read “Come and tend to a patient”, he replied “I am no longer the owner of my decisions, rather without the permission of the Promised Messiahas I cannot leave my position”. Therefore the sender acquired the permission of the Promised Messiahas to accompany Hazrat Hakeem Maulana Nooruddinra with him to Batala which was graciously granted.
On another occasion it has been reported that Hazrat Hakeem Maulana Nooruddinra said that “After coming to Qadian, I never thought of my hometown and thought of Qadian as my final destination.”
In September 1907, the Promised Messiahas initiated the “Life devotee” campaign and 13 people signed up for it in the early stages. On mentioning the qualities of Life devotes, Huzooras said “They should be content and wealth should not bother them, when the Holy Prophetsa sent someone for a Tabligh campaign, the appointee would prepare himself instantly for the task without demanding any allowance for the journey, nor making an excuse of longing for their families. This work can only be undertaken by such a person who dedicates himself for Allah the Almighty. God helps righteous people from Himself, as they take on a life of hardship for His sake.”
Expanding further on the qualities of life devotees, the Promised Messiahas stated that “They should be those who are patient and steadfast. There should be no negative enthusiasm in their nature. They should have the power to answer all hate speech with love. If they feel at risk of facing dishonesty or being deceived then they should leave such company or environment. They should keep doing their appointed tasks quietly and willingly”.
These are some of the qualities that the life devotees of this era should always keep in mind and act in accordance with to be counted as the successful. Some faith inspiring incidents of early life devotees are laid out below that show how they all manifest the qualities which were expected of a true life devotee.
Firstly, we begin with the account of Mubarak Ahmad Nazir, Missionary of Canada. On relating an interesting incident of his father when Mubarak Ahmad Nazir was eleven years of age, he said that “My father, Al Hajj Maulavi Nazir Ahmad Alira was a pioneering Missionary of Islam Ahmadiyyat. In 1945, I accompanied my father to Sierra Leone on a ship through a perilous journey. It took about three months from Qadian (India) to go to Sierra Leone and during this time I became seriously ill because of that long journey. I remember when we were about to board the ship, every passenger had to be checked by a doctor to make sure that they are fit to travel. When I went for my check up, the doctor looked at me, took my temperature, assessed me and evaluated my condition, and he told my father (Maulavi Nazir Ahmad Alira) ‘This boy I cannot carry… because he is at the point of death and in our ship we don’t have a cold storage room. I will only carry him under one condition that you sign on this paper that if he dies on the way, you will allow us to throw him overboard.’ I was the only son and I remember my mother started crying and said ‘Let’s take another ship.’ My father said ‘Don’t worry about him! Nothing is going to happen.’ He said ‘I don’t know when I will get another ship, I’m a Missionary, and I’ve been assigned a duty by His Holiness.’ I faintly remember he held my hand and he asked the doctor ‘Where do I have to sign?’ and whilst signing he jokingly or quiet sternly also said ‘If he dies throw him into the sea, but nothing will happen to him!’ Mubarak Ahmad Nazir ends on the note that the eleven year old child [pointing to himself] now is Alhamdulillah eighty five years old.”
This incident expresses that if you put your trust in God, for His cause, then He will also help you in your trials and tribulations. The fact of the matter is you should not lose hope at the first sign of difficulty. Zahoor Hussainra of Bukhara was another missionary, who travelled to Russia and faced trial and persecution. He reports that whilst in prison he saw the second Khalifara in a vision and Hazrat Musleh Maudra scolded him saying that “I have sent you to preach and you are quiet.” Upon this, he felt ashamed, and started to learn Russian with some of the inmates who knew the language. He was later freed and returned to India.
The lesson to be learnt here is that regardless of the circumstances, one should not get hopeless, rather he should make the best of what he is confronted with, like in this example of imprisonment where learning a language was the last thing anyone could have thought of, yet Maulana Zahoor Hussainra took this time and made use of it. He learnt the language by talking to others and not worrying about what would happen to him in that state of capture. Only he who trusts in God has the strength to carry out these tasks despite such overwhelming tribulation.
A similar incident is found when, on 15 February 1920, Dr. Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra, arrived at the port of Philadelphia by ship from London as the first Missionary. As soon as he arrived, the immigration officer interviewed him and asked the reason for his arrival. He said that he had come to this region as a preacher of Ahmadiyyat, the true Islam. At that time, it was not customary to obtain a visa before coming to the United States. The immigration officer admitted people and allowed them to enter, but sometimes some people were barred from entering and were sent back.
A long interview was conducted with Dr. Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra in which he was asked if he believes in polygamy like other Muslims. Dr. Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra replied with full confidence that yes I have the same belief as what Hazrat Jibrailra revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, the Messenger of God, in our Holy Book, the Holy Qur’an. The immigration officer asked, “Will you also preach this polygamy here?” To which he replied, “Of course I will.” The immigration officer said “You know, it’s against our law.” To this he replied that we Ahmadi Muslims do not do anything against the law, but these laws are made by human beings based on mutual understanding and they also change. On this the immigration officer denied him entry to America saying that if he spread his teachings and changed the environment, he would make a mess in America. Dr. Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra politely asked the immigration officer if there was another option available to him. The immigration officer said you would be arrested and brought before a judge and they will prosecute you for refusing to obey the officer. He replied, “I accept this second option.” He was arrested that evening and sent to prison.
Dr. Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra waited for the trial in jail and spent this time preaching to other prisoners, and sent the report to Hazrat Musleh Maudra. Almost every day he would write a letter to Huzoorra and send a report of his preaching by post. During his time in prison, according to some reports, he had converted between seventeen and twenty-two people to Ahmadiyyat.
When he was brought before the judge, the judge was very impressed with his personality and the way he dressed and after an interesting conversation, the judge allowed him to enter the United States legally. Meanwhile, he also received enthusiastic replies through letters from Hazrat Musleh Maudra, in which it was announced that no power in the world could stop him from entering the United States. Henceforth, he established the first mission in Philadelphia.
This was again the level of trust and honesty with God Almighty that led to him entering a land legally where preaching was against the law. He not only preached but converted many people to Ahmadiyyat before even stepping onto US soil.
The last account presented in this piece is the account of a Missionary had who travelled to Spain. Due to the lack of financial resources of the community, Hazrat Musleh Maudra requested many of the missionaries stationed in Europe, to return home. Maulana Qamar Ilahi Zafar, having read the message from the Khalifahra, wrote back requesting permission to continue to work as a self-financed missionary. After receiving permission from Huzoorra, he worked as a street vendor selling homemade perfumes, primarily in El Rastro, an open-air market in Madrid. He often used his stalls as an opportunity to introduce the Islamic faith. For example, he reportedly used to chant,
“Huelan esta fragancia tan agradable, sin embargo esta fragancia no durará
mucho tiempo entre vosotros, pero yo conozco un aroma que es permanente y eterno.
Si lo desean, pueden tomar mi tarjeta y contactarme”
Meaning that “The pleasant fragrance that you are smelling does not last long, but I know of a scent that is permanent and eternal [i.e. Islamic teachings]. If you wish, you can take my card and contact me.” Under the rule of Francisco Franco, non-Catholic missionary work was banned and as a result Maulana Qamar Ilahi Zafar faced several arrests by the state police. Often, his perfume stall was subjected to vandalism from members of the general public. In spite of this, he managed to publish a number of books in Spanish during the Franco era.
Thus, we learn what the true essence of devotion means and what it takes to fulfil it, looking up on several key pioneering Missionaries, to understand how they stepped outside their comfort zones to spread the teaching of the true Islam. They have set the bar for all to follow. They have laid out the guide posts in which we can shape our lives and try to become devotees of the same calibre.
May Allah bless these souls and enable us to follow their footsteps. Ameen.