Our Late Leader, Friend and Shining Example

Hazrat Ameer (III), K.B. Dr. Saeed Ahmad Khan, S.K. — Recollections by some of those whom he Inspired

by Dr. Zahid Aziz

The Light & Islamic Review (US), May/June 1997 Issue (Vol. 74, No. 3, pp. 8–10)

اِعۡلَمُوۡۤا اَنَّ اللّٰہَ یُحۡیِ الۡاَرۡضَ بَعۡدَ مَوۡتِہَا ؕ

“Know that Allah gives life to the earth after its death.” (The Holy Quran 57:17)

I have chosen this verse as appropriate for this tribute because, in our time, it was through the late Hazrat Ameer Dr. Saeed Ahmad Khan sahib that the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement was revived and re-awakened to its work, duties and responsibilities.

As we recall our personal memories and experiences of Dr. Saeed Ahmad Khan, it is unavoidable that such an article contains many references to the writer. However, all mention of the writer’s own person is merely incidental, as that of an observer and a grateful beneficiary of the deceased; the real object is to focus on the great qualities, character and achievements of the late Hazrat Ameer.

It is with much pain that I take up the pen to record my impressions of Hazrat Ameer, as this act of writing forces me to face and accept the reality of his death. Only the words,

اِنَّا لِلّٰہِ وَ اِنَّاۤ اِلَیۡہِ رٰجِعُوۡنَ ﴿۱۵۶﴾ؕ

“To Allah do we belong, and to Him do we return” [The Holy Quran, 2:156],

bring any comfort to the heart. Indeed, on the many occasions when the death took place of some loved one of Hazrat Ameer, and we condoled with him, he displayed unparalleled patience and submission to the Divine will, and exhorted us to accept the decree of the Almighty.

I first met Dr. Saeed Ahmad Khan sahib when he visited England in the summer of 1975 for the first of his many visits to establish and consolidate the Movement outside Pakistan. His name was already well-known in our family, not only because of his long-standing prominence in the Movement but also because he had treated my maternal grandmother for a lung disease in about 1944 when she was his patient at the famous Dadar Sanatorium where Dr. Saeed Ahmad was incharge.

From that first meeting in 1975, I had the privilege and honour of receiving his wise guidance, advice and encouragement for 21 years in the work that I did for the Movement, for which I remain ever thankful to Almighty Allah. You did not feel as if you were working underhim but working with him, because he treated you as a friend and an equal.

When I first met Dr. Saeed Ahmad, it was the time when Ahmadis in Pakistan had just been declared by the government as being non-Muslims, following anti-Ahmadiyya riots during the summer of 1974. This decision had struck the Jamaat with probably the biggest shock in its history. Our members were threatened with loss of life and property, and social ostracism, by the Muslim religious leaders of Pakistan unless they deserted and denounced the Ahmadiyya Movement. Naturally, we were filled with apprehension. uncertainty and doubt about the future of the Jamaat. In such conditions, the firmness and constancy shown by Dr. Saeed Ahmad in adhering to the cause of truth, braving all the troubles and dangers that he faced personally, strengthened and re-affirmed our faith in the Movement.

Once talking to me in those days, Dr. Saeed Ahmad said:

“If, of course, it is Allah Who has willed to put an end to this Jamaat, then no matter what we do to save it we shall not succeed. But I do not believe that Allah has willed that this Jamaat should come to an end.”

In other words, our opponents cannot crush this Jamaat, if, as we believe, Allah wishes it to continue in existence. Subsequent events indeed showed that Allah rescued, succoured and strengthened this Jamaat, while those who were bent on destroying it were themselves crushed out of existence by the mighty hand of Allah. And those fair-weather friends who deserted this Movement in its hour of need, eventually met with nothing but disappointment.

From 1975 to 1984, he visited England every year except in 1981 and 1983, staying for several weeks. He had planned to come in 1986, but had to cancel his trip because of a heart problem. From England he would travel to visit our branches in various other countries such as Holland, the West Indies, Suriname, U.S.A., and Berlin. Within England he would travel out of London to places as far as Bradford and Manchester to meet members of the Jamaat. All this exhausting travelling he did when he was in the age range 75 to 85.

While in England (and indeed in the other countries that he visited) he would go to visit every member of the Jamaat that he possibly could, in order to encourage them to take part in the activities of the Movement. For these visits he often had to travel by the most ordinary and uncomfortable modes of transport (such as buses), and to stay in the most humble and poor type of accommodation. I saw him visiting people who lived in the industrial slums of the north of England, and staying with them in their decaying houses, entirely unconcerned for his own personal comfort. Once, when he was staying in such conditions, the host apologised to him, saying:

“I am sorry, but where I live is not a very pleasant place”.

He replied:

“It is the people that I have come to see, and what matters is that they are pleasant.”

While travelling with him on a few occasions, I felt that there were some instances of Divine intervention in the journey. Quite unexpected things happened on our way which saved us much trouble. Once, in 1979, while on our way by car to see someone, we took some wrong turnings by mistake (due, in fact, to my misdirections), and quite by chance passed outside that man’s brother’s house, which was some streets away from our intended destination. Again, by chance, his brother happened to be standing outside his house at the moment that we were passing. So, we stopped to talk to him, and learnt that the man we wanted to see was in hospital, and it would have been a wasted journey to go to his house. We then went to the hospital to see him.

During Dr. Saeed Ahmad’s visits to England before 1982, it was a period when the Jamaat in the U.K. was facing many problems, apparently insurmountable. He was a source of very great strength and consolation to us. Many a time we had to hold functions, such as Eid prayers, in hired halls in different places in London. Wherever it was, he always came if he was in England at the time.

The U.K. Jamaat were in desperate need of getting a centre somewhere, and had collected around £5000 towards buying a building. When visiting us in 1981, Dr. Saeed Ahmad informed us that he was going on to the U.S.A. and would try to collect from our members there a further £5000 for our building. When he actually made the appeal before a gathering of our friends in America, Allah so opened their hearts that four times the expected amount was collected. When Dr. Saeed Ahmad returned to London with the funds, after a tiring trip, he went straight from the airport to the bank to deposit the money.

As a result, in 1982 a much larger building than we had expected was purchased in the Wembley area. Dr. Saeed Ahmad then came that year to perform its opening ceremony. (On our World-Wide Web pages on the Internet, we have placed a photograph showing Dr. Saeed Ahmad delivering his opening speech in the form of a Friday khutba on this occasion.)

I remember a highly useful piece of advice that he gave in another speech during that Convention. If you rise up early in the morning for the fajr prayer, he said, then the time following the prayer is very opportune for doing some religious study or work because you have not as yet got entangled in your busy, daily routine of worldly work, and it is a very quiet time which can be highly productive.

So far, I have spoken only of my recollections of Dr. Saeed Ahmad during his visits to England. At the several annual gatherings of the Movement which I attended in Lahore, I also had the opportunity to observe him, be in his company for long periods, and work with him. Many are the incidents that I remember, which teach noble and inspiring lessons.

When, in early 1976, I put to him my request that I wished to take the pledge at his hand, he said to me:

“In reality the man at whose hand people take the pledge should be someone of a very high spiritual standing, and I am not such a person.”

I said:

“But we believe that you are.”

At this he shuddered with humility and fear of Allah and said astaghfir-ullah [“I seek forgiveness from Allah”].

When he would come and sit in the annual gathering, it felt as if the dignity and sanctity of the occasion was raised to an entirely higher plane. We looked forward most eagerly to his opening and closing addresses. Especially the concluding part of every annual gathering with his final address and prayer was a most heart-melting and soul-cleansing occasion. That effect cannot be adequately described in words, it cannot even be replayed again in one’s mind, it could only be experienced at the time. His beseeching of the Almighty in his closing prayer, which everyone joined in by raising their hands, brought tears to the eyes as if they were pouring out of the depth of your heart, and you felt as if you were really present before God, praying to Him.

One such closing part of an annual gathering which I witnessed (in, I think, 1994, the last but one of his life) presented a most remarkable scene of inspiration and spiritual vitality. His address and prayer, and even just his presence, produced an effect so overwhelming that as he was leaving and passing through the gathering, exchanging greetings with people, it seemed as if there were vast crowds present, far exceeding the actual number there. Later on, and indeed at the next annual gathering, Dr. Saeed Ahmad himself mentioned that an unusual spiritual feeling had been experienced on that occasion.

Though sceptics and the worldly-minded may doubt it, but it is a fact that a spiritual atmosphere of this kind can be produced around a holy one of God, and is the phenomenon of angels descending upon the hearts to strengthen them. If in our time angels have ever descended from heaven to aid the believers, this was observed with our Lahore Ahmadiyya elders like Dr. Saeed Ahmad.

Another quality which I was privileged to witness, and indeed benefit from, on these occasions in Lahore, was how approachable, hospitable and informal was Dr. Saeed Ahmad. One used to be able to meet him at any time and simply go and sit with him and talk. Even during his last three years of illness, this continued, subject only to his need for more rest. He would order food or refreshment to be brought, and affectionately put it before us. Sometimes he would peel fruit for you himself and then hand it to you on a plate. That loving treatment sometimes used to make me think of the future, that after he was gone how greatly we would miss that warmth and affection. We had read and heard about these qualities in the true spiritual leaders of Islam, that far from being aloof, detached and pretentious (as may be seen in the case of the very many self-seeking religious leaders that exist), they humbly mix with their followers, indeed serve them, and make them feel comfortable and welcome. And we saw this in practice with Dr. Saeed Ahmad.

He believed strongly in leading a simple, godly life and was most concerned that in our everyday lives we should adhere to the teachings of the Holy Quran, the practice of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, and the example set nearer our times by the great men and women of the Ahmadiyya Movement. Therefore, in religious observances as well as in social matters he was very much opposed to the elaborate ceremonies, rituals and formalities that are, unfortunately, widely prevalent among Muslims. As our own late leader has set such a shining example of rejecting all these rituals and ceremonies (many of which are connected with the occasions of marriage and death), it befits us to eradicate such practices from our own lives, otherwise how can we preach to the other Muslims outside our Movement?

I wish to note two other aspects of his leadership from which this Movement benefitted immeasurably, and which are an example for us to follow. One was his extensive travelling to various parts of the world in order to strengthen the links between the Centre of the Movement and its branches. This personal contact built invaluable, powerful bonds within the Movement in the world. Not only did he meet even the most ordinary of our members wherever he went, as I have stated earlier, but with his powerful memory he could always recall all their personal details, and if he met someone a second time, much later, he needed no reminding about who it was and anything else that person had told him the first time. Extraordinary though it may seem, but it appeared as if Dr. Saeed Ahmad personally knew everyone.

The other aspect that I wish to point out is that Dr. Saeed Ahmad always honoured, valued and encouraged those persons who worked sincerely and selflessly for this Movement, and he was anxious to bring them forward in the Jamaat and put them in responsible positions so that the Movement would derive maximum benefit from their work. He did not care what their background, age, position, family, or country was, but only that they were faithful and capable. He recognized potential and encouraged its development.

Dr. Saeed Ahmad possessed many rare qualities that are essential and vital for a true Muslim spiritual leader as well as organizational head of a Movement. It was our greatest good fortune, an incomparable bounty from Almighty Allah, that such a man existed among us, and moreover that this Jamaat chose him as its leader. He did all that he possibly could for the advancement of our cause. He gave himself to this work with all his heart and soul and power and strength, and for as long as I knew him, he devoted every single moment of his life to the progress of this Jamaat.

He was a great source of strength and security for us. Recalling the parable given in the Quran, he was like the good tree with deep, firm roots, and high branches, under the shade of which we sheltered in safety and comfort for long. He did the worrying and the crying before Allah for us, while we slept peacefully and felt secure in the knowledge that he was there. Now he has done his duty, set the example and passed away, and the responsibility falls on our shoulders. As the Quran says:

کُلُّ مَنۡ عَلَیۡہَا فَانٍ ﴿ۚۖ۲۶﴾ وَّ یَبۡقٰی وَجۡہُ رَبِّکَ ذُو الۡجَلٰلِ وَ الۡاِکۡرَامِ ﴿ۚ۲۷﴾

“Everyone in the world passes away, and there endures forever the person of thy Lord, the Lord of glory and honour” (The Holy Quran, 55:26–27).