The Great Reformer (Vol. 2) [‘Mujaddid-e-Azam’]
Biography of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian
by Dr. Basharat Ahmad
Translated by Akram Ahmad
Chapter 71: Physical Features
Signs of Spirituality and Piety upon Hazrat Mirza’s Countenance
It is possible to describe Hazrat Mirza’s qualities with words. His photographs are also in existence. But it is impossible for the pen or the photograph to capture the signs of piety and spiritual glow that lighted his face at all times. When he entered the mosque through the small doorway that connected his house with the mosque, it appeared as if a radiant spiritual light had emerged and stood before the beholder.
I saw Hazrat Mirza for the first time in Sialkot in 1891. Hazrat Mirza emerged from the house of Hakim Hussam-ud-Din, crossed the alley and entered a house on the opposite side. I felt as if an apparition of spiritual light had passed by. His countenance excelled even the most spiritual and pious face my mind could conjure, and my heart spontaneously said that this could not be the face of an impostor but was that of a very holy person.
Once I was visiting Qadian in winter. It was a rainy evening with a cold blustery wind blowing outside. I was sitting in the Mubarak mosque where the Maghrib prayers were offered. The darkness had slowly begun to suffuse across the mosque when Hazrat Mirza entered holding a candle. The flame of the candle was casting its glow upon his blessed countenance. By God, the spiritual light that I observed upon his face was a sight that I have not forgotten to this day. His face was radiant like the sun before which the light of the candle paled into insignificance.
In 1906, many years after the above narrated incident, I took a long leave from my job and went to stay in Qadian. One day, Hazrat Mirza had a severe headache, but despite being unwell, he came to the mosque for Zuhr (afternoon) prayer. I saw him coming from the front and although his face showed signs of pain, his forehead was aglow with brilliant spirituality that dazzled the eyes and delighted the heart.
Even to this day, I have not been able to fathom what produced that singular glow upon his countenance. These are only a few special occasions that have left indelible impressions upon my mind, but in general, the signs of spirituality were so prominent upon Hazrat Mirza’s face, and the heavenly light so apparent, that it was simply impossible for a person to gaze at his countenance and be left unimpressed.
During those days, our effort was focused on convincing non-Ahmadi Muslims that Jesus had died. Once a person was convinced about the death of Jesus, a discussion about the physical descent of Jesus became superfluous.
In addition, our endeavor was for people to see Hazrat Mirza. A sight of his countenance never failed to convince a genuine seeker of truth of the authenticity of his claims. Opponents used to dissuade people from meeting him, because they alleged he was a magician or a hypnotist who would cast a spell or mesmerize people. This was totally untrue. A hypnotist mesmerizes people by staring into their eyes but Hazrat Mirza’s gaze was habitually cast down out of modesty.
He was never in the habit of looking up. The fact is that the spiritual glow and the signs of piety were so obvious that it was impossible to look at Hazrat Mirza’s countenance and not be moved.
It was a different matter if bigotry, malice and prejudice had permeated a person’s heart and suppressed the finer sentiments of humanity within that person, and silenced his voice of conscience, but for a person who was free of such base emotions, Hazrat Mirza’s spiritual countenance could not leave him unimpressed.
Even the Hindus acknowledged this fact. A Hindu vendor used to sit with his basket of wares alongside the canal that passed between the towns of Batala and Qadian; he would say:
“Sir, I see every passerby who goes by this way. Many fierce Pathans and similar brave people have passed this way, stating that today they would return only after taking care of Mirza (reference to Hazrat Mirza). But when they returned, they were singing the praises of Mirza — Sir, Mirza must genuinely be a godly person.”
During his youth, Hazrat Mirza was once traveling to the hill station of Dalhousie when it began to rain heavily. In that mountainous region, once the rain starts it is incessant. Hazrat Mirza was riding in a horse drawn carriage with a traveling companion. They spotted the home of a mountain-dweller nearby, and Hazrat Mirza sent his companion to the house to ask for temporary shelter from the rain.
Observing the dispute that had presently broken out between his companion and the mountain-dweller, Hazrat Mirza went there personally. On arriving, he found that the owner had refused entry into his house, but as soon as he glanced at Hazrat Mirza, he relented and allowed them to enter.
He then proceeded to say:
“I have a grown-up daughter. For this reason, I do not allow anyone to come into the house. But seeing you put my mind at rest. So you can enter my house.”
Hazrat Mirza was a young man at that time and even though the mountain-dweller had never seen Hazrat Mirza prior to that meeting, the spirituality on his countenance was so prominent that even an unlettered mountain-dweller was able to discern his pious nature.
Such incidents were of frequent occurrence during the lifetime of Hazrat Mirza. A man from the town of Mardan once came to Qadian in the company of Mian Muhammad Yusuf, to receive medical treatment from Maulana Nur-ud-Din. This visitor was bitterly opposed to Hazrat Mirza, and he had been compelled to come to Qadian solely because he was in need of medical treatment.
He had laid down the condition before Mian Muhammad Yusuf that his accommodation would be arranged outside the Ahmadiyya colony since he did not even want to go near that area.
At any rate, he came to Qadian and lodged outside the Ahmadiyya colony. His treatment started; it was efficacious and after some time, he decided to go back home. Mian Muhammad Yusuf said to him:
“You came to Qadian and now you are going. At least see our mosque before you go.”
He refused; Mian Muhammad Yusuf persisted, and he relented on the condition that neither Hazrat Mirza, nor any other Ahmadi, should be present when he visited the mosque. Mian Muhammad Yusuf accepted this condition, and brought him to the Mubarak mosque at a time when he thought no one would be there.
But by a strange coincidence, as soon as they entered the mosque, the door from Hazrat Mirza’s house into the mosque opened and Hazrat Mirza stepped in to take care of some matter. The man cast a glance towards Hazrat Mirza and was so overwhelmed with emotion that he fell down before Hazrat Mirza and took the pledge there and then.
A similar incident was narrated by Mian Fakhar-ud-Din of Multan as follows:
“During the time of Hazrat Mirza, my father once came to Qadian. He was strongly opposed to Hazrat Mirza and very vocal about it. Even in Qadian, he continued with his foulmouthed denunciations of Hazrat Mirza, and would openly declare that if he ever met him, he would curse him to his face.
“Nevertheless, I took him to meet Hazrat Mirza. When Hazrat Mirza came out, my father stood up out of respect. He then became fearful and went and sat at the back of the gathered audience. Hazrat Mirza sat down and started talking to the assembled people. His talk repeatedly stressed:
‘It is my wish that people should come here, and listen to my words and ask me questions. I am even prepared to spend money for them to come here. But people do not come; if they do come, they remain silent, only to go back later and talk ill of me.’
“Hazrat Mirza talked openly and sermonized to the audience. Although my father was a glib talker but it was as if his tongue was tied and he was not able to utter even a single word.”
Disdain of Mesmerism:
Hazrat Mirza’s blessed countenance had such a profound effect on a person that the person’s heart would spontaneously testify that this could not be the face of a fabricator. Because Hazrat Mirza’s opponents could find no rational explanation for this, some of them started saying that Hazrat Mirza was a hypnotist who used mesmerism to control people’s hearts. This was of course a blatant lie. Hypnotists use their eyes to get control of their subject’s mental processes, whereas Hazrat Mirza hardly ever raised his eyes! Just as a modest girl keeps her gaze cast down, Hazrat Mirza too would habitually keep his gaze cast down out of modesty. Such was his practice that sometimes he would be unaware even of those sitting in his company. At times, he would ask for some disciple to be sent for in connection with some work, only to be told by that disciple that he was present.
Moreover, Hazrat Mirza greatly despised the art of mesmerism. Once during the lifetime of Hazrat Mirza, Maulana Nur-ud-Din narrated to me his personal spiritual experiences of how, on certain occasions, he had met with the spirits of departed souls. I requested him to teach me this knowledge as well.
He replied that Hazrat Mirza greatly disliked mesmerism, spiritualism, etc. He added that Hazrat Mirza thought that man’s real objective was God. Man should try to develop a profound relationship with God, and not get involved in side amusements and spectacles that would make him forget the real objective of life. Through mystic exercises, a person can develop certain hidden faculties to the point that he can begin to witness or show such spectacles. These are valid sciences, but they have nothing to do with a relationship with God or the reformation of the soul.
If a man is unable to achieve real righteousness, purity and a connection with Allah, then these affairs are of no benefit to him spiritually. So abandoning the real objective of life, i.e., the pleasure of God and the attainment of righteousness, and chasing after such ephemeral pleasures is in reality a waste of valuable time.
Maulana Nur-ud-Din added that Munshi Ahmad Jan of Ludhiana, his father-in-law, was a great expert of mesmerism. He had even written a voluminous book on the subject of mesmerism. When he met Hazrat Mirza for the first time, he expressed his desire to publish this book.
Hazrat Mirza enquired:
“Munshi Sahib, what is special about the art you have learnt?”
“The person I mesmerize becomes powerless and falls down.”
Hazrat Mirza enquired:
“What is the benefit of that? Did it help you find God?”
Munshi Ahmad Jan immediately understood the significance of Hazrat Mirza’s observation, and gave up the idea of publishing the book. He became an ardent follower of Hazrat Mirza and realized what the true Unity of God meant.
In short, Hazrat Mirza despised mesmerism. His practice was to follow the Quran and the Sunnah (practice of the Holy Prophet) and he considered this to be the root of all progress — both physical and spiritual.
While conversing with Hazrat Mirza, a great scholar once expressed his desire to see a spiritual vision in a state of wakefulness in the way that saints experience visions. Hazrat Mirza replied:
“Such a wish is tantamount to shirk (associating gods with God). The objective of a believer should be to seek God and not to experience spiritual visions or revelations. They are gifts from God, and He grants them to whom He pleases. But it is meaningless to make them one’s objective. On Judgment Day, it shall not be inquired as to how many true dreams or visions a person saw in the world. Instead, the state of your faith and good deeds shall be investigated there. So make Allah the objective of your lives. Believe in Him with conviction and do good deeds, for this is true saintliness.”
So it would be egregious misrepresentation to insist that Hazrat Mirza practiced mesmerism. The fact is that the signs of piety, purity, and the spiritual glow on his countenance were so prominent that onlookers were spontaneously attracted to him, and their souls would give testimony that this was a saintly man who was near to God. This was why large crowds would turn out to catch a glimpse of Hazrat Mirza when he toured cities such as Lahore, Jhelum, Ludhiana, etc., and when the masses saw him, they would spontaneously call out subhan Allah (Glory be to Allah). People were so positively impressed by Hazrat Mirza’s aura of piety that the opposing clerics had to resort to all kinds of groundless allegations, vilification and maligning of Hazrat Mirza. They had to hold large gatherings to remind people of the decree excommunicating Hazrat Mirza from Islam and they had to threaten them with automatic annulment of their marriages if they looked favorably on Hazrat Mirza. By using such ploys, the clerics managed to sustain the generally antagonistic attitude of the masses towards Hazrat Mirza.
It is also worth pondering that a hypnotist cannot mesmerize an entire gathering of thousands of people. At the most a hypnotist may be able to mesmerize one or two people at a time. In fact the spiritual light that shone from Hazrat Mirza’s countenance was the same light that has always lit up the blessed faces of prophets and saints, and this light shone with great splendor from Hazrat Mirza’s face.
Hazrat Mirza was a fine example of masculine handsomeness. But in addition to physical handsomeness, the spiritual gleam and sparkle that was ever present on his face created such a surreal appearance that my eyes have never witnessed anything comparable. Neither written descriptions, nor photographs can really reflect that spiritual radiance. So I can only present the physical description for the reader. Dr. Mir Muhammad Ismail has presented a detailed portrayal of Hazrat Mirza’s appearance in the second volume of Sirat-ul-Mahdi. With a few minor additions and subtractions, the following description is taken from Dr. Ismail’s portrayal.
Physique and Height:
Hazrat Mirza was neither thin, nor obese. His body was not flabby but strong and firm like that of a youth. His physique was well proportioned; his arms and legs were not excessively long and his abdomen was well-contained. There was no ugliness in his body. His skin was neither rough, nor smooth like that of a woman. Even when he reached his seventies, his skin did not wrinkle or droop. He had an average height of about five feet and eight inches, although his height was never measured formally. His shoulders were broad, as was his chest. Even during the final days of his life, his posture remained upright and his back never hunched.
In accordance with the physical description of the Promised Messiah given in the Hadith, his complexion was wheaten brown. It was a beautiful wheaten brown color with a tint of red and the spiritual glow glimpsing through it. The brilliance associated with his face was not temporary, but instead it remained undiminished throughout his lifetime. Nobody ever saw Hazrat Mirza’s face grow pale even during times of distress, or during legal battles and trials; his face always shone like gold.
Besides the glow and the heavenly light on his countenance, his face was always cheerful and smiling. Those who looked at him would say to themselves: If this person is false and knows in his heart that he is a liar, how could there be this cheerfulness, happiness, and signs of victory and contentment on his countenance? Such a virtuous exterior can never be associated with a person whose inner self is depraved; the glow of faith cannot be resplendent upon the face of a liar.
After Lekhram’s assassination, Hazrat Mirza’s house was searched by the police. Rev. Henry Martyn Clarke lodged a false complaint against Hazrat Mirza of conspiring to murder him. During these and other similar distressing trials of his life, the cheerfulness, happiness and contentment never diminished or dampened.
The hair on his head was very fine, straight, lustrous and soft, and dyed with the color of henna. The growth of hair upon his head was not dense but sparse. Hazrat Mirza neither shaved his head nor had his hair cropped short. He kept his hair long and his hair reached down to his ear lobes and sometimes to the nape of his neck. He also applied hair-oil and preferred not to keep his hair dry.
In accordance with the Sunnah, Hazrat Mirza had a thick, flowing beard that he kept well groomed. The beard was beautifully shaped naturally with the facial hair neither confined to the chin area nor extending all the way up the cheeks almost to the eyes. The hair in his beard were strong, lustrous, straight and soft, and dyed with the color of henna.
Like his beard, the hair of his mustache were also strong and glossy. Hazrat Mirza would trim his mustache, but not in the manner of some clerics whose mustache appears almost shaved. At the same time, the hair of his mustache were not so long as to droop over the lips.
Hazrat Mirza’s face was proportionately long. Even when he was in his seventies, there were no signs of wrinkles upon his face or of scowl marks on his forehead. On the other hand, signs of happiness and cheerfulness were ever present on his face. His eyes were large and blackish brown in color.
He kept his gaze lowered, and unless he took the pain to raise his eyes to see something, his eyelids were downcast. This habit was so ingrained in him that regardless of whether he was sitting outside in the company of men or was sitting inside his home, his eyes would be downcast, and even when he conversed with someone, he would not lift his eyes. Because of this habit, Hazrat Mirza did not know even when he was in his own house which other inmates were present and what they were engaged in.
Hazrat Mirza did not wear glasses even in his advanced age because Allah had promised protection for his eyesight. Even though he was routinely engaged in the work of reading and composition throughout the day, his eyes never tired nor ailed.
His ears were of average size, neither protruding outwards, nor pressed flat against the sides of the head. By the grace of God, his hearing remained excellent throughout his life. His nose was attractive, raised and proportionate, being neither very thin nor very broad. His cheeks were neither sunken, nor bulging outwards and his cheekbones were not high. His eyebrows were set apart and did not mesh together.
His lips were not thin, and neither were they so thick as to be displeasing to the eyes. His mouth was moderate in proportions, and remained closed when he was not speaking. Hazrat Mirza was in the habit of brushing his teeth, and would brush them often. In his advanced age, his teeth would occasionally cause him problems.
Hazrat Mirza had a broad forehead that was neither sunken nor protruding. It exuded reflections of a man possessing sagacity and sound intellect. According to physiognomists, such foreheads belong to people who possess fine qualities and high morals. His head was large in a handsome way, being complete in all respects from the point of view of physiognomy. In other words, his head was highly balanced in terms of length and width. His temples were expansive, testifying to his superior intellect. His neck was proportionate in length and thickness.