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 72: Hazrat Mirza’s Attire

The Cleanliness and Simplicity of Hazrat Mirza’s Attire:

Hazrat Mirza had no personal preference in the matter of clothes. His normal attire consisted of a shirt, a loose-fitting trouser known as pajama, waistcoat, and headgear. The chief characteristic of his attire was that it was very loose fitting. The length of the coat, or robe or cloak, whichever he wore, was always below his knees and sometimes would even touch his ankles. He wore his trousers to reach just above the ankles in accordance with the popular religious custom.

Initially, Hazrat Mirza used to wear gents loose-fitting pajamas occasionally. But he completely eschewed such pajamas later in life. During summers, he would occasionally wear in his house during the daytime a sarong known locally as dhoti, and he always wore a dhoti at night for his sleepwear.

Since Hazrat Mirza was accustomed to wearing baggy clothes, his shirts and waistcoats were invariably loose. He did not wear vests because their tight fit made him uncomfortable. When he wore a warm shirt, he would keep it unbuttoned at the very top.

The fact is that Hazrat Mirza was so engrossed in the remembrance of Allah and the service of religion, and so focused on the reformation of the nation that he never had the opportunity to pay attention to matters of personal adornment. His clothes were always simple and clean, but Hazrat Mirza was not given to wearing expensive clothes.

Toward the final years of his life, one of his disciples, Sheikh Rahmatullah of Lahore, started presenting Hazrat Mirza with shirts, pants, waistcoats and coats, tailored in his own shop, on the occasions of the two Eid festivals. Hazrat Mirza used to wear those clothes, with the coat itself reaching below knee level. Hazrat Mirza would also order clothes for himself but only if he needed them. His order for clothes mostly consisted of muslin shirts and white muslin turban.

Hazrat Mirza remained so engrossed in the work of religion that he never had the time to pay attention to the embellishment of his dress. It was often observed that the buttons of his shirts were buttoned into the wrong buttonholes — in fact, it was also seen on some occasions that the buttons of his waistcoat were buttoned into the buttonholes of his coat! Hazrat Mirza never bothered that his clothes should be well cared for, brushed and pressed. Sometimes it so happened that instead of hanging his coat and waistcoat on a peg, he left them near his pillow. In the morning, the coat and waistcoat would be disheveled and he would simply wear it in the same condition, not caring that it was wrinkled.

Hazrat Mirza did not have preference for any particular cloth or dress; he simply wore what he had in whatever condition it was. After seeing Hazrat Mirza, nobody could think even for a moment that there was any ostentation in the way he lived or dressed or that he was fond of the fashion and finery of life. But in accordance with the Quranic injunction,

وَ الرُّجۡزَ فَاہۡجُرۡ ۪﴿ۙ۵﴾

“And uncleanness do shun,” (74:5)

he always liked clean and pure things and despised dirty things. Hence his clothes though simple were invariably clean.

Turban:

Hazrat Mirza’s turban was made of muslin and was generally ten yards or more in length. He left the loose end of the turban fairly long and would sometimes have it coming over his shoulder onto the front of his dress. At times, he would wrap the end of the turban around his mouth. Hazrat Mirza tied his turban in a particular style. The tip of the turban was always in the front but it was loosely wrapped around a soft Turkish cap. At home, he would untie the muslin turban and just wear the Turkish cap.

Socks:

Hazrat Mirza wore cotton socks during the winter season. When performing ablution, he wiped a wet hand over his socks provided the socks had been worn after performing an earlier ablution. In extremely cold weather, he would sometimes put on two socks. Hazrat Mirza’s absorption in matters religious, and inattention to his own embellishment was evident here as well. On occasions, the sock was not fully pulled up and was dangling at the toes. At times, the heel of the sock was misplaced and was on the front of his foot, and at times the socks were found to be worn inside out.

Handkerchief:

Hazrat Mirza kept a handkerchief in the pocket of his waistcoat or coat. His handkerchief was always large in size although the prevailing fashion was for smaller more gentlemanly kerchiefs. Hazrat Mirza would tie in a corner of the handkerchief a small bottle of musk and other necessary medicines for use in a sudden attack of headache or cold hands and feet. Occasionally, he would also tie urgent letters or cash into a corner of his handkerchief.

Watch:

Hazrat Mirza would put into use any gift that had practical utility, and a watch was certainly a thing of practical necessity for a busy person like him. So when someone presented him with a watch as a gift, he kept it as a thing of necessity. The watch did not have a chain and so rather than risk dropping it if it was just slipped into the pocket Hazrat Mirza kept it tied in a corner of his kerchief, where it remained often unused.

At first, Hazrat Mirza did not even know how to tell the time from the watch and would use his finger on the watch dial to aid in counting the digits to the right time. Later when he learned to read the time, the problem that confronted him in the use of the watch was that he did not know how to wind the watch, and another person had to do it for him. Finally, he did learn to wind the watch but would often forget to do so with the result that the watch did not function most of the time.

Such was the state of Hazrat Mirza’s other worldly affairs as well. People who observed him were amazed. Here was this man from whose pen would emerge rivers of knowledge and wisdom and it appeared that he had full mastery of matters religious and temporal, but when it came to worldly affairs, he was simple and guileless like a child. There appear to be two reasons for this: First, this was inspired knowledge that was endowed by God. Second, Hazrat Mirza was so engrossed in religious work, and temporal affairs held such a trifling position in his view, that he considered attending to those mundane concerns as a waste of time. He once remarked:

“My condition is that I even lament the time lost in toileting needs because that same time could instead have been used in serving the cause of religion. I find any pastime or engagement in worldly affairs that takes time away from religious matters as very unpleasant. When there are pressing matters of religion that need to be attended to, I consider even the time spent in eating and drinking as forbidden until the matter has been taken care of. I belong to my religion and exist to serve it, and there must not be any impediment in my service to religion.”

Dislike of Western Attire:

This was the reason why Hazrat Mirza did not like Western attire, because it took too much time to put on and to maintain. Sheikh Rahmatullah of Lahore would get warm western style shirts tailored as a gift for Hazrat Mirza. Although Hazrat Mirza would wear them, he did not like the buttoned-up cuffs of the Western style shirts because the necessity of buttoning and unbuttoning them was tedious for him. Sometimes he would refer to the cuffs as,

“those dangling ear-like things.”

It was observed regarding his waistcoat that the buttons were often buttoned in the wrong buttonholes. The result of this was that the buttons on his shirts and waistcoat would break prematurely. One day he said with some incredulity,

“Buttoning a shirt is not a simple task. All my buttons break frequently. In fact, these things are a waste of time, even though they do provide some comfort.”

Winter Clothing:

Just as Hazrat Mirza never wore Western clothes, he also did not wear the old-style quilted coats. When it became very cold, he would wear one coat on top of another. Someone had given him a leather coat, which he wore occasionally. Another gift was a suit made of a very warm woolen cloth called pashmina which he donned at times. Hazrat Mirza also had a pashmina shawl that would generally be lying somewhere forgotten, but when Hazrat Mirza came to the mosque, he would gather it and put it on his shoulder. Upon sitting down, he would lay the shawl across his feet. He never wore the shawl over his head, but rather around his shoulders and neck.

During his later years, Hazrat Mirza would dress warmly in the summer as well by putting on his waistcoat and coat. His trousers were also made of a warm cloth but his shirts were always made of muslin. Even during the heat of summer, he would be quite comfortable wearing these warm clothes, much to everybody’s amazement.

Once on a hot summer day in Qadian, I was part of the Friday congregation in the Mubarak Mosque. The mosque had no electric fans at that time and only a few hand-held fans were available in the mosque with which the congregants could fan themselves. When Hazrat Mirza came to the mosque, he was wearing a woolen pashmina dress. He sat down in the arched niche at the head of the mosque and Maulvi Muhammad Ahsan Amrohi started delivering the sermon.

I was sitting nearby in a muslin shirt and was still feeling hot despite constantly fanning myself. When I saw Hazrat Mirza’s warm clothes, I felt greatly perturbed, and since I was sitting close to Hazrat Mirza, I started fanning him. Just then another person, apparently enthused with the spirit to serve Hazrat Mirza, grabbed at my fan to take over the job of fanning Hazrat Mirza.

I was covetous of performing this service myself and therefore did not let go of the fan and clenched it forcefully. But that person wrestled the fan out of my hand and started fanning Hazrat Mirza. I am not sure, whether Hazrat Mirza disapproved of that person’s action, or whether he felt no need to be fanned, but he addressed that man and said,

“Leave the fan, and listen to the sermon.”

Accordingly, the person put down the fan.

Maulana Amrohi’s sermon was especially lengthy that day, and even in my muslin shirt, I was melting in the heat, but given Hazrat Mirza’s remark, it just became inappropriate to fan myself. However, during all this time, Hazrat Mirza kept sitting comfortably as if he were in a cool place with a pleasant breeze. At that time, I recalled a narration to the effect that as a result of the prayer of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Hazrat Ali (peace be upon him) had ceased to be bothered by heat or cold. He could wear warm clothes during summer and cool clothes in winter without any discomfort. In the person of Hazrat Mirza, we personally observed the phenomenon of being able to wear warm clothes in summers, without any discomfort.

Hazrat Mirza’s bedding was very warm as well. He slept on a thick cotton filled mattress during all seasons of the year. His quilt during winters was extremely heavy, being filled with twelve or fourteen pounds of cotton.

Scent:

Hazrat Mirza used to wear the traditional oriental perfumes for men. His body always emanated a mild fragrance and never smelled of perspiration.

Keys:

Hazrat Mirza carried some keys. These would be either tied to a corner of his kerchief or more commonly be tied to the waist-band of his trousers.

Shoes:

Hazrat Mirza always wore native shoes generally of the Lahore or Saleem-Shahi style. His shoes were loose-fitting and never very fancy. Hazrat Mirza disliked tight shoes, and if a shoe happened to be tight, he would flatten the part behind the heel and then wear them like slippers for use inside the house only.

He never wore western style laced shoes. Someone once gave him a pair of western slip-on shoes as a gift and Hazrat Mirza started wearing them. However, he was unable to tell the right shoe from the left one and would frequently put the right shoe on the left foot and vice versa. This switching of shoes resulted in pain and discomfort to his feet. His companions advised him:

“Sir! If you identify the right and left shoe before wearing them, there will be no discomfort.”

Hazrat Mirza replied:

“I cannot make out which is which.”

To ease the identification, one of the shoe was marked with ink. Hazrat Mirza still had difficulty in identifying the right and left shoe and the wearing of the shoe on the wrong foot hurt his feet. In exasperation he would exclaim:

“They (the British) do not have a single good thing.”

However, out of regard for the gift giver, Hazrat Mirza wore the shoes for some days before abandoning them.

Hazrat Mirza came fully attired to the Mosque:

Hazrat Mirza had no interest in clothes as previously mentioned, but when he came to the mosque, he was always properly attired in conformity with the directives of the Quran. His dress would be clean and pure and he would generally be wearing some perfume; his hair would be oiled and well groomed. In addition, he would regularly have his hair trimmed, use henna, take regular baths and brush his teeth in accordance with the example of the Holy Prophet.

Hazrat Mirza’s Office:

Hazrat Mirza did all his writing work at home on his bed. His pen, inkwell, bag and books would stay on his bed because it served as a table, chair, library, etc. Sometimes while writing, he would get up and start strolling without interrupting the flow of his writing. He placed an inkwell at each end of his courtyard. As he strolled to one end of the courtyard, he would dip his pen in the inkwell and would continue his writing as he strolled to the other end, where he recharged his pen before beginning the return stroll.

Every author and writer knows that silence and a peaceful environment are needed to fully concentrate while writing. Even the chirping of a bird or the need to move can be distracting to the thought process and the flow of composition. It was really extraordinary, therefore, that neither the strolling nor the noise of women and children in the house made any difference to the smooth flow of Hazrat Mirza’s writing. The literary masterpieces authored by Hazrat Mirza were composed in this environment.

Walking Stick:

Hazrat Mirza always carried a walking stick when he ventured outside his house, whether it was a short walk to the Aqsa mosque or the long morning walks. He preferred a stout walking stick made out of sturdy wood, but he never leaned on his walking stick or put his weight on it in the manner of men of advanced age.

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