The Great Reformer (Vol. 2) [‘Mujaddid-e-Azam’]

Biography of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian

by Dr. Basharat Ahmad

Translated by Akram Ahmad

Translator’s Foreword

It is my singular honor to present to you the English translation of the second volume of a biographical work by Dr. Basharat Ahmad Sahib. This is a biography of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Sahib, an eminently pious and religious leader who was born in the town of Qadian in the Indian Subcontinent.

His life spans the years 1835 – 1908. God appointed Hazrat Mirza Sahib as the Mujaddid (Reformer) of the fourteenth century Hijrah (according to the Islamic calendar) to bring about a reformation of Islam, and as the Promised Messiah and Mahdi (rightly-guided one) who was to spread Islam in the world by argument and reasoning, and not by the sword.

Well, instead of offering a few obligatory, nondescript remarks, I thought I’d try to make it interesting and briefly provide some structured background into this remarkable biography. I will also try to convey an overview of some of its essential features and qualities, as well as share some personal perspectives on the process of translating the second volume that you now hold in your hands. This biography — titled The Great Reformer — is the work of the late Dr. Basharat Ahmad.

The biographer was a contemporaneous disciple of Hazrat Mirza Sahib; he took the religious pledge at the hands of Hazrat Mirza Sahib, and subsequently became and remained a devoted disciple. He had tremendous love for the Holy Quran, and he used to inspire other people with this love by teaching the Holy Quran. He had learned to love and understand the Holy Quran from Hazrat Mirza Sahib.

It greatly pained Dr. Basharat Ahmad to see that Hazrat Mirza Sahib and his views were grossly misrepresented by opponents and detractors. So he resolved to do his best to set right this state of affairs by composing a truly accurate and comprehensive biography of his spiritual and religious mentor, Hazrat Mirza Sahib. However, Dr. Basharat Ahmad had grown old and physically infirm. Yet, despite the odds unmistakably stacked against him, he put forth a prodigious effort — He composed this sizeable and landmark biography that contains a total of one thousand seven hundred and fifty one pages in the Urdu language.

Once he had completed the third and final volume, Allah summoned Dr. Basharat Ahmad to Himself, to give this devoted servant of Islam a great reward — he passed away during that same year. For a more detailed description of the preceding observations, I refer you to the preface provided by Maulana Muhammad Ali Sahib in this biography’s third volume. The title of this biography, The Great Reformer, is the literal translation of the corresponding title in the Urdu language, Mujaddid Azam. As you may have inferred from the preceding remark, The Great Reformer was written in the Urdu language. It is comprised of three volumes. For your interest, I have compiled the following facts by consulting the original biographical work in the Urdu language:

  • The first volume contains 736 pages, and covers Hazrat Mirza Sahib’s life from his birth to the year 1900. Each chapter of this volume generally corresponds to a major event in his life, and the chapters are arranged in chronological order.
  • The second volume contains 655 pages, and covers Hazrat Mirza Sahib’s life from the year 1900 to the end of his life. Like the first volume, each chapter of this volume roughly corresponds to a major event in his life. In addition, out of the approximately eighty chapters in this volume, ten are devoted to providing you with some glimpses and insight into the moral qualities of Hazrat Mirza Sahib.
  • The third volume contains 360 pages. This volume presents a detailed summary and review of the achievements and religious services rendered by Hazrat Mirza Sahib over the span of his life.

Having provided you with an overview of this biographical work, The Great Reformer, I’ll now turn to a brief discussion of some of its salient features:

  • One remark that I have heard from several people who have read The Great Reformer is that it transports one to the era of Hazrat Mirza Sahib. In part, this trend is no doubt tied to the fact that the biographer (Dr. Basharat Ahmad) was a close disciple of Hazrat Mirza Sahib. So this biography is a first-hand account of the life and times of Hazrat Mirza Sahib.
  • Another quality of the biography is that it’s highly readable and accessible. Far from being a dry recitation of facts, The Great Reformer was written in a very engaging and conversational style. Like my colleague translators of the first and third volumes, I’ve tried hard to capture this readable style in the translation process. You will be the best judge to determine if we, the translators, have succeeded in achieving this goal. For those with an interest in the field of translation, let me briefly mention that, in translating from Urdu (my native language) to English (my secondary language), I’ve found the English language sufficiently rich in expression so that I can scarcely recall any instance where I felt the need for inventing neologisms.
  • Going hand in hand with the quality of readability is the feature of The Great Reformer that it is a very powerful and compelling narrative. And a sentiment that is shared by many readers of The Great Reformer is that learning about the life and the religious services rendered by Hazrat Mirza Sahib, from the pages of this biography, led them to embrace the ideals of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam.
  • Another feature of The Great Reformer is that, in addition to being packed with anecdotes from the life of Hazrat Mirza Sahib, it contains an abundance of relevant excerpts from scores of his religious works. This will give you an excellent flavor of Hazrat Mirza Sahib’s various religious works in a consolidated form.
  • Yet another quality of The Great Reformer is that exaggerations are absent from this biographical work. In other words, the entire narrative is founded in historical facts, and thus there is no revisionism that is sometimes unfortunately attendant on works of history and biography. The very great religious saint and reformer that Hazrat Mirza Sahib undoubtedly was, there isn’t any needless glorification in this biography. Instead, one of the goals of The Great Reformer is to provide you with glimpses into his life, set amid the backdrop of historical events.

Finally, I’d like to share some personal perspectives on the experience of translating this work into English:

  • In 1993, my brother-in-law, Dr. Hamid Rahman, drew my attention to the fact that the second volume of The Great Reformer needed to be translated into English. As such, I am extremely grateful to him. No doubt cognizant of the fact that this would be a fairly sizeable undertaking, he reminded me of the adage which affirms that “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So I began the work of translating the second volume of The Great Reformer back in the year 1993. (I am also deeply grateful to both Dr. Hamid Rahman and Mrs. Naseera Ahmed for meticulously reviewing and updating the second volume subsequently in its entirety to ensure accuracy and to make it as error-free as is humanly possible).
  • Since the time when I embarked upon this task, I received encouragement from many people. As time permitted, I continued to chip away at this task during my free hours. Allah granted me the strength throughout this endeavor, enabling me to complete this translation in December of the year 2000. Since December of 2000, I have reviewed, proofread, and tried to refine the presentation. I can candidly tell you that this work is easily the most creative endeavor that I have ever undertaken in my life. As much an exercise in creativity, this work turned out to be — particularly during the concluding fifteen months or so of this project when I was revising the translation manuscript — an exercise in managing the logistics of propagating a modicum (I hope!) of coherence and consistency throughout the breadth of the several hundred pages in this volume.
  • I wish to add here the observation that the Ahmadi Muslim children who are growing up in the Western hemisphere will most likely be able to read only those books that are written in the English language. As such, these English translations of the volumes that comprise The Great Reformer will Inshallah (God-willing) serve as valuable reading material for the children of our denominational community. The next generation of Ahmadis will thereby be able to find accurate information regarding Hazrat Mirza Sahib, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, as well as learn about the philosophy and true objectives of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam.
  • To state a truism, English is the most widely used language in the entire world. As such, it is my earnest wish that many in the world will hopefully get the chance to read the English translation of Hazrat Mirza Sahib’s biography, and perhaps thereby be attracted to the message that Hazrat Mirza Sahib continued to propagate till the last breath of his life. His message, of course, being the true teachings of Islam, as practiced by his master, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
  • You might be aware of the fact that, over the years, the teachings and life events of Hazrat Mirza Sahib have been egregiously misconstrued and then foisted on the unaware public by the detractors and opponents of Hazrat Mirza Sahib. Since this biography presents the life of Hazrat Mirza Sahib as well as his religious works in a nutshell, it can be reasonably hoped that this biography will Inshallah contribute towards clearing up the false charges and allegations that have been leveled against him.

Having shared with you some insights and personal perspectives on the translation experience, I will furnish a few comments below that will help you in comprehending this biography:

  • In the interest of brevity, I have variously used the words Ahmadiyya Organization, or simply Organization, in the translation. Wherever you see either of these aforementioned phrases, you should understand that the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam (the Ahmadiyya Organization for the Propagation of Islam) is signified. I’ll add that the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore (the Ahmadiyya Organization for the Propagation of Islam, based in the city of Lahore) is the extant organization founded by one of Hazrat Mirza Sahib’s closest disciples, Maulana Muhammad Ali Sahib. This missionary organization was established in the year 1914, subsequent to the demise of Maulana Nur-ud-Din Sahib, who had served as the next president of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam in Qadian (located in the Indian Subcontinent), after Hazrat Mirza Sahib. I refer you to Maulana Muhammad Ali’s book titled The Split in the Ahmadiyya Movement for further details regarding the events that led to the formation of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore.
  • Also in the spirit of conciseness, I have generally omitted the use of the word Sahib (this Arabic word signifies a polite form of address). Lest there be any doubt regarding its usage in this biography, I hasten to point out that wherever the name of any person is mentioned in the Urdu language version of this biography, the biographer has generally appended to that name the title of Sahib.
  • To the fullest extent possible, and for your benefit, I’ve tried to add citations with a uniform notation (Chapter number, Verse number) in locations where the biographer has referred to a verse(s) from the Holy Quran. As an example, (56:79) refers to the seventy-ninth verse in the fifty-sixth Quranic chapter. My motivation in adding these Quranic references is to enable you to further explore the themes that are mentioned in the biography.
  • Finally, throughout this volume, I have tried to italicize all words and phrases that might be unknown to readers who are familiar with English alone. And, through parenthetical notes, I have provided brief descriptions and the import of such words and phrases as they are variously encountered in this volume. Examples of these are: ijtihad, ummah, kalimah, zill, burooz, Fajr, Zuhr, istikhara, etc.

The overwhelming emotion that I feel at this juncture is that of heartfelt gratitude to Allah for granting me the strength to render this work. I’ll unequivocally state that this work could simply never have been accomplished without His assistance. Also, while physical relationship by itself naturally doesn’t confer any merit on me, I wish to state for the historical record that the biographer, Dr. Basharat Ahmad, was my great-grandfather. In conclusion, and on a personal note, I profess that this translation represents the labor of my love — while I certainly recognize that this is a wholly modest contribution to religious literature, it nonetheless represents the labor of my love. As such, I wish to dedicate it to the following individuals:

  • To the beloved memory of Dr. Saeed Ahmad Sahib, the late President of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore. He was quite simply the most extraordinary, humble, and pious servant of Islam that I have ever known in my life. Thinking of him, it never ceases to amaze me that a single person can touch the lives of so many people in such an uplifting and enriching manner.
  • To the fond memory of Mr. Naseer Ahmad Faruqui Sahib, the late Vice President of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore. Another dedicated servant of Islam who earnestly loved the Holy Quran, he is the author of Ahmadiyyat in the Service of Islam, a splendid book that is one of my favorites.
  • To the memory of my late father, Mr. Mansur Ahmad Sahib. More than any other individual, my dear father continued to motivate me at every step of the process of rendering this biography into English.
  • To my mother, Mrs. Khadija Begum. Along with my father, my dear mother instilled in me the love of books and learning.
  • To my wife, Mrs. Zainib Ahmad. My dear friend and fellow translator.

I also wish to acknowledge the valuable help that I received from Qazi Abdul Ahad Sahib; he furnished translations of Persian phrases and verses of poetry, Quranic and hadith references, as well as the translations of the same when only the Arabic text was to be found in the biography. My father, Mr. Mansur Ahmad, provided invaluable assistance in that he diligently reviewed the entire translation manuscript and supplied first-class feedback! I also wish to thank Aunt Safia Saeed for providing me with the English translations of numerous Persian verses of poetry that appear in this work. I hasten to underscore the fact, though, that all errors of commission and omission are solely my responsibility.

Here is a parting thought — Hazrat Mirza Sahib is the person who received the following lofty commendations from Prophet Muhammad:

“If any of you meets him, he should say assalam alaikum from me to him.” (Kanz-al-Ummal, Vol. 7, page 203, Hadith number 2143)

“So when you see him, take his pledge, even if you have to go on your knees in snow.” (Kanz-al-Ummal, Vol. 7, page 186, Hadith number 1934)

Even though Hazrat Mirza Sahib fulfills all the prophecies of the Holy Quran and Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) regarding his person, this luminary of the spiritual firmament wasn’t widely accepted by Muslims. With this state of affairs in mind, Hazrat Mirza Sahib himself echoed these poignant thoughts in the following couplet:

امروز قوم من نہ شناسد مقامِ من
روزے بگریہ یاد کند وقت خوشترم

“Today, my people have not recognized my status;
A day shall come when they will remember, in tears, the joyful time (for Islam) that came with me.”

And I wholeheartedly look forward to the arrival of the day when the Muslims of the world and the general public will embrace Hazrat Mirza Sahib’s truthfulness and his irreproachable message to revitalize Islam.

Let me just add that I feel like the curator who stands intently at the threshold of a museum, eager to usher in the visitors who seek to explore the treasures that await them inside; the difference being that whereas those visitors can merely peer at the embalmed museum-pieces through glass-cases, you may garner for yourself the enduring spiritual treasures — particularly those in the form of excerpts from Hazrat Mirza Sahib’s written works — that are presented in the pages of this biography. I hope that you will derive as much pleasure and inspiration from reading this volume as I did in translating it.

Akram Ahmad
July 4, 2013.