The Martyrdom of Sahibzada Abdul Latif Shaheed

by Prof. Khalil-ur-Rahman


Events from Arrest to Verdict — Extracts from Tazkirat-ul Shahadatain:

Hazrat Mirza writes:

“When Sahibzada Abdul Latif was presented before the Ameer, the opposition had already put the Ameer in an angry mood. For this reason, his behaviour was very tyrannical. The Ameer commanded that Akhunzada1 be made to stand at a distance from him because he reeked. After a little while, he ordered that Hazrat Sahibzada be imprisoned in the fort where the Ameer also lived, and be restrained by the chains known as ghara-ghraab. These chains weigh one maund and 24 seers English (approximately 130 pounds), cover a person from the neck to the waist, and include handcuffs. In addition, he ordered that his feet be fettered with chains, which weigh 8 seers English (approximately 16 pounds). The Maulvi Sahib remained imprisoned for four months. During this time, he was broached several times on behalf of the Ameer, and given to understand that if he repented from the belief that the Qadiani (a reference to Hazrat Mirza) is, in fact, the Promised Messiah, he would be allowed to go free. Every time, he gave the same reply:

‘God has given me knowledge and the ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood. After a complete investigation, I have found that this person is, in reality, the Promised Messiah. Although I know that by adopting this position, my life is not safe and my family will be ruined, but, at this time, I consider my faith to be more valuable than my life and all worldly satisfactions.’

Hazrat Sahibzada gave this reply, not once, but over and over again during the course of his imprisonment. This imprisonment was not like that in British prisons, where some consideration is given to human rights, but it was a harsh confinement of the sort to which one would prefer death. For this reason, the people were amazed at this show of firmness and steadfastness, and an amazement indeed it was. Hazrat Sahibzada was an illustrious person, owner of an estate in excess of a hundred thousand rupees in the Kingdom of Kabul, a leader in the Kingdom on account of his excellence of learning and piety, who had spent about fifty years of his life in ease, had a big family, many friends and sons. He had been cast into a grievous imprisonment, the mere mention of which sends shivers through a person’s body and was worse than death. It was incredible that this person of delicate form, raised on the lap of luxury, could show such extraordinary patience in the face of this spirit-breaking imprisonment; this especially so in light of the repeated messages he received that if he retracted from attesting to the truthfulness of the claim of the Qadiani person, he would be released honourably. But this pious man, with a mighty faith, did not care one bit for these repeated offers. Again and again, he gave the same reply:

‘Do not expect me to prefer this world over my belief. How can it be that I deny, for fear of my death, a person whom I have identified well and investigated carefully. I cannot deny him. I see that I have found the truth, and I cannot commit the deceit of abandoning the proven truth for the sake of this life of a few days. I have decided that I am willing to give up my life, but the truth shall go with me.’

“The Kingdom of Kabul will never forget this reply, given over and over again, nor would the people of Kabul have ever seen in their lives an example of such steadfastness to truth. It is worth mentioning here that it is not the normal practice for the nobles of Kabul to repeatedly persuade a person to change his faith with offers of clemency. This was a special concession extended to Maulvi Abdul Latif because he was an important person of the Kingdom and had thousands of disciples. As already stated above, he was held in high esteem by the Ameer on account of his knowledge and scholarship and was considered to be a star among the Ulama. It is possible that the Ameer may have had some regrets that such a pious person would, of certainty, be killed by the unanimous verdict of the Ulama. It is well known that, in one way, the reins of government in Kabul are in the hands of the maulvis, for it is not possible for the Ameer to do anything against the unanimous agreement of the maulvis on an issue. It is within the realm of possibility that, on the one hand, the Ameer was in fear of the maulvis, and, on the other, he saw Hazrat Sahibzada to be innocent. This was the reason why, throughout the period of imprisonment, he kept instructing that if Hazrat Sahibzada denied that the man of Qadian was the Promised Messiah and repented from this belief, then an honourable release would follow. The motivation for imprisoning him in the same fort, where he lived, was also to create the opportunity for repeatedly giving him these instructions.

“After four months of imprisonment had passed, the Ameer summoned Hazrat Sahibzada to his presence in the open court and, once again, instructed him that if, even then, he denies, in his presence, Mirza Qadiani and his principles, then he would be forgiven and honourably released. The Ameer expressed his strong desire that he would accept this offer. Hazrat Sahibzada replied:

‘It is impossible that I will relent from the truth. The punishment of the rulers of this world ends with death, but I am afraid of Him whose punishment will never end. However, since I am on the side of the truth, I desire that I should be given the opportunity to debate the maulvis, who are against my beliefs. If the arguments prove me to be false, I should be punished…’

“The Ameer liked this suggestion, and Khan Mulla Khan and eight other Muslim jurists were selected for a debate in the Royal Mosque. A doctor from Lahore (Abdul Ghani), who by virtue of being a Punjabi was a bitter opponent, was appointed and sent as an arbitrator. A large crowd was present at the time of the debate, and the eye witnesses say that they were present. The debate was conducted by written statements, and those who had gathered were not informed of the written proceedings that were taking place before them. For this reason, the details of the debate remain unknown. The debate continued from seven in the morning to three in the afternoon. At the time for the late afternoon prayer (asr), Hazrat Sahibzada was decreed a kafir (disbeliever). In the final argument, he was asked that, if the Promised Messiah is this man of Qadian, then what was his opinion about Jesus (peace be upon him), as to whether he will come back to this world or not? With great steadfastness, he replied: ‘Jesus (peace be upon him) has died and he will never come back. The Quran is a witness to his death, and the fact that he will never return.’ On hearing this, the crowd, like the maulvis who had torn their clothes on hearing the Quranic verses regarding Jesus, became abusive and stated that there was now no doubt about the disbelief of this man. The verdict of kufr (disbelief) was drafted in a state of great anger, and after that, Hazrat Sahibzada was sent back to the prison in the same fettered state. I forgot to mention earlier that eight men with drawn swords stood confronting Hazrat Sahibzada throughout the debate with the maulvis.

“The verdict of kufr was sent to the Ameer at night, but in a clever strategy, the record of the debate was intentionally withheld, and nor was it divulged to the public. This was a clear proof that the opposing maulvis had no rebuttal to the arguments presented by Hazrat Sahibzada.2 Woe on the Ameer who passed his judgement on the verdict of kufr and did not even ask to see the record of the debate. In actual fact, he should have been present at the debate, out of fear of the Real Judge to whom he would soon return, leaving behind all his wealth and rulership. The dictates of compassion required him to be present, regardless of what it took, since he knew that the life of an innocent person hinged on the outcome of the debate. In addition, jailing him without proof, restraining him with chains and handcuffs, and attempting to intimidate him with the drawn swords of eight soldiers were clearly attempts to prevent him, through torture and fear, from producing evidence in his support, and such duress should never have been permitted. If the Ameer did not do this, at the very least it was his duty to request for the record of the debate in order to give a just judgement. In fact, he should have issued instructions prior to the debate that all the papers should be sent to him…

“After the verdict of kufr had been given, Hazrat Sahibzada was sent back to prison. On Saturday morning, he was summoned to the special court of the Ameer, where a large audience was present. When the Ameer came out of the fort, Hazrat Sahibzada was sitting at a place on the way. He passed by him and enquired, ‘Akhundzada Sahib, what was the verdict?’ Hazrat Sahibzada did not reply because he knew that these people were bent upon being tyrannical, but one of the guards with him said, ‘He was reproached,’ i.e., verdict of kufr was given. The Ameer then went to his assembled court, and as soon as he sat down, he asked for Akhundzada Sahib to be called, and told him:

‘The verdict of kufr has been given. Now say, what will it be? Will you repent or accept punishment?’

“In no uncertain way, he told him:

‘I cannot repent from the truth. Should I accept falsehood for fear of my life? I am unable to do this.’

“The Ameer again asked him to repent, and assured him of an honourable acquittal. But Hazrat Sahibzada forcefully rejected the suggestion, and said, ‘Do not expect from me that I will desist from the truth.’…He firmly kept on rejecting all suggestions (of clemency based on repentance), for he had decided that it was necessary for him to give his life in this cause. He also said that, ‘After my killing, I will come alive after six days.’ The meaning of this statement is that the life that is granted to saints and religious persons would be given to him by the sixth day, and before the Lord’s day arrives, i.e., the seventh day, he would be alive. It must be remembered that saints and those special people who are slain in the way of Allah are given life after a few days. As Allah says:

‘And speak not of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead. Nay, (they are) alive, but you perceive not.’ (The Holy Quran, 2:154)

“The remarks of the deceased martyr pointed to this status… By his martyrdom, the deceased has given my followers an example, and indeed my followers were in need of such a grand example.”3



  1. Another respectful way of calling Hazrat Sahibzada.
  2. Did not history repeat itself in September 1974? The National Assembly of Pakistan, after hearing arguments about their beliefs by the Lahore and the Rabwah groups of the Ahmadiyya Movement, declared both to be non-Muslims. But the records of the proceedings were sealed and not disclosed to the public.
  3. Tazkirat-ul Shahadatain, pp. 49-56.