A Conference on Some Living Religions

In Masih-e-Maud by Admin

Last Friday Huzoor gave a discourse with reference to the prophecy of Musleh Maud as given to the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) and elucidated Hazrat Musleh Maud’s (may Allah be pleased with him) secular and spiritual knowledge and also mentioned views of others regarding his superlative knowledge and his commentary of the Holy Qur’an. These views and his achievements are most extensive and it would take months and years to mention them. However, Huzoor today spoke on an aspect that Huzoor wished to mention last Friday but could not due to shortage of time. This dates back to 90 years and relates to the city of London.

A conference on world religions was held here in London in 1924 which was graced by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II (may Allah be pleased with him). These days our Jama’at is known to others and we have connections; due to the Ahmadiyya persecution many human rights organisations know about us. Due to our connections, we are known to MPs and academics here and other countries. We did not have these connections in those days. Yet God created special circumstances and following discussions, the management of the conference invited Hazrat Musleh Maud (may Allah be pleased with him) to travel to London and address the conference. This was borne of special Divine succour. It was not a small matter for Hazrat Musleh Maud (may Allah be pleased with him) to travel with eleven people, given the financial situation of the Jama’at at the time. He paid for his own passage but for the travel expenses of others loan had to be taken.

Initially it was decided not to travel. Later, after prayer and Istikhara and consultation with the Jama’at the journey was made with special Divine succour. This was a first ever European tour of a Khalifatul Masih. He also went to a few other countries [en route] including Syria and Egypt. Only Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II (may Allah be pleased with him) had the chance to visit Arab countries, later situation there worsened and restrictions continued to be put in place. Today Huzoor briefly spoke about the conference and the views/impressions of the English people as regards Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II (may Allah be pleased with him). These views/impressions validate his exceptional academic prowess as well as special Divine succour and the narrative also has some historical aspects which our youngsters should be aware of.

Overseas travels was done by sea in those days and used to take many days. En route once Hazrat Musleh Maud (may Allah be pleased with him) led Salat on the deck between the 1st class and the 2nd class and when finished he sat with his companions when the ship doctor, who was an Italian, happened to pass by. Seeing them, he spontaneously remarked, ‘Jesus Christ and his twelve disciples!’ Dr Hashmat Ullah Sahib relates that he was astonished upon hearing this. An Italian, who was a follower of the Pope, said something most accurate and spiritual. The twelfth person travelling with Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II (may Allah be pleased with him) was Dr Muhammad Sharif Sahib who had joined them but was travelling privately.

The said conference is widely known as Wembley Conference. In early 1924, a socialist leader William Loftus Hare suggested to hold a religious conference in conjunction with the renowned Wembley Exhibition to which religious representatives of the religions of the British Empire should be invited to expound principles of their religions. Organisers of the conferences which included some Orientalists concurred with this suggestion and a committee was formed under the auspices of The School of Oriental Studies of the London University to extensively prepare for the conference. The Imperial Institute was chosen as the venue and the conference dates were fixed as 22 September to 3 October. The committee chose to invite representatives from the following religions: Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Jain, Sikhism, Sufism, Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj, Confucianism etc.

Although Maulwi Abdul Rahim Nayyer Sahib had been in London since 1923 but he did not know about this proposed grand conference. After the committee had chosen speakers for the conference and part of 1924 had also passed, Maulwi Sahib came to hear about the conference. He went to see the joint secretary of the committee. M. M Sharples who felt that the Ahmadi point of view on Islam should be included in the conference. When this was discussed in the committee, its vice-president, Dr Sir Thomas W Arnold suggested that Nayyar Sahib should be consulted about choosing speakers for the conference.

These days we sometimes lose hope and say it is too late nothing can be done now. At that time, in spite of everything already arranged, Nayyar Sahib took courage and went to see the committee and convinced them and had the organisers take his suggestions on who to invite as regards Hinduism and Buddhism and Sufism. He suggested the name of Hazrat Sufi Roshan Ali Sahib for Sufism but also informed the committee that Sufi Sahib could only attend with the approval of Hazrat Mirza Bashir ud din Mahmood Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih II (may Allah be pleased with him). When these names were presented before the committee, Dr Arnold and others most warmly decided that Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II should be invited to the conference with a request to bring Sufi Sahib with him. Thus an invite was sent to Hazrat Musleh Maud (may Allah be pleased with him) from the leading Orientalists of Britain.

After pondering over the matter, the invitation was accepted and Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II (may Allah be pleased with him) started writing the treatise for the conference. Its translation and revision work was entrusted to Chaudhary Zafrulla Khan Sahib, Maulwi Sher Ali Sahib and Mirza Bashir Ahmad Sahib. However, the piece turned out to be too lengthy for the conference and it was not appropriate to summarise it. It was decided to write another treatise which Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II (may Allah be pleased with him) did and it was translated.

23 September 1924 was a golden day in Huzoor’s European tour when Huzoor’s superlative treatise was read out at the Wembley Conference and it was a splendorous representation of Islam Ahmadiyyat and brought the message of Islam in the true sense to Europe. This was also a fabulous fulfilment of the vision of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) about giving an address in London.

The time for the treatise was 5 p.m. at which point people had been sitting listening to addresses on Islam for two and half hours. However, as soon as it was time for the address, the audience sat down eagerly and the hall became packed full. Attendance at earlier addresses had not been so much. Sir Theodore Mersin who was presiding the conference most politely requested Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II (may Allah be pleased with him) to address the conference. He was already on the stage with his associates; he stood up and briefly said: ‘Mr President, sisters and brothers! First and foremost I thank God Who put it in the hearts of the organisers of the conference that people should reflect in this manner on the subject of religion and after listening to speeches on different religions see which religion should be accepted. I now ask my follower Chaudhry Zafrulla Khan Sahib, Bar-at-law, to read my treatise. I am not accustomed to reading in this manner even in my own language because my speeches are always unprepared and I speak for up to six hours. The subject of religion does not conclude here in this world, rather after death it moves on to the next world and man’s eternal happiness is associated with faith. Therefore, reflect and ponder over this and I hope you will listen attentively.’

Chaudhry Zafrulla Khan Sahib read the treatise in a commanding tone although he had a bit of sore throat but Divine succour was with him, he took one hour to read the treatise. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II (may Allah be pleased with him) once said, ‘although Chaudhry Zafrulla Sahib read the treatise, it was my tongue [speaking].’ The audience listened to the address in a trance. It appeared as if all the audience were Ahmadi, people sat with rapt attention till the end. When the address touched upon something about Islam which was new for them, some people would bounce in their chairs with joy. Subjects such as slavery, usury, polygamy etc. were explained most articulately. The address was listened most eagerly by both men and women. After the address concluded it received an enthusiastic and long applause so much so that the president Sir Theodore Mersin had to wait a few minutes for his remarks.

The gist of the treatise is that Hazrat Musleh Maud (may Allah be pleased with him) mentioned the forming of the Ahmadiyya Movement in 1889 and mentioned the Promised Messiah’s (on whom be peace) claim to be the Mahdi as prophesised by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and his claim to be the Messiah as foretold by the Gospels and also Muslim books. He said that due to this claim he faced intense opposition on all fronts. Muslim religious scholars also opposed him vehemently. Yet, in spite of all the enmity people thronged around him and with the grace of God a community was formed which was spreading to different countries of the world. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih said these were the most basic points of the treatise that he was giving. Hazrat Musleh Maud (may Allah be pleased with him) further said that after the passing away of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) the system of Khilafat was established in the community and under the auspices of Khilafat the community was moving onwards with missions established in dozens of countries. People from all religious backgrounds were coming into the fold of Islam through the community. He also mentioned that the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) had said most clearly that there was a need for the Messiah to come in this age, as it had been foretold, because this indeed was the time and the condition when a reformer was needed who was foretold and whose signs were also given. He mentioned that the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) also told that God still talked to pious people and listened to their prayers, He is Ever Merciful and Compassionate and by sending the Promised Messiah, He had facilitated reformation of the world. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) had given proof of the existence of God by convincing people of belief in God, by proving His Oneness and by instilling connection with Him. Hazrat Musleh Maud (may Allah be pleased with him) most clearly said that if a religion cannot offer perfect identification of existence of God, it is not worthy of being called a religion. He also expounded the status of Prophets of God and connection with God of every human for spiritual development. He also explained that the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) had elucidated with great wisdom and foresightedness that although the Holy Qur’an is the last law-bearing and perfect Book, it does not mean that man had reached the pinnacle of intellectual progress. Rather, the beauty of the Qur’an being the last Book is that it has a profound treasure-trove of knowledge hidden in it which is given to those who are sincerely serious in its search. Serious search leads to spiritual progress and this also facilitates one to find worldly and academic subjects in the Qur’an in accordance to personal understanding and discernment. Hazrat Musleh Maud (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the Holy Qur’an rejects the objection that Islam was spread with force and he gave the verse of ‘there is no compulsion in religion’ as a proof. He said fighting is only allowed when there are attempts to eliminate and harm Islam. He also expounded various other subjects in light of Islamic teachings, such as slavery, usury, polygamy, divorce, moral teaching and life after death. He mentioned Divine signs corroborating truthfulness of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) and mentioned the following vision of the Promised Messiah:

‘I saw in a vision that I was standing on a pulpit in the city of London and was setting forth the truth of Islam in the English language, in a very well reasoned address. Thereafter I caught several birds who were sitting upon small trees and were of white colour and their bodies resembled the bodies of partridges. I interpreted this vision as meaning that though I would not be able to travel to that country but that my writings will be published there and many righteous English people will accept the truth.’ [Tadhkirah, p. 239 2009 edition]

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