Imam Bashir Ahmad Rafiq’s Biography
Chapter 3: Parents
In 1976, as his Private Secretary, I accompanied Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih III on his tour of North America. While in Toronto, we were staying at the ‘Inn on the Park Hotel’, my wife called me from London. Her voice was choked with emotion. She said that she did not know how to convey the terrible news to me while I was on a journey. I insisted and she told me that my father had passed away. I felt as if lightning had fallen straight over my head. I blanked out and the telephone fell from my hand. Naturally, I started crying bitterly. A friend, who was sitting next to me, asked me what had happened. When I told him that my father had died, he barged into Huzoor’s room and told him what had happened. Immediately Huzoor came to my room, embraced me, and kept me in his arms for quite awhile. He did his best to console me and said: “All of us have to depart one day. Only Allah is everlasting.”
Hadhrat Begum Sahiba also offered her condolences with great warmth.
On my father’s demise, I felt as if someone had snatched away an umbrella from over my head that had always protected me from various calamities. I felt as if the roof over my house had flown away and now I was exposed to sun, rain and storms against which I had no protection. So far, at every turn, my father’s prayers had shielded me from every assault. I felt that this screen was no longer available to me. It is true that after he passed away I was confronted with a string of trials and tribulations and I missed him at every step of the way.
However, as a direct consequence of his prayers, by his mercy, repeatedly, I emerged unbeaten from all the ordeals and difficulties. I felt that even after his demise my father’s prayers were propping me up. On numerous occasions, recalling the following particular happening reinforced my heart and consoled me.
When the Promised Messiah died, Hadhrat Amman Jaan assembled her children and said to them: “Your father has left for you an inexhaustible treasure of prayers from which you will benefit throughout your lives.”
I felt the same way and felt convinced that the prayers offered by my parents in my favour would keep me fortified. The prayers were indeed a vast treasure and I have benefited from them from time to time.“O My Lord, at your pleasure, solely based on Your Mercy and Grace do provide lodgings for my parents in Paradise.”
My mother, Fatima Bibi, was the eldest daughter of Hadhrat Moulvi Muhammad Ilyas Khan Sahib who lived in Mastung in Baluchistan. Perhaps my mother was born there. She was very dear to him. She was most fortunate in that a spiritual person of such a high order brought her up. The name of her mother was Ashraaf Bibi.
She was still very young when she was married to my father. Soon after their marriage, my parents returned to live in our ancestral village Mohib Banda and that is where they spent the rest of their lives. Their love, affection, co-operation and mutual respect were a shining example for the whole family to follow. Never, throughout my life, did I ever see any unpleasantness between them. As in those days it was not customary for the girls to be educated, my mother’s learning had not gone very far. At home, she learnt to recite the Holy Quran. Habitually she would perform ablution before reciting a portion of the Quran. Every single day, in a subdued voice, we heard her recitation.
My mother was very fond of clean and neat clothes. She would wear fresh clothes every day. Early in the morning, she would put a little oil on her head and comb her hair meticulously. Hospitality was a distinguishing feature of her character. As our village was quite close to Peshawar, usually on Sundays, many Ahmadi friends visited us. After spending a whole day with my father, in the evenings, the visitors would go back to Peshawar. While some of the visitors were our relations, others were just Ahmadi friends. My mother remained engaged in taking care of them and took great pleasure in doing so. She was quite an accomplished cook and was particularly famous for her pulao and her parathas.
I particularly noticed that my mother never indulged in backbiting. Normally, women do get into this habit but fortunately, by the Grace of Allah, my mother was immune to this weakness. Never did I hear her speak against anyone. She would, on occasion, find herself at the receiving end of verbal abuse but she always kept her calm. Anger was no part of her character. She never raised even her little finger over any of her children or grandchildren. I never saw her indulge in malediction. When she was hurt, she would keep quiet but from her calm, we would know that she was hurt. Soon she would forget everything as if nothing had happened. She had great love for and a deep involvement in prayers. Whether on her feet or seated she would always remain engaged in supplications. After reciting Durood and incantation, she would blow over (someone). She would often pray aloud. However, most of the time, from the movement of her lips, one could guess that she was engaged in supplications.
She never thought of her own comfort. During the summer months, early in the afternoons, she would anxiously wait for my return from school. She would have some cold water placed in the bathroom for me to take a bath. Then I would eat and although I did not want her to, my mother would keep on fanning me.
After my midday meal, I would sleep for a while but my mother did not. Later on when I was at a school in Qadian, after vacations, my mother would prepare something for me to eat on the way back to Qadian. She would also provide some home baked biscuits and cakes for me to take with me.
Alas, while I lived in a boarding house and later on when I departed for London, I was unable to benefit much from my mother’s doting company. My brother, Col. Nazir Ahmad, was more fortunate in that in this respect he enjoyed physical closeness of our mother for a longer period. He was therefore enabled to render service to her. Compared with me, in a way, Nazir Ahmad was closer to her.
Mother paid special attention to the matter of the upbringing of my sisters. As we were the only Ahmadi family in our village, my sisters were unable to interact with other Ahmadi girls. However, our mother adequately filled the gap. She taught all her children to recite the Holy Quran. She would make sure that her children offered their prayers regularly and to crown all, she built a protective wall around them with her prayers.
My mother was a Moosia and was buried in the Bahishti Maqbara where my father had been laid to rest. “O my Lord, close to Yourself, locate them in an eminent place in the Paradise. Amen”
My father’s name is Danishmand Khan. He was born around 1890 in our village Mohib Banda. Abd ul Hannan Khan was the name of his father who owned extensive agricultural property. He was an authoritarian person and was easily roused. Since he was illiterate, when angry he would often exceed all limits. Due to this unfortunate feature, he became the target of a bullet shot at him by his own nephew.
Our grandfather had developed considerable animosity against Ahmadiyyat. Our father became an Ahmadi while he was in Mastung. He wrote to his father telling him what he had done and invited him to join the fold. Our grandfather received an unbearable shock. He took his son’s letter to the Mullah of the local Mosque and asked him to respond to his son’s letter. In order to disentangle himself the Mullah said that he should write to his son and make it clear to him that he had become an apostate. The Mullah also said that to reply to a letter of an infidel is tantamount to becoming an infidel. Therefore, he counselled him not to reply to his son’s letter. My grandfather was not quite content with the advice of the Mullah and he continued to be greatly distressed which resulted in his illness. As the days passed by, he became feeble and weak. He would often say to our grandmother: “While I am still alive Danishmand has pushed me into a grave. I am so humiliated that I dare not show my face to others.”
My grandmother responded by saying: “If Danishmand has taken a certain step after due consideration there is really no need for you to be furious. His affair is with his Maker.”
However, my grandfather remained frustrated and his health deteriorated rapidly. Then our grandmother sent a servant to Mastung to tell our father about the state of our grandfather’s health. She strongly suggested to him that he should immediately return to the village to see his father. Our father became exceedingly concerned about his father’s illness and immediately returned to the village. He found him extremely weak and he had lost a lot of weight. The two embraced each other and in that state wept for quite a while. Then, in an emotional voice, my grandfather said: “My son if you had been guilty of theft or robbery or even a murder it would not have caused me much concern. However, on acceptance of Ahmadiyyat you have blackened my face and I am unable to show it to anyone in the village.”
Our father replied: “After having accepted Ahmadiyyat I have totally repented from all my sins. At one time, I did not offer my prayers and now, apart from the five obligatory prayers, I offer Tahajjud. I also keep fasts, not only the obligatory ones during Ramadhan but also, as an option, on some other days. In the past, I never recited the Quran and now not only do I recite the Quran but I am also learning its meaning. Are all these deeds Un Islamic? Compared to what I was do you not now find me a better human being?”
This conversation had no effect on our grandfather and he remained adamant and insisted that father should give up Ahmadiyyat. He said: “Do whatever you like. You may steal or rob. You may commit adultery and even murder someone that would not bother me in the least as long as you give up Ahmadiyyat.”
However, this was by no means a deal acceptable to my father. A few days passed in extreme tension. Father and son debated with each other. Grandfather would insist on his son giving up the truth while the son seemed prepared to give up even his life for the sake of the truth .During this turbulent period, my grandfather said to his son: “I am an uneducated person. Why don’t you discuss the matter with the Moulvi Sahib?”
Accordingly, my father went to see the Moulvi Sahib who admitted that he had already been asked by grandfather to hold a debate. They debated for the whole day about the issue of the demise of the Messiah. The vast majority of the Moulvis believed that, the Messiah was still alive but not one of them could quote any references from the Holy Quran or Ahadees to support their belief. My father maintained that he was bound only by what was in the Quran or what was in Ahadeeth. He said he cared little for what the Moulvis believed in. In this manner, though the debate concluded there was no positive result.
A few more days passed. Once, in the evening, my grandfather told my grandmother that he would go to the Mosque for the Fajr prayers along with his son and he would tell him to pray behind the Moulvi. If the son disobeyed his command, he would immediately put him to death. My grandmother had already seen a pistol under grandfather’s pillow. Naturally, she was thrown off balance and she sent a servant to the Hujra where my father was asleep. The servant faithfully delivered the message to my father, i.e. either obeys your father or be ready to die the next morning. My father knew his parent very well and was sure that his father would do exactly what he said he would do. Therefore, during the night, my father bid farewell to the village and proceeded to Mastung. Thereafter, my father was not able to return to the village until sometime after my grandfather had been murdered.
I have written a separate chapter covering the events that led to my father’s acceptance of Ahmadiyyat. Inshallah, in a separate book, I also intend to write about his life and character in some detail. That is why, at this point, I am not going into this matter any further.
My father was so obsessive in the matter of Tableegh that he was almost on the verge of insanity. He studied the books of the Promised Messiah repeatedly and consequently he became more knowledgeable than some outstanding non Ahmadi Moulvis did and naturally, they avoided meeting him head-on. He was an arch lover of the Holy Quran. He would sit up straight whenever he heard the Holy Quran being recited. He would also tell others to sit up straight whenever they heard the Holy Quran being recited. He would often say: “How can the Moulvis confront me when I have the Holy Quran on my side and they have nothing other than outdated stories?”
His manner of Tableegh was indeed enchanting. He had become quite an expert in rebutting allegations against Ahmadiyyat. He had a great sense of honour for Ahmadiyyat and was always prepared to sacrifice his life for what he believed in. On one occasion when he was waiting his turn to be called to a Court of Law at Charsadah, another Khan, surrounded by his guards and his servants, sat close to him. My father was then reading ‘Braheen e Ahmadiyya’. When the other Khan looked at the book, he enquired what it was. My father told him that it had been written by the Reformer of the Age and his name was Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani. As soon as the Khan heard the name of the Promised Messiah, he was outraged and uttered a few unsavoury words against the Promised Messiah. At once, my father leaped at the Khan, snatched his pistol and pointed it at him. He said: “Unless you apologise and use the same abusive words for yourself as you did for my master I will despatch you at once.”
The Khan was mortified and he did exactly what he was told. Then the Khan said: “I had heard that Ahmadis were a very tolerant and patient people but you are exceedingly hot tempered.” My father said: “Had you verbally abused me or said something against me I would not have bothered to respond but since you abused my master I could hardly tolerate the abuse.”
A lively discussion ensued and in a powerful manner, my father conveyed the message of Ahmadiyyat to him. That is how the confrontation ended.
The Almighty favored my father with true dreams and true visions. His dreams were mostly fulfilled brilliantly. He also received verbal revelations to which all his children were witnesses. I will mention these things in detail when I write my book about his life, Inshallah.
Here I wish to mention a faith-boosting event. In the early part of 1960, during the hours of darkness, an opponent of Ahmadiyyat shot at my father and wounded the lower part of his arm. First aid was not available in the village and by the morning, a lot of blood had been lost. On more than one occasion, he lost consciousness. My younger brother Col. Nazir Ahmad, who, in those days was a Lieutenant in the army stationed at Nowshera, escorted him to the Combined Military Hospital in Nowshera. The wound had become septic and the doctors felt that in order to save his life they might have to amputate his arm. The doctors told my brother that when his father’s very survival was in doubt he could not afford to be very optimistic. They explained that his father was already more than 70 years old and had already lost a lot of blood. The success of the operation could not therefore be assured. My brother told them that the family were happy at God’s will and they should therefore proceed with the operation.
While I was in London my brother Nazir Ahmad wrote to me and said that, the chances of father’s survival were negligible and that quite possibly, by the time I received his letter our father may have departed. Naturally, I was deeply alarmed and in such a condition, in the daylight hours, when the Mosque was completely empty, I fell in a prolonged prostration and with great humility, I prayed:
“O my Lord I am my father’s eldest son and in order to win Your pleasure he has arranged for me to dedicate my life for service to the Faith. My sisters have yet to be married and I live in a foreign country. The whole responsibility might fall on the shoulders of my brother who is currently serving in the Pakistan Army. Therefore, neither he nor I can continue to live with the family in the village. If my father dies now my mother and my sisters will have no one to look after them and support them. There is also a danger, however slight, that if he dies now my Waqf may be interrupted. O Lord, save all of us from this ordeal. I recognize that we all have to die one day and my father also has to depart one day, but in view of the current circumstances, his demise could possibly result in ruin for us all.”
After supplicating in this manner, I went home. Naturally, I was deeply concerned and tense and I spent the whole day in prayers. In those days, it was difficult to speak to someone in Pakistan on the telephone. I was therefore being starved of news.
When I slept that night, in a dream, I saw an aged person, who put his hand over my head in a most affectionate manner. He said: “Do not worry. The Almighty has accepted your prayers and has granted your father a breather of 10 years. Do not grieve as he will live for another 10 years.” In the morning, in a letter, I told my brother Nazir Ahmad of this dream. He received my letter at exactly the time when the doctors were wondering if it was safe to operate on my father. My brother showed my letter to the surgeon, Col. Akram (who later became a General). With great self-confidence, my brother said: “My brother is a participant in God’s own battalion. His dream cannot possibly be false. Therefore, you may proceed with the operation without the slightest hesitation. It is destined that my father will survive the operation and will, Inshallah, live for another 10 years’.
The surgeon, Col. Akram was astounded to see that we had such faith in our God. The operation was successful. One hand/arm became immobilised i.e. one hand/arm was martyred in the way of Allah.
Following is a statement of my brother Col. Nazir Ahmad regarding the operation: “At the time when my father was shot I was serving in one of the artillery units at Nowshera (Nowshera is approximately 13 miles from my village). When I heard the tragic news, I immediately rushed to my village and evacuated my father to the Combined Military Hospital at Nowshera. He was provided immediate medical care but after two days the surgeon informed me that he had developed gangrene and had little chance of survival. He advised me to take him back to the village and take care of him for the last few days of his life because of his imminent death. I somehow did not buy the idea and wanted to do everything possible to save his life. I then sent his medical records to Combined Military Hospital Rawalpindi for their opinion. They agreed with the assessment of physicians at Nowshera. I then sent the records to Lady Reading Hospital (Peshawar) and received the same reply. Finally I showed his medical records to Major Akram (later Major General) in Peshawar. He had recently returned from abroad after surgical training and was posted to C.M.H. Peshawar. After reviewing the case he informed me that he was not very hopeful but was willing to give surgery a chance. He wanted to amputate his hand to stop gangrene from spreading. He gave him a one percent chance of survival. He also asked me to give him in writing that I was fully aware of the consequences and yet I was asking for the procedure. Meanwhile, I received a message from my brother that he had prayed a lot during this period for the health and life of our father. He mentioned about a dream in which somebody had told him that our father will live for another ten years. This reassured me that he will, by the grace of God, live. He was taken to the operation theatre but after a while Maj. Akram came out and said that surgery was not possible due to low blood pressure and low pulse rate.. I told him to go ahead with the operation as I was positive that the operation would be successful. He questioned the reason of my optimism. I told him of the letter that I had received from my brother B.A. Rafiq who was a missionary in London. Major Akram then agreed to perform the surgery but without general anaesthesia. He asked me to hold my father’s other hand during the surgery and to keep him awake by talking to him while he performed the surgery under local anaesthesia. After the amputation I buried the arm at Ahmaddiya graveyard in Peshawar. He remained critical after the surgery for sometime but by the end of the day he showed miraculous signs of improvement which surprised the surgeon and the medical staff. By day two he started walking. Maj. Akram was so impressed by this that he later visited my father at our village twice”
Ten years passed quickly and during that period, I was able to meet my father only twice. One day, I received a letter from my father telling me that according to my dream he had been provided with a respite of 10 years and that period was about to finish. With great self-assurance and cool, he said that he was ready for the transition. Naturally, on receipt of this letter, once again, I was deeply concerned and once again, I bowed at the Divine Altar. I closed the door of the Fazl Mosque, cried my eyes out and I begged my Lord for a further break. I knew very well that my Lord listens to prayers and shows signs of acceptance. He treats everyone, without distinction, in the same manner. I am making a mention of these events, God forbid, not to show any pre-eminence but merely to hark back to His bounty so that my progeny may also rely on the efficacy of prayers.
When, after supplicating in this manner I fell asleep, once again, I saw the same pious person in my dream that I had seen in an earlier dream and who had reassured me by telling me that the Almighty had accepted my prayers. He told me that, once again, my father had been granted another extension of 5 years. I wrote to my father and he mentioned my dream to Hadhrat Maulana Abul Ata. The Maulana insisted on a transcript be sent to him so that he could publish it in his journal ‘Al Furqan’.
Five years later, quite suddenly, as the roof of his house collapsed my father passed away. ‘Inna Lillahe Wa Inna Elehe Rajeoon’.
Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih IV wrote the following letters to me on 25th June 1983.
“Your letters always remind me of your virtuous father and persuade me to pray for him. He was an embodiment of perfect consistency between what he said and what he did. I was extremely close to him and I am extremely close to him now. This relationship manifests itself in the desire for prayers. May Allah overwhelm him with Divine Mercy and may all his progeny become his heirs in the true sense of the word."
Before he became Khalifa, Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih IV wrote to me on the 3rd of July, 1981 as follows: “In accordance with my potential, even earlier on I have been praying for you. Apart from your dedicating your life for the service of the Faith, the remembrance of your father also inspires me to pray for you. I was very close to him. I often met him on the road. We exchanged greetings, not only while crossing each other but we tarried a bit, enquired about each other’s health and we derived great pleasure through such encounters. On occasion, walking towards the Mosque together we would engage in conversation. He would often relate faith-boosting events of his life. I have always felt that whenever we met he greeted me with great warmth and cordiality. I hope that he too was aware of my regard and esteem for him. You have asked me to pray for him. Even if there were no other grounds this reason alone is sufficient. I often hypothesize that devout parents are like a cool spring from which beneficence flows. In itself it is a great favour and it is impossible either to count such parental favours or to return such gifts.”
A young non-Ahmadi cousin of mine Faqir Muhammad Khan who lived in our village has recently passed away. He had retired as Secretary of the Forest Department in the Frontier Provincial Government. He was recipient of very many favours from my father who in the beginning helped him obtain service in the Forest Department. I reproduce a letter that he wrote to me. “Danishmand Khan was my senior. He was related to me, as he was both my 'mamoo' and my 'chacha.' However, my relationship of “mamoo” remained dominant and that is why I always addressed him as ‘mamoo’. In such a relationship, the two persons can belong in the same age group and sometimes there can be great disparity in their ages. He was much older than I was. I was still a child when he already wore a white beard. I always saw him offer his Salaat with great regularity and he always kept all the fasts. He often said; ‘I offer Salaat, recite the Quran (with translation), keep my fasts, do not steal, do not indulge in back-biting, have never told a lie, have never harmed or hurt anyone and yet most call me an ‘infidel’. It is indeed a very strange kind of justice.” He would then laugh. In my presence, he once translated and commented on some verses of ‘Soora Al Mulk’. One could clearly see consistency and cohesion in his discourse and in his arguments. There was a strange kind of magnetism in his voice and for a long time the terminology, that he used has remained embedded in my memory. Perhaps it is God’s Will that I cannot recall those exact words although the related experiences occurred as far back as 1947.”
In all probability, I was in my fifth or sixth grade when I saw a few people sitting in his Hujra. As I was much younger than the others were, I sat on a cot lying in a corner in complete silence. Danishmand Khan was talking about the examination of his elder son Bashir Ahmad who is currently known as Bashir Ahmad Rafiq. He said that: “When someone takes an exam he either passes or fails. It is therefore natural that some candidates or students will pass and some will fail. Therefore the result of an examination of a student should not worry the parents unduly.”
His son, Bashir Ahmad Rafiq, was adamant that a student or a candidate must never fail especially when he happens to be poor. He should work hard so that he can be sure to pass every time. Arguments on both sides were being presented. Both Bashir Ahmad Rafiq and his father continued to hold their different views. During this discussion, I saw a particular kind of lustre on the face of my “mamoo”. Obviously, he seemed pleased at the growing potential and ability of his son. Repeatedly, he would bring up the same subject so that the son may have an opportunity to gain proficiency in the matter of a debate and yet he remained firm on his views. I noticed that in the end, with a smile, he conceded defeat. This was really meant to create a sense of pre-eminence in his son so that he may become self-confident.
In the village environment, even over minor and insignificant matters, one can always witness quarrels and hear verbal abuse. Even scuffles and brawls take place. With regard to him (Danishmand Khan), we never heard of his being involved in any quarrel or in any conflict. At the same time, he had complete control over the domestic environment. Neither his own wife, nor his children or his near relations such as his brothers and sisters and their children, dare ever raise their voices before him. His younger son, Col. Nazir Ahmad and I were in the same age group. We played together and often read some stories that I cannot recall any longer. These stories often contained constructive lessons.
Once, Nazir Ahmad and I were playing. Perhaps earlier on that day he had been entrusted to perform a chore but he had forgotten it and was instead engaged in playing. His father turned up looking for him. As soon as Nazir Ahmad saw his father, he knew the purpose of his visit. In a quiet tone, he told me that he had made a mistake and he then feared that he would have to pay for it. He wondered what kind of punishment would be meted out to him. When his father came close to us, he said to his son: “I asked you to do a certain job which you did not do and instead you are playing.” Nazir Ahmad made an effort to explain and I could see that his father was cross. However, in a very low tone his father said to him: “Keep quiet; do not make excuses”. Without saying another word, he departed. In the rural environment most people are very tolerant of verbal abuse but I never heard ‘mamoo’ even reprimand anyone.
The names given to the Pathans are often strange but in our family, the names given to the children were always in good taste, such as Danishmand Khan. My mother’s brother was called Shuja ul Mulk. These two were very close to each other. We had heard of the stories of the bravery displayed by them during their youth. Even in his old age, Danishmand Khan never showed any alarm though several attempts had been made on his life but he never panicked and did not leave his village. He continued his life in the normal way without the slightest variation. In his last few years, he lived in his house in the village by himself. Any decision taken by Danishmand Khan was always bold, flawless and not subject to any change.
A retired Subedar named Haq lived in our village and he was by nature very fond of music. Since there was no electricity in our village the Subedar amused himself by listening to a battery powered radio or a wind up gramophone. Every day he would spend a short time in the company of Danishmand Khan not for music but for meaningful conversation.
The marriage of Danishmand Khan’s elder daughter Amat ul Kareem was settled with Muhammad Hassan Khan of Dab village of Charsada sub division. Members of the bridal party, consisting only of a small number, had arrived. The bridegroom arrived in a sizeable motorcar. At that time, the road from the Grand Trunk Road to our village, a distance of 3 miles, had not been tarred. As a result, the clothes of the guests were covered with dust. Therefore, all of them first went straight to wash. In those days, there were very few motorcars and if ever a car did arrive in a village, children would immediately surround it. Along with the other children, I approached the motorcar. Both Danishmand Khan and the Subedar sat on their cots engaged in conversation. The Subedar suggested that since a radio had been fixed in the motorcar and this was an auspicious event we should listen to the music. In accordance with my modest intelligence at that time, I felt that since the Subedar was regarded as an influential person Danishmand Khan would not turn down the suggestion he had made. However, contrary to my expectations, his decision was in the negative but he also explained his reasons. He said: “First, our guests are not present. We should not play music without the permission of the owner of the car in his absence. Second, even if the guests were present they would never have asked for music to be played as they knew that it would discomfit me”. The Subedar did not have thecourage to pursue the matter any further.
In accordance with his potential, he always helped the poor in the village. On many occasions, he found employment for deserving and educated boys. He never refrained from making any sacrifice for the general good. When the village school was upgraded to the middle level there was need for adequate suitable land. No one in the village was willing to provide a piece of land and it was Danishmand Khan himself who donated a suitable piece of land where a High School now stands in which the children of the village study and have become proficient. Neither of the two sons of Danishmand Khan ever studied in that school. He was fully aware that his children were too old to benefit from that school.