Imam Bashir Ahmad Rafiq’s Biography
Chapter 32: Journey to Kashmir
In accordance with the instructions from Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih III, when I was preparing myself to participate in the Annual Convention in Rabwah in December 1977, it occurred to me that since, in the following year an International Conference on ‘Deliverance of Jesus from the Cross’ was to be held, why not persuade a British Press representative to accompany me to Rabwah. (Further details appear elsewhere). He could, after attending the Conference, accompany me to Kashmir and see for himself, with his own eyes, the grave of Jesus Christ (pbuh). He could then research, investigate and gather information independently, which could then be presented in the forthcoming Conference. An invitation was extended to a number of major Newspapers. Finally, the ‘Sunday Telegraph’, a famous British newspaper that had a large circulation, accepted the invitation. They agreed to send a Press Representative and a photographer with me. They made it a condition that, other than the usual hospitality, their representatives would meet all the relevant expenses themselves and would not accept any financial assistance from us. So Mr Philips and a high class Photographer accompanied me and we reached Rabwah on the appointed day.
At Rabwah Huzoor granted a lengthy and a detailed interview to Mr Philips. He spelt out for him in some detail that Jesus Christ was saved from the Cross and his subsequent journey to India and burial in Kashmir. Huzoor said that he was conscious of the fact that Mr Philips was a citizen of a free country and a representative of a free newspaper. Huzoor made it clear that Bashir Ahmad Rafiq would only act as a host and would accompany them to assist them. Huzoor added that he was welcome to carry out his research and investigations with complete freedom.
The two representatives of the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ participated in the Annual Conference in Rabwah. They met some of the seniors and the scholars of the Jamaat. They took a large number of photographs and appeared to be favorably influenced by the arrangements at the Annual Conference.
After the Jalsa the three of us set out for Qadian via Lahore. Hadhrat Sahibzada Mirza Waseem Ahmad (Nazir e Aala Sadar Anjuman Ahmadiyya Qadian) had already been advised of our program. Therefore, at the Indo-Pak border a delegation from Qadian had come to receive us. We stayed in Qadian for three or four days during which Mr Philips visited all the historic places. He asked a number of questions which were answered frankly.
We travelled to Amritsar from Qadian and took an Air India flight to Srinagar. Mr Ghulam Nabi, who was posted there as a Missionary of the Jamaat, received us at the Airport. Some other representatives of the Jamaat also came with him. I advised them of the purpose of our visit. I promised them that at the end of our visit I would hold a Press Conference.
Arrangements had been made for our stay in the Oberoi Hotel. Before the partition of the sub-continent, that building was a Palace of the Maharaja. It was situated on the banks of Lake Dal and was really enormous and expansive. The view from the Hotel of Lake Dal was indeed fascinating and alluring. The next day, along with Mr Ghulam Nabi, we went to visit the tomb of the Messiah (pbuh). The tomb has incessantly attracted very many visitors during the past 1900 hundred years. It is generally believed to be the tomb of a Prophet known as ‘Yooz Asif’. The tomb had been built in the Jewish style. The grave is situated in the basement, which has a small window. It is not aligned in the same way as the Muslim graves. It is very different from East/West layout and follows the style of the Jewish graves. A strong argument to support the belief that the Messiah (pbuh) is buried there is that, through the ages, a candle has always been lit on a stone next to the grave. An accumulation of melted wax was noticeable. A few years earlier, during the research and investigations concerning this grave, all the wax was scraped away. When the stone had been cleaned, the footprints of the Messiah (pbuh) emerged. It is worth mentioning that those who engraved the footprints clearly showed scars on his feet. This is surely an authentic proof that, according to the belief of the people of the olden days, the feet of the person buried in the grave had in fact been disfigured because of being put on a Cross. Otherwise why would there be any scars on his feet.
There was no one present when we arrived at the tomb. But in a little while a gentleman appeared and introduced himself as the (mujavir) attendant of the shrine. He opened the door for us. Mr Philips described the environment in the 4th June 1978 edition of the ‘Telegraph on Sunday’ Magazine in these words:
It was an experience to make even a casual Church of England backslider feel deeply uneasy. A taxi had taken me from the most extravagant Hotel in Kashmir to a crossroads in one of the poorest areas of Srinagar, the Capital. Cows, goats and children struggled through the mud – and worse. On one corner was a small booth, which served as a butcher’s shop. On another was a two story house, which turned out to be a factory serving the trinket trade. Opposite them, in the corner of a disused cemetery occupied by fierce stray dogs, was a small white building with a corrugated iron roof.
”There you are,’ said my guide: ‘The tomb of Jesus Christ”.
We entered the tomb and inside the building was a wooden fence behind which there were two graves. In one of them was buried the Messiah (pbuh) and in the other a Muslim Saint named Naseer ud Deen who had lived in the fifteenth century. He was highly impressed by the teachings of Hadhrat Yooz Asif and therefore he had made a will to be buried next to Hadhrat Yooz Asif i.e. the Messiah (pbuh.)
At our request, after receiving a monetary gift, the attendant of the shrine permitted us to go beyond the railing. It was dark in the room and the attendant lit some candles for us. I stood at the head of the grave and prayed with great humility. I said:
“O my Lord, here I am next to the grave of an exalted Prophet who had been sent to spread ‘Unity’, the Prophet who had spent all his life stamping out (shirk), the practice of associating others with You. This day, in his name, his followers are themselves involved in a form of polytheism. They have placed a Holy and a pious servant of Yours on the Divine Throne. Surely as a result his spirit is being tormented. O my Lord, through Your Mercy and Grace, arrange matters in such away that it may be established beyond a shadow of a doubt that Your servant was taken off the Cross when still alive and is buried right here. So that the practice of associating others with You may be obliterated, particularly amongst those who claim to be his followers and may they revert to ‘Unity’. May Your promise to the Promised Messiah (pbuh) regarding the ‘breaking of the Cross’ is fulfilled.”
After I had finished my silent prayer, at the request of Mr Philips, we sought permission from the attendant of the shrine to take some photographs. The permission was happily granted and therefore we took a number of photographs, including some showing, scars on the feet of the Messiah (pbuh) engraved on the stone. These photographs can be seen in the Khilafat Library. The Kashmir Department of Archaeology had prepared the gravestone. The inscription states that the grave is of a Prophet named Yooz Asif, who many centuries ago, had travelled through distant lands and who spent all his life in worship and propagation of his Faith. This is proof enough that Yooz Asif and the Messiah (pbuh) was one and the same person. Many other proofs are available.
The Promised Messiah’s renowned book ‘Jesus in India’ is worth reading. When we came out of the tomb, Mr Philips said that he wanted to ask a few questions of an old Kashmiri passer by. He insisted that he alone would ask the questions and I would merely interpret. He made it clear that I must not add a single word of my own. I called the Kashmiri old man over and the conversation, which was witnessed by the attendant of the shrine who knew a little English, went this:
Mr Philips:“How old are you and when did you settle in Srinagar?”
The old Kashmiri: “I am more then 80 years old. I was born in Srinagar and have lived here all my life.”
Mr Philips: “What do you know about this tomb?”
The old Kashmiri: “This is the tomb of a Prophet named Yooz Asif who we hear came from a distant land to Kashmir 1900 years ago. He spent most of his time here in worship and tendering excellent advice and good counsel to the local Kashmiris. I have also heard that he lived for more than 100 years.”
Mr Philips: “Please tell me whatever you know about this grave.”
The old Kashmiri: “There is a basement in the tomb from which a window opened towards the street which has now been closed. Fragrance of a very high order used to emerge from the window and those who pushed their hands through the window found that their hands remained perfumed for a whole day. It is also said that any prayer offered at the grave finds acceptance with the Almighty.”
After visiting the grave, we returned to the Hotel. In the evening we received a telephone call from Mr Fida Husnain, a Professor at the Kashmir University. He was the Head of the Archaeological Department. He was highly qualified and had carried out thorough research and investigations concerning the grave of the Messiah (pbuh) and had written a few books on this subject. He is not a member of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat. He told us on the phone that he had learnt of our visit from the newspapers and that he was anxious to meet us. We arranged to meet for dinner in a restaurant. When Mr Philips, the photographer and I arrived at the restaurant we found Mr Fida already waiting for us. He was indeed a highly cultured and well-mannered person who always wore an enchanting smile on his face. He told us about the grave of the Messiah (pbuh) in detail. He said that through his writings he had presented authentic and categorical proof that the tomb was that of the Messiah (pbuh). On this occasion, he paid great tributes to the Promised Messiah (pbuh). He said that he had carried out the real research and investigations and the rest were just gleaners. The meeting was most interesting and informative and Mr Philips was deeply impressed.
On several occasion subsequently I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr Fida Husnain in London. During one of his visits, he stayed with me for three days and I arranged for him to meet Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih IV. In the course of the meeting with Huzoor, he presented his latest book ‘The Fifth Gospel’. He had dedicated this book to the Promised Messiah (pbuh) and on its first page appeared a photograph of the Promised Messiah (pbuh). In the book, he paid glowing tributes to the research carried out by the Promised Messiah (pbuh).
During the next three or four days in Kashmir Mr Philips and the photographer met various people in connection with their research. At the invitation of the Jamaat, I visited and addressed some Jamaats outside Srinagar.
This tour was not only enjoyable but spirit boosting. While we were in Kashmir, on many occasions, on witnessing the sentiments and the enthusiasm of the Kashmiri Ahmadis for Ahmadiyyat and Khilafat of Ahmadiyyat, my eyes became moist and I shed tears. Since they did not have adequate clothing to cover, their bodies they shivered in the cold but the warmth of the faith in their hearts made them prosperous. Obviously, in the worldly sense, these Ahmadis were very poor.
After having spent a week in Srinagar and its surroundings areas we returned to Pakistan via Qadian.
While in Srinagar, we saw many places worth visiting and had feasted our eyes at the boats in Lake Dal. In spite of the severe cold, I had no option but to admit that the panorama of the Lake and the boats in it was gorgeous.
In the month of June of the following year a Conference was held (details appear elsewhere) in London.
In the 6th June 1978, Sunday Edition Mr Philips published a detailed article with photographs. The circulation of the paper was around a million. Many other papers, all over the world published selected extracts from it.
Concerning me Mr Philips wrote:
“There has been an Ahmadi Mosque in Britain, the imperial homeland, since 1924. It is situated in Gressenhall Road, southwest London, and has small branches throughout Britain, with strength of about 10,000. The Imam, Mr B.A. Rafiq, is a charming and cultivated man whose land owning family used to fight the British in the northwest frontier area.”