Imam Bashir Ahmad Rafiq’s Biography
Chapter 44: Early Days in Peshawar
There was only a primary school in our village. As the middle school was at a distance of three miles from our village my father decided that for my schooling I should proceed to Peshawar where my uncle (mother’s brother) Abdus Salaam Khan lived and where many other relations resided and served. I was fortunate in that around that time, to stay with his elder son, Abdus Salaam Khan, my maternal grandfather Hadhrat Muhammad Ilyas Khan got back to Peshawar from Mastung Baluchistan. Therefore, by the Grace of Allah, for one more year, I was afforded a further opportunity to benefit from his direct supervision. Before that, I had spent a whole year with him in Mastung.
Hadhrat Moulvi Muhammad Ilyas Khan was indeed a righteous person. He was truly pious and a complete personification of the Ahmadiyya teachings. After my education, before departure for England, to bid farewell when I called on Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih II among many directives that he gave me he said:
“For the purpose of spreading the word of God it is absolutely essential to present a virtuous example. I would counsel you to make a deliberate effort to walk in the footsteps of your maternal grandfather. He should be your role model.”
In his demeanor and masculine splendor, Hadhrat Moulvi Sahib was a perfect example to follow. He was fair in complexion and had a truly enlightened face. He wore a conspicuously long beard. Normally he would wear an embroidered cloak. Because of his humility and bashfulness, he hardly ever looked up. He always wore white clothes and a snow-white turban. During the summer nights, in my uncle Abdus Salaam’s residence in Peshawar, both of us slept in the open on adjoining cots (char pies). It was his habit to wake me for the Fajar Salaat in a soft tone. He would also gently sprinkle drops of water on my face. In a loving manner, he would ask me to rise and perform ablution. After the Fajr Salaat, in a loud and melodious voice, he would recite the Holy Quran for nearly one hour. I always listened to him. At the end of the recitation, for my benefit he would translate what he had just recited and explain the import of some of the verses.
He loved me dearly. Whenever, during my holidays, I returned to the village, every few days, he would visit our village. His son, my uncle, Abdus Salaam, has written his Biography entitled ‘Hayaat e Ilyas’. Details can be studied from this book. I will only refer to two occurrences:
When he passed away, his coffin was lying in the ground. Hadhrat Moulvi Rajeki Sahib led the Funeral Service. He announced:
“I have seen in a vision that in the next world very many saints and the selected few of the Faith had come to welcome Hadhrat Moulvi Muhammad Ilyas Khan.”
Then he said:
“Before this funeral service, if someone wants to see the countenance of a saint, he should take a look at Hadhrat Moulvi Sahib.”
While in London in 1964, I saw in a dream that my maternal grandfather had come. He held me in his arms in a most loving manner. He tendered some venerable counsel and then, removing his cloak, put it on my shoulders. A few days later Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih II appointed me as Imam of the Fazl Mosque in London. I concluded that in my dream my grandfather meant to refer to this auspicious assignment.
I firmly believe that throughout my life, every single step of my progress was made possible due to the prayers offered in my favour by my grandfather. Even now, I feel the outcome of his prayers.
After studying in Peshawar for one year, at a distance of three miles from our village, I was admitted to a middle school in a township called ‘Pabbi’. I would get to the school in the mornings and would return in the evenings on a Tonga (horse drawn carriage). The teacher in the Religious Education department in that school was highly prejudiced against Ahmadiyyat. He would constantly torment me by referring to me as ‘Qadiani’ and ‘Mirzai’. I mentioned this matter to my uncle Sameen Jan Khan who was then the Education Minister in the Frontier Provincial Government. A few days later, he came to our village and the next day took me to my school in his own car. When the Headmaster, a Hindu, saw him approach the school, he came running to welcome him. After having inspected the school, in the Headmaster’s office, my uncle sent for the biased Moulvi and warned him to never refer to the religious background of any student in his class. The Moulvi became deeply apprehensive, sought forgiveness and promised to behave in the future. After that visit, all amenities at school became available to me. In 1945, I migrated to a school in Qadian and was admitted into the Eighth Grade.
During my one-year stay in Peshawar I had the good fortune of meeting some elders and some pious friends and I believe I benefited from their company. In those days, there was only one Ahmadiyya Mosque in Peshawar. Attached to the Mosque was a modest guesthouse where visitors could stay and where the local Jamaat provided all meals to them for the first three days. After every Friday service very many assembled around Hadhrat Qazi Sahib and many informative spiritual subjects came under discussion. Every now and then green tea would be served. I often attended such gathering. As Hadhrat Qazi Sahib was my uncle (Khaloo), he was extraordinarily kind to me. When the assembly broke up he would often take me to his room, which was attached to the Mosque. In fact, he normally lived in Mardan but for about 10 or 12 days in every month he would put up in a room attached to the Mosque in Peshawar. Since he was not only Amir of Peshawar but also Amir of the Frontier Province, he had adopted this routine.
In those days, as a Missionary, Hadhrat Moulvi Ghulam Rasool Rajeki, a Companion of the Promised Messiah was resident in Peshawar. Every evening after the Maghrib Salaat, for the benefit of those present, he would recite a portion of the Quran and explain the meanings of the verses recited. On occasion, some non Ahmadi Moulvis would come for the Dars. Though some points in the Quranic teachings explained by the Maulana were beyond my intellect, very often, I participated in the Dars. The Maulana’s magnetism drove me towards such gatherings.
Later on, while perusing my studies at Rabwah, to seek his prayers in my favor I would call on the Maulana almost every day. He knew my father well and was therefore always extremely considerate towards me. He always offered me cool soft drinks whenever I visited him.
Muhammad Khawas Khan was very prominent amongst the Ahmadi residents of Peshawar. He was not only good looking but also had an agreeable demeanor and he possessed praiseworthy manners. He lived in the Civil Quarters at Peshawar. Opposite his house, out in the open, marking a spot with bricks, he established an open air Mosque where, every evening, we would regularly offer our congregational prayers. In the winter months, we offered our congregational prayers in a room in his house. Very often during the winter, the congregation would be served tea etc. He was always extremely indulgent towards me. All three of his sons i.e. Khaleel Ahmad Khan, Bashir Ahmad Khan and Saeed Ahmad Khan are not only related to me but are dedicated friends. Two of the daughters of Khawas Khan were married to two of my maternal uncles i.e. Abdus Salaam Khan and Abd ul Quddus Khan.
By the Grace of Allah Muhammad Khawas Khan made substantial progress in government service and retired as Deputy Secretary to the Provincial Government.
In those days my uncle (Mamoo) Abd us Salaam Khan served as the Finance Secretary of the Peshawar Jamaat and I always stayed with him. His wife Bibi Ayesha treated me like her own son. I am indeed deeply indebted to both my maternal uncle and my aunt. May Allah shower His Blessings upon them both.
My contact with my other maternal uncle, Abd ul Quddus Khan, was somewhat spasmodic as mostly I lived in the Peshawar region and he was posted at Gwadar in Beluchistan. I met him briefly for the first time when he visited Peshawar for his marriage. Even later on we could not meet as he was posted at Gwadar and I lived in England.
Both my maternal uncles were extremely pious and presented splendid examples for others to follow. Abdul Quddus Khan was particularly blessed as he was enabled to serve as Ameer of the Frontier Province. As a result of the excellent manner in which they were brought up, by the Grace of Allah, their children are true soldiers of Islam and Ahmadiyyat and are ever prepared to sacrifice their lives for the Faith.
In those days, my uncle (Khaloo) Abdur Rahman Khan was in government service and lived in the Civil Quarters in Peshawar. I would often visit his house. Later on, by the Grace of Allah, I married his daughter. He had a cheerful personality and was very popular amongst both the prominent and the general public. His father, Hadhrat Ameerullah Khan, was a Companion of the Promised Messiah. From his village Ismaeela he would often visit his son Abdur Rahman Khan in Peshawar. I would often call on him and hear from him some narratives concerning the Promised Messiah. He was extremely handsome and was always adorned in neat clean clothes. He seemed extremely pleased to hear that I had devoted my life for the service of the Faith. When the matter of my proposal for the hand of his granddaughter, Salima Begum, was under consideration, he told his son, my future father in law, Abd``ur Rahman Khan, to accept the proposal without hesitation or delay. He told his son that he should be happy that his son in law to be was a Devotee of Life. He asked him what more he could ask for. When I was about to leave for England, although more than 80 years old then and somewhat infirm, he came to Rabwah to see me off with his solemn prayers.
My younger brother Col. Nazir Ahmad and I grew up together in our village. Although he is three years younger we always spent our days playing together. Apart from our family there were no other Ahmadis in our village. In the village Mosque, the two of us offered our prayers behind our father.
In 1944, our father took us to Qadian for the first time. As a result of that visit I decided to pursue my studies in Qadian whilst my brother was admitted to a school in Charsadah. From there our ways parted. From Qadian I proceeded to Chiniot and then to the Taleem ul Islam College in Lahore. I ended up in the Jamia tul Mobashireen at Rabwah. After having passed his matriculation examination my brother joined the Cadet College in Peshawar. He was commissioned from the Kakul Military Academy. Eventually he retired from the Pakistan Army with the rank of a Colonel. Towards the end of his services, for a period of three years, he commanded the Kharian Cantonment. Had General Zia not ruled that no Ahmadi officer could rise above the rank of a Colonel my brother would certainly have risen much further. Now he is settled in Chicago where he is serving the Jamaat as its General Secretary and Zaeem Ansarullah. He also holds some other offices. Of his three sons, Tanveer Ahmad Khan is engaged in the Insurance business. His other two sons, Nadeem Ahmad Khan and Faheem Ahmad Khan are both doctors. The whole family lives in Chicago. Nazir’s only daughter Durr e Sameen Nausheen is married to Dr. Mobeen Ahmad. She and her husband also live in Chicago. May Allah shower His blessings on all of them.
I have fond memories of Shams ud Deen Khan who for quite a while served as Ameer of the Frontier Province. He was extremely pious and was absolutely devoted to Ahmadiyyat. He was handsome, wore a thick beard and had an impressive personality. Most Friday sermons in the Peshawar Mosque were delivered by him both in Urdu and in Pushto. He too was very fond of me. In the Annual Conventions held at Rabwah, wearing his pistol, as his body guard, he could always be seen standing behind Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih II.
One incident has left a very deep impression on me. A few days before my departure for England, the news of my move from Rabwah to England, as a Missionary, was published in the Daily ‘Al Fazl’. At about that time when I happened to be walking from my house to the Railway station I suddenly saw Shams ud Deen Khan coming from the opposite direction. After alighting from the train he was on his way to Dar uz Ziafat. I ran towards him to welcome him. After he had set down his baggage at Dar uz Ziafat, I asked him of the purpose of his visit to Rabwah. He said that as soon as he read in the Daily ‘Al Fazl’of my imminent departure for England he immediately decided to come to Rabwah to bid me farewell. Then he said:
“We are proud of you. In the service of the Faith, you are the first Pathan to be sent to a Foreign Country. I have offered a lot of prayers for you.”
Then he broke down, stood up and held me in his arms for quite a while. One of his sons, Col. Nisar, was my classmate in Lahore. Another son, Dr. Anwaar, lives in Chicago. Both Dr. Anwaar and his wife have maintained a loving relationship with us. May Allah the Almighty bestow His favours on them both.
From my childhood, I can also remember Muhammad Rustam Khan who was my uncle (khaloo). I often visited his village Jalozai, as he always loved me dearly. He was a distinguished Pushto poet and was truly an intellectual. While serving the Survey of Pakistan he would spend his summers in Murree. In his letters, he persisted that I should visit him and stay with him during my summer vacations. We would thus spend a month or two together. I wrote an article concerning him, which was published in the ‘Al Fazl’. During the third Khilafat of Ahmadiyyat, he was the first Ahmadi to be martyred. May Allah elevate his station in Heaven.
From my childhood, I also have extremely fond memories of Muhammad Akram Khan Durrani of Charsadah. He had the distinction of being the first graduate from the Frontier Province. He too was very fond of me and I cherish his memories. He would insist that I visit him in his village. My elder sister was married to his son. Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih II has made repeated mention of his name in the series of his lectures on ‘Sair e Roohani’. He was a truly learned man. He had a strong physique, was tall and could be easily recognised from a distance. He was fanatical about Tableegh. While I was a student there, he visited Qadian on two separate occasions. After school hours, he would take me along to the Guest House and we would spend the rest of the day together. Although he was the same age as my father, we became fairly intimate friends. Together we would go to the Bahishti Maqbara and together we would go to Masjid Mubarak in Qadian to offer our prayers. He was truly a great man. An opponent of Ahmadiyyat shot him and killed him. He was thus martyred.
At a distance of about three miles from our village is a township named ‘Pabbi’. Two Punjabi families had migrated to Pabbi i.e. Hakeem Fazl Muhammad and Dr. Azeez ud Deen. Both were staunch Ahmadis and were indeed very pious. In my childhood, I often visited their houses. Mostly we offered our Friday prayers at the residence of Dr. Azeez ud Deen. Being an Ahmadi, he too was wronged to some extent, but since he was a Doctor and many from the surrounding villages visited his clinic for treatment and to get medicines, even ruthless hostility of the Moulvis could not really do him any harm.