Imam Bashir Ahmad Rafiq’s Biography
Chapter 49: Meeting with VIPs and Envoys
Shortly after assuming charge of the British Mission, I felt that in order to promote Tarbiyyat amongst members of the Jamaat and to enhance the prestige of the Jamaat we must establish a cordial relationship with foreign visitors and National dignitaries. A comprehensive plan was drawn up, the salient features of which were:
1. So that the Ambassadors of various countries accredited to Britain should make a commendable mention of the Jamaat in their reports, we should establish a close relationship with them. God forbid, if any problem surfaced in their countries we could raise our voice through their Ambassadors in London.
2. We should invite visiting Prime Ministers, Ministers and other dignitaries from foreign countries and they should be kept advised of the activities of the Jamaat in the UK. This may help remove any misunderstandings that may exist.
3. Establish a cordial relationship with important people in Great Britain such as; Members of Parliament, Police Officers, Mayors and other dignitaries, etc. The Jamaat literature should be made available to all such people. A spirit of mutual co-operation should be established.
In accordance with the above programme, we prepared a comprehensive plan and made appointments to individually meet many Ambassadors stationed in London. During such meetings, the Jamaat literature may be presented and the activities of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat in their respective countries could be discussed with them. I led delegations to meet many Ambassadors, including those from the following countries: Pakistan, India, Mauritius, Ghana, Nigeria, China, Russia, Poland, Liberia, Turkey, Syria, Sierra Leone, Gambia and last but not least, America. Beneficial results accrued from these meetings; for example:
From 1967 until the end of the period of his Khilafat, Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih III toured Europe eight times. During seven of these tours I accompanied Huzoor. On two of them, I served as his Private Secretary. During his second visit to England, we felt that we should make an effort and arrange the use of a VIP lounge so that Huzoor may be spared the ordeal of immigration and custom formalities. The British Airport Authority told us that in order to establish a VIP status very lengthy procedure has to be followed. For this purpose the concurrence of the country from which the VIP hails is necessary. I was disheartened, as I knew very well that the Pakistan Embassy would never support our request. Around that time, I met Mr Jeneeh, the Gambian Ambassador. He received me with great warmth and told me that while in Gambia he was able to help in the matter of the registration of the Ahmadiyya Mission in Gambia. In a somewhat casual manner, I told him of the forthcoming tour of Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih III and he said that he would be at the Airport to receive Huzoor. There is a rule of which I was not aware that whenever an Ambassador of a country visits the airport a VIP lounge is made available. The Gambian Ambassador asked his secretary to advise the airport authorities that he would be at the airport on the day of Huzoor’s arrival and a VIP lounge may be reserved for this purpose. Thereafter, for every subsequent visit by Huzoor, again through the Gambian Ambassador the use of a VIP lounge was permitted. In this manner, things were made very simple. On repeated occasions the Gambian Ambassador visited the Mosque. At my invitation he came for lunch or dinner on two different occasions. He became exceedingly fond of Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih III and he also displayed great regard and esteem for Hadhrat Chaudhry Muhammad Zafrulla Khan.
I had a number of meetings with various Ambassadors and established a genial relationship with them. I made a separate mention of my relationship with Mian Mumtaz Muhammad Khan Daulatana in another place.
In 1972 when Lt. Gen. Muhammad Yusuf Khan, the Pakistan Ambassador stationed in Britain was transferred to Switzerland, I arranged a farewell dinner for him at the Mosque. I had developed a friendship with him and he visited the Mosque at least two or three times. He had been inviting me to all the Pakistan Embassy functions. A report concerning the farewell Dinner Party was published in the ‘Muslim Herald’ is reproduced below.
“On Friday the 23rd June, 1972, a farewell party was given by the London Mission to His Excellency Lt. Gen. Muhammad Yusuf Khan, the Ambassador for Pakistan in the UK on His Excellency’s transfer to Switzerland. The party was attended by His Worshipful the Mayor of Wandsworth, Their Excellencies the High Commissioners of Ghana, Gambia and Nigeria and by seventy members of the Community. Other guests included the Manager of PIA Office in the UK and Mrs Senkyi, the wife of the High Commissioner of Ghana and Mr Standing.
After the dinner, the gathering was addressed by His Worshipful the Mayor of Wandsworth, Mrs J.D. Standing. She spoke for some time about the London Mosque, the beautiful Mission building, and her first impressions of this important centre of the Ahmadiyya Community. Mr B.A. Rafiq, the Imam, then, in his address welcomed their Excellencies and all other guests besides the chief guest of the evening Lt. Gen. Muhammad Yusuf Khan. He briefly spoke on the history of the Ahmadiyya Mission, its activities abroad and the part played by the London Mosque in furthering the cause of Islam. He also mentioned about the ‘Leap Forward Programme’ of Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih III following Huzoor’s visit to West Africa in His Excellency, in reply to the address, thanked the Imam and the Ahmadiyya Community for arranging a sumptuous farewell dinner in his honour. He appreciated the services of the community in the cause of Islam and Pakistan and the part played by the UK Mission in participating in the Defence Fund during the last war.”
In 1968 His Excellency Sir F.M. Singhate, Governor General of Gambia visited London. I met him and invited him to visit the Mosque. He himself was an Ahmadi. He said:
“I wanted to visit the Mosque on my own but I am glad that you have invited me.”
He came to the Mosque for the Friday service. In my Friday sermon I made a prominent mention of a prophecy of the Promised Messiah i.e.:
“Monarchs will seek blessings from your garments.”
This prophecy having been fulfilled in his person I congratulated the Governor General. Many Ministers of his government accompanied the Governor General.
I hosted a dinner in his honour in the evening in which, apart from some Gambian Ministers, the Gambian Ambassador and members of his staff, the local Member of Parliament and some British guests were also present. At the end of the dinner, I thanked my honoured guests. On that occasion the Governor General applauded the efforts made by the British Jamaat and thanked the Almighty God that he had become a recipient of the blessings of Ahmadiyyat.
In 1962, the Education Minister of Sierra Leone came to England. I called to see him at his hotel and extended an invitation to him to visit the Mosque – which he accepted. A dinner was arranged at the Mosque. On behalf of the British Jamaat, I welcomed the ambassador and his staff and in my address, I made a prominent mention of the efforts made by the Jamaat in the field of education in Sierra Leone. In his reply, the Minister said:
“I am a close friend of Mr. B.A. Bashir the Missionary in Charge and Amir of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat in Sierra Leone and I am a great admirer of the efforts made by the Sierra Leone Jamaat in the field of education. On behalf of my country I thank the Ahmadiyya Jamaat.”
In 1965, the first Prime Minister of Mauritius, Sir Ram Ghulam, came to England. When I called to meet him at his hotel, he received me with great warmth. He paid glowing tributes to the services rendered by the Jamaat in Mauritius. He instructed his Ambassador, who was accompanying him, to always invite the Imam to all the Mauritian Embassy functions. Some photographs were taken on this occasion, which, along with a detailed report have been published in the May 1968 issue of the ‘Muslim Herald’.
In 1959 Mr Muhammad Ikramullah was the Pakistan Ambassador in England. His wife Begum Shaista Ikramullah was extremely well known person in the social circles of Pakistan. Dr. Muhammad Naseem, a former Judge of the Allahabad High Court, who was at that time General Secretary of the British Jamaat, knew her well. Dr. Naseem invited me for a dinner at his house, a function in which Mr and Mrs Ikramullah were present. I became fairly close to Mr Ikramullah. Begum Ikramullah showed great kindness to my wife.
In 1975 I invited the Polish Ambassador for Dinner at the Mosque and very kindly he came with his staff. In my introductory speech I made mention of the activities of the Jamaat, particularly in the field of public welfare. In his response, the Ambassador, inviting me to visit Poland, pledged support in this matter. I met him on several occasions subsequently. To adequately cover the subject of establishing and promoting a sound and lasting relationship with the Members of Parliament and other dignitaries would take many pages but is by no means a part of my autobiography. However, there will be a mention of this in the Jamaat history, Inshallah.
I invited Members of Parliament, Peers of the Realm and other dignitaries to preside over the various sessions of the Annual Conventions of the British Jamaat. The most prominent amongst them has been Mr Tom Cox MP.In my view; along with the propagation of Islam it is necessary for the Missionaries to establish relationships with local and foreign dignitaries. In this way, the Jamaat can benefit in diverse ways. Eventually these relations will prove useful
During the period when I was Imam and Missionary In charge, the well established relationships resulted in unusual benefits. On two occasions, I was invited to the Queen’s Garden Party, which was held on the lawns of Buckingham Palace. Apart from Her Majesty, members of the Royal Family, Ministers, Ambassadors and other dignitaries were present. Naturally on such occasions it became possible for me to introduce Ahmadiyyat.