Maulana Muhammad Ali

Friday Khutba by Dr Zahid Aziz, for Lahore Ahmadiyya UK, 13 October 2023

“And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, they are with those upon whom Allah has bestowed favours from among the prophets and the truthful and the faithful and the righteous, and a goodly company are they!” — ch. 4, An-Nisa’, v. 69

وَ مَنۡ یُّطِعِ اللّٰہَ وَ الرَّسُوۡلَ فَاُولٰٓئِکَ مَعَ الَّذِیۡنَ اَنۡعَمَ اللّٰہُ عَلَیۡہِمۡ مِّنَ النَّبِیّٖنَ وَ الصِّدِّیۡقِیۡنَ وَ الشُّہَدَآءِ وَ الصّٰلِحِیۡنَ ۚ وَ حَسُنَ اُولٰٓئِکَ رَفِیۡقًا ﴿ؕ۶۹

“So do not obey the disbelievers, and strive against them a mighty striving with it [i.e. with the Quran].” — ch. 25, Al-Furqān, v. 52

فَلَا تُطِعِ الۡکٰفِرِیۡنَ وَ جَاہِدۡہُمۡ بِہٖ جِہَادًا کَبِیۡرًا ﴿۵۲

Today is the anniversary of the death of Maulana Muhammad Ali, first Head of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement, who died on 13th October 1951. I have chosen two verses of the Quran which are relevant to the subject. The first verse I recited promises that those who obey Allah and the Messenger, the Holy Prophet Muhammad, will receive the companionship of the prophets and of the true believers of the highest ranks. The Holy Prophet himself stated that those who love Allah and His Messenger, even though they may have fallen short in deeds, will be included as being with the Messenger and his leading Companions. A Companion and servant of the Holy Prophet, Anas ibn Malik, was very happy on hearing the Holy Prophet say this, and he said:

“We had never been so glad as we were on hearing that saying of the Prophet, because I love the Prophet, Abu Bakr and Umar, and I hope that I will be with them because of my love for them though my deeds are not like theirs” (Bukhari, hadith 3688).

Being “with them” is not only having their company in the Hereafter, but also trying to emulate their qualities in this life and help them in their mission.

Commentators of the Quran have discussed what is meant by “the truthful (ṣiddīq) and the faithful (shahīd) and the righteous (ṣāliḥ)” mentioned in this verse. They say the ṣiddīq are those who can recognise the truth straightaway and accept it and believe in it very strongly. Hazrat Abu Bakr, because of this, has the title ṣiddīq. The shahīd are those who excel the ordinary believers in terms of knowledge. They learn know­ledge firsthand, remember it and convey it to others. That is why a witness to anything is also called a shahīd. The third word ṣāliḥ is applied to those who, in terms of deeds and actions, excel others in following the commands of the religion to do good and refrain from wrongdoing.

Maulana Muhammad Ali had the qualities of all of these, of being ṣiddīq, shahīd and ṣāliḥ. He was ṣiddīq in recognising the truth of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as soon as he saw him for the first time. A little later, in 1897, he joined the Ahmadiyya Movement, and a mere four years further on, he responded to an appeal by Hazrat Mirza sahib and gave up his worldly career to devote the rest of his life solely for the service of Islam. At that time he had attained the highest university qualifications and was on the brink of starting his career in law. In a booklet written near the end of his life, the Maulana wrote:

“In exactly the year 1900, when I was on my way to Gurdaspur to start my law practice, with all arrangements completed, the premises rented, and my belongings and books moved there, my Guide [Hazrat Mirza sahib] took me by the hand and said: You have other work to do, I want to start an English periodical for the propagation of Islam to the West, you will edit it. What great fortune that, on hearing this voice, I did not hesitate for a moment as to whether I should start this work or the work for which I had prepared myself. This periodical was issued on 1 January 1902 under the title Review of Religions. In 1909 I began the English translation of the Holy Quran. When I look back today, after half a century, I fall before God in gratitude that He gave me such long respite and enabled me to do so much work.”

The Maulana settled in Qadian in the year 1900 and started doing extensive literary work from there. This work involved doing research into Islam and other religions, and answering the criticism levelled against Islam, for the magazine Review of Religions which he mentioned in the above quotation. He was also appointed by Hazrat Mirza sahib as the secretary of the Anjuman or executive body which Hazrat Mirza sahib had himself created to run the Movement. Thus the Maulana was also heavily involved in the administrative and other types of work of the Movement, and all this work led to an expansion of the Ahmadiyya Movement.

Some years later Maulana Muhammad Ali faced a situation in which he again had to be a ṣiddīq, one who sacrifices everything for the sake of the truth. This happened towards the end of the life of Hazrat Maulana Nur-ud-Din who was the Head of the Ahmadiyya Movement after the death of Hazrat Mirza sahib in May 1908 till March 1914. Certain members of the Movement, led by the eldest son of Hazrat Mirza sahib, Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad, invented the concept that every Muslim who does not believe in the claims of Hazrat Mirza sahib, even if that Muslim has never even heard his name, is a kafir, unbeliever and outside the fold of Islam. According to them, other Muslims were unbelievers because they were not accepting a new prophet of God who had come, namely, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. In the booklet that I mentioned above Maulana Muhammad Ali writes about these events as follows:

“In 1914 we separated from Qadian and laid the foundations of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam in Lahore. The reason for this was only that we considered the creed of the khalifa of Qadian, that all non-Ahmadis are kafir and outside the pale of Islam, to be wrong. This belief was also contrary to the clear and open teachings and practice of the Founder of the Movement, and it was also against the express teachings of the Quran and Hadith. … Mirza Mahmud Ahmad was insistent, in regard to our belief that all those who profess the Kalima are Muslims, whatever sect they may belong to, that although we could hold this belief within our hearts but we would not be allowed to express it openly. This was impossible for us to accept. Therefore, we few men refused to accept him as khalifa and to enter into his bai‘at. We decided among ourselves that we would continue the work of the propagation of Islam even if, due to prevailing circumstances, we have to leave Qadian to do this work.”

This, then, was the second time that Maulana Muhammad Ali made a sacrifice of his life, and of his bright hopes for the future, for the sake of the truth. He, with his associates, founded an organisation, starting with no resources. This organisation was based on two cornerstone principles that are taught by Islam. One is that if a person calls himself a Muslim by professing belief in the Kalima Shahada of Islam, the same words by reciting which a non-Muslim enters into Islam, then no other Muslim has the authority to exclude him from the fold of Islam on some other pretext. In the whole Muslim world, it is only the group established by Maulana Muhammad Ali which adheres to this principle firmly and unconditionally and promotes it strongly to the Muslim world. Whenever you find any other Muslim scholar or group saying that they believe that no Muslim can be called kafir, you soon realise that they don’t accept it unconditionally, and they always leave some scope or room for themselves to declare any Muslim as kafir that they wish to do so.

The other cornerstone principle on which the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement was founded is that the Holy Prophet Muhammad was the last and final prophet of all prophets, and after him Allah will not send any prophet, new or old. Other Muslims, in general, despite claiming to believe in the finality of prophethood, allow scope for the return of Jesus (Hazrat Isa) to this world, who of course was a prophet. As to the allegation that Hazrat Mirza sahib claimed to be a prophet, Maulana Muhammad Ali wrote extensively and in great detail on the topic that he did not claim to be a prophet and that he believed, as we do, that no prophet can come after the Holy Prophet Muhammad, neither new nor old.

As I said above, Maulana Muhammad Ali proved himself to be a ṣiddīq. He was also a shahīd, because of the knowledge he possessed by his own learning and research, and which he gave to the world through his writings, speeches and sermons. He was also ṣāliḥ, one who in his life and actions walks on the right path. Those who knew him or worked with him have testified to the purity of his character. When he joined the Ahmadiyya Movement, Hazrat Mirza sahib himself published the following opinion about him:

“Among the most sincere friends in our community is Maulvi Muhammad Ali, M.A., who, besides his other qualifications, has also just now passed his law examination. For the past few months, at much loss to his own work, he has been staying with me in Qadian to perform a service to religion by translating some of my writings into English. … During this period in which he has been with me, I have been observing him, both openly and discreetly, to assess his moral character, observance of religion and goodness of behaviour. So, thanks be to God, that I have found him to be a most excellent man as regards religion and good behaviour in all ways. He is unassuming, modest, of a righteous nature, and pious. He is to be envied for many qualities. … It is obvious that such promising young men possessing these qualities, who are able and honourable, cannot be found by searching.”

(Announce­ment dated 9 August 1899; Majmu‘a Ishtiharat, 1986 edition, vol. 3, p. 137–138, number 206).

At the start of this khutba I also recited a verse in which Allah commands Muslims to undertake a mighty striving, or conduct a great jihad, by means of the Quran as their weapon against those who are unaware of its true teachings. Maulana Muhammad Ali did not only establish this Jamaat on the two theoretical principles which I mentioned above. He also made it the practical mission of this Jamaat to strive the hardest to take the Quran to the whole world, non-Muslim or Muslim.

I must also mention that two other death anniversaries of our eminent elders surround the death anniversary of Maulana Muhammad Ali. On 12 October 1990 Maulana Hafiz Sher Muhammad passed away. He is known internationally as a missionary of Islam who served and strengthened many of our world-wide branches. In a khutba obviously we cannot cover at all the great and extensive work he did for Islam and our Jamaat, but his writings are available for us to benefit from.

On 14 October 2002 Professor Dr Asghar Hameed passed away as the fourth Head of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Jamaat. He also was known for his great scholarship in his own field of mathematics as well in Islam, and equally for his humble, unassuming and modest nature. He was also known for being a man of strong principles of honesty and straight-forwardness. He demonstrated all these qualities throughout his life, including the period from 1996 to 2002 when he was Head of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Jamaat. He and Maulana Hafiz Sher Muhammad were both born in more or less the same year, they were great admirers of Maulana Muhammad Ali, knew him well and were inspired by him to serve Islam and our Jamaat.

We pray that may Allah grant them the highest and noblest ranks in the Hereafter, accept their unparalleled services, and enable us to learn from them, and place us in their company — Ameen.


Maulana Muhammad Ali

Maulana Hafiz Sher Muhammad

Professor Dr Asghar Hameed