The Martyrdom of Abdul Rahman, a Disciple of Maulvi Sahibzada Abdul Latif, Chief of Khost in the State of Afghanistan
Approximately two years prior to the martyrdom of Sahibzada Maulvi Abdul Latif, his pious disciple Mian Abdul Rahman came to Qadian two or three times at his master’s bidding. Each time he stayed with me for several months. Having stayed in my company and having listened to my discourses and my teachings, his faith developed tremendously and when he returned to Kabul he had fully grasped the fundamentals of my teachings. It was during the time of his stay with me that I had published some books in refutation of the common notion of JIHAD-the holy war. He was fully conversant with the fact that our Movement was opposed to the concept of holy wars as commonly understood. It so happened that after bidding farewell to me, he reached Peshawar where, by chance, he met Khwaja Kamaluddin, Pleader, who is also one of my followers. Khwaja Kamaluddin had then published a booklet condemning holy wars. He was so much impressed by its reasoning that he openly discussed this notion when he reached Kabul. He strongly supported the view that it was not permissible to wage holy war against the British as they afforded peace and protection to millions of Muslims who live in their territories in perfect peace and harmony with their other subjects. This information eventually reached the ears of Amir Abdul Rahman through some mischievous Punjabis who served him in his court. They told him that Maulvi Abdul Rahman was a disciple of a Punjabi who claimed to be the Promised Messiah and one of his teachings was not only that it was unlawful to wage holy war against the British but that in the present age holy war was not lawful at all. At this the Amir flew into an outrage and commanded that the poor man be arrested so that more could be learnt in this connection after questioning him. In the end, it was proved that the man was undoubtedly a disciple of the Promised Messiah who strongly opposed the idea of a holy war. Therefore, this poor victim of oppression was strangled to death with a piece of cloth while he was in custody. It is reported that many heavenly Signs were manifested at his martyrdom.
This was how Mian Abdul Rahman was martyred. Now we shall relate the tragic story of the martyrdom of Sahibzada Maulvi Abdul Latif and exhort our followers to cultivate faith similar to his, because if a person is not wholly devoted to God and remains partly inclined towards mundane things, he cannot be reckoned to be a true believer in heaven.
The Account of Tragic Martyrdom of Maulvi Sahibzadah Abdul Latif, of Khost in the Territory of Kabul (May Allah have Mercy on him)
I have already stated that Maulvi Abdul Latif Sahib came to Qadian from Khost in the territory of Kabul and stayed with me for many months. The matter of his martyrdom had been decided in heaven. Events unfolded in the following way. He took leave of me for returning home. Later, I came to know from reliable sources and eye-witnesses that it so happened that when he reached near the border of Afghanistan, he stopped at a place within the British territory and wrote a letter to one of his disciples, asking him to obtain permission of entry from the Amir so that he could pay homage to him. He sought his special permission because when he had left the country he was granted permission to go on pilgrimage to Mecca and funds from the royal treasury were provided for that purpose. This design he was unable to accomplish as he had stayed at Qadian much longer than he had intended. This was because he had accepted me as the Promised Messiah and following the injunction of the Holy Quran: Obey Allah and His Messenger, he postponed his intention of going to the Hajj for another year in the future. Every sensible person will agree that if a person on his way happens to meet and recognise the Promised Messiah who had been awaited by the Muslims for the last 1,300 years, it becomes incumbent upon him, according to the behest of the Holy Quran and the Traditions, that he should not proceed further without the permission of the Promised Messiah and may postpone the sacred journey until permission is granted to him.
As this exalted personage had been unable to proceed to the Hajj, owing to a valid reason, he thought it fit to explain the position to the Amir while he was still in the British territory before entering the State of Kabul. He thought it expedient to write to Brigadier Muhammad Hussain asking him to mention the matter to the king on some opportune occasion. In this letter, he wrote that though he had departed from his country with the intention of going to the Hajj, on his way he happened to meet the Promised Messiah and as it is the imperative command of the Quran and the Hadith for Muslims to do their best to accept and obey the Promised Messiah, he was obliged to stay at Qadian.
When this letter reached Brigadier Muhammad Hussain, he quietly pushed it under his knee in his office and did not promptly submit it to the king. But his assistant, who was an opponent and a mischief-monger, somehow came to learn that a letter had come from Sahibzada Abdul Latif who had stayed at Qadian. He stole the letter and took it to the Amir. The king immediately called the Brigadier and asked him whether he had received any letter from the Sahibzada. The Brigadier, seeing that the Amir was extremely angry, got terrified and denied having received the letter.
As the Maulvi Sahib had received no reply from the Brigadier, he grew anxious and a few days later wrote another letter by post to Muhammad Husain Kotwal. The Postmaster opened the letter and sent it to the Amir. Since the martyrdom of the venerable Maulvi Sahib had been ordained in heaven, the king made a cunning move so that he may have him in his grip. The king sent him a kind and encouraging letter asking him to come to the king without the least fear in his mind. He stated further that the king would himself follow his example if he would convince him of the truth of the claim of the Promised Messiah. Those who reported this to us were not sure whether the Amir sent this letter by post or by hand. However, on receiving this letter from the Amir, the Maulvi Sahib proceeded to Kabul. The wheel of destiny moved along.
Those who saw the deceased (Maulvi Sahib) passing through the streets of Kabul affirm that he was riding a horse and was followed by eight horsemen of the king. All the townsmen knew that the Amir had played a trick on the Akhwandzadah. When the Akhwandzadah and the horsemen passed through the streets a number of onlookers also followed them. It was generally believed that the order of arrest had already been sent to the Governor of Khost on whose command he was escorted by horsemen to the presence of the king who was in an angry mood, because the jealous divines and opponents had already poisoned his ears. The Amir addressed him wrathfully and said: Make him stand away from me. He has an obnoxious smell. He ordered that he be sent to the prison of the castle where he resided himself. He further ordered that the prisoner be chained with the ‘Ghargharaab’ which is a very heavy chain of iron weighing about 130 pounds. It is put round the neck and the waist and the prisoner is handcuffed. He also commanded that fetters weighing 17 pounds be put on his feet. For about four months the venerable divine was thus kept in vile captivity during which period he was constantly admonished as well as promised freedom if he would retract from his faith and proclaim that the one who resided in Qadian was not the true Promised Messiah. But he always refused and gave the same reply. He said: By the grace of Allah, I am a knowledgeable man of true understanding and I possess the sense of discriminating between right and wrong and can differentiate between truth and falsehood. I have found the truth after a careful search and I believe that he is indeed the true Promised Messiah. He added: I am fully aware that my faith would cost me my life and would endanger the safety of my wife and children; but I attach more importance to my faith than to my life and all worldly relationships. Every time the Amir’s men approached him he gave them the same answer.
The prison to which he was sent was not at all like the British jails where due consideration is given to the limits of human endurance. It was a type of confinement in which everyone would prefer death to life. Men wondered at the steadfastness and tenacity of the Sahibzadah. Indeed it was a matter of great astonishment, particularly as he was a man who dearly loved his wife and children and was used to a life of comfort and ease. He owned property worth millions and, on account of his great knowledge and learning, he was considered to be the most revered divine in the territory of Kabul. He was suddenly thrown into such a detestable and horrific place, the thought of which makes one shudder all over. How could such a delicate person, used to a life of ease and comfort, bear all that trial patiently, and sacrifice his life for his faith! It is even more surprising that all the time he was being offered favours and honours from the king provided he would retract from his faith in the Promised Messiah of Qadian. But he turned a deaf ear to all these enticing temptations, and each time the temptation was offered to him he gave the same answer that he could not forsake his faith for material gains. He said: ‘That I have found the truth and cannot depart from it, even at the cost of my life. I shall die with the truth.’ The land of Kabul can never forget the steadfastness of this venerable sage, nor had the people of that country ever witnessed such unwavering faith.
It must also be remembered here that the kings of Kabul were not reputed for making repeated offers of freedom and honour to everyone. But because Abdul Latif Sahib enjoyed a position of such great honour and respect that he was considered a pillar of the State and because he had many a thousand of disciples of his own, even the kings of Afghanistan, as we have already mentioned, paid him great respect and he was considered to be the sun among the stars of the divines of that country. The king might have had his own reasons for his personal attempts to induce the venerable Sahibzada to retract because he knew that if the matter once went before the opposing priests and divines, he, the king, would not be able to come to his aid. It is, therefore, quite plausible that the Amir, on the one hand was afraid of the priests and on the other considered the Sahibzada to be completely innocent. That was the reason that during the whole period of his imprisonment he did his best to induce him to retreat from his faith in the Messiah of Qadian and repent of his error. On this ground he made the offer of freedom and great honour to him. That was the main reason that he had him kept in the prison of his own palace, where constant approach was easy and convenient.
There is another point which must be mentioned here and which is the real cause of this tragedy. Since the time Mian Abdul Rahman, the martyr, had been killed, the Amir and all the divines had known that the Promised Messiah of Qadian was very strongly opposed to the current notion about Jihad-the holy war-and that this fact had been clearly elucidated in his writings. Incidentally, the father of the present Amir had also written and published a booklet advocating spread of the faith by the sword-a notion diametrically opposed to my exhortations. Some mischief-makers from the Punjab, who call themselves Ahl-i-Hadeeth and Unitarians, had gained access to the court of the Amir Abdul Rahman, the father of the present Amir, and had misinterpreted my views on this subject. This probably was the real cause of the murder of Mian Abdul Rahman, the martyr whom the Amir thought to belong to the people who hold Jihad-by-sword unlawful. The wheels of destiny moved in a manner that Maulvi Abdul Latif inadvertently discussed while in prison, the notion of Jihad and proclaimed it to be impermissible in the present age, which is the age of reason. The use of force in the present age for the propagation of faith would be fruitless. The late martyr was exceedingly quick in expressing the truth and in doing so he did not care even for his life. He plainly told them all, that what he believed in, was the real truth.
We shall now relate the remaining part of the story of martyrdom. When four months had passed in the prison, the venerable sage was, by the order of the Amir, brought to the court where the Amir again urged him to retract from his new faith. He also added that if the Sahibzada did so, he would not only get his freedom back but great honours would be bestowed upon him. But the venerable divine replied that he could not possibly recant the truth. Tortures and trials from earthly rulers come to an end very soon, but the wrath of God is everlasting. He added that he was prepared to hold a dialogue on this very subject with the divines who accused him of apostasy and heresy. He further added that he would be prepared to accept any punishment if he was proved wrong in his beliefs. The eye-witnesses of this incident have stated that the king liked the suggestion very much. He commanded that the dialogue should take place in the Royal Mosque. For this purpose, the king nominated Khan Mulla Khan and eight other priests to support him. He nominated a Punjabi doctor from Lahore as the Arbiter for the debate. This was a man who was bitterly opposed to the Movement.
A great crowd gathered in the mosque. It was announced that the dialogue shall be in writing. It is a matter of great surprise that none of these papers were published. Therefore, no one knows what arguments were produced in the debate which continued from seven o’clock in the morning till three o’clock in the afternoon. When the time for Asr prayer was about to finish, the verdict of apostasy was announced. At the close of the debate he was asked: If this man from Qadian is the true Promised Messiah, what do you say about the Prophet Jesus-will he come back to this world? In a firm and dignified manner he replied that Prophet Jesus was dead and would never come back to this world. The Holy Quran bore witness to his death and he could not return. The Maulvis, after the fashion of the Jewish elders and the High Priest who had tom their clothes after hearing about Jesus, also made a great clamour and began to abuse him and said: What more proof do you want in support of his apostasy? Therefore, in a state of great rage they wrote down their verdict of apostasy against him. The venerable sage was then sent back in chains to the prison.
It must be borne in mind that while the Sahibzadah sat writing his answers eight soldiers of the Amir stood behind him holding naked swords in their hands. The verdict was sent to the king in the evening and the Maulvis saw to it that the actual papers written during the contest were purposely withheld; nor were they published later for the information of the general public. This is a clear proof of the fact that the Maulvis were completely at a loss to answer the arguments advanced by the venerable sage. But the most astonishing fact in this affair was that the Amir confirmed the verdict without even seeing the arguments advanced by both parties; nor did he ask for the minutes of the proceedings to be recorded. He was duty bound that with fear of the TRUE JUDGE in his heart to WHOM he would soon return after leaving his throne and kingdom behind, he should have been present himself during the debate. He should have remembered that the life of a great saint and venerable scholar was at stake. It was his duty, at all costs, to be present there, to do true justice. It was incumbent upon him that he should not have tortured the venerable martyr in chains before his guilt was proved. It was most unfair to position him in the midst of eight soldiers wielding naked swords trying to intimidate him. Failing all these bounden duties, he should have, at the very least, asked for the documents written during the dialogue-nay, he ought to have issued his command beforehand for the documents to be submitted to him and should have duly published these papers for the benefit of the general public to show how terribly mistaken was the Sahibzada; and how he had been defeated by the Maulvis in an open and fair debate and could present no convincing argument of the truth of the Messiah of Qadian; nor could he put forward any evidence against spreading the faith by force or to establish that Jesus son of Mary was truly dead.
Alas, what a pity, that a noble and venerable saint was slaughtered like a goat before their eyes, although he had given them sound and convincing arguments, and he had, indeed, the truth in his support. But despite the truth and noble firmness, his sacred body was turned into mincemeat by (###). His unfortunate widow and dear children were arrested and removed from Khost and kept under guard in some unknown place.
O ye ignorant ones! Is this the teaching of Islam as regards those who differ in their views about faith? Is that the punishment laid down by the Quran and Islam? How did you dare shed this blood? Did the British government, which in the sight of this king, and his bigoted mullahs, is the government of the unbelievers and under which government live people of various creeds, ever hang a Muslim or a Hindu because their faith clashed with the faith of their padres? Alas! what a dire and doleful tragedy has been committed under the sky, that a perfectly innocent person, despite being true and perfectly justified and despite the testimony of thousands that he was adorned with piety and holiness and was God-fearing, was so cruelly killed, simply because of the difference in doctrine? That Governor, Pilate, who, as is mentioned in the Gospels, had arrested Jesus at the request of the Jew priests, so that he may be crucified, said that he did not find any fault in Jesus, was a thousand times better than this king. Alas! what a sad thing! The king ought to have, at the very least, asked his divines for the grounds on which they had based their verdict of apostasy and stoning to death. Why did he not ask them the reason? Why did they announce the verdict simply on the basis of a difference in views? Why did he not tell them that such differences were so common even among their own various sects? Is it justified to stone to death someone from a sect which differs in views from theirs? Is this the way and method of this Amir? I wonder how he will answer before God Almighty.
After the verdict of apostasy had been announced and the condemned saint had been sent back to the prison, the Amir sent for him on the following Monday to the Salam Khana-the audience hall. On that occasion, a large number of people were present when the Amir came out of the fort. He saw the condemned one sitting by the side of the road and said to him: Akhwandzada Sahib, how did the verdict go? But the deceased did not give him any reply because he knew that they were bent upon afflicting torture. One of the soldiers, however, said: He has been condemned; that is to say, the verdict of apostasy has been passed.
When the Amir sat in his court he immediately called the Akhwandzadah and said: The verdict of apostasy has been passed on you. Now say whether you will repent or face the penalty? He replied in a positive and unequivocal manner: I cannot retract from the truth; should I accept a falsity for fear of my life? No, that I will never do. The Amir tried hard to persuade him to retract and gave him his personal promise of freedom and favours. But the Sahibzada persistently rejected the overture and said: You must never expect that I will ever retract from the truth.
All these reports have reached us through eye-witnesses and are not hearsay. We are told that a very large number of people were present in the court and every time the Amir suggested repentance to the condemned sage, he turned down the offer in a loud, clear voice. It was on that occasion also that he declared in a loud voice that he would rise again six days after he was murdered. I, the writer, believe that this statement must have been based on revelation that he had received. As a matter of fact, the saint had already reached the stage where one’s connection with the world is cut off and the angels were shaking hands with him in welcome. What he meant by this declaration was that the angels had given him the glad tidings that he would rise before the seventh day, the Day of Allah. It must also be bome in mind that the martyrs killed in the path of Allah are raised after a few days as is mentioned in the Holy Quran:
Think not of those who have been slain in the cause of Allah as dead. Nay, they are living, in the presence of their Lord, and are granted gifts from Him (3:170).
This was exactly what the saint had meant at that time. I saw in a vision that a large, green and flourishing branch of a cypress tree in our garden had been cut down and someone was holding it in his hand. Then I heard someone saying: Plant this branch in the land near my house in the place of that which has been cut. It will grow again. I also received the revelation: Severed from Kabul and came straight to Us. I, therefore, interpret that the blood of the martyred saint has been shed but like a seed it shall grow in time and prosper exceedingly. Our community shall increase there in large numbers.
On the one hand I saw the above dream and on the other hand the saint said that he would be raised after six days. Therefore, my vision and the utterance of the martyred saint point to one and the same thing.
With his martyrdom the deceased has, with his own blood, set an enviable precedent for all my followers. This is the precedent that they all needed. It is because there are some among them even now who, after rendering a little service, begin to think that they have rendered a very remarkable service and think in their minds that they have put me under a personal obligation. And they do not realise that it is they who are indebted to God Almighty who gave them the opportunity of doing that little service. There are some who have not joined us with genuine earnestness and whole-heartedness and do not furnish the proof of the sincerity which they claim to have, nor show true steadfastness. They ignore the faith for the love of small material gains, and are unable to stand up to the least trial. Although they profess to have joined the godly fold, they still cling to worldly gains. But we are a thousand times grateful to our God
for those followers who have joined us for the most sincere motives and have accepted the faith with true sincerity and are fully prepared to face every trial for the faith. Yet the degree of loyalty demonstrated by this stout-hearted man is yet to be shown by our men. We pray that God may grant them all the same firmness and steadfastness which he has manifested. The mundane affairs of this life are always exposed to the devastating influence of Satan which crosses the way of those who desire to become spiritually perfect and righteous. There will be many who will join this Movement but, alas, there will be only a few who will set such an example.
Let us now revert to the tragic event. When the venerable saint refused to succumb to any temptation offered and spurned them all, the king was greatly disappointed and with his own hand wrote a lengthy document in which, after quoting the verdict of the hostile divines, he wrote that such a deviant one rightly deserved the punishment to be stoned to death. This document was then hung round the neck of the Akhwandzadah. The king then ordered that a hole be pierced through his nose and a string be passed through it with which the saint was to be led to the place of execution. This inhuman order of the king was carried out. A hole was mercilessly pierced through his nose and a string was passed through it and in this terrible state of torture he was, through the deriding crowds and the scornful jeers of the onlookers, led to the place of execution. The Amir, himself accompanied by his courtiers, muftis and divines, rode alongside the crowd witnessing this terrible scene and arrived at the place of execution. A great multitude numbering many thousands also went along to witness this gruesome execution.
At the place of the execution the condemned prince was made to stand in a hole dug into the ground and was buried up to his waist. The Amir then went to him and said: Even at this stage if you denounce the person of Qadian who claims to be the Promised Messiah I shall save you. This is the last chance being offered to you. Take pity on yourself and on your family. The Sahibzadah replied: God forbid that I should deny the truth. This life is worth little and none of my kith and kin shall avail me in the least. It is not possible that I should renounce my faith for their sake. I shall die for my faith. Hearing this the divines and the jurists cried out in one voice that he was a Kafir and should be stoned to death at once.
The Amir, his brother Nasrullah Khan and Abdul Ahad, the Chief Qadi, and the Chief Constable were all riding on horses and the rest of the crowd was on foot. When the condemned saint persisted in his refusal to retract and for the last time said: I value my faith more than my life, the Amir commanded the Chief Qadi to cast the first stone, as he was the one who had been foremost in condemning the victim as an apostate. The Qadi rejoined that as he was the king it was his prerogative to cast the first stone. But the king insisted that as the chief of the Sharia (religious law) whose verdict had to be carried out, the Qadi must take the initiative.
The Chief Qadi then got down from his horse and threw the first stone on the helpless victim which inflicted a ghastly wound on his head, forcing it down. Thereafter the ill-starred king cast his stone with his own hand and the rest followed suit. There was hardly a single person left who did not throw a stone at the helpless saint and, within a few minutes, he was buried under a big heap of stones.
When the Amir was about to return to his palace, he said that as the deceased had claimed that he would rise after six days, he should be duly guarded for the next six days.
It has been reported to us that this ghastly tragedy was enacted on July 14th.
A greater part of this tragic event has been reported to us by the bitter opponents of this Movement, who have confessed that they were among those who had thrown stones on that occasion. There are some others who were the disciples of the deceased martyr. They were afraid of the king and thought it expedient to keep quiet. What we have written here has been gathered together from a number of letters that we have received from different people. Generally, incidents like this are reported with exaggeration. But in this instance, on account of the fear of the Amir, many of the details were held back. In any case, the martyrdom predestined for Sahibzada Abdul Latif did come to pass, and now remains its retribution.
The truth is that the portion of him who comes to his Lord a sinner is hell; he shall neither die therein nor live (20:75).
It is a pity that the Amir has now become liable to punishment under the verse:
Whoso kills a believer deliberately, his reward shall be hell, wherein he shall abide, and Allah will be wroth with him and will cast him away and will prepare for him a great punishment (4:94).
Alas, he did not fear Allah a whit and slaughtered a believer, the like of whom could not be found in the whole length and breadth of Kabul. Such persons who do not hesitate to lay down their lives in defence of truth and are not restrained from doing their duty even by the love of their wives and children are the cream of the nation.
O Abdul Latif may thousands of blessings be showered on thee, for thou hast, in my own lifetime, manifested unparalleled fidelity for me and I do not know how my followers will behave when I am no more among them.
That courageous man, the beloved of God the Creator, did at last prove his mettle.
He surrendered his life for the sake of the True Beloved (God) as he was completely disinterested in this ephemeral world.
The wilderness of life is full of diverse dangers, as millions of deadly serpents wait in every nook and cranny.
Millions of fires are seen with flames reaching up to the sky where fierce and truculent storms are all raging overhead.
There is a distance of millions of leagues between thee and thy Beloved’s abode and there exist numberless thorny jungles and countless dangers.
Notice the cleverness and amazing performance of this Sheikh from ‘Ajam: he traversed all this spiritual distance in one leap.
It is incumbent that the servant be completely engrossed in the service of the Master in a manner that he is always prepared to sacrifice his being in His service.
He surrendered his life as a sacrifice for the sake of the beloved and he swallowed even poison to acquire Him.
So long as one does not drink the deadly cup for the sake of the beloved, how could he, a mere chaff, acquire immunity from death?
Under such death there lie a hundred lives. If you wish the life eternal, then quaff the goblet full of death.
O ye, who is engrossed in greed and avarice, true longing for the beloved could not abide in thy mean heart.
O ye, whose heart is completely engrossed in the acquisition of mundane possessions and who has sacrificed his honour for sinful desires.
Million armies of devils are chasing thee so that thou mayest burn like straw in the fire of hell.
For the sake of some false hope or fear thy faith begins to quiver.
Do you trample the true faith of God under thy feet for the sake of this faithless abode?
This is what is known as the path of truth and purity; this is the ultimate aim of every man of true faith.
They live only for His sake and have no personal aims; they throw away their own lives in the path of the Lord.
They sever themselves from all worldly fame, honour and status; they surrender theirs and allow their crowns to be taken away from their heads for His sake.
Having relinquished their ego they approach Him through His remembrance and for the sake of the Beloved’s Countenance they sacrifice their personal honours.
Even the mention of their names furnishes us with the opportunity of the remembrance of God, causing one’s faith regarding the truth of God to be enhanced and causing joy for our hearts.
If thou be in the search of true faith, let this be your model, so shall it make the task of the seekers after truth very easy.
But you are fettered to the world; and if you die not for His sake, how could you reach the Beloved Friend?
O ye, the world-seeking dog, how can ye hope to reach the Beloved Friend?
Annihilate thyself in His path so that thou mayest inherit spiritual blessing; and surrender thy life so that a new life be given to you.
Thou art wasting thy life in pride and rancour having shut thine eyes from the path of truth and faith.
The pure-hearted have a strange affinity with the pure-hearted but the evil-minded ones always abhor the true pearl.
The secret of faith is sowing the seed of self-destruction; added to this one has to discard the material life.
When thou truly engageth thyself in bewailing before God Almighty, consequently someone is raised to lead people to the right path.
The heart aware of spiritual secrets bewails at the deplorable condition of the ignorant ones; and those gifted with the light of true knowledge feel pity, in their hearts for the blind ones.
The law of nature has been so ordained that the strong comes to the aid of the weak.
(Translation of an ode)