Hazrat's Attitude Vis-à-vis the British Government of India
Hazrat never allowed himself to be influenced or over-awed by the power and authority of the British Government of the day, and steadfastly refused to yield to the overtures which that government made from time to time to win over his sympathies. At the same time, he firmly avoided supporting or taking part in movements, which were contrary to the dictates of the Quran and the Prophet’s Sunnah (P.B.U.H).
Refusal to participate in the Coronation Darbar of the British Emperor
In connection with the Darbar (formal installation ceremony) held in Delhi (India) in 1911 to celebrate the coronation of George V, King of England and the political Emperor of India, Hazrat also received an official invitation to participate in it. In reply, he requested to be excused from such participation. Since Hazrat had a wide following, not only in the Punjab Province and other parts of British India but also among the free tribes and Pathans of the Northwest, the Government earnestly wished him to attend the Darbar and felt truly concerned at this negative response from him.
The British Commissioner of the Rawalpindi Division accordingly sent emissaries to Hazrat to persuade him to reconsider his decision. These included a Pathan magistrate (Muzaffar Khan) and a devotee of Hazrat named Shaikh Ahmad of Gurmani Village in the Muzaffargarh district. These persons assured Hazrat that his comfortable two-way transportation would be fully taken care of, and that all he would be expected to do was to offer his salaam (salute) to the Emperor along with other religious leaders and to pray for the stability of the British regime. Hazrat, however, stuck to his earlier decision, and wrote to the Commissioner as follow:
“I am a dervish and attendance of royal courts has never been looked upon with favour by dervishes. Nevertheless, since the present Government has not imposed any restrictions upon the adherents of our true faith of Islam, I pray for the King from my abode here”.
British Government’s reaction to Hazrat’s refusal of its invitation
A report on the proceedings of the Darbar published later in the London Times indicated that Hazrat’s refusal to attend the Darbar was rooted in the recalcitrance of the North-West Frontier tribes and pathans whose spiritual and religious leader he was. The Government should, therefore, keep a vigilant eye on the political implications of this refusal. The Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, Sir Louis Dean, accordingly observed in a meeting of his Council at Shimla that his government would investigate the reason for the Pir of Golra’s refusal to attend the Darbar and would “take appropriate action” in the light of the findings. Following this, the Commissioner of Rawalpindi sent a message to Hazrat (R.A) to meet him in order to exchange views on the matter. Once again, Hazrat refused to comply with the summons and asked the Commissioner to come to Golra if he wished to meet him.
This caused a good deal of concern and agitation in the Frontier and the Punjab Provinces. Some influential people met the Lieut.-Governor to apprise him of this situation, and confidential reports about it were also provided to Government by its intelligence agencies. Simultaneously, the Government's legal Remembrances advised that non-participation in the Darbar, or refusal to be associated with the inquiry ordered by Government into this matter, by a person who was neither a government servant nor a recipient of its largesse in any other form, did not infringe any rules. In consequence of all this, the Lieut.-Governor directed the Commissioner of Rawalpindi to see Hazrat personally (in Golra) and try to end the state of agitation among the circle of his devotees. Accordingly, the Commissioner visited Golra and met Hazrat personally, along with Magistrate Muzaffar Khan and Mian Karim Bukhsh Sethi of Peshawar (a close devotee of Hazrat), in order to clear the atmosphere of perturbation and tension that had been caused by the Government's earlier action.
Around this time, some people enviously disposed towards Hazrat decided to exploit Hazrat's refusal to attend the Royal Darbar at Delhi in another way. They brought up the charge that Hazrat was the Pir (Spiritual leader) of the thieves and robbers living in the neighbouring villages, and that he was providing means of livelihood to dependents of escaped convicts of the area. The death of a dacoit named Jahandad, and Hazrat's participation in his funeral prayers gave these people a further occasion to promote their vicious designs. They charged that while other ulama had refused to join the funeral prayers of this dacoit, Hazrat had readily done so. On learning about this, the Deputy Commissioner (District Officer) of Rawalpindi asked Hazrat to clarify the matter. Selected excerpts from Hazrat's self-explanatory reply to the Deputy Commissioner are reproduced below:
i. If, by virtue of your office of Deputy Commissioner, you consider theft, robbery or murder of an innocent person to be evil acts, we (as Muslims) also consider these acts to be sinful on the basis of divine guidance contained in the Holy Book (i.e., The Quran) and dictates of reason.
ii. The aforesaid crimes can be committed or abetted only by a person who is highly ignorant or greedy.
iii. A Pir is expected to provide everyone coming to him with correct guidance in accordance with the Divine Book. Conversely, only a person who acts in accordance with the Pir's guidance deserves to be called a true murid (disciple). By the Grace of Allah, we and our ancestors have always enjoined upon our murids to do good and to shun evil. Those who do not follow our guidance do not deserve to be our murids in the real sense.
iv. Since our Great Creator provides ample sustenance to us directly, without the intervention of criminals, we do not need to please such criminal or to be beholden to them for any help.
v. If you, as Deputy Commissioner, desist from encouraging evil acts because of the fear of accountability to your superiors (such as the Divisional Commissioner or the Governor), how can the fear of our Supreme Lord permit us to do the same? Furthermore, in case we behave like this, how can the thousands of knowledgeable, learned, and honest people who have entered into bonds of discipleship with us continue to be loyal to us and not sever those bonds?
vi. Undoubtedly, the children and widows of such criminals do, on very rare occasions, come to the langar here in search of food and other sustenance. If, however, the Government, out of sheer mercy, does not deport such people from its territory despite the criminal record of their heads of families, what is wrong with some well-to-do person providing occasional sustenance to them as human beings?
vii. It is also true that the dependents of such criminals sometimes do come to us for prayers according to their own way of thinking. In such cases, we pray that Allah provide them with correct guidance so that they desist from, rather than continue to do, criminal acts and escape punishment in future.
viii. If the Christians approach their priests for prayers in similar circumstances, and the latter pray on the lines aforementioned, would the priests be treated as abettors of crime?
ix. Those different persons who have forwarded complaints to you on this point have failed to realize the difference between the true murids and those who are so in the name only, and have also construed acts of charity towards the dependants of convicted criminals as amounting to the encouragement of crime. This is based obviously on either ignorance or jealousy and ill-will.
x. Our principle “weakness” is that we are by nature apposed to flattery and sycophancy in any form. As a result, those who seek such flattery from us are apt to be disappointed and to resort to libel against us in their reports to you.
xi. In case under consideration, I just happened to be present in the Jamia Mosque on a Friday. At the end of the prayers, a call was made in accordance with the usual custom that the dead body of a person was awaiting funeral prayers. I therefore joined the prayers along with the other people present in the mosque. Does this mean either that the deceased was a pious man, or that we were pleased with his misdeeds. It has also to be seen whether Islam permits the offering of funeral prayers for such a person or not. Even if the reply to this question be in the negative, those participating in the prayers cannot by any stretch of imagination be accused to be either happy at the misdeeds of the dead person or his abettors. This has never happened so far in history.
Around this time, a Muslim Government official, who had never met Hazrat before but was nevertheless his devotee at heart, met him to give the news that Government was considering his deportation from the country on the basis of a confidential recommendation forwarded to it by its intelligence agencies. Hazrat merely smiled at this disclosure and said: ”The Government which is planning to deport me does not seem to know what Providence plans to do with itself.” Not long after this, the British Government got involved in a life-and-death struggle with Germany as a result of the First World War 1914-1918, and the government file pertaining to Hazrat's proposed deportation had to be put in indefinite cold storage.
During this period, Hazrat wrote the following Punjabi verses by way of supplication addressed to Syedna Ghaus-ul- Azam Shaikh, Abdul Qadir Jilani:
" O letter that I have written with tears in my eyes, go and seek out the whereabouts of the one who lives in Baghdad! "
" Convey to him the poignant message of these eyes of mine longing to see him! "
" My sadness has reached such proportions that painful sighs are constantly emanating from my burning breast! "
" People are now threatening thy old-time slave with (retribution through) the orderlies (of persons of high office!) "
" O thou who holds the hand (of thy distressed devotees!), who can they look to except thyself (for solace and support in their plight?). "
In another incident, the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Rawalpindi had a message sent to Hazrat to see him at his bungalow. On Hazrat's refusal to do so because his schedule did not permit this, the SP came himself and met Hazrat at Golra Sharif. He told Hazrat that he had received report that some absconding persons accused of grave crimes like robbery and murder were Hazrat’s devotees, and that they therefore sometimes took refuge in the Golra shrine and also concealed their arms there. Hazrat responded to this remark as follows: “People come to me for prayers and for religious guidance. I enjoin upon them to do good and to shun evil. Those who choose to stay here for sometime are treated as guests and served accordingly. I do not know, nor do I have any interest in, who such people are or what their position is in the eyes of law. In case you come to know about their presence here, you are free to have them arrested or to recover the arms in their possession”. Hazrat then added: “Please also note yourself, and inform your government as well, that I know quite well what your intentions are about. Do remember, however, that whatever honour and respect I am accorded in this part of the country has been bestowed upon me, not by you or your Government but by the Supreme Power, Who alone (and no one else) is therefore in a position to take it away from me”.
In still another similar incident, a newly appointed Deputy Commissioner (D.C) of Rawalpindi (an Englishman) sent a message to Hazrat to see him at his residence. Hazrat’s reply to the message was in these words: “There can only be two possible reasons for our meeting: Either (1) I may need your help in getting something done. This, however, is not the case; or (2) you may have some reason to see me; if so, it is appropriate for you to come and see me instead of the other way round. You should, therefore, please reconsider your summons to me to see you”.
On receiving Hazrat’s reply, the Deputy Commissioner (D.C) sought the advice of one Qazi Sirajuddin (Barrister-at-Law then serving as a Government advocate) in the matter. The latter apprised the D.C of the high religious and spiritual status of Hazrat, and advised him to proceed in the matter with care and discretion. Grasping the soundness of this advice, the D.C informed Hazrat that he would come himself shortly to see him. A few days later, he visited Golra Sharif along with his wife and daughter, and was received on arrival by Hazrat Babuji and another devotee of Hazrat. When the D.C met Hazrat in his room, Hazrat shook hands with him, but withdrew his hand when D.C’s wife sought a handshake. Thereupon, the lady observed to her husband in English that perhaps the Pir Sahib had refused to shake hands with her because she was a sinful person. When her words were translated to Hazrat, he clarified that the religion of Islam forbade shaking hands with stranger women. Hearing this, the D.C’s daughter confirmed that the Holy Bible also contained a similar injunction. Some excerpts from the conversation between Hazrat and the D.C. and his family members on this occasion are reproduced below:
|Do you possess a jagir (landed estate), which may have been conferred on you by the Government?
||The entire land from the East to the West is the jagir of Hazrat Ghaus-e-Azam (R.A) who is my illustrious ancestor and has granted this whole country to us as a jagir.
|D.C’s Daughter :
||(Pointing to the rosary in his hand) What is this?
|Hazrat (R.A) :
||This is something on which I recite the Glorious Name of my Great Lord and Master (Allah).
|D.C’s Daughter :
||What salary does your Lord and Master pay to you?
|Hazrat (R.A) :
||My Lord and Master fulfills all my needs, and has set no limits on this behalf.
|D.C’s Daughter :
||Does your Lord and Master give you everything that you ask of Him?
|Hazrat (R.A) :
||He gives us only those things which He (in His Supreme Wisdom) considers to be good for us, but does not give things that can cause harm to us. This is in the same manner as the baby puts its hand on the bread, but the mother gives it only milk because she knows that it cannot digest the bread.
Hearing Hazrat’s last observation, the D.C’s daughter requested him to pray for rain since rain seemed to be good for the people around that time. Hazrat smiled at this wise remark, and put up his hand to pray, adding that it would rain if this was really beneficial. He asked those present to pray also. Providentially, it did rain during the course of the day. The D.C. was so impressed by this that he came again the next day and sought Hazrat’s prayers.
Hazrat’s balanced stance on English education and interest in Islamic education
Hazrat remained perpetually conscious of the need for the establishment and survival of Islamic religious institutions. He was not opposed to the learning of English as a language and in fact regarded this as essential for success in business and related fields during the British regime. Hazrat nevertheless noted that English literature contained material palpably prejudicial to religious and national solidarity. He therefore advocated the teaching of Islamic sciences side by side with English education (if necessary, domestically or in Islamic Madressahs on a part-time basis), in order to guard against a decline in the Muslim societies Islamic consciousness and values. Hazrat strongly condemned the imbibing of such western culture as resulted in alienation from Islam or in the blind imitation of reason and logic only. In line with this view, Hazrat firmly desisted from having the children of his own family exposed to English education.
Prediction about likely impact of Western education on Muslim society
In 1896, the Muslims of Rawalpindi decided to set up an Islamia High School in the sadder area. Work on the project had, however, to be suspended in midstream because of lack of funds. At the request of Qazi Sirajuddin and Seth Mamunji (Adamjee, two leading citizens), therefore, Hazrat participated in a public meeting held as part of the fund-raising campaign, and his speech at the meeting helped mobilize all the funds needed to complete and operationalize the school project.
On the other hand, Hazrat declined to accept the request of Sahibzadah Abdul Qayyum, well-known educationist of the N.W.F.P, to extend similar active support to his plan to set up the Islamia College at Peshawar. Instead, he told the Sahibzadah “he would pray for the success of his project”. Disappointed at this lukewarm response, Sahibzadah Sahib observed in a letter to Hazrat that while other nations had emulated the early Muslims in expanding education and the sciences in their societies, the Muslims themselves had lost the educational heritage that their ancestors had left to them. Thereupon, Hazrat wrote back to the Sahibzadah as follows:
“Your observation has come as a surprise to me. Dear Sir! In the sight of Allah and His Prophet (P.B.U.H) the real sciences are the sciences of religion and Shariah (the divinely approved sciences). By the Grace of Allah, these sciences, as well as those serving their cause, are safe and well protected even now. Other nations do not posses those sciences in any measure at all. Your observation is, therefore, far from true. The charge that we have lost our heritage of education and science would be valid only if in the name of advancing the cause of Islam, we were to adopt the path of Western education, which in fact constitutes economic and material advancement, not the advancement of Islam (-Allah is the best to take care and He is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy-XII, 64). The future will show that education under this new system would result only in abandonment by the Muslims injunctions of the Islamic Shariah, and in their seeking worldly honour and material gain except of course those whom Allah guards from such temptations in his Supreme Mercy.
Hazrat Pir Meher Ali Shah Sahib (R.A) opposed the participation of Muslims, both in the Hindu sponsored Indian National Congress which ostensibly aimed at liberating India from British rule, and in the movements of Khilafat (Caliphate) and Hijrat (migration) launched by the Congress-dominated Jamiyat-ul-Ulama-e-Hind. The latter two movements were meant to support the cause of the Ottoman Turkish “Caliphate”, then beleaguered by European and other powers inimical to Islam. Hazrat argued that the true Caliphate of Islam had survived for only 30 (thirty) years after the passing away of the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H), where-after it had degenerated into “sultanate” and monarchy. If, he said, the Islamic Caliphate were to be regarded as having continued to exist un-interrupted in the later periods of history, it would be as a worthy caliph, which could be patently wrong. On this basis, Hazrat regarded the Turkish regime as a sultanate and not as Caliphate, and therefore undeserving of the support of Muslims living in other countries (e.g., India) as a “sacred cause”. At the same time, he did back the provision of all possible help to Turkey as a fellow-Muslim state, and himself donated the valuables of his household as well as some horses belonging to the shrine at Golra for this purpose.
Hazrat’s stance on this point was initially opposed strongly by leaders of the Khilafat movement, and several newspapers run by these forces wrote articles and editorials denouncing it. With the passage of time, however events proved his stance to be fully correct, and most of those initially against it were compelled one by one to change their views and to join anti-Congress forces. Muslims who had sold their properties at throw-away prices and migrated to other countries eventually had to return.
In 1920 when Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, the learned editor of the then well known Urdu daily newspaper (The Zamindar), came to Golra Sharif to discuss the issues of Khilafat and migration, Hazrat-e-Ala placed before him his point of view which rested on the principles of Shariah. The Maulana kept quiet but before taking his leave he said to Hazrat Pir Meher Ali: “ I had actually come to this court, ruled as it is by men of Allah, to plead for a state for the Muslims of India.” Hazrat replied: “ I pray to All Mighty Allah and ask you to join me in the prayer that He may grant freedom to the Muslims of this country and give them a government which can be of real service to Islam.”
Aversion to politics
As mentioned before, Hazrat Pir Meher Ali Shah Sahib (R.A) never took part in active politics. On several occasions he was requested to lend support to someone in the elections for the provincial assembly but he refused and made it clear that in his opinion such activities had nothing to do with Islam and as such he did not want to meddle in them.
Hazrat-e-Ala Pir Meher Ali Shah (R.A) used to say: “ I do not approve of the visits of the rulers to this place nor do I wish to include them among my disciples. If I did so then those in need would come and request me to put in a good word for them. That is something I do not like but nor do I wish to disappoint them”.
For someone who wishes to stay aloof from material wealth and temporal power there are no other options. This was the reason he always tried to keep himself away from the government officials and the rulers of princely states. But in spite of all his efforts many of them affiliated themselves with him, joined his fold and received blessings from him. Prince Habib Ullah, who afterwards became the ruler of Kabul, secretly approached Hazrat-e-Ala for blessings and stayed with him for two days. No one came to know about him. The only person who ever learned about his visit and that too incidentally, was a servant of Hazrat. It so happened that he was witnessing the royal procession of Ameer Habib Ullah pass through the Chandni Chowk, Delhi. Suddenly had a glimpse of the Ameer and at once recalled that he was the same person he had served tea for two days at Golra Sharif. Similarly, Nawab Sadiq Khan Abbasi, the Ameer of Bahawalpur state, held Hazrat in great respect and wanted to become his disciple, but his wish did not materialize. Nawab Wali-ud-daulah, a noble of Hyderabad Deccan was a disciple of Hazrat. When he was advised by his physician to go on a voyage for reasons of health he sought Hazrat’s permission for a trip to London. Hazrat’s reply to him was highly significant. He advised him to go for Hajj. The Nawab did accordingly and soon after performing Hajj died in the sacred city of Madina. For an hour and half his dead body, ready for burial, lay in front of Rauza-e-Tayyeba, the mausoleum of Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). People who passed by his dead body felt envious of the deceased. Hazrat Pir Syed Jamaat Ali Shah of Alipur who happened to be there, observed: “O people, see how wonderful are the results of affiliation with a man of God”.