Date of Wisaal: May 11, 1937
Date of Urs: Safar 27 to 29 (Islamic Date)
Pir Meher Ali Shah was born 14 April 1859 (1 Ramadan, 1275 A.H.) in Golra Sharif which is located midway between Rawalpindi and Islamabad, in present-day Pakistan. The time just before his birth saw the Indian Rebellion of 1857 fought between the British and the sepoys allied with seven of the Princely states. He is renowned as a Sufi saint, a great Hanafi scholar upholding the position of Hazrat Abdul Haqq Muhaddith Dehalvi, and especially for being at the forefront of the anti-Ahmedi movement. He wrote several books most notably Saif e Chishtiyai, (The Sword of the Chishtis), a polemical work regarding the unorthodoxy and the heresy of the Ahmadiyya movement of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.
Pir Meher Ali Shah RA reported that he loved seclusion since childhood, feeling uncomfortable in the midst of throngs of people, and finding deserted places serene. Quite often, he said, he would quietly leave the house at night after everyone else had gone to bed, and spend much of the night wandering the nearby wooded ravines. As he grew, he started experiencing a feeling of such unusual heat within his body that he was sometimes compelled- even on cold winter nights- to bathe in the ice-cold water of the canal, and also rub pieces of ice on his body. When he left his room late at night after finishing his studies, he used to experience the same kind of comfort from contact with the cold mountain air that a thirsty person normally derives from cool water at the height of summer. Sufis believe such heat is generated due to excessive amounts of Zikr or Dhikr, an Islamic practice that focuses on the remembrance of God.
When Pir Meher Ali Shah returned home after completing his studies, his marriage took place with the daughter of Syed Charagh Ali Shah who belonged to his respected mother’s family living in the town of Hasan Abdal, a few miles away from Golra Sharif.
As a Sufi of the Chishti Order:
Pir Meher Ali Shah Sahib was a disciple and Khalifa of Hazrat Shams-ud-din in the Silsila-e-Chishtia Nizamiyah. In his biography, Meher e Muneer, records that he also received a Khilafat [i.e. was made a khalifa] by Hazrat Haji Imdadullah Muhaajir Makki, when he visited the latter in Mecca. Hajji Imdadullah advised him to return to India, where a great storm was about to rise against Islam, which Meher Ali Shah must crush. Haji Imdadullah was of course predicting the Qadiyani heresy.
As a supporter of Wahdat-ul-Wujood:
Pir Meher Ali Shah Sahib RA was a supporter of Ibn Arabi’s ideology of Wahdat-ul-Wujood but he made a distinction between the creation and the creator (as did Ibn Arabi). He wrote a masterpiece explaining the Unity of Being doctrine of Hazrat Ibn Arabi.
Wahdat-ul-Wujood is the realisation of tawhid on a level which neither can be discovered by reading texts nor understood by listening to speeches, its source of knowledge is Shahood (witnessing) of tawhid, being witness to the One’s One’ness. And when Witnessing His Holy Being, there can be no trace of creation in Him nor around Him, neither he co-exists in creation, nor creation co-exists with Him. One who witness’s the golary of Allah, He witness’s Him as if there is no other creation in existence, cause Allah’s existence is limitless, and its not possiable to conceive when Witnessing the Limit-less (Allah) that Limited (Creation) ones do exist as well.
Seikh Muhi’ud Din Ibn Arabi rahimullah alayhi tallah, explained his spiritual journey, which lead to this realisation, and the realisation was based on Shahood, hence he described it in terms as he saw it.
The ignorant ones, of little intellectual ability, ones who have no knowledge of deen, neither those who have understood the Qur’anic verses have objected to this doctrine of Wahdat-ul-Wujood, but their objection demonstrates their lack of understanding tawhid e Wahdat-ul-Wujood.
Hazrat Molana Ali Muhammad Was The great Sufi And he was appointed as kaliph by qibla pir Mehr Ali Shah RH in Kalran Abbaspur Poonch.
Wahdat-ul-Wajood and Pir Meher Ali:
He was a firm believer in the celebrated but rather controversial concept of Wahdat-ul-Wajood (Ultimate Unity of Being) pioneered by Shaikh Muhyuddin Ibn-ul-Arabi (R.A). His belief in the concept was based on deep study and contemplation and also on personal spiritual experience. In course of time, he developed into one of the leading authorities of his time on this subject, and it figured prominently in his teachings as well as writings.
One Maulana Sufi Abdul Rahman of Lucknow had declared, in his book titled Kalimatul Haq (The Word of Truth), that belief in Wahdat-ul-Wajood was binding upon the Muslim Ummah in general, in the same way as belief in the Kalima-e-Tayyibah was, and that non-belief in it therefore constituted heresy. Meher Ali effectively disproved this point of view in his book Tahqiq-ul-Haq Fi Kalimatul Haq. At the same time, in line with his moderate and tolerant approach, he refused to denounce Maulana Abdul Rahman to be “misguided” and heretic as many other contemporary scholars had chosen to do. Instead, he attributed the Maulana’s views to be due to an overpowering spiritual state beyond his control.
In the same connection, Hazrat referred to a discussion once held on the subject at Sial Sharif in the presence of Khwaja Shamsuddin, during this discussion Meher Ali said, he first presented the objections raised to Wahdat-ul-Wajood by such advocates of Wahdat ush-Shahood as Mujaddid Alf-e-Saani and Hazrat Alauddawlah Samnani. He then followed it up by answering each of those objections on the basis of convincing arguments. This greatly pleased Khwaja Shamsuddin (R.A), who exhorted Meher Ali to study Shaikh Ibn-ul- Arabi’s book “Futuhaat-e-Makkiyah” (the Meccan Revelations), in which the Great Shaikh had expounded his concepts in extensive detail. The constant in-depth study of the book coupled with the spiritual attention of his Murshid, helped Meher Ali in comprehending the multifarious abstruse facets of the concept, and eventually enabled him to gain outstanding mastery over it.
Meher Ali Shah’s fight against Qadianism:
The background to Meher Ali’s entry into the struggle against Qadianism is that during his visit to the Hijaz for Hajj in 1890 AD (1307 A.H.), the chaste atmosphere of the Holy Land had touched him so deeply that he had thought of permanently settling down there. However, Haji Imdad-ullah Muhajir of Makkah had advised him to return home in the following words:
“In the near future, a dangerous and evil movement is likely to raise its head in India, and you are destined to play a key role in combating it. Even if you do nothing actively against this movement, your mere presence in the country would help shield the country’s ulama against its pernicious effects”. The truth of these words was proved barely a year later, i.e., in 1891, when Mirza of Qadian announced his (initial) claim to be the Promised Massiah (Jesus Christ) – an announcement that was to culminate about ten years later in his claim to be a full-fledged prophet of God in his own right.
Two spiritual visions experienced by Hazrat around this time also deserve a mention in this context. According to one of these, quoted in Malfuzat-e-Mihriya, the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) had appeared to Hazrat (R.A) in a dream and had commanded him to effectively refute Mirza of Qadian, who was “tearing to pieces his (i.e., the Prophet’s) ahadith through distortion and misinterpretation”.
According to the other vision, which is described in a manuscript in Hazrat’s own handwriting discovered later in his personal papers, and which occurred when Mirza challenged Hazrat to an open debate in 1900A.D, Meher Ali had seen himself seated in a most respectful posture before the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) in his prayer cell, in the manner of a disciple sitting before his Shaikh (spiritual guide), while Mirza of Qadian was sitting a good distance away with his back turned to the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H).
Meher Ali construed this as a clear indication of Mirza’s defiance of the Prophet’s teachings, and this prompted him to accept Mirza’s challenge for a debate in Lahore. In Meher Ali’s celebrated book Saif-e-Chishtiyai (The Chishtia Sword), which Meher Ali wrote later in refutation of Qadianism, he has also described a dream which he had seen in his youth, and according to which he had successfully repulsed a sword attack by the one-eyed Dajjal (Antichrist) in three consecutive thrusts. This dream, too, he interpreted as symbolically forecasting his victorious fight against the heretical Qadyani creed later in his life.
Qadyani request to Meher Ali for support and Meher Ali’s response:
Meher Ali’s first direct contact with the Qadyani movement occurred when Maulvi Abdul Karim of Sialkot, one of Mirza’s followers, sent to Hazrat a copy of Mirza’s published letter of invitation in which he had claimed to be the Promised Messiah and had been assigned by God with the task of reviving the din and working for the ascendancy of Islam. The letter requested Hazrat’s support in this task. In reply, Hazrat wrote that he did not accept Mirza as the “Promised Messiah”, and advised him to continue to confine his activities to the holding of debates with non-Muslims and the propagation of Islam as before, instead of making such odd claims.
Mirza’s challenge to the Mashaikh (spiritual leaders):
Recognizing the powerful influence which the mashaikh wielded on the minds of the Muslims of India in general, Mirza made every possible effort to enlist the backing of some of them for furthering his mission. However, these efforts met with no success whatsoever. In frustration, therefore, he threw out an open challenge to the entire Mashaikh community in the following words in his Ayyam-us-Sulh: “There is no one under the sun at present who could claim to be my equal. I say to the Muslims openly and without fear: Let all those who lay loud claims to be muhaddith (master of Hadith) and mufassir (commentators of the Quran), who profess to know God, and call themselves Chishti, Naqshbandi, Suharwardi and what not, come before me (if they dare)”.
Meher Ali’s book “Shams-ul-Hidayah”:
Meher Ali Shah wrote a book titled ” Shams-ul-Hidayah Fi Isbat-e-Hayatul Masih” in 1899. In this book written in the form of questions and answers on the various relevant issued, Hazrat confirmed as unanimous the Muslim belief concerning the raising alive of Jesus Christ to Heaven, in both body and spirit, and his expected future descent in physical person to earth some time before the Day of Judgment. He did so with powerful arguments based on Quran and authentic ahadith. He showed the Qadyani beliefs regarding the ” death ” of Christ on the Cross, and coming of the Masil as the promised messiah (in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad), to be utterly false. In reply to Mirza’s challenge to the country’s mashaikh reproduced above, Hazrat invited him to first explain him the real meanings of the Kalma (Translation: There is No God but Allah, and Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) is Allah’s Messenger) before his challenge would be accepted.
Commotion in Qadian:
The strength of Meher’s arguments in Shamsul Hidayah, written in scholarly style and language, can be fully appreciated only by the truly learned reader. The book was, therefore acclaimed by ulama of all schools of thought. Among other, Maulvi Abdul Jabbar Ghaznavi, a leading scholar of the Ahl-e-Hadith school, expressed his appreciation in a personal letter addressed to Meher Ali. Understandably, the book caused a stir in Qadian, where the preparation of replies to the various points raised in it was taken immediately in hand. In the reply of the above mentioned book, Meher Ali Shah was then asked a dozen counter-questions by Hakim Nurrudin, Mirza’s closest and most trusted associate of his own which were totally unrelated to the main point at issue, viz., the “death” and “life” of Jesus Christ, such as Wahdat-ul-Wajood, Awlia (saints), ilham, Kashf, correctness of ahadith etc.
All the questions were answered in detail with the related Hadith and Quranic verses. At the end of his reply, Hazrat posed just one counter question to Hakim Nurrudin, asking him to explain “the reality of miracles”. This question was, however, never answered.
The aforesaid correspondence was published in the form of a leaflet by Maulana Muhammad Ghazi, senior teacher in the madressah at Golra Sharif, and distributed to ulama in different parts of the country. All ulama paid glowing tributes (both written and oral) to the force of Hazrat’s arguments and the deep learning which they exhibited. The publication of the leaflet led to a widespread demand for Mirza to reply to the questions listed in Hazrat’s Shamsul Hidayah.
Mirza’s challenge to Meher Ali for a written debating contest:
Nettled by the aforesaid demand, Mirza threw a challenge to Meher Ali, in a poster issued on 20 July 1900 and witnessed by twenty persons, to engage in an open debate with him. Curiously, however, the challenge was not for a debate on the specific disputed issue (viz., the “death” of Christ, or on Mirza’s own claims to be the masil of Christ, the Promised Messiah and a zilli nabi, i.e., shadow prophet), but for a contest in the writing of an Arabic language commentary on selected Quranic verses.
According to the poster, the proposed contest was to take place at Lahore, the capital city of Punjab Province (and at no other place), at a venue to be selected and arranged by Hazrat, or failing this by Mirza himself. A maximum of 40 Quranic verses were to be selected by ballot, all of them from one particular Surah of the Quran, and commentaries thereon were to be completed within a period of seven hours on the same day and in the presence of witnesses, without the help of any book or other assistance. A maximum of one hour would be given to each party to prepare himself for writing the commentary. The commentaries, each of which was to span at least 20 leaves (40 pages) of normal-sized paper and writing, would, after their completion and signatures by the respective contestants, be read out to three learned persons for adjudication. These persons would be nominated, and arrangement for their presence made, by Meher Ali. Mirza indicated that the names of Maulvi Muhammad Hussain of Batala, Maulvi Abdul Jabbar Ghaznavi, and Prof. Maulvi Abdullah of Lahore, or some other three neutral Maulvis would be acceptable to him for this purpose. After listening to the two commentaries, the judges would pronounce on solemn triple oath as to which one was considered by them to be superior and written “with Divine endorsement”. In the event of Hazrat’s commentary being adjudged better or even equal in merit to that of Mirza, the latter pledged to admit that the truth was on the side of Meher Ali. He would then burn all books containing his claims to messiah-ship and prophet-hood, and acknowledge himself to be “the damned and the disgraced one”. On the other hand, if Mirza were to be adjudged the victor, or if Meher Ali were to refuse to enter the contest, he would repent and pledge allegiance to Mirza and announce this through a published poster.
Meher Ali was asked in the poster to convey acceptance of the challenge, along with an assurance that he would pledge allegiance to Mirza in the event of his defeat in the contest, within ten days, through a printed poster witnessed (like the poster of Mirza) by twenty respectable persons. Five thousand (5,000) copies of this poster were to be prepared and distributed by Meher Ali to the interested quarters.
Mirza’s poster was accompanied by a supplement, which inter alia emphasized categorically that the commentaries to be written by the contestants would be wholly in Arabic language and would not include any portion in Urdu. It further spelt out some of the conditions mentioned in the main poster, set out arrangements for the contest in greater detail, and also made a few additional proposals. One such proposal was that the participation of Meher Ali in the contest would be essential in any event since he had the reputation of being superior to all other maulvis (Muslim clergy) in the knowledge of Arabic and the Quran. At the same time, however, he felt it was necessary to widen the purview of the contest and to include in it as many other ulama as possible, on the express condition that these ulama would sit at some distance from each other and from the two main contestants so that they could not provide any written or oral assistance to one another or to see what others were writing. This would help avoid the possibility of some ulama regarding themselves as superior to the Pir Sahib in the knowledge of Arabic and the Quran, and on that basis refusing to accept the defeat of Pir Sahib as binding on them. It would also ensure that the “Sign of God” was manifested with the maximum strength and glory. Mirza suggested, therefore, that Meher Ali should furnish a list of at least forty ulama (besides himself) who would also take part in the contest. Furthermore, he asked Meher Ali to suggest a date for the contest not earlier than one month hence, in order to allow enough time to the other participating ulama to make the necessary preparations and arrangement to be present in Lahore on the date of the contest. A notice of one week was to be given by Meher Ali to Mirza, through a registered letter, after fixing the date of the contest. At the end of the supplement, Mirza gave his own list of 86 eminent ulama and mashaikh from all over the country, from among whom the forty ulama other than Meher Ali should preferably be selected, and invited them all to be present at the contest.
Meher Ali’s reply accepting the challenge:
Mirza’s poster and its supplement were received in Golra Sharif on 25 July 1900. Meher Ali immediately prepared a poster in reply and had it printed and published the very next day in all leading newspapers of the country. As desired by Mirza, 5,000 copies of this poster were prepared and some copies were sent to Mirza at Qadian by registered post. Copies were also mailed or sent by hand to ulama in all parts of India, including the 86 ulama listed at the end of the supplement to Mirza’s poster, and also to ulama in adjoining Afghanistan. All this generated widespread interest among the people.
In his reply, Meher Ali wrote that he whole-heartedly accepted the invitation for a public contest extended by Mirza as well as the conditions listed by him, including the venue proposed for the contest (viz., Lahore). He also accepted the three ulama named by him as prospective judges. He suggested, however, as an additional condition from his side, that the two contestants should first engage in an oral debate elaborating their respective points of view. In this debate, Mirza Sahib should first try to convince the audience, through oral arguments, about the validity of his professed claims to be the Promised Massiah, the Mahdi, and a prophet of Allah. Meher Ali, in his turn, should try to effectively refute those claims. The judges should then give their verdict in the light of these presentations, and the written contest in commentary proposed by Mirza should take place only after the judges and the audience had expressed their judgment about the oral debate. Furthermore, as far as written presentation was concerned, the many books written by Mirza were filled with his various claims and views, and these had already been read and commented upon in detail by various ulama and also by other fair-minded intellectuals from time to time. Because of all this Hazrat concluded, it seemed but appropriate to give first priority to an oral debate and a secondary one to a written contest.
As desired by Mirza, the 25th of August 1900,i.e exactly one month after the date of Meher Ali’s answering poster, was proposed by him as the date for the contest, and Mirza was asked to reach Lahore on that date. Also as desired by Mirza, Meher Ali’s poster was witnessed by twenty respectable persons, mostly ulama.
A reply to the supplement to Mirza’s poster was written, on Meher Ali’s behalf and with his approval, by Maulana Muhammad Ghazi, head teacher of the madressah at Golra Sharif, and was appended to the main poster. It reaffirmed Hazrat’s readiness, as expressed in the main poster, to undertake the contest proposed by Mirza on the latter’s own conditions, with the additional condition to have an oral contest before the written one. It also added a few auxiliary observations. For example, it reproduced a selected sampling of the many absurd interpretations that had been placed on verses of the Quran by Mirza Sahib, to suit his own ends and to establish his claims to prophet-hood etc.
Qadiani’s objection to Meher Ali’s proposal:
Mirza had been asked from Meher Ali’s side to give timely intimation about any changes that he desired to be made in the conditions of the proposed contest. However, no such intimation was received until just four days before the scheduled date of the contest (i.e.25 August 1900), when a copy of the printed letter was delivered in Golra Sharif. This letter had been written, not by Mirza Sahib himself but by Syed Muhammad Ahsan Amrohi, one of his close associates. The letter rejected, on Mirza’s behalf, the proposal made by Hazrat for an oral debate and insisted on a written contest in commentary writing only. In reply, Mirza was promptly informed through a poster issued on Hazrat’s behalf on 21-22 August 1900 by Hakim Sultan Mahmood of Rawalpindi (one of Hazrat’s devotees), that although Hazrat still considered an oral debate to be the best method of deciding the issue, he was ready for only a written contest also on Mirza’s own conditions and was therefore leaving for Lahore to participate in such a contest. A copy of the poster was sent by registered post to Mirza at Qadian. All other interested quarters, which could be contacted within the very short time then left until the date of the contest, were also notified accordingly, although the poster could not be published as widely as would have been desirable.
In their various subsequent writings and statements, Mirza Sahib and other Qadyani writers have contended that in the poster published by Hakim Sultan Mehmood, the condition for oral debate, which was unacceptable to Mirza, had been allowed to stand and had not been withdrawn by Meher Ali. Because of this, they say, Mirza Sahib could not have participated in the contest under any circumstances.
Huge Muslim assemblage at Lahore, venue of the contest:
As the appointed date approached, hundreds of Muslims belonging to all schools of religious thought (Shi’ah, Sunni, Ahl-e-Hadith, etc.) and all walks of life started arriving in Lahore from various parts of the country. Major Islamic Madressahs and centers of learning (e.g., those in Delhi, Saharanpur, Deoband, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Multan etc.) sent their representatives and even some public servants from far-flung areas took leave of absence and came to Lahore to witness the historic contest. From the other side, members of the Qadyani community also came in sizeable numbers. In a period when people as a rule took keen interest in religious matters, the participation of Hazrat Pir Meher Ali Shah (R.A) a renowned scholar and an eminent spiritual personality , along with the large group of distinguished ulama, in the historic debate which was to decide the fate of the leading imposter of the 19th / 20th century, generated unprecedented enthusiasm.
Nomination of Meher Ali as leader of Ulama:
In this moment of destiny, ulama of various shades of thought sank their traditional differences, and unanimously declared Hazrat (R.A) to be their sole spokesman and leader. They thus displayed once again that all-pervading Islamic spirit of brotherhood which has helped unify the Muslim Ummah at every critical turn of history against its common enemies, and of which no parallel can be found in any other religion or creed.
The fact that the group of ulama which elected Meher Ali as their undisputed leader on this occasion included many who were far senior to him – then only 42 years of age and barely in the tenth year of his mission of teaching and spiritual guidance-underscores the high esteem in which he had come to be held in the religious circles even at that early stage.
Meher Ali’s arrival in Lahore:
On leaving Golra Sharif for Lahore by train on 24th August 1900, Meher Ali had two telegrams sent to Mirza at Qadian, first from Rawalpindi and then from Lala-Musa railway station situated on the rail route to Lahore. This was meant to ensure that he was duly informed about Hazrat’s expected arrival in Lahore. About 50 eminent ulama accompanied Meher Ali from Golra railway station, and many more from other areas either joined him at various points en route or reached Lahore directly to join the group of welcomers. A very large gathering of people received Meher Ali on his arrival to Lahore, at the railway station. They proposed to take Hazrat in a procession to the venue of the contest, but Meher Ali vetoed the suggestion. He was indeed so convinced about that when Mirza finally refused to come to Lahore for the contest, Meher Ali even thought of going personally to Qadian, along with a selected band of ulama, to meet Mirza in his own stronghold. He was, however, dissuaded from doing so by a majority of the Muslims, on the ground that such a course was inadvisable for various reasons.
Mirza’s failure to reach Lahore:
Meher Ali and his associates, as well as all others who had assembled in Lahore in large numbers to witness this epoch-making contest, waited for two full days, i.e. 25 and 26 August 1900, for Mirza to arrive. Meanwhile, the Qadianis kept giving assurances that Mirza Sahib’s arrival was being delayed only due to negotiations about the applicable terms and conditions, and that he would come as soon as these were finalized. However, Mirza failed to turn up. Many influential Ahmadis of the Lahori faction reportedly tried hard to induce Mirza to come to Lahore, but did not succeed. His main objection was that withdrawal of the condition of oral debate should have been announced by Hazrat personally instead of through his associate Hakim Sultan Mehmood. It was pointed out to him that withdrawal had been done so because Mirza’s own rejection of Hazrat’s suggestion for oral debate had been conveyed through the same procedure, i.e., through the associate Muhammad Ahsan Amrohi a proxy and not by Mirza personally. Nevertheless, Hazrat even then showed his readiness to withdraw his condition under his own signature provided Mirza did the same in respect of his rejection of that condition. Mirza, however, not only declined to do so but also refused point-blank to come to Lahore. According to him, the maulvis had conspired to have him assassinated under cover of engaging him in a debate to disprove his claim to prophet-hood. (In making this allegation, he conveniently ignored the fact that the contest had been arranged at his own initiative and not at the insistence of the maulvis! )
Reaction among Mirza’s followers:
When the Qadyani representatives eventually failed to persuade their leader to come to Lahore for the debate, a wave of dismay swept through the community. Many disillusioned Qadianis deserted the party, while some others went into despaired seclusion. Many more (e.g., Babu Ilahi Bukhsh, who had previously been a long-time and zealous Qadyani activist but had later repented and rejoined the ranks of orthodox Muslims) even published posters and pamphlets lauding Meher Ali’s learning and erudition and acclaiming his victory in the contest. The diehards, however, not only refused to accept defeat but in fact declared the episode to be a resounding victory for their side. Posters were splashed all over Lahore announcing “the flight of the Pir Sahib of Golra” against the latter-day Imam (i.e., Mirza), “the crushing defeat of the maulvis and the Pir by the heavenly sign”, and “the inspired tidings of the Promised Massiah being proved correct”. All this despite the fact that the entire city was witness to the prolonged presence of Hazrat Meher Ali Shah Sahib in Lahore, and to the fact that Mirza of Qadian was refusing to come there notwithstanding repeated calls to do so.
As a diversionary tactic, a delegation of the Qadyani community met Meher Ali following the cancellation of the debating contest due to Mirza’s crying off, and suggested a Mubahilah (i.e., a contest of supplication to Allah between Meher Ali and Mirza). According to this proposal, either of the person whose prayer was answered positively would be acknowledged as the victor. Meher Ali readily accepted even this suggestion, but the Qadyani side did not pursue it further.
Qadyani preachers and orators offered a variety of far-fetched rationalization to justify the course of action adopted by Mirza. Far from producing any favourable impact, however, such rationalization merely helped to make a laughing stock of these Qadyani preachers as well as their beleaguered leaders. The upshot of all this was that neither Mirza Sahib nor his party ventured to openly face the forces of truth ever again and relied instead on clandestine and underhand tactics to promote their cause.
In still another poster, which was dated 25 August 1900 and was later published in the collection of his posters titled “Tabligh-e-Risalat” , Mirza indicated, with reference to Hazrat’s proposal for an oral debate, that in order to break the Pir Sahib’s false notions about his own prowess in this sphere, he had first thought of sending his friend and eminent scholar Syed Muhammad Ahsan Amrohi for such a debate. However, the latter had declined to do so because he had come to know through revelation that the Pir Sahib’s camp included people who had a habit of indulging in obscene abuses. While his earlier claims had been that he had the endorsement of Archangel Gabriel for his cause, and that “Allah would protect him from (the evil designs) the people”, he was now afraid of the Pathans of N.W.F.P. In the circumstances, Mirza said he had now himself compiled a booklet on the subject as a “gift” for Pir Meher Ali Shah, titled Tohfa-e-Golraviyah (The Golravi Gift). If and when the Pir Sahib replied to the contents of the booklet, the people would automatically come to know about their respective arguments and their answers.
Mirza’s new proposal:
Accordingly, he sought to revive the issue once again on 15 December 1900 (4 months after the previous abortive contest) by publishing yet another poster. He said in order to settle the matter once and for all; he had been inspired by God with the fresh proposal. Under this proposal, he would, sitting in Qadian, write a commentary in chaste Arabic on the opening Surah of the Holy Quran, Al-Fateha. In this commentary, he would prove his various claims in the light of Surah alone, besides describing other truths and facts stated in Surah. Similarly Meher Ali, sitting in Golra Sharif, would do the same. The two commentaries should be printed and published in book form within 70 days after 15th December 1900, so that everyone can compare them and form his judgment about their respective merits. A price of Rs.500 would be paid to Meher Ali if his commentary was adjudged by three scholars to be superior to that of Mirza. The party failing to write and publish the proposed commentary within the stated period would be regarded as a liar, and no further proof for that purpose would be needed.
Meher Ali’s reaction to this proposal:
This new challenge had not the slightest impression on Pir Meher Ali Shah. Devoted as every moment of his life was to the remembrance of Allah, spiritual contemplations, and providing guidance to knowledge thirsty humanity, fruitless activities like this had no place in a sober scheme of things. Under compulsion of circumstances, and on the insistence of other ulama, he had already spent what he thought to be more than enough attention to this matter, even disregarding the oppositions to this voiced by some Mashaikh (including Hazrat Khwaja Allah Bukhsh Sahib of Taunsa Sharif). He thus had no more time to waste on such futile exercises. While, therefore, Mirza did prepare and publish his planned commentary on Al-Fateha, under the title Ijaz-ul-Masih, (Miracle of the Massiah) within 70 days as stipulated by himself, no such thing was done by Hazrat.
As expected, Mirza’s book was found, not only by scholars but even by students, to be full of glaring errors of Arabic language, grammar and diction, and replete with plagiarized ideas and content. In one place, for example the month of Ramadan had been said to consist of 70 days; at another, yowm-ud-din (Day of Judgment) was termed as the period of the Promised Massiah (Mirza himself). Because of this, the book failed to cut any ice with the concerned circles.
Meher Ali’s book “Saif-e-Chishtiyai”:
In reply to Mirza’s two books, Ijaz-ul-Masih and Shams-e-Bazighah, Meher Ali wrote his now-renowned book Saif-e-Chishtiyai (The Chishtia Sword), and had it distributed free of cost to the sub-continent’s ulama and mashaikh as well as among religious schools and other institutions.
Saif-e-Chishtiyai further elaborated the arguments contained in Meher Ali’s earlier book Shams-ul-Hidayah. In addition, it made nearly one hundred critical comments on the incorrect meaning and logic, errors of grammar, diction and idiom, plagiarisms and distortions in respect of Surah Al-Fateha (the opening Surah of the Holy Quran) as contained in Mirza’s Ijaz-ul-Masih. Similar criticism were made of the contents of Shams-e-Bazighah, in which an effort had been made by Mirza to spell out the meaning of the Kalimah (There is no god but Allah and Muhammad (P.B.U.H) is Allah’s Messenger) as demanded by Hazrat in Shams-ul-Hidayah and objections had also been raised to the various points made in that book (Ijaz-ul-Masih, written by Mirza Qadyani).
In Saif-e-Chishtiyai, Hazrat had inter alia predicted that since Mirza was an impostor, he would never have the privilege of visiting Madina Munawwara and paying his respects at the tomb of the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H), which, according to a hadith was one of the things which Jesus Christ (the real Promised Massiah) was destined to do, along with the performance of Hajj, after his future descent to earth. This prediction was proved correct when Mirza died a few years later neither performing Hajj nor visiting Madina.
Mirza passes way:
The publication of Saif-e-Chishtiyai took the sails decisively out of the Qadyani movement. It helped thousands of wavering Muslims regain firm faith in the real truth. Even many Qadianis repented and discarded Qadianism after reading the book. However, Mirza and many of his diehard followers still failed to learn any lesson. In 1907, as part of his continuing vendetta against Meher Ali, Mirza made yet another of his long chain of unfulfilled predictions-one that proved to be the last that he was destined to make ever again. He predicted that Hazrat would pass away during the coming month of Jaith of the Bikrami calendar. Instead, however, he himself breathed his last during the same month of the following year!
Meher Ali’s Attitude VIS-À-VIS The British Government of India:
Meher Ali 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, Meher Ali also received an official invitation to participate in it. In reply, he requested to be excused from such participation. Since Meher Ali 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 Meher Ali to persuade him to reconsider his decision. These included a Pathan magistrate (Muzaffar Khan) and a devotee of Meher Ali named Shaikh Ahmad of Gurmani Village in the Muzaffargarh district. These persons assured Meher Ali 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. Meher Ali, 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 Meher Ali’s refusal of its invitation
A report on the proceedings of the Darbar published later in the London Times indicated that Meher Ali’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 Meher Ali (R.A) to meet him in order to exchange views on the matter. Once again, Meher Ali 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 Meher Ali personally (in Golra) and try to end the state of agitation among the circle of his devotees. Accordingly, the Commissioner visited Golra and met Meher Ali personally, along with Magistrate Muzaffar Khan and Mian Karim Bukhsh Sethi of Peshawar (a close devotee of Meher Ali), 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 Meher Ali decided to exploit Meher Ali’s refusal to attend the Royal Darbar at Delhi in another way. They brought up the charge that Meher Ali 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 Meher Ali’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, Meher Ali had readily done so. On learning about this, the Deputy Commissioner (District Officer) of Rawalpindi asked Meher Ali to clarify the matter. Selected excerpts from Meher Ali’s self-explanatory reply to the Deputy Commissioner are reproduced below:
- 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.
- The aforesaid crimes can be committed or abetted only by a person who is highly ignorant or greedy.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Meher Ali 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. Meher Ali 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 Meher Ali’s proposed deportation had to be put in indefinite cold storage.
In another incident, the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Rawalpindi had a message sent to Meher Ali to see him at his bungalow. On Meher Ali’s refusal to do so because his schedule did not permit this, the SP came himself and met Meher Ali at Golra Sharif. He told Meher Ali that he had received report that some absconding persons accused of grave crimes like robbery and murder were Meher Ali’s devotees, and that they therefore sometimes took refuge in the Golra shrine and also concealed their arms there. Meher Ali 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”. Meher Ali 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 Meher Ali to see him at his residence. Meher Ali’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 Meher Ali’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 Meher Ali, and advised him to proceed in the matter with care and discretion. Grasping the soundness of this advice, the D.C informed Meher Ali 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 Meher Ali. When the D.C met Meher Ali in his room, Meher Ali 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 Meher Ali, 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.
The Khilafat Movement of India and Meher Ali Shah:
Meher Ali 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. Meher Ali 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, Meher Ali 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.
Meher Ali’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, Meher Ali-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 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.” Meher Ali 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, Pir Meher Ali Shah 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. Pir Meher Ali Shah 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 Pir Meher Ali 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 Pir Meher Ali. 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 Pir Meher Ali 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 Pir Meher Ali. When he was advised by his physician to go on a voyage for reasons of health he sought Meher Ali’s permission for a trip to London. Pir Meher Ali’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. 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”.
In the early years of his spiritual journey, Meher Ali R.A had imposed upon himself an exceptionally exacting regimen of prayers, contemplation, and physical self-denial. This included very sparing intake of food and long spells of fasting, even outside the obligatory fasting enjoined during the Holy month of Ramadan. His stomach therefore gradually became less and less used to food, and its digestive capacity was impaired in consequence. Towards the later years of his life, this gave rise to the onset of the persistent and prolonged spells of hiccoughs, an exceedingly distressing malady. This was followed by an ailment, which defied diagnosis by doctors and physicians. These different afflictions, which continued more or less for a period of about ten years, intensified during the closing 4 or 5 years, when Hazrat was almost constantly bed-ridden.
Despite this most trying situation, Meher Ali R.A continued to meet the un- ending stream of visiting devotees regularly, to pray for them, and to answer their various questions. Even though Hazrat Babuji was taking care of large numbers of visitors in order to relieve Hazrat of a part of his burden, Hazrat (R.A) nevertheless continued discharging his responsibilities himself as long as he was able to do so. This indicated the precedence over every thing else even at the cost of his own comfort.
The state of almost total Istighraq lasted for about 2-21/2 years towards the end. During this state, a devotee had to convey the requests of visiting disciples to Meher Ali several times in order to attract his attention to elicit his prayers.
In the early part of the month of Safar 1356-A.H (April 1937), Pir Meher Ali had an attack of cold, which soon developed into typhoid fever, which lasted for several days. His condition grew worse during the last days of Safar. On the morning of 29 Safar (11 May 1937), the pulse became irregular and the body temperature also underwent sudden changes. According to eyewitnesses Hazrat’s complexion and general bearing during these moments presented a blend of happiness, modesty, and humility, which defies description in words. It can only be surmised that the total picture seen by those present by Pir Meher Ali’s bed-side was a reflection of the experiences which Hazrat’s spirit was going through, before its impending departure form the physical frame and its embarking on its journey heavenward for internal union with the “Companion On High”.
Pir Meher Ali’s mortal remains were laid to rest in the peace of land adjoining the mosque towards the south, at a spot for which he had himself expressed preference during his terminal illness.
1. Tahqiq-ul-Haq Fi Kalima-tul-Haq (The Truth about Kalima-tul-Haq)
2. Shamsul Hidayah
4. I’la Kalimatillah Fi Bayan-e-Wa Ma Uhilla Bihi Legharillah
5. AlFatuhat-us-Samadiyyah (Divine Bounties)
6. Tasfiah Mabain Sunni Wa Shi’ah
8. Mulfuzaat-e-Mehria (Sayings of Meher Ali Shah)