Ahmadiyya Times

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Ahmadis who stood tall: Hadhrat Sahibzada Abdul Latif

“Oh the land of Kabul, be a witness that a horrendous crime has been committed upon your soil. Oh the ill fated land, as on your soil a great atrocity was committed you have been degraded in the eyes of the Almighty” 

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | US Desk
Source/Credit: Ahmadiyya Times
By Munir Khan | March 4, 2012

On the 16th of October 1901 a great Jirga had been assembled in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan. Representatives of all the various tribes had travelled to Kabul to attend the Loya Jirga at which the coronation of the new King of Afghanistan was to take place. The death of Amir Abdur Rehman, who had been a cruel and despotic tyrant was an occasion for Afghans to select a new Amir who would supposedly lead Afghans into the 20th century and away from the medieval reign of Amir Abdur Rehman who had been described as the “Absolute Amir” by British engineer Frank Martin in his book of that name.

The Amir’s eldest so Habibullah Khan claimed the right of succession under the rules of primogeniture that prevailed at the time. He was a member of the Barakzai tribe, and was rumoured (much to the relief of the citizens of Kabul), to be less of a tyrant than his late unlamented father. Although, in some ways, Amir Habibullah’s policies were different from that of his father, nevertheless, his ultimate aim was the same-an absolute Afghan central government.

Hundreds of Kabul’s citizenry, along with the many Khan’s and tribal chiefs from all over the provinces of Afghanistan had gathered at the Jaamia Masjid where the coronation ceremony was to take place. During his crowing ceremony, the Imam of the Jamia Mosque, wrapped a head cloth of white muslin around Habibullah’s head, presented him with a copy of the Quran, some relics of the prophet, and a flag from the tomb of an Afghan saint. All this was to symbolise the ruler’s religious obligations as well as the divine source of his power. These ceremonies were to reflect the Amir’s office as an institution that defended Islam and the fatherland.

The Chief Mullah who wound the cloth around the Amir’s head and thus crowned him the new King of Afghanistan was a highly revered Muslim religious figure by the name of Hadhrat Sahibzada Abdul Latifas. He had been given the singular honour of being the one who would perform the ceremony by virtue of his piety, honesty, vast religious knowledge and the respect that he was held in throughout Afghanistan.

Such was his fame and reputation for probity that when the British & Afghan governments decided to demarcate the Afghan/India border in 1893, Hadhrat Sahibzada Abdul Latifas was chosen as a representative of the Afghan delegation along with Sardar Shirin Dil Khan. Sir Mortimer Durand led from the British side and the border was agreed between the two governments, and to this day is known as the Durand line.

Hadhrat Sahibzada Abdul Latifas came from the village of Syed Gah that nestled along the banks of the River Shawal in Khost province. His family had vast ancestral lands amounting to many hundreds of acres that comprised of orchards full of fruit trees, and various agricultural crops. In addition to being a religious divine he was a man of great substance and held the allegiance of many local Afghans in the area surrounding Syed Gah. He was a member of a Syed family. His father, Maulana Syed Mohammad Sharif was a descendent of the famous Muslim saint Data Gunj Bakhsh Syed Ali Hajwairi (MAPH). During the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb a famous descendant of the family settled in Saharanpur and then another prominent member of the family, Syed Saeed Ahmad, went to Khost in Afghanistan for educational purposes and eventually decided to settle there.

Before he wound the cloth around the Amir’s head and swear his own allegiance to the new Amir ,Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibs told the Amir “I will swear allegiance to you only on condition that you will never act contrary to Sharia” .Upon the Amir signifying his assent , Hadhrat Sahibzada Abdul Latifas completed the task of winding the coronation cloth around the Amir’s head, and thus legitimised his coronation as Amir of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has been in the news not just in the last few years but in fact has been at the heart of imperial power politics for over 100 yrs. The British novelist Rudyard Kipling referred to it as the “Great Game”, waged between Imperial Russia and the British Empire. Afghanistan was the gateway to India which was the “jewel in the crown” of the mighty British Empire and the British were fearful that if Russia gained a foothold in Afghanistan it would give Russia a platform to launch an assault on the heart of the Empire.

The Amir’s of Afghanistan played the great game well and conspired with both British & Russian agents, whilst at the same time ensuring that they were secure in their own position and able to repulse any attack upon the sovereignty of Afghanistan by either the British or the Russians. But to be able to do this they required the tribes of Afghanistan to rise up and unite and fight at the call of the Amir. But the fiercely independent tribes were not likely to rally simply upon the call of the Amir. For that to happen, another essential unifying ingredient was required – Islam.

The Amir knew that to remain in power he needed to be able to use the rallying cry of Islam and the call to Jihad in particular as a unifying factor. So whilst he was not known for his religious piety, he knew how to exploit the name of Islam  and Jihad in particular for his own political purposes. The raising of tribal Lashkar’s (war party), at the Amir’s behest without the call of Jihad was impossible, and any attempt to stifle the call of Jihad was a strike at the very heart of the Amir’s power.

Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian as had declared himself to be the Promised Messiah and long awaited Mahdi who had come to revive Islam. Of his many claims he also claimed that the days of violent Jihad had come to an end, and for Muslims he advocated the Jihad i Akbar (reformation of self) as the primary Jihad as opposed to any violent Jihad and called for Muslims to adopt the Jihad of the pen and a return to an age of learning & reflection.

Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas had written to Habibullah’s father the despotic tyrant Amir Abdur Rehman in 1895 asking him to join him in his campaign of reformation of Islam, but had been ignored. But the message of Islam as preached by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas had swept throughout India and had reached the ears of Hadhrat Sahibzada Abdul Latifas in Afghanistan who had been studying the message of Ahmadiyyat. He had been given a copy of the Promised Messiah’s book “Aeena i Kamalat i Islam” by an Ahmadi in Parachinar whilst serving on the Durand Commission. He had read the book in one night and been electrified and inspired by what he had read, and was desperate to find out more.

Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas sent one of his pupils Hadhrat Abdur Rehmanas  to Qadian to find out more about Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas. He spent some months studying Ahmadiyyat and upon his return to Kabul brought back some books from Qadian. One of the books was a treatise that argued against the concept of Jihad as defined by the Muslim Ulema of the time. Upon his return Hadhrat Abdur Rehmanas was intercepted by the Amir’s spies and upon the contents of the book on Jihad being explained to the Amir he cruelly ordered his execution of. Hadhrat Abdur Rehman Shaheedas was cruelly strangled by use of a silk scarf whilst in his prison cell and became the first martyr of Ahmadiyyat in Afghanistan

But Hadhrat Sahibzada Abdul Latifas was not to be deterred and when an opportunity arose in October 1902 he himself travelled to Qadian and spent several months in the company of Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas  and performed Bait (initiation) and accepted Ahmadiyyat at the hands of the Promised Messiahas. Sahibzada Sahibas was overwhelmed in his love and devotion of the Promised Messiahas and spent every waking moment in the company of his spiritual Master. He sat in the front row of Masjid Mubarak at every prayer time and whenever the Promised Messiahas went out for a walk he dutifully followed him to absorb all spiritual blessings that he could from the Promised Messiahas, who himself later described meeting Sahibzada Sahibas in these terms:

“I swear by God in whose hands is my life, that when I met the Sahibzada I found that he was already so firm and resolute in his belief in the truth of my claims and also in his resolve to follow me that it is impossible for a human to be any firmer or more resolute. I found him as full of love for me as a bottle is when it is completely filled with perfume. His heart appeared to me to be as illuminated as his countenance. The departed sage had a quality worthy of envy in that he genuinely upheld his faith above all worldly affairs. He was indeed amongst the righteous who stretch taqwa (fear of incurring His displeasure) and obedience to God to the ultimate limits. To please Allah, he was ever willing to sacrifice his life, honour and assets as if they were nothing but worthless garbage. His potential in faith had grown to such an extent that if I liken it to the greatest of great mountains I fear that the analogy will not do justice to his station.”

– (Tazkira-tushShahadatain)

Sahibzada Sahibas had sought 6 months leave from the Amir and as the time for his return to Kabul grew near he saw a number of dreams in which he received the revelation,”Present your head” He also repeatedly received another revelation, “Go to the Pharaoh.” At this time Sahibzada Sahibas often said to his companions, “The land of Kabul is thirsty for my blood.”

Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas knew full well that the Amir’s spies would have informed him that he had spent all his time in Qadian and that he had accepted Ahmadiyyat, and as a result felt it prudent to write to the Amir to seek his permission to return to Kabul. Once he received a reply he proceeded to Afghanistan and headed to his ancestral home of Syed Gah in Khost. Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas had a premonition that all would not be well in Afghanistan and that he could well be heading into a trap, but he did not hesitate and told some of his followers that he knew what was expected of him.

After a few days of his arrival in Khost, fifty heavily armed horsemen arrived one morning and told him that he was wanted by the Governor. Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas saddled up his own horse and left Syed Gah knowing full well that his ordeal and test of faith had begun. Taking him to the Governor of Khost was simply a ruse to get him to make the journey to Kabul. From Khost he was taken to Kabul and he later entered the city of Kabul one morning escorted by eight armed horsemen.

Upon presentation before the Amir he was made aware of the Amir’s displeasure as the Amir refused to talk to him directly and instead ordered his detention within the palace. As a further punishment the heavy chain known as the Ghraghrab was placed around his neck. Weighing 32 kgs in weight it would have been a terrible ordeal for Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas. To add to his torment his hands were tied and feet manacled with heavy chains, and he was then taken to the palace dungeon.

For the next 4 months this saintly person of such noble lineage was kept in the palace dungeon, and was repeatedly called before the Amir and asked to repent and renounce his love of the Promised Messiahas. The Amir tried to entice him by stating, that were he to renounce his faith he would be released with full honour and dignity, but in every case he refused. The Promised Messiahas states:

“He (Sahibzada Abdul Latif) asserted that merely for fear of death he would never renounce one whom he had recognized after thoroughly satisfying himself. He said that he would not renounce him as he knew very well that in him he had seen the truth. Therefore in exchange for his life for a few more days he would not be found guilty of giving up a belief in which he had a firm faith and which happened to be a verified truth. He was prepared to sacrifice his life but he had decided that the truth would go with him. The assertions by this sage were of such eminence as the land of Kabul can never forget”. (Tazkira-tush-Shahadatain) Page51-52)

 After 4 months of torment and captivity Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas was brought before the Amir and he was once again asked to publicly recant his belief in the Promised Messiahas. Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas made it clear that he could not recant his faith as he was convinced of the righteousness of the Promised Messiah’s message. Instead he asked that Kabul’s religious scholars engage in a written public debate with him to establish the veracity of his claims. The Amir realised that he had to bring this matter to a head, and ordered that such a debate take place. Eight “scholars” were chosen and a Punjabi doctor from Gujrat was chosen as the Adjudicator of the debate. The injustice of this was clear from the fact that the Punjabi doctor was renowned for his hatred of Ahmadiyyat and had done much to poison the minds of the Amir’s court against Hadrat Sahibzada Sahibas, and Ahmadis in general. Perhaps Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas knew that his words would be twisted, which is why he asked for a written debate.

The debate began at 7am in the morning the next day and onlookers observed the passing of written questions and answers between Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas and the eight other “scholars”. All the time the debate was progressing, palace guards with drawn swords stood over Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas to further intimidate him.

British engineer Frank Martin in his book the “Under the Absolute Amir” describes what happens next:

“…a jury of twelve of the most learned moullahs was convened, and even their examination of the accused could elicit nothing on which the man might be killed,and they reported this to the Amir. But the Amir said the man must be convicted, and so he was again sent to the moullahs, who were told that they must sign a paper, saying the man was an apostate and worthy of death. Again the majority of the moullahs made affirmation that he was innocent of anything against their religion, but two of the moullahs, who were friends of Sirdar Nasrullah Khan (the Amir’s younger brother), and had been talked over by him, gave their verdict for death, and on the finding of these two moullahs the man was condemned by the Amir”

 The debate came to an end by 4pm with Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas resolute in his belief. Some of the “scholars” in frustration started to abuse him, whilst others tried to beg Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibs to recant as they knew the terrible fate that awaited him at the hands of the Amir. But once again Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas gave the same reply that he had given to the Amir himself and to all his representatives.

The judgement was a foregone conclusion and perhaps to hide the paucity of their arguments the “scholars” did not present the written arguments to the Amir, but  nor did the Amir deign to ask for the written record. Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas was returned to his cell for one last time still wearing the chains and manacles that he had worn throughout the debate.

The next day the 14th of July 1903 he was brought before the Amir and the sentence was confirmed before the assembled court and the Amir ordered that Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas be stoned to death. Even at this late point the Amir appealed to Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas offering to restore all his lands and status, if only he would recant. Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas quietly but firmly declined the offer, but in the Amir’s presence prophesised that a great calamity would befall all of them.

Upon the verdict of death being handed down preparations were made, and it was ordered that Sahibzada Sahib be taken to the main ground for the public execution. Public announcement were made in the streets and bazaars and the citizens of Kabul were told that the Amir himself would be at the place of execution. In a final act of unimaginable cruelty the Amir ordered that Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahib’sas nose be pierced and a rope inserted and that he be dragged through the streets of Kabul by the nose. It is difficult to imagine the pain and suffering of Sahibzada Sahib as this final indignity was inflicted upon him, and yet he still did not waver, or seek mercy from his accusers.

Mr.B.A.Rafiq in his book “The Afghan Martyrs” relates:

“Sahibzada Abdul Lateef, the tutor of the King, a great spiritual leader of Afghanistan, the paramount Chief of Khost, was to be stoned to death. From the previous evening, by the beating of a drum it had been proclaimed that the following afternoon, on the 14th of July, people should assemble in large numbers opposite the Royal Palace. The proclamation directed that each individual should carry his own stones or brick bats with him, as because of his apostasy, the famous religious divine who was the Imam of the Royal Mosque, was to be stoned to death having been found guilty of ‘kufr’. It was announced that the condemned Abdul Lateef was to be taken to the graveyard in a procession. As a further temptation they were advised that Sardar Nasrulla Khan and the King of Afghanistan, Ameer Habeebulla Khan, were to lead the march along with Mullah Abdur Razzaque and other distinguished scholars”.

Once his nose was pierced and a rope inserted, the edict of death was hung around his neck. Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas was then taken in procession through the streets & bazaars of Kabul whilst hundreds of jeering, mocking citizens of Kabul hurled abuse upon him. The Amir along with the entire royal court followed the procession on horseback as Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas stumbled and walked towards his own Calvary. Like another who had stumbled and walked through those who mocked and jeered at him two thousand years previously in Palestine, Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahib as knew that he was walking not to his death, but to meet his Maker.

“Eyewitnesses relate that despite massive chains around his feet the Sahibzada was walking at a brisk pace. On the way a Moulvi said to him, “You are walking rapidly. Are you not afraid of death? Are you not concerned about your wife and your children? Can’t you feel that your chains and shackles are heavy and you have been hand cuffed?” In answer he said, “I am carrying the chains, shackles and handcuffs for the sake of Hadhrat Mohammad Mustapha (PBUH) and to me they are like ornaments. I am walking briskly because I am impatient for a rendezvous with my Master. There was not the slightest trace of fear on his face nor was there any concern for the sadistic manner in which the population had treated him. He marched cheerfully and with great equanimity and the light of spiritual tranquility was evident from his blessed face. When he reached the site of execution the King and the notables alighted from their horses.

– The Afghan Martyrs by B.A.Rafiq

As was the custom a shallow pit had been dug in the main ground and Sahibzada Sahib was lowered into the pit up to his waist, and the ground firmed up around him. It was believed that if the accused could wriggle his way out of the pit he would be saved from execution, but Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas made no attempt to break free. A Mullah stood in front of him and pleaded that he recant before it was too late. Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas  with his arms tied behind his back and buried in the pit, shook his head fiercely and told the Mullah  not stand between him and his Maker. His tormentors meanwhile had formed a circle round him, and started to close in.

Once again the Amir stepped forward and made one last attempt to dissuade Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas and warned him, that this was his last chance to avoid the terrible sentence of death being carried out. He asked that Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas denounce Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas as a false Messiah, to which Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas replied:

“I seek the protection of God. How can I deny the truth? Life has no significance for me. How can I abandon my faith for the sake of my wife and my children? I will not do that; I will die for the truth”

The Amir stepped back and perhaps realizing the enormity of what they were about to do asked the Chief Qazi to hurl the first stone. The Qazi remonstrated and instead asked the Amir to be the first. The Amir firmly told the Qazi that it it was his duty to be the first, and with that the Qazi stepped forward and hurled a large rock at the head of Sahibzada Sahib which caused a huge injury. The Amir was next and hurled his stone after which the assembled mob joined in and before long Sahibzada Sahib’s body was covered in a mound of stones.

 “All that is on it (earth) will pass away. And there will remain only the Person of thy Lord, Master of Glory and Honour” (55:27/28)

British engineer Frank Martin who had witnessed the stoning of Sahibzada Sahib writes in his book  “Under the Absolute Amir”:

“About nine o’clock at night the day the moullah was killed, a great storm of wind suddenly rose and raged with violence for half an hour, and then stopped as suddenly as it came. Such a wind at night was altogether unusual so the people said that this was the passing of the soul of the moullah. Then cholera came, and,according to former outbreaks, another visitation was not due for four years to come, and this was also regarded as part of the fulfillment of the moullah’s prophecy and hence the great fear of the Amir and the prince, who thought they saw in all this their own death, and it accounts also for the prince losing control of himself when his favourite wife died. The murdered moullah was a man with a large and powerful following, and the two moullahs who gave the verdict for his death lived in constant fear of the retaliation of his followers, who had sworn to avenge him. One of them got cholera, and almost ·died of it”.

Following the stoning and in fulfillment of Hadhrat Sahibzada Abdul Latif’s prophesy a terrible reckoning took place, and the people of Kabul endured Cholera and many other disasters for the next few months. As for the Amir and his brother, both died miserable deaths at the hands of their own citizens who rapidly turned against them. The name of Hadhrat Sahibzada Sahibas lives in the hearts of all Ahmadis, and is remembered to this day whilst the names of the Amir and his royal court are forgotten and consigned to the dustbin of history.

“Oh the land of Kabul, be a witness that a horrendous crime has been committed upon your soil. Oh the ill fated land, as on your soil a great atrocity was committed you have been degraded in the eyes of the Almighty” 

– Mirza Ghulam Ahmad

  — Hadhrat Sahibzada Abdul Latifas
  — Ahmadiyya Times
  — Munir Khan – Follow MunirKhan on Twitter: @Munir104

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One Response

  1. Very interesting and well written piece, Munir. Thank you.

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