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Friday, 14 January 2011

Lahore contest

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 Hazrat 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 Hazrat as their undisputed leader on this occasion included many who were far senior to Hazrat - 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.
Hazrat’s arrival in Lahore
On leaving Golra Sharif for Lahore by train on 24th August 1900, Hazrat 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 Hazrat 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 Hazrat on his arrival to Lahore, at the railway station. They proposed to take Hazrat in a procession to the venue of the contest, but Hazrat vetoed the suggestion. Hazrat was indeed so convinced about that when Mirza finally refused to come to Lahore for the contest, Hazrat 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
Hazrat 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 Hazrat’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 Hazrat 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 Hazrat and Mirza). According to this proposal, either of the person whose prayer was answered positively would be acknowledged as the victor. Hazrat 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 Hazrat, 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 Hazrat 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.
Hazrat’s reaction to this proposal
This new challenge had not the slightest impression on Hazrat Pir Meher Ali Shah Sahib (R.A). 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.
Hazrat's book "Saif-e-Chishtiyai" 
In reply to Mirza’s two books, Ijaz-ul-Masih and Shams-e-Bazighah, Hazrat 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 Hazrat’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 Hazrat Pir Meher Ali  Shah Sahib (R.A), 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!

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