A Soul Nourishing Incident

Ayyaz Mahmood Khan SahibMurrabi  Silsila – Additional Wakalat-e-Tasneef

A Note: Huzoor-e-Anwar, may Allah be his Helper, instructed Ayyaz Mahmood Khan Sahib that “this account should be sent to the Ismael Magazine to be published so that others are also encouraged to devote their lives in the way of Allah.”

As you have probably gathered from the title, in what follows, I will share with you a small piece of my heart. If my words are able to inspire even one person to devote their life for the cause of Ahmadiyyat, I need nothing else. If through my story I am able to show you that Allah Almighty exists and that He shows His love to those who trust in Him, what more can I ask for?

After graduating from Jamia Ahmadiyya UK, our beloved Huzoor would send newly qualified missionaries to Pakistan and Africa for a period of training and fieldwork before assigning them their official postings. In this short piece, I would like to tell you briefly about the time I spent in Ghana and relate one story in particular.

The time I spent in Africa changed my life completely. If I were to express it in one sentence, I would say that although I left for Ghana with great apprehension and fear, I returned with a priceless treasure–a real faith in God. It was in Ghana that I experienced how God lovingly cares for those who sacrifice themselves in his cause and it was in Ghana that I truly saw God in a way that I had never seen before.

I must say at the outset that I would perhaps never have shared this story. Though many years have passed, the story I share now remained buried away in the secret chest of my fondest memories. I had not even shared the experience with beloved Huzooraa until recently. When we returned from Africa, all our meetings with Huzooraa were in the form of a class, together; and quite simply, I felt rather embarrassed to relate my experience in front of my fellow classmates. Then, I thought to tell Huzooraa verbally in a private mulaqat, but even then I was reluctant as I felt that I would take up much of Huzoor’saa valuable time. Some time ago, when I was relating my experiences in Africa to my son, my wife insisted that I write everything to Huzooraa, and so I mustered the courage to do so. Huzoor-e-Anwar graciously – and to my utter surprise – wrote back instructing me to send the incident to Ismael magazine.

So now, on the instruction of Beloved Huzooraa, I am presenting in English the account that I wrote to him in Urdu some time ago:

After graduating from Jamia Ahmadiyya UK, I was from among the seven or eight graduates who beloved Huzoor sent to Ghana. The village in which I spent my time is a remote village towards the “interior” as they call it in Ghana, or the thick of jungle, situated 70 miles off the main road that stretches from the northern city of Tamale to Techiman. The village is called Tuluwe (pronounced Tuluway). There is no proper road that goes to the village and the only passage that leads there is an unpaved path that requires a 4 X 4 truck or motorbike to cover.

I remember that when we were returning to the UK after our training period, a dinner was arranged for us. The late Abdul Wahab Adam Sahib (who served as the Amir of Ghana for many decades) affectionately said to the guests in the jovial tone that was typical of him: “Do you know that we even had one boy who went to Tuluwe! Tuluwe is so deep into the jungle that once the President of Ghana thought of visiting and he had to turn his car back!”

Anyway, I vividly remember even today being driven to Tuluwe. I was taken there in a white pickup truck. We took a left off the main road at the junction and began to drive towards the village. As we continued on this bumpy, unpaved road, I began to see thicker and thicker jungle and eventually, I could see nothing but trees around me and a little blue sky above. The further in we went, the more apprehensive I became. My heart began to sink deeper and deeper, if I’m quite honest. “Where are they taking me” I thought to myself. “God have mercy.” When we arrived in Tuluwe it was evening time and as I stepped out of the pickup truck, took a deep breath and looked around, the scene that greeted me was something I had only previously seen in Discovery Channel documentaries, but never with my naked eyes. Small mud houses, with cone-like roofs made of straw, chickens strutting about pecking the ground and goats roaming about without a care in the world. That evening, there was light rain, almost like a mist. After my luggage had been offloaded, the Ghanian missionary that dropped me off along with another Ahmadi from Tuluwe said: “Now we’ll see you after two months, because it’s very difficult to come back here. Here are your water sachets. Alright, Allah Hafiz.”

When I returned I did share with beloved Huzooraa the state of my heart for the first week or so. I mentioned that initially whenever I would be alone, my eyes would well with tears. Everything reminded me of home. My greatest challenge was that I could not speak the local language; so no one would approach me and even if I was to approach someone, I was unable to speak to them, unless the local Mu’allim was with me to interpret. The villagers would smile at me, however, and I would smile at them. That was the extent of our communication. Despite this, however, I would deliver a dars in the morning after Fajr prayer and teach the Quran to children in the evening, under flashlights. There was no electricity in Tuluwe.

During the days that I was there, since it was farming season, all the men would be at their farms from morning to evening, and so it was difficult for me to engage with the men during the day, and this only added to my heavy heart. And so during the day, I would pace back and forth in the mosque for hours and hours, hands crossed behind my back and pray so that Allah would grant me strength and enable me to fulfil the purpose for which my beloved master had sent me to Ghana.

After five or six days, when my incessant tears began to aggravate me, it dawned on me that it does not behove a waqf-e-zindagi and especially a missionary to despair of their circumstances and to feel helpless. It was in that moment of epiphany that I felt a change of heart – almost instantly. I still remember that moment vividly. Suddenly, as soon as the realisation dawned upon me, I began to feel a sense of determination and purpose. My tears dried and I was ready to go. I thought to myself that although the men are at their farms during the day and the children are at school, I will make use of whatever time I can get with the villagers. After this realisation, I managed to develop a proper routine by the grace of Allah Almighty. I would deliver dars in the morning, teach the children Quran in the evening, lead the daily prayers during the day, and I would use the prayer times as an opportunity to speak to the Ahmadi brothers and sisters briefly about various matters. Whatever time I found in between, I would spend in prayers and personal study.

There was a Christian priest from the United States, who lived in the village with his family and a few other volunteers. The very next morning, after I had arrived in Tuluwe, I went over to meet him and introduced myself. I told him that I was a missionary from the Ahmadiyya Muslim community and as the large majority of this village is Ahmadi, our Khalifah and spiritual head of the community had sent me here to teach them, and just engage with them in general. The priest was a kind man. As soon as I mentioned the name “Ahmadiyya,” he said: “Oh I know about the Ahmadis very well! You are quite different from other Muslims. I am surprised that a young man like you has come to such a far-off and remote village all alone.” I laughed and said: “You too are here with your mission of propagation to spread Christianity aren’t you?” I continued: “You don’t think that we Muslims are any less determined than you, do you?” The honourable reverend enjoyed the comment and laughed. “But I have brought all of my facilities with me,” said the reverend, “and I have my family and children and others to accompany me. So it’s easier for me to be here than you. Anyway, if you need anything, just let me know without the least hesitation.” I wasn’t about to let him have the last word, of course. “I’m not alone, I’m here with God” I said to the priest.

There was no water or electricity in Tuluwe. I brought my 2 month stock of drinking water with me from the city. The reverend had built a large home and powered it with solar energy. There was no dearth of sunlight during the day, so the solar panels would sufficiently charge to provide light and electricity in the evening, and power his washing machine, microwave, and other household appliances. In any case, I thanked him and assured him that he need not be concerned on my account – I was perfectly fine and felt no difficulty whatsoever. As long as I remained there, I came to develop a very good relationship with my new Christian friend. Since the village was a small place, there were no stores or markets.. Every Thursday, two or three trucks that resembled army vehicles would drive to the village with some goods and setup a small weekly market. How those trucks managed to travel over the unpaved road that led to the village is still a mystery to me even today. I was fond of the immensely sweet – and massive – mangos. So I would purchase some fruit for the week and also send some fruit to my Christian friend as well.

In those days, it was Ramadan. As I have mentioned, since there was no electricity in the village, and therefore no light, I genuinely found it difficult to make anything in the morning for sehri. Cooking one-handed with a flashlight in my other hand is something I hadn’t mastered until then (and I still haven’t). So the solution I came up with in the morning for sehri was to drink a glass of water and have two dates. When we were leaving the UK, one of our classmates from Jamia, Ata-un-Naseer Sahib gave us each a box of dates as a gift from his father. When I arrived in Tuluwe, I emptied the box of dates on my table and counted the number of dates it contained. There were exactly sixty dates in the box. So I simply divided 60 dates by 30 days – 2 dates per day. In the evening, however, I would arrange for myself a more elaborate iftar, while there was daylight. Before leaving for Tuluwe, I had purchased two packets of lentils, some flour, rice and some packets of instant noodles. So on day one, I would cook some lentils or daal with a paratha, the second day, I would make some rice with lentils (our classic daal chawal) and on the third day, I would make my packet of instant noodles with boiled water. After I had completed my three day menu, I would begin again. So it was ‘eat and repeat’ with those three meals.

Now, the incident that took place during these days of Ramadan – an experience that I will never forget for the rest of my life. This incident strengthened my faith in Allah to such extent that I can honestly say that I will never and can never doubt the existence of God for the rest of my life. If an atheist were to tell me that God does not exist, I simply could never accept this, because I have practically experienced how God Almighty cares for weak, worthless servants such as myself and the subtle manner in which He furnishes evidence of His existence.

So before I was set to leave for Ghana, my dear mother and wife were enjoying some cooking show on TV. I happened to be sitting in the living room at the time as well and one of the items in that specific episode caught my attention – chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing. Honestly, who doesn’t like chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing? I have quite a sweet tooth, so as my mother and wife were watching the show, I asked them if they would be so kind as to make me some of those cupcakes from the show, before I left for Ghana. I had an idea that I’d probably be posted in a village away from the city, and chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing are a bit of luxury to say the least in such circumstances, so I wanted one last treat before leaving. Both my mother and wife, of course, kindly agreed to make some before I left, but then as the days of my departure drew near, I forgot in the chaos and so did they.

Every so often, I would call home to let my family know that I was enjoying myself. Now as I have mentioned, Tuluwe was a remote village with no electricity and no water. Naturally, mobile reception was also unavailable – except for in one location. I remember, there was a lone tree in the middle of desolate patch of land spanning some 500 meters, situated in the middle of the village. The empty plain was surrounded by homes on two sides, the mosque on one side and the local school on the fourth. In order to catch mobile reception, I would have to stand under the tree, and strategically position myself at exactly the right angle, dial my home phone number and then hold up my phone into the air to catch signal. After a few seconds, my phone would start dialling and I’d have to stay still in order to continue my conversation. Moving here or there meant a dropped call.

You may ask how I charged my phone in a remote village without electricity. Whenever I visited my Christian friend – the priest – for tea, he would encourage me to charge my phone through his solar powered system at home.

I would call home every few days just to assure them I was doing fine. Anyway, one day, on the phone my mother asked me, as all mothers do when their children are away, what I had been eating. God bless them, that’s all mothers care about. “What are you eating these days Ayyaz? It’s Ramadan.” I replied that sometimes I eat paratha (butter chapatti), sometimes rice and daal (lentil curry), or I will make myself noodles. By the Grace of Allah, I eat well. On hearing this, my mother was absolutely horrified and said that if I kept to my ways I would fall ill. So she firmly instructed that I slaughter a chicken (she said, you say they’re running around all over the place, just pick one up) and make some chicken curry. I tried to evade her line of questioning, but my mother was persistent. I tried reassuring her that if I was eating a paratha almost every day, how could I possibly fall ill, by the Grace of Allah, I have no health issues. In fact, I even said to her, “I could literally eat paratha every day. I love them.” However, mother insisted and said that I do it for her sake. So ultimately, I gave in and said: ‘Alright, I will see what I can do.’ To be entirely honest, I had not intended to actually make the chicken curry, and had only promised my mother that I would ‘see’ what I could do, I did not promise her that I would actually make the chicken curry. Who has time to make chicken curry in the scorching heat? I was doing just fine the way things were going.

So the same day, as evening approached and it was almost time to break the fast, I started preparing my meal. I prepared a ball of dough, rolled out my paratha, made my daal and when it was time to eat, I sat down to eat. I had only taken a few bites when I heard a knock at the door. I opened the door and saw that one of the teachers working at the village school with the priest stood at the door. She had a tray in her hands. Since the tray was covered with a cloth, I could not see what was on the tray, but it was obvious that the tray was filled with hot food. In any case, she said: “The priest’s wife has prepared something for you. You’re fasting these days aren’t you? So she wanted to send something for you.” I told her that there was no need for this as I had already cooked something to break my fast. She continued: “Well that’s alright, please have this from us too. The young lady told me that the priest’s wife sent a message saying: “I’m not sure if you like it, but I hope I’ve managed to cook your type of food to a satisfactory standard.” I took the tray and expressed my gratitude to all of them.

When I went back inside and put the tray on the table, I removed the cover and as I stared at the tray of food in utter shock and amazement, immediately tears began flowing from my eyes – and then I could see nothing. I was absolutely astonished. The priest’s wife had sent around five or six rotis (chapatti) and a chicken karahi salan (curry). I can say without exaggeration that the salan smelled and looked as if it was made by a native Pakistani. There was also a small basket on the tray, with three chocolate cupcakes covered in peanut butter icing. On every bite, I could not help by say Alhamdulillah from the depths of my heart. All the while, as I continued to eat, I could barely swallow my food as I was overcome with emotion. I thought to myself, truly, my Allah is such a Loving God.

Now, while others may say that this was a mere coincidence, but for me, this was a remarkable expression of God’s love and grace – one which I will never forget. It was only God Almighty who knew about the conversation I had had with my mother on the phone a few hours ago, and it was only God Almighty who knew what I had desired before coming to Africa. Although both of these things may seem perfectly normal and perhaps even insignificant, but this is the very proof of the existence of God Almighty. It was only God who knew of these ‘insignificant’ and ‘normal’ things. For me, this was a lesson from God Almighty, in which he showed me that despite me being away from home, in the jungles of Africa, God Almighty can still grant us anything and everything, He showed me that He is All-Powerful, He showed me that He had not forgotten me.

I thought to myself that the incidents we read in books happen in today’s age as well. Truly God Almighty never abandons a Waqf-e-Zindagi, in fact, God Almighty never abandons anyone who strives for His cause. God Almighty is never disloyal, rather, it is us, His servants, who fall short in fulfilling the rights due to God. If God Almighty shows this much love despite us being so weak, how many blessings would we receive if we actually fulfilled the rights of God Almighty and improved the standards of our worship.

Whenever I am reminded of this incident, I think to myself, if God Almighty shows us such vast amounts of love in our difficult times, then as gratitude, we too should strive to our full ability in the cause of God Almighty when we are in a state of comfort. Here in the West, we are living with every facility at our disposal. So we should strive to do our duty to Allah to the best of our ability, so that we do not feel ashamed when we stand before God Almighty on the Day of Judgement, after having been blessed so abundantly in this world. This responsibility is heavier on the Waqifeen, who are closer to beloved Huzooraa.

A Waqif-e-Zindagi must go to whatever country Beloved Huzooraa has instructed them to fulfil their duty. Even today, there are countless missionaries who are making great sacrifices, however we live here in the UK and have no difficulties, nor are we having to make great sacrifices like those living in other countries. Moreover, we are physically close to Beloved Huzooraa, we see his blessed face, we are able to pray behind him, we also have personal meetings with him. If we do not fulfil the expectations of Beloved Huzooraa, despite having all these blessings, then we are responsible for double the negligence and will be answerable to Allah Almighty.

If we are not loyal to God and true to our responsibilities, we will be guilty of dishonouring the love showered on us by Beloved Huzooraa. In fact, we will also be guilty of dishonouring those missionaries and Waqifeen who are living lives filled with greater sacrifice and hardship in distant countries, far from Beloved Huzooraa and their loved ones. We will be committing a silent injustice against those of our brothers and sisters who are engaged in service in all the four corners of the world. We who live in the UK must never forget that we are not living close to Beloved Huzooraa because we are any more worthy or capable than others. We are close to Huzooraa only due to Allah’s grace. If it were not us, others who are more worthy would be here in our place.

I request prayers from Beloved Huzooraa. May Allah enable not just me, but all the waqifeen – especially those living close to Beloved Huzooraa, to fulfil the rights of this nearness to Khilafat. May Allah conceal our shortcomings and weaknesses, and not just cover them, but enable us to progress and become better individuals in every respect. May we reach the level at which Beloved Huzoor desires to see us. May we become true examples of righteousness and piety for others, so that no one is able to take issue with the standard of those missionaries and life devotees that live near Beloved Huzooraa. May we never become a cause of displeasure for our Beloved Khalifah due to our own failing standards. Instead, may we always be a source of pride for the Khalifa of the time and may his eyes and heart find comfort when he sees us – His loyal servants. Ameen Allahumma Ameen.