At a distance of a few miles from the city of Rawalpindi is a village called Golrah. An ascetic by the name of Pir Mehr Ali Golarwi lived in that village. He was held in good esteem throughout the areas of Pothwar and Sarhad. According to Pir Golarwi’s disciples, he was a scholar and an intellectual, traits not commonly associated with hereditary spiritual leaders like him. It is difficult to verify his disciples’ claims because there is no apparent record of his scholarship, but he did have a disciple, named Maulvi Ghazi, who was indeed intellectual and pious.
Initially, Pir Golarwi did not express any open hostility towards Hazrat Mirza. In fact, if the following account narrated to me (biographer) by Nabi Baksh, a disciple of Pir Golarwi, is true, then Pir Golarwi actually professed a certain devotion to Hazrat Mirza. According to Nabi Baksh, Pir Golarwi was once standing on the platform of Lala Musa railway station when he turned to face in the direction of Qadian – Hazrat Mirza’s hometown, unbuttoned his tunic and said, “I can smell the fragrance of the Beneficent from the direction of Qadian.”
Either under pressure from his disciples or because of a change of heart, Pir Golarwi later turned against Hazrat Mirza. In the year 1900, he ostensibly wrote a book, Shams-ul-Hidaya, in which he denounced Hazrat Mirza, and advanced a number of contrived arguments supporting the bodily ascension of Jesus. Regretfully, by writing Shams-ul-Hidaya, Pir Golarwi exposed his own intellectual shortcomings. First, the language of the book was so convoluted, and the diction and the choice of phrases so appalling that it was difficult for a person of ordinary intelligence to even read a single page of the book.
The experience of reading this book was akin to leaving a smooth and straight road in favor of a winding road riddled with potholes. Secondly, the book did not present any genuine arguments; the same old stories were rehashed and retold. I got the chance to peruse Shams-ul-Hidaya when a friend lent me his copy, saying that if I read the book, I would defi- nitely renounce the belief that Jesus had died. On the contrary, after reading the book, I became even more convinced of Jesus’ natural death and the absurdity of his bodily ascension. The book Shams-ul-Hidaya also found its way to Qadian where it came to the attention of Maulana Nur-ud-Din.
Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s love of knowledge
Maulana Nur-ud-Din had a passion for collecting books and acquiring knowledge. His zeal for knowledge was so strong that he spent thousands of rupees acquiring religious books in various languages, such as Arabic, Persian and Urdu. He did not limit himself to India, but expended large sums to acquire religious and Islamic books from all over the world, including countries like Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey, Holland and Germany. When he finished reading a newly acquired book, it was his habit to catalogue it and enter it into his personal library. His exhaustive study had given him a profound insight into religious matters.
While reading Pir Golarwi’s book, Shams-ul-Hidaya, Maulana Nur- ud-Din observed that Pir Golarwi had referenced certain books that were nearly impossible to find, not only in the province of Punjab, but anywhere in India. So Maulana Nur-ud-Din addressed a letter on February 18, 1900, to the author of Shams-ul-Hidaya and inquired whether he had actually seen those books with his own eyes. And if the author possessed those books, Maulana Nur-ud-Din asked if he could be allowed to see those books as well. In addition, Maulana Nur-ud-Din drew Pir Golarwi’s attention to cer- tain factual and logical errors in his book, and on the basis of these observations, Maulana Nur-ud-Din directed eleven questions to Pir Golarwi’s attention.
Pir Golarwi was utterly disconcerted upon reading Maulana Nur-ud- Din’s letter because far from possessing those books, he had never set eyes on them. It remains a mystery how Pir Golarwi had referenced those books in his work Shams-ul-Hidaya! Eventually, Pir Golarwi responded to Maulana Nur-ud-Din with a brief letter dated February 26, 1900 in which the circumlocution was rather evident. The gist of the letter was that Maulvi Ghazi and not Pir Golarwi had written the book Shams-ul-Hidaya. The fol- lowing statement in Pir Golarwi’s letter was especially noteworthy:
The book Shams-ul-Hidaya was compiled and published by Maulvi (Ghazi) Sahib through his own efforts and arrangements. Once in a while, I was asked to provide information for certain sections of the book.
Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s letter and the brief letter that Pir Golarwi had written back in response were both published in their entirety from Qadian. When Pir Golarwi’s disciples found that their leader had disavowed the authorship of the book, they were quite distressed and began writing letters to Pir Golarwi to the following effect: “Sir, what have you done! This book was written by you, and we know that you published it. But you have now written a letter to Maulana Nur-ud-Din, denying that you ever wrote this book!”
The disciples’ letters further increased Pir Golarwi’s distress because he had never conceived that his letter of denial (addressed to Maulana Nur- ud-Din) would be published, and become public knowledge. Eventually — to appease his disciples — Pir Golarwi began replying individually to those of his disciples who had written to him. The message in his replies was to the following effect: “Do not be upset; my book has been widely circulated among the public, and the real objective has been achieved. The only thing I wrote to Maulana Nur-ud-Din was that I was not the compiler of the book Shams-ul-Hidaya.” (In other words, the compiler was Maulvi Ghazi, but the author was Pir Golarwi.
However, in his letter quoted above, Pir Golarwi had clearly admitted that he was occasionally consulted to provide informa- tion about certain subjects, and that the book itself was the work of Maulvi Ghazi. It is amazing how these hereditary religious leaders hoodwink their disciples). Pir Golarwi’s strategy was to quietly placate his ruffled disciples by individually writing private replies to them, and not to go public with his response. One of Pir Golarwi’s disciples who received a private response was Ghulam Muhammad, a clerk in the office of the Accountant General of Punjab. In an attempt to exonerate his religious mentor, Ghulam Muhammad showed the letter to members of the public, and unwittingly exposed the duplicity of Pir Golarwi.
Maulvi Abdul Karim wrote a powerful article in Al-Hakam, a periodi- cal published from Qadian, in which he exposed the stratagem employed by Pir Golarwi. The article created quite a stir in the camp of Pir Golarwi. Maulvi Ghazi had been away somewhere and had not figured in the contro- versy so far, but on his return, he decided to join the fray on behalf of his beleaguered mentor. He persuaded Pir Golarwi to write a letter to Maulana Nur-ud-Din in which he tried to answer the eleven questions posed by Maulana Nur-ud-Din.
Obviously unable to present the books that he had so boldly cited in Shams-ul-Hidaya, Pir Golarwi stated in his letter that he had not specified any book, and that he (Pir Golarwi) had only provided those references as a resemblance and similitude of the subject. He added, how- ever, that if someone was desirous of seeing the referenced books, he should contact Maulvi Ghazi, who had undertaken to entertain such inquiries and show the books personally to the inquirer.
To summarize, the written response from Pir Golarwi was replete with absurd statements. Pir Golarwi’s letter exists in a published form, and is available for perusal by any interested party. Maulvi Ghazi followed the letter by publishing a series of public notices in support of his spiritual leader, and denouncing Pir Golarwi’s detractors in extremely discourteous language. Hazrat Mirza’s disciples replied to these public proclamations in a courteous, but effective manner. Inadvertently, these replies divulged some of Pir Golarwi’s dubious prac- tices, like indulging in alchemy, and handing out potions and love charms.
Refusal to participate in a contest of supplications
In the wake of the preceding episode, Hazrat Mirza’s organization issued an announcement on June 27, 1900, challenging all opponents of Hazrat Mirza, to participate in a contest of supplications. The announcement was addressed to all clerics and hereditary religious leaders known as pirs who claimed righteousness and true belief as their exclusive preserve. The contest would take the following format: On an agreed upon date, Hazrat Mirza and his opponents would meet at a specified location. A group of terminally ill or otherwise seriously afflicted patients would be brought there, and half the patients would be randomly assigned to Hazrat Mirza and the other half to his opponents. Hazrat Mirza would then pray to Allah for the health of the patients assigned to him, and his opponents would do likewise for the patients assigned to them. Within a period of forty days, both the par- ties would publish a list, based on information received from God, of patients assigned to them who would recover from their afflictions. Because the hallmark of a true believer is the acceptance of his supplications by Allah, the party whose supplications were most efficacious would be deemed to be righteous.
In response to this proclamation, the disciples of Pir Golarwi published an undated proclamation that found its way to Lahore in July of 1900. In that proclamation, Pir Golarwi’s disciples clearly acknowledged that Allah was not on their side, and that patients could not be cured through their supplications. Pir Golarwi’s disciples asserted that Hazrat Mirza should pro- ceed unilaterally, and show a sign from Allah by successfully praying for the terminally ill patients and restoring them to health.
The proclamation from Pir Golarwi’s disciples, besides containing the routine nonsensical statements, made a bold assertion that: “All the signs of the Mahdi (rightly-guided one) are to be found present in the person of Mahdi Sanosi.”
Now, what is hard to understand is that if all the indications of the Mahdi were present in the person of Mahdi Sanosi, then was it not the duty of Pir Golarwi and his disciples to humbly appear before Mahdi Sanosi, and to pledge allegiance to him? The fact that they had not done so showed clearlythat they were simply engaging in idle talk. Their statement, however, was an admission that the time was ripe for a Mahdi (rightly-guided one) to appear. Clearly, they had forsaken the real Mahdi because of their prejudice, and instead were clutching at straws.
What is truly startling in this entire affair is their denial of the vitality and necessity of supplication in human life. It became deplorably evident that what these religious scholars now held in their hands was worthless husk, while they had lost the useful kernel therein.
Hazrat Mirza’s invitational proclamation
Finally Hazrat Mirza stated that there was no point in continuing to respond to the absurd statements and claims made in books like Shams-ul- Hidaya. His opponents were simply rehashing the same arguments over and over again. He had answered these arguments many times previously, and had written detailed and well-researched books in response to such charges and statements. There was nothing new in his opponents’ statements to merit his attention, and therefore paying attention to such drivel was a sheer waste of his valuable time.
But if these opponents were really serious about seeking the truth, then there was a straightforward way to resolve the contention. Allah has stated in the Quran that if a serious discord arises between the believers, then the matter should be referred to Allah and His Prophet for adjudication. The party in whose favor the decision is given is the one that is truthful. Hazrat Mirza stated that the point at issue was that his opponents branded him and his disciples as unbelievers; he and his disciples believed that God was displeased with his opponents as a result of this odious charge. The Quran should be the arbiter in this dissension between the two parties. The Quran sets forth the signs by which the believers and righteous can be recognized. A search should be conducted to see whether these signs are to be found in Hazrat Mirza and his disciples or whether they are found in the members of his opposing party. Hazrat Mirza announced this proposal in a proclamation published on July 20, 1900. The proclamation read:
I present an easy way to arrive at a decision; it is proven from the Quran that the assistance of Allah is with those who are His true believers in the following three ways:
- True believers are aided by miraculous events in a contest with their opponents; the opponents are bereft of such support. This provides a clear distinction between the contending parties. The Quranic verse that provides this criterion states: “O you who believe, if you keep your duty to Allah, He will grant you a distinction and do away with your evils and protect you. And Allah is the Lord of mighty grace” (8:29).
- The true believers are given an understanding of the Quran that the opponents do not possess. This is evidenced by the Quranic verse: “Which none touches save the purified ones” (56:79).
- The supplications of true believers are frequently accepted, while the supplications of others are not accepted to the same extent, and the following Quranic verse stands as a witness to this matter: “And your Lord says: Pray to Me, I will answer you. Those who disdain My service will surely enter hell, abased” (40:60).
It is appropriate, therefore, that a gathering be held in Lahore, the capital city of Punjab, to determine which one of us is a believer and which one is a liar. My opponents should then debate me in accordance with the following format: A chapter of the Quran will be selected ran- domly and forty verses will be selected from it or if the chapter contains less than forty verses, then the whole chapter will be taken for consideration. The contending parties i.e., Mehar Ali Shah (Golarwi) and I will first pray to Allah that He grants to whichever one of us is righteous, the spiritual power to expound the knowledge and wisdom of these verses in eloquent Arabic, in a composition to be written right there in the gathering. May Allah assist the righteous person with the Holy Spirit.1 And (O Allah!) Whichever one of us is against Your will, and is not true in Your sight, then take away from him this ability and deprive him of eloquence in Arabic and knowledge of the Quran, so that people may know who it is that You assist and who is deprived of Your grace and the assistance of the Holy Spirit.
After this supplication, both parties shall start writing the explanation of the chapter in Arabic. It shall be a necessary condition that neither party shall have any books in their possession, and that neither party shall have access to any helpers. Both parties shall write their commentaries in silence and without reading aloud so that the other party is not able to make selections or excerpts from the other.
Each party shall be allocated a maximum time of seven hours and (the two parties) will write sitting side by side and not in privacy. Each party shall have the privilege to physically search the other party; this precaution is included so that both parties can rest assured that neither has access to any hidden books on their person to aid their composition. While the time allotted shall be seven hours, the task must be completed in a single day, in one gathering, and in front of witnesses.
When both parties have finished writing and affixed (their) signatures, their commentaries shall be read out to three religious scholars of Pir Mehar Ali Shah’s choosing. He will also be responsible for ensuring their attendance at the gathering. It shall be the duty of these scholars to peruse each of the two Arabic com- mentaries and to pronounce, under oath, as to which of the two was written with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.
It shall be mandatory that none of those scholars be a member of my Movement or a disciple of Mehar Ali Shah (Golarwi). It will be acceptable to me if Pir Mehar Ali Shah (Golarwi) selects Maulvi Muhammad Husain Batalvi, Maulvi Abdul Jabbar Ghaznavi, Professor Maulvi Abdullah Lahori, or any other three scholars who are not his disciples and followers.
However, it will be necessary that those three scholars state their opin- ion on oath as to which commentary and Arabic composition is of a high quality and (written) with the support of Allah. Their oath will be similar to the oath required to be taken in the section of the Quran relat- ing to the slander of married women (Chapter Al-Nur) in which it is necessary to invoke the oath three times. It shall also be obligatory upon both parties that the aforementioned commentaries shall be at least twenty pages in length, and by page is meant a page cut to the average size of pages on which the innumerable copies of the Quran that circulate in Punjab and India are printed.
If as a result of this kind of a debate, and evidence of this kind furnished by three scholars, it is established that in fact Pir Mehar Ali Shah (Golarwi) in his commentary and Arabic composition is like those who have (Divine) support, and I am unable to perform this undertaking; or that I was able to perform the undertaking but he did likewise, then let the whole world be a witness that I will affirm that the truth is with Pir Mehar Shah. In this eventuality, I also undertake to burn all the books I have written regarding this claim of mine, and will consider myself accursed and rejected. This statement, which I am writing in the presence of twenty witnesses, is sufficient from my side.
However, if my Lord grants me victory in this contest, and Pir Golarwi becomes tongue tied so that he is unable to deal masterfully and eloquently with the Arabic language, and is unable to elucidate the knowledge and truths immanent in the Quranic chapter randomly selected at the convention, or if he refuses to participate in this public contest, then in case of any of these situations, it shall be obligatory upon Pir Golarwi to repent and to take the pledge at my hands. It shall then also be obligatory upon him to acknowledge the same in plain words, and to publish this acknowledgment within ten days via a proclamation.
I state again that I will be deemed victorious only if Pir Mehar Ali Shah (Golarwi) is unable to write anything except a contemptible, shameful and absurd document that is loathsome and repugnant in the eyes of scholars. This is what I have beseeched Allah to do, and I know that He will surely cause this to transpire. If Mehar Ali Shah (Golarwi) also considers himself to be righteous and one whose supplications are accepted by Allah, then he too should supplicate likewise. Mark that Allah will never accept his supplication because he opposes a person who has been appointed and sent by Allah; there is no esteem for such people in the heavens.
Pir Golarwi’s reply
Pir Golarwi was utterly confounded upon reading this proclamation by Hazrat Mirza. He desperately began looking for some course of action because he clearly realized that he was not qualified to compose a commentary in Arabic, neither did he have the ability to elucidate the knowledge and truths of the Quran. He also did not possess spiritual attachment to Allah, nor did he have devotional reliance on Him whereby he could feel confident in calling upon Him for assistance during times of need. With all these facts in mind, Pir Golarwi devised a solution to his dilemma whereby he could avoid participating in the contest that had been proposed by Hazrat Mirza.
On July 25, 1900, Pir Golarwi responded with a printed public proclamation stating that all the conditions of the contest were acceptable to him, but he had a condition of his own. This condition was that, prior to the contest, a verbal debate should take place on the subject of Hazrat Mirza’s claim that he was the Promised Messiah and Mahdi (rightly-guided one). The arbitrators of this debate would be Maulvi Muhammad Husain Batalvi, Maulvi Abdul Jabbar Ghaznavi, and Maulvi Abdullah Tonki. If the arbitrators ren- dered the judgment in favor of Pir Golarwi, then Hazrat Mirza would repent and withdraw his claim that he was the Promised Messiah and Mahdi. In such a case, Hazrat Mirza would also pledge allegiance to Pir Golarwi. And according to this condition, Hazrat Mirza would then be permitted to proceed with the contest that he had proposed at the outset.
Pir Golarwi’s response was both devious and absurd. It was devious because Pir Golarwi knew that, four years previously, Hazrat Mirza had stated in a book (Anjam Atham) that he had already argued extensively upon these matters and had written authoritative books on the subjects, and further discussion of the issues would therefore be a waste of valuable time. Hazrat Mirza had pledged that he would henceforth refrain from arguing face to face with anyone regarding these matters.
Upon publication of Anjam Atham, a copy of that book had been sent as a courtesy to Pir Golarwi. Pir Golarwi knew very well that Hazrat Mirza would never renege upon his promise. Hence — given what Hazrat Mirza had stated in Anjam Atham — he would refuse to participate in Pir Golarwi’s proposed verbal debate because that debate would deal with subject matters that Hazrat Mirza had already addressed conclusively. In this manner, Pir Golarwi could claim that Hazrat Mirza had refused to participate in the contest!
Also consider the absurdity of Pir Golarwi’s proposed selection of the mediators for the verbal debate. He sought the appointment of Maulvi Muhammad Husain Batalvi, Maulvi Abdul Jabbar Ghaznavi, and others, who were bitterly opposed to Hazrat Mirza and had already declared him to be a disbeliever because of his claim to be the Promised Messiah and Mahdi. They would be asked to judge an issue on which they had already pro- nounced.
But Pir Golarwi was not interested in pondering such details. All that he desired was the perpetuation of his fame in the eyes of his disciples. So the strategy that Pir Golarwi devised to avoid participation and certain defeat in the contest was to propose a verbal debate of his own wherein the subject of debate would be Hazrat Mirza’s claims. The arbitrators would be people who were certain to give the verdict against Hazrat Mirza. Following this, Hazrat Mirza would then be asked to repent, God forbid, and pledge allegiance to Pir Golarwi. Finally, Pir Golarwi would give Hazrat Mirza the permission to participate in the originally proposed contest!
Reply to Pir Golarwi’s proclamation
Maulvi Ghazi was one of Pir Golarwi’s especially close disciples, and one who was well aware of Pir Golarwi’s concealed inability to write Arabic and Quranic commentaries. Maulvi Ghazi appended his own statement below his mentor’s proclamation. In that statement, he stressed the need for a verbal debate as proposed by Pir Golarwi. Responding to Pir Golarwi’s proclamation of July 25, 1900, Maulana Muhammad Ahsan Amrohi published a proclamation from Qadian on August 14, 1900, in which he provided detailed and effective replies to all the issues raised by Pir Golarwi and Maulvi Ghazi.
Rounding off the discussion, Maulana Amrohi noted that, given Pir Golarwi’s evident reluctance to participate in the contest with Hazrat Mirza, and given Pir Golarwi’s attempt to postpone the matter by introducing the issue of a ver- bal debate with Hazrat Mirza regarding the latter’s claims, he (Maulana Amrohi) was willing to stand in for Hazrat Mirza in the proposed verbal debate with Pir Golarwi. Recall that Hazrat Mirza had already argued extensively and definitively on matters regarding his claims, and had subsequently decided and pledged that it would be wasteful to devote any additional valuable time to verbal debates. It was for this reason that Maulana Amrohi offered to participate in the verbal debate in place of Hazrat Mirza.
In addition, Maulana Amrohi asked in his proclamation that three arbi- trators of Pir Golarwi’s choice (who were all manifestly opposed to Hazrat Mirza and in favor of Pir Golarwi) should meet with Pir Golarwi and inves- tigate whether his reluctance to participate in the contest with Hazrat Mirza was based on good will or whether he felt intimidated. If the arbitrators stat- ed on oath in a public notice after their determination that Pir Golarwi’s reluctance was indeed based on goodwill and not because he felt daunted, and if within a period of one year there was no Heavenly sign of support for Hazrat Mirza, then Hazrat Mirza’s party would not object to postponing the contest until after a verbal debate.
Attempts to deceive the public
Nobody from Pir Golarwi’s party accepted Maulana Amrohi’s chal- lenge to participate in a verbal debate with him, neither did Pir Golarwi request the three adjudicating scholars to take the pledge that his (Pir Golarwi’s) strategy was not a ploy designed to obviate Pir Golarwi’s participation in the commentary-writing contest. In fact, Pir Golarwi continued to maintain his silence.
But one of his disciples by the name of Hakim Sultan Mahmud Khan published a very offensively worded proclamation in which he stated that they were unwilling to participate in the debate with Maulana Amrohi, and that Hazrat Mirza himself should come forward and participate in the debate. To deceive the populace, Hakim Khan stated at the conclusion of the proclamation that if Hazrat Mirza declined to participate in that debate, then Pir Golarwi would go ahead and accept all the conditions for the commentary-writing contest put forth by Hazrat Mirza.
Because this proclamation was only from a disciple, members of Hazrat Mirza’s organization in Lahore wrote several letters to Pir Golarwi, and issued two public notices one after the other, requesting him to confirm that he accepts the original conditions of the contest without any amendment as stated in the proclamation by his disciple.
But Pir Golarwi did not budge from his stance of maintaining silence, and did not reply to any of those let- ters from Hazrat Mirza’s organization. Instead, other disciples of Pir Golarwi added to the deception initiated by Hakim Khan by announcing to the public that Pir Golarwi had accepted all the conditions set forth by Hazrat Mirza, and that Pir Golarwi would shortly be departing for the city of Lahore to participate in the verbal debate.
In fact, Hazrat Mirza had neither proposed nor agreed to a verbal debate because he had sworn not to participate in such activities four years earlier. However, when people have no fear of God, there is nothing to stop them from lies and slander. Undeniably, Hazrat Mirza had invited Pir Golarwi to an Arabic composition and commentary-writing contest, and this had given Pir Golarwi a bad scare.
Despite Pir Golarwi’s obvious attempts to escape such a fate, his disciples were shamelessly publicizing the falsehood that their leader had accepted all the conditions set forth by Hazrat Mirza, and was shortly departing for Lahore to participate in the verbal debate, thereby implying that it was Hazrat Mirza who had asked for the verbal debate. What is truly appalling is that Pir Golarwi was fully aware of his disciples’ lies and slander, but did nothing to restrain them. In fact, he was probably deriving some pleasure in observing that the ploys of his disciples were working so admirably.
Proclamation offering a prize of one thousand rupees
In response to the uproar being raised by Pir Golarwi’s group, Hazrat Mirza’s organization based in Lahore published two proclamations one after the other, on August 19, 1900, and on August 20, 1900. These proclamations stated very plainly that Pir Golarwi had not accepted Hazrat Mirza’s invita- tion to participate in the Arabic composition and commentary-writing contest; neither had Hazrat Mirza indicated any willingness to take part in a verbal debate with Pir Golarwi. The proclamation also stated that no useful purpose was being achieved by the campaign of lies and slander being waged by Pir Golarwi’s supporters. If Pir Golarwi sought to debate the claims of Hazrat Mirza, then Maulana Amrohi had already indicated his willingness to do so in his proclamation of August 14, 1900, and he could arrive in Lahore as early as August 25, 1900, for this purpose. But if Pir Golarwi truly wanted to compete with Hazrat Mirza, he should do so in a manner that befits a reli- gious figure i.e., in the domain of Quranic knowledge and understanding. Additionally, the proclamation offered a cash prize of one thousand rupees to Pir Golarwi if he took part and gained victory in the commentary-writing contest in accordance with the plainly stated conditions.
The response by Pir Golarwi’s supporters was not one of righteousness and honesty. And how could it be when it was apparent to Pir Golarwi’s organization that success could only be achieved through the convoluted avenue of lies and deceptions. A disciple of Pir Golarwi by the name of Muhammad-ud-Din, who was a bookseller in Lahore, published a proclama- tion replete with abusive language. In short, the disciples of Pir Golarwi did not refrain from lying and slandering, and instead continued to maintain their reproachful clamor that their leader was arriving in Lahore to compete with Hazrat Mirza.
Pir Golarwi in Lahore
After these various proclamations had been issued from Qadian and from Lahore, Pir Golarwi became absolutely convinced that Hazrat Mirza would honor his pledge of abstaining from participation in any verbal debate. Assured with this knowledge, Pir Golarwi viewed this as a wonderful oppor- tunity for the furtherance of his personal fame. To further deceive the public, Pir Golarwi arrived in Lahore on August 24, 1900, with a vast array of his irascible disciples.
Upon his arrival in Lahore, he was immediately accorded a public reception by the son of Jaffer Zatalli. Following that, Pir Golarwi’s disciples issued a proclamation to the effect that Pir Golarwi had arrived in Lahore for the purpose of debating with Hazrat Mirza, and that he had also accepted, in their entirety, the conditions set forth by Hazrat Mirza. In response to this outrageous act, the disciples of Hazrat Mirza published yet a third proclama- tion on August 24, 1900, in which they plainly enumerated the facts of the matter and demanded a straight answer from Pir Golarwi as follows:
If the disciples of Pir Golarwi, as for example Muhammad-ud-Din and Hakim Khan, are going around publicizing that Pir Golarwi has accepted Hazrat Mirza’s invitation to the contest, and the conditions of the contest in their entirety, then why do they not get Pir Golarwi to declare that he accepts a contest in commentary-writing in accordance with Hazrat Mirza’s conditions without any amendments? The dead- line has passed by which Pir Golarwi had to accept in writing Hazrat Mirza’s invitation to a commentary-writing contest, but if Pir Golarwi agrees (to such a contest), we are still willing to hold the contest on another suitable date so that a decision can subsequently be made quickly, and so that arrangements can be made for Hazrat Mirza to travel to Lahore.
The offer of a one thousand rupee prize was again reiterated in this lat- est proclamation. But Pir Golarwi maintained such utter silence that Hazrat Mirza’s disciples in Lahore were frustrated and vexed. Finally, these disci- ples decided that a letter conveying the import of the preceding proclamation, be hand-delivered to Pir Golarwi in the hope that he might accept Hazrat Mirza’s invitation to the commentary-writing contest. The next day (August 25, 1900), a letter with the following text was composed:
Honorable Pir Golarwi:
Greetings. It is submitted that before your arrival (your disciple) Hafiz Muhammad-ud-Din, a bookseller of Lahore, had published a procla- mation in which he announced, contrary to previous proclamations (on
the subject), that you had accepted all conditions for the contest set forth by our revered spiritual leader, Hazrat Mirza, the Reformer of the Age, the Promised Messiah, the Mahdi, and the seal of saints, and that you would be coming to Lahore for the contest. Sir, you arrived in Lahore yesterday, and we are still awaiting a written or published state- ment from you that is graced by your signature, in which you unambiguously express your consent to participate in the commentary- writing contest in accordance with the July 20, 1900, proclamation by Hazrat Mirza. Your arrival here — without first having clarified your intention — is not really useful. We do not have any proof that the aforementioned proclamation from (your disciple), Muhammad-ud- Din, is acceptable and honored by you. Nor is it unequivocally stated anywhere in that proclamation that you accept a contest conforming to the format expressed in the July 20, 1900, proclamation. Hence, Muhammad-ud-Din’s statement was not regarded as worthy of consid- eration.
After waiting patiently till now, we deemed it appropriate to respect- fully submit to you that if, in reality, you have come to Lahore to perform a great favor to the religion of Islam by helping to resolve this (doctrinal) dispute, then you should immediately proceed to issue a statement under your signature accepting the commentary writing con- test with Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in accordance with the precise conditions of the July 20, 1900, proclamation. Kindly have this state- ment witnessed by at least four notables and clerics of Lahore, and please do not put in it any complicated or equivocal phrases; just state very simply that you are ready to contend with Hazrat Mirza according to the format published by him in his proclamation of July 20, 1900.
We respectfully ask you to participate in this contest for the sake of Allah and not to even entertain the thought of refraining from partici- pation. We implore you in the name of God to settle this great dispute between truth and falsehood by participating in the contest so that peace may prevail once again. But if you waver and vacillate, offer an obscure reply, or if you maintain silence, then it will be understood that your intentions are not righteous and that you desire to deceive the people and that you seek to cause mischief. But we do believe that, in reality, you love justice and that you will carefully reflect upon this message. Upon receiving a reply to this letter, we shall publish it along with this letter.
And peace on those who follow the guidance. 25th August 1900. Yours Truly,
Hakim Fazal Ilahi
President, Anjuman Furqania, Lahore
Secretary, Anjuman Furqania, Lahore.
Pir Golarwi persists in his silence
A threesome party comprising of Mian Abdur Rahim, market inspec- tor, who was not a disciple of Hazrat Mirza, and two others took the letter to Pir Golarwi, and presented it to him at the time of the Zuhr (midday) prayer. Pir Golarwi responded by stating that he would reply after the Asr (late after- noon) prayer. But when the inspector later went at the appointed time of 5:00
P.M. to get the reply, he was met by Pir Golarwi’s disciples at the gate of the house where Pir Golarwi was in residence, and simply informed that Pir Golarwi had chosen not to reply. This was a clever strategy to avoid an embarrassing encounter between Pir Golarwi and the inspector.
Failing to break Pir Golarwi’s silence, Hazrat Mirza’s organization immediately printed another letter and dispatched it to him via registered mail the very next day, August 26, 1900. In that letter, reference was made to the letter of the previous day to which Pir Golarwi had promised a reply by the time of the Asr prayer. Once again, he was urged to honor his pledge. Unfortunately, Pir Golarwi was so intimidated that he outright refused to accept the registered mail. Although Pir Golarwi deemed it best to maintain his silence, his disciples were busy boldly publicizing the untruth that Pir Golarwi had accepted Hazrat Mirza’s conditions. They further alleged that they had published a proclamation and subsequently delivered it to Hazrat Mirza, and that they had also wired it to Hazrat Mirza’s attention several times, but Hazrat Mirza had neither come to Lahore nor was he responding. To counter this false propaganda, Hazrat Mirza’s organization in Lahore issued a proclamation, dated August 27, 1900, which stated that con- trary to the allegations of Pir Golarwi’s disciples, no proclamation from Pir Golarwi himself unconditionally accepting Hazrat Mirza’s proposal had ever been delivered to Hazrat Mirza’s organization. Nor had Hazrat Mirza ever received a telegram from Pir Golarwi agreeing to the original terms for the proposed commentary-writing contest. The proclamation from Hazrat
Mirza’s organization requested the following testimony from Pir Golarwi:
In the presence of four intelligent and respectable Hindus, let Pir Golarwi take an oath within three days to the effect that he had truly sent telegrams to Hazrat Mirza about the contest. Let Pir Golarwi swear by Allah, and show us the real proclamation that he alleges contains his personal indication to Hazrat Mirza that he would participate in the
contest in accordance with the rules enumerated in Hazrat Mirza’s proclamation dated July 20, 1900, and also contains an affirmation that if he is vanquished, he will pledge allegiance to Hazrat Mirza… We will subsequently give Pir Golarwi fifty one rupees as a gift. But if he does otherwise, then people should judge for themselves his integrity, or the lack thereof.
Pir Golarwi chose not to reply to the above proclamation either, and instead remained content with the manner in which his disciples were deceiving the public. Meanwhile, Hazrat Mirza had issued a proclamation of his own on August 25, 1900, which was published immediately on its arrival in Lahore. Therein, Hazrat Mirza repeated the terms of the July 20, 1900, proclamation and reiterated the fact that the proposed contest was entirely governed by the spirit of the Quran’s teachings. The proposed contest was also better for Pir Golarwi as well because:
In this way, he (Pir Golarwi) would have been acknowledged as a scholar by everyone, as well as a saint by his disciples. Alas! He did not accept. Because an outright refusal would have besmirched his scholarship and religious standing, he resorted to deviousness, and stated that he accepted our conditions but that first my beliefs would be debated in the light of the Quran and the Sunnah (tradition of Prophet Muhammad). If Maulvi Batalvi and two other people judged me as erring in this debate, then I would have to pledge allegiance to him. After this, the commentary writing contest could also take place if I wanted.
Let people judge for themselves whether Pir Golarwi accepted my invitation or whether he rejected it. Surely, Pir Golarwi is being face- tious and frivolous when he proposes that the outcome of the discussions on the issue of beliefs should be left to Maulvi Batalvi, when he knows fully well that Maulvi Batalvi is my foremost oppo- nent. For him to judge me as truthful would require him to relinquish his longstanding enmity and hostility towards me. However, the adju- dication of the commentary writing contest under oath by Maulvi Batalvi is a different matter. If God miraculously inspires one party in a doctrinal contest, all those present – let alone Maulvi Batalvi – would cry out spontaneously that Allah has aided the righteous party with the Holy Spirit. When the truth is made so manifestly obvious, no one can dare to swear falsely. This is quite unlike an ordinary debate in which simpleminded people are always convinced that they are right and have no hesitation in swearing to the truth of their position.
Following this, Hazrat Mirza reiterated that the reason for his refrain- ing from the verbal debate was the pledge that he had taken in his book Anjam Atham. How could such a pledge be broken for people who resorted to abusive language in trivial matters, and for people who wrote letters that were replete with filth and vileness? Hazrat Mirza suggested that a possible alternative to the verbal debate could be the book titled Tuhfa Golarwiyya that he was writing at that time, and which dealt with his claims. When this book was published and Pir Golarwi had had a chance to write a reply, peo- ple would know what his arguments were and how Pir Golarwi replied to the same.
Incendiary behavior of Pir Golarwi’s disciples
Even after Hazrat Mirza’s proclamation of August 25, 1900, Pir Golarwi did not break his silence. Acting in a manner reminiscent of Abdullah Atham, Pir Golarwi could not muster the courage to enter into a contest with Hazrat Mirza despite persistent instigation of many people. But his disciples unashamedly indulged in hooliganism; they hurled denuncia- tions against the person of Hazrat Mirza, and did their utmost to make life intolerable for Hazrat Mirza’s disciples.
No sooner had Pir Golarwi arrived in Lahore than his disciples and others who held his beliefs went on a rampage. They made it impossible for Hazrat Mirza’s disciples to pass through the marketplace without being blasted by abusive language and obscene curses. Pir Golarwi’s disciples would jump about and shout abuses at Hazrat Mirza’s disciples, evidently regarding this as an act of virtue. The prevailing situation in the streets and thoroughfares of the city of Lahore was regrettable, but even more appalling was the fact that this horrid behavior spilled over into places of worship, the mosques. Disciples of Pir Golarwi would stand in mosques, and even climb onto the lecterns, and read aloud abysmally foul poetry. During such inci- dents, Pir Golarwi himself would preside over the sessions, and none in his gathering gave any thought to what purpose they were using mosques, the houses of God.
As soon as the disciples of Hazrat Mirza affixed any poster containing their proclamations to a wall, Pir Golarwi’s disciples would tear it down because they knew very well that people would be influenced by Hazrat Mirza’s message of truth. And Pir Golarwi’s disciples held street corner meetings all over the city of Lahore in which false and completely unfounded allegations were made against Hazrat Mirza. Jaffer Zatalli tried to satirize Hazrat Mirza by publishing what Jaffer Zattali falsely described were his own revelations. When Pir Golarwi was informed that Jaffer Zatalli had published some false revelations in an attempt to mock Hazrat Mirza,
Pir Golarwi listened unabashedly and with great interest when the posters containing those false revelations were read out to him. In fact, Jaffer Zatalli was lauded for his inventiveness and enterprise! Hazrat Mirza was personal- ly targeted with letters containing such vile abuses that it would have caused even a person of low moral values to blush and cringe.
In short, Pir Golarwi’s supporters exhibited the worst excesses of hooliganism. Announcements were made in the mosques that Hazrat Mirza deserved to be put to death, and hooligans stomped and cursed, and maligned Hazrat Mirza to their heart’s content. Pir Golarwi’s disciples once barged into a mosque where Hazrat Mirza’s followers used to pray with Maulvi Ghulam Husain, the custodian of the mosque, leading the prayers. They raised a big hue and cry, and tried to incite the nearby dwellers to organize themselves to prevent the disciples of Hazrat Mirza from entering that mosque in the future. These acts only bespeak the callousness and the oppo- sition to truth that was harbored by those people — the list of such squalid deeds goes on and on. Glancing at the deeds of such people, one’s soul shud- ders and one begins to wonder if there was any fear of God in their hearts. Was their behavior befitting of those who are pious and God-fearing, or was it the sort of behavior associated with those who are falsifiers and transgres- sors?
But Hazrat Mirza had directed his disciples in accordance with the
Quranic dictate: “…turn away from the ignorant” (7:199) to listen silently to the rude words of Pir Golarwi’s disciples and to refrain from retaliating in kind. He directed them to be patient and to avoid returning a curse with a curse, and in fact to avoid saying anything to those who addressed them vile- ly and abusively. He instructed them to practice these precepts so that they would not displease God, in addition to facing the storm of abusiveness from those people. He directed them that they should spend those days with patience and with forbearance, and that if anyone wanted to listen to them with politeness, then they should try to help make that person understand. Hazrat Mirza also reminded his disciples to always remain mindful of the noble and legendary examples set by the sahaba (Prophet Muhammad’s companions). Supporters of righteousness would always succeed, and false- hood will always shrink and cower away in the presence of righteousness.
Final reply to Pir Golarwi’s objection
The slanderous and inflammatory activities of Pir Golarwi’s group had now exceeded every limit of tolerance, and all this was taking place right before the very eyes of Pir Golarwi. But instead of stopping the foul behav- ior of his disciples, he simply continued to watch with amusement as they engaged in all kinds of deceitful acts and falsification. Finally, with the intent
of bringing closure to the controversy with Pir Golarwi, Hazrat Mirza published a proclamation on August 28, 1900. In that announcement, he invited Pir Golarwi once again to participate in the commentary-writing con- test, the terms of which were detailed yet again. However, to complete his argumentation with Pir Golarwi, Hazrat Mirza further added that since Pir Golarwi was clearly unwilling to participate in the contest, he (Hazrat Mirza) would furnish yet another straightforward method to settle the matter as fol- lows:
And the format of this (proposed) debate is not of the type I had sworn to give up; this format will be that … I will be allowed to address a public gathering…for three hours in which I will only explain my claims and the supporting evidence, without in any way directing my speech at Pir Golarwi. When I have concluded my address, Pir Golarwi will rise and similarly address the public for three hours, giv- ing evidence to show that indeed it is proven from the Quran and the Sunnah (the tradition of Prophet Muhammad) that the Messiah will one day descend from the heaven. Following this, the public can them- selves weigh and compare the two addresses.
Hazrat Mirza further observed in the preceding announcement that many of Pir Golarwi’s followers in Lahore had resorted to unruly behavior and had made incendiary statements – even decreeing that it would be justi- fiable to kill him (i.e., Hazrat Mirza). Since the Quran has enjoined in the verse, “and cast not yourselves to perdition with your own hands,” (2:195) i.e., that one should avoid self destructive behavior, Hazrat Mirza stipulated that the Muslim dignitaries of Lahore – naming for example Nawab Ghulam Mahbub Subhani, Nawab Fateh Ali Khan, Deputy Barkat Ali Khan and oth- ers — should undertake the responsibility of maintaining peace. If they did, then Hazrat Mirza agreed to travel to Lahore for the public meeting. Hazrat Mirza personally undertook the responsibility of orderly conduct on the part of his disciples, and offered to deposit two thousand rupees as surety with the Lahore dignitaries. He urged these dignitaries to step forward, assume over- sight of the contest and preserve an orderly peace so that truth could be distinguished from falsehood in the interest of Islam. After all, dissension between Muslims is not a desirable thing.
Decampment of Pir Golarwi
Hazrat Mirza published this announcement on Tuesday, August 28, 1900. Since it had been publicized that Pir Golarwi would remain in Lahore till the following Friday, this announcement was sent from Qadian to Lahore by hand so that it could be presented to him on Friday. However, Pir Golarwi was faced with an unexpected problem.
The intelligentsia in Lahore invited Pir Golarwi to perform his Friday prayer in the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, and to address the congregation so that the residents of Lahore could derive benefit from his knowledge and scholarship — Pir Golarwi was absolutely flabbergasted when he learned about this request. He did not have the courage to address an audience of educated people. Speaking before his dis- ciples was one thing, since there he could routinely deliver impassioned speeches that were punctuated with absurdities. But speaking with a mod- icum of sense and discernment before a gathering of enlightened people was an entirely different matter!
Initially, Pir Golarwi tried to evade the invitation, but the people sim- ply became more insistent in their request to hear him. Seeing that his ability and scholarship were about to be divulged, Pir Golarwi saw the solution to this dilemma in beating a hasty retreat from the city.
Hence, prior to the upcoming Friday, it was learned one day that Pir Golarwi had departed from Lahore for his native village of Golrah. At the time of his departure, Pir Golarwi instructed his disciples not to read any books or announcements by Hazrat Mirza. The sudden departure of Pir Golarwi from Lahore compelled Hazrat Mirza to send the proclamation, which he had written on August 28, 1900, via registered mail, to Pir Golarwi’s attention in the village of Golrah.
Along with that proclamation was a supplementary letter from Hazrat Mirza’s organization based in Lahore that offered to pay the travel expenses of Pir Golarwi and two of his attendants, if Pir Golarwi accepted Hazrat Mirza’s proposal and decided to travel to Lahore for the contest. However, Pir Golarwi deemed it best to refrain from replying to that registered letter, and felt content with basking in the accomplishment of his disciples who had spun a web of deception and misunderstanding in the public’s mind.
1. Pir Mehar Ali Shah had boasted on page 81 of his book Shams-ul-Hidaya that he had been granted an understanding of the Quran. Had he humbly accepted his lack of knowledge and not bragged about being a dervish, there would have been no need for a challenge. But now he was a claimant of both these qualities.