The arrival of Baba Chattu and the Traveler of Baghdad in Qadian
Towards the end of October 1906, Sheikh Muhammad Chattu, alias Baba Chattu, an aged but prominent resident of Lahore arrived in Qadian. This happened to be a time when I was also residing in Qadian. Baba Chattu had previously belonged to the Ahl-e-Hadith sect, but had subsequently begun subscribing to the Ahl-e-Quran philosophy popularly known as the Chakralvi sect.
In fact, Baba Chattu’s residence in Lahore was the center of Chakralvi activities in the city. Baba Chattu was accompanied by two other members ofthis sect, one of whom was Dr. Syed Muhammad Yusuf, whose pseudonym was Traveler of Baghdad.
It is not entirely clear why he was known as the Traveler of Baghdad because he had neither Baghdadi features nor a clerical countenance. In fact, he gave the appearance of being from the United Provinces with his short cropped beard, his long, green silk outer coat, and his glib talk. In fact, itwas because of his glib talk that Baba Chattu had brought him to Qadian, hoping that this would help them be victorious there.
Meeting with Maulvi Nur-ud-Din
Baba Chattu and party first called on Maulvi Nur-ud-Din and engaged him in a discussion of Chakralvi beliefs. Maulvi Nur-ud-Din had authored a tract on the Chakralvi beliefs, which was still unpublished. He brought out the manuscript and began to read out the relevant passages of the book to them. The arguments he had adduced against the Chakralvi beliefs were entirely logical, based on the Quran, and supported with convincing argu- ments.1 Maulvi Nur-ud-Din had not quite finished when the Traveler of Baghdad interjected, “Sir! Do not inconvenience yourself with reading this as our leader (i.e., Maulvi Abdullah Chakralvi) has already answered all these issues.” When the Traveler of Baghdad was asked to provide the pres- ent company with a few of the answers given by their leader as a sample, he began to drivel, and soon the party got up to leave without having answered anything. However, Baba Chattu’s grandson, Hakim Muhammad Husain Qureshi, disclosed that their group would be staying in Qadian for another four or five days and that there would be ample scope for further discussion.
Meeting with Hazrat Mirza
That same day, the Chakralvi elders met Hazrat Mirza in the Mubarak Mosque. Baba Chattu asked Hazrat Mirza to prove his claim of being the Imam (spiritual leader) from the Quran. Hazrat Mirza’s response was very detailed and lengthy, a summary of whichin my own words is as follows:
The proof of the Divine appointment of any person, who claims to be sent by God regardless of whether he is sent as a prophet, Imam or a reformer, should be the same. So if you claim the Quran to have been sent by God, then give me the proof for this claim and I shall use the same arguments to prove to you that I have been sent by God.
Hazrat Mirza’s proposed method provided an easy way to resolve the issue, but Baba Chattu was left clueless. The Traveler of Baghdad tried to save the situation with his loquaciousness and responded: “Baba Chattu did not understand you. Allow me to explain.
We all believe in the veracity of the Quran; so now what we need is for you to prove your claim from the Quran.” In response, Hazrat Mirza once again explained to them in great detail: “Since you too consider the Quran to be from Allah, I am putting forward an easy way to arrive at a decision.
You put forward the arguments on the basis of which you consider the Quran to be from Allah and I will use the same arguments to prove to you that I am from Allah too. So please state your arguments.” In response, the Traveler of Baghdad embarked on some irrelevant rambling. One wonders whether he was aware of any argument at all for the Divine origin of the Quran ordid he only accept the Quran as a matter of faith. That is to say, just as he had rejected the hadith at the behest of Maulvi Abdullah Chackralvi, similarly, perhaps he had accepted the Quran at his behest. Or his purpose was not to search for the truth but he just came toplay a game of winner and loser.
In short, the Traveler of Baghdad absolutely refused to budge towards the solution Hazrat Mirza was proposing despite repeatedattempts by Hazrat Mirza to explain the efficacy of his proposed method in arriving at an answer to the question they had posed. Eventually, the Traveler of Baghdad, perhaps spurred on by the rhythm of his glibness, blurted out: “I challenge you to a mubahalah(prayer duel or mutual imprecation).”
Hazrat Mirza responded: “Before the parties can engage in a prayer duel, it is necessary for the challenging party to be absolutely clear about the claims and evidence of the challenged party. It is advisable, therefore, that you read one of my books so that the evidence regardingmy claims is clearly understood by you beyond any ambiguity or doubt. Then, by all means you can have a prayer duel with me.” The Traveler of Baghdad responded: “This is no big deal! Give me the book and I will glance through it in an hour or two.” HazratMirza replied: “You may certainly go through the book in an hour or two, but after you have been through the book, I will ask you a few questions that will show whether you have actually read the book and fully understood the arguments adduced therein.”
On hearing about the question and answer session that would take place, the Traveler of Baghdad was nonplussed and said: “If an examination has to take place, then it will take me three days to read the book, and I have to leave today.” In reply, it was impressed on him that he had come to research the truth, and should stay on in Qadian for a longer period. He was assured that all effort would be made to ensure that his stay was comfortable and that he was not inconvenienced in any manner. But the Traveler of Baghdad refused to be convinced. Interestingly, the initial infor- mation they had given out was that they would be staying for a number of days, but now it appeared thatthey could not wait to leave.
The book Haqiqat-ul-Wahy that was to be given to the Traveler of Baghdad for perusal existed only in a manuscript form as it had not yet been published and therefore could not be given to the Chakralvigroup to take away with them. Finally, it was decided that when the book was published, a copy would be sent to the Traveler of Baghdad in Lahore. After studying the book, he would come to Qadian and be examined to see if he understood the issues involved. Onsuccessfully passing the exam, he would be eligible to enter into a prayer duel. The Chakralvi party departed from Qadian that same day.
Hazrat Mirza’s letter regarding the prayer duel (mubahalah)
It so happened that new spiritual signs were being manifested during those days and Hazrat Mirza desired that all these new signs should be included in the book Haqiqat-ul-Wahy. This delayed the publication of the book.
Consequently, in reply to a letter from theTraveler of Baghdad, Hazrat Mirza wrote that the publication of the book could not take place directly because it was currently unfinished, but that if he came to Qadian and read the portion of Haqiqat-ul-Wahy that had already been printed, it would sufficientlyeluci- date the matter of his claims and the prayer duel could then take place if he desired. Neither the Traveler of Baghdad nor his friend Baba Chattu replied to the letter directly, but in an article in the monthly Chakralvi magazine, they made absurd claims whilecleverly concealing the full facts. The article ended
with the accusation: “Mirza Sahib reneged on his promise to send the book.” The article was attributed to Baba Chattu, but it could notpossibly have been written by him because he lacked even the elementary skills of reading and writing in Urdu and Persian. Evidently, the article was written by someone else and then attributed to Baba Chattu. It is extremely shameful and regret- table that the Chakralvigroup — a group that claims to be the standard bearer of the Quran and the Reminder — resorted to such deception, deliberate con- fusionof the truth, and misrepresentation of facts to the public.
It is established that Hazrat Mirza had clearly informed the Traveler of Baghdad in his letter that: “The book cannot be published directly. You can come to Qadian and read the book. Then if you desire, the prayer duel can be held.” It is a necessary condition before God’s punishment can afflict a denier and a falsifier that he should be unambiguously and conclusively made aware of all aspects of theissue. The Quranic command before a prayer duel can take place is clearly given in the verse: “…after the knowledge that has come to thee…” (3:61).
Then can there be a prayer duel before full knowledge has been imparted to the opposing party? Most decidedly not! Itis the height of injustice that when the Traveler of Baghdad was asked in accordance with the dictates of the Quran to make himself knowledgeable about Hazrat Mirza’s claim before entering into a prayer duel, this dictate of the Quran was conveniently ignored inorder to make some cheap points in a propaganda campaign.
However when the sole objective is to build one’s false reputation, then the consideration of truth and Quranic dictates are of little concern. Accordingly, the article in the Chakralvi magazine made nomention of Hazrat Mirza’s letter and incorrectly stated that he had reneged on his promise. In response to this deception, Hazrat Mirza directed that the following announcement be published in Badar, which appeared in its issue of January 17, 1907:
Hazrat Mirza Sahib states that I am even now ready to participate in a prayer duel at all times. The Traveler of Baghdad should come here and read the book. His hospitality will be our responsibility. Following a perusal of the book, he should take the requisite exam. In addition, I will also verbally present my claims and the evidence thereof in a speech extending over one or twohours. After that, the prayer duel can take place if he so wishes — Allah shall render His decision.
Decampment from the prayer duel
The Traveler of Baghdad neither came to Qadian, nor did he read the book in response to this announcement. God knows whither he repaired. Nevertheless, his decampment put a seal on his deception and fabrication for posterity.
- It is a pity that the manuscript disappeared and was never published.