ATTITUDE VIS-Ŕ-VIS THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
never allowed himself to be influenced or over-awed by the power and authority
of the British Government of the day, and steadfastly refused to yield to the
overtures which that government made from time to time to win over his
sympathies. At the same time, he firmly avoided supporting or taking part in
movements, which were contrary to the dictates of the Quran and the Prophet’s
Refusal to participate in the Coronation Darbar of the British Emperor
In connection with the Darbar (formal installation ceremony) held in Delhi (India) in 1911 to celebrate the coronation of George V, King of England and the political Emperor of India, Hazrat also received an official invitation to participate in it. In reply, he requested to be excused from such participation. Since Hazrat had a wide following, not only in the Punjab Province and other parts of British India but also among the free tribes and Pathans of the Northwest, the Government earnestly wished him to attend the Darbar and felt truly concerned at this negative response from him.
The British Commissioner of the Rawalpindi Division accordingly sent emissaries to Hazrat to persuade him to reconsider his decision. These included a Pathan magistrate (Muzaffar Khan) and a devotee of Hazrat named Shaikh Ahmad of Gurmani Village in the Muzaffargarh district. These persons assured Hazrat that his comfortable two-way transportation would be fully taken care of, and that all he would be expected to do was to offer his salaam (salute) to the Emperor along with other religious leaders and to pray for the stability of the British regime. Hazrat, however, stuck to his earlier decision, and wrote to the Commissioner as follow:
a dervish and attendance of royal courts has never been looked upon with favour
by dervishes. Nevertheless, since the present Government has not imposed any
restrictions upon the adherents of our true faith of Islam, I pray for the King
from my abode here”.
British Government’s reaction to Hazrat’s refusal of its invitation
A report on the proceedings of the Darbar published later in the London Times indicated that Hazrat’s refusal to attend the Darbar was rooted in the recalcitrance of the North-West Frontier tribes and pathans whose spiritual and religious leader he was. The Government should, therefore, keep a vigilant eye on the political implications of this refusal. The Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, Sir Louis Dean, accordingly observed in a meeting of his Council at Shimla that his government would investigate the reason for the Pir of Golra’s refusal to attend the Darbar and would “take appropriate action” in the light of the findings. Following this, the Commissioner of Rawalpindi sent a message to Hazrat (R.A) to meet him in order to exchange views on the matter. Once again, Hazrat refused to comply with the summons and asked the Commissioner to come to Golra if he wished to meet him.
This caused a good deal of concern and agitation in the Frontier and the Punjab Provinces. Some influential people met the Lieut.-Governor to apprise him of this situation, and confidential reports about it were also provided to Government by its intelligence agencies. Simultaneously, the Government's legal Remembrances advised that non-participation in the Darbar, or refusal to be associated with the inquiry ordered by Government into this matter, by a person who was neither a government servant nor a recipient of its largesse in any other form, did not infringe any rules. In consequence of all this, the Lieut.-Governor directed the Commissioner of Rawalpindi to see Hazrat personally (in Golra) and try to end the state of agitation among the circle of his devotees. Accordingly, the Commissioner visited Golra and met Hazrat personally, along with Magistrate Muzaffar Khan and Mian Karim Bukhsh Sethi of Peshawar (a close devotee of Hazrat), in order to clear the atmosphere of perturbation and tension that had been caused by the Government's earlier action.
Around this time, some people enviously disposed towards Hazrat decided to exploit Hazrat's refusal to attend the Royal Darbar at Delhi in another way. They brought up the charge that Hazrat was the Pir (Spiritual leader) of the thieves and robbers living in the neighbouring villages, and that he was providing means of livelihood to dependents of escaped convicts of the area. The death of a dacoit named Jahandad, and Hazrat's participation in his funeral prayers gave these people a further occasion to promote their vicious designs. They charged that while other ulama had refused to join the funeral prayers of this dacoit, Hazrat had readily done so. On learning about this, the Deputy Commissioner (District Officer) of Rawalpindi asked Hazrat to clarify the matter. Selected excerpts from Hazrat's self-explanatory reply to the Deputy Commissioner are reproduced below:
i. If, by virtue of your office of Deputy Commissioner, you consider theft, robbery or murder of an innocent person to be evil acts, we (as Muslims) also consider these acts to be sinful on the basis of divine guidance contained in the Holy Book (i.e., The Quran) and dictates of reason.
ii. The aforesaid crimes can be committed or abetted only by a person who is highly ignorant or greedy.
A Pir is expected to provide everyone coming to him with correct guidance
in accordance with the Divine Book. Conversely, only a person who acts in
accordance with the Pir's guidance deserves to be called a true murid
(disciple). By the Grace of Allah, we and our ancestors have always enjoined
upon our murids to do good and to shun evil. Those who do not follow our
guidance do not deserve to be our murids in the real sense.
Since our Great Creator provides ample sustenance to us directly, without
the intervention of criminals, we do not need to please such criminal or to be
beholden to them for any help.
If you, as Deputy Commissioner, desist from encouraging evil acts because
of the fear of accountability to your superiors (such as the Divisional
Commissioner or the Governor), how can the fear of our Supreme Lord permit us to
do the same? Furthermore, in case we behave like this, how can the thousands of
knowledgeable, learned, and honest people who have entered into bonds of
discipleship with us continue to be loyal to us and not sever those bonds?
Undoubtedly, the children and widows of such criminals do, on very rare
occasions, come to the langar here in search of food and other sustenance. If,
however, the Government, out of sheer mercy, does not deport such people from
its territory despite the criminal record of their heads of families, what is
wrong with some well-to-do person providing occasional sustenance to them as
It is also true that the dependents of such criminals sometimes do come
to us for prayers according to their own way of thinking. In such cases, we pray
that Allah provide them with correct guidance so that they desist from, rather
than continue to do, criminal acts and escape punishment in future.
If the Christians approach their priests for prayers in similar
circumstances, and the latter pray on the lines aforementioned, would the
priests be treated as abettors of crime?
Those different persons who have forwarded complaints to you on this
point have failed to realize the difference between the true murids and those
who are so in the name only, and have also construed acts of charity towards the
dependants of convicted criminals as amounting to the encouragement of crime.
This is based obviously on either ignorance or jealousy and ill-will.
Our principle “weakness” is that we are by nature apposed to flattery
and sycophancy in any form. As a result, those who seek such flattery from us
are apt to be disappointed and to resort to libel against us in their reports to
In case under consideration, I just happened to be present in the Jamia
Mosque on a Friday. At the end of the prayers, a call was made in accordance
with the usual custom that the dead body of a person was awaiting funeral
prayers. I therefore joined the prayers along with the other people present in
the mosque. Does this mean either that the deceased was a pious man, or that we
were pleased with his misdeeds. It has also to be seen whether Islam permits the
offering of funeral prayers for such a person or not. Even if the reply to this
question be in the negative, those participating in the prayers cannot by any
stretch of imagination be accused to be either happy at the misdeeds of the dead
person or his abettors. This has never happened so far in history.
this time, a Muslim Government official, who had never met Hazrat before but was
nevertheless his devotee at heart, met him to give the news that Government was
considering his deportation from the country on the basis of a confidential
recommendation forwarded to it by its intelligence agencies. Hazrat merely
smiled at this disclosure and said: ”The Government which is planning to
deport me does not seem to know what Providence plans to do with itself.” Not
long after this, the British Government got involved in a life-and-death
struggle with Germany as a result of the First World War 1914-1918, and the
government file pertaining to Hazrat's proposed deportation had to be put in
indefinite cold storage.
this period, Hazrat wrote the following Punjabi verses by way of supplication
addressed to Syedna Ghaus-ul- Azam Shaikh, Abdul Qadir Jilani:
letter that I have written with tears in my eyes, go and seek out the
whereabouts of the one who lives in Baghdad!
to him the poignant message of these eyes of mine longing to see him!
sadness has reached such proportions that painful sighs are constantly emanating
from my burning breast! "
are now threatening thy old-time slave with (retribution through) the orderlies
(of persons of high office!)
" O thou who holds the hand (of thy distressed devotees!), who can they look to except thyself (for solace and support in their plight?). "
In another incident,
the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Rawalpindi had a message sent to Hazrat to
see him at his bungalow. On Hazrat's refusal to do so because his schedule did
not permit this, the SP came himself and met Hazrat at Golra Sharif. He told
Hazrat that he had received report that some absconding persons accused of grave
crimes like robbery and murder were Hazrat’s devotees, and that they therefore
sometimes took refuge in the Golra shrine and also concealed their arms there.
Hazrat responded to this remark as follows: “People come to me for prayers and
for religious guidance. I enjoin upon them to do good and to shun evil. Those
who choose to stay here for sometime are treated as guests and served
accordingly. I do not know, nor do I have any interest in, who such people are
or what their position is in the eyes of law. In case you come to know about
their presence here, you are free to have them arrested or to recover the arms
in their possession”. Hazrat then added: “Please also note yourself, and
inform your government as well, that I know quite well what your intentions are
about. Do remember, however, that whatever honour and respect I am accorded in
this part of the country has been bestowed upon me, not by you or your
Government but by the Supreme Power, Who alone (and no one else) is therefore in
a position to take it away from me”.
In still another
similar incident, a newly appointed Deputy Commissioner (D.C) of Rawalpindi (an
Englishman) sent a message to Hazrat to see him at his residence. Hazrat’s
reply to the message was in these words: “There can only be two possible
reasons for our meeting: Either (1) I may need your help in getting something
done. This, however, is not the case; or (2) you may have some reason to see me;
if so, it is appropriate for you to come and see me instead of the other way
round. You should, therefore, please reconsider your summons to me to see you”.
On receiving Hazrat’s
reply, the Deputy Commissioner (D.C) sought the advice of one Qazi Sirajuddin
(Barrister-at-Law then serving as a Government advocate) in the matter. The
latter apprised the D.C of the high religious and spiritual status of Hazrat,
and advised him to proceed in the matter with care and discretion. Grasping the
soundness of this advice, the D.C informed Hazrat that he would come himself
shortly to see him. A few days later, he visited Golra Sharif along with his
wife and daughter, and was received on arrival by Hazrat Babuji and another
devotee of Hazrat. When the D.C met Hazrat in his room, Hazrat shook hands with
him, but withdrew his hand when D.C’s wife sought a handshake. Thereupon, the
lady observed to her husband in English that perhaps the Pir Sahib had refused
to shake hands with her because she was a sinful person. When her words were
translated to Hazrat, he clarified that the religion of Islam forbade shaking
hands with stranger women. Hearing this, the D.C’s daughter confirmed that the
Holy Bible also contained a similar injunction. Some excerpts from the
conversation between Hazrat and the D.C. and his family members on this occasion
are reproduced below:
Hazrat’s last observation, the D.C’s daughter requested him to pray for rain
since rain seemed to be good for the people around that time. Hazrat smiled at
this wise remark, and put up his hand to pray, adding that it would rain if this
was really beneficial. He asked those present to pray also. Providentially, it
did rain during the course of the day. The D.C. was so impressed by this that he
came again the next day and sought Hazrat’s prayers.
Hazrat’s balanced stance on English education and interest in Islamic education
remained perpetually conscious of the need for the establishment and survival of
Islamic religious institutions. He was not opposed to the learning of English as
a language and in fact regarded this as essential for success in business and
related fields during the British regime. Hazrat nevertheless noted that English
literature contained material palpably prejudicial to religious and national
solidarity. He therefore advocated the teaching of Islamic sciences side by side
with English education (if necessary, domestically or in Islamic Madressahs on a
part-time basis), in order to guard against a decline in the Muslim societies
Islamic consciousness and values. Hazrat strongly condemned the imbibing of such
western culture as resulted in alienation from Islam or in the blind imitation
of reason and logic only. In line with this view, Hazrat firmly desisted from
having the children of his own family exposed to English education.
Prediction about likely impact of Western education on Muslim society
1896, the Muslims of Rawalpindi decided to set up an Islamia High School in the
sadder area. Work on the project had, however, to be suspended in midstream
because of lack of funds. At the request of Qazi Sirajuddin and Seth Mamunji
(Adamjee, two leading citizens), therefore, Hazrat participated in a public
meeting held as part of the fund-raising campaign, and his speech at the meeting
helped mobilize all the funds needed to complete and operationalize the school
the other hand, Hazrat declined to accept the request of Sahibzadah Abdul Qayyum,
well-known educationist of the N.W.F.P, to extend similar active support to his
plan to set up the Islamia College at Peshawar. Instead, he told the Sahibzadah “he would pray for the success of his project”. Disappointed at this
lukewarm response, Sahibzadah Sahib observed in a letter to Hazrat that while
other nations had emulated the early Muslims in expanding education and the
sciences in their societies, the Muslims themselves had lost the educational
heritage that their ancestors had left to them. Thereupon, Hazrat wrote back to
the Sahibzadah as follows:
observation has come as a surprise to me. Dear Sir! In the sight of Allah and
His Prophet (P.B.U.H) the real sciences are the sciences of religion and Shariah
(the divinely approved sciences). By the Grace of Allah, these sciences, as well
as those serving their cause, are safe and well protected even now. Other
nations do not posses those sciences in any measure at all. Your observation is,
therefore, far from true. The charge that we have lost our heritage of education
and science would be valid only if in the name of advancing the cause of Islam,
we were to adopt the path of Western education, which in fact constitutes
economic and material advancement, not the advancement of Islam (-Allah is the
best to take care and He is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy-XII, 64).
The future will show that education under this new system would result only in
abandonment by the Muslims injunctions of the Islamic Shariah, and in their
seeking worldly honour and material gain except of course those whom Allah
guards from such temptations in his Supreme Mercy.
Our obligation is only to proclaim (the truth)! “
Movement of India
Pir Meher Ali Shah Sahib (R.A) opposed the participation of Muslims, both in the
Hindu sponsored Indian National Congress which ostensibly aimed at liberating
India from British rule, and in the movements of Khilafat (Caliphate) and Hijrat
(migration) launched by the Congress-dominated Jamiyat-ul-Ulama-e-Hind. The
latter two movements were meant to support the cause of the Ottoman Turkish
“Caliphate”, then beleaguered by European and other powers inimical to
Islam. Hazrat argued that the true Caliphate of Islam had survived for only 30
(thirty) years after the passing away of the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H), where-after
it had degenerated into “sultanate” and monarchy. If, he said, the Islamic
Caliphate were to be regarded as having continued to exist un-interrupted in the
later periods of history, it would be as a worthy caliph, which could be
patently wrong. On this basis, Hazrat regarded the Turkish regime as a sultanate
and not as Caliphate, and therefore undeserving of the support of Muslims living
in other countries (e.g., India) as a “sacred cause”. At the same time, he
did back the provision of all possible help to Turkey as a fellow-Muslim state,
and himself donated the valuables of his household as well as some horses
belonging to the shrine at Golra for this purpose.
stance on this point was initially opposed strongly by leaders of the Khilafat
movement, and several newspapers run by these forces wrote articles and
editorials denouncing it. With the passage of time, however events proved his
stance to be fully correct, and most of those initially against it were
compelled one by one to change their views and to join anti-Congress forces.
Muslims who had sold their properties at throw-away prices and migrated
to other countries eventually had to return.
1920 when Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, the learned editor of the then well known Urdu
daily newspaper (The Zamindar), came to Golra Sharif to discuss the issues of
Khilafat and migration, Hazrat-e-Ala placed before him his point of view
which rested on the principles of Shariah. The Maulana kept quiet but
before taking his leave he said to Hazrat Pir Meher Ali: “ I had actually come
to this court, ruled as it is by men of Allah, to plead for a state for the
Muslims of India.” Hazrat replied: “ I pray to All Mighty Allah and ask you
to join me in the prayer that He may grant freedom to the Muslims of this
country and give them a government which can be of real service to Islam.”
Aversion to politics
mentioned before, Hazrat Pir Meher Ali Shah Sahib (R.A) never took part in
active politics. On several occasions he was requested to lend support to
someone in the elections for the provincial assembly but he refused and made it
clear that in his opinion such activities had nothing to do with Islam and as
such he did not want to meddle in them.
Pir Meher Ali Shah (R.A) used to say: “ I do not approve of the visits of the rulers to
this place nor do I wish to include them among my disciples. If I did so then
those in need would come and request me to put in a good word for them. That is
something I do not like but nor do I wish to disappoint them”.
someone who wishes to stay aloof from material wealth and temporal power there
are no other options. This was the reason he always tried to keep himself away
from the government officials and the rulers of princely states. But in spite of
all his efforts many of them affiliated themselves with him, joined his fold and
received blessings from him. Prince Habib Ullah, who afterwards became the ruler
of Kabul, secretly approached Hazrat-e-Ala for blessings and stayed with him for
two days. No one came to know about him. The only person who ever learned about
his visit and that too incidentally, was a servant of Hazrat. It so happened
that he was witnessing the royal procession of Ameer Habib Ullah pass through the
Chandni Chowk, Delhi. Suddenly had a glimpse of the Ameer and at once recalled
that he was the same person he had served tea for two days at Golra Sharif.
Similarly, Nawab Sadiq Khan Abbasi, the Ameer of Bahawalpur state, held Hazrat
in great respect and wanted to become his disciple, but his wish did not
materialize. Nawab Wali-ud-daulah, a noble of Hyderabad Deccan was a disciple of
Hazrat. When he was advised by his physician to go on a voyage for reasons of
health he sought Hazrat’s permission for a trip to London. Hazrat’s reply to
him was highly significant. He advised him to go for Hajj. The Nawab did
accordingly and soon after performing Hajj died in the sacred city of Madina. For
an hour and half his dead body, ready for burial, lay in front of
Rauza-e-Tayyeba, the mausoleum of Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). People who
passed by his dead body felt envious of the deceased. Hazrat Pir Syed Jamaat Ali
Shah of Alipur who happened to be there, observed: “O people, see how
wonderful are the results of affiliation with a man of God”.