First foreign tour: September 1953 – May 1954
Before the partition of India in 1947, Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi had travelled from Lahore to several parts of the subcontinent in connection with the Islamic propagation work of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement, in some cases for quite lengthy stays. His first tour outside the subcontinent began in 1953.
Departure from Lahore
We translate below from Lahore Ahmadiyya Urdu organ Paigham Sulh, 16 September 1953 (p. 2), the news of his departure:
“For the information of all branches of the Jama‘at, we report that Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi will be leaving for Dutch Guiana [Suriname] on 29 September. He is going by the Pakistan Mail [railway service]. At his age, to go to a remote place, leaving the comfort of home, purely to preach the message of Truth, is a very great sacrifice. In this age, only the Ahmadiyya Movement has produced such mujahids who truly place service of religion above worldly considerations and raise the name of God and His Messenger to the ends of the earth, and present the real picture of Islam before the world. Members of the Movement are requested to come to say farewell to the Maulana on 29 September at the Pakistan Mail and to pray that Allah the Exalted make this missionary journey of the Maulana a source of blessing for Islam and the Movement, ameen.”
(Personal note by Website admin, Dr Zahid Aziz: Although I was under two years old at the time of the departure of the Maulana, I clearly recall being present at Lahore railway station and sitting in his railway compartment before the train left. A crowd of people gathered on the platform to say farewell to him, and I remember them calling out Allahu Akbar as the train departed. At the time my family lived in the Maulana’s house at 24 Muslim Town (now 24 Salik Street), Lahore. In his absence I sometimes used to go to his rooms to sit at his desk.)
Stay in England, 1953
On his way to Suriname, Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi stayed in England for about two months. It was reported in The Islamic Review (Woking, Surrey, England):
“Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi, author of Muhammad in World Scriptures, arrived in England from Pakistan on 8th October 1953. After his short stay in the United Kingdom he will be leaving for the West Indies as a missionary. He will be staying there for about a year.”
(November 1953 issue, p. 34)
“On Sunday 8th November 1953, Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi spoke on the Prophecies about the advent of the Prophet Muhammad in Hindu scriptures.”
(December 1953 issue, p. 40)
In the reports of meetings of the Woking Muslim Mission at its London rooms, 18 Eccleston Square, Victoria, SW1, it is stated:
“On Saturday 28th November , Father Thomas Holland D.D., Vice-Rector, Catholic Missionary Society, London, gave a talk on the ‘Message of Christianity to the Modern World’. … After the talk a few questions were asked by the audience. Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi asked whether Jesus Christ ever said that he was the only Begotten Son of God. To this the speaker replied in the negative, but added that His disciples stated that it was so, and they must have heard it from their master.”
(January 1954 issue, p. 33)
A news is also published on the same page of “the marriage between Dr. Isa A. Samad (Pakistani) and Miss Zainah Buerki (Swiss Muslim) on Sunday 29th November 1953 at 3.30 p.m. at the Mosque, Woking.” It is reported in this news that Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi was one of the two witnesses.
“Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi left for the West Indies on missionary work on 22nd December 1953, by ‘S.S. Ariguani’. After his short stay in Trinidad he will be proceeding to Dutch Guiana, where Muslims of Surinam are anxiously awaiting his arrival.”
(February 1954 issue, p. 35)
Shown below are lines from the Woking Mosque Visitors Book 1948–1954, p. 154, where Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi has signed his name (Abdul Haq) against the date 11 October 1953:
From his stay in England of 1953, we possess two letters which Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi wrote to his daughter, Mrs Akhtar Aziz, in Lahore (mother of this Website admin). These are on aerogramme forms, with the letter-head of the Woking Muslim Mission printed on one side:
Sulh, 24 February 1954 (p. 2), there is a report of Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi’s visit to Trinidad. It is stated to have been received from the Secretary of the Trinidad Muslim League in a letter in English and translated into Urdu for the paper. We do not have the original English letter, and render below in English its Urdu version:
“Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi arrived here on 5th January . A grand reception to him was provided by the President, the Mufti and other office-bearers of the Trinidad Muslim League. The same evening several hundred people from different parts of Trinidad came to welcome and meet him at a gathering in Jinnah Memorial House. Al-Haj Maulvi Ameer Ali, Mufti of Trinidad, extended him a welcome on behalf of the Muslims of Trinidad, and many others also made speeches. The Mufti in his speech expressed his desire that the Maulana would stay for some days and impart the benefit of his great scholarship to the Muslims of Trinidad. In his reply, the Maulana assured them that during his stay he will do whatever he can. He stated that he has spent much time on studying prophecies of the advent of the Prophet Muhammad in various scriptures of the world, and he would speak on this subject during his stay.
He stayed in Trinidad for 19 days, during which he visited all the important centres and gave 14 lectures. Apart from the lectures, he held discussions at meetings. All his lectures were attended by large numbers of people who liked them very much.
Apart from Muslims, followers of other religions such as Hindus and Christians also admired his lectures. People came to pay their respects to him and talks on religion were also held.
Muslims of Trinidad have benefitted greatly from his visit and they are convinced that he is a great scholar of world religions.
On 23rd January a farewell function for him was arranged by the members and office-bearers of the Trinidad Muslim League, as he was departing for Dutch Guiana [Suriname]. On this occasion, the address was presented by Mr Muhammad Ibrahim, Secretary of the Muslim League, and some others also made speeches. In reply, the Maulana expressed his thanks and said that although he is thousands of miles from home yet he does not feel as if he is a stranger here.
On the evening of 23rd January the Maulana left for Dutch Guiana. Office-bearers and members of the Trinidad Muslim League, as well as many other people, were at the airport to bid him farewell. He promised to come again to Trinidad on his return.”
Later on, Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi published an interesting article about his journey by ship to Trinidad in the Lahore Urdu magazine Ruh-i Islam, of which he was an honorary editor, and a further article about his visit (see Ruh-i Islam, June–July 1955, p. 99–104, and August–September 1955, p. 29–34 and 81–84; see also Paigham Sulh, 24 July 1954, p. 5, and 18 August, p. 7).
We translate below the later part of the Maulana’s account from the above sources:
“Conversations with an English lady scholar of religions.
During the journey by ship when I was sea sick, many people were greatly sympathetic to me. One of them was an English lady who, after finding out that I know many languages such as Sanskrit and Hebrew, said to me: You are a man of religion. Would you talk to me about religion for one hour every day? I accepted. Apart from general religious questions, we exchanged views on the basic doctrines of Christianity. When I mentioned my book Muhammad in World Scriptures, she wanted to read it, and began to study it in her spare time. After a few days, she rejected the basic doctrines of Christianity and accepted the Holy Prophet Muhammad as a true prophet. While disembarking from the ship, she asked me to promise that I would continue correspondence with her, which I have been doing up to now. To escape the London winter she was coming to spend some time in Barbados where her father had been a doctor at one time. She invited me to see Barbados, so I disembarked from the ship with her and returned in the evening when the ship was due to depart.
The next day the ship anchored at Port of Spain in Trinidad. … After descending for the ship, I had to go to customs. There I met two or three people, asking me to stay with them. I replied: When Maulvi Ameer Ali [my host] comes, I will take his advice and reply to you accordingly. While we were talking the Mufti [Maulvi Ameer Ali] arrived along with members of the Trinidad Muslim league to welcome me. It took only a few minutes to pass through the customs inspection. Proceeding further, I found other officials of the League gathered. I was introduced to them, many photographs were taken, and newspaper correspondents asked questions such as who I was, from where had I come, what am I a scholar of, how many languages do I know and how well?
From there we went in a procession of cars to my place of stay. In the afternoon a welcome address to me was presented at the Jinnah Memorial Hall. In reply I made a short speech. From the very next day, the series of speeches began. In Trinidad my stay was one day short of twenty. On one side, people in Dutch Guiana [Suriname] were impatient and asking me to come soon, and on the other people in Trinidad were insisting that I stay with them for as long as possible.”
Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi again visited Trinidad in June 1957 for two weeks during his second foreign tour. Photographs from that visit, as published in Ruh-i islam, are at this link.
In Suriname (then known as Dutch Guiana)
The above photographs show the arrival of Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi in Suriname on 24 January 1954. To see these in a larger size with more details, and other photographs, please visit this link.
In Paigham Sulh, 3 March 1954 (p. 8), there is a report sent by Abdur Rahim Jaggoe about the arrival of Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi, which we translate below:
“Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi arrived in Suriname on 24 January at 3.00 p.m. at the airport on a KLM flight. Probably more than 500 people were at the airport to receive him. After being greeted by the Muslim Boy Scouts, the other people present garlanded him. He was extended great honour on behalf of the government. He was admitted into the country without a customs or police inspection, an honour granted only to government ministers. As the airport is thirty miles from the city [Paramaribo], it took one hour for the procession of motor cars to reach the headquarters of the Anjuman Islamia. Here a large crowd was present to greet the Maulana. The meeting hall was entirely full, so a large number of people were standing outside. Mr Jamal-ud-Din made a speech about the arrival of the Maulana and our good fortune on having him with us. I myself was a student of the Maulana for one year [in Lahore in 1949], and I introduced him, mentioning great his scholarship and knowledge. After that, Mr Yaqub Khan spoke in honour of the Maulana. Then the Maulana himself stood up and recited to the people the first verse of the Surah Fatiha, and shed much light on its excellence. The audience expressed their pleasure by raising cries of welcome, and indicated that their hopes had been fulfilled and that it was a great favour and blessing of God upon them that the Maulana had come from so far away. The meeting ended with a prayer.
The Maulana was then taken by car to the resident of Mr Muhammad Raja, where he stayed for some days. On the night of 28 January, the imams and members from all the areas were invited. On 31 January at 10.00 a.m. the Maulana delivered a public speech attended by a large number of Hindus, Muslims and Christians. The title of the Maulana’s speech was Tauhid and Prophethood. The Hindu Pandits congratulated him on his speech. His speeches were published in various newspapers of the country. By the last week of this month of February the Maulana intends to visit British Guiana [now Guyana]. he is fine and well by the grace of God. After his trip he will start teaching sessions in the Quran.”
In Paigham Sulh, 26 May 1954 (p. 6, col. 3) the following brief item appeared under the heading ‘The Return of Maulana Abdul Haq’:
“This news will be received with joy that Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi has returned from his visit to Trinidad and Dutch Guiana. He arrived in Lahore on 22 May 1954 by Pakistan Express [railway service]. Some members of the Jama‘at were present at the station to greet him.”
In Paigham Sulh, 10 July 1954 (p. 4), an item appeared under the heading ‘Afternoon tea in honour of Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi’. Written by Nasir Ahmad, Secretary of the Ahmadiyya Young Men’s Association, it says:
“On 4 July 1954 an afternoon tea was arranged at Ahmadiyya Buildings by the Ahmadiyya Young Men’s Association in honour of Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi. The Maulana has returned a while ago from a missionary visit to Trinidad and Dutch Guiana.…
The Maulana related the account of his journey in a most interesting way and described the enthusiastic welcome he was given by the people of Trinidad and Dutch Guiana. He said that he stayed in Trinidad for 19 days, delivering 14 lectures in this period. In Dutch Guiana, apart from his dars of the Quran, there was a long series of lectures attended by Hindus, Muslims, Christians and local authorities with great pleasure. After listening to the speeches, people were found to be commenting that they had never before seen a religious scholar presenting Islam in this way. Mentioning the love and devotion of the people, he said that they filmed him coming down the steps of the aeroplane when he landed in Dutch Guiana, he was exempted from customs and immigration checks, and a lengthy procession was brought out to honour him. On his departure, people were tearful when they bid him farewell.”