Birmingham - UK
During the 1950s and 1960s, the UK received a large migration of labour from the Indian sub-continent. There was an obligation for the many Muslims that arrived in Britain, to fulfil their religious and spiritual needs and also to make dawah amongst the non-Muslims. To help address these needs, Hazrat Khwaja Zindapir Sahib (ra) sent his first and most senior Khalifa (spiritual representative), Hazrat Sufi Mohammed Abdullah Khan Sahib, to the UK in 1962.
By the blessings of Almighty Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and his Beloved Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and the faiz (spiritual blessings) of Hazrat Khwaja Zindapir Sahib (ra) Sufi Sahib established the largest centre of the Tariqa outside its headquarters in Kohat - there are also many sub-centres in the major towns and cities of the UK. During 1996, under the guidance of Sufi Sahib, the largest mosque in Western Europe was completed, with a capacity to accommodate 5000 worshippers at any one time. This is a true testament of Sufi Sahib’s commitment, devotion and love for his Pir Sahib (ra) in the mission he was assigned.
Hazrat Sufi Mohammed Abdullah Khan Sahib
Sufi Sahib was born in 1923 in the village of Behkri, district Chakwal, Pakistan. Upon completing his formal schooling, Sufi Sahib entered the army in 1940. He served in World War II serving in the British Army, but was taken as a prisoner of war by the Germans and held captive for a number of years. After the war, Sufi Sahib returned to Pakistan. He was very keen on reciting Naat Sharif (poem praising the Holy Prophet ) at religious gatherings at the Unit mosque within the barracks. This is where he met Hazrat Khwaja Zindapir Sahib in 1945 whilst stationed in Abbottabad.
Sufi Sahib took ba’ait (vow of allegiance) a year later in 1946, at the hand of Hazrat Khwaja Zindapir Sahib (ra). He became a disciple and continued to serve his Pir Sahib whilst they were both in the army. When Zindapir Sahib (ra) returned from Hajj in 1952, and embarked upon his Hijrat to Kohat, Sufi Sahib accompanied his Pir Sahib on that historic journey. Sufi Sahib spent much time at the Darbar during its early founding years and would regularly spend his entire leave from the army at Ghamkol Sharif. Sufi Sahib naturally became a very close companion of Zindapir Sahib (ra). Sufi Sahib continued visiting the Darbar and serving his Pir Sahib over the course of the next 10 years.
Sufi Sahib left the army in 1962 when it was decided by Hazrat Khwaja Zindapir Sahib (ra) to send him to the UK. Sufi Sahib became overcome with self-doubt in how he would manage such a task. Zindapir Sahib (ra) reassured him and stated that “Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is with you”. Upon Sufi Sahib’s departure for the UK, Zindapir Sahib (ra) conferred upon him the Khilafat (spiritual representation) of the Tariqa and gave him the following words of wisdom in 1962:
- to stay firm on the “aqeeda-e-tauheed” (belief in the oneness & supreme being of Almighty Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala)
- to always have at the forefront of your mind the “rahza” (pleasure) of Almighty Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) & His Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) before embarking upon any task
- to use your “il’m (knowledge) & aq’ l” (intellect/sense) for the “rahza” (pleasure) of Almighty Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) as this results in attaining the “shaf’qat” (love, affection) of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him)
- do not undertake any task for your personal “iz’at” (honour) or that which leads to “be-iz’zatee” (dishonour/disgrace)
Once in the UK, Sufi Sahib proceeded to Birmingham where he knew a few people with whom he had arranged to stay. He soon found employment and began on the mission his Pir Sahib had assigned for him. Sufi Sahib discovered that most Muslims were not even aware of the direction of the qibla (Makkah) in order to establish prayer. There were no Friday Juma (congregational) prayers held and the month of Ramadan passed by without knowledge. Soon, through the blessings of Almighty Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), His Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) and the faiz (spiritual blessings) of his Pir Sahib, Sufi Sahib began to reach out and touch the hearts of those he encountered. A weekly zikr circle, Friday Juma prayers and monthly Giyarvee Sharif, were initiated. Sufi Sahib acquired his own accommodation, a house in Durham Road, Sparkhill, and this became the venue for the Tariqa’s gatherings. The Tariqa began to gather momentum and the following increased to such a level that more space was needed. Sufi Sahib went on his first Hajj in 1970 which was, by the blessings of Almighty Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), the first of twenty-seven that he completed. Zindapir Sahib (ra) also attended that year and this was their first meeting since 1962.
In 1973 the Birmingham Central Mosque was built and this venue was then at this time used for the Tariqa’s annual events, the Milaad Sharif (celebration marking the birthday of Holy Prophet (peace be upon him)) and Urs Sharif (death anniversary of the founding Saint of Mohra Sharif). During 1973 the jaloos (procession) was introduced. This was the first Muslim jaloos in the history of the UK and it was led by Sufi Sahib, despite being advised by members within the Muslim community that this practice may give rise to agitation against the marchers and subject them to physical and verbal abuse. However, Sufi Sahib was not dissuaded and Alhamdulillah (all praise is due to Almighty Allah) until this day there is not been a single incident since 1973. This involved marching through the streets of Birmingham reciting the zikr “la ilaha illala” (there is no God but Allah) an open declaration of faith in public. The jaloos became an integral part of the annual Milaad and Urs Sharif celebrations.
Sufi Sahib leading the Jaloos during the early and late 1970’s
The Tariqa was expanding rapidly with a number of new followers. Sufi Sahib moved residences from Durham Road to Warwick Road, Sparkhill in 1975. The new premises were much larger and the ground floor reception rooms were converted into a mosque. This was to provide some relief to the need for space, but a similar pattern was developing and soon housing the increasing number of followers was again proving a challenge within a few years.
In 1983, Darul-Uloom Islamia Rizvia was established on Golden Hillock Road, Small Heath. A disused factory hall with four adjacent houses was purchased. The factory hall was converted into a mosque and was able to accommodate approximately 600-700 worshippers. During the mid 1980s, a number of projects aimed at the local community were launched in conjunction with Birmingham City Council. A purpose built community centre and an employment resource centre were established on the site. Also at this time, a boarding facility for students from outside of Birmingham, who were wishing to compliment their academic schooling with religious studies in particular Hifz (memorising by heart) of the Holy Quran, was established.
At this time, with the expansion of activities on the site, there was a need to find car parking facilities for the newly constructed community centre. There was vacant land opposite the Dar-ul-Uloom Islamia Rizvia, which was occupied with 35 derelict houses. The management committee enquired to its status from the City Council and the Council responded by stating that if the land was purchased for the purpose of building a mosque then the Council would sell it at a third of its actual asking price. Sufi Sahib requested that they be given a week to make a decision, and within the week the Council were taken up on their offer. On the 15th March 1992, during the holy month of Ramadan, work commenced on the construction of the Central Jamia Mosque Ghamkol Sharif, and the construction of the 3 storey mosque was completed in 1996.
Sufi Sahib participating in the construction of the Mosque and also Khalifa Haji Mirza Talib & Khalifa Haji Fazal Elahi (right)
The Mosque represented a perfect and true testament of Sufi Sahib’s commitment, devotion and love for his Pir Sahib in fulfilling the task he was assigned. The Tariqa had, in parallel with the construction of the new Mosque, also established an impressive portfolio of projects within the community, a day care centre, printing press, Ghamkol Sharif Academy (in conjunction with City College), Right Start Foundation, Sure Start, Ghamkol Sharif House (sheltered accommodation for those with mental illnesses) and a Funeral Service.
Sufi Sahib has very successfully established the Tariqa in the UK. He has devoted and committed his life in the service of Islam through his Pir Sahib. Sufi Sahib provides the perfect example of how a mureed (disciple) should relate with his Pir, possessing and displaying the utmost respect, love, devotion and obedience towards Hazrat Khwaja Zindapir Sahib (ra). Sufi Sahib states “my Hazrat Sahib (ra) is the true master of my every happiness and sorrow since taking ba’ait in 1946”.
Sufi Sahib during the annual Urs celebration in Birmingham 2008
May Almighty Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) for the sake of his Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) and our Grand Shaykh Hazrat Khwaja Zindapir Sahib (ra) raise the maqaam (rank) of our Shaykh Hazrat Sufi Mohammed Abdullah Khan Sahib and grant him health and a long life in the service of his Lord. Grant us the strength to follow his blessed example and serve Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and His Prophet (peace be upon him). Ameen