Account of Waliya Qudsia Ward
It was July 1971 that I became a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community but through the Grace of Almighty Allah I do believe my journey began long before that.
My family lived in a small industrial town on the edge of Birmingham. I was the fourth of five children of working class parents. My mother and father worked locally. My mother was very ambitious for her children to have a Grammar school education that she was denied through poverty.
As a youngster, I was sent to the local Baptist church Sunday school. It was close to my house and I could come and go with my siblings and later, on my own. I remember the Sunday school trips to the seaside on steam trains, songs I learned in classes, later the things I learned at Girls Brigade and then the youth club. For several years of my youth it was the centre of my social life. By about the age of sixteen I was willingly attending evening service. A member of my Sunday school class was formally baptised. This ceremony impressed me and I began the pre-preparation classes to be baptised myself. After a few classes, the Vicar told me that he didn’t think I was ready to be baptised yet. I’m sure he explained it to me but I only remember thinking that it was because my family were not good enough or active enough in the church for me to be acceptable. Soon after that I stopped going to church and my interests became focussed on school activities.
I enjoyed school and feel that I had a good all-round education. My studies were science based but included Religious Education. I was very active in the basketball club. After one year of A level, I left school and home to be a nanny with a family just outside Kidderminster. While there I continued to study and gained more certificates. I applied to go to teacher training college. I did not gain a place at my chosen colleges so I went through clearing and got a place at Doncaster College of Education.
In September 1967, I started teacher training college studying primary education, Religious Education and Geography. At that time students were well cared for. Legally we were still minors(children) so there were rules and regulations to protect us that don’t exist for students now. Meals were provided in college and social rooms available for each year group where we could get to know each other between classes.
Before September ended I met Neville Ward who, like me, had not chosen Doncaster but had also gone through clearing. We often met in the common room, chatted, played basketball and cards with other students. By the end of October, we stated to ‘date’ and remained together ever after.
I will never forget that on our first date we discussed our opinions on the status of Mary, Mother of Jesus(as). What strange conversation for a first date! We were happily together for forty-five years. When he died in 2012 he was doing a detailed study of Sura Maryam from the Holy Quran!
When we finished our training we both got teaching posts in Handsworth in Birmingham. There he met Mr. Matiullah Dard working in the same school and year group who was at that time President of the local Ahmadi Muslim community. Mr. Dard was Neville’s mentor in his first year of teaching. Mr. Dard soon found that Neville was interested in history and used his interest to introduce the subject of Christianity and Islam. Mr. Dard practiced all the tabligh techniques that Khalifatul Masih 4th(ra) taught us later on. I could see that Neville was as interested in the conversations as was I. From October to December Mr. Dard frequently gave us a lift home after school and stopped for a coffee and a chat. Before the Christmas school holidays I asked Mr. Dard to buy more books about Islam for me to give Neville as a birthday present in January. I gave him £10. He brought a lot of books including some by Ch. Zafrullah Khan(ra). We both read these books.
By Easter holidays we were still interested in Islam as presented to us and decided to go to visit the mosque in London. I had a brother living in north London so we could easily stay with him and take time to visit the mosque.
I remember that we walked down Gressenhall Road past the railings of the mosque to the gate. At the gate, we hesitated and we were too timid to go inside and turned to walk away. In those days there were no security guards, it was quiet and peaceful with no one around. Before we got back past the railing on the way to Southfields station we decided it was foolish to come so far and not ring the bell. We turned around and went to ring the bell. The door was opened by Mr. Ataul Mujib Rashid, who welcomed us in and sat us in his own sitting room which was on the second floor. He went off to prepare tea then returned and sat down to talk to us. We talked for several hours. During the afternoon the time for prayer came and Rashid Sahib took us to the library and invited us to look at the books until he returned. We spent a further time talking but after a long, interesting afternoon it was time to leave.
When we returned home and read more of the books of the Promised Messiah I felt that all I had read and heard made sense. The teachings of Islam now presented to me were so clear and so reasonable, confirming what I had felt as a Christian but in a fuller and more complete way. I decided that now I needed God’s guidance to decide if this was the truth. I remembered the well-known saying of Jesus(as), ‘Ask and it shall be given seek and ye shall find…’
I began to try to pray using poses as the books told me Muslims did. I asked God in my own words to make clear to me if what I had learned was true. I didn’t know then but what I was doing was istikhaarah prayer in my own way. I remember saying to God that what I had learned seemed reasonable and right to me but only He knew the truth. I asked Him to tell me if it was right. What I felt after a few days of regularly trying this prayer was that I became certain that this was the right path. The feeling of certainty was strong and it has never left me. For over 50 years I have known that the path of Islam is the right path and all my studies and experience has confirmed this.
So, for nine months Neville and I had studied Islam as explained by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as). We signed bai’at forms and then began to meet members of the local Birmingham jamaat. We met Dr. Nazir Ahmad and his German wife Khadija who taught me many things and discussed a lot of the teachings of Islam with a European viewpoint.
When we told our parents that we were now Muslims there was little open reaction except that my mother said, ‘Does that mean he can have four wives?’ She knew something about Islam! Neville’s father’s reaction was, ‘Why have you accepted their religion when you didn’t accept ours?’ Being Muslims did not create any conflict with our families but perhaps just a little coolness developed because we did not engage so enthusiastically in the same activities and they did not understand our enthusiasm for something ‘foreign’. We maintained cordial contact and I now care for his elderly stepmother as she has no other family.
In August 1971 Neville and I went to Leeds, his home town and introduced ourselves to the jamaat there. We returned to Birmingham after the summer school holidays and began our preparation for marriage. On October 23rd 1971 we were married at the Fazl mosque in London. Mr. Ataul Mujib Rashed Sahib was a witness at our wedding and we stayed our first days as a married couple at the mosque where Hazur now lives. Not really yet aware that it was Ramadhan, our walema was infact the meal at the breaking of the fast and there I met many, many lajna who I still meet regularly at ijtema and jalsa.
No doubt over those 50 years I my journey has been varied; sometimes walking, sometimes running along the path. There have been times when I have been sitting by the path making no progress, watching others move ahead of me and perhaps even times when I have been going in the wrong direction on the path, but never have I doubted that the path is there and is the right path.
I have experienced so much of prayers answered, guidance provided and blessing given that I have no doubt that God exists and responds to those who seek Him.
I have lived in many groups among the Ahmadi Muslim community in UK, France, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as well as visiting Pakistan, India and Israel. I have felt everywhere the blessings God gives to those who turn to Him. The love, fellowship and unity in the jamaat is the greatest of His blessings and is something all the world could experience if only they turned to God with sincere desire to know the truth.