Mohsin Mahmud sahib was a devoted and dedicated member of the New York Jama'at for decades. He served as Tabligh Secretary and was appointed as the Vice-President of the New York Jama’at for many years where he served with dedication and commitment and remained dedicated to the service of humanity and Islam. In 2009, he was honored with the Mufti Muhammad Sadiq Lifetime Achievement Award. He was a pioneer in the New York Jama'at.
Mahmud sahib was born in Queens, New York in 1925 from his parents who emigrated from the Barbados. As a child of age three he was transferred to foster care and from there, he was placed in various Christian homes till he reached age of 19. Mahmud sahib served in the second world war from 1944 to 1946. He was able to visit New Guinea and the Philippines during his time in the army. Upon his arrival back he stayed with his parents in Manhattan for some time. Mahmud sahib took a job with the DSNY and remained employed for about 34 years.
Mahmud sahib was always actively seeking the truth and searching for the God and from the early 50's, he would go back to his hometown in 118th street in New York City where he found his optimum satisfaction, he met members of the Ahmadiyyat Muslim Community preaching on the streets and he took interest. He was fortunate enough to pray inside the first mosque in New York, on 138th street in Manhattan back in the 1950's. He was fond of Ghulam Yasin sahib, the Missionary in charge at that time. Yasin sahib served the New York Jama'at from 1947 - 1956. Mahmud sahib recalls, at that time New York Jama'at consisted of 40 members; 30 men and 10 women. Mahmud sahib often tagged along with Yasin sahib who used to deliver lectures at the New York University and in churches in Boston, Philadelphia, Hartford, Camden, Newark, Patterson, West New York and Long Island. He was always very keen in strengthening the bond of brotherhood between members with a wide smile.
Dale Carnegie once said, "Remember that a man’s name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in the English language." Changing your name especially in the 60's was considered exigent and audacious, yet this Mohsin sahib faced this daunting challenge and changed his name from Louis to Mohsin Mahmood. He was well-liked and respected at work and although changing his faith and his name presented challenges at times, he said he “won respect by demanding it in a respectful manner”. Although he was afraid of a backlash, changing his name was quite empowering. One of his bosses at the time, Mrs. Birch, even called a meeting, letting everyone know that Mohsin sahib had changed his name and wished to be called Mohsin Mahmood from now on and therefore everyone would need to abide by his wishes. She even told them “if you can’t get along with Mohsin, you can’t get along with anybody.”
Mahmud sahib had a strong affection in reading Jama'at books, any new book comes out, it was a must have for him. His library in his house is truly a treasure island as some of the books from his collection are not available today in prints. He was very robust in the Jama'at and has served it throughout his life even during his death bed. He was so devoted in Tabligh that throughout the years, he would buy Jama'at books with his own money and distribute them to the interested people to help spread the true Islam. After accepting Ahmadiyyat, Mohsin sahib devoted most of his free time spreading the message of love and peace that Ahmadiyyat embodies. He, along with the few members of the Jama'at during the late 1950s, gathered enough money to buy a manual copier. A photocopy machine from the 50's did not print hundreds of copies with the touch of a button rather the members of the Jama'at would manually make individual copies of flyers, pamphlets and books after typing up themselves before they went out for mass distribution. It was the 1950s where racism was rampant but that did not dissuade the hearts of the devoted men. They would haul a ladder in the heart of Manhattan, climb to the top and boldly proclaim “Jesus didn’t die on the cross!” or “The Messiah has come.” On one such occasion, three members of the Jama'at were arrested and spent a night in jail.
Mohsin sahib had several opportunities to meet Hadrath Khalifatul Masih IV (Ra) on several occasions whenever Hadrath Khalifatul Masih IV (Ra) visited New York in the 80's and the 90's. Mohsin sahib was also fortunate to meet late sir Chaudhry Muhammad Zafrullah Khan sahib. Mohsin sahib would meet him on several occasions and once accompanied him to a Nikah ceremony. The memories were so fresh and crisp that he stated, Chaudhry Zafrullah Khan sahib “loved his brothers”.
Mohsin sahib used to be on top of the list always in the New York Jama'at when it came for monetary sacrifices although he was not a Moosie till 2005. He was a retiree for a long time yet he had commendable spirit for financial sacrifices. He was in the forefront whenever there was a monetary challenge, i.e. once Jama'at USA made the program of standing first in the world in Waqf-e- Jadeed contribution and Mohsin sahib wholeheartedly donated ten thousand US dollars. He used to donate money regularly for the Jama'at and was among the few who immensely donated his wealth to purchase the new Bait-uz-Zafar in Queens as he offered another ten thousand US dollars besides the regular yearly chandas. He used to motivate the youth in raising money for the Mosque fund as he came up with the save a quarter a day drive among the youngsters of Queens. His passion for commitment and service beautifully shine through and are an example for us today.
In his own words, Mahmud sahib says "growing up in the 60's after accepting Islam Ahmadiyyat, you had to get involved". He used to always interact with the Youth in Queens and his message to the youth was, "Commitment is the key to success, you have to commit yourself and be true to yourself in serving the Jama'at…this Jama'at is not a club not a hangout, you can honestly benefit from it…make some sacrifice for the cause..it is not important what has been done, what is important is what are you going to do". He often used to speak out to the youth saying "It's one thing to say who you are, it's another thing to live that person everyday". Mahmud sahib's message to the youth was "you do everything you can as a Muslim on a daily basis". Once he was asked why he accepted Ahmadiyyat? He enthusiastically replied: “I came into Ahmadiyyat because it was the True Islam. All the people, who were intellectually motivated, nationally motivated and spiritually motivated, were all Ahmadī Muslims, and they became my mentors, my tutors, and my friends. I pray for them and I thank Allah for bringing these people in my life. I will always be grateful to them for the path they showed me, Al-Ḥamdu Lillāhi Rabbil-‘Ālamīn. "
Mohsin sahib played a role of a Murabbiyaan Atfal for this humble servant while growing up in Queens. I recall him dropping me home whenever I did not have a ride after Tahir school on few Saturdays from Bait-uz-Zafar in his antique station wagon along with his wife. His wife, Fatima sahiba is an inspirational teacher who would teach Islamic History in our Tahir School and would share ahadith and stories of sahabas of the Holy prophet (saw) which would keep us captivated. Mohsin sahib always listened to concerns and would remember the conversation. He would follow up from the previous conversation and ask how are things since last time. If asked if he was praying for what I requested him earlier, he would nod his head and place his hand on my shoulder and give assurance.
In short, Mohsin sahib abided by the Khuddamul Ahmadiyyat pledge where he sacrificed his time, honor, wealth, and passion all for the cause of Allah and Ahmadiyyat, the true Islam. He helped the needy and orphans as well and raised many foster children.
Mohsin Mahmud Sahib is survived by his wife, Fatima Mahmud sahiba and four adopted children. He did not have children of his own. May God grant him lofty state in paradise and may his soul rest in peace, Ameen.
By: Shoeb Abulkalam