Khwaja Mehboob Elahi returned to the presence of his Creator on 1st May 2023, aged 91. May Subhanahu Ta’ala grant him a place close to His Presence. His family roots were in Punjab’s district of Pindadan Khan, Jhelum. He was born there in July 1932 and as a child lived in Patna and Calcutta. On the founding of Pakistan, he returned with his parents to their ancestral home.

Khawaja Mehboob was among the very first members of the Islami Jamiat Taleba. Around 1950 he settled in East Pakistan, where his maternal grandfather, Muhammad Amin, had established the Amin Jute Mill.  In his capacity as head of the Islami Jamiat Taleba (Islami Chatro Shanga) he participated in the Jamaat Islami’s annual convention in Lahore in 1951. He took steps to hand over organisational responsibilities of the Jamiat to locally resident Bengali associates. Khwaja Mehboob Elahi’s ability in judging people and his organising skills  placed it on a secure footing. His efforts led to the appointment of Syed Muhammad Ali as the Jamiat’s head, followed sometime later by Qurban Ali.  He was also brought into the Jamiat’s ranks exemplary individuals such as Abdul Jabbar, Shah Abdul Hanan (later deputy governor of the State Bank) and Fayyazuddin (Impact International and Islamic Foundation, Leicester). Khwaja Mahboob remained at the forefront in securing funds and means to sustain the Jamiat.

Khwaja Mehboob obtained an MA in Economics from Dhaka University in 1955-56 and then proceeded to the UK where he enrolled at the London School of Economics. After graduation he qualified as a chartered accountant. He established a Qur’anic dars circle at the Islamic Cultural Centre, Baker Street in which Arab students connected with the Ikhwan also participated.  He arranged for the Jamiat’s talented Qurban Ali to come to London and enrol for legal studies at an Inns of Court.  Khwaja Mahboob did not speak about this gesture, but Barrister Qurban Ali would always express his thanks and gratitude. While in London, Qurban Ali contributed a regular ‘Letter from London’ that was published in Lahore’s Asia journal, and these now serve as a significant source of information on the times. Qurban Ali was prominent in the founding of the UK Islamic Mission in 1962.

In 1960, while still in London, Khwaja Mehboob wrote a moving essay (Chiragh-e Rah, Nazriya Pakistan Number, 1961, pp. 16-21) in which he reflected on the purpose for the establishment of Pakistan and some of the resulting disappointments. He noted that some Pakistanis he met in London were reluctant to call themselves by that name. The essay quoted a wide range of opinions, which reflected Khwaja Mehboob’s own extensive network at the time.  He cited the views of a Muslim from Trinidad,

“The Pakistan Movement was like a freedom movement for ourselves. When there were the Hindu-Muslim conflicts in 1946-47, so in Trinidad too the Hindus and Muslims fought each other. On 14th August 1947 we lit lanterns in our house and celebrated the freedom as if it was our own freedom. We were in anticipation that there would now be an exemplary Islamic nation. We will now receive books and religious teachers and thanks to Pakistan we shall also become good Muslims. At the time how did we know it was only a mirage being shown to us?”

Further in the same essay, Khwaja Mehboob describes an encounter with a Pakistani family in London. He tried to convince the head of the family of the advantages of returning to Pakistan for the sake of the children. The response was that there was greater honesty and decency to be found where they were at present. Khwaja Mehboob then reflected on this, and confessed that he too often wondered why he should return to his homeland (watan),

“What is this thing we call a watan?  – Family and household; near and dear; friends and companions; Muslim way of life.

What is family and household? That can be made anywhere, easily and quickly particularly in developed countries.

Near and dear? Because of years in East Pakistan, these meetings do happen. Similarly, meetings can take place if one was in a foreign country.

Friends and companions? These can be made in every place. In fact, in this short stay, so many trustworthy friendships have been made.

Muslim way of life? This can be found in every Muslim country. If you don’t go to the Middle East for fear of Arab nationalism, there are no shortage of other places. There are all the countries in Africa, in Southeast Asia – God’s earth is vast. These nations are generous and pay better than our own.

No, of all these factors, there is not one that convinces a return to the homeland. We have high educational qualifications that are in demand everywhere. If we return to Pakistan then it is quite a sacrifice. There is no material benefit that can equate to it. There can only be one settlement for this sacrifice – the wish to make the nation that was created for the sake of Islam after great sacrifices, demonstrates the establishment of an Islamic governance: a  new order is established, that gives our down trodden masses peace, tranquillity and well-being, and bestows us success in deen and dunya. And we can say with pride that we are Pakistanis [. . .]

Khwaja Mehbood did return to his homeland with this sense of mission and took charge of the accounts of the Amin Jute Mill.

In 1965 he submitted a proposal to the respected Khurram Murad Sahib and Professor Khurshid Ahmed to relieve Maulana Abdul Rahim of his duties as Amir, Jamaat Islami East Pakistan, so he could devote himself fully on a Bangla translation of Tafhimul Qur’an. Khwaja Mehboob undertook to meet all the expenses, including a stipend of Rs. 500 per month (a significant amount at the time). The proposal was adopted in 1966-67 and Maulana Abdul Rahim completed this magnificent task quickly and to high standard.  

In the course of the rebellion by the Awami League in 1971, the Amin Jute Mill was plundered and after great difficulties, Khwaja Mehboob returned to West Pakistan. Here too he took up responsibilities in the family industrial and business ventures and launched projects including Neelam Glass.

Khwaja Mehboob Elahi was among the band of five or six individuals regarded with affection by Maulana Maududi. These included Israr Ahmed, Zafar Ishaq Ansari, Khurrum Murad, Khurshid Ahmed and Hussein Khan. Khwaja Mehboob had the good fortune to accompany Maulana Maududi on Hajj.  

He was always at hand to meet the financial and other needs of the Jamaat’s publications and newspapers. His wife, Salma Yasmin Najmi Sahibi, also relied on his support to publish regularly and to a high standard the women’s magazines Butool and ‘Aft. Through marriage, he was related to Khurram Jah Murad. He was sadly affected by dementia prior to passing away.

May Subhanahu Ta’ala grant His upright servant a place in His Abode of Mercy. Ameen.

Salim Mansur Khalid (Lahore) & Jamil Sherif (London)

3 May 2023