100 Years Ago… – A dangerous journey through the wilderness of Africa and the idols of idolators

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Last Updated on 25th February 2022

Al Fazl, 23 February 1922

Hazrat Maulvi Abdur Rahim Nayyarra (1883-1948)

An idol

Before I mention one of my greatest trials, I think it is appropriate to talk about an interesting event. 

There is a temple of an idol on the way to Adukrom. A crescent-shaped structure has been created by cutting the trees in the forest. The piles of bottles there and pieces of colourful cloths were pointing towards amusement in the wilderness and attracting the traveller [Hazrat Abdur Rahim Nayyarra]. 

Immersed in his thoughts and walking with his head down, when the traveller saw that scene, the following conversation immediately took place:

Nayyar: Ishaq! What is this?

Interpreter: Syedi [my master]! This is a place of an idol.

Nayyar: What is the name of this idol?

Interpreter: Huzoor! It is called Abu Bandaji.

According to the beliefs of the disbelievers, they become happy with alcohol and live behind curtains. When needed, the worshipers cut a piece of the curtain and take it with them, and request for the fulfilment of their desire.

Nayyar: Does this idol have any apparent shape?

Interpreter: Nayyar Sahib! This is the Gupta Maharaj.

Nayyar: Then what is this, (pointing to the pocket of the curtain), and what is its purpose?

Interpreter: Master! This is a pocket. The idol worshiper puts an offering in it.

Nayyar: Alright! So, what is the name of this Maharaj?

Interpreter: (After inquiring from other men). His name is Abu Bandaji.

Nayyar: What does this mean?

Interpreter: The thing that is so powerful that it can even break iron.

I do not remember any idol of India in the name of this Maharaj. Probably, the idol of Banda Maharaj is present somewhere [in India], and it is also possible that Prakash or Arya Gazette may shed some light on it in the columns [of their periodicals].

A dangerous journey through the wilderness of Africa

A motor was waiting for me three miles from Cape Coast Castle and around 14 miles from Saltpond. The 6-mile trek and [the energy consumed by] the sermon now seemed to affect the weak Nayyar. I was tired and wanted to rest. I happily sat in the motor with the interpreter and called the driver to “Go on.” As I was thirsty, I broke a coconut and drank its water and ate a piece of sugarcane. I thought that after all the days of discomfort, soon after, in only half an hour we would insha-Allah reach Saltpond and rest, but the divine decree had destined for us the greatest trial in Africa on that day.

The motor was going uphill when suddenly the engine stopped. The driver and the servant tried their best but they could not repair it. Unfortunately, they did not carry a light. They thought that 14 miles is not a long distance and they would be back soon. 

There was no oil in the motor lamps and even if there was some, there was nothing to ignite the fire. The night was dark, the road was covered on both sides with dense forest and high hills. The clouds were looming overhead. That hardship greatly perturbed us. We got out of the motor and started pushing it. Clothes were ruined and hands got dirty. 

After trying for an hour, it all worsened. We asked a passerby for help but he did not respond. We then asked him if there was a village nearby, he replied in the negative. 

At that time, there was no option but to pray. I implored before Allah the Almighty and He, Who helps in trouble, granted determination and courage to my heart. All of a sudden, exhausted, tired and weak, I decided to walk the remaining nine and a half miles. Leaving the motor on the road, I mustered up my courage and moved forward while reciting the following couplet:

عشق میں تیرے كوہ غم سر پہ لیا جو ہو سو ہو

[“In Your love, I have taken the mountain of sorrow over my head (and now, I don’t care) no matter what happens.”]

A difficult path and our destination 

A part of the path was so dark that it was even difficult to see a distance equal to my hand. Muhammad Ishaq was in front of me and the servants of the motor were behind me carrying the belongings on their heads. A series of thoughts came to mind and the memory of the beloved stirred emotions in the heart and compelled the tongue and I began to uncontrollably speak in that state: 

رانجھا رانجھا یار میاں مینوں تیرے ملن دیاں تانگاں  

بجلى چمكے چمک ڈراوے رات اندھیرے كج نظر نہ آوے

 نكل گئیاں ہن چانگاں

[“Ranjha (beloved)! Ranjha! My friend, I am desirous of meeting you, The lightning flashes and the clap of thunder scares us,

 The night is dark and we cannot see anything,

 Our screams have come out now.”]

With these words, tears from the eyes and the drizzle from the sky created a strange atmosphere. The series of thoughts was not completely over when Muhammad Ishaq said that it was very dark and the road was dangerous so it was appropriate to walk along the seashore. [He said that] it was the time of the low tide; the water had receded and there would be some light because of the open air on one side. 

Following that advice, we went along the shore. Considering the pain as a comfort in the way of Allah the Almighty, I walked about five miles by the dark sea. At night, a fire was sometimes seen flashing, going off, running and jumping on the sea. Everywhere, such scenes are considered to be ghosts or demons by ignorant people. The poor driver and servant were afraid to move forward. On the other hand, Muhammad Ishaq was less fearful than the idolaters but he too was afraid. It was impossible to immediately get rid of the delusion of ghosts, demons and satans from the heart. Therefore, I helped all of them to recite the mantra of لا حول ولا قوة إلا بالله [There is no might or power save with Allah], and I myself went ahead. 

In that time, the ghosts ran away. I thought that everything was all right then, but now a cluster of trees came and then came a sound of an animal from behind. The poor fellows were frightened again. Then, I moved all of them from the back to the front, and looking at the fortified walls of the former Dutch fort in a large village three miles from Saltpond and tearing through the bright forces of the fireflies, we reached the main road again. It was wide and less dark. Thus, the journey of 15 to 16 miles on foot finally ended on that day.

How did this journey end? What was the condition of the body? What was in the heart? How did I implore Allah the Almighty? And with what pain I read this verse of Hazrat Maulvi Rajeki Sahib’s[ra] poem:

كون كوئى ہووے ساڈے دكھاں نوں ونڈے نى

[May there be someone who might share our sorrows?]

And with what thoughts did I arrive at the house, where no one in the house was there to take care of the weary traveler? These are all questions and the readers will automatically determine their answers from their hearts. I will just say:

جان دى، دى ہوئى اسى كى تھى

حق تو یہ ہے كہ حق ادا نہ ہوا

[“I gave my life, for it was granted by Him [God], 

But the truth is that I failed to repay its due in full.”]

رَبّنَا تَقَبّلْ مِنّا اِنّكَ اَنْتَ السّمِيْعُ الْعَلِيْم

[“Our Lord, accept this from us, for Thou art surely the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.”]

Ahmadiyya conference in Saltpond

As at the Accrafol Conference, which took place on 15 August [1921], some important issues could not be decided, and all the time thereafter was spent on a [tabligh] tour, and the needs of a large Nigerian Jamaat demanded that I return to Lagos as soon as possible, so I want to return to Nigeria soon after cancelling the Sierra Leone and Liberia programme. Consequently, it has been considered appropriate to hold a public jalsa in Saltpond where the leaders of this jamaat may discuss the future work together. Moreover, they should be informed about the important commandments as well. This public jalsa or conference has been scheduled to be held on Friday, 25 November [1921]. Typed notifications have been sent. We hope that the jalsa will be successful, insha-Allah.

(Translated by Al Hakam from the original Urdu on 23 February 1922 issue of Al Fazl)

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