100 Years Ago… – A special correspondent of the ‘West Africa’ writes about Ahmadiyyat


Al Fazl, 2 October 1922

West Africa Newspaper

A detailed article about the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat has been published in the 3 June 1922 issue of the West Africa by its special correspondent. After reading this piece of writing, it becomes clear that the foreign newspapers even mention those matters with great clarity and open-mindedness that are against their religion. Moreover, they work very hard and make every effort to find out new things and publish them.

The aforementioned newspaper, under the title “The Ahmadia Movement in India, West Africa, and London”, writes:

“The Ahmadia movement in the Mohammedan religion is making steady progress in London, and, indeed, England. This may be a surprising statement to some people outside this faith, but they might be surprised to learn that the British Empire holds sway over the largest number of Mohammedans [sic] in the world. The British Empire is, in fact, the greatest Mohammedan power the world has known.”

Then, writing about the celebrations of Eid-ul-Fitr, the special correspondent of the West Africa mentions the Eid prayer and sermon at the Ahmadiyya London Mosque as follows:

“On Sunday last, the day following the close of Ramadan, a festival was held at the Mosque, Melrose Road, Southfields, the centre of the movement in the metropolis. At present, the mosque is a private house, but the house and land at the back have been bought, and, or a site already chosen, a real mosque will be erected within the next year or two, at a cost of £15,000, to accommodate 300 worshippers. The mosque will be of the usual design, but the material will be suitable for the English climate.

“Mr Mubarak Ali MA and Mr FM Sayal MA are the missionaries in charge of the movement at Southfields, which has about 100 members, and, following the month of fasting, congregational praise was offered in the garden of the mosque. Mohammedans and non-Mohammedans were invited. The Oriental rugs spread on the turf for the worshippers, who, for the most part, varied their European attire with the fez or the turban, seemed to bring the East near for the moment.

“Mr Mubarak Ali took the short service, which was attended by men and women from India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Turkey, West Africa, East Africa and Russia. The Ambassador of Turkey (Reshaid Pasha) and the Afghan Minister (Sirdar Abdul Hadi Khan), among others, were expected.

“In a sermon, Mr Mubarak Ali reminded his hearers of what the last of the great [law-bearing] prophets of the world, Mohammed[sa] of Arabia, had laid down for Islam; that the festival observed by the Moslem at the end of the lunar month which began this year on 28 April [1922] and ended the previous day, was for self-discipline and [cleansing] reasons. During the month of fasting, Moslems were strictly enjoined to lead a good life. The object of this was to prove to a man that if he could practise and lead a good life for one month, he could lead a good life for the rest of the year.

“Mr Mubarak Ali stated that this movement was destined to be the salvation of India in the near future, for it was welding the Hindu and the Moslem neighbours for a thousand years who had never really come together before. Ahmad’s message had a deep significance for India and the world. The highest ideal for India was not political freedom. Ahmad’s was a spiritual message. India was the epitome of the world, and it was not for nothing that so many races and communities met there. Islam had received a great impetus from the Ahmadia movement.”

After explaining the meaning and significance of the Eid-ul-Fitr sermon of Maulvi Mubarak Ali Sahib BA BT and briefly describing the history of the Jamaat, the writer states:

“Some explanation of the origin and strength of the movement, which is spreading all over the world, will not be out of place here. Its founder was Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad[as], who, as the Promised Messiah, died in 1908. The movement began in the Punjab, Ahmad[as] lived as an unassuming man, with about 400,000 followers, chiefly in India’s north-western parts. Today, there are probably 500,000 members in the movement, but the number is steadily growing. Ahmad’s first successor was Hazrat Maulvi Nur-ud-Din. He died in 1914.”

Along the same lines, while mentioning Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II[ra], the picture he draws of his blessed countenance and attributes is, apart from being very captivating, so true to reality that if someone from Europe takes this into consideration and comes in the assembly of Huzoor[ra], they will immediately recognise him without the need of someone introducing him to them. We cannot but acknowledge the excellence of the writer that he has probably drawn such a true and accurate picture of the portrait of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II[ra] and his attributes, which have so far been very rarely published in the English language, that it seems he had the opportunity to sit in the company of Huzoor[ra] and was writing while sitting in front of him.

It is possible for someone to think about this article that it must have been written by an Ahmadi who got it published [in the newspaper], but two or three things are found in it that dispel this suspicion. First of all, the newspaper has declared the writer of the article as its special correspondent and it cannot be that someone sends an article and the newspaper considers them its special correspondent. 

Secondly, referring to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II[ra], the writer has mentioned him as the “Promised Messiah”. Maulvi Mubarak Ali Sahib has drawn the attention of the newspaper toward this [mistake] and following his letter, the newspaper has published a correction. This kind of mistake can never be present in the article of an Ahmadi.

Thirdly, it is written in the article that, “[…] West Africa, from where, it is understood, the [Ahmadiyya] movement arrived here [in London]”, but this is not true. Our London Mission was established before the mission in West Africa because Maulvi Abdur Rahimra was sent from London to West Africa. He went there and established a regular mission to spread the message [of the Promised Messiahas], so it can be said that this mission reached West Africa from London.

The aforementioned mistakes are insignificant, but it is possible for a non-Ahmadi or a non-Muslim to commit them. However, it is impossible for an Ahmadi to commit such mistakes.

Hence, the above evidence is enough to remove this suspicion that the article might have been written by an Ahmadi. In the given circumstances, not acknowledging the excellence of the writer would be unfair. Hopefully, the audience will agree with us completely after reading the following words of the newspaper regarding Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II[ra]:

“Today, Hazrat Mirza Besheer-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad[ra] is the Promised Messiah [sic] and head of the Ahmadiyya community. 

[As mentioned above, Hazrat Maulvi Mubarak Ali Sahib wrote to the newspaper and pointed out that Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra was not the Promised Messiah and thus a correction was published following his letter.]

“What is he [Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra] like, then, the high priest of truth and piety, who represents the Ahmadia movement today?

“In a small peaceful town, increased from a small village, owing to the prosperity of the movement, some 11 miles north-east of Batala, Punjab, lives the social and religious reformer. The road to Qadian is always crowded with pilgrims, who come to pay homage from all parts of the globe. What Jerusalem is to a Christian or Benares to a Hindu, that or more is Qadian to an Ahmadi.

“Imagine the head of the movement seated on a small patch of carpet. He is in a neat and simple dress. His head is bent down, his eyes are half closed. He lifts up a majestic head. You see a face, half pleasant, half prophet-like [i.e. awe-inspiring]. Sympathy thrills in his voice. His manner is meek. Yet he is wise. That is the leader of the movement, distinguished by its discipline and organization.”

Under the awe of the countenance of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II[ra], the writer’s attention is drawn towards the Islamic concept of brotherhood and equality. Consequently, the special correspondent mentions it and writes:

“The word Islam means a pure, divine and intelligent existence. In Islam, no church has ever had seats reserved for anybody. If an African or a European entered first, and took the front seat, the Sultan, if he happened to follow, would not think of removing him from that seat. ‘I tread under the feet the racial prejudice’, said the Prophet Mohammed[sa]. Arabic is the common language of all Moslems, and Moslem is not the name of a particular exclusive nationality. He belongs to no one country, and he knows no distinctions of colour.”

Encouraged to get factual information about the Ahmadiyya Jamaat, the writer states:

“While a great deal of misconception exists regarding the Ahmadia movement in Islam – chiefly among those who will not trouble to understand it, though a well-known writer the other day dragged in Islam when considering the fate of Turkey – there is nothing concerning it that cannot be grasped.”

Mentioning the characteristics of the Jamaat, the author says:

“It is of supreme importance, however, to appreciate that Ahmadia is a purely religious movement, having nothing to do with politics. Its adherents do not eat pork or drink wine, and they follow the religious observances imposed by the Master Prophet, Mohammed[sa].”

Regarding the advancement of Islam Ahmadiyyat, the writer says:

“Its headquarters are in Qadian, Punjab, and there are branches all over India, Burma, Ceylon, China, Australia, Mesopotamia, Persia, Arabia, Egypt, East Africa, Mauritius, West Africa, England and the United States. 

“In West Africa, from where it is understood, the movement arrived here [in London], the branch is at Saltpond, with Professor AR Nayyar Phil B, as a missionary; in Lagos, at 62, Bangabose Street; and in Sierra Leone. [As mentioned before, Ahmadiyyat reached West Africa from London and not the other way around.]

“During the last 12 months, 16000 people in West Africa have joined the movement. It is one of the articles of faith that members of Ahmadia should obey the laws of the country in which they live.”

[It is further stated:

[“The last-named fact explains much concerning the welding of Hindus and Moslemm in India under Ahmadia – and the ideals of the movement – that the Mohammedans of India, before [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam] Ahmad[as], did not recognize the prophets of the Hindus. Ahmad[as] taught them differently. This paved the way for the unity of Hindus and Mohammedans on a spiritual basis, and led to the extension of the movement to Britain. All the followers of Ahmadia devoutly believe in the prophecy of Ahmad[as] that Islam will spread to all parts of the world and eventually become the predominant religion. The important thing is that the Ahmadia movement in Islam teaches the highest ideals – peace, submission to God. Islam is the name of the religion of Mohammedans, who do not regard Mohammed[sa] as a god, but as a man, a prophet. Nor do they call themselves Mohammedans, but Moslems.”]

(Translated by Al Hakam from the original Urdu, published in the 2 October 1922 issue of Al Fazl)

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