100 Years Ago… – Islam in Detroit: Mufti Sahib spreads Ahmadiyya mission in America

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Last Updated on 9th April 2021

Al Fazl, 7 April 1921

Mufti Sahib was in Chicago but had to move to Highland [Park], Detroit. He said: “I intended to settle in a central city of America to try to establish a jamaat, but due to certain reasons, I had to move from Philadelphia to New York, then to Chicago, and from there to Highland Park. Now, I am receiving invitations for lectures from all across
[the country]. Thus, I am setting up a central office here [in Detroit] and will be touring
the country, insha-Allah, so that the seed of tabligh be sown everywhere.” (Al Fazl, 13
March 1921)

Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra (1872-1957)

Detroit city

This city [Detroit] is best known in America for its motor car manufacturing industry. It has 15 different factories. Each company’s motor car has its unique shape and design. 

The most famous company is that of Mr Henry Ford. It has 50,000 employees and thousands of motor cars are manufactured by them and sold every year. The car, which is called motor car in India, is called an automobile in this country.

The city of Detroit covers an area of 80 square miles and has a population of one million. The city has one university and six colleges. It also has 200 big schools, 300 churches, four railway stations, 40 public parks, 11 hospitals, 57 fire stations, 15 free libraries, 10 police stations and five large markets. 

The trams run on electricity in this city and the lights are also electrically powered. The fare for traveling in a tram is three annas [a unit of currency formerly used in the subcontinent, equal to 1/16 of a rupee]. Once you board [the tram], whether you get off after a few steps or even if you travel for miles, it will cost you the same [three annas]. 

[Detroit] is the third largest city of the country with respect to its area and population, and first in terms of automobile industry. 

In this city, eight dailies and several weekly and monthly newspapers are published. The daily circulation of the newspaper, [Detroit] Free Press, is more than 100,000. My picture and tabligh articles based on my lectures have been published four times in this [newspaper]. 

(https://freep.newspapers.com/search/#query=mufti+sadiq&t=3676)

The part of this city which is located on the bank of the river is 11 miles long. 

3,000 motor cars are manufactured every day and sent to the market to be sold. The labourers receive a daily wage of six to 10 dollars. One dollar equates to roughly eight rupees. Hence, other expenses can be estimated from the fact that a labourer earns six dollars a day over here. A person who earns here and spends in India will be greatly benefited, but there are great difficulties for someone like me whose money comes from India and is spent here. However, Allah the Almighty eases the difficulties of the believer very quickly. After all, victory belongs to Him. Insha-Allah, there will be great rewards for those who are giving money to missions in foreign countries.

There are 3,000 factories in this city, of which 31 are automobile manufacturers and 100 of them manufacture various parts of motor cars.

If you go to the barbershop and get a haircut, it costs three rupees and if you call him at home, you have to pay six rupees. I do not like haircuts, etc. very much. However, when I do have to go to the barbershop once a month, he keeps discussing the political issues of the world while giving a haircut. 

At the hotel, a cup of tea costs five annas. The boot polisher takes six annas and it costs two annas to get your handkerchief washed. Anyone who keeps a dog at home has to pay a tax of four rupees and the tax on a female dog is eight rupees. Dogs do not roam around in the streets. If someone’s dog goes astray, it is sent to the police station. The cleanliness of the streets of a city in India should be observed on the day when the governor has to pass through them, but the streets of this city remain much cleaner every day as compared to that day [in India]. No one is allowed to throw their house garbage in the streets or to spill the dirty water of their houses before the residents of the city through drains. Waste water goes into underground pipes and garbage is taken from every house by the municipality. There is a highly organised system for maintaining cleanliness [over here]. The streets are quite wide and there is a small garden in front of each house.

I came here [in Detroit] for tabligh last July and a few lectures were held. In one of the lectures, a lady with whom I had already corresponded, converted to Islam and was named Zainab. I have known a few people here since then. A gentleman wrote to me in Chicago, saying, “If you [Mufti Sahib] can come here [in Detroit] for a few days, some lectures on Islam can be arranged.” He thus [rented] a big hall and I arrived here on 5 February [1921] from Chicago. The lecture took place on the evening of 7 February [in] a very spacious hall filled with men and women.

Challenge to the priests

In my lecture, I drew everyone’s attention towards the high morals of the Holy Prophetsa and mentioned the deputation of Christians who had requested the Holy Prophetsa for a place to hold their Sunday church worship. The Holy Prophetsa granted them his mosque for it. 

After narrating this incident, I made a challenge, saying, “Is there any one from the very many priests of Detroit who could give me his church for Islamic prayers on Friday, as they all claim that they have great courage and lofty morals.” The reporters from the city’s daily newspapers were also present at the lecture and they immediately reported the challenge to their newspaper office.

This country’s newspapers

The newspapers of this country strive in every way to serve the public. Each newspaper has an information office called an information bureau. You may write a scientific, medical or legal question to them, and they immediately publish the answer in their newspaper. Moreover, if you send an envelope with a stamp along with [the question], they also post you a written answer. 

Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) 13 February 1921

Apart from this, all kinds of works of public interest are done by the newspaper organisations. In Chicago, for example, a newspaper owner does this every morning – he sends a reporter from his office with 50 dollars (or about 200 rupees) in the city. This reporter visits the government employees and other public servants, i.e. charioteers, policemen, ticket clerks, gatekeepers etc. He goes to those people who interact with the general public and observes as to which one of them deals with the public in the best manner. He then rewards the person found to be the most benign of them all with 50 dollars and publishes the entire report in the evening newspaper. Hence, the newspapers contribute a lot to the interest and welfare of the public.

Replies from priests

Soon after hearing about my challenge, a newspaper owner sent a reporter from his office to go to the famous priests of the city and ask them to answer my challenge. The reporter went to the houses of all the priests. All of them unanimously agreed that they could not give their church to any Muhammadan to offer prayers or give a sermon in it. One of the priests said, “Giving a church to a Muslim would be like handing over our fort to a German, so that he could sit in it and bomb us.” 

“We are not narrow-minded, but we will consult with our committee, perhaps they might agree”, said the pastor of the Congregational Church. All these reports were published in the next day’s newspaper. 

Then, the priest of the Unitarian Church came and said, “Our congregation wants to hear your lecture on Sunday.” A lecture has been scheduled to be held at their [church] on 27 February [1921] at 6:30 pm.

Counter reply

Some priests responded by saying, “The religion of Islam is a rival of Christianity and a great danger in its path of Christianity and that is why we cannot give any Muslim a place in our church.”

In response to this, the summary of the article I published in the newspaper is that I am not an enemy of Christians but a benefactor. I consider Prophet Jesus to be a true prophet and I love him more than the Christians of today because Christians consider him accursed and I believe he was always blessed. However, let’s suppose that I am an enemy of Christianity, but do you not preach in the churches to love thy enemy? You yourselves do not follow what you teach, and I wanted this to be uttered from your mouths, so you have said it. Now, please do not worry any more, I do not need your churches. Moreover, the structure and furniture of your churches is not such that prayers can be easily held in there.

Articles in newspapers

By the grace of God Almighty, many articles in support of Islam have been published in the newspapers here. Articles with my pictures have been published in three different newspapers. One of them named [DetroitFree Press is published on 40 pages daily and on 80 pages every Sunday. Its editor paid me a visit. Our discussion lasted for three hours and he asked questions on every aspect of Islamic teachings and published my answers in several long and wide columns of his newspaper with my picture. The city is talking about us. Notable people come for meetings. Some dignitaries hosted lavish banquets and the city’s sheriff, mayor, chief of police, certain lawyers and bank managers joined in and were delighted to hear the attributes of Islam.

Khawaja Christian

I was sitting at the house of a Syrian Muslim. There was some discussion on the comparison between Christianity and Islam. In the meantime, another gentleman came to meet him. He introduced him to me and said that he was Khawaja Luis and a resident of Syria. After meeting him, the discussion resumed. I strongly criticised Christianity as usual. Everyone listened in silence. At the time of departure, the man of the house told me separately, “Our new friend was a Christian. I indicated it but you did not understand. In Syria, when the word Khawaja is added to someone’s name, it should be understood that he is a Christian. A Muslim is called a Sheikh.”

Muhammad Sadiq. 25 February 1921. Karrub House, 74 Victor Avenue, Highland Park, Mich, America

(Translated by Al Hakam from the original Urdu in the 7 April 1921 issue of Al Fazl)

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