100 Years Ago… – Jubilation on the arrival of a missionary of Islam in Ghana

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Al Fazl, 5 May 1921

Hazrat Maulvi Abdur Rahim Nayyarra

Salt pond from Sierra Leone

After departing in the evening of 21 February [1921], the ship “Bruto” reached Salt Pond on 28 February at 4:30 pm. About halfway along the way, Bruto anchored in the waters of Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. 

Liberia is a democratic state of freed African American slaves. I wanted to disembark there and convey the message of truth to the president and the members of the democratic state, but the captain said that there was no time, so I could not go ashore. 

After Monrovia, the ship stopped at port Skandi for about two and a half days. The Muslim leaders came on board to meet us. I carried out tabligh to them and informed them about the arrival of the Promised Messiahas. I also advised them to adorn themselves with the gems of education and to recognise the age [of the Messiah]. 

They wanted me to stay with them but the circumstances did not allow [me to do so].

As I was in first class on board the ship, I had the good opportunity to carry out tabligh to the first-class passengers. Moreover, the young officers of the ship and the old captain remained under tabligh throughout the journey. A young English Cambridge graduate also left with a positive impact. Brother Ahmad Bowen not only converted to Islam himself but also carried out tabligh to other young intelligent officers of the ship and spent his time in observing Salat and learning the commandments of Islam, alhamdulillah.

Goodbye to Bruto

I said goodbye to Bruto at five o’clock in the evening and boarded the boat which came for me from the shore. 

By the grace of Allah the Almighty, I was not a stranger when I got off the ship. The second officer, the newly converted Muslim, Respected Lieutenant Bowen’s lovely face had a special distinction among the officers waving handkerchiefs in a row. This young man kept running from one deck to another to see me until the last moment. He took a few bai‘at forms from me so that he could get other people to sign them after tabligh. May Allah bless his good intentions and increase his age. 

Captain Nelson came for the farewell salaam and waved the handkerchief from the top deck. The respect and treatment shown to me on the ship by the captain and the officers of the ship was fresh in my heart when I landed at Salt Pond and also motivated me to pray. 

May Allah the Almighty enlighten these noble Englishmen with the light of Islam. Amin.

Host and commissioner of the police

The news of my arrival was not fully circulated in the town, but Mr Pedro, my host, was present on the shore. The waves were as high as a mountain near the seashore and I was scared to see them. Finally, I landed safely on the shore and met the host and said, “Alhamdulillah.”

Among those who said salaam to me on the shore was the superintendent of police and he also conveyed the greetings of the commissioner of police to me and said, “He is waiting for you in the nearby office.” 

When I went there, the young British officer was waiting very respectfully. After exchanging salaam, I handed over my papers, passport, letter of Sahibzada Aftab Ahmad Sahib, report of the London Times and my card to him. Moreover, I explained the attributes of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat and the purpose of my mission, i.e. defence and promulgation of Islam. An exchange of discourse began with the commissioner and I had the opportunity to carry out tabligh, alhamdulillah.

Salt Pond

This town is the hub of the Central District of the Gold Coast [later known as Ghana]. Its population is only 2,700. The original inhabitants are all Christians. The Muslims [present in this region] are from Lagos and Kano. Among the Nigerian Muslims of Lagos, there are two or three young Ahmadis as well. There are two mosques of Muslims. The town has three Christian missions: Catholic, Wesleyan and Zion. The churches and schools of the first two sects are separate. The handful of members of the third sect carry out church proceedings in a house. The whole area is full of Christians. The Muslims are in small numbers. 

Water from the well is not available here, but there are ponds. The milk, butter, sugar, bread, rice, all food items and articles of clothing come from abroad. The centre of trade is located in the district. Palm oil and the hide of monkey and rock hyrax are exported to foreign countries from here. The horses or animals used for transportation are not seen anywhere. Only small goats are found [in this area]. 

Costs are higher here than in London. There is no place for recreation. There is a great opportunity to worship Allah and spend time intoxicated in the pure wine of faith. It is necessary to take quinine and laxatives here.

The chief of Fante

The original inhabitants of this region are called Fante. Around 3,000 of them are Muslims and they live in the nearby areas of Salt Pond. They have a grudge against Hausa people. [They consider] Hausa people to be mischievous. The name of the chief of Fante is Mahdi. He started tabligh of Islam 28 years ago. He has grown old now. He wished to revive Islam in his nation and to invite a missionary so he got the postal address from a Syrian of the Cape Coast and wrote a letter to Mufti Sahib at the London mission and also sent him money. I have not met him yet, but two of his leaders and a coordinator have come to confirm my arrival. The chief himself is also going to pay [me] a visit in a few days. It is no wonder that Allah the Almighty may enter the chief Mahdi into the Jamaat of Imam Mahdi. Anyway, he is being awaited.

Hausa and Yoruba

Hausa and Yoruba are two Nigerian nations which are part of Islam. The Hausa are of mixed Arab race. The Yoruba are native Africans. The girls of the Hausa people here are singing Arabian desert songs at the moment. One of the girls recites one verse and all the rest sing the second verse together. These people set up fires for light in the morning and evening and children recite the Holy Quran in the light of fire. The Hausa people are ancient style Muslims. They consider any modern change to be an innovation. They are completely deprived of education. The Shah Hijaz’s sermon is read out in their mosques. The Yoruba people are civilised and carry out trade. One of their delegations came to meet me. Below is one of the remarks from the answer given in response to my short speech by the amir of the delegation: 

“Until today, people used to laugh at us that white people are not Muslims. All praise belongs to Allah that now, a white man has come here as a missionary of Islam.”

Prayers needed

Dear friends! I – a weak, most distant from the traveller missionaries, living in an unhealthy atmosphere and feeling lonely among the uncivilised people – request you to pray. The beauty of God’s Messiahas witnessed in a divine vision brought comfort to me and the satisfaction that comes from faith is like a shield for me. Dear ones! Goodbye. Please pray, pray and pray.

My postal address

All the friends should write letters to me and share the news of the Jamaat. Moreover, inform me about the news of India because I am far away from the newspaper world. My current address is as follows:

C/o Post Master, Salt Pond, Gold Coast, West Africa.

(Translated by Al Hakam from the original Urdu in the 5 May 1921 issue of Al Fazl)

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