100 Years Ago… – Muslims of Sierra Leone give grand welcome to first Ahmadi Missionary


Al Fazl, 18 April 1921

Hazrat Maulvi Abdur Rahim Nayyarra

Hazrat Maulvi Abdur Rahim Nayyarra

Liverpool to Sierra Leone

I wrote the last letter, which was the first letter of West Africa, from the Abinsi ship. I was well at the time of writing the letter, but the Bay of Biscay reminded me of the dangers of the Atlantic Ocean the next day, and the sea sickness struck the weak Nayyar. Along with weakness and severe sea sickness, wind had an effect on my teeth and I experienced a sharp pain in my left jaw. However, after four days, by the grace of God, I recovered completely. By the time I reached Sierra Leone, my health was beginning to look like that of London. 

By the grace of God, I got a good opportunity to work on the Abinsi ship. I distributed literature, exchanged views with the travelers and many people had feelings of love and affection for Islam after hearing the message of the true religion.

Compassionate and new converts to Islam

There were around 30 Europeans in my friends’ circle. One of them was from Switzerland and the rest were from England. We had the opportunity to exchange views on various issues. Three of them came so close that they requested for pen names and asked to be called by Arabic names. These people are compassionate towards Islam and their names are as follows: 

1. Sergent W Habeeb Murrell

2. Mr S Mahboob Raidshaw

3. Mr A Mohibb Foreman

The first of these friends is a very good natured gentleman and said to his friends in the drawing room:

“I am no longer William Herbert Murrell, I have now been christened Habeeb; call me by that name.”

The second and third gentlemen were jealous of their friend and they also asked for Muslim names, which were given to them. Insha-Allah, one day, from being just compassionate, they will be granted the strength to become truly compassionate and show sincere compassion for Islam.

Moreover, five African Christians, after listening to the prophecies of the Bible, believed in the true comforter, the spirit of truth, the embodiment of Moses, and the true Messiahas of Muhammadsa. Their requests of bai‘at have been sent to be presented before Hazrat Khalifatul [Masih IIra]. Their names are as follows:

1. Christian name: John Macaulay, Muslim name: Abdur Rahim of Sierra Leone

2. Christian name: Zac T Owens, Muslim name: Abdur Rahman of Bathurst, The Gambia

3. Christian name: Thom Peter, Muslim name: Abdullah of Sierra Leone

4. Christian name: Thom Wilson, Muslim name: Abdul Aziz of Sierra Leone

5. Christian name: Jack Thompson, Muslim name: Abdul Hayy of Sierra Leone

Four lectures in Sierra Leone and a Muslim Bishop

The ship, Abinsi, which is one of the best ships of the Elder Dempster Lines, had a wireless telegraphy device. Taking advantage of its services to the missionary of Islam, where I sent a request for prayers to Hazrat Imam Al-Muttaqin, [Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra], I also sent a message to Mr Khairuddin, the Muslim Education Officer of Sierra Leone. Mr Khairuddin spread this message as far as he could. A dozen chiefs and imams of different nations, dressed in their glittering robes and turbans, and wearing heavy silver bells around their necks, came to greet this humble on the deck of the steam launch ship.

After exchanging salaam and “Ahlan wa sahlan wa marhaba” [Muslim way of welcoming], the first conversation was held in Arabic. The exercise of speaking in Arabic had already happened thanks to speaking in the language of the Holy Quran [Arabic] with the Sudanese and Tripoli passengers, so I had no difficulty. Moreover, one of the signs of the admirers of the Messiah is that they would speak in different languages. Accordingly, He [God] granted me such strength that I was myself amazed at it. There were motors on the shore. 

In the form of a procession, I was taken to a beautiful mosque, where representatives of fifteen thousand Muslims were present. I explained the purpose of my mission in English and thanked them for the welcome. Brother Khairuddin Sahib translated it into local English, which is called Pigeon English and explained what I said to the audience. In response, Chief Alna, the old special imam, thanked me by comparing my arrival with the promise of the arrival of reformers and mujaddids after the Holy Prophetsa. It was the morning of 19 February [1921].

I was brought to a magnificent English style hotel and all kinds of comforts were afforded to me. The arrangements for speeches were made for 20 February [1921] and announcements were published for them. The mosques were beautified and governmental Islamic madrasas were decorated with flags etc. The Muslims expressed happiness and delight in their own way. 

To begin with, a speech was delivered in a mosque at 8am. Thereafter, a second speech was held in a madrasa at 12pm and then in the evening a third speech was delivered in another madrasa at 6pm. Brother Khairuddin Sahib was the interpreter in the first two [speeches]. The men and women listened to these speeches with civility, respect and love. Before the speech, a young man recited naat [poem in praise of the Holy Prophetsa] in Arabic in a very beautiful voice. After each of the four couplets, a verse was recited by the audience in one voice. 

The atmosphere was amazing. I attended these meetings on a charismatic ride. Imams in red robes were present in front of the rickshaw and people wearing white robes were on the back. The young students were seen standing in a row on both sides.

I repeatedly mentioned the appearance of the Holy Messiah in my speeches and I heard no other voice except for “Aamanna” [we believe in him]. I preached separately to the imam of the country who confessed about his faith. The evening’s speech was for Christians and was listened to attentively. As there are two Christian colleges in Sierra Leone, and two bishops and 118 priest reside here, so the Christian gathering was made up of educated Africans. After the speech, a session of questions and answers took place. The Muslims looked happy while the Christians were lost in thought.

On the morning of 21 February [1921], I met with the authorities and drew the government’s attention to the educational situation of Muslims. I am happy to express that I was encouraged by the authorities. By the blessings of God, the unskilled master of Qadian’s madrasa, the humble Abdur Rahim, became known here by the name of Muslim Bishop. Isn’t it the glory of Mahmud that the inferior were made superior? Alhamdulillah thumma Alhamdulillah!

Departure from Sierra Leone and the seed of Ahmadiyyat

The Muslims of Sierra Leone wanted me to stay longer, but the ship was scheduled to depart at 3pm on 21 [February 1921]. Therefore, it was not possible for me to stay. The manager of the shipping company did his best to make arrangements in the first class of the ship, “Bruto”. A group of my Muslim hosts from Sierra Leone came to see me off at the deck of the ship. May Allah grant them the best of rewards.

Before my departure, Brother Khairuddin Sahib, who has been studying Jamaat’s literature for many years but did not take bai‘at, had the honour of taking bai‘at of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II. Consequently, the only highly educated Muslim in Sierra Leone became an Ahmadi, alhamdulillah. Many more young people are ready, who will join the army of the Promised Messiahas at a particular time and serve Islam, insha-Allah. God willing, the people of this place will greatly serve Islam. The spread of Christianity will now cease in the educated group, and in fact, the Christians will become Muslims, insha-Allah!

New ship, “Bruto”, and an officer’s Islam

The ship, Abinsi, on which I came from Liverpool was a large mail ship and weighed 57,000 tons. However, the ship, “Bruto”, is a relatively small cargo ship, and weighs five and a half thousand tons. 

God gave me a lot of comfort on this [ship]. Captain Mr Nelson is a very gentle and a good natured Englishman. I was treated with utmost respect. 

A Greek tradesman, an Englishman BA from Cambridge (superintendent of section) and the captain himself, are under tabligh. The second officer, who speaks nine languages and apart from passing naval examinations, is a senior of Cambridge, has accepted Islam by the grace of God. His name is now Ahmad Frank Bowen. Mr Ahmad hopes that his wife, who is a Spanish, will convert to Islam, insha-Allah. He has thus suggested the name Afifa Bowen for his wife and got his child named Mubarak Bowen. May Allah the Almighty grant them perseverance.


This traveler, nine thousand miles from India, the weak and the lonely, Nayyar, requests for prayers from the friends of the Jamaat.

(Translated by Al Hakam from the original Urdu in the 18 April 1921 issue of Al Fazl)

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