100 Years Ago… – Nigeria Jamaat in 1921 and Islam in West Africa

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Al Fazl, 11 July 1921

Hazrat Maulana Abdur Rahim Nayyarra, (1883-1948)

12 public speeches

By the grace of Allah the Almighty, I have been consistently and strongly carrying out tabligh from the day I reached Lagos. In addition to the three sermons of Jumuah and nikah, and dars of the Holy Quran, hadith and jurisprudence, I have given 12 public speeches at the request of people during my one-month stay. The number of attendees has risen from 500 to over 5,000 now. Every person is keen on having a speech delivered at their nearest square. Thus far, detailed speeches have been made on the following topics:

1. Death of Prophet Jesusas

2. Arrival of the Promised Messiahas

3. Tawhid [unity of] Allah the Almighty

4. Fasting and its philosophy

5. Prophet Muhammadsa, the Messenger of God, is a perfect role model

6. Comparative analysis of the teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa and Prophet Jesusas

7. Populate the mosques and develop the habit of forgiveness

8. Harmony among the people

9. The Holy Quran is the rope of God Almighty

10. Refrain from bad innovations

11. The Bible is tampered with

12. The Holy Prophetsa in the Bible

Series of questions

The series of questions continues with full interest. Learned Christians and Muslims attend the public meetings on regular basis and ask questions and return after saying, “We are fully satisfied.” The questions are written in clear handwriting or they are typed and sent to the secretary of Anjuman Ahmadiyya. He sorts them out and hands them over to me. I answer them after the speech. These questions shed ample light on the condition of the Muslims here and also show what the mullahs have taught them. 

Below are some of these questions:

1. It is a general belief of the Muslims in Lagos that during Quranic education, there are certain stages where a young man has to make some sacrifices, viz. of beans, hen, goat or ram. When he gets to Surah Al-Baqarah, a big cow has to be sacrificed. Is this lawful?

2. Can Muslims believe in predestination?

3. Is “[dua-equnoot” lawful during morning prayer?

Series of meetings

My arrival has produced a kind of stimulation all across the city of Lagos. Muslims are happy that a Muslim missionary has come to their city. Christians are surprised to know that there are missionaries among Muslims as well. The Christians here treat Muslims in the same way a Brahmin in India looks at a Shudra. In this confusing situation, most people have turned towards Ahmadiyyat. 

The daily series of meetings continues at home and at others’ residences. I have met the nobles and chiefs and started to carry out tabligh to them. It is a special grace of Allah the Almighty that every day, one or the other seeker of truth accepts the rightful Ahmadiyya Jamaat. 

The series of meetings with chiefs will be producing good results, insha-Allah. Many Muslim chiefs are under the influence of Ahmadiyyat. The pagan king of Lagos has expressed his wish that I should meet him and preach to him. It is no wonder that Allah the Almighty may show the following scene here as well:

يَدۡخُلُوۡنَ‭ ‬فِيۡ‭ ‬دِيۡنِ‭ ‬اللّٰهِ‭ ‬اَفۡوَاجًا

[“(And thou seest men) entering the religion of Allah in troops.”]

White maulvi

The sermonisers and scholars in this country are called “alpha” and my name in the city is “white alpha” or “white maulvi”. As the white man has great influence in this country and is looked upon with great reverence and respect by people here, the common man and the educated youth listen to me attentively as compared to the other local mullahs, and my fatwa [religious decree] on every issue is considered correct, alhamdulillah

By the grace of God, the mullahs are so awestruck by me that whenever they are asked a question on the issues I have previously explained, they simply answer, “Go and ask the white maulvi.”

Language barrier

As people in different parts of West Africa speak different languages, which is also the case throughout this country, and most people do not understand English, therefore conversation with people cannot take place without an interpreter. Sometimes people come to visit and there is no interpreter. In this situation, nothing can be said except for salaam or ekaba [welcome]. 

The same difficulty arises with servants. For example, one of my rickshaw boys belongs to the Yoruba [tribe] and the other, to Fante. They do not understand each other’s language and I am not able to understand them. The former knows some words of English and the latter knows a few words of Arabic, so we have to talk with hand gestures. 

Experiencing this, I am praying that Allah the Almighty may establish our mission in West Africa, so much so that a missionary who understands the local languages can be appointed at every place. This is not at all impossible if Allah the Almighty wills.

Respected friends

My friends, pray for this brother of yours living in a distant land and continue to pray, because in these countries, I am not only fighting with the climate and unsuitable food, but also with internal conspiracies and efforts of the wealthy Christian outreach groups that have systematically established themselves here over the years. 

There is another enemy besides them and they are the sons of ignorance, the local mullahs who, like the former pagans or family mullahs, even after converting to Islam, earn their livelihood from necromancy. They have apparently left the worship of juju, but in truth, they are practising it under another name. They make a living out of ignorant people by giving them amulets with magic spells written over them for communicating [with spirits] and securing grace. Moreover, they rely on showing miracles by the secret use of poisonous bones for the death of an enemy. This region is in a lot of danger from these enemies of religion. Therefore, I request prayers, with all due respect and earnestness.

Sincerity of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat in Africa

The Jamaat of Nigeria is a Jamaat of sincere followers, by the grace of God. They are deeply in love with Hazrat NabiyullahJariyullah [the champion of Allah], the holy Promised Messiahas and have profound admiration for the name of Qadian. There is no trace of the Lahoris’ [Paighami group] hypocrisy in any of them […]

The administrative body here considers it its duty to maintain discipline. In my presence, the members who violated the rules and regulations were called to the meeting of the Anjuman and given an opportunity to explain themselves. Thereafter, pardons or punishments were given. 

Every member has endured hardship to some extent. As a result, the newcomers join the Jamaat after full consideration. The office-bearers and special members of the Lagos Anjuman stand out as models of Islam and piety. The government has recognised their body as an enlightened, organised Jamaat and all official information is passed on to them. Some members are in other parts of Nigeria for work. The following excerpt from the letter of one of these members shows the sincerity of this Jamaat:

Brother Nuruddin Adusei writes to Mr Gabriel Martin (General Secretary) from Port Harcourt:

“[I] hope our good missionary arrived safely. Is he still on the same flying [temporary tour] or [will he] stay and do us some good? 

“I wish I could have wings like a bird. I would have flown across the mighty ocean to come and have a grip and kiss of a man from Home [Qadian, India] – the home of the holy one [the Promised Messiahas].

“Or have a wireless station here and he [be] the sender and I [be the] receiver, to receive direct [message of] the good news of Home.” 

New converts

For the information [of members of the Jamaat], the general secretary will send a list of new converts to India on monthly basis.

(Translated by Al Hakam from the original Urdu in the 11 July 1921 issue of Al Fazl)

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