100 Years Ago… – Preaching Islam in Africa, the wonders of nature and an Ashanti chief’s conversion

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Al Fazl, 13 March 1922

Hazrat Maulvi Abdur Rahim Nayyarra (1883-1948)

Cape Coast

On 8 November 1921, this humble traveller set out on a journey to visit the northern parts of the new settlements [in Africa]. After an hour and a half, the car drove us to the Gold Coast Education Center. The road to Secondi was closed and it was not possible to go to Secondi without obtaining special permission and taking a special car. Consequently, we stopped to deliver the message of the Messiah to Cape Coast, where 99% of the population is Christian and also waited for [some special] grace [of God].

It was noon. The colleges and schools were closing. The students and professors were returning home. Consequently, there was an opportunity to gather the general public and taking advantage of that, I started my sermon in a square. A group of wise students and teachers gathered [to listen to the sermon]. The message of truth was briefly conveyed to them and I had just finished my responsibility and was answering their last question when I heard the voice: “Master! Car for Secondi.” God, by His grace, sent the particular car for Secondi with the special permission.

The city [of Secondi] is wonderful. It is a Christian preaching centre for the new settlements. The existing circumstances do not make it possible for me to stay here for long, otherwise, my intention was to stay here for a long time.

Secondi

Departing from Cape Coast, I reached Elmina at night. I stayed there for a while and addressed the people near the magnificent former Dutch fort. Many listened intently to the message of truth. There are only a few Hausa people living in that place who present Islam in a terrible way with their bad example. Departing from Elmina, I reached Secondi in the afternoon and stayed in the magnificent building of Lala Matha Ram Brothers’ “Wonderful Store” located at the second-class port of Gold Coast.

I travelled around the town and gave speeches in the public park and various squares of chiefs. The details of the speeches are as follows:

1. [I delivered a speech] in the park where hundreds of people gathered around and a series of questions and answers took place in a very healthy atmosphere. All the speeches were given without the help of an interpreter. The three lectures were: Islam and ChristianityMuhammadsa, the Messenger of Allah in the BibleThe Death of Christ

2. A sermon was given to the people of the Hausa tribe. 

3. Another sermon was addressed to the people of the Yoruba tribe.

Miscellaneous meetings, preaching on an individual basis and tours were carried out. Debates were held with African Christians. I had such a busy schedule and had to talk so much that my vocal cords swelled. By the grace of God, Ahmadiyya Jamaat was established and ten men took bai‘at.

Fascination in the wonders of nature: Abdani

Nine miles from Secondi, there is a village by the seashore, where Muslim Africans live and do trade. When the said people were informed by a Fante Muslim named Umar who had recently joined the Ahmadiyya Jamaat, two of their special men came to see me – because these people never believe in someone’s words – and then invited me to their village. I accepted their invitation and went to a place named Chema from Secondi by car and then reached Abdani on foot. 

There I gave two lectures and answered their questions on various issues. I also invited the said people to participate in the conference of Saltpond. Upon reaching that village, the last group of Fante people, of which we did not know before, was conveyed the message of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat. There I saw the fish tannur [a big cylindrical oven] for the first time. Its formation is such that first a tannur is made and fire is lit in it, and then fish are fried and dried on its heated roof. They are then sent to cities and villages for sale. Considering the root word of Abduni, Aidan, Abdum and Abdan, etc., to be Abaadi [papulation], I pondered over the connection between their languages. Moreover, the towns of Shema and Chema located on the coastline turned my mind towards the outskirts of Qadian. 

On the way back from Abdani, the high tide was receding from its extreme ascent, and there was only a small wet trail between the rocky shore and the sea. The water would come near at times and then it would go away. Sometimes, there is such a fascination in the wonders of nature that one goes out of the realm of reality. 

I became oblivious of who and where I was when I saw the waves jumping up and down. I would go near the waves and then run out of their grasp. I lost that competition only once, but I won all the other times. That defeat reminded me that I was no longer a child but an old man.

Success in Kumasi

The capital of the state of Ashanti, Kumasi, which was conquered by the British forces in the battle of Ashanti in 1904 and was the centre of much bloodshed, is now a thriving prosperous town. It is located 162 miles from Secondi and is connected to the city by train. 

The tabligh [preaching] requirements and the desire to get fully acquainted with the country [of Africa] compelled me to go to Kumasi. Thus, I went there for four days. Ashanti is currently under martial law. Therefore, special permission was sought for outdoor gatherings and a constable was taken along as an interpreter.

First of all, the message of truth was conveyed to all the chiefs of Kumasi, i.e. those leaders who were with the king, Prempeh, in the autonomous government of Ashanti. I went to each one of their houses and delivered the message. Thereafter, I met other people and preached to them. I delivered two public speeches. One speech was delivered at the house of Amir Hausa where all the Muslims gathered and the other was delivered at the palace of King Prempeh. There were three interpreters in the first speech, i.e. Hausa, Wangara and Yoruba, and only one Ashanti interpreter in the latter. All praise belongs to Allah that the obligation of preaching the message of truth was fulfilled in the best possible manner.

An Ashanti chief converted to Islam

It is the blessing of Allah the Almighty that He did not waste my hard work, efforts and contributions. One of Ashanti’s most respected and great chiefs has converted to Islam and I have named him Faruq. Owing to certain reasons, he has not yet permitted us to reveal his name in public. I am sure that the Ashanti people will convert to Islam very soon.

(Translated by Al Hakam from the original Urdu in the 13 March 1922 issue of Al Fazl)

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