100 Years Ago… – Tabligh in Zaria Nigeria and beyond


Al Fazl, 11 December 1922

Hazrat Maulvi Abdur Rahim Nayyarra (1883-1948)

Bauchi Plateau

Zaria is a junction and a railway line has been proposed from here to Sokoto, Bauchi and Chad. At present, one railway line is operational for around 150 miles and this is the Jos Branch. Considering the situation in Africa, we can say that this railway line is the Kalka-Simla Branch of West Africa. Jos is now a town. A group of European contractors has raised it to the status of a town. The city of Bauchi is several hours away from here and the governor of Bauchi lives there. Christian churches are being built in the town of Jos. Missionary delegations of all Christian sects have reached Jos from Zaria. They are starting their work among the hunter-gatherers. The area around the town of Jos is all mountainous and the people there do not wear clothes. They live in caves and bring the provisions of the forest to the city where they get some goods in exchange from the market. In the morning, if you stop for a while in the market of Jos, you will see hundreds of unclothed men and women. You will not see them walking slowly, sitting down, or standing upright. These people move fast with a slight bend in their backs. Cannibalism is still prevalent among them. They do not dare lay hands on strangers for fear of the government. However, if their sick is about to die, they make him part of their body rather than burying him and this is one of the defining aspects of their food.

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I hope I have the resources to successfully perform the work that I want to carry out. I wish I had even 1/10th of the means, especially monetary assistance, as compared to the Christian missionaries. I have men who can go freely to trade among the hunter-gatherers and also speak their language to a certain degree. If such individuals are sent to the hunter-gatherers of the Jos region after the necessary education and training, Ahmadiyyat can utterly overcome the dominance of Christianity in three years by the grace of God, and the work of enlightening the people there can be done more successfully with less time and money with the blessings of God.

Departure from Zaria

On the morning of 22 August [1922], I was to leave for Zaria. Among those who took bai‘at before my departure, were three gentlemen of the Hausa tribe. One of them was the son of a former chief of Sokoto (who had lost his wealth due to wasteful spending). The other two were from Kano and Katsina. Apart from them, another person pledged allegiance who was from Bauchi. It is as if God has sent the representatives of the famous nations of the North, i.e., Sokoto, Kano, Katsina and Bauchi. This is a delightful occasion, as it could also be considered an auspicious omen for the future development of the Jamaat. The imam, Dep. imam and a few other youths came to the station to bid me farewell and the train journey was spent preaching to the railway officials, passengers and a fellow British engineer in the first-class carriage. After crossing the Dalacha River, the city of Kano came closer. The scenery of the country began to resemble that of the Punjab. Kano approached, but there were no proper arrangements for the stay. The people of Zaria were told to send a telegram to Kano, but God knows whether it was sent or not. In the middle of these anxious thoughts, I heard a Christian gentleman talking to a Lagosian woman, and when the woman pointed to me, the man said: “Yes, I know Ahmadiyya.”

I thought it was time to let go of the anxiety of the heart, but it turned out that the above statement was merely a simple phrase that came out of his mouth during the conversation. Then I saw a person come from the third class and after politely greeting me, he asked, “Are you going to Kano? We have been waiting for you for a long time.” I thus found what I was eagerly awaiting and told this newcomer to call my secretary, Zakaria who was in the next room. Zakaria came and the two Yorubas greeted and talked to each other. Our new friend gladly promised to make all the arrangements for our stay. Alhamdulillah, this person is a resident of Lagos and has a great deal of affection for Ahmadis.

Kano station and Sabon Gari

Finally, the last train station arrived and everywhere I looked, I saw Hausas wearing turbans, peculiar clothes and trousers. Hundreds of workers were present at the station. Magnificent buildings were visible. As soon as I got off the train, I stood on one side and dear Zakaria and my new friend Tahami got busy bringing luggage from the guard’s carriage. As I was in a travel outfit and had a British hat on my head because of the sun, the Christians assumed that a Roman Catholic Father had arrived. Consequently, voices of “Good afternoon, Father” were heard. I replied with a smile and gave a short sermon expressing my religion and inviting them to Islam. In the meantime, the luggage arrived and Zakaria gave me an umbrella and a turban. As soon as I put it on, the voices of “Lino, lino, Ya Mu‘allim” and “Sulam, sulam, Maulvi Sahib” were raised by those people. The distance from the train station to the population is about two and a half miles, and near the station are the houses of all the foreign merchants. No rides are available at the station. One of the prominent features of travelling in this country [Nigeria] is that one has to carry almost all the essential items with them. Consequently, as I was walking, I saw a simple porter carrying my belongings. Apart from books, one has to travel with food and sleeping equipment, i.e., half of the items in the house have to be carried. However, after departing from the station, we arrived in one of the villages of Kano, Sabon Gari (new town). Most of the residents here are Christians, including the people working in the government offices and the employees of the merchants. Yoruba Muslim traders and some Hausa people who do not want to live in the city of the governor are also settled in this place. Our guide and helper, our new friend Tahami, brought us to the house of the Siriki Muslim chieftain.

Ahmadiyya Jamaat

The aforesaid chief was present at his house. When Tahami knocked at his door, he said in the Yoruba language, “Tani ho” which means “Who is it?” Tahami answered in a loud voice, “Ahmadiyya Movement.” I am popularly known by the name “Ahmadiyya Movement” or “Ahmad” in Yorubas. In the meantime, a part of my luggage had been taken into the house of the chief. He came out and met us very warmly and said, “Why didn’t you inform me earlier so that all the people would have gone to the station to receive him?” However, the “Ahmadiyya Movement” thus reached Kano with all of his belongings. […]

Abdur Rahim Nayyar,

10 October 1922.

(Translated by Al Hakam from the original Urdu, published in the 11 December 1922 issue of Al Fazl)

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