100 Years Ago… – Tabligh tour in Gold Coast, Africa, and downpour of God’s blessings

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Last Updated on 12th November 2021

Hazrat Maulvi Abdur Rahim Nayyarra (1883-1948)

From Lagos to Accra

I have previously informed our readers that I had boarded the RMS Appam at Lagos, the capital city of Nigeria, and reached Accra, a central city of the Gold Coast. However, I did not mention what I did during my two days of sailing across the Atlantic Ocean and living in waters after leaving the dry land.

The readers of Al Fazl are well aware that by the grace of God, I never idle by, even from the deck of the ship. However, I suffer from such weakness that a slight movement of the ship makes me severely ill. It was due to this state that throughout the said two days, I had to spend the majority of my journey in bed. 

During the small window of opportunity, I managed to preach to two dozen African travellers in first class who were eating at the same table as me. Among those were a native African Christian lady doctor who said to me in astonishment:

“Do you think you will be able to convert Christians to Mohammadanism?” I replied: “Yes, madam. I will, I am sure I will convert all thinking Christians.” This woman was left in awe for some time and then she said: “It is a hard job.” In response, I presented the message of the Promised Messiahas and told her that if fisherman could once become a source of guidance for mankind, then why can’t those missionaries who are much higher in faith from them attain success.

The noteworthy among the European travellers is Mr KM Leslie (commissioner police for trade). He has previously lived in India and is able to make small conversations in the Indian language. He has an interest in Islam. I had a lengthy conversation with him and his wife. Their views are very noble and close to Islam. Apart from them, I presented the true message of Ahmadiyyat to the ship’s accountant and other official workers whenever the time and opportunity presented itself. 

Meeting with the officers

As the Jami‘ Masjid [central mosque] had been sealed for over six years due to ignorance and infighting of the local Muslims, I am trying to re-open it for carrying out God’s worship and end Muslims’ dispute. In this regard, I met with the authorities and also informed them about the Ahmadiyya Jamaat’s fundamental issues. I presented a copy of the Holy Quran to his excellency, the governor, which he ordered to be placed in the government house library. He also assured me that the matter of the mosque would soon be resolved.

India in Accra

A poet once said:

حب‭ ‬وطن‭ ‬از‭ ‬ملك‭ ‬سلیمان‭ ‬خوشتر

خار‭ ‬وطن‭ ‬از‭ ‬سنبل‭ ‬و‭ ‬ریحاں‭ ‬خوشتر

“The love of the homeland is better than the kingdom of Solomon. The thorns of the homeland are better than hyacinths and basil (fragrant plants).”

However, the true meanings of this proverb cannot be comprehended unless one leaves their country. Moreover, the pen does not have enough power to explain that delight which one gets after meeting a compatriot in a foreign country. 

I sent a telegram from Lagos regarding my arrival. Respected Lala Tara Chand (manager of Darul Tijarat Dayaldas) and Lala Narain Das (manager of Darul Tijarat Molchand) were present for me at the seashore. They kept waiting for three hours at the coast. May God grant them the best of rewards. They brought me with great happiness and utmost comfort to the house of Dayaldas and Company. They show great hospitality in every possible way and served me puri [puffy Indian bread], karah [a type of pudding made from an equal portion of whole wheat flour, milk and sugar], daal [lentil curry], bhat [white rice] and every possible Indian food that they could make themselves.

They accompanied me to Aburi Botanical Gardens, Gold Coast, which is about 24 miles away, located on a mountain top. This is the only elevated place on the shore of West African that is conducive to good health. At the time of leaving, they made and presented puris to me, (ghee is not available here, but olive oil is available). Hence, both of these gentlemen and their workers treated me with great affection and showed eastern hospitality. May Allah grant them the best of rewards.

During my stay in Accra, the sight of the recitation of bhajan [Hindus’ hymn or religious song] in Gujarati, Sindhi, Punjabi and Urdu languages and the singing of the choral of Sant Attar Singh took me to India and in fact Punjab. Consequently, the picture of Tarn Taran Khalsa Conference was drawn before my eyes, which I had once attended. I had a friendly exchange of discourse with the said associates on the religion of Shri Krishna Chandra and Shri Nanak Dev. Lala Naraian Das’s tendency is towards Vedanta and Lala Tara Chand is interested in the Sikh religion. In the company of [Indian] friends, my acquaintance with both the said religions came to work in Africa and helped me serve my esteemed hosts as well.

My programme

Below is my programme for the Gold Coast:  

1. Establishing a permanent mission in Saltpond 

2. Establishment of a Markazi [central] Ahmadiyya Middle School in Saltpond 

3. Establishment of Primary Schools in different Ahmadiyya marakiz [centres]

4. [Establishment of the] Jamaat’s administrative structure  

5. Launch of a Missionary Training School  

6. A tour of all the Ahmadiyya marakiz 

Struggles during the programme’s fulfilment

I have begun to put forth all my efforts in order to give a practical shape to the above programme. Even though I had to face some difficulties, the work is being done at a good pace by the grace of Allah. The work that has been done till now is as follows:

(1) I have acquired a two-story house with two halls and 4 rooms in the middle of Saltpond on the commercial road for the needs of the mission. A board is being prepared. Since this house belongs to an Ahmadi, the rent is only 45 rupees per month.  

(2-3) The jamaats are holding gatherings all over the place in order to collect funds for the establishment of schools. Moreover, apart from Markazi Middle School, a suggestion of establishing 10 Primary Schools is under consideration. 

(4) (a) The whole jamaat has been divided into two circles. Their names are Accrafol circle and Saraha circle. 

(b) Each of the two circles has been given the authority to make divisions under them, so that all the people of the surrounding areas can easily gather together.

(c) Two Majlis Akabir [gathering of elders] of the whole jamaat will be held in Saltpond every year and if need be, more gatherings will be held. 

(5) On 17 September [1921], two students from each markaz [jamaat] who know Arabic or English will come to Saltpond for a one-month training period, insha-Allah.

(6) At the time of writing this letter, I have so far travelled 543 miles, the majority of which was covered on motor and some by foot. I held 27 jalsas at 22 different places during this tour and my speeches were always focused on the subject of preaching the message of Islam and the reformation of the Muslims. Now, only a 180-mile long tour is left to be completed, which includes an arduous journey of travelling by foot because the motor cannot reach that place.  

The outcome of the tour

This tour has strengthened the Jamaat. Thousands of individuals have heard the true message of Ahmadiyyat. Hundreds of disbelievers are ready to accept Islam [and soon join it], insha-Allah. All praise belongs to Allah, more than two dozen men and women converted to Islam. Praise be to Allah! A few chiefs are simply waiting for the right time to make the announcement of their conversion [to Islam].   

It is difficult to accept Islam

Every place I visit, I find a lot of admirers of Islam. However, they are only hesitant [to accept Islam] because they cannot let go of drinking. The eating restrictions are also unpalatable for them. A Muslim in a village said, “People are quick to convert to Christianity as there are no major restrictions in it, but because of the very many restrictions, it is difficult for people to convert to Islam.” I have no idea how and on what grounds do Christian preachers tell the world that Africans because of their ignorance are quick to convert to Islam. However, it is very easy for Africans to convert to Christianity and difficult to convert to Islam. It is only the work of a courageous, God-fearing and pious man to leave idolatry and man-worship and convert to Islam by giving up his luxuries, comforts and servitude of his inner desires.

Al Fazl, 3 November 1921

God’s grace

When a man witnesses the seed sown by him has fully grown and observes its fruits with his own eyes, then surely his heart fills with happiness. He sings the hymns of God, Who is worthy of all praise. My heart is in the said state. 

Seven months ago, I arrived as a newcomer to the inhospitable shores of Saltpond and disembarked the ship that was being thumped by the cruel waves. At that time, only one man was standing at the shore with a heartfelt welcome and another man in Khaki uniform was also standing there, following government orders. 

There were Muslims in the country, but very few as compared to the idol worshipers. However, due to God’s grace, the reformations I had introduced are being quickly acted upon. 

(1) The women have started wearing clothes and covering their chests

(2) Newborns’ faces are not marked with a cross

(3) Circumcision is being done

(4) None of the Muslims drink alcohol made out of palm juice 

(5) Greetings by placing the knees on the ground have been stopped

They are not only acting upon these reforms, but their sincerity had reached a level where they are taking my word as the true interpretation of the divine commandments. Everywhere I go, I am told that they will do whatever I will teach them. They have started to fold their arms in Salat as I do. The sincere hearts of these simple new Ahmadis are such that, once I was offering the sunnah prayers in the mosque, suddenly the entire jamaat stood next to me. Although I was not saying the takbir, they followed my movements and preformed proper ruku and sujud as if they were offering congregational prayer. Achieving these results in seven months is possible through the blessings of God Almighty.  

Two examples

(1) There was a gathering at a village and a question and answer session was being held after the conclusion of the speech. A man complained that women did not offer prayers, so they should be reminded of it. I gave a sermon and the women listened to it very attentively. They expressed happiness on my arrival by placing a yellow wild flower on their heads. When I advised them that women should cover their heads, they immediately complied and covered their heads after dropping their flowers. Once I had finished the sermon, a young woman with her child on her back, (it is a custom over here to have your child on your back instead of in your lap), requested permission to ask a question. I gave her permission and then she told me, “I am representing the women. We have a complaint against the men, as we want to follow your command but the men do not provide us clothes, please advise them.” Their courage brought me happiness and I advised the men that providing clothes and food is their responsibility. After the sermon, the women proclaimed that, “We won today.” 

(2) I was told that there had been a debate between an Ahmadi and a non-Ahmadi. The latter said, “Your white man is deceiving you.” The former said in response, “If our white man takes us to hell, we will still follow him, but we will never listen to you.” 

I have mentioned these two incidents simply to inform our friends that people are ready for reformation. They want to become true Muslims. Many students are present but there is only one teacher and that too for three countries making it 1/3. However, Allah the Almighty has all by Himself placed love in their hearts for a lowly slave of Ghulam Ahmad and a servant of Mahmud. 

Downpour of blessings

I always consider my ability, conduct, capacity, status and then witness the downpour of Allah’s blessings on a daily basis. Allah knows that I say, all praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds, with a heart filled with love and sincerity. 

(1) I left Accra on 13 September [1921], halfway through there were crossroads and the gateway to Saltpond road was closed. “Road closed no permits,” was written there. Eid was on 15 September [1921] and I was supposed to be at a location 90 miles from there. I had no acquaintances there, nor there was any sign of transportation. I had barely spent five minutes worrying when a person approached me and told me he had gained permission after requesting [officials] countless times. He said that he will take me with him. This was the very first lorry to gain permission for that entire week. 

(2) As I arrived at Saltpond, I saw that the road going to my destination was closed. I prayed to Allah and then I booked a motor, having absolute belief in Allah and completed all my preparations. The motor driver arrived at 7:15 am on 15 September [1921] whilst laughing at my silliness. I got into the motor and went along towards the destination. Just three furlongs from the gateway, we met the road engineer who was on his way back after opening up the gate and was going to announce the opening of the road. The first motor to cross that gate was mine and I returned on 16 September [1921] afternoon. The last motor to cross on that day was also mine, after which the road was closed again. 

(3) I was supposed to go on a tour on 25 September [1921] to Cape Coast Castle. The road was opened and I went there. When I returned three days later during the rain, the road was closed and the police constable had left with the keys. I began worrying about what to do next, but my God did not let me worry for too long. Soon after the road engineer himself came, saw me and began speaking to me in Indian. The rest is history, we became friends. Not only the gate was opened, but I also made a white friend and the biggest difficulty that one comes across while travelling in Gold Coast was solved. 

(4) My motor broke down on the way and I was scheduled to arrive at the village of Saraha. It began to rain, crushing all hopes for a ride. Suddenly, a lorry came and I boarded it. This lorry dropped me off 8 miles from my destination. I had just decided to walk the rest of the way on the lorry road but unexpectedly, another lorry arrived from the very village [I was going to] and so I got in it reached there. Hence, all this was arranged for me well before the scheduled time. 

The sincerity of people, daily rise in new converts, progress of the Jamaat and [God’s] support through apparent means increase a believer’s faith. I have said it many times and will say it again that: 

Am I the one who made up these coincidences? Allah did and surely Allah, Who sent the Promised Messiahas, in order to bring people towards Islam and increase my faith by showing me signs of his existence, created all these circumstances. 

Alas! There are some people, who at the time of the Promised Messiahas used to make a mockery of these matters when they were considered as signs. Ultimately, Allah has made a mockery of them. Will they now understand this sign?

From, Abdur Rahim Nayyar.

(Translated by Al Hakam from the original Urdu in the 31 October and 3 November 1921 issue of Al Fazl)

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