100 Years Ago… – Tabligh tour of the Gold Coast, 80 new converts in one day and news from Nigeria

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Al Fazl, 14-17 November 1921

Hazrat Maulvi Abdur Rahim Nayyarra (1883-1948)

My tour

As I have already mentioned in my previous letter, I am carrying out a [tabligh] tour [in Gold Coast – now Ghana] according to plan. 

During the days mentioned in this report, I travelled about 110 miles by car and around 10 miles on foot. In the said journey, seven jalsas were held at four different places, and speeches were delivered in them. The Christian people are taking a keen interest in Islam and the hatred present in the educated class of Christians towards Islam is now slowly fading away. Be it the idolater rulers or the general public, everyone’s attitude is friendly. In spite of the demanding rules of Islam, we are hopeful from Allah the Almighty that many people will convert to Islam.

Generally, people convert to Islam every other day, but during the journey under discussion, by the grace of Allah the Almighty, a large number of blessed souls had the honour of accepting Islam after reciting the kalima [لا‭ ‬اله‭ ‬الا‭ ‬الله‭ ‬محمد‭ ‬رسول‭ ‬الله: There is none worthy of worship save Allah and Muhammad is His messenger]. 

One of them who converted to Islam was a chief. He is an influential chief of a village who also has judicial powers. As Fante names are hard to remember and I can’t reproduce them, I will give below a list of Islamic names of the new converts as an illustration. Certain names have been repeated because people can’t remember long names and soon after they are named, some come back to enquire about their new names again and again. Sometimes, they want the name that has been given to another man or woman. Each name has been written on a piece of paper and handed over to the person named so that they can memorise their names. During the said visit, by the grace of Allah, 80 men, women and children converted to Islam. The list of their names is as follows:

1. Chief David Ahin Essel III (the chief speaks English and is well-acquainted with Christianity) 2. Hassan 3. Hussain 4. Ibrahim 5. Umar 6. Maryam 7. Salma 8. Suleiman 9. Ali 10. Kulthum 11. Khadija 12. Mahdi 13. Haqq 14. Fatima 15. Harun 16. Abbas 17. Saleha 18. Amna 19. Zainab 20. Hajira 21. Ismail 22. Tahir 23. Habiba 24. Majeeda 25. Aisha 26. Harun 27. Abbas 28. Talha 29. Zainab 30. Armina 31. Hajira 32. Aisha 33. Habiba 34. Saeeda 35. Tahira 36. Mubaraka 37. Ishaq 38. Nusrat 39. Fatima 40. Yunus 41. Nasira 42. Syeda 43. Safia 44. Maimuna 45. Rahmat 46. Maryam 47. Fatima 48. Suleiman 49. Siddiqa 50. Hawwa 51. Ameena 52. Amina 53. Asiya 54. Ibrahim 55. Yahya 56. Yusuf 57. Mirza 58. Nayyar 59. Sadiq 60. Musa 61. Qadian 62. Rasheeda 63. Iqbal 64. Zubair 65. Saeeda 66. Mubarak 67. Haleema 68. Rashida 69. Ruqayyah 70. Ismat 71. Zainab 72. Yaqub 73. Rabia 74. Isa 75. Saira 76. Idris 77. Mubaraka 78. Nasira 79. Fatima 80. Yunus

Experiences of the journey

The only thing worth mentioning about the journey of 110 miles by car is that the car had to be lifted out of the mud twice due to a broken road in one place and Allah the Almighty Himself provided the means for it on both occasions as the engineer, with whom I am on friendly terms, was present there in person and so the villagers helped us in large numbers. A wonderful thing that happened during the journey on foot was that that the half-mile-long caravan passed through the forest saying:

صَلِّ‭ ‬عَلٰی ‬مُحَمَّدٍ

Half of the path was such that due to rainfall, there was water all over the place and the narrow track was like a drain passage. We had to spread our legs and walk over it by placing each foot in either side of it. Sometimes, associates would pick me up and help me cross a difficult trail. It was raining when we were going to that place but on our way back, there was scorching sunlight. On the one hand, I was sweating and on the other, I suffered repeated attacks by the bloodthirsty gadfly and it did not leave us for a long time. In such situations, only the grace of and belief in Allah the Almighty helps and both of them worked for us to the fullest possible extent, alhamdulillah

I recall a couple of rivers also came along the way. Crossing one of the rivers, when I observed that a number of friends had to get on and off the boat several times, then contrary to tradition, I preferred to be the last one to get on the boat.

Bai‘at of another chief

A chief among our Fante friends had not yet taken bai‘at and efforts were being made in this regard. All praise belongs to Allah that he too, after listening to the claims of the Promised Messiahas and studying the magazine, Ahmad Al-Masih al-Maud, has entered the Ahmadiyya Jamaat. He is carrying out a census of his tribe and writes that after the census, he shall send the correct numbers for presenting them before Khalifatul Masih. Friends are requested to pray for their perseverance.

Delight

Everywhere, young people greet me by using Arabic words. The announcement in each village is commenced with the following words:

سبحان‭ ‬الله‭ ‬و‭ ‬الحمد‭ ‬لله‭ ‬و‭ ‬الله‭ ‬اكبر

And everyone understands that the “white asafun” i.e. “white maulvi” has arrived. It should be clear that I was called “alfa” in Nigeria, but I have become “asafun” in the Gold Coast and English people everywhere call me “father”. Moreover, during the said journey, the words recited by the young man in uniform were as follows:

قد‭ ‬جاء‭ ‬ما‭ ‬وعد‭ ‬الله

موحباً‭ ‬بك‭ ‬يا‭ ‬ضيف‭ ‬الله

[“Allah the Almighty’s promise has been fulfilled. O, guest of God, we love you.”]

These words drew my attention towards the truthfulness of the promises of Allah the Almighty to the Promised Messiahas and the truthfulness of the prophecies of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa and thus, I shed tears of joy.

Difficulties with respect to interpreters

Among the very many difficulties faced in these countries, which also include limited food [options], a great difficulty is the unfamiliarity with the language. There are language interpreters; if they are out of reach, then all work remains unfinished and incomplete. Consequently, at one point during the last tour, the interpreter went out somewhere and a lady came to join Islam. Now, the interpreter was a Christian and he honestly fulfilled his responsibility of interpretation. Hence, the old lady converted to Islam. However, my experience with Christian interpreters is that wherever the words “God” or “prophet” come [in a phrase], they translate them as “Christ” or say “Jesus Christ” because in their view there is no other god and no other prophet. The same is true of other inexpert English-speaking interpreters. Once I said, “I have got a house”, i.e. “I have rented a house”, but the interpreter translated it as, “I have hired a Hausa servant.”

Work, administration and expenses

The people here neither live in one place, nor does everyone know about Islam. According to the last census, only 150 people were Muslims before my arrival and about 50 people are familiar with Salat and the rules of Islam. The rest of the people are only somewhat better than the idolaters. 

Now, mosques are being built in several places and a number of young Arabic speaking gentlemen have been invited to join the missionary class. Thus far, three youngsters have joined and lessons have started on the Holy Quran, hadith, fiqh [jurisprudence] and specific issues of Ahmadiyyat. These youngsters are very intelligent and will soon excel, insha-Allah. However, there is a huge question of expenses. The people here are not accustomed to giving regular chanda. They can’t even contribute towards the rent of a car. Students are also contributing towards the mission. The mission cannot run for less than five hundred rupees per month. Anyway, there is a strong hope from Allah the Almighty that the Gold Coast will not need any foreign aid after one year; rather, this mission will help the markaz. There is a need for white missionaries here, i.e. a proper missionary, who should be sent as soon as possible.

Good news from Nigeria

The secretary of Lagos Jamaat writes:

“The duroos [religious sermons] are being delivered to both men and women on a regular basis. Lectures are being held every day. A large jalsa was also held. Moreover, it has been decided to expand the mosque and launch a school as well. People have sincerely presented chanda. The total chanda was 21 pounds and six pence. Around 21 pounds of chanda have been collected. 

“The people love you. You are mentioned in the houses of Lagos. A donation of three guineas was made in your name at the jalsa and a handkerchief, valued at one and a half shillings, was purchased for 30 shillings. Moreover, a woman bought a bar of soap for three shillings and sent it to you (i.e. for the purpose of raising chanda). We are teaching people by our own examples. 

“Right now, the question of sending money [chanda] to Qadian is premature. We will be able to do this in the near future, insha-Allah. In short, the jamaat of Lagos is being brought under administration and till the completion of administration, there is a question of expenses before […]. Moreover, Nigeria needs another missionary, who should be sent soon.”

From Abdur Rahim Nayyar

(Translated by Al Hakam from the original Urdu in the 14-17 November 1921 issue of Al Fazl)

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