100 Years Ago… – The shocking state of Muslims in Africa & the Arab world


Al Fazl, 16 March 1922

Hazrat Maulvi Abdur Rahim Nayyarra (1883-1948) 

Tabligh to the people of Morocco

In Kumasi, I met some Sudanese and Moroccans. Some of them were familiar with ahadith and the Holy Quran. They were preached and the reality of Dabbatul-Ard [a worm of the earth, as mentioned in the Quran], kasuf-o-khusuf [solar and lunar eclipse], Gog and Magog, and Dajjal was explained to them. They were informed about the appearance of the Promised Messiahas after highlighting the arguments of the death of Prophet Jesusas. These people do not like the French style of government, but they greatly admire the British government. A person who speaks in Arabic can easily preach in all those parts of the world that are located below the equator line. It is very important for the missionaries of the said countries to be proficient in the Arabic language. It is possible to survive without English, but it is impossible to preach to Muslims without having the knowledge of Arabic.

Amir of Kenya

Among the Nigerian amirs [leaders], the amir of Kenya is the most enlightened man. This year, he went for Hajj as well. Our missionaries met him in London, and Brother Chaudhry Fateh Muhammad Sahib mentioned it in Al Fazl [newspaper]. Now, the amir has returned home from Hajj. I met him at the port of Secondi on a ship called SS Appam. He was accompanied by a British officer named Mr Mathed, a resident of one of the northern states of Nigeria. This friend became my interpreter and I remained in the company of the amir for more than half an hour in Mr Mathed’s room. We had a discussion on various issues and as soon as he heard the name of Maulvi Mubarak Ali, his companion said: “Imam of Ahmadiyya Mosque London.”

I presented the Holy Quran, [The Philosophy of the] Teachings of Islam, the magazine, Ahmad Al-Masih Al-Maud, to the amir and he accepted them with gratitude. He invited me to visit his place. 

Thereafter, I had a discussion with Mr Mathed for some time and we talked about the attributes of Islam.

African women

The women here carry their children around their backs. A daughter is considered the heir of the father. They have handkerchiefs on their heads, clothes on their lower parts, but the middle part of the body, from the chest to the neck, is bare. The style of hair varies from one place to another. Somewhere there are two braids on the head and at other places there is only a single braid. These braids are beautifully made by interlacing stiff curly strands of hair together. Some women place a big cap of synthetic hair on their head and then tie it, and it appears as if they are going to collect water with a small pitcher on their head. 

The fashion of the Ashanti tribe is different from other places. Among them, the hair is cut and made into a round cap, and the heads of both men and women look similar. 

African women work harder than men. You will often see a strange figure on the streets and that is an African woman going to the market. She has a cloth on the lower part of the body and the upper part is completely bare. She has a pipe in her mouth, and a Ham wine or tari [palm wine] pitcher on her head, or a basket full of bananas, rice, castors, melons, custard apples, ladyfinger, tomatoes and onions. The pipe is lit and the smoke is coming out of her mouth. Sometimes a child is seen on the back of such a woman. I did not understand the Islamic purdah before as much as I do now. The understanding of some of the commandments of the Holy Quran that Africa taught me was not even in my imagination before.

Alas! This is not Islam

I went to Secondi from Kumasi on a train and from there to Saltpond in a car. I kept thinking about the big and small things that caught my attention. Observing monkeys and cats playing at Lala Boolchand‘s house every day, I kept interpreting qiradatan khaasi‘een [despised apes] and gurba-e-miskeen [a person who looks innocent but is wicked in reality]. Moreover, the vision of maghdhub [those who incur the wrath of God] and dhaal [those who go astray] groups gathering against Islam began to turn my heart towards prayer. The strong prejudice of Syrian Christians against Islam, the shock after listening about the bad examples and false beliefs of Syrian Muslims from Syrian Christian men and women, the surprise after hearing objections against the stories of: “Islamic paradise, spread of Islam by the sword, Islam is the religion of Bedouins, Muslims are alcoholics, wicked and adulterers, the practice of halalah [the un-Islamic concept in which a divorced woman marries another person temporarily and gets divorced again so that she can be remarried to her first husband], sermons on 99 hurs [beautiful women of paradise], etc.”, and the statement of the Christians about me that, “You present a very different Islam and this is not the Islam of our Arab people,” were all noteworthy things. This is the condition of the Arabs. 

The state of the poor people of Africa is that the nominal Islamic missionaries have taught them to practice sorcery, use amulets, wear dirty clothes and hate the English language and the Englishmen. What is the fault of the poor new Muslim Africans when the women and girls of the said teachers walk around bare-chested, and alcohol, gambling and adultery have become the habit of the said savage missionaries of Islam? Alas, these conditions are painful. These things hurt and break my heart. Regarding these Muslims, the Christian missionaries say, “Africa is converting to Islam.” But alas! They are neither missionaries nor advisers of Islam. 

Everywhere there is kufr [disbelief], heresy and domination of the cross, and all that is being called Islam. Alas! This is not Islam.

(Translated by Al Hakam from the original Urdu, published in the 16 March 1922 issue of Al Fazl)

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