Waqas Ahmad, Sadr MKA Australia
On 24 August 2019, 46 Khuddam set out from six cities across Australia with the objective of visiting and spreading the message of Islam in regional towns. Khuddam from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth took part in this road trip.
During this week-long journey, Majlis Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya Australia did tabligh work in 46 towns and distributed 69,100 flyers while also visiting and donating books to eight libraries. Throughout the trip, 2,582 man hours were spent and a combined distance of 35,200 kilometers was covered.
The Khuddam on the ground were eager to engage with the locals in conversation to dispel any misconceptions about Islam. They also found that people would approach them on the streets to appreciate the work and message of “Muslims for Peace” and “Love for all, hatred for none”, which was boldly written across theirs vans and shirts.
To mark the end of the trip, Khuddam offered Friday prayer at Uluru rock, had lunch and then took part in a discussion with Rana Atiullah Sahib about the culture and beliefs of the Aboriginal communities and the significance of Uluru rock to the Aboriginal people.
Although climbing the Uluru rock is not illegal and a huge number of people were climbing it, Khuddam decided to show respect to the sentiments of the local Aboriginal community by deciding not to climb the Uluru rock. This was met with great appreciation by the locals and media.
Tabligh activity during the trip
Each group divided themselves into two groups, either on foot or on bicycles. One group was assigned door-to-door leafletting and the other to go into main streets of the towns and interact with locals, visit libraries and other public places. Alhamdolillah, the bicycle option proved very fruitful and resulted in a higher number of leaflets being distributed and more area of the town being covered.
Accommodation & food
Each group made their own arrangements for accommodation. Some camped at camp sites while others stayed in cabins and Airbnbs. One group travelled in an RV with its own set of beds, kitchen and a bathroom.
Most of the meals were cooked by Khuddam themselves along the way with some choosing to bring pre-cooked food.
Alhamdolillah, each group had a Khadim supervising Ziafat and all of them did an excellent job. May Allah the Almighty reward their efforts. Amin.
Broken Hill mosque visit
The Sydney group covered Broken Hill, a mining town located to the far west of New South Wales, which has the oldest surviving mosque built by the Cameleers who came from modern day Afghanistan, Punjab and Sindh. Built in 1887, it was rescued and is being maintained by the Broken Hill Historical Society in 1967. Alhamdolillah, the Sydney group were able to give Azan and offer Zuhr and Asr prayers at this mosque.
Meeting local Aboriginal community
Some of our members were able to meet the local Aboriginal Community members and give them gifts along with the introduction of our community.
Response of local Australians and feelings of Khuddam
By the grace of Allah, the media coverage and in particular the radio interviews were very effective in spreading the message of Islam Ahmadiyyat to these local towns. Combined with leafletting and interaction with locals, the overall response was very positive. At times, local Australians would stop and greet us with “Assalamo alaikum” which was very pleasing and led to some very positive discussions.
One Khadim from Adelaide explained that he was nervous and a little stressed prior to the trip. The reason being that he had three assignments that were due during the road trip and was going to miss three classes and had a quiz when he got back. However, he said that during the first tabligh stop at Port Wakefield, he had an interaction with a restaurant owner which justified his decision to come on the road trip and made him realise the importance of the task at hand. The restaurant owner, when told about the journey, appreciated the work that we were undertaking and invited all the Khuddam to eat at his restaurant.
There are always some challenges. One of the locals at Broken Hill did not want to accept the leaflet. However, when explained by a Khadim that Muslims were just like their everyday Australians and they have families, children, play sports, enjoy barbecues and other activities just like others Australians, the gentleman changed his stance and asked for the leaflet back and said “Thank you. I will now read it.”
A Khadim from Adelaide who is in high school told us later that he also had quite a few assignments due during the road trip, and two of the assignments were for Biology. He says:
“My biology teacher is an Indian Shia Muslim and he is known for being the strictest teacher in the school. I had managed to finish one of my assignments a week early but couldn’t manage to finish the other one in time, and by the time I got back, there was only one day left until the due date. Before I had the chance to organise an extension, my teacher asked me where I had been. I told him all about the trip and he was impressed to the point where he himself offered me a week-long extension (which is unheard of) and even said that he would provide me with a help sheet for an upcoming test and after I asked him why, he said “You are returning from doing God’s work; think of it as your reward.”
An elderly Adelaidian man in Coober Pedy approached the van and commended the Khuddam on their bravery to spread the peaceful message of Islam. However, he voiced his concerns on Shariah law and did not see how it was applicable in a global context. Despite this, he was satisfied to know that we were able to live in peace and harmony.
On another occasion, while Khuddam were at a service station in Erldunda in the Northern Territory, a couple approached them and asked where they were headed. After explaining the purpose of the trip and our destination, the man said to be careful if heading up north and to perhaps take some spray paint. Upon asking why, the man said that there was some offensive and Islamophobic signage up north and that if he had spray paint, he would have removed it himself.
Similarly, one of the groups were staying at an Airbnb at Whyalla, South Australia. The gentleman, whose house it was, asked the purpose of our visit. When a Khadim explained that we were on a “Discover Islam Road Trip” to meet locals and remove any misconception, the gentleman responded by saying, “I am an atheist and do not want to have this type of discussion”.
The next morning, Sadr Majlis Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya asked Khuddam how their night was. The Khuddam told him that the accommodation was good, however their host was a very serious type of a person. Khuddam were advised that before they checked out, they should purchase a box of chocolates and gift it to the host. Upon receiving the gift, the atheist gentleman had a smile on his face and became much friendlier and comfortable.
The Brisbane group, while having lunch at Charville, were approached by a local who saw their van in the market and took a break from his work to come speak to them. His name was Saleh, a Catholic who accepted Islam two years ago. He was impressed by our message on the van of “Love for all, hatred for none.” The group gave him some literature, exchanged contact details and invited him to their mosque. Saleh said that he would definitely visit our mosque when he was back in Brisbane.
The coordinator from Melbourne wrote:
“Our journey took us to many different towns and small cities which we never imagined that we would even visit. There, we met with locals and had a chat with them about Islam and tried to remove their misconceptions about the religion. Our van which was covered with the slogans ‘Love for all, hatred for none’, ‘Muslims down under’ and ‘Muslims for peace’ also attracted a lot of people. In one town, after we had donated a copy of the Holy Quran and the book The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam at a library, we found a lady looking at our van and waiting for us to have a chat. We had a lovely chat with her as we told her about our trip and she really applauded our efforts and told us that more Muslims should try to interact with the local communities in smaller towns”.
The Melbourne group also had a Radio interview at ABC Riverland, which was to be aired the following day. It had an audience of approximately 30,000 people. The next day, when they were delivering leaflets in another town called Berri, a couple of people told the Khuddam that they had heard about them through the radio show and were looking forward to meeting them.
In another town, a man hastily followed a couple of our Khuddam for two streets just to catch up to them and applaud their efforts. He said that there were a lot of misconceptions about Islam in that town and it was great to see someone travel there all the way from Melbourne to remove the wrong notions about this beautiful religion. He also took around a hundred of our pamphlets and promised to distribute them for us, so that he could help us out in whatever way he could.
At the end of our trip, one of the group members adequately summarised our feelings about our journey, saying:
“It is definitely enlightening to see and hear positive feedback and reactions from the public and we are mostly well received for our peaceful endeavour. The long walks from house to house throughout the day definitely put sores and blisters on our legs and feet, but it feels totally worth the effort and satisfying in the cause of Allah”.
In reference to the brotherhood among Khuddam, he says:
“It’s also a trip which reflects how tightly-knit our Ahmadi brothers are. All our efforts seem to run smoothly, despite the little obstacles which Allah has alleviated. If there is ever another trip like this, it will be worth the cause again as there are still plenty of towns in rural Australia that we have yet to reach out to”.
Summary of media coverage
Through the help of the national press and media department, a pre-event press release was issued on Monday, 19 August to around 30,000 Australian media outlets including MPs and local communities.
We started receiving calls from local and national radio and television stations and online newspapers. Over the two weeks, we were blessed with around 40 media publications. The media team did extremely well to coordinate the interviews of each group while they were travelling. May Allah bless them and reward their efforts.
It is estimated that the message of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya reached around 3.8 million (14%) Australians as a result of this trip. It has also been said that the SBS story was translated in over 30 languages, Alhamdolillah.