Ghulam Misbah, Lecturer, Jamia Ahmadiyya Canada
While serving in England as an Ahmadi Muslim missionary, Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra (1872-1957) received instructions from Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra to travel to the United States of America and establish the Ahmadiyya mission there.
Thus, he departed from Liverpool on 26 January 1920 and reached Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 15 February. Upon his arrival, he was refused entry into the United States and was detained for nearly seven weeks at the Gloucester City immigration station in New Jersey. Eventually, he was allowed to enter the country and start his missionary work.
As one of the first voices of Islam in America, he utilised every method possible to convey the message of Islam Ahmadiyyat to the masses. He visited different cities, delivering lectures and met Americans from all walks of life.
While we celebrate the historic 100-years anniversary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat in USA in this centennial year of 2020, we try to retrace some of his journeys in the United States through newspaper archives.
Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra was in the news from the very day he arrived in Philadelphia. Apart from local Philadelphian newspapers such as The Philadelphia Record, Public Record, North American, Evening Bulletin and Public Ledger etc., other newspapers also reported his arrival. The headline of Pittsburgh Daily Post read:
“Mahomet Missioner Comes to Convert – Antithesis of Billy Sunday to ‘Evangelize’ America
“Boy, page Billy Sunday. Tell him there’s a competitor of his’n in the hoosegow. His name is Mufti Mohammed Sadiq, American missionary of the Prophet Mohammed, and he aims to convert Americans…
“‘When I am permitted to land,’ said Sadiq today, ‘I am going to New York to establish a center there and … to start the Ahmadi movement.’ Ahmadism, Sadiq explained, is an advanced form of Mohammedanism.” (Pittsburgh Daily Post, Sunday, 22 February 1920, p. 9)
Soon after, he took up residence in New York City. The Ahmadiyya community’s pioneer newspaper Al Hakam mentions two of his postal addresses in 1920 and they are: 245 West 72 Street, NY and 1897 Madison Ave NY (Al Hakam, 7 July 1920, p. 11)
Missionary work was carried out through articles in newspapers and correspondence with different dignitaries and other individuals. For example, Fort Scott Daily Tribune and Fort Scott Daily Monitor in its edition of 29 July 1920, page 8, under the heading of “Costly Movement on to Convert Americans to Muhammadism” reports:
“The Tribune today received propaganda from an Indian Buddihist or Mohammedan who has come to the United States to convert the country. Evidently the literature has gone to every newspaper in the United States and more is to follow in a comprehensive and costly effort to present the claims of Ahmad, claimed to be the Messiah of all religions who has come to save the people…
“Being stationed in New York, he had the opportunity to visit different cities to propagate the message of Islam. Among his journeys was a visit to Detroit, Michigan where he attended a meeting of Arab immigrant Muslims. An Arabic newspaper of New York, Al-Bayan, reported his visit in its edition of June 26, 1920 as follows:
‘[Translation] The Islamic Community in Detroit, Michigan has held a general body meeting on June 14 for the occasion of having Mr Mufti Muhammad Sadiq, one of the best men of India. He has come all the way from New York especially just to visit the Islamic Community here in this city.
‘Mr Mufti begun this meeting with the following words “In the name of Allah, and blessings be sent upon the Holy Arab Prophet”. Then he delivered his address in both English and Arabic, he expressed how the Muslims of India are highly determined and well dedicated to uplift the pride of Islam again, and how supportive they are towards their brothers in the East and the West. His address left a noble impact in the hearts of attendees.’” (Al Bayan, 26 June 1920, p. 3, 26 Court St, Brooklyn, NY)
In his letter dated 7 August 1920, he expressed his intentions to move to Chicago, considering it more suitable as the centre of the Ahmadiyya mission (Al Fazl, 23 September 1920, p. 1). And in the very next letter, he wrote that he had reached Chicago.
In a brief report about “One Year’s Moslem Missionary Work in America”, Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra mentioned the cities of Michigan City, Indiana, Sioux City, Iowa and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. However, no further details are given about these journeys. (The Moslem Sunrise, Vol. I, no. 1, July 1921, p. 12)
However according to the Sioux City Journal (Sioux City, Iowa) he was there in early April 1921 and delivered a lecture on the subject of “Oriental Religions” followed by questions. (Sioux City Journal, 14 April 1921, p. 10)
Chicago remained his station. He reached Detroit on 5 February 1921, upon an invitation for lectures in the city. This time, he had adequate programmes in Detroit, which gave him widespread fame in the city and facilitated his missionary work. Writing about one of his lectures, The Detroit Free Press, the city’s largest newspaper, published the following under the headline, “Moslems Avow Loyalty to US”:
“Islam set before big business men and governmental heads of the neighbour city Sunday the most savery of Eastern dishes in a dinner tendered to Professor Mufti Muhammad Sadiq of India, missionary of the Ahmadia movement by which it is hoped to bring light to those who shout down any but the Christian religion.” (The Detroit Free Press, Monday, 14 February 1921, p. 3)
He also secured the headlines: “Moslem Mufti Seeks to Make Detroit Islam” and “Moslem Hurls Tolerance Defy at Christian Pulpits” etc. in different editions of the aforementioned newspaper.
In Highland Park, a suburb of Detroit, a new mission house was established, in which Hazrat Mufti Sahib resided. It was from here that he started his renowned quarterly magazine The Moslem Sunrise.
In July 1921, he visited Toledo, Ohio. A local daily newspaper, The Toledo News Bee reported his visit and interview in its edition of 12 July 1921 under the heading “Plan a Mosque for Toledo”.
In the same month, he also visited Fort Wayne, Indiana and Bremen, Indiana upon the invitation of Mr and Mrs Michael Abraham. The Bremen Enquirer reported his visit on the front page of its 28 July 1921 issue, under the heading: “First Missionary of Moslems to US Visits in Bremen”.
Miss Elizabeth Barton, a learned lady who accepted Islam through Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra and was named Zeineb lived in Dowagiac, Michigan. She invited him to her city and arranged his lectures and debates. (Al Fazl, 10 October 1920, p. 2)
Being invited to Grand Rapids, Michigan, he delivered a series of lectures there in early October 1921.
In February 1922, Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra fell seriously ill, so much so that he even wrote his will (Al Fazl, 27 March 1922). By Allah’s grace, he recovered, but still suffered from an eye condition, for which he travelled to Niles, Michigan to be treated by the internationally known eye doctor Dr Frederick N Bonine (1863-1941). He was advised to see the doctor twice a week and during his free time during the rest of the week, he visited nearby cities and towns to convey the message of Islam. He paid a visit to the Michigan cities of Benton Harbor and Dowagiac, along with South Bend, Indiana. There, he delivered many lectures, distributed literature and gave interviews on Islam. (Al Fazl, 8 and 22 June 1922)
In May 1922 he travelled to Chicago and once again made it the mission’s centre. The first Ahmadiyya mosque in America was built in Chicago on 4448 Wabash Avenue.
By the end of 1922 (most probably in October), he travelled to Ross and Stanley, North Dakota (nearly 970 miles from Chicago). This is believed to be the farthest journey he had taken towards the west.
In Stanley, he delivered a lecture in Picture Hall. In all likelihood, this journey was undertaken at the invitation of some Muslim brethren residing near Ross. In his lecture, he thanked brothers Hessen Husain Jaha, Farhat, Omar and others. On his way back, he spent some days conveying the message of Islam in both Crookston and St Paul, Minnesota. (The Moslem Sunrise, Issue I, 1923, p. 166, 167)
An organisation named Exchange Club in Grand Haven, Michigan invited him to deliver a lecture on Islam at a banquet attended by a large gathering of ladies and gentlemen. Accepting the invitation, he travelled to Grand Haven in November 1922.
In The Moslem Sunrise, issue II, 1923, page 190, he mentions his tour of New York, Buffalo and Pittsburgh. The Buffalo Times under the heading “Islam Missioner Visits Buffalo” reported:
“Muhammadans of this city are rejoicing for Dr Mufti Muhammad Sadiq, first and only missionary of Islam to come to America, is here this week. Although he has been in America for three years, this is the doctor’s first visit to Buffalo …” (The Buffalo Times, 13 February 1923, page 15)
The Buffalo Enquirer also interviewed him at 450 Seneca Street, which was published in its 12 February 1923 issue.
It was during this period that he was informed of his transfer to Qadian and that Hazrat Maulvi Muhammad Dinra – who reached Chicago on 29 March 1923 – was to replace him in America (Al Fazl, 14 May 1923). He spent nearly three months with the new missionary and handed him charge of the mission. While awaiting the travel expenses from Qadian, Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra visited yet more cities. As he had not yet visited the western part of America, he intended to depart from the west coast for India via Japan. That would also enable him to convey the message of Islam in western America, but the delay of travel expenses from Qadian made him give up this idea and he ended up visiting neighbouring areas instead.
In early July 1923, he was in Ashland, Kentucky and Huntington, West Virginia. Local newspapers Ashland Daily Independent and The Sunday Advertiser Huntington published his interviews (The Moslem Sunrise, July 1923, issue 4, p. 275). Travelling further, he reached Williamson, West Virginia and met some Muslims working as coal miners (Al Fazl, 4 September 1923). Logan, West Virginia was his next stop where he was invited by some locals.
In his report in Al Fazl, dated 9 October 1923, he mentioned his stay and preaching activities in Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York.
As he was to depart from the Port of Boston, he travelled to Boston, making a short stay in Springfield, Massachusetts. He made good use of his time before departure by delivering eminently successful lectures in Peabody, a city in the suburban area of the North Shore in Massachusetts.
On 8 September 1923, Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra travelled by ship from America to Europe, staying a few weeks in France. He arrived back in India at Bombay Port on 23 November 1923. Finally, he reached Qadian on 4 December 1923, where he was welcomed by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra along with a good number of Ahmadis.
In brief, he travelled around 10,000 miles and visited 14 states of America – Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts.