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Ahmadiyyat in Guyana

28 AHMADIYYAT IN GUYANA (Yusuf Khan Moakan, Canada) The Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam reached the shores of Guyana in a manner which can only be described as a miracle, in the strictly religious sense of the word. The year 1956 marked the turning point in the history of religions in this South American colony which was under the rule of the British, hence its name at that time was British Guiana. On its east lies two other Guianas (Dutch and French, with the former subsequently renamed Suriname) and sits on the northern tip of South America just above the equator. When it attained its independence it was renamed in its present form, subsequently, it was declared a republic. . . Enjoying a tropical climate, Guyana is a travellers’ paradise with soft trade winds caressing its majestic palm trees and luscious fruits are a trade mark of this beautiful land. True to its charming beauty, Guyana attracted missionaries of almost every persuasion in their quest of attuning the minds of an unsuspecting population to their adherence. A notable exception to this rule was the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam. They did not come around the full circle to direct their attention to this land of many rivers, inspite of the fact that there were established missions in neighbouring Trinidad and Suriname. The Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam received a revelation from God to the effect that God will cause his message to reach the corners of the earth. True to form, this phenomenon became a reality in Guyana in a most striking manner. A young man in his late teens happened to be browsing around a bookstore when a book gripped his attention. Fingering through its pages, he decided to purchase it. Intrigued upon reading it, he began a relentless search for the truth. Discouraged as he was in finding some sympathetic mind among the religious scholars, he nevertheless pursued his search, studying every criticism levelled against the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, yet with an open mind he would go through the literature which he received from the international headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam at Rabwah, Pakistan through his initiative. He also contacted some other missions of the Jamaat, most notably of which are the missions in Ghana, Nigeria and the United States of America whose addresses he found in the AHMADIYYAT IN GUYANA 29 literature which he received from the Internationational Headquarters. He was directed by the headquarters to contact the missions of Trinidad and Suriname which he dutifully did in his quest for the truth. Notwithstanding these, he thoroughly examined the other sides. He read the Holy Quran, the Bible, the Bhagwad Gita and other religious scriptures and literature. After this thorough search, he finally narrowed his search and examination to the two factions of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam. He failed to find any substantive argument and consistency in the presentation of the Lahoris vis a vis their stand on the claims of the Promised Messiah and Khilafat in Islam. He was amazed that they accepted the first Khalifa and subsequently forsook their oath, to the degree of undermining the institution of Khilafat and the claims of the Promised Messiah. He found, and this was not disputed by them, that their leaders, before their calculated attempt to disrupt the Jamaat and their eventual secession, had believed and written extensively about the true claims of the Promised Messiah and the authority vested in him by Allah. They presented cogent arguments about the Musleh Maood (Second Khalifa) and had actually pin-pointed the person about whom this prophecy was made, but as he observed, they subsequently changed their beliefs and opposed everything which they had advocated and supported. Hence he had no other alternative but to reject them outright. This left the field open to only, one contender and that contender, being new in the field in Guyana had a heavy duty to sustain its truth in the arena while facing a hostile opposition. During these formative days, which seemed like years, he would confound the opponents of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, although he had not initially joined the Community. He realised that that situation developed as a result of a prophecy of the Promised Messiah who said that his followers would.confound the opponents by dint of reasons and arguments, this realisation was not a sufficient argument to convince him to submit himself at that point of time. Relentlessly continuing his search, he came across an article which stated that the Promised Messiah said that if anyone is in doubt about his truth, then one should pray to Allah with an open mind and let Him be the Guide and Arbiter. He emphasised that he is certain that if one would pray in this manner, then Allah will certainly guide and show that person the truth within a period of forty days. True to form, within the prescribed period, he was guided to the truth through the verse of the Holy Quran ‘And confound not truth with falsehood, nor hide the truth knowingly’ (2:43), in its Arabic original while he was at the mosque at Sisters Village, East Bank, Berbice for the late afternoon 30 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS prayer. He immediately realised that that was the guidance which was promised in open contradiction to the established beliefs of the people of Guyana (Muslims included). He there and then filled up his application for initiation into the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam at the blessed hands of Hazrat Musleh Maood, Khalifatul Masih E. From then on, he started the work which was entrusted to him as a member of that world-wide Community and little by little, some here and some there, trickling a few, the Jamaat was established to be a force to be reckoned with, standing as it is on solid ground with its feet planted on a strong and towering minaret. One of the early entrants into the new establishment was an influential member of the Lahori faction who was very popular in the religious circles; his name is Mahmoud Sherrief Baksh and he has since emigrated to Canada. In early 1959, the missionary in Trinidad, Maulvi Bashir Ahmad Orchard, (now Editor of the prestigious Review of Religions which was started by the Promised Messiah himself) paid a short visit to Guyana which was very successful in every respect. He penetrated the dens of the non – Ahmadi communities and delivered the message of Ahmadiyyat to packed audiences, some receptive here, some aggressive there, but on the overall quite a large number of people entered the fold of Ahmadiyyat – The True Islam. Thus the Movement was given added momentum and the push continued. A notable convert, as a result of this visit, was the Imam of the mosque at Sisters Village, Maulvi Ibrahim Khan who worked very hard in convincing the members of the mosque about the truth of the Promised Messiah and Khilafat. They entered en masse into the Jamaat. Thus that mosque became the first Ahmadiyya mosque in the country. After a short lapse of time, Maulvi Orchard was sent as the missionary for Guyana in mid -1960. During his stay as the missionary in Guyana, he established a secondary school and the Annual Gatherings (Jalsa Salana) became a regular feature. He was also able to secure regular programmes over the Radio Station which he conducted very admirably. Thus was laid the foundation for the spread of Ahmadiyyat in Guyana. • ‘ During his tenure, Maulvi Orchard was able to establish pockets of Ahmadis in -various parts of the country. He was succeeded by Maulvi continued on page 32