History of Ahmadiyyat in Nigeria

19 HISTORY OF AHMADIYYAT IN NIGERIA (AHMAD OLAYIWOLA JEGEDE) THE NAME AHMADIYYAT Before going into details of this vast topic, it is necessary to know what is Ahmadiyyat is. It is nothing but the true Islam, a distinct name to distinguish the followers of the holy founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community or Jamaat. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (Alaihi Salaam) the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi from those Muslims who do not follow him. In other words, Ahamadiyyat is to Islam as Christianity is to Judaism. In order to displace the notion that the name of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat, is a tribute to the egotism of Imam Mahdi and the Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (AS), let us listen to the words of this elect of God: The name which is appropriate for the Movement and which we prefer for ourselves is Muslims of the Ahamadiyya sect. We have chosen this name because the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) had two names: MUHAMMAD and AHMAD. Muhammad was his name of glory and Ahmad was his name of beauty. God so arranged the life of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W) that his Meccan life was a manifestation of his name Ahmad when the Muslims were taught patience and endurance. In his life in Medina his name Muhammad (S.A.W) was manifested* and God in His wisdom decided to chastise his enemies. But there was a prophecy that the name Ahmad would be manifested again in the latter days and that a person would appear through whom the qualities of beauty which characterise Ahmad would be manifested and all fighting would come to an end. For this reason, it has been considered appropriate that the name of this sect should be Ahmadiyya sect, so that everyone hearing this name should realise that this sect has come into being for the spread of peace and security and that it would have nothing to do with war and fighting. SITUATION BEFORE AHMADIYYAT CAME TO NIGERIA Before a prophet is raised among the people in any part of the world, the learned ones among them have become most corrupt. Before 20 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Ahmadiyyat came to Nigeria, the learned ones of the country, who might have awakened the sleeping masses, had taken to private home business preparing charms and amulets for other unenlightened ones while others among them became peripatetic or itinerant teachers of stars and divinations through collected sand manipulation. During this period under review, that is, the period preceding the coming of Ahmadiyyat into Nigeria, a critical observer of the religion of Islam would have noticed that its adherents, the Muslims, were practically synonymous with illiteracy, ignorance, low or base morals and even laziness. The Muslim scholars called the Alfas played upon the credulity of the faithful by not giving the corrrect and intelligent interpretation of the texts of the Holy Quran, the hadith and sunnah – practices of the Holy Prrophet Muhammad Mustapha (S.A.W). As a result of this, many Muslims trooped out of the religion to join the fold of Christianity where they presumed they could gain better knowledge, intellectualism: and spiritual linkage with their Creator, while at the same time acquiring Western education. A historian commenting on Muslims wrote: Among Nigerian Muslims then, there was literacy in Arabic all right, but the vast majority only knew the Quran by rote – memory. Thus in Islam, learning seemed to have been equated with pedantry and the mass of the faithful were subjected to charlantanism, peddling potions concocted with written words from the Holy Quran and swindled by purveyors of amulets and magical waist bands. Infact, Muslims appeared to be wallowing in ignrance and Muslim women were relegated into the background, some in purdah and most were credulous victims. AHMADIYYAT IN NIGERIA The late Alhaji Ali Fahm of blessed memory who was a trader in Islamic literature from Cairo in Egypt and other places including Britain had an Islamic magazine which was published from Qadian, India and which was founded by Imam Mahdi, the Promised Messiah (AS). The magazine titled “The Review of Religions” was given to the late Imam, Alhaji L.B, Agusto for the attention of his other educated Muslim colleagues in the Islamic Society, which eventually led to contacts with Ahmadiyya Movement members in India and London. It is worthy of mention’ that Allah has said in the Quran ‘And when books are spread abroad’ (81:11). This means that information and matters going on at distant places would be brought to the knowledge of other people by means of various kinds of publications such as journals, magazines, newspapers etc. REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 21 AHMADIYYA MISSIONARIES IN NIGERIA The history of Ahmadiyyyat in this country dates back to between 1914 and 1916, when it found a foothold here. A few ybung Muslims became concerned to find a more modern expression of Islam. This urge arose as a result of contrast between the Muslims who were few among the population of Lagos who were relatively westernized Christians. According to Humphrey J, Fisher ‘A group including Ob a Adeniji Adele, the then Oba of Lagos developed around K.R. Ajose. Then L.B. Agusto joined and attention came to center on him, meetings were transferred to his house. Ahmadiyya literature from India formed an important part of the basis for the thinking and planning of these young men. In 1916, twenty one membership forms duly signed were sent to Qudian. It was about this time that a number of new adherents came forward including people like Jibril Martin and Booyamin Qasim who later played important parts in the formation of the Community.’ To carry out this work successfully, there was a dire need for a missionary to step on the shores of this country. Maulana Abdur-Rahim Nayyar, accordong to reliable and authentic sources, arrived in Nigeria on Friday, April 4, 1921. Before his arrival, the Muslim sects in Lagos were four:— (1) The Jamaat— the largest group (2) The Quranic people of Aroloya declining and rather weak but there is something spectacular and’ historical about them which H.J. Fisher recorded as follows ‘Their late Alfa Ayanmo reported to them of his vision of the Promised Messiah, how the Mahdi had promised him that though he will not personally visit the country but a great follower of his (Mahdi) will come and reform, guide, elevate and make stronger the position of the people and that whosoever will hearken to his voice with the Holy Quran in hand, will prosper but whosoever will not hearken will perish.’ See also N.M. Saifi on the Biography of Alhaji Maulana A.R. Nayyer which he wrote in 1948 pages 3 — 4 . The third sect was the small body of Ogunro and (4)— the Ahmadis, the smallest of them all. Maulana A.R. Nayyar stayed in Nigeria for only a period of one and a half years. He left Nigeria in 1922. For a long period, the Community had no Indian missionary but Imam Dabiri was acting as the missionary in charge of the Jamaat. In 1934 another missionary came in the person of Maulana Fazlur Rahaman Hakim. He stayed in Nigeria for a period of thirteen years – 1934 to 1947. His tenure of office witnessed tremendous progress of the Jamaat but at the same time, a split arose during his period. This was 22 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS triggered off in 1935 by people like Imam K.R. Ajose backed by Jibril Martin. The bone of contention was who is to be the Imam leading the congregation in prayers and as well as the properties owned by the Jamaat. However, the case was finally settled out of court in 1937. A cross section of the Jamaat broke away while the few faithful ones renewed their oath of allegiance (Baait) on the orders of then Khalifatul Masih — Hazrat Mirza Bashir—ud-din Mahmood Ahmad. During the leadership of Maulana F.R. Hakeem, many communities were established throughout the country and the mission house at 45 Idumagbo was built along with the mosque at Ojo – Giwa street. Maulana N.M. Naseem Saifl became the Amir and Missionary incharge from 1947 to 1965. His period witnessed Islamic evangelism through the publication of books pamphlets, leaflets and radio broadcasts. Through him, Ahmadiyya Muslim. Community became the first Muslim sect to start broadcasting on religion. The Community gained proselytes from all the nooks and corners of the country. He inaugurated the Annual Jalsa — conference in 1948, the publication of the newsletter which metamorphosed into The Truth, the only Muslim newspaper in the country and the inauguration of the auxiliary organisation of Majlis Khuddam etc. He was succeeded, on his recall home in 1957, by Maulana N.D Ahmad. His tenure of office was 1965 — 1968. He built upon and consolidated the beautiful and magnificent works of his predecessors. Maulana Fazl Ilahi Anwari came for the first time in 1968 and stayed till 1972. He was succeeded by Maulana Muhammad Ajmal Shahid in 1972 who remained in office till 1982. His decade of stay in Nigeria witnessed the greatest period of success for the Community. More schools, hospitals, clinics and other social services were established. Thousands of converts were gained. Communities were also founded in the adjacent countries of Republics of Benin and Niger. The Holy Quran was translated into Yoruba and much Islamic literature published by the Community was translated into local languages – Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa. All the auxiliary organisations of the Community – Ansarullah, Khuddam, Atfal, Nasirat.and Lajna Imailla were placed on a sound footing. Maulana Muhammad Ajmal Shahid was replaced .in June to December, 1982, by Maulana Muhammad Munawwar. His stay was only for 6 or 7 months as a result of ill—health and blood preassure. Maulvi M;A. Bismil who was then the Naib Amir acted as missionary from January to April, 1983. For the second time, Maulana F.L Anwari REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 23 came in as the Amir and missionary incharge. He stayed till 19 8 6 when Maulvi M.A. Qureshi became the acting Amir and Missionary incharge of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Nigeria, until Saturday, February 20, 1988. Saturday, February 20,1988 will remain indelible in the annals of the history of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Nigeria. It was on this day that Hazrat Amirul Momineen Khalifatul Masih IV, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad appointed thirty–four year old Maulvi Abdul Rasheed Ahmad Agboola, a Nigerian, as the Amir and Missionary incharge. He has since this date been piloting the affairs of the Jamaat creditably by introducing many reformatory and revolutionary measures. May Allah continue to assist him, bless him with sound health and longevity of life to carry out this onerous task which has pleased Allah to put on his shoulders. (Ameen) BLESSED VISITS TO NIGERIA BY THE KHALIFAS The third and fourth Khalifas were opportuned to visit this great country. The third Khalifas of the Promised Messiah, Hazrat Hafiz Mirza Nasir Ahmad (R.A) came on two occasions – 1970 and 1980. It was during the visit of April, 1970 that he launched the blessed programme called NUSRAT JEHAN SCHEME meaning LEAP FORWARD SCHEME. Under the scheme, many schools, primary and post primary, clinics and hospitals sprang up in so many states of the country. He revisited the country in August, 1980. He saw tremendous progress of the Community in the larger cities of Lagos, Ibadan and Ilaro which he visited. He performed the official opening of large mosques built in these cities by the Community. Between February 13 and 22, 1988, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IV, Mirza Tahir Ahmad paid a ten-day working official visit to Nigeria. This was the last leg of his journey to some African countries where there are Jamaatul Muslimin Ahmadiyya, The visit was of a special blessing for all Nigerians in general and Ahmadis in particular. He covered Lagos, Kano, Bendel, Oyo and Ogun States. His visit brought revolutionary and reformatory changes in the set up of the Community. A Nigerian is now the Amir and Missionary incharge as already mentioned and is assisted by six Naib Amirs. The Northern circuit has a regional Amir who is responsible to both the Naib Amirs and the Amir. ORGANIZATIONAL ESTABLISHMENT In addition to the above, the Community is run by a Majlis, Amila – National Executive Commitee, where there is a Secretary General, 24 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Secretary Tabligh, Treasurer, Auditor, Legal Adviser, Secretary Tarbiy- yat — Moral training, circuit presidents are also members while there are others co-opted. At the circuit and local Community levels, the administrative structure is the same. The following auxiliary organisati- ons were found within the Community. They are (a) Majlis Ansarullah (b) Lajna Imaillah (c) Majlis Khuddam (d) Majlis Atfal (e) Nasirat. Both the Khuddam. and Lajna take care of the Atfal and Nasirat respectively, (f) A.M.S.A – Ahmadi Muslim Students’ Association was formed about six years ago in 1983. TRIALS The trial faced by this Community in Nigeria dates back to the date of its inception. On September 8, 1921, a group of non-Ahmadi Muslims attacked the Ahmadis during a public lecture. Not only stones but matchets were also used to attack them. They were stabbed and wounded, Law enforcement agents were also contacted and the culprits were apprehended, tried in the court of law, found guilty and sent to prison for various periods. This nipped the opposition in the bud. The episode of 1935-1937, which I mentioned earlier on led to the split of the Community into two. Those who seceded during this peiod did not return to the mainstream of the Community till today. They retained initially, the global name of the Community, Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam. Following the worldwide anti-Ahmadiyya stance of 1974, they too split into two. A group still retaining the original name of Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam while the other group inaugurated the ANWAR—UL- -ISLAM. Their dissension centred on materialism and vainglorious secular attainments. It is impressive to remark that the loyal Ahmadis who maintained an unbroken link with the Khalifatul Masih adopted the name Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission (SADR ANJUMAN QADIAN) to distinguish it from the seceders. The loyal Community has gained four fold what the seceders think they have taken from them that will make them reach the pinnacle pf fame globally. They have nothing specifically and they are almost extinct and non-existent. The Anti-iAhmadiyya campaign agreed upon by RABITA—ALAME—I- SLAM – the world Muslim league and perpetrated or started by late Zulfikari All Bhutto, the then Pakistan Prime Minister, was also fermented in Nigeria. The Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA) representing the non-Ahmadi Muslims in Nigeria like their other counterparts in RABrTA-ALAME—-ISLAM – World Muslim League branded’Ahmadis as Kafirs — non Muslims and added that they should REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 25 not be allowed to perform Hajj — Holy pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. This ugly episode took away some persons thought to be formidable and staunch members of the Community. Notable among such people was Professor I.A.B Balogun a born Ahmadi, who was forty—four years old then. He wrote many scurrillous articles in the pages of Nigerian daily newspapers against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He was actually dancing to the tune of his paid agents. It is actually so that he who pays the piper dictates the tune. All praises belong to Allah that this did not wipe off the Community in the country, rather it was a fertilizer for its bouyant growth and accelerated progress. Ten years later, in 1984, Late General Muhammad Zia-Ul-Haq compounded issues for the Ahmadis in Pakistan with the various obnoxious laws he enacted against them which did not spell out only that they are minority non-Muslims but clearly spelt out various jail terms also ranging from 6 months to three years for any Ahmadi who recites the Islamic credo of Laillaha Illalahu, inscribes this on a mosque, calls the name of his place of worship a mosque. Their Nigerian counter—parts wanted to perpetrate such havoc here but they were handicapped and their plans were frustrated. They planned and Allah also planned and Allah is the best of Planners. Allah’s plan surmounted and submerged their evil designs better. Allahu Akbar. ACHIEVEMENTS The achievements of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat in Nigeria are not only a thing that is quantifiable, they are feasible, practical and even extolled by its spiritless, weak and irresponsible opponents. In a jiffy, they can be epitomized thus:— (1) Ahmadiyyat cleared the misconceptions that crept into Islam by the lapse of time especially in the centuries preceding the advent of Imam Mahdi and Promise Messiah (A.S) not only in Nigeria but in other parts of the world as well. (2) It has emerged as the champion to bring the people of various nations irrespective of their creed, colour, or cast etc. under the same leadership through the beautiful and unassailable teachings of Islam. (3) Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, Nigeria was in the vanguard in promoting the social and educational emancipation of Muslims of this country. It established the first Muslim Primary School in 26 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Nigeria in Lagos on Monday September 4, 1922 called Taleemul-I- slam Ahmadiyya School at Elegbata Street, Lagos. (4) It established the first Muslim clinic at Apapa and Ultra—modern hospital at cost of millions of Naira at Ojokoro, both in Lagos. It can boast of other clinics and hospitals in various States of Nigeria as well. (5) It has established more than ten secondary schools in various states of Nigeria. (6) It was the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat that introduced the system of delivering the Friday Khutba-sermon or other preaching in the native tongue. (7) In the early forties, it was the first to move and win a motion in the legislative council that Muslims in Nigeria have the right to be accorded free holidays for their religious festivals hence the official government holidays for Bid—ul Fitr; Adha and Maulud – Nabiyi were approved. (8) Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Nigeria produced the first Muslim male and female doctors in the country in the persons of Doctors Saka Tinubu and Sister Anibaba. It also produced the first lawyer in the country in the person of Late L. B. Agusto. (9) It championed the responsibility for the mass publication of Islamic literature in Nigeria including the translation of the Holy Quran into Yoruba. The Holy Quran has been translated into Hausa while that of the Igbo language is in progress. All shall see the light of the day soon Inshallah. (10) The first Muslim press and Muslim newspaper was established by it. (11) The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Nigeria, was the first to build a mission house at 45, Idumagbo Avenue, Lagos on Monday, August 6, 1945. It stands as a monument for other Muslims to emulate. Thus far, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, has been firmly established in this country by the special grace of Allah. It is no exaggeration to say that its future Insha Allah, is as bright as the moon of the fourteenth day. In no distant day shall it be the mouth organ of the generality of the Muslims of this country. (Ameen).

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