Written by Al-Hafiz Yunus Omotayo
Hadrat Mirza Hafiz Nasir Ahmad (ra) was a great Hafizul Quran (Memorizer of the Quran) and a grandson of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), the globally accepted Promised Messiah and Mahdi, and Founder of the international Islamic religious revivalist and missionary movement – the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
In 1965, he was elected as the Third Khalifah (Successor ) of the Promised Messiah (as) and assumed the hallowed office of the Supreme Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
Five years after, in 1970, the West African region received the benediction of his presence when he toured Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Ivory Coast, the Gambia and Sierra Leone. Remarkably, of the most gracious blessings of Allah and landmark impacts recorded during the tour was his launching of Nusrat Jahan Scheme (otherwise called Africa Leap Forward). The object of the scheme was and is to serve African nations by the Ahmadiyya contributions to open schools and hospitals etc.
For the record, His Holiness (ra) was received by the Heads of States, chiefs of Africa and people of these countries – Ahmadi Muslims, mainstream Muslims, Christians and adherents of African Traditional Religions. And it is interesting recalling the impression registered by the then President of Liberia, Mr William Tubman. He exclaimed:
“It is a great privilege to have the spiritual king of the present age among us – one whose prayer is always heard. Politicians and statemen have lost the ability to cope with the situation in the world today. They have fumbled, sinned and are frustrated with the deteriorating situation.” He added, “It is an honour indeed to welcome the Caliph, one of the greatest leaders of Islam, who has Missionaries all over the world.” (1)
In Nigeria, the Third Khalifah (ra) met with the Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, at the State House, Dodan Barracks, Lagos. He was to later remark on that meeting that:
“I met this young man of 35 years (General Yakubu Gowon) at a time when he had just won a civil war ending up in the surrender of Biafra, a civil war supported by foreign countries. He asked me for a blessing of a prayer. He paid tributes to the Ahmadiyya Community and was happy that the people of his country professed different religions and lived like brothers.” (2)
Enough of background and suspense.
During the Khalifah’s (ra) historic tour, thousands of Ahmadi Muslims from various towns in Nigeria converged at Lagos to meet with, offer prayers behind and listen to the inspiring address of their world Supreme Spiritual Leader. Among these were few Ahmadi delegates who have come, traversing hundreds of kilometres from the town of Ayegunle-Gbede, now situated within Ijumu Local Government, Kogi State, Nigeria.
In the course of their special meeting (mulaqat) with the Khalifah (ra), he enquired when was Ahmadiyya established in their town and what is the present numerical strength of Ahmadi Muslims there. They replied Ahmadiyya has been established since 1944, but, the membership strength has, however, ever remained just few families. They explained the difficult situations they have been encountering in their efforts at propagating the Islamic revivalist preachings of Ahmadiyya. The mainstream Muslims in the town have not only refused to embrace the reformed Islamic faith and practices that are being championed by Ahmadiyya, but have gone extreme in launching staunch opposition and antagonism to the extent of manhandling some Ahmadi Muslims during public preachings. Some young converts were often dragged away by parents and relations from Ahmadi Mission’s functions and mosques.
Notably, aside the many differences in theological issues between the mainstream Muslims and Ahmadi Muslims in Ayegunle-Gbede, some jurisprudential issues were also causes of opposition. For instance, commotion arose as a result of two emerging practices: one, while there had ever been mainstream Muslims’ single central Jumuah mosque in the town, the coming of Ahmadiyya added one more to it, as weekly Jumuah service was being offered in Ahmadiyya mosque; two, while the mainstream Muslim Imams traditionally read the Friday Khutbah (sermons) in Arabic language, Ahmadi Muslim Imam would deliver his sermons in both Arabic and the local language. In the mainstream Muslim understanding, such practice could lead to the death of the king of the town. To the Ahmadi Muslims, that’s quite superstitious. Eventually, however, as Nigeria was still under the British rule then, it took the effort of the divisional colonial administrator to settle the case, who decided it in favour of Ahmadiyya.
It was on hearing the above pathetic narrative that the Khalifatul Masih 111 (ra) inspired them with something wise, something strategic. And what is that? It is what forms part of the central theme of this piece and informs its rationale. He insightfully encouraged them to go back home and inform all the few men that each of them should all begin to marry three or four wives and bear many children. This would entail numeric increase through internal mechanism. As for their means of sustenance, the God Whose Seat extends over the heavens and the earth and Who is never wary of caring for them, shall surely suffice them.
One cannot possibly imagine the strong faith, conviction and determination with which the delegates received this souvenir of wise strategy and bagged it as they embarked on a journey back home. On reaching home, they relayed His Holiness’ message to all the members who willingly obeyed with collective resolution to launch the strategy. Consequently, in the few years that followed, hardly could one find any of the faithful who was not having three or four wives! And as the years went on, so was Ahmadiyya mission in Ayegunle-Gbede became increasingly populated with hundreds of men, women, youths and children. There have been conversions of new people, too. Some of their children are living in the town while others have spread to different parts of Nigeria and abroad. The most interesting fact remains that, wherever they go, they carry their Islam-Ahmadiyya background along with them. Wherever they establish their stay, there, too, Ahmadiyya founds its establishment.
With the increasing numerical strength, the Jamaat was firmly established. There has been development. There has been progress. While the first mosque had been built in 1948, and another, in 1954, by 1974, the Jamaat had completed yet another one, because the earlier ones were too small respectively.
As a result of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat impactful and enterprising activities, Ayegunle-Gbede was blessed with the establishment of Ahmadiyya Secondary School in 1979. The school was reputed to be one of the best in the whole old Kwara State, before the State was split into two. While Ahmadiyya members contributed to the building of classrooms and library, late Dr Olusola Saraki, a former Governor, donated the laboratory block to the school.
Later, Ahmadiyya extended its activities beyond Ayegunle-Gbede and succeeded in establishing other Missions at Ayetoro-Gbede and Ayere, both in Ijumu Local Government. Today, Ahmadiyya message has been preached to greater number of towns and villages in Kogi State with Missions established in Kabba, Okene, Iyamoye, Lokoja, Ankpa, Idah and many more.
However, it is also noteworthy that, much as Ahmadiyya has progressed in Ayegunle-Gbede, so much so have the mainstream Muslims’ opposition and antagonism against it continued. They have plotted. They have conspired. They have confronted and hindered many from converting to Ahmadiyya. But, their conspiratorial machinations have always been reduced to miscarriage by invisible and invincible divine hand. An instance of such may be cited here. Few decades ago, people in Ayegunle-Gbede woke up to witness strange deaths of five individuals. No one could ascertain the cause of their death. But, few days later, the cause of the mysterious deaths was revealed by an individual whose conscience could not hide the truth any longer. He confessed to the surprise of the people. And what did he reveal? According to him, he was the sixth of the five that conspired to go to the bush and offer “prayer” (diabolical, of course) to forestall the spread and progress of Ahmadiyya in the town. Fortunately for him, he could not join the rest five due to certain excuse. But, it was quite unfortunate for the rest! Would that they had been prevented not just by excuses, but also their moral conscience, from meeting their mysterious end! But one must remember the Quranic declarations here:
“…the evil plot encompasses none but the authors thereof.” (Quran, 35:44) “And they planned a plan, and We planned a plan, but they perceived not. Then see how evil was the end of their plan! Verily, We utterly destroyed them and their people all together.” (Quran, 27:51-52) “Surely, in this are signs for those who can read signs” (Quran, 15: 76)
However, as the moon of the older generation continues to fade away, and a new dawn emerges with sunlight that brightens Ayegunle-Gbede’s horizons to herald the emergence of more enlightened younger generation, an atmosphere of intra-religious mutual understanding, respect and tolerance is beginning to dominate the socio-religious space and relations, and people are gradually appreciating that our postmodern human family stands to gain more in a pluralistic society.
Instructively, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat bears reformed Islamic faith and practices and advocates sustainable peace and development and mutual love, respect, brotherhood and harmony within the global human family. It vehemently condemns religious terrorism, extremism and fanaticism and champions every cause that promotes intra and inter-religious tolerance, coexistence and collaboration for the betterment of the human race and world. Its famous motto is: Love for all; hatred for none. Through its international non-governmental humanitarian organisation, the Humanity First International, it translates its Islamic teachings from theory into practice, through provision of relief materials to victims of humanly caused and natural disasters as well as social amenities to the deprived sections of the world.
Today, it has established Missions in over 210 countries (both independent and colonies). Through its 24-hour satellite television, the Muslim Television Ahmadiyya (MTA), and official website, www.alislam.org, it spreads the peaceful teachings of Islam across the globe. Its present worldwide Supreme Head, Hadrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (atba), has been increasingly enjoying global presence and influence through his endeavours at taking his Islamic message of peace, love and brotherhood to peoples of various faiths and socio-political and economic persuasions.
As Ahmadiyya continues to relate with our post modern human world with constructive and impactful engagements and peaceful persuasion, there is strong prospect that, even if the people of the present do not fully embrace Ahmadiyya’s reformed Islam, the people of the future will most possibly convert to Ahmadiyya persuasion. And we may not be too far from witnessing the rendezvous of the ultimate globalization and ascendancy of Islam through Ahmadiyya in our eschatological times.
Al-Hafiz Yunus Omotayo is a Missionary of the Nigerian branch of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and Secretay Muslim Writers Guild of Nigeria.
(1) Ahmadiyya Mosques Around the World, (2008), The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, USA, p. 80
(2) Centenary History of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Nigeria, (2016), Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, Nigeria, p. 213