There are several (but not contradictory) versions of how Ahmadiyya became introduced and established in Nigeria. One account had it that one school teacher, called Hamid, as far back as 1913 stumbled on the address of Ahmadiyya Movement Qadian through which a periodical publication of Ahmadiyya “The Review of Religions” was obtained by him. This publication was shown to some other young enlightened Muslims who formed themselves into a body and started communicating Qadian. Thus the Nigerian pioneer members of Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam were thought to have originated this way.
Another version claimed that in 1914, a Nigerian trader, Alhaji Ali Fahm, who travelled to Cairo, Egypt brought some copies of some Ahmadiyya Literatures to Nigeria. Through this, contact was established with the Ahmadiyya Headquaters in Qadian.
Alligning with the 1914 group, Alhaji Imran Adewuyi Onibudo (one of the early converts) believed that Ahmadiyyat was introduced to Nigeria in 1914 as he claimed to have signed the baiat( oath of allegiance ) in that year.
He first saw a copy of the “Review of Religions” in 1914 with Alhaji Junauid Yusuf Onitesubaa, the first Treasurer to the Nigerian Branch of Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya Qadian in January 1940. He could not however provide documentary evidence, independent of Alhaji Muhammad Lawal Basil Agusto’s account rendered below.
The most well-known and documented account is that which linked the pioneering efforts of Alhaji Muhammad Lawal Basil Agusto with the formal establishment of the Nigerian Branch of Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam. According to this account, contact with Ahmadiyya Movement-in-Islam headquarters in Qadian, India started accidentally in 1914 when a liberal minded Christian Dr. Oguntola Odunmbaku alias (Orisha Sapara) visited England to spend his annual leave. Dr. O. Sapara was reported to have visited Alhaji Khawaja Kamalud-deen of the Woking Mosque, Surrey, England in connection with his planned training in Medicine.
Alhaji Agusto’s deep concern all the time was the upliftment of the status of Muslims through the promotion of Muslim education and enlightenment. He had before now established the Muslim Literary Society for the propagation of Islam and promotion of the understanding and status of Muslims, who were educationally and socially backward. He wrote to Alhaji Kamalud-deen to request for assistance for a graduate Muslim teacher for the Muslim school being established by him (Agusto). Alhaji Kamalud-deen could however not help directly but referred the request to India by publishing it in the Indian Muslim Review in 1915. As a result of this publication, the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam Qadian wrote to Agusto promising to help by sending graduate teacher from Mauritania on the condition that the latter would be allowed to preach in the evenings.
Furthermore, various copies of Ahmadiyya literature especially the claims and teachings of Hazrat Ahmad were dispatched to Agusto who passed them also to other members of Muslim Literary Society. The Ahmadiyya interpretation of Mahdi’s Jihad as Jihad of the ‘The Pen’ being the sure way to winning people’s hearts to Islam as opposed to the orthodox Ulama’s conception of a bloody Mahdi forcing people into Islam at the point of sword, was very appealing to the educated young Muslims of the Literary Society. Furthermore, the enlightened, logical, consistent and civilised manner in which the beauties of Islam were expounded and by which Islam was defended against its critics, could not but enchant the educated Muslims.
Those who were further convinced by the claim of Hazrat Ahmad (a.s.) as the Promised Messiah and Mahdi could no longer hide their conviction and faith. They openly declared their conviction among their colleagues, majority of who were carried along.
Consequently, the Muslim Literary Society literally transformed into the Nigerian Branch of Ahmadiyya Movement-in-Islam. The year was 1916 when 21 members signed the Baiat (oath of allegiance) forms, which were dispatched to Qadian, India. While it could be stated that the Ahmadiyya Jama’at was formally established in 1916, other accounts suggested that a small band of individuals had accepted Ahmadiyyat previously in 1914.
The 1914 version had the documentary support of Maulana Naseem Saifi the Amir of Ahmadiyya Nigeria and Chief Missionary of West Africa during 1947-1964 period. The 1916 group was better organised and well publicised and ultimately absorbed the 1914 group. This appears most likely as one realises that the 1916 group had a well-established base at No. 62 Bamgbose Street, Lagos Island belonging to Alhaji L.B.Agusto. Moreover, records of pioneer officers of the 1916 group exist. At the inauguration of the Ahmadiyya Movement-in-Islam, Nigerian Branch, pioneer officers were Alhaji Muhammad Lawal Basil Agusto, the Chief Missionary, Alfa Adam Idowu Yakub, the Chairman, Badamosi A. Fanimokun, the first General Secretary. After the death of Alfa Yakub in 1919, Alhaji Agusto became President.
Other pioneer members of the Jama’at in addition to the officers above, were Imam Kasumu Rufai Ajose, Alfa I.L. Durosinmi-Etti, Tijani Adele, Prince Musendiku B. Adele (who later became the Oba of Lagos), Ynusua Hameed, Imam Yushau Popoola Oyeshile Shodeinde, Muhammad Jimoh Abdus-Salam (alias “Selem”), Tijani Ariyo, L.A. Bada, Abdur-Raheem A. Smith, Alhaji Jibril Martins, N. Said, Abas Elegba, Alfa Ismaila Ayinde Shitta, Teacher Yunus, Junaid Yusuf, M. Imam Imoru of Mushin (Kanuri), B.B. Salami, B. Gbajabiamila, and Imran Adewusi Onibudo. Unfortunately many of them left the Jama’at during crisis period, and some remained loyal till their death.
A living and loyal pioneering among them was Alhaji Imran Adewusi Onibudo, an Octogenarian, he died in the 1980’s.
It is worth mentioning that Alhaji Agusto had to travel to England to study law, and had to relinquish the post of President to Jibril Martins. While in England, he further interacted with Alhaji Khawanja Kamalud-deen who was formerly an Ahmadi Muslim but had severed relationship with Ahmadiyya Jama’at owing to the internal crisis and split on the issue of the selection of the second Khalifa (successor) of the Promised Messiah. When Alhaji Agusto returned to Nigeria, he parted ways with Ahmadiyya Jama’at of Nigeria on the grounds of the internal crisis and the split.
Other accounts suggested that there were other reasons. One was that as a practising Lawyer he might face difficulties in his professional practice if he associated himself with the severely persecuted Ahmadi Muslims. Also, there were some Ahmadiyya principles not agreeable with his orientation. Furthermore, the climate had changed and Ahmadiyya Jama’at had come under the control of other stalwarts like President Saka Tinubu and Imam M.B. Dabiri thus reducing the sphere of potential influence of Agusto. As a result, Alhaji Agusto founded another Muslim Organisation – Jamaatul Islamiyya of Nigeria of which he became the Life President.
|Coming Of Expatriate Missionary
During the absence of Alhaji Agusto (who was in England) and President Adam Idowu Yakubu, the Ahmadiyya Moverment-in-Islam Nigeria requested for an expatriate Missionary to be sent to them from the Headquarters in Qadian. This, they believed would make for faster progress because the presence of expatriates would have psychological impact on the people, as it was the case with Christian organisations.The Nigerian Jama’at thus sent an application to the Markaz (Headquarters) requesting for an English-speaking preacher. The headquarters then sent the Venerable Maulana Abdur-Raheem Nayyar, an Indian of blessed memory. It was on Friday, April 8, 1921 that Maulana Nayyar arrived from Sault Pond Ghana, former Gold Coast. He was accommodated at No. 255 Igbosere Road, residence of the then President Jibril Martins.
His voyage cost from Ghana was raised by women members of the Jamaat from Nigeria.
On his arrival, Maulana Nayyar first requested to meet the Head of all Muslims. So he was taken to the Central Mosque where he offered some rakats of Nafilah. Then, he told the leaders of the Muslims that all he had brought was the Holy Qur’an. They told him to go to the Ahlil’Qur’an sect (Alalukurani in the native language). That sect claims to hold strictly to the Holy Qur’an and no more.
On reaching the Ahlil’Qur’an Central Mosque, Maulana Nayyar was very warmly received by the members. The members of the sect related that they were expecting him according to a vision vouchsafed to their late leader Alfa Ayanmo. According to the vision, the leader of the Ahlil’Qur’an sect was promised by the Promised Messiah and Mahdi that although he (Mahdi) would not personally visit this country but a great follower of his would come, reform, guide, elevate and strengthen the position of the Ahlil’Qur’an sect members with the Holy Qur’an in his hand. Whosoever would hearken to his voice would prosper but whosoever would not would perish. The Ahlil’Qur’an sect was overwhelmed with ecstasy on receiving Maulana Nayyar, at their mosque, who had come with the Holy Qur’an in his hand.
Without wasting time, the majority of the Ahlil’Qur’an sect members signed Baiat and accepted Ahmadiyyat. The first major congregation of the Ahmadi Muslims took place at The Ahlil’Qur’an mosque.
Maulana Nayyar worked indefatigably for the progress of Ahmadiyya and Muslims in general. He was extremely popular and impressed the generality of the people with his wisdom and deep knowledge of Qur’an and Hadith.
This piece was taken from the website of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Nigeria.