Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Nigeria: The Crisis Period

Unfortunately after the departure of Maulana Nayyar, the Ahmadiyya Jama’at was faced with a number of crises. The first crisis culminated in the secession of a sub-group of Ahlil’Qur’an sect members from the Jama’at on the question of the Imamship. Ahmadiyya Jama’at had to quit their mosque according to a legal decision.

The second crisis was more devastating. It was during the advent of Maulana Alhaji F.R. Hakeem. The then Imam K.R. Ajose did not want to step down for F.R. Hakeem who demanded to be the Imam as the Amir and representative of the Huzur. Imam Ajose was supported by most of the leading members. The climax was that the Huzur withdrew his recognition for the Ahmadiyya Movement-in-Islam Nigeria. Whoever therefore wished to be a follower of the Promised Messiah was to sign a new Baiat at the hands of Maulana F.R. Hakeem. Many refused to sign new Baiat; they claimed the possession of Ahmadiyya Movement-in-Islam Nigeria as well as its properties. The Khalifa did not contest the ownership of properties; he advised loyal members to value the sanctity of their faith over and above properties.

The members who remained loyal to the Khalifa then adopted the name Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission Nigeria registered as the Nigerian Branch of Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya Qadian. The group that chose to be disloyal to, and remain independent of, the Khalifa and the centre retained the name Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam Nigeria. It was on January 5, 1940 that the official withdrawal of recognition of the “Movement” by the Khalifa was published in the Daily Times. On the other hand, on Sunday January 7, 1940, the inauguration ceremony of the Nigerian Branch of Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya Qadian known as “Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission” took place. The Headquarters of the “Mission” was established at No.10 Egerton Road, Oke-Arin, Lagos.

Thus the solid foundation was laid after several crises in Ahmadiyya jama’at of Nigeria  by those  loyal to the Khalifa and forms an integral part of the world community of Ahmadi Muslims under the leadership of the Khalifa. This Jama’at started with a humble loyal few who were prepared to sacrifice their life, time, property and honour for Ahmadiyyat. That   small poor Jama’at has grown tremendously and achieved spectacular feats which are unmatched by any other organisation.

So a new Jama’at recognised by the Khalifatul Masih was inaugurated in 1940 as the Nigerian branch of Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya, Qadian.  The new Jama’at was also referred to as Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission Nigeria to distinguish it from the name Ahmadiyya Movement retained by the seceders.

During the crisis period only one new mission  was established and that was Jos Mission in 1939.  Then the periods of the Second World War followed  only two new missions were established.  These were Ilaro – 1943 and Aiyegunle-Gbede – 1944.  Below is a brief historical account of those Missions established during the crisis period.

Alhaji Abdul-Wahab Ojoye was believed to be the first Ahmadi Muslim who introduced Ahmadiyyat into Jos.  He arrived Jos in 1939 from Otta (in Ogun State close to Lagos State).  He was a professional goldsmith.  Other early members and pioneers included Alhaji Ibrahim Omotara, Bro. Agunbiade, late Bro. Sabiu Adekanbi, Bros. A.B. Gani, Muibi Bakare, Sister Sabitu f. Ojoye, Bro. S.A.B. Layeni, A.K. Shodipo, J. Shoyombo, Aminu Jimoh Mustafa, Y. Ola. Jimoh, Abba Abdullah, Azeez Toye, Wasiu Akinsanya, Hussein Salaudeen and Abdullahi Salaudeen.

The first Missionary to visit Jos was Maulana F.R.A. Hakeem.  He took Baiat from two new members.  Other Missionaries who came later include Maulana Muhammad Noorud-Deen Naseem Saifi, Maulvi Munir Ahmad Bismil, Maulvi Nasir Ahmad, Maulvi Zikrullah Tayo Ayyuba, Muallim Abdul Fatai Adekunle and Muallim  A.G. Oladipo all of whom worked in the same spirit.

The first Mission House was established at No. 37/32, Farinwata Street, Jos while the first Mosque was located at Baba Anya Street, Sabon-Gari, Jos.  Alhaji Y. Ola. Jimoh shouldered the major financial sacrifice in building the Mosque.

On several occasions during public preaching, the group comprising Alhaji Abba Muhammed, Alhaji Ibrahim Omotara, the late Alhaji Abdul-Wahab Ojoye with the visiting Maulvi Muhammed Bashir Shad were stoned.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission also established a clinic at Bukuru, Jos.  Other Missions were established at Umaisha, Keffi, Nasarawa, Akwanga, Onda and Ara all in the Plateau State, now Nassarawa state, through the expansion of Jos Mission.

By 1962, the Lajna Imaillah Jos was established by Alhaja Nusrat Ojoye.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at was established   in Ilaro through the efforts and good neighbourliness of Alhaji Abdul Azeez Abiola (of blessed memory), a native of Ota, Ogun state.  He was then a produce merchant resident in Ilaro.
He was the one who having heard about Ahmadiyya Jama’at, made a thorough investigation  and carried out a critical study of Jama’at, before he finally embraced it by taking the Oath of Allegiance (Baiat) in 1943.  It was in the same year, he marked out a small portion in front of his house at Ileba in Ilaro to serve as Ahmadiyya Mosque.  That, marked the historical emergence of Ahmadiyya in Ilaro.

Coincidentally, that portion (first used as mosque) served as his final resting place.  Alhaji Abiola later became the National President of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at from 1978 until his death in January 1987.

Pioneer Members:
Alhaji A.A. Abiola remained the only member of the Jama’at in Ilaro for about four years (1943 – 1947).  But during this period, he usually brought Alfa Salihu Bello, from Otta.  During these preaching sessions there were two men who were always present to ask series of challenging questions.  These men were  Alhaji Teslim Olowonmi and Pa Bello Badmos, of blessed memory, both of who later signed the Baiat in 1947, to swell the membership of the Jama’at in Ilaro to three.  Later in the same year, Alfa Jimoh Biobaku, of blessed memory, also joined.  He was the one who later became the first Imam of the  Jamaat branch in the town, before he moved to Ibadan.  Coincidentally, he also became the Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission Central Mosque, Oke-Ado, Ibadan, before his death.  The following people also took the Baiat about the same time: Bro. Azeez Ashiru alias Osugbo), Bro. Tijani from Irogun village, Bro. Azeez (Esin l’Olorun yoo beere), Bro. Sule Ayedun and Bro. Sanni Akinbo (who took his own Baiat at Ota).

All these people embraced the Jama’at with their wives and children, which eventually increased their number significantly.  At this point, the small portion of land being used as Mosque, when Alhaji A.A. Abiola was alone, was no more adequate to accommodate the members.  So, he built another small room beside his house, that they might be able to observe congregational prayers.  It is very interesting, as well as pitiable, recalling that the first Eid prayer observed by this small Jama’at in 1947 was said in Lagos. That was to identify themselves with the root.  But in 1948, they used the open space, in front of the temporary Mosque, at Ileba for their Eid Prayer.  It was this same year that the foundation for the mosque at  Ileba was laid and completed in 1949.

From 1949, the Jama’at started observing their Eid Prayers on a certain area around Sabo junction, until at a point in time; the land-owners stopped them from further observing their Eid prayers there.  But luckily, they acquired the piece of land on which the Central Mosque of the Jama’at at Sabo quarters now stands.  So, Eid prayers also shifted to the site which was just a stone’s throw from the former (temporary) Eid site.

From that time onward, the Jama’at was making steady progress in and around Ilaro.  Meetings were held regularly and Quranic classes established to cater for the children as well as to meet the growing thirst of members for spiritual knowledge.  This was being held in a rented shop before the completion of the mosque and subsequent transfer of the Quranic class to the mosque.

In addition to this, and to further extend the social services of the Jama’at to the community at large, a primary school, Fazl-I-Omar Primary School, was established in Ilaro in 1953.  That was during the tenure of Maulvi Naseem Saifi, the then Amir.  By the grace of Allah, the school is existing up till today (Alhamdulillah).  At this period, a Missionary, Alfa J.B. Danmola and later Alfa H.A. Ibrahim were stationed in Ilaro by the headquarters in Lagos, to guide the young, but fast-growing Jama’at.  Ilaro Jama’at also enjoyed the presence and services of two Central Missionaries at the formative stage.  They were: Maulvis Chaudhry and Ishaq.  After these two, Ilaro Jama’at also enjoyed the presence of many other missionaries, among whom were Maulvi Mugni Zaid, Akram, Z.T. Ayyuba and G.A. Khaddim.  These four served both as Missionaries for Abeokuta Circuit, and as the Principals of Ahmadiyya Missionary Training Centre, during their respective periods.

Missionary Activities
Apart from regular meetings and Quranic/Islamic Classes among members, these pioneer members also engaged in extensive preaching activities in Ilaro and its environs.  These activities were carried to many towns and villages in the whole of the then Egbado Division, such as Araromi, Ibese, Komi-Oba, Irogun, Idogo, Ipaja-Dogo, Igbogila, Igan-Alade, Oja-Odan, Ebute-Igbooro, Olorunda, Abalabi, Igan-Okoto, Joga-Orile, Iboro, Imasai, Eredo, Owode, Ipake to mention but a few.

The steady progress of Ahmadiyya Jama’at as at the time, however, did not go well with some people, it aroused jealousy.  This explains why some non-Ahmadi Alfas went to the Divisional Commissioner, to lodge a complaint with him that Alhaji A.A. Abiola wanted to create chaos and disorder in Ilaro area; especially for duplicating Khutbah (sermon) in the same area.  But this turned out to be a blessing to the Ahmadis.  For, when Alhaji A.A. Abiola was invited by the Divisional Commissioner, and he explained all that Ahmadiyyat stood for, the Divisional Commissioner, there and then gave a directive that everybody was free to practise his religion without any hindrance from any quarters.

It was as a result of the missionary activities of the members in Ilaro that eventually led to the establishment of the Jama’at in Abeokuta (the present capital of Ogun State) in 1952.  This was made possible by the activities of some members who were natives of Abeokuta (then residing in Ilaro) who returned home.  They were led by Pa Bello Badmos, one of the ‘first two’ pioneer members and himself a native of Abeokuta.  They were, however, reinforced by some other active members, who joined Ahmadiyya Jama’at from Ibadan, Ife and some other towns.

Among other important places where Ahmadiyya Jama’at were firmly established, through the missionary activities and crusade of Ilaro Jama’at were: Ayetoro, (the headquarters of Egbado North Local Government of Ogun State), Afon (where we also had the Oba – traditional ruler who was an Ahmadi. The incumbent is also an Ahmadi Muslim.

In all, about twenty-eight (28) towns and villages are already, by the grace of Allah, enjoying the presence of regular and active Ahmadiyya Jama’ats through the efforts and activities of Ilaro Jama’at (Alhamdulillah).  It is also worth mentioning that in Ilaro township alone, the Jama’at is having six  big reputable mosques, apart from a small one built by some of our members who are plank dealers, at the saw-mill, for prayers during their business periods.  The six regular ones are: Ileba (the first mosque), Surulere, Sabo, Orita, Oke -Ola and Leslie.  At Leslie, a temporary mosque was first built, where members used to observe their daily prayers, but later, the landowner sent them packing.

While the Jama’at was then looking for another piece of land on which to build its Mosque, the then Imam of the branch, late Pa Jimoh Taiwo, contacted the landowner of the present location of the land on Leslie Road (a non-Ahmadi). Through connections and consultations, the man, Mr. Kasumu Sule gave the land to the Jama’at free of charge.  He however made a request that, whenever the Jama’at prayed on the land, they should pray fervently for him, whether he was alive or dead.  The Mosque was built in 1972.  But when it could no longer accommodate the fast-growing members of the Jama’at especially of that branch, it was re-built and expanded in 1983.  It has a regular and well organized Quranic and Arabic Class.

To further strengthen the missionary activities of the Jama’at generally, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at in Ilaro has it to its credit as the first sponsor of a preaching programme (Voice of Islam) on the Radio.  This programme, which started in 1979 (1st April 1979) is, by the special grace of Allah, still very much alive today and very popular throughout the southern states of Nigeria and indeed beyond.

The prominent role played in this regard by Alhaji Musibau Akanji  Salman as a champion of the Voice of Islam deserves mention for which we pray that Allah may reward him with abundant blessings.  Alhaji Salman’s entry into Ahmadiyya Jama’at in Ilaro was a singular blessing; May Allah let it be so till the end of days. Alhaji Musibaud-Deen Salman was a primary school teacher and a staunch member of Nawairud-Deen Muslim Society, who in 1961 joined the Ahmadiyya Jama’at.  He first dedicated all his holidays and leisure hours for missionary work, preaching from one village to another with zeal, patience and perseverance.

He was later appointed an “Honorary Missionary” in 1965 by Maulvi N.D. Ahmad the then Amir.  It was partly through his missionary activities that Abeokuta Circuit Missions (which included Ilaro) expanded rapidly and he was elected the Circuit Secretary.  He also taught at Fazl-Omar Ahmadiyya School Ilaro after leaving the Nawairud-Deen School.

Historic Visits
Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at in Ilaro had the blessings of paying host to three successors of Imam Mahdi and Promised Messiah (a.s.), during their visits to Nigeria.  Hazrat Khalifatul Masih III (r.a.) visited Ilaro in August 1980, when he performed the dedication ceremony of the Central Mosque at Sabo.  This Mosque also served the members and others around Sabo for their daily prayers.  Also, in February 1988, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IV, Mirza Tahir Ahmad (r.a) paid a visit to Ilaro, during which a Hall whose construction was spear-headed by Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya, Ilaro Branch, was dedicated..

Apart from this, another great historical feat was performed during the visit.  About one hundred and eight three (183) new members took the Baiat at his hand the same day, Allah be praised. The fifth Kahifa, Hazrat Mirza Monsoor Ahmad, also visited Ilaro in 2004, during which the Jamaats mosque at Orita –Pahaji was dedicated and foundation of El-Tahir Coprehensive High School was laid 

It is also to the credit of Ilaro Jama’at that, apart from the regular Quranic/Arabic classes that had been hodling in the Mosque, the foundation stone for a special and separate building for these classes was laid in 1973, during the second Ijtema of Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya, Nigeria, which was then held in Ilaro.  It was this building (for Quranic/Arabic classes) that had been in use since then, for the training of Missionaries until early 1987, when they moved to the permanent site on which it is now stands.  Even this site, about forty acres was acquired by Ilaro Jama’at, ably led by Alhaji A.A. Abiola.  It was the availability of this land in Ilaro that gave the Jama’at the blessing of having the Missionary Training Centre (later named Jamia Ahmadiyya by the Fourth Khalifatul Masih) located there when the formal approval to that effect was given by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih III (r.a.) in 1979.

Later, about sixty acres  of land were acquired in addition.  In October 1986, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IV (r.a ) delegated the Amir of Ghana, Maulana Abdul Wahab bin Adams to undertake a tour of the Jama’at in Nigeria.  During this tour, he laid the foundation stone of the Jamia Ahmadiyya on its permanent site among other things.  Barely three months after that, the first phase of the Institution was ready for the students’ use.

In March 1987, Ilaro Jama’at played host to the Additional Vakilut-Tabshir, Maulana Mubarak Saqi, who was also then on tour of Nigeria Jama’at, as a representative of the Huzur.  It was during this tour (9th March 1987) that the dedication ceremony of the Ahmadiyya Missionary Training Centre was performed.

Public Relations
Due to its religious stand, Ahmadiyya Jama’at, cannot but attract some hostilities, the relationship between the Jama’at and the governments (past and present) in Ilaro on one hand and between the Jama’at and the general public on the other hand, has all along been very cordial.

This assertion is further authenticated by the fact that there had hardly been any important programme of the Jama’at in Ilaro, in which the traditional ruler of Ilaro, His Royal Highness,  the late Oba Samuel Adekanmbi Tella III (the Olu of Ilaro) had not been in attendance.  Moreover, the Jama’at has not concerned itself with Islamic  crusade only but has also always been in the forefront in all community  and development projects.

Muallim Habeeb Maddugu was reported to have established the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at at Aiyegunle-Gbede.  At that time, there was stiff opposition from the orthodox Muslims, to such an extent that Ahmadi Muslims were man-handled during public preachings.  The predominantly young converts were forcibly dragged away by parents and relations from the Jamaat activities.

The first Mosque was built in 1948.  Another Mosque was built in 1954 because the first one was too small.  By 1974, the Jama’at had completed another mosque.  Another remarkable achievement was the establishment of Ahmadiyya Secondary School, Aiyegunle-Gbede.

The Jama’at extended its activities beyond Aiyegunle-Gbede and succeeded in establishing other Missions at Ayetoro-Gbede and Ayere, Iyamoye all in Kogi State.

This piece is taken from the website of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Nigeria.

See on-line at: http://www.ahmadiyyang.org/amjn-crisis-period.php


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