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Sunday, March 3, 2024

My journey to joining the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at

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By Bakr Ladd

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, Ever Merciful, The Helper, The Supporter, The Guide.

For many years people have been asking me to write a book and tell my story and I always replied that perhaps one day while sitting on a beach in Bakau, The Gambia, I will do so. Of course, the Bakau of my youth is no more. The beaches have been spoiled and polluted by shops of all types and hotels and motels to cater to the evergrowing demand of the European clients who come here to take advantage of the warm sun and sunny climate of the smiling coast and other “services”, available here at bargain prices for European tourists.

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Instead of sitting on a beach I am enjoying the comforts of a simple guest house where I have a ceiling fan to keep me cool, and keep mosquitoes at bay and lights whereby to see late into the night.

For the benefit of non-Muslims and non-Ahmadis I should explain that exactly 50 years ago I stumbled by chance, or perhaps, Providence, into this tiny country on the West Coast of Africa and there converted to Islam. By chance or perhaps again, Providence, I happened to lodge in the home of one Foday Saine, may Allah have mercy upon him, who had a nephew, Musa Secka who attended the 1st class of Nusrat High School. This school was founded by the late Hadhrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad, may God exalt him, and is still going strong today.

Now, understand, that when I entered into Islam, I only understood a little about Islam, the main thing being that Islam teaches that the Creator of the Universe is One and His creation is but one creation. i.e. micro- and macro cosmos and that this man from Arabia by name of Muhammad (saws) was His Messenger. I didn’t know much about Muhammad (saws) but I shared his teachings and belief that The Creator of the Universe was One.

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Wanting to learn more about the teachings of Islam and this Arabian Prophet (saws) I asked my young friend Musa Secka if there was any Quran available in English and he informed that there was at his school Nusrat High School and for 5 Dalasis I was able to obtain a Holy Quran in English with Arabic side by side translated by one Maulana Sher Ali and published by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

I had no knowledge about this Community taking it to be a Publishing Company. However, I was astounded, amazed, and moved to tears by the beauty, elegance and clarity of the writing of this Holy Quran.

After reading Surahs Al Baqarah, Imran, Bani Israel and Al Anbiyya I felt that I now understood the way of religion and why there existed Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I did not as of yet, have any inkling of Ahmadiyyat.

I wanted to learn how to pray and I again asked my young friend Musa if there was any prayer book available in English and again, he brought me a prayer book from his school published by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. I began studying my prayers.

I liked to sit at the Bantaba (a huge gnarly rooted tree where generations of Bakau people have worn the roots into comfortable positions of sleeping and sitting where the community gathers for important social and civil events.

One day, while sitting under the Bantaba a group of the Tijani followers came upon me and greetly me warmly. Here I have to state that the people of Bakau treated me very well and gave me much affection.

“What are you doing Baboucarr?” they asked.

“I’m learning my prayers”, I replied.

“AlhamduliLLah, AlhamduliLLah”, they exclaimed. (That means ‘All praise belongs to Allah) One of them picked up the Prayer Book I was studying. “Au uzu billahi minash Shatonnir Rajeem!!” One of them exclaimed. (I seek refuge with Allah from Satan the rejected)

“What happened?” I asked.

“These Ahmadis”, he explained, “are the worst people!”

I was surprised. The Prayer Book seemed very nice, well written in Arabic with English translation side by side and I couldn’t see any harm or danger from using this Prayer Book. But I didn’t know any Ahmadis and I was new, so I kept quiet. But by this time, I had lived in Bakau for about 7 months and I knew the local people quite well.

And one thing that I was quite sure about is that whoever was writing this Prayer Book was better than the majority of the people that I knew in Bakau. So, in order not to drag this out and make a long story short let me get to the point of this essay. I eventually became and Ahmadi! In Hamburg, Germany in 1974.

Before leaving Gambia one handsome young man who I later learned was an Ahmadi missionary by the name of Daud Haneef, gave me a book “Invitation to Ahmadiyyat”. I read this book as I hitchhiked from Gambia to Hamburg across the Sahara Desert and I accepted the invitation. 

Subsequently I learned that the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community claimed to be a Prophet, the 2nd coming of the Messiah, and Imam Mahdi, expected by the Christian and Muslim world.

This was a bit much for a boy raised in Missouri (The Show me State) to swallow all at once and it took me some time to research, searching, reading, and most of all witnessing, before I finally understood that as incredible as it may seem at first blush, all these claims by the Founder have proved true and I bear witness that he is indeed a Prophet, in actual fact the 2nd coming of the Messiah and Imam Mahdi.

But hey, don’t take my word for it. Do your own research. Allah guides whomsoever He pleases.

But for my Muslim readers I would remind you of the Hadith that, “If you hear about the advent of Imam Mahdi, even if you have to travel across mountains covered in snow and ice, even then you should do so. And if you meet him, give him my salams. So said the Messager of Allah (saws).

In any event, here I sit in the year 2024 still alive, in the guest house of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community as I pen these words.

Why am I here? I was born here as a Muslim and I desire to die here as a Muslim. If Allah so wills it.

There is another reason also…

The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, peace be upon him, once stated that whichever nations’ head of state first accepts him that that will be a blessed nation. After watching, observing, and traveling throughout Gambia over a 50-year period I am facing a conundrum and a seeming contradiction in this prophecy of the Promised Messiah (as). Gambia is one of the smallest and poorest nations on earth. The country was ruled for more than 20 years by a gentleman who lacked many of the qualities that we seek in a Muslim leader. The police and security services are starved for “attire”. The roads of Serekunda in most areas should not in reality be called “roads”. Health services, sanitation, water, infrastructure, etc. all leave a whole lot to be desired. And worst of all, the “tourists” that come to Gambia from mostly European countries are despoiling the children of The Gambia and once the youth are corrupted a nation is doomed!!

So how then can anyone claim that The Gambia is a blessed land? Could it be that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has given a prophecy that has no truth or basis in reality. I know that this cannot be so and will now explain to you how this prophecy will be fulfilled. InshahAllah.

The answer to this puzzle goes back to the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He proclaimed in 1889 that he personified the 2nd coming of the Messiah and was the long-awaited Imam Mahdi of the Muslims.

This very momentous and somewhat incredible claim immediately raised a hue and cry among the “learned scholars” of India from which nation he hailed. And to be fair, at first blush nothing or very little about him or his outward appearance or circumstances seemed to fit with the image that exists in the mind of the Muslim masses.

He was not a mighty warrior, he was not healthy, he had only a few followers, and the village from which he hailed from was indeed a very remote and seemingly insignificant place. There was, in 1889 and perhaps even today, no railroad connection nor even a telegram station. He was somewhat delicate of health and so lacking funds that he appealed to his friends and early followers for a loan to publish his first groundbreaking book “Brahin Ahmadiyya”.

Here I have to divert for a moment and remind the readers that the 1st Messiah, the son of Mary, peace be upon them both, was a humble carpenter by trade, born in a small insignificant village in a livestock shed on the far outskirts of the Roman Empire. And the “learned scholars” of his time were described by him as snakes and vipers and he drove them our of the Temple with a sword. Later on the “learned scholars” contrived to have him crucified by the Romans.

It is said, that God sends a Prophet to the worst people of the time and the Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, and various other pagans and idol worshippers of the Indian subcontinent in the 1800’s were surely an amalgamation of all that is worst in human beings!

Prior to the arrival of the British the Sikhs were using mosques as stables for their horses. Even today Hindus worship cows, monkeys, snakes, elephants, and assorted other idols and whatnot. Christians, up to today have taken a man who used to eat food and drink water as the Creator of the Universe! And of course we cannot forget the “sacred” crocodiles of Katchikally! Or the “sacred” trees of the Casamance.

It is in this meliu that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be upon him) was born into and it is to these assorted people and their respective religions that he challenged and invited them to accept that God was One, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was His Messenger and that he, was sent by God to reform and guide all of the diverse referenced groups. Unbelievable “schutzpah” as the Jews would say.

But wait. “I and My Messenger shall prevail.” God says in the Holy Quran. And prevail he did.

Against all odds, in the face of the opposition of all the Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and Christians of India, he and his message moved on and his community grew exponentially against all odds and obstacles.

Indeed, in one famous and noteworthy speech in Ludiahana in 1903 Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian stated that although his community had grown in the last few years from a handful to more than 300,000 …..in the future his followers would number in the HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS! Chutzpah indeed. But not chutzpah, God’s promise!

He stated at some point, “God has promised me that He shall cause my message to reach the corners of the earth.”

Here in Gambia there are Gambians including some of your ministers and leading politicians, who have attended the International Jalsa Salana in UK and Germany and have witnessed 30-40,000 Ahmadi delegates and visitors from every continent on earth and to the smallest islands of the Pacific.  And in some Sessions, a Gambian (Baba Tarawally) was on the Chair.

In 1976 after having joined the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Hamburg, Germany, I was by Allah’s Grace enabled to visit Nigeria and Ghana and due to lack of funds I hitchiked from Tamale, Ghana to Bakau, The Gambia. At that time, Tamale was the last place where I was able to find shelter in an Ahmadiyya Mission house. In Bamako I slept in a taxi garage on the ground and one of my small bags was stolen from me. I had my head on the other one.

I was undertaking this arduous journey to visit my mentor back in 1973 when I embraced Islam in Bakau, The Honorable Mr. Alphonso Demba. By Allah’s Infinite Grace and Mercy I undertook a similar trip from Ouagadougou to Dakar to visit a good friend in 2015. I never traveled more than 250 kilometers before I found shelter in an Ahmadiyya mission house or mosque. Today there are hundreds of thousands of Ahmadi Muslims in Ghana, Mali, Burkina, Faso, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. There are Ahmadiyya mosques and mission houses in virtually every country on earth.

How is this possible? Is it because we pay people to pray with us? Or that we are agents of the miserable little island in the North Sea? Or is it because of any other stupid dribble that the enemies of Ahmadiyyat fabricate?

No, rather it is because Ahmadiyyat is the true religion and embodiment of Islam as it was intended to be practiced here on earth.

Are Ahmadis perfect? by no means, but on the whole as a Community there is not another religious or worldly organization that can equal or match the fervor and dedication of ordinary Ahmadis around the world. Ahmadis have earned the respect of most every nation in which they operate.

Ahmadis, regardless of where they originally hail from serve as loyal citizens in whatever country or nation they reside and strive to be model citizens. There are only a few and rare exceptions.

I could go on….but to return to my main point. How is it possible that The Gambia can be considered a “blessed nation”? Every compound of any size has razor wire strung across its walls. The impression for an outsider who visits this for the 1st time is of a vast prison compound or at least the impression that thieves and burglars are everywhere! Corruption by the police at the multiple check points is considered “the norm”. Everyday or at least every week the daily papers report on some malfeasance or other by public officials.

The “roads” are death traps and I shudder to think what the rainy season will bring to Serekunda and surrounding areas.

So where is this blessed nation? 

I am not the best of the followers of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian. But I know for certain that I am not the worst.

But I declare that having lived and survived 50 years as a Muslim and 49 years as a member of his blessed Community that I believe all of his prophecies to be true and having witnessed many of these prophecies  and having seen God’s support of this Community against all odds I now declare and firmly believe that ONE DAY The Gambia will truly be a blessed land.

And here is how I believe it will happen, but Allah Knows Best.

Sometime between 1960 and 1963 Muhammad Mamadi Farimang Singateh came to know, understand, and accept Ahmadiyyat through the good efforts of Alhajji Ibrahim Jikineh. May Allah reward both of them. Then on July 5, 1966 Sir M. Farimang Singateh became the Gov. General of the Gambia and the first Head of State to accept the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi. And in doing so he asked that a  prophecy by the Promised Messiah should be fulfilled through him, in that he asked that a piece of cloth from the Promised Missiah be given to him in accordance with the prophecy that “I shall bless you so much that Kings shall seek blessings from thy garments”.

It is my understanding that his wish was granted, and a small patch from one of the garments of the Promised Messiah was presented to him.  On the 3rd of May, 1970, the 3rd Khalifa of the Promised Messiah (as) Hadhrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad, visited the Gambia. Upon seeing the obvious poverty and lack of education and medical care that he witnessed in the Gambia he requested funds for a school and thus Nusrat High School was born. Subsequently, he asked for doctors to volunteer and even stated that if they did not volunteer the he would order them.

Alhamdulillah, the love and sense of obedience to their Khalifa amongst Ahmadis is such that doctors volunteered and teachers were found and Nusrat High School and the Ahmadiyya Hospital came into existence. Today, by the Grace of God, there are 3 Ahmadi High Schools in the Gambia and all enjoy a good reputation for providing excellent education.

It is my understanding that graduates from these schools are in every branch of Gambian society.  So what does all what I have previously explained have to do with Gambia becoming a “blessed nation”?  And how will this take place?

I have given a brief background about the founder of the Ahmadiyya Community.  And I have explained that I am a witness over the last 50 years to the truth and fulfillment of many of his prophecies.  One of the most profound prophecies…which has not yet been fulfilled is the coming of a 3rd world war.  Now, that the whole world is aghast at the brutal and horrific murder of innocent women and children and troops and warships and rumors of war abound….this prophecy does not seem so, well, prophetic.  But in 1903 or 1906 when this prophecy was made it seemed a stretch. 

But not anymore. 

Israel is doomed.  Virtually the entire world opinion has turned against Israel and all the PR and propaganda can’t undo the damage that has been done.  The only hope is that somehow the USA will attack Iran.  And then the Big Fire will be unleashed against the world.  And the world will never be the same.  And what will this mean for Gambia? 

The tourists that used to despoil your children and young men will for the most part have been incinerated in this Big Fire.  Those still living will have other things on their minds and more urgent concerns.  The young Gambian boys and girls and their abettors, will have to find other work and perhaps the events that have taken place will make them reflect and repent and seek mercy from the God they abandoned.  The casinos and night clubs will shutter and serve as grim reminders of what once was, like the old slave castles and dungeons that dot the West African Coast line to remind us about the sins of our fathers.   The Marabouts and Juju men will return to their villages to find food the old-fashioned way and the “sacred crocodile” of Bakau will be slaughtered and eaten by starving Bakau villagers.

There will be no broken rice from America or China and all the put-put drivers and taxi drivers will abandon their vehicles or use donkeys to pull them.  The fires burning in Asia, Europe and America will cast a pall over the land and confuse man and beast as to what season we are in.  All the monkeys and lizards and rats and goats will not be safe from a ravenous population. 

Some of you reading this are in disbelief.  But if the man from Qadian is indeed who he claims he is….then all these things I have written will come to pass.  Bear witness and know that the Holy Quran is a Book well protected and true.  And how many times does it explain to you the past history of people to whom God sent a Messenger, but the people did not believe?   

“Oh Children of Adam, if Messengers come to you from among yourselves, rehearsing my Signs unto you, then whoso shall fear God and do good deeds, on them shall come no fear nor shall they grieve. But those who reject our Signs and turn away from them with disdain,-these are the inmates of the Fire; they shall abide therein.”  Ch:7 vs 36-38

Was the son of  Mary not rejected by his own people?  And what about the Seal of the Prophets, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)  Did his own tribe and family not deny him although before they gave him the title of “the trustworthy one”?   So your own disbelief is nothing new, but it would behove you to reflect and ponder and give yourself a hedge.  Pray, ask God to guide you.  Study. Read. Ask questions. Investigate.

But most of all, be patient.  If my estimation is right and if the warnings of the Khalifa of the time are correct, then you will soon bear witness, although at that point, like old Pharaoh, your. recognition of the truth will be a tad late.  But Allah is Merciful.  Eventually.

Inshallah, the rainy season will come and wash the dark clouds away.  The sun will come out.  The crocodiles of Katchically will have been eaten.  The sacred tree will have been cut down for firewood and the Juju men will be out of business as the stark realities of the New World Order will manifest.  A ravaged and hungry world will look to Africa for food and water.  Survivors will straggle in making that hazardous journey across the ocean and the desert just as Gambian and African youths once fled in the opposite direction. 

Africa will now only trade with itself, at least for a long time.  Gambians will realize that although the country is resource poor it is rich in human capital.  Gambian boys and girls who once braved hazardous journeys to Europe and America will now explore the motherland and discover resources and new found wealth beyond their wildest imagination.

Gradually, the world will recover and those that survive will remember that a man appeared a little more than one hundred years ago and warned them about what would happen if they do not turn away from idolatry and paganism. 

Those students who attended Nusrat, Tahir, Nasir and Masroor High School will be the leaders of the New Gambia.  They will be the leaders who will be in the forefront of ushering in the era of a Blessed Land.  And another prophecy of the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi will have been fulfilled.  May Allah make it so.

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