A Brief History
By the Grace and Mercy of Allah, the history of Ahmadiyyat in Tanzania is largely associated and connected with the blessed companions of the Promised Messiah and Mahdi Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as).
It must be recalled that after the Berlin conference of 1884 Kenya and Uganda became colonies of Britain while Tanganyika now Tanzania became a Germany colony. One of the agreement of the Berlin conference was to stop slave trade. It must be remembered that slaves were used to transport Ivory from the interior to the coast. An alternative was sought hence the idea of building the railway line from Mombasa in Kenya to Kampala in Uganda. An advertisement was made in news papers through out the British colonies calling for qualified people to work for the East African Railway. Among those who positively responded were the companions of the Promised Messiah (as). Although they came to work as Clerks, Doctors, Accountants, Engineers, they did not forget their noble responsibilities of preaching about the advent and the importance of joining the Community of the Promised Messiah as directed by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw).
In 1896 two Companions of the Promised Messiah (as) namely Hadhrat Munshi Muhammad Afzal Sahib and Hadhrat Mirza Abdullah Sahib were the first Ahmadis in East Africa. They were immediately followed by Dr. Muhammad Ismail Giryanwi who was a military doctor brought to help the Sultan of Zanzibar who was facing very strong opposition from members of his family. This was undoubtedly a serious and committed team and in 1923, they published Al-Balagh that proclaimed the message about the Promised Messiah and Mahdi (as). It was indeed a committed team and in 1930 they built a Mosque in Nairobi. The nature of their respective activities did not allow them to be at the same place at a considerable long time. They had to move up and down. In that process of moving up and down they preached and acquired a number of converts. As they were not stationery, the new converts lacked proper tarbiyyat and consequently became very weak. This situation made them look for a better way of preserving the integrity and commitment of the new converts. The Sahabi therefore thought it proper to ask for help from Qadian, the erstwhile headquarters of the world wide Ahmadiyya Jamaat in the world. The request by the Grace of Allah coincided with the launching of the now famous Tahrik-e-Jadid scheme which aimed at spreading Ahmadiyyat to the four corners of the earth. The Promised Son of the Promised Messiah Hadhrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad (ra) responded very positively by sending a renowned Muslim Scholar Sheikh Mubarak Ahmad (HA) born on 10th October, 1910 as the first Amir of Ahmadiyya Jamaat in East Africa.
First Converts to Islam Ahmadiyyat
It is perhaps proper to throw light on the first converts to Ahmadiyyat in our country. Reliable sources indicate that Mr. Suleiman Kagunju from Bukoba was the first indigenous person to accept Ahmadiyya. He had travelled all the way from Bukoba to Tabora in search of green pasture. At Tabora he met Sheikh Mubarak Ahmad (HA), who conveyed to him the message of the Promised Messiah (as). In his childhood he had to a considerable degree acquired knowledge about the Holy Qur’an and the Ahadith. All that said by Sheikh Mubarak Ahmad was proved from the Holy Qur’an and Ahadith, he therefore quickly accepted Ahmadiyyat and was seriously committed to his conviction. He got employment and accumulated enough wealth. After a time he left for his home town where he met very strong opposition. He went on being very firm and unyielding. His name became the talk of the town. For many years he was alone and Sheikh Kaluta Amri Abedi visited him and they went on a preaching tour. When he passed away members of his village refused to burry him. It is not known who performed the burial ceremony.
Two teachers are also said to be early converts to Ahmadiyyat; a half cast Muallim Najim well educated in secular and religious education and Muallim Sudi Kambi another teacher. Both were recruited by Sheikh Mubarak Ahmad (HA) to help him in the translation of pamphlets and books. It will be remembered that Ahmadiyya Jamaat built the first Muslim School run by Muslims. It was called Ahmadiyya Muslim School. It went on for two years and due to sinister motive of the Sunis Muslim, the school did not have enough students and was therefore closed.Other early members of the Jamaat include Mzee Hamsin, Mzee Kambaulaya, Mzee Amri Kweyamba and Sheikh Swaleh Mbaruku Kapilima.
Tortures and Persecutions faced by early Converts in Tanzania
It is a tradition of Muslims since the era of Prophet Muhammad (saw) for the new converts to face difficulties in every aspect of their life. It is remembered that early converts during the prophethood of Muhammad Mustafa (saw) were forced to migrate from Mecca to Africa(North-East) and settled in a country known today as Ethiopia. This was a trip organized by the holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) himself and asked his companions to seek refugee settlement under King Najash who was well-known for his piety and righteous all over the world. Ethiopia was formerly known as Habesh which is Abysinia bordering Kenya, a country where Kiswahili is well spoken language. In his preface word in the first Kiswahili translation of the Holy Qur’an, Hadhrat Mirza Bashirudin Mahmood Ahmad (RA), Khalifatul Masih II mentioned that, Africa is a noble place as they did a very big role of accepting early Muslims and secure them peacefully.
The prophesies has to be accomplished, early converts during Promised Messiah faced the same challenges. The opponent forces acted upon them being a taste for them as they were a taste before them. In Tanzania early converts as it is mentioned to Suleiman Kagunju Sahib who it is not known where his grave is as villagers denied to bury him and he was alone in that village. Some of the tortures are as follows:
- Wives and husband undergone divorce by force
- Burnt of properties including houses
- Abandoned in social and public activities
- Disallowed to use non- Ahmadi mosque for prayers
- Abusing languages were routinely used
It is well remembered that, in 1950’s there were a famous case in Rufiji Distict, Coast Region whereby non- Ahmadis Sheikh declared that, Ahmadis are non-Muslims and their sisters and daughters who married before have to be taken from their houses by force and if possible to migrate them from the village. Ahmadiyyat in the that village was introduced by Sheikh Swaleh Mbaruku Kapilima and the case was known as a case of Rusende and Nyipara where by Province Commissioner called John Young was a Chairman and supposed to conduct hearing. Non- Ahmadis Sheikh represented by Sheikh Hamad Bin Masoud Jongo and Jamaat represented by Sheikh Kaluta Amri Abeid. After a series of hearing a District Commissioner John Young rulled out that he has no objection for the Ahmadis to stay in Rusende and Nyipara village and enjoying life with their wives and husband and therefore the case was over.
A decision was painful to opponent side but Ahmadis decided to organize themselves and arranged to shift to another village called Mkongo.
Formulation of villages organized by Ahmadis was taken in various area in Tanzania. A village at Madina in Kibaha organizes by Ally Ndendekile Sahib, Ally Lipesa Sahib, Ally Lumeta, Said Mohamed Liucha and others, Mmeda in Mtwara organized by Hassan Seif Nakuchima, Mshamu Sahib and others, Mtama and other villages. Former villages were destroyed by calamities, drought and other punishment, for example the villages of Rusende and Nyipara are no longer found in the map of Tanzania. A village of Mtama Jangwani is no longer existing in Tanzania. Under development of opponent villages and destruction of infrastructure due to recurrent floods and drought was not enough to alarm them that it was a punishment from Allah Almighty. All villages mentioned are not in place and Ahmadis flourish in their village up to now, their ancestors are forgotten in history of the country. Ahmadis still are well pronounced in history.
As work increased more Mubalegheen were needed. Sheikh Mubarak therefore asked for helpers. The early helpers include Maulana Sheikh Muhammad Munawwar, Sheikh Inayatullah Ahmad, Sheikh Waliyullah Shah, Sheikh Jalal-ud-din Qamar, Sheikh Fazl Ilahi Bashiri, Sheikh Hafeez Suleiman, Sheikh Abdulkareem Sharma and Sheikh Jamil-ur-Rahman Rafiq.
With march towards independence East Africa was divided into three states namely Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. On the first, May 1961 Maulvi Muhammad Munawwar was appointed a Missionary Incharge. Under his leadership many branches were opened in the country and preaching increased by leap and bounds. A number of branches were opened that include Mtama Jangwani in Lindi region, Mkongo, Morogoro, Dodoma, Mwanza, Bukoba and Machame in Kilimanjaro region.
The teachers who were involved in preaching include Muallim Daud Shoo, Muallim Shaban Shoo, Muallim Hassan Mohamed, Muallim Abdul Imran Kweka, Abdallah Alli Ng’ambage. Independent teachers and Mubalegheen include Sheikh Saleh Mbaruku Kapilima and Muallim Ibrahim Rajabu Mkoggas.
Introduction of Ahmadiyyat in Zanzibar Island
Zanzibar archipelago comprises the islands of Unguja (also called Zanzibar) and Pemba with a number of islets adjacent thereto. It is part of the United Republic of Tanzania but administratively there is an autonomous government for matters that are not part of the union agreement. About 95% of Zanzibar population are Muslims and therefore it is known place for Islam advancement in the region.
It has been narrated that the message of Ahmadiyya was sent to the then sultan of Zanzibar since the time of Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II r.a. The sultan of that time was ready to send his son to study Islam in Qadian but due to mischievous syndicate of local sheikhs he declined to send him. It is worthy of note that after Jamaat Ahmadiyya translated the Holy Quran in Kiswahili Language it was one Sheikh of Zanzibar – Sheikh Saleh Abdallah Farsy – who translated the Holy Quran into Kiswahili only to oppose our translation. His book ‘Upotofu wa Tafsiri ya Makadiani” prompted Sheikh Kaluta Amri Abedi to write his famous book “Uongofu wa Tafsiri ya Quran”
Jamaat literature has been in circulation to Zanzibar population for so many years but it seems that no one had the courage to join the Jamaat there. First known indigenous Ahmadis are four workers from mainland who shifted to work in Zanzibar namely Mr. Saidi Megerwa (Who was a Senior officer for Bank of Tanzania), Mr. Mbwana Saidi (a security personnel), Mr. Shaibu Kondo (an army officer) and Mr. Omar Rawa. Mr. Ame Haji who was working at Dar es Salaam port are known to be early Zanzibari to join the Jamaat and by his influence his brother Mr. Ahmad Haji also joined the Jamaat while living in Zanzibar. Letter on some young Zanzibaris by the influence from Tanzania mainland they joined the Jamaat. Among the first know were Mr. Ali Khamis Juma, Miss Bimkubwa Kombo, Mr Saidi Othman, Mr. Ameri Mahmood Kheri and his sister Biwahida. Also Mr. Abdulrahman Mohammed Ame who latter became a Waqfen Zindaqi and had the honor to be a General Secretary of Jamaat for two terms is among the converts from Zanzibar. However the Zanzibar revolutionary Government has not yet allowed the registration to Jamaat but at the moment by the grace of Allah we have a well organized Jamaat in Zanzibar town comprising of more than 50 members. Also we have some scattered members in Pemba Island. Efforts are underway to have a permanent place of worship ‘Mosque’ as this is hoped will be a very strategic step for tabligh in Zanzibar.
First Muslim Paper in the country “Mapenzi Ya Mungu” 1936.
Sheikh Mubarak Ahmad (HA) after staying in Mombasa for a short time an idea of going to Tabora materialized. A number of reasons are attributed to this move. Tabora was a centre of Christians, all Christian denominations were represented there and the best Secondary School in the land was situated there and to crown it all Kipalapala a senior Theological College for Priests was also there. This therefore could be the best battle ground. And History proved him right. In 1936 he started the first Muslim paper in the country which he named ‘Mapenzi ya Mungu’. The Clergy in Tabora had disseminated pamphlets saying we can only be saved by the blood of Jesus (as). Sheikh Mubarak Ahmad had categorically refuted that and said man can only be saved by the love of God – Mapenzi ya Mungu is therefore the love of God in Kiswahili, the lingua franca in many parts of East and Central Africa. Since its inception the paper has played a very progressive role in society, propagating the true teaching of Islam, refuting baseless arguments against the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw), mobilizing the people to fight for their independence and championing the development of Kiswahili as a national language. Extensive preaching was conducted at Tabora Boys secondary school where Sheikh Mubarak Ahmad taught Islamic knowledge as a subject. A number of students attended his class among them Julius Kambarage Nyerere who later became the first President of Tanzania. But the most successful aspect was the acceptance of Kaluta Amri Abedi who was “captured” by the teaching of Sheikh Mubarak Ahmad and joined the Jamaat in 1937. With zeal and determination Kaluta Amri Abedi helped Sheikh Mubarak Ahmad in many missionary activities. His contribution to the Nation in general will be elaborated afterwards.
Ahmadiyyat Centenary Celebrations in 1989
One year after the visit of his Holiness, Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IV, Tanzania Jamaat celebrated the Ahmadiyya centenary celebration in 1989. A number of activities took place namely books exhibitions a special edition of Mapenzi ya Mungu newspaper run by the Ahmadiyya Jamaat. Guests were welcomed in our respective branches throughout the country where they were entertained with soft drinks and food. The events were covered extensively by the news media in the country. To commemorate the event, special T-shirts were made and distributed to the members of the Jamaat.
After the centenary celebrations and in response to the appeal of his Holiness, the campaign of Dawat Ilallah increased and a number of Ba’iats were acquired. In mosques where we did not have mission houses, mission houses were built to facilitate the getting more Ba’iat.
Centenary Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya Celebrations
The centenary Khilafat Ahmadiyya celebrations were by grace of Allah well organized in the country. On 21st October, 2005 the Amir Sahib Tanzania humbly proposed the following persons to be members of the national committee on centenary Khilafat Ahmadiyya:
- Ali Said Mosse – Amir Chairman
- Maulana Faiz Ahmad – Missionary incharge
- Abdulrahman Ame – Secretary General
- Mahmood Mubiru – Secretary Education
- Retired Major Abdulrahman Ngumbewe – Secretary Ziafat
- Amir Kaluta – Secretary Waqf Nau
- Abdillah Kombo – Secretary Sami Basir
- Abdallah Mbanga – Sadr Khudamul Ahmadiyya
The national committee proposed the number of activities which were eventually submitted to his Holiness for approval. On 27th May, 2008, at the national headquarters, Tahajjud prayers were conducted at Kitonga, Dar es Salaam. On the same day, there was a reception at Peacock hotel whereby a total of 75 people attended. However, before the 27th of May, 2008 a number of activities took place including Wakar Amal, football league in which ten team participated, blood donation, book exhibitions that went on for two days 28th and 29th respectively. The Khilafat centenary Jubilee was extensively covered by the media. A total of seven newspapers covered the jubilee.