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South Africa

A gathering of Lahore Ahmadis in Cape Town, November 1985

A gathering of Lahore Ahmadis in Cape Town

Go to this link for photographs relating to the South Africa Ahmadiyya court case from 1985.

Islam and the Ahmadiyya Movement in South Africa

Speech at North American Convention, Columbus, Ohio, August 1995

by Ibrahim Muhammed, Cape Town

(From The Light & Islamic Review, Volume 72, No. 5, September-October 1995, pages 11-12, 14)

Introduction / Ahmadiyya Movement in Cape Town / Opposition from Ulama / Legal action / Future work /

Honourable hosts, distinguished guests, my dear brothers and sisters. As-salamu alaikum!

My name is Ibrahim Muhammed and I am a senior member of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha'at Islam (Lahore) South Africa.

I come from a country that has been much in the news recently because of the significant political changes that have taken place there.

After years of racial discrimination and oppression, we have now witnessed, to the astonishment of a world filled with strife and violence, a relatively peaceful shift of government from the white oppressor to the oppressed. I say relatively peaceful because I think most people throughout the world expected a blood bath from Nelson Mandela once he had come to power to avenge his twenty years incarceration at the hands of his defeated opponents.

But, sensible leadership embodying self-sacrifice, compromises, reconciliation, dialogue, a strong and sincere will for mutual cooperation with the erstwhile enemy -- all in the broader interest of peace in the country -- has been the hallmark of his leadership style thus far.

But political freedom without the backing of a strong moral, ethical and spiritual force to sustain it, is no guarantee that a new society of high moral and ethical fibre -- free from the corruptions of the past, will evolve out of the dust of this political victory in our country. There is much talk of 'nation building' in South Africa, but again without a strong moral force -- which only true religion can provide -- there can be no nation building. Historically, it is not uncommon to find that a people who had been victims of some or other political oppression, had turned into the worst perpetrators of human rights once they themselves have gained sovereignty. Pakistan, no doubt, is a prime example of this.

Unfortunately, religions of almost all persuasions in my country are in a sad state. The Church, symbol of the national religion, has no balm of life to give. She has lost her soul and her Christ. The Muslims, supposed to be the best nation on earth and the forerunners of religious tolerance, are even more worse off. Though a minority group in South Africa, their position is worsened in that over the years they have allowed themselves to degenerate into a blind Mullah following society. And sadly to say, the so-called intelligent ones and intellectuals who are often aware of this sad state seldom raise their voices against Mullah corruption except in matters concerning their own personal interests.

Ahmadiyya Movement in Cape Town

The only community who often dare speak out and are often punished for it, is a handful of Ahmadis of the Lahore Jamaat. Even Qadianis play a very passive role when it comes to tackling Mullah tyranny. I have on record a statement made very recently by a spokesman for the M.J.C. clerical body in Cape Town to the effect that "Qadianis give us no problems because they say they are Ahmadis and have their own temple, but not so the Ahmadis of the A.A.I.I. Lahore because though they are Ahmadi, they insist on calling themselves Muslims." Glory be to Allah, did not our Holy Prophet say that the best jihad is to speak out against tyranny.

Strange though it may seem, the very seeds of Ahmadiyyat were sown by the very body of people that oppose us today, viz. the Muslim clergy of South Africa. It was as far back as approximately 1926 that they invited the late Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din to come and speak in the Cape Town Civic Hall when he and Lord Headley visited South Africa at the invitation of some businessmen from Durban, Natal. They had much respect and praises for him and frequently published his articles and that of M.M. Ali in their local newspaper, the Azaan.

It was only some years later that the first Ahmadiyya Movement was formally established by my late uncle Mr. Dawood Sydow. The organization was then known as The Mediator Islamic Association and was affiliated to the Central Anjuman in Lahore. A regular monthly magazine was published and Mr. Sydow kept the flag of Ahmadiyyat flying high with inspiring lectures, extensive debates with missionaries, maulvis, scholars of religion and just about all seekers of the truth from all walks of life. He also wrote some booklets in defence of the truth, several pamphlets and articles for The Light and spent a number of years in Lahore during the sixties. His remarkable achievements stem from the fact that he only had a standard two education. He would often, however, in a light-hearted manner boast that when he joined Ahmadiyyat, he in fact became a student at the 'University of Muhammad'.

As a result of chronic asthma, he was forced to retire from public life somewhat prematurely and in October 1979 he breathed his last. May Allah shower his Mercy on his soul!

Opposition from Ulama

In 1980/81 Maulana Jaggoe from Holland visited our country. He urged us to change our name to the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha'at Islam (Lahore) South Africa, which we subsequently did. He also urged us to acquire our own premises for a Centre. On his departure, we immediately set in motion plans for raising funds for a Centre. We applied for a welfare number to allow us to raise public funds on a large scale. As required by law, we advertised our application in two local newspapers. When this news of our intentions reached the Maulvis, they became so incensed that they started on a full scale, what they called, 'jihad' against our Jamaat. Every mosque under their control was given instructions to preach against Ahmadis. Many pamphlets depicting Hazrat Mirza Sahib in the most vile way were widely distributed throughout the Province. Those politically motivated amongst them made such baseless allegations that we were abetting the apartheid regime in order to incite the public against us. A committee of ten was appointed by them to conduct a witch hunt and hound out Ahmadis.

Legal action

At that time, to say that our membership was 100 would have been an exaggeration. We were but a small inexperienced group and we feared for our safety. In June 1982, after much deliberation, we applied to the Court for an interdict to restrain our opponents and stop their vicious attacks on our Jamaat. This was the beginning of a long drawn-out litigation, the result of which is two Supreme Court judgments in our favour wherein our opponents have been found guilty of defamation of the worst kind. These two judgments in our favour are, of course, due to the excellent evidence led by the late Hafiz Sher Muhammad of blessed memory as also the assistance of our brothers and sisters from as far afield as London, U.S.A., Canada, Fiji, Holland etc. After the second judgment, however, our opponents lodged an appeal which was granted and will be heard on about the 23rd of this month.

I earnestly appeal to everyone to pray for its successful outcome and that the matter which has now lasted nearly thirteen years, reach a fitting finality.

Despite the legal wrangling, I pray for the day when we could reach an understanding with our co-religionists to forget our petty differences and work together in propagating Islam in our country; because the hand of man can find no nobler work under the sun than Isha'at Islam (promulgation of Islam). You do not give others one good word, one true word, one righteous word, but as the day follows the night it recoils on you and imbues you with the same good, the same truth, the same righteousness multiplied manifold.

Future work

With the upliftment of the once deprived nations of our country, I see that the time is now ripe to have the Quran translated in their languages. I have identified three languages, viz. Xhosa, Zulu and Tswana. I have already had fruitful discussions about this need with the authorities in charge of the Quran translations. I also feel that we should spread our propagating network to embrace our nearest neighbours such as Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola, Swaziland, Botswana and Mozambique, and if the need for Quran translations in those countries exists, recommendations for addressing those needs will be made by us. The acquisition of literature and of a Centre for Jamaat activities are a definite high on our agenda and we welcome the support of all jamaats to assist us in our efforts in whatever possible way they can.

Finally, to the hosts of this convention, for your generosity and hospitality, on behalf of the brothers and sisters in South Africa, I thank you all and may Allah bless and reward you.