Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The First Ahmadiyya Muslim Missionary in America


Dr. Mufti Muhammad Sadiq, who came from India, was the first Muslim Missionary to America. His purpose, as a representative of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, was to convert Americans to the religion of Islam.

On January 24, 1920, Dr. Sadiq left England on the S.S. Haverford, headed for the United States, where he intended to establish a mission. On board the ship Dr. Sadiq succeeded in converting six Chinese passengers to the Ahmadiyya Muslim faith.

When the S.S. Haverford arrived in Philadelphia on February 15, 1920, the United States Immigration authorities refused to allow Dr. Sadiq to enter the country. After the authorities interrogated him for several hours and established that Dr. Sadiq was a representative of a religious group that practiced polygyny, they asked him to leave the United States. Dr. Sadiq refused to go and asked for an appeal to the Secretariat in Washington D.C. He was incarcerated in the Philadelphia Detention House until the decision of the appeal was handed down.

Mr. R. J. Rochford, who was also in the Detention House, became Dr. Sadiq's first convert to Islam in the United States. During those weeks of incarceration, Dr. Sadiq made nineteen other converts. These men were from Jamaica, British Guiana, Poland, Russia, Germany, Azores, Belgium, Portugal, Italy, and France.

After seven weeks of incarceration, Dr. Sadiq was finally allowed to enter the United States in April of 1920, on condition that he would not preach polygyny. Dr. Sadiq made a distinction between commandments and permissions in Islam. He stated that all Muslims must follow the commandments of their religion, but may avoid the permissions. For instance, no government can persuade a Muslim to worship more than one God, since the worship of one God is a commandment of their religion. However, polygyny is permitted only in countries whose laws sanction its practice. In countires that prohibit polygyny, permission for its practice is disallowed under the commandment that all Muslims must obey the laws of the country in which they live. This response enabled Dr. Sadiq to begin his work in the United States.

A dark skinned man with a heavy gray beard, wearing a bright green turban and a gray coat with flowing sleeves, Dr. Sadiq presented quite a striking picture to the American public. He came at a time when race riots against black Americans rocked the nation's cities. Racial discrimination against Indian and Asian immigrants was also at an all time high. Many racially oriented uprisings were directed against immigrants from the Punjab, whom white American called "ragheads" because they wore turbans. This was the challenging climate into which Dr. Sadiq came to win the people's hearts to Islam.

Dr. Sadiq was well suited for his role as preacher, writer and public speaker for the Ahmadiyya Movement in the United States. He had served as a missionary in England for a number of years, and was a very learned man. He was a graduate of the University of London, a philologist of international repute and an expert in Arabic and Hebrew. He spoke seven languages and held six doctorate degrees.

Dr. Sadiq set up his first headquarters in April 1920 at 1897 Madison Avenue in New York City. By the end of May, he had made twelve new converts to the Ahmadiyya Movement ---six from the Christian community and six from the Islamic immigrant community. Mrs S. W. Sobolewski was the first American woman converted by Dr. Sadiq to Islam in New York. He named her Fatima Mustafa, in fulfillment of a dream he had in England about an American female convert.

During his three years in America, Dr. Sadiq converted over seven hundred to Islam, from all racial, ethnic and religious groups. His missionary work was done through preaching and writing. By may 10, 1920, he had contributed twenty articles on Islam to various American periodicals and newspapers, among them The New York Times.

I October, 1920, Dr. Sadiq moved the headquarters of the Ahmadiyya mission to Chicago because of its central location. He purchased a house in an affluent area of Chicago, at 4448 S. Wabash, and converted it to a mosque. In July 1921, he published the first issue of the Moslem Sunrise. This journal appeared every three months. Its purpose was to teach Islam and refute the misrepresentations of Islam that appeared in the American press.

Like many immigrants from the "darker races" Indian Muslims suffered discrimination in the United States. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community pointed to the race problem in the United States as proof that Americans needed Islam. The Ahmadis said that it was pitiful that the Christian teachings of brotherhood and equality had not been able to eliminate the evils of racism. Furthermore, the Ahmadis claimed that in Muslim countries people of all colors worshipped together so that there were never seats or mosques, which separated people based on race.

Because of its teaching and practice of universal brotherhood, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community attracted many black Americans, who assumed leadership roles within the Movement. During this period , Dr. Mufti Muhammad Sadiq became friends with Jamaican born Marcus Garvey, the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, (UNIA).

Marcus Garvey had captured the imagination of millions of black people around the world on the 1920s. In America, hundreds of thousands became dues paying members of the UNIA. Marcus Garvey has the distinction of starting the first extensive movement among black Americans. His concepts of race pride and self help, as they were embodied in the UNIA, led to the establishment of the largest international racial justice movement in the history of black culture.

In 1923, Dr. Sadiq gave five lectures at the UNIA meetings in Detroit. Eventually, he converted forty Garveyites to the Ahmadiyya Muslim faith. The most noteworthy of these converts was a former Christian minister, Reverend Sutton, who was named Sheik Abdus Salaam and was appointed the leader of the Detroit branch of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

Black Americans were told that Islam was the religion of their fore-parents before slavery. Apparently, through their connection with the UNIA's internationalist perspective, the Ahmadi Muslims had acquired a keen understanding of the ordinary black man that enabled them to connect Islam with Pan-Africanism and race pride. The adoption of Muslim names by all new converts was further commitment to the Islamic world view as was the wearing of veils by some of the female converts.

A number of Islamic oriented organizations sprang up among black Americans in the 1920's and 30's, apparently influenced by both Dr. Sadiq's teachings and by the philosophy of the UNIA. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, leader of the most successful of these organizations, the Lost-Found Nation of Islam, is stated to have been a corporal in the uniformed ranks of the UNIA.

During his time in the United States, Dr. Sadiq had made many devoted friends. The Muslims in Chicago were so attached to Dr. Sadiq that they sent a letter to the international head of the Ahmadiyya Movement, requesting that he be allowed to stay in the United States indefinitely. However, at the end of September 1923, Dr. Sadiq left the United States and stayed in Paris, France for several weeks, where he lectured and secured converts there. Then he returned to India.

When Dr. Sadiq began his missionary work in the United States, most Americans had never heard of Islam or the name "Muslim," and had never seen a mosque. Today, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States, with millions of converts to various sects.

The Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam is continuing its missionary efforts across the United States and around the world. It has established missions in 170 countries. It has communities in fifty-three U.S. cities, where new mosque and mission houses are established. Dr. Sadiq's work has grown from one small seed of faith into a tree whose branches are spreading from coast to coast.



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Posted By The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community - USA to The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community - USA at 5/25/2009 11:22:00 AM

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