By Al-Hafiz Yunus Omotayo
It’s always exciting reminiscing the day of my graduation from Jamia Ahmadiyya (Theological Institute established by the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community for the training of Missionaries) at Ilaro, Ogun State, Nigeria, which took place 15 years ago, precisely on 16th July, 2006.
Indeed, it forever remains an historic, significant, inspiring and catalytic event in my life. Historic, because the graduation symbolized my departure from a student life to my formal induction, along with my colleagues, into the Missionary profession as life-devotees in the service of the religion of Islam. Significant, because it hallmarked the beginning of a professional career which champions the mission of divine prophethood, sparking the challenge to imitate the exemplary prophetic moral and spiritual life to be able to win the hearts of humanity. Inspiring and catalytic, because it transported me to the plateau of self-realization and consciousness that to strive for distinction and excellence in one’s study, in one’s work and in one’s career is not only rewarding in the final analysis, but also what actually defines the true meaning of meaning when it comes to actualising life’s goals and destiny.
My reflection goes back to 2003 AD, the year that my academic adventure began in the Jamia. Over twenty students, drawn from the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria, have been admitted to undergo the rigorous missionary training. However, three years later, on the day of the graduation, only six of us have got the fortune and the grace of Allah to make it to the end of the course. We were: Adam Garba, Adeleke Ismaīl, Ajibola Abdullah, Aliyy Ishaq, Yunus Omotayo and Yunus Fayomi. The rest have had to drop out, for one reason or the other.
Although I was born an Ahmadi Muslim, but I didn’t have the opportunity to learn about Islam during my childhood, because I found myself in a Christian-dominated society where my socialization at the peer and age group levels, as well as, both my primary and secondary educational adventure saw me learning Christian Religious Knowledge (this has, however, turned out to be a blessing in disguise, anyway). My study of Islam only began from the level of self-study towards the end of my secondary school and continued in my post-secondary years well to the year of my admission to the Jamia Ahmadiyya. Hence, in the spirit of the Qur’ānic imperative: “And the bounty of thy Lord, proclaim;” I’m ever humbled with deep sense of gratitude to Allāh to reminisce and relate the grace of Allāh Who enabled me to emerge successfully from the Jamia.
Thus, the 2006 Jamia Convocation saw my worthless self receiving the prize for the best graduating student. This unassuming boy also bagged a certificate of Tahfizul Qur’an (Memorization of the Qur’ān), and a prize for being the first student to become a Hafizul Qur’ān (honorific title for a memorizer of the Qur’ān) in the history of Jamia Ahmadiyya Nigeria. And according to the then Missionary In-Charge of Nigeria, Maulana Abdul-Khalique Nayyar Sahib, it was second to the trail-blazing feat achieved by respected Ahmadiyya’s Mufti Silsila, Maulana Kahloon Sahib, in the world history of Jamia Ahmadiyya International.
More so, the event also cheered my humble self with a number of prizes from the sport fiesta of the year: 1st position in 100 meters race; 1st position in 200 meters race; and 1st position in table tennis (single), among other prizes.
I could still recollect that I represented the final-year level in the Extemporary Speech Competition organized for the year. I was the Ra’ees (the Students’ President) of the 2006 set. The pressure to win the competition was indeed challenging to me: how would one relate the story that a student representing a lower level defeated the Ra’ees who was representing the final year level? The day arrived and the event commenced. My turn came and I was called forward to pick my topic. I did. To my surprise, however, I read the question that asked me to speak on “My Favourite Teacher.” I was shocked.
All my lecturers were seated. The thought of who should I choose among them dominated my mind. They, too, were staring at me; perhaps, thinking who will Yunus speak on as his favourite teacher. For a few seconds, I remained mute, confused and indecisive. I felt if I should choose one, how would the others feel about it and me? I knew I have had to take a decision not just inevitably, but also wisely as well; so as to, at best, please them all, or, at worst, play safely. Then the thought flashed my mind: why not speak on the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) as my favourite teacher! Now, I felt I’ve gotten the best option in the best prophet who is the ultimate favourite teacher of the people of all time and clime. It worked excellently. I made it and added another 1st position prize for Extemporary Speech Competition!
Jamia Ahmadiyya, through its broad curriculum and esteemed and erudite lecturers, taught us Islam: its theology, jurisprudence, law, history and the Scholastic Dialectics. It took us on an academic voyage to extensive comparative religious studies. It engaged us in philosophical and psychological studies. We were taught world languages: Arabic, English and Urdu! We were trained in Islamic morality and spirituality and in the principles of dedication to the service of the faith. We were taught that a Missionary must be a dictionary, and should learn something about everything. We were taught to see ourselves as both leaders and servants of the faith and of the faithful.
More so, we were made to undergo rigorous physical training and dignity of labour. We were instructed to serve as builders of personalities, to see ourselves as social workers and, above all, as callers to the oneness of Allāh and the prophethood of Muhammad (saw) – the Seal of the Prophets.
However, at the end of the course, just when we were about to begin to breath a sigh of relief from the rigour of the studies, we were told that all that we have been taught merely constitute 25% of the prerequisites for a successful missionary! That we must seek to acquire the rest through our self-study of life in life, and through further self-acquisition and accumulation of experiences and skills.
Indeed, the tasks upon a Missionary are enormous. During his address of 17th December 2012 at Jamia Ahmadiyya, Reichstadt, Germany, the Khalifatul Masih V and Supreme Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) summarized the Missionary callings in the following words:
“A preacher and missionary, who is being educated in Jamia Ahmadiyya, has to make the world aware of the existence of God the Exalted. He has to fulfil his responsibilities in order to bring people closer towards God the Exalted. He has to make the world aware that peace, justice and love cannot be achieved until the hearts realise that our every action and deed is being witnessed by God the Exalted…..”
“God the Exalted has stated in the Qur’an that those who acquire religious knowledge should be well-versed. Therefore, to acquire – religious knowledge – is a commandment, that there should be a body of men amongst you who are well-versed in religious matters……and then later you presented yourself; you were neither compelled nor forced to do so. You yourself volunteered and opted for this, and presented yourself to serve the faith. So now that you have learned about your faith or have come towards the learning of religious knowledge, then you should also be mindful of it. Alongside being well-versed in religion, God the Exalted has also specified the objectives that you should attain. You should warn every nation and wherever you are based, as I have already stated, bring them towards God the Exalted. Make them aware of the existence of God; make them realise the importance of religion and draw their attention towards bringing an end to misconduct and misguidance.”
Importantly, as I read in Professor Thormas Arnold’s 1902 work titled The Preaching of Islam, the term “missionary religion”, is defined by Professor Max Muller in his lecture delivered in Westminster Abbey, on the day of intercession for missions, in December, 1873, to mean, viz, one “in which the spreading of the truth and the conversion of unbelievers are raised to the rank of a sacred duty by the founder or his successors…… It is the spirit in the heart of the believers which cannot rest , unless it manifests itself in thought, word and deed, which is not satisfied till it has carried its message to every han soul, till what it believes to be the truth is accepted as the truth by all members of the human family.”
When the Qur’ān declared in Chapters 9:33; 48:29 and 61:10 that, “He it is Who has sent His Messenger with the guidance and the Religion of truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all religions,” it was objectively declaring that Islam is a missionary religion. As a Prophet, Muhammad (saw) is a missionary. However, while every Prophet is a missionary, not every missionary is a Prophet. But, every missionary takes on the mission of a prophet. Just about a year before his migration to Madinah, Prophet Muhammad (saw) appointed the first Muslim Missionary in history – Mus’ab bn Umair – to Madinah. As a missionary religion, and as a result of the foundational missionary activities initiated by the Prophet Muhammad (saw), Islam is today the second largest, but fastest growing religion in the world, according to a 2015 report by Pew Research Center.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is an international revivalist and missionary organization within Islam. It pursues the fundamental mission of propagating Islam to every corner, land, institution, home and heart of the world and humanity. With its global network of missionary activities that boasts of thousands of Missionaries spread across over 220 countries and territories, Ahmadiyya has emerged as the fastest growing Islamic denomination with 3.6% growth rate, according to the 2001 edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia.
If, as the Qur’ān declares, the Prophet’s duty of calling unto the way of Allāh is the best of careers, then the Missionary, who assumes the duty and career of the Prophets, is engaging in the best career, in the sight of Allah! May Allāh continue to be with and bless every Missionary working for the mission of Islam.