Bilal Muslim Mission
Inception of Bilal Muslim Mission
The one who championed and initiated the idea of extending tabligh outside the Khoja Community in Africa under an organization which later became known as Bilal Muslim Mission was Alhaj Ebrahim bhai Hussein Sheriff Dewji, then the youngest ever Chairman of the Khoja Africa Federation. We also lost him at a young age of 40 during his second tenure of office, in January, 1964. I was present at his funeral in Zanzibar. Ebrahim bhai spoke good Farsi and had raised, among other issues, the one of tabligh outside the Khoja Community, when he visited the Marja of the time, Ayatullah Al Udhma Seyyid Mohsin- Al Hakim (R.A) while he was the Chairman of the Federation.
The idea was concretized by the subsequent Chairman, Alhaj Mohamedali bhai Meghji and the inception of Bilal Muslim Mission was the result of that historical Resolution adopted at a Conference of the Africa Federation held in Tanga where I was one of the delegates representing the Dar es Salaam Jamaat.
Role of Allama Seyyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi
Allama Seyyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi was offered the enrolment as Dar es Salaam Jamaat Resident Alim while he was still in India. He had applied for the appointment and was successful mostly because he knew English relatively well, a rarity of the time for the Islamic Scholars from India. However, as he was getting delayed in catching a passenger ship for Dar es Salaam and while the month of Muharram was only a few weeks away, the Dar es Salaam Jamaat had made an alternative arrangement for a Zakir.
In the meantime, the Lindi Jamaat requested the Dar es Salaam Jamaat to find it a Zakir for Muharram then commencing soon. I, as the Hon. Secretary of the Dar es Salaam Jamaat was directed by the Management Committee of the Jamaat to get Allama Seyyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi who had already arrived in Dar es Salaam to agree to go to Lindi and accordingly, I booked him a flight to Lindi to arrive in time for the Muharram Zakiri. He was much liked by the Lindi Jamaat and therefore he continued to serve it. The most praise-worthy of the Allama was his resolve to learn Kiswahili when others like him in the engagement of tabligh did not choose to learn any new language, even Gujarati or English even after living for years with a local Jamaat. Allama’s zeal in tabligh soon caught the attention of Ebrahim bhai Sheriff, the Chairman of the Africa Federation whose office was based in Arusha. He was posted in Arusha to handle the new desk set for recruiting Resident Alims for Africa Jamaats under a centralized system of appraisal and under a standard form of Contract.
With this new position, he became well known among the leaders of the Africa Federation. He was appointed by the Africa Federation as the First Chief Missionary of newly-formed Bilal Muslim Mission in Tanzania. He saw the Mission growing in performance for a number of years. His knowledge of English and Kiswahili proved a great asset to the Bilal Muslim Mission. As the Vice Chairman of the Africa Federation in the 1990s, I was the ex officio member on the Committee of Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania when Allama was still in the Bilal as the Chief Missionary while Committee’s chairmanship rotated on the basis of also periodical appointments by the Africa Federation. We here have not had the fortune of having a Chief Missionary for the Bilal Muslim Mission like the Allama who in addition to having had the knowledge as an Islamic scholar had also the knowledge of the locally used languages. He also had a congenial disposition of working as a team with others and more importantly, he was a prolific writer.
- May Allah SWT rest his soul in the abundance of His Mercy, Ameen.
- Let us remember the personalities mentioned above and all Marhumeen with Sura-e-Fateha for the maghferat of the departed souls.
Written by: Alhaj Mohamed bhai Khalfan - Dar es Salaam
AFRICA FEDERATION ARCHIVES SECTION
29th June 2018 (15th Shawwal 1439 AH)