Posted by Salma Javid Khan
Chino Imam returns from West Africa tour
Chino-based Imam Shamshad A. Nasir has been the southwest regional missionary and spiritual leader at the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s Baitul Hameed Mosque at 11941 Ramona Ave. since 2004. Prior to that, Imam Shamshad was stationed at the Islamic organization’s U.S. headquarters in Silver Spring, MD, where he served for eight years. He has been stationed in many different locales over the past 40 years, but he has a special place in his heart for one of his first postings as a new Muslim missionary; the West African nation of Sierra Leone.
Imam Shamshad was stationed there from 1982-1986, only five years before the start of its brutal civil war that became synonymous with “blood diamonds” – the term for the country’s best-known natural resource used to finance the bloody revolt that raged from 1991-2002 and cost the lives of 50,000 Sierra Leoneans.
Imam Shamshad returned to the West African nation on Feb. 5th to attend the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s 52nd annual national convention, or Jalsa Salana, which was held in Sierra Leone’s second largest city of Bo from Feb. 8th-10th. He went as an official representative from the U.S. AMC headquarters to deliver an address at the convention and to also take a tour of the country to see the Ahmadiyya Community’s progress in Sierra Leone since he left in 1986.
One tell-tale sign of the progress of the Community can be seen in the numbers of attendees to the Ahmadiyya annual convention. In the 1980s, there were about 5,000 Ahmadis who attended the annual convention — a number which does not indicate the total number of Ahmadis in Sierra Leone, but only the small percentage who attended the convention. This year that number was 16,000, an increase which reflects the incredible growth of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Sierra Leone in only a quarter century, despite the country’s political instability and an 11-year civil war.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community first came to Sierra Leone in 1937 and since then has been well-respected and renowned for its humanitarian and education programs to improve health and learning among the people of Sierra Leone, regardless of their religion. Ahmadiyya-run hospitals and schools have treated and educated, respectively, hundreds of thousands of people since first being built in the 1960s as part of an extensive project to help many parts of Africa, including Kenya, Tanzania, Sierra Leone and its neighbors; Ivory Coast, Ghana, Gambia, Nigeria, Benin and Burkina Faso.
The current president of Sierra Leone, His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma, who was the honored guest at the first day’s session of the Ahmadiyya convention on Friday, Feb. 8th, acknowledged the Ahmadiyya Community’s contributions to Sierra Leone, stating that many of the nation’s top business and political leaders received their primary school education in Ahmadiyya-run schools, and they credit their success to the first-class education they obtained in Ahmadiyya schools.
His Excellency continued at length in glowing terms, praising the long decades of dedicated service to the country by humanitarian workers, teachers, doctors and missionaries from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He acknowledged the invaluable contributions by the Ahmadiyya Community to the well-being and success of Sierra Leone and its people, and how they would always be thankful to the Ahmadiyya Community for its selfless service to humanity.
And the devotion and respect shown by Sierra Leoneans towards the Ahmadiyya Community reflects the fact that Ahmadi teachers, doctors and missionaries – unless transferred elsewhere by the headquarters – stay in the countries where they are assigned to serve, despite political upheavals, natural disasters or wars. It is this steadfastness and dedication to serving the needs, both spiritual and worldly, of the residents of a country where they are sent that accounts for the deep love and affection that Ahmadiyya workers and missionaries evoke in the hearts of the people of Sierra Leone and other African nations.
This love and affection flows both ways, of course, with hundreds of Ahmadis (many from Pakistan) spending decades of their lives in African countries, where they often raise their children to adulthood before being restationed back to their homeland. Many Pakistani Ahmadi children so raised in Africa from infancy proudly consider themselves to be not only Pakistani but African as well — a title to which native Africans would heartily attest who were fortunate enough to be educated in Ahmadiyya schools and treated in Ahmadiyya hospitals, both of which are recognized for their high standards of professionalism and their excellent results.
Imam Shamshad received and returned much love and affection when he arrived back in Sierra Leone after an absence of 27 years. His participation at the 52nd annual Ahmadiyya Muslim convention was two-fold: as a distinguished visiting representative from the American Ahmadiyya Community, and also as a presenter at the podium, where he gave a warmly-received and impassioned speech on Sunday, Feb. 10th in English (which was translated into the local language) on the subject of the life and character of the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. He lived from 1835-1908 and was the devoted servant and completely subordinate deputy of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and his spiritual reflection. Ahmad proclaimed under divine authority that he was the Imam Mahdi and Promised Messiah expected in the latter days to regenerate the religion of Islam and call people to the One God.
Ahmad’s stated mission was to restore and spread throughout the world the pure Islam that was practiced at the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Ahmad also came to defend Islam and the Holy Prophet against the vile attacks of hostile critics and enemies, and to bring mankind back to God through the reformation of morals and by the example set by himself and by the devout and righteous members of his Community.
This is the same mission carried out daily by people like Imam Shamshad and the thousands of other Ahmadi missionaries, teachers, doctors, humanitarian workers, volunteers and rank-and-file members of the Muslim Community whose motto is: ”Love for All – Hatred for None” – a Community whose members can be found in more than 200 countries of the world, including Sierra Leone.
Chino-based Imam Shamshad may be back home in Southern California, but a part of him will always be under the equatorial skies of West Africa and in the hearts of the Sierra Leone people he ministered to as a young missionary fresh from Pakistan so long ago.
For more information about Islam or the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, please call the Baitul Hameed Mosque at 909-627-2252 or Imam Shamshad directly at 909-636-8332 or via Email at: Shamshadanasir@Gmail.com, or visit the Community’s websites at: www.Alislam.orgor www.TheChinoMosque.org.
About the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community:
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is a dynamic, reformist and fast-growing international movement within Islam. Founded in 1889 in Qadian, India by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908), the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is now established in over 200 countries with membership numbering in the tens of millions. Their motto is: “Love for All – Hatred for None.”
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community propagates the true teachings of Islam and the message of peace and tolerance through a worldwide twenty-four hour satellite television channel (watch online at: www.MTA.tv), the Internet (Alislam.org) and print (Islam International Publications). It has been at the forefront of disaster relief in the United States and worldwide through an independent charitable organization, Humanity First.
About Imam Shamshad A. Nasir:
Imam Shamshad A. Nasir currently serves as the Missionary In-Charge of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community for the southwest region of the United States. He has devoted his life to serving Islam since 1973 after graduating from Jamia Ahmadiyya, an intensive, multi-lingual, seven-year missionary training seminary in Rabwah, Pakistan.
Throughout his service to the Faith, he has continuously promoted the cause of peace through interfaith dialogs, peace symposiums and humanitarian and civic out-reach, and by engaging in the free exchange of ideas in the available media.