For over 50 years the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (AMC) has quietly worked to help the most vulnerable in TT, while spreading their message of peace and unity.
The AMC is a missionary organisation which carries out humanitarian programmes in education, healthcare and poverty eradication. The community, which originated in India and is established in over 270 countries, founded its local chapter in 1953, which has flourished from a small group of worshippers to hundreds across the country.
Ghanian Amir Maulana Ibrahim Bin Yaqub leads the local community and has lived in TT since 1987 when he was appointed the missionary-in-charge.
One of his goals, he said, was to not only preach Islam but exemplify its teachings in everyday life.
“A true religion is one that serves God almighty and humanity. One cannot be of service to God, if one refrains from assisting one’s fellow human beings,” he shared in an interview at the AMC’s headquarters in Preysal, Couva.
The community’s motto of having “love for all, hatred for none” has guided the organisation’s activities during the covid19 pandemic.
Even with the enforcement of guidelines and public health protocols in April, the community mobilised members and resources to distribute hundreds of food hampers to families in need in Preysal and Valencia.
“We organised a large number of hampers and monetary contributions. We did this twice. Then our organisation in Valencia, they also organised two hamper distributions,” he said.
“The senior arm of our jamaat, called the Ansarullah, they also organised a separate drive. Then our women’s arm, the Lajana Imailla arm, also organised their own hamper drive for those in need.”
Ibrahim said following the protocols of sanitisation was not difficult to comply with as personal hygiene has always been a part of Islam. Muslims are required to cleanse themselves before offering their prayers five times a day, every day.
Not to be left behind, the community live-streamed sermons and religious services via social media.
Even before the outbreak of the virus, the AMC has been involved in many social outreach activities, such as book exhibitions, clothing drives, community educational programmes, peace walks and peace symposiums, in an effort to be practical and relevant in their work as missionaries.
While Islam is at their primary point of reference, Ibrahim insists the community’s message of brotherhood and service before self transcends religious boundaries.
“Peace is enshrined in the religious scriptures of the Hindus, the Christians, the Buddhists, of the Jews, the Sikhs and the Muslims, so why not preach the message of peace?
“It is not a means of conversion, or trying to convert someone to your religion, that is not the motive, rather we want people to realise that as human beings we should all live in unity.”
In January, 250 members of the AMC staged a “walk for peace” around Preysal in an attempt to bring together people of various faiths and backgrounds. In addition, the AMC’s peace symposium is an annual event held at the headquarters. Its aim is to bring religious leaders together on one platform to discuss the challenges faced by the country and propose plans on how these issues should be addressed.
Ibrahim also explained that while the government has made occasional financial contributions, the community is largely self-sufficient as all programmes have been funded through members, with each person’s donation being dependent on their income.
Educated in Ghana, Pakistan and India, Ibrahim said he has learnt a lot from Trinidad during his time as a missionary. Recalling his experiences, he said despite challenges of crime and violence, he felt the country was an example of racial and religious harmony which could be adopted by the wider world.
He also noted the phenomenon of Muslim gangs in Trinidad and hoped the young men could be saved from a life of crime with the right mentoring.
“That person who has taken a gun to kill someone, that person who has kidnapped someone or who steals, all these things are due to ignorance. If those persons who are in charge come to this realisation that these people are ignorant, we will then be able to solve so many of our problems.”
AMC member Shirazudeen Mohammed, who became a member in 1991 when he met the international head of the community, said the experience changed his perspective on life and taught him the importance of helping mankind.
For members, service to humanity is akin to worship of God, and the pandemic has served to emphasise these principles.