The Ahmadiyya Movement was founded in British India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1836-1906), an Islamic reformist and mystic, who in 1891 claimed that he was a prophet, mujaddid (“renewer”), and the messiah/mahdi anticipated by Muslims. The movement split in two following the death of Ahmad’s successor, Maulana Nur ad-Din in 1914, with one group affirming Ahmad’s messianic status (The Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam) and a second group regarding him as a reformer, but otherwise adhering to mainstream Islamic beliefs that understand Muhammad to have been the final prophet (the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement).
The Ahmadiyya movement is regarded as heterodox by the majority of mainstream Muslims, and Ahmadiyya Muslims have been marginalized, discriminated against in various ways, and sometimes violently oppressed, particularly in Pakistan, where they were categorized as a non-Muslim minority in national law through the efforts of political and religious leaders in 1974. Nonetheless, Ahmadiyya Muslims and organizations are active in educational, missionary, and community efforts worldwide. There are also exists a Sufi brotherhood called the Ahmadiyya, popular in Sudan and Egypt, which is unrelated to the Ahmadiyya Movement.
The Ahmadiyya Movement was introduced in Lagos in 1916 and became popular among young intellectuals. The movement split in the 1930s over the issue of foreign control. A Nigerian branch of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam took shape under the leadership of Alhaji Jibril Martin, a leader of the Nigerian Youth Movement. By the 1950s there were three separate sections of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Lagos. Martin was also a cofounder and chairman of the Pilgrims’ Board of Nigeria’s western region, which administered the hajj pilgrimage following independence.
The Ahmadiyya Movement began establishing centers in the north in the 1960s, which was resisted among local Muslim leaders, including Abubakar Gumi, an Islamic legal scholar and future leader of the Islamist Yan Izala movement. Gumi translated several anti-Ahmadiyya works, including those by Pakistani Islamist Abul A’la al-Mawdudi, and supported the decision of the Islamic World League condemning the Ahmadiyya as heretical. In 1973, Saudi Arabia forbade Ahmadi Muslims from acquiring hajj visas, leading to violent protests in Nigeria during which Ahmadis occupied the Saudi embassy in Lagos. In 1974, the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs and the Jama’atu Nasril Islam adopted the League’s resolution, requiring that Muslims seeking a hajj visa acquire a written certificate from a local imam affirming that he or she was not a member of the Ahmadiyya Movement. As a result, the Ahmadiyya Movement split again, one dissenting group adopting the named Anwar al-Islam (“Rays of Islam”) and aligning itself with mainstream Sunni Islam.
Roman Loimeier, Islamic Reform and Political Change in Northern Nigeria (Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1997).
Richard L. Sklar, Nigerian Political Parties: Power in an Emergent African Nation (Princeton: Princeton University press, 1963).