“The Fante Muslims” were a group of “Fante” people from Ghana who were former Methodists,
who had adopted Islam decades earlier and left it. They started out as pagans (See Hanson). Yusuf Nyarko, Benjamin Sam’s relative, reportedly had a dream that led the Fante Muslim community to invite the Ahmadiyya to the Gold Coast (aka Ghana). Benjamin Sam was the leader of the Fante Muslims up til his death.
After Benjamin Sam’s death, the Fante Muslim community was adrift, and West African mallams from the savanna came to reside at Ekrawfo, the center of the Fante Muslim community. These mallams taught Arabic and encouraged Fante Muslims to adopt savanna norms over the practices that Sam had advocated.
Not all Fante Muslims joined the Ahmadiyya. Among those who did not were those who remained loyal to Mallam Yakubu, the Hausa Muslim scholar who taught at Ekrawfo in the late 1910s and early 1920s. Memories of the divide are not extensive and focus on a symbolic act: Maulvi Nayyar refused to perform salat behind Mallam Yakubu at Ekrawfo’s mosque. The issue resonated with significance on both sides: Ahmadi Muslims were following exclusive practices, from the perspective of those who did not join, and for Ahmadi Muslims Mallam
Yakubu was not recognizing the Ahmadiyya. Whether or not the event happened as recounted, it stands in the public memory of Fante Muslims who did not accept the Ahmadiyya and moved their center to the village of Obonster. This village was northwest of Ekrawfo in Enyan, where Nana Kwamosa, a member of the royal family, welcomed the dissenters. Mallam Yakubu joined the Fante Muslims there but left shortly thereafter.
The leadership of the Obonster Muslim community fell to Hamidu, son of Nana Kwamosa and one of Mallam Yakubu’s best students; Hamidu was a member of the second generation of Fante Muslims, similar in age to M. A. Ishaque, but someone from the younger generation who came to a different conclusion about the merits of the Ahmadiyya.” Those who rejected the Ahmadiyya had concerns with its message, the demands it placed on individuals and the community, and English-language education. Hausa Muslim scholars concluded that Ghulam Ahmad’s teachings were unacceptable innovations, and those accepting Mallam Yakubu’s leadership likely heard him express similar opinions and came to the same conclusion. The new organizational arrangements of the Ahmadiyya were not immediately apparent, but the 1921 collection of funds to support a missionary mirrored what was to come: a movement led by an outsider supported by local funds. British canvassing of information about the Ahmadiyya uncovered testimony that some Fante Muslims refused to make contributions. This resistance tapped a deep strand in the Fante Muslim community, given Binyameen Sam’s views on Methodist “ticket money.” The desire to receive Muslim esoteric healing also may have been another reason some followed Mallam Yakubu and moved to Obonster. Reintroduction of English-language schools under the Ahmadiyya also encouraged the split. Fante Muslims disagreed about the merits of English-language schools at the turn of the nineteenth century, and many still remained opposed. Hamidu, the Fante Muslim who eventually led the Obonster Muslim community, was Mallam Yakubu’s student and had personal interests in pedagogical continuity. It was only a small group, however, that moved to Obonster. Most followed the example of M. A. Ishaque. He eventually taught Arabic at the Ahmadiyya mission at Saltpond: the vexing issue of education that divided the Fante Muslim community was not as divisive with both Arabic- and English-language instruction encouraged by the Ahmadiyya.
The new Fante Muslim center at Obonster was a creation of the split, and other Fante Muslims, outside those who assembled at Ekrawfo, existed in the Gold Coast in the early twentieth century. These communities had not been a part of the Fante Muslim network created by Binyameen Sam and Mahdi Appah.”! The arrival of Hausa and other Muslims at the coastal town of Winneba, east of Saltpond and a major center for commerce, produced Fante conversions to Islam in the early twentieth century. Some of these Fante Muslims joined the Ahmadiyyain the years ahead, but others did not. The Fante Muslims who did not accept the Ahmadiyya, including the community at Obonster, largely were tolerant of others who joined the movement. This experience contrasts with developments in Lagos, where Maulvi Nayyar’s visit had great initial success but was followed by several waves of acrimonious fission after his departure.
Fisher (See page 99) tells us that the Fante Muslims were there in 1921 when Nayyar landed in the Gold Coast. They had requested Nayyar via Amadu Ramano Pedro, who had been in Nigeria as early as 1910 and had written to the Ahmadiyya Movement in Qadian or London. Thus, Amadu Ramanu Pedro brought news of the Ahmadiyya to Fante Muslims in the Gold Coast in the late 1910s. Fante Muslims expressed interest and contributed funds so that Maulvi Nayyar would stop over on his way to Lagos.
During Maulvi Nayyar’s absence in the middle of 1921, the Fante Muslim community collected funds to support a residential Ahmadi missionary. Mahdi Appah led the effort, but Amadu Ramanu Pedro was in charge of depositing the money in the Saltpond branch of the Bank of West Africa. This accumulation depended on the generosity of Mahdi Appah and other wealthy cocoa farmers, but others also contributed, including members of Fante fishing communities along the coast.
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