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The TML's Founding Fathers
http://www.caribbeanmuslims.com/articles/1116/1/The-TMLs-Founding-Fathers/Page1.html
Nazisha Ali-Mustapha

 
By Nazisha Ali-Mustapha
Published on 03/4/2009
 
The three founding fathers of the Trinidad Muslim League Incorporated, Moulvi Ameer Ali (1898-1973), Mohammed Hakeem Khan (1902-1957) and Mohammed Rafeeq (1904-1962) founded the  League on the 15th of August, 1947, the same day that Pakistan came into being.  In the garage of Mohammed Hakeem Khan, these three gentlemen passed a resolution drawn up by Mohammed Rafeeq which gave birth to the Trinidad Muslim League Inc.6  On the 21st of April, 1950, the Trinidad Muslim League was incorporated by Act of Parliament as Number 26 of 1950 to represent the Ghair-Mukallid or Non-Conformist Muslims of Trinidad and Tobago.7

Picture extracted from TML 50th Anniversary brochure

The Return of Moulvi Ameer Ali
After graduating in Islamic theology Ameer Ali returned from India in 1930 as the first Trinidadian to fully qualify as a Moulvi or Islamic scholar.  Described as a tall, dark and handsome man, the Moulvi was a non-sectarian Muslim.1  However, having spoken about Mirza Ghulam Ahmad at a meeting without condemning him on December 29, 1931, at the Liberty Hall, Port-of-Spain it was assumed that he was a supporter of Mirza in disguise.2  Despite his published denials he was branded as an Ahmadi

Not withstanding his controversial ideas and beliefs, Moulvi Ameer Ali ushered in a new age of enquiry.  He was considered a great scholar of Islam.  His knowledge of Arabic, English and Urdu gave him an advantage over his adversaries.  He taught Islam in conformity with new thought and scientific discoveries.  He advocated that women should work alongside men and be given equal opportunities in the social development of the community.3  This was unheard of in the traditional Muslim community.  His new ideas did not meet the approval of the elders in the Muslim community.  However, evidence of his leanings to Ahmadism could be discerned in his teachings.  He taught that Jesus was dead and that he was not taken up to Heaven alive and therefore would not be returning to earth.  He taught that the ascension of Prophet Muhammad to the Heavens or the Meeraj was spiritual and not physical.  These teachings are in conformity with Ahmadi beliefs also.  So despite his denials of being an Ahmadi his speech reflected Ahmadi teachings.  There began to emerge antagonistic feelings against Moulvi Ameer Ali from the majority of Sunni or traditional Muslims.

Already the Mufti or spiritual leader of the Tackveeyatul Islamic Association, Moulvi Ameer Ali was made Life President in June, 1935.  Two of his strongest supporters were Mohammed Hakim Khan and Mohammed Rafeeq, foundation members of the Tackveeyatul Islamic Association .

His modern outlook on religious matters, especially the treatment of women created a lot of furor and controversy. He was not afraid to try new things in a society steeped in tradition.  The first ever open air Eid-ul-Fitr or Festival of the Breaking of the Fast prayers in Trinidad were conducted by Moulvi Ameer Ali at the Aranguez Savannah, San Juan between the years 1935-1937 also.4

When differences of opinions proved to be too great between him and other members of the Tackveeyatul Islamic Association, Moulvi Ameer Ali after a lengthy court battle, withdrew along with his supporters from an organization in which they diligently worked for fifteen years.

The Formation of the Trinidad Muslim League Incorporated
In exchange for leaving the Tackveeyatul Islamic Association, Moulvi Ameer Ali and his supporters were given a parcel of land where Riverside Hindu School in Curepe is now situated.  Riverside Hindu School was supposed to be located where the Jinnah Memorial Mosque presently stands in St. Joseph.  However, a request was made for the Hindu School to be located near the river for convenience of religious purposes.  So an exchange was made.5

The three founding fathers of the Trinidad Muslim League Incorporated, Moulvi Ameer Ali (1898-1973), Mohammed Hakeem Khan (1902-1957) and Mohammed Rafeeq (1904-1962) founded the  League on the 15th of August, 1947, the same day that Pakistan came into being.  In the garage of Mohammed Hakeem Khan, these three gentlemen passed a resolution drawn up by Mohammed Rafeeq which gave birth to the Trinidad Muslim League Inc.6  On the 21st of April, 1950, the Trinidad Muslim League was incorporated by Act of Parliament as Number 26 of 1950 to represent the Ghair-Mukallid or Non-Conformist Muslims of Trinidad and Tobago.7  It just meant that while the Trinidad Muslim League Incorporated has great respect for the Imams and scholars of Islam, it holds the right to enquire and investigate into their doctrines and teachings unlike the Mukallid or Conformist who accepts unconditionally all decrees and laws of their Madhab or school of thought.8

The first task these founding members set out to do was to build a mosque on the piece of land acquired in St. Joseph.  They met under Waggie Ali’s home in Curepe to discuss their plans.  Maktabs or religious classes were held here also before the mosque was completed.  In the mean time also Eid-ul-Adha or the Festival of Sacrifice and Eid-ul-Fitr or Festival of the Breaking of the Fast were performed at the home of Mohammed Hakeem Khan, also known as Harko.  During Ramadan or the month of fasting the Tarawih or nightly Ramadan prayers were performed at the home of Mohammed Rafeeq on the Eastern Main Road, Curepe where St. Mary’s Bakery is presently located. In San Juan, the Tarawih or night prayer during Ramadan was held at the homes of Rustom Baig and the Ackbarali’s.10

On November 10th 1948 at 4:00pm the Pakistani Ambassador to America, laid the foundation stone of the mosque.  The three-day visit of an Envoy from Pakistan was a special occasion especially for the Muslims of Trinidad.  The All Trinidad Muslim Reception Committee made an appeal to the Muslim community to decorate their homes and vehicles with the national flag on the occasion of the Ambassador’s visit.11  Muslim business places throughout Trinidad were closed on November, 9th 1948 in honour of Ambassador Ispahani’s arrival in the Colony.12   After laying the foundation stone, Al Hajj Mirza Abdul Hassan Ispahani addressed the huge crowd and urged unity amongst the Muslims as well as according their women folk the dignity which was their due.  Mrs. Acklima Ali presented him with a silver engraved trowel as a memento of the occasion.  His Excellency was garlanded by Miss Zalina Rafeeq, Miss Nisha Khan and Miss Khalida Ali.  Among those present also were M.A.R. Ghany, Ranjit Kumar, C.B. Mathura and A. Sabga.13   

Fund-raisers of every kind were introduced to meet the cost of the mosque which originally estimated to be thirty-five thousand dollars but soared to one hundred and twenty thousand dollars by completion.  Parents who could not afford to give their children a penny for spending money dug deep into their pockets and donated money for the construction of the mosque.  Actual construction began in January, 1951 and the Jinnah Memorial Mosque was formally opened on Sunday 25th of April, 1954.14  The first Adhan or call to prayer was given by Mohammed Yakub Khan of Curepe and the ‘Asr salaah or prayer was led by Moulvi Ameer Ali.15  To mark the formal opening of the mosque a series of events were held.  On Saturday 17th April, 1954 the poor were fed in the New Hall on the mosque grounds.  On Wednesday 21st April, 1954 the Holy Qur’an was read from beginning to end by members of the Trinidad Muslim League Incorporated and on Sunday 25th April, 1954 a Grand Bazaar was held under the Patronage of His Excellency, the Governor, Sir Hubert Rance, G.C.M.G., G.B.E., C.B. 16


TML early divide: Identity crisis - Ghair Mukallid, Ahmadi or Qadiani
Mohammed Hakeem Khan, the first President General of the Trinidad Muslim League Incorporated did not stay to see the completion of the mosque he worked so hard to build.  He resigned in 1952 before its completion.  Influenced by a missionary, Moulvi Saqui, he became a Qadiani or one who believes that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a prophet.  The foundation of the Trinidad Muslim League Incorporated was again shaken when the founding father, Moulvi Ameer Ali who gave the organization its ideology became an Ahmadi in the early 1960s on his second trip to Lahore.17  However, doubts still linger as to whether he was an Ahmadi from the very beginning but hid it under the guise of Ghair Mukallid or Non-Conformist Islam.  

It was said that Moulvi Ameer Ali on his return from Lahore and the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at-i-Islam in 1930 “was for all practical purposes an Ahmadi in his approach to the understanding and teachings of Islam.”18  Moreover, the ideology of Ghair Mukallid or Non-Conformist Islam was just a “line of approach” that “was meant to convey a gradual induction into Ahmadiyyat”.19  This leaves a dark cloud of uncertainty hanging over the motives of Moulvi Ameer Ali in giving the Trinidad Muslim League Incorporated the ideology of Ghair Mukallid or Non-Conformist Islam.  Many still question if it was used as a front to hide his being an Ahmadi  or follower of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad all along.  The President General  at that time Aziz Ahamad, also became an Ahmadi. They did not leave the Trinidad Muslim League however, but stayed and controlled the Council of the Trinidad Muslim League Incorporated and most of the jamaats or branches of the League.20

The third founder, Mohammed Rafeeq remained loyal to the creed of Ghair Mukallidism or Non-Conformist Islam. This was extremely important  to the survival of the League and the members who firmly believed in the founding ideology of Non-Conformist Islam. Not all the members of the Trinidad Muslim League Incorporated were Ahmadis.  From sixteen branches and groups affiliated with the Trinidad Muslim League Incorporated under the banner of Ghair Mukallidism or Non-Conformist Islam in the late 1950’s, the League now had only the St. Joseph Jamaat or branch loyal to the founding ideology of its organization.  Those who remained true to the ideology of the League proved that they were worthy of their firm beliefs.  Mohammed Rafeeq however, passed away on the 22nd of April, 1962.


From individual to organizational identity crisis and back
In 1967, the Trinidad Muslim League Incorporated made a decision to become an affiliate of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at Islam of Lahore, Pakistan and also a member of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman of the Western Hemisphere.21  This was done at a Conference presided over by then Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago, Justice Noor Hassanali.  All jamaats or branches of the Trinidad Muslim League Incorporated except one advocated affiliation.22  During this period injunctions and solicitors’ letters were exchanged between the ruling majority of the Ahmadis and those loyal to Ghair Mukallid or Non-Conformist Islam.  Bazaars of the Trinidad Muslim League Incorporated were held on the same day but at different venues by the opposing factions.
           In light of the fact that mostly Ahmadis were in control of the League at this time and the majority of members felt that Ahmadiyya was compatible with Ghair Mukallid or Non-Conformist Islam, a decision was made to affiliate the League to the Ahmadiyyat Movement.  The name Trinidad Muslim League Incorporated was changed to The Trinidad Muslim League Inc. Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at Islam.23  This was a low point in the history of the Trinidad Muslim League for those who stood loyal to Ghair Mukallid or Non-Conformist Islam.
    However Mohammed Abdul Hafeez and Mohammed Ibrahim, brothers of the late Mohammed Rafeeq and Nazeer Mohammed led a come-back for the Ghair Mukallids or Non-Conformists in 1976.    The elections of the Annual General Meeting in 1976 brought back the original loyalists of Ghair Mukallid or Non-Conformist Islam.  Mohammed Abdul Hafeez, who later became the Imam or leader of the Jinnah Memorial Mosque proposed a resolution which was eventually passed to revert to the original name of the organization, The Trinidad Muslim League Inc.24

New infrastructure
Soon after the building of the TML Headquarters which now holds the Rafeeq Memorial Secondary School, a school library, The TML Office, counselling room and kitchen facilities was spear-headed by Nazeer Mohammed, a stalwart of the League.  The land east of the Headquarters was leased to the Trinidad Muslim League with the help of Kamaluddin “Charch” Mohammed.25  The “tent” which now houses the TML Kindergarten and the Café was also supervised by Nazeer Mohammed.  In fact, when he returned from performing the Hajj or pilgrimage in Makka, Saudi Arabia he invited a few people to the mosque one evening for the Maghrib  prayer after sunset and he unfolded the tent design by means of solving a mystery.  The TML Archives was formally opened on Tuesday November 17th 1992 on the 45th Anniversary of the Trinidad Muslim League Inc.  This date also coincided with the 88th birth anniversary of Mohammed Rafeeq.26 Thus from then till now the Trinidad Muslim League had been functioning under the umbrella of its ideology of Ghair Mukallid or Non-Conformist Islam.


1 Interview with Salima Muradali, Sunday 20th February, 2005, Farah’s Court, South Valsayn.
2 Mohammed Rafeeq, “History of Islam and Muslims in Trinidad” in the Souvenir Brochure of the Jinnah  Memorial Mosque. Trinidad Muslim League Inc., League Centre, St. Joseph, Trinidad, B.W.I., 1954, Page 31.
3 Ibid., Page 32
4 Silver Jubilee  Brochure, Trinidad Muslim League Inc. Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at Islam, Eastern Main Road, St. Joseph, Trinidad.
5 Interview with Rabeune Mohammed, Sunday 27th February, 2005, at the home of the late M.A. Hafeez, 26, Woodlands Avenue, North Valsayn.
6 Mohammed Ibrahim, “Foreword” in the Trinidad Muslim League Inc. Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at Islam, Silver Jubilee, Page 5.
7 “A Historical Review of the TML” in the 50th Anniversary Souvenir Brochure, Eastern Main Road, St. Joseph, Trinidad, 1997, Page 21.
8 Ibid., Page 21.
9 Interview with  Rabeune Mohammed.
10 Interview with Salima Muradali.
11 Trinidad Guardian Thurs. Nov.4th 1948, Page 5.
12 Trinidad Guardian Saturday Nov. 6th    1948, Page 7.
13 Trinidad Guardian Thursday Nov 11th    1948 (Trinidad News) Page 5.
14 Trinidad Souvenir Brochure of the Jinnah Memorial Mosque Muslim League Inc., League Centre, St. Joseph, Trinidad, B.W.I., 1954, Page 1.
15 “ A Historical Review of the TML” in the 50th Anniversary Souvenir Brochure, Eastern Main Road, St. Joseph, Trinidad  & Tobago, 1997, Page 21.
16 “Opening Day Celebration April 25th, 1954.” in the Souvenir Brochure of the Jinnah Memorial Mosque, Trinidad Muslim League Inc., League Centre, St. Joseph, Trinidad, B.W.I., 1954, Page 48.
17 Mazac A. Shaama, “The Twenty-Fifty Anniversary of the Trinidad Muslim League Inc. Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at-i-Islam” in the Trinidad Muslim League Inc. Silver Jubilee Brochure, St. Joseph, 1972, Page  30 .
18 M.A.Aziz, “Ahmadiyya Anjuman of Trinidad & Tobago” in the  Third Ahmadiyya Convention 1970 Brochure, Page 43.  M.A. Aziz was the 3rd Vice President of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at Islam for the Western Hemisphere from 1969-1970.  He was also the President General of the Trinidad Muslim League Inc. Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at-i-Islam from 1970-1976.
19 Ibid., Page 43.
20 Nazeer  Mohammed, “Struggling For A Visible Identity” in the 50th Anniversary Souvenir Brochure of the Trinidad Muslim League Inc., League Centre, St. Joseph, 1997, Page 26.
21 Mohammed Ibrahim, “Foreword” of the Silver Jubilee Brochure of the Trinidad Muslim League Inc., Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at Islam, St. Joseph, 1972, Page 5.
22 Mazac Shaama, “The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the Trinidad Muslim League Inc., Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at-i-Islam” in the Silver Jubilee Brochure, St. Joseph,  1972, Page 33.
23 Nazeer Mohammed, “Struggling For A Visible Identity” in the 50th Anniversary Souvenir Brochure of the Trinidad Muslim League Inc., St. Joseph, 1997, Page 26.
24 Ibid., Page 26.
25 Ibid., Page 26.
26 “The Story of the TML Archives” in the 50th Anniversary Souvenir Brochure of the Trinidad Muslim League Inc., St. Joseph, 1997, Page 43.