In Qadian, Ahmadiyya community banishes religious intolerance to the sidelines (Ahmadis insist that ‘universal brotherhood’ is their only religion) In a country where the outlandish debate of ‘religious intolerance’ made national headlines, there is a community known as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, which is a religious sect and not a religion in itself as is believed by many, that is slowly but steadily propounding the message of “universal brotherhood with malice towards none.”
These very people, who face persecution at every step in Pakistan as they are not treated as Muslims in that country, hold an annual convention in Qadian,
16 km from Batala, where they prove that there is enough space in the country for all religions to co-exist. “The paths to righteousness and arrogance are two parallel roads that intersect each other several times throughout a person’s life. It is often hard to recognize one road from another. What makes them different is the road to righteousness is paved with the love of humanity. The road to arrogance is paved with the love of the self,” said Munawar Ahmad, who hails from Chenab Nagar Rabwah, 100 km from Wagah border, while underlying the essence of the Ahmadiyya spirit.
Rabwah used to house the Ahmadiyya headquarters before they were shifted after partition.
1) Dr. Abdus Salam: The First Nobel Laureate of Pakistan and the founding father of the Pakistan Space Agency. A road is named after him in Geneva, Switzerland.
2) Sir Chaudhury Zafarullah Khan: The first Foreign Minister of Pakistan. He also remained the President of the the International Court of Justice and the President of the U.N. General Assembly. A road is named in his honor in Jordan.
3) Mirza Muzaffar Ahmad Sahib: Remained a Federal Minister during Yahya Khan’s tenure as President.
4) Air Marshal Zafar Chaudhary: He was the first Chief of Staff of Pakistan Air Force. He is also the founding member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
5) General Iftikhar Janjua, The highest serving military officer and the only General to be martyred in active war duty.
Every year, for three days in the cold month of December, temperatures soar when 40,000 Ahmadiyya Muslims congregate in Qadian for some soul searching and also to revel in the “bond of togetherness” and ‘Muslim brotherhood.’ The convention is an annual affair, and like in the past, this year too it attracted nearly 5500 visitors from Pakistan. Ahmadis from Europe, USA, Canada and South America also came for the annual pilgrimage converting the tiny township into a “small Muslim world.” The rules are strict. There should be absolutely no malice towards anybody. The word ‘hate’ is not to be spoken. Each and every visitor is treated like Caesar’s wife-above suspicion. Discussions about the pros and cons of other religions are firmly banned. The only religion these people know is of ‘universal brotherhood.’
Reason enough why when one enters Qadian, he is greeted with banners of ‘Love for all, hatred for none.’ The pièce de résistance comes at the far end of the celebrations when the Ahmadiyya supreme head-The fifth Khalifa, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad delivers a sermon from his headquarters in London. The speech is instantly translated in seven different languages by interpreters.
When he starts his speech, the jam packed convention hall, located in the heart of the town, rises in unison.
The silence is such that if a pin drops the sound can be heard in the alleys of Lahore. People listen in rapt silence as Khalifa tells them, “Islam teaches that one must adhere to the limits set by God Almighty. For instance, a person who is financially well off can purchase what is lawful. However, if a person who is unable to purchase something attempts to acquire it by employing unlawful means or by incurring a crippling debt for the sake of fulfilling his personal desires, then this is equivalent to giving precedence to one’s selfish desires over the injunctions of God Almighty.”
Spokesman Abdul Salam Tari says that the founder of the Ahmadiya Muslim Jamaat was Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who is also known as the Promised Messiah. His mother’s name was Chiragh Bibi (lady of the lamp) and father was Mirza Ghulam Murtaza, a ‘Hakim’ by profession and who taught his son lessons in logic and natural medicine.
The movement, founded on March 23, 1889, was popularly known as the ‘Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat’ and now it has tens of million followers spread all over the world. Tari says that his Ahmadi brothers believe that Hazrat Ghulam Ahmad, who was a keen swimmer and horseman, appeared on planet Earth to put a full stop to religious wars and bigotry and also to condemn bloodshed and re institute morality and probity in public life. “His aim was also to seek justice and peace. He divested Islam of fanatical beliefs. That is why we, the Ahmadis, view ourselves as leading the revival and peaceful propagation of Islam.” Pakistan Muslims do not recognize the community.
It should be understood that in our more than hundred years of our history, we have not incited even a single incident of violence,” says Tari.
They claim that the founder of the Ahmadiyya community used to compare himself to Prophet Muhammad which was “blatantly wrong and blasphemous in nature.” This claim is fiercely contested by the community. “We are not treated as Muslims in Pakistan.
The people there should understand that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is a sect of Islam. It is not a new religion. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad never described himself as being greater to the Prophet Muhammad. Moreover, it has been said that we provoke violence to gain sympathy from the West.
Despite the fact that thousands of Ahmadis pour into the town every year to attend the annual convention, yet the town lacks basic amenities. The street lights have been switched off for the last one decade because the local Municipal Committee (MC) owes Rs 26 lakh to the power utility. During the tenure of the gathering, held in December every year the members install their own street lights. The town lacks the facilities of a Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP), library, parks and a garbage dump. It also does not have stands for taxis, tongas and auto-rickshaws. Government bus services are limited while private bus operators cease their operations after 7pm. The MC water supply is limited to a few pockets of the town and that too, according to residents, is not fit for drinking. To compound matters, the supply is unregulated and insufficient and remains suspended for days if there is a snag in the water supply pumps. There is just one government run hospital but it is located on the periphery of the town. People avoid visiting the place because they have to shell out heavy amount of money to reach the hospital. Moreover, in the absence of medicines, patients themselves have to bear the costs following which people are seldom interested in coming to the hospital. A majority of the patients visit the hospital being run by the Ahmadiyya community which doctors say “is professionally managed and has no dearth of medicines.”
Press Secretary K. Tariq Ahmad said, “Obedience to the policies and plans of the ruling government and sympathy to mankind are the main features of the more than a hundred year old movement. We always engage ourselves in humanitarian activities whenever natural calamities occur in the shape of earthquakes, floods and epidemics. Our movement is spread across 206 countries and the community is a great cementing force for mankind articulating the theme of unity and understanding.” Notwithstanding the fact that talk of religious intolerance has been thick in the air for quite some time, speakers are encouraged to highlight the good points of other faiths without maligning any particular religion. Muslim speakers are encouraged to speak on Krishna and Hindu speakers were asked to speak on the teachings of Jesus Christ. The community has its own TV channel going by the name of Muslim Television Ahmadiyya (MTA) and has established 516 mission houses all around the world. The community has printing presses in 11 countries and it is these presses which have played a major role in dissemination of literature pertaining to the movement. Leading figures of the community say that a little known fact about the community is that it is the leading Islamic organization to categorically rejecting terrorism in any form.
“Our Founder held the view that ‘war of the sword’ had no place in the world. Instead, ‘war with the pen’ was a better option. That is why he penned nearly a 100 books on moderation and also on how to maintain restraint in the face of opposition from other parts of the Muslim world,” said Mohammad Gul, working with a US agency in Wade Island, Pennsylvania, USA.