Recently, 6,000 Ahmadiyyas from an estimated population of 20 lakh in Pakistan, made a pilgrimage to Qadian in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district. Hazrat Mirza Ghulum Ahmad, the founder of their sect, was born and lies buried in Gurdaspur.
Ahmadiyyas are the most persecuted community in Pakistan. Even the greeting “assalamu alaikum” (peace be upon you) could throw them in jail for three years in Pakistan.
The renowned nuclear physicist, the late Abdus Salam, never got that respect and honour in Pakistan despite being a Nobel laureate. It was because of the tag of Ahmadiyya.
Nearly 20,000 Ahmadiyyas from 44 countries, including Jordan, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US, had gathered in Gurdaspur for the three-day Jalsa Salana, an annual conference.
Mubarak Ahmad said that when they come here, they forget the hardships which they faced in Pakistan.
In India, the community is 100,000 strong, whereas all over the world they are 170 million in numbers.
Ghulam Ahmad, in 1889 had proclaimed himself to be the messiah that Prophet Mohammed had promised would arrive as a reformer.
It is because of this claim that the mainstream Islam does not recognise Ahmadiyyas as Muslims.
Pakistan is the only country that has criminalized Ahmadiyya links to Islam, referring to them only as the “Qadiani group”.
For two days, Qadian has been a beehive of activity with community-run guest houses and community kitchens.
The visitors assembled for the address of the UK-based community leader of Pakistani origin, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad.
His speech in Urdu was telecast live from London by MTA, the Ahmadiyya channel.
Masroor Ahmad spoke about how the community was gaining new followers, especially in West African countries such as Mali where jihadists have been gaining ground.
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“Everywhere, despite strenuous efforts to keep people away from us, more and more people are realising the truth.”
Referring to the recent killings of Ahmadiyyas in Bangladesh, he asked the community not to let its guard down “even for a moment”.
In other speeches, the common theme was: be law-abiding citizens, be loyal to the nation that offers shelter, shun extremism and militancy.
Maulana Giani Tanveer Ahmed Khadim Sahib, an Ahmadiyya preacher, answered this question: what if your nation persecutes you to a point that it becomes unbearable? “Leave the country and go to a place that allows you to follow your religion in peace.”
Rakesh Sharma, an office-bearer of Amritsar’s Durgaini Temple Parbandhak Committee, could not hide his amazement at the gathering. “This is the first time that I am seeing this face of the Muslim community. It should be widely advertised.”
He also said that before announcing that he would be happy to receive all delegates at the temple.
Shiraz Ahmed, the community’s secretary of education, who moved to Qadian from Chennai 10 years ago, told The Indian Express: “Something like the Islamic State or any other terrorist group will be repulsive to Ahmadiyya Muslim.
He said that they just won’t be attracted to that kind of ideology. They focus on the education of their children and setting targets for joining public service, such as IAS and IFS, the military or academia.
Earlier this month, a shopping plaza in Lahore reportedly put up a notice banning Ahmadiyyas. When the police forced them to take it down, the shopkeepers protested.
Heavy security arrangements has been made for this conference as the Police was screening and frisking whoever enters the venue.
The community graveyard in which the founder lies buried is protected by high, brown walls topped by razor wire.
Mohammad Afzal, a a retired headmaster from Rawalpindi said its a good thing India and Pakistan is talking to each other because the community has always encouraged peace between India and Pakistan.