Notes and Comments2 Comments | September 2012
Special Extended Notes and Comments
An Event Nearly a Century in the Making
Khalifatul Masih V’s Visit to U.S. Capitol Hill
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At 32 years old, Khalifatul Masih II(ra), the second Successor to the Promised Messiah(as) and second worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, penned these words for the inaugural issue of The Muslim Sunrise, which is now the longest-running American Muslim magazine. His courageous message inspired the handful of Ahmadi Muslims who had either newly arrived on the shores of the United States or embraced Ahmadiyyat as indigenous Americans.
Nearly a century later, we can affirm the prescience of Khalifatul Masih II’s vision for Ahmadiyyat in the United States, punctuated most recently with a grand reception for Khalifatul Masih V(aba), the current head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, at U.S. Capitol Hill. The United States was officially introduced to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community on February 15, 1920 with the arrival of Hadhrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiq(ra), the first American Muslim missionary, in Philadelphia. In less than four years, spurred by Khalifatul Masih II’s pronouncement, Missionary Sadiq launched The Muslim Sunrise, founded one of the first American Muslim mosques in Chicago, delivered hundreds of lectures across the States, converted over 700 Americans to Ahmadiyyat and, perhaps most significantly, cultivated the first crop of American Ahmadi Muslim “pioneers” that Khalifatul Masih II spoke about. Through the tireless services of the missionaries who would follow, led by Sufi Mutiur Rahman Bangalee, Ahmadiyyat gained further ascendancy, and by 1933, had establishments in New York, St. Louis, Dayton, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New Jersey and Baltimore. By 1950, Ahmadi Muslim leaders had exchanged communications with a wide range of distinguished audiences, from famed innovators Thomas Edison and Henry Ford to U.S. Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt, and established the first American Muslim mosque in Washington D.C. The efforts of the American Ahmadi Muslim pioneers reached a new peak with personal visits of the Khulafa of Ahmadiyyat. On July 25, 1976, Hadhrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad(ra), Khalifatul Masih III, visited the United States—the first ever visit of a Khalifa. Numerous U.S. newspapers covered his historic three-week visit, which included meetings with esteemed public officials, including mayors and foreign ambassadors. He would visit the States again, with trips to San Francisco and Washington D.C., in 1980.
The momentum created from the twin visits of Khalifatul Masih III was perpetuated by subsequent visits to the United States by Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(rh), Khalifatul Masih IV, in 1987, 1989, 1994, 1997 and 1998. Khalifatul Masih IV(rh) inaugurated numerous new missions and mosques across the country. He also paid two visits to U.S. Capitol Hill, including a special reception on June 24, 1998 at the Rayburn House Office Building, where he met with eight members of U.S. Congress.
In 2008, to commemorate the centennial anniversary of Khilafat (spiritual successorship) in Ahmadiyyat, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba), Khalifatul Masih V, made his first trip to the United States. In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the “Khalifa of Islam,” as one prominent American newspaper referred to Khalifatul Masih V, shared the beauties of Ahmadiyyat to over 10,000 followers.
On June 27, 2012, at U.S. Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., the “grandeur and beauty” of Ahmadiyyat promised by Khalifatul Masih II(ra) reached an unprecedented zenith. From the elegant Gold Room in the Rayburn Building, Khalifatul Masih V(aba) presided over a gathering of 140 special dignitaries in Washington D.C, marking his second visit to the States. Political thinkers and statesmen from all major arenas and strata of influence, foreign and domestic, including 30 members of U.S. Congress, waited for Khalifatul Masih V(aba) to address them. It was a gathering and visit of extraordinary and unprecedented proportions: a “head of state” greeting for Khalifatul Masih V(aba) upon entry to the building; members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, from opposite political camps, side by side in the front rows of the room; the Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives personally leading the U.S. Congressional welcome; representatives from the White House, U.S. State Department and Pentagon on hand; an entire room of senior U.S. lawmakers, officials and thought leaders rising out of respect when Khalifatul Masih V(aba) stood to walk to the podium and listening attentively for the entire duration of his address; a special bi-partisan U.S. Congressional resolution and special floor statement from the U.S. House of Representatives to recognise Khalifatul Masih V(aba)’s global importance; a special gift of a U.S. flag flown over the U.S. Capitol to honour Khalifatul Masih V; and a special guided tour and personal welcome to Khalifatul Masih V to the august gallery of the U.S. House of Representatives.
But this was not simply a worldly gathering. Khalifatul Masih V(aba)’s singular focus was to deliver an Islamic formula of peace to correct the unjust actions of all nations (an address entitled, “The Path to Peace: Just Relations Between Nations”)—an unambiguous spiritual message to echo through the nation’s loftiest halls. And what an effective and sweeping message it was! In only twenty-five minutes, Khalifatul Masih V(aba) underscored the principles of non-discrimination, absolute justice for all, relations between powerful and weak countries, anti-corruption, the means to secure peace and honest brokering of peace negotiations. He also offered profound insight on the origins, history and challenges facing the United Nations Organization (UNO). He concluded with an eloquent observation about how the United States has a special role in enshrining and implementing the principles he outlined. Khalifatul Masih V’s address was received by the distinguished audience with uniform praise and acknowledgement. Guests were overheard describing the address as “profoundly deep,” “thoughtful,” “powerful,” “earnest,” “pure gospel” and “a sorely needed message from a humble Muslim leader.” “His Holiness comes from a point of great credibility,” said U.S. Congressman (and first Muslim lawmaker) Keith Ellison during an interview with a prominent U.S. news outlet immediately after the address: “Not only because of his spiritual elevation, but also because the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has been persecuted around the world in ruthless ways.” He would later tell Khalifatul Masih V(aba) that he was especially moved by the part of his address in which it was mentioned that the wealth of other nations should not be coveted.
Khalifatul Masih V(aba)’s presence also stirred the hearts of other speakers at the event, who exhibited high moral courage in giving the reception their highest priority even during an active session of U.S. Congress. “Your Holiness, you have united the House and Senate,” declared U.S. Senator Robert Casey, “We should have you here more often.” “I have to say that there is a particular sense of blessings that seems to rest on this brimming room today,” observed Dr Katrina Lantos Swett, U.S. Chairperson for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom: “I am sure that this is due in part to the wonderful spirit of goodwill, the warm hearts and a sense of optimism and love of participants, but Your Holiness, it is undoubtedly a reflection of the blessings that you bring to this Capitol.”
Offering a special U.S. flag as a gift to Khalifatul Masih V(aba), U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman commented:
“I know this is [His Holiness’] first time visiting U.S. Congress, and we welcome him. We value his commitment to world peace, brotherhood, justice and religious freedom. I’ve interacted with members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and I’m struck by their dedication and passion and the respect and admiration they have for their spiritual leader.” Donning a Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya (Ahmadi Muslim youth group) neck scarf as a gesture of solidarity with Khalifatul Masih V(aba), U.S. Congressman Michael Honda remarked: “In his book, ‘A Message of Peace,’ Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad wrote in 1908: ‘The earth created by God provides a common floor for all people alike, and the sun moon and the stars are source of radiance and provide many benefits for all alike.’ [Your Holiness], this quote resonates with me as someone who served in the U.S. Peace Corps and who has been discriminated against. I hope young people can develop leadership skills so that they can bring message of peace, freedom and harmony led by His Holiness.”
Offering the keynote U.S. Congressional welcome to Khalifatul Masih V(aba), U.S. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi proclaimed: “It is an honour to be in the same room with you…Though a man of humble beginnings, your leadership has made you a figure of global prominence. You started as a teacher and now you’re a guide for millions of Muslims worldwide. You worked to help farmers in Ghana and now you are a force across borders and an asset to the developing world. You were persecuted for your beliefs, jailed for your faith, exiled from your homeland but refused to turn to bitterness and vengeance. You’re a leader with wisdom and compassion and a champion of non-violence and respect among faiths.”
Those of us who were blessed to be in the company of Khalifatul Masih V(aba) as event organisers on this historic day felt spiritual electricity running through the corridors of U.S. Capitol Hill. We witnessed our own uncertainties and anxieties associated with Khalifatul Masih V(aba)’s visit instantly disappear. We witnessed renowned U.S. Congressional leaders remain transfixed to Khalifatul Masih V(aba) and his peerless message for several continuous hours. We witnessed foreign diplomats and leading luminaries assemble in line just to catch a glimpse of Khalifatul Masih V(aba). We witnessed droves of American onlookers, young and old, overcome by the allure of Khalifatul Masih V(aba), flash photographs of him as he stood in the center of the U.S. Congressional visitor’s center. In short, we witnessed the culmination of over nine decades of collective efforts from the American Ahmadi Muslim pioneers that Khalifatul Masih II(ra) had so boldly spoken about. As Khalifatul Masih V(aba) himself would later explain, this reception ultimately reflected a remarkable manifestation of Allah’s revelation to both the Prophet Muhammad(saw) and the Promised Messiah(as), and observed and experienced by other Ahmadi Muslims there in attendance: “You will be helped with prestige.”
Nearly a century of history provides sublime evidence that the “spiritual colonisation” of the United States by Ahmadiyyat endures before our very eyes, and with it comes the perennial fulfillment of Khalifatul Masih II(ra)’s glorious pronouncement. May the grandeur and beauty of Ahmadiyyat never diminish from the United States. Insha’allah. Ameen.
Amjad Mahmood Khan, a practising lawyer, is National Director of Public Affairs for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA.