The first purpose-built mosque in the southern England county of Kent opens.
Helping the Community in Gillingham – The Nasir Mosque
Another New Mosque Opened by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community!
Gillingham in the South East of England was the location for an intriguing function to celebrate the opening of a new mosque. Gillingham in Kent, is a county located on the Southern Eastern most border of the British Isles, and therefore is the nearest point of Britain to Continental Europe. It is situated between London and the Port of Dover, the entry point to England from Europe by sea. The “Garden of England” is the accolade traditionally awarded to Kent due to its vast farmland, blossoming orchards and splendid public gardens. The Nasir Mosque was built in Gillingham by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, one of the oldest Muslim communities in Britain who also built London’s first mosque. The site of the Nasir Mosque, Kent’s first purpose-built mosque, has been used by the local Ahmadiyya Muslim Community as a prayer hall since 1975 but due to a desire of the local members to have a purpose-built mosque, the hall was demolished and thereafter construction of the new mosque began in July 2012. The mosque can accommodate around 280 worshippers.
To mark the opening, the worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba, Khalifatul Masih V, opened the mosque on 1st March 2014. His Holiness officially inaugurated the mosque by unveiling a commemorative plaque and then offering a silent prayer in thanks to God Almighty. A special reception dinner was hosted by the Ahmadiyya Community that evening. More than 180 dignitaries and guests attended including neighbours from the local community, religious, faith and community leaders, city mayors, Members of Parliament and representations from the military and navy. Those attending included Viscount De L’Isle MBE, the Lord-Lieutenant of Kent, Councillor Josie Iles, Mayor of Medway, Mr. Rehman Chishti MP and Brigadier D W Southall OBE.
Before the Keynote Address by His Holiness, Various Dignitaries Delivered Brief Remark
Viscount De Lisle MBE – Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Kent
“Your Holiness, other distinguished guests; thank you for inviting Lady De Lisle and myself to this great occasion. I would like to extend a warm welcome to His Holiness on what I understand to be his first official visit to Kent and Medway. We are a large county with a population of 1.7 million people. Our geographical position has given us the nickname of the ‘Frontline County.’ The Muslim faith is alive and well and flourishing here in Kent, along with other faiths. Medway has a proud history of integration of all its communities. There are over 5,000 Muslims in Medway, making it the second biggest religion after Christianity; next are 3,846 Sikhs and 2,750 Hindus. All of our communities coexist in a fully cohesive society across Kent and Medway. Your motto of ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ is one that we should all aspire to. Today we are here to celebrate the opening of this fine new building. Undertaking the task of rebuilding what was here before was an act of faith in itself. I congratulate you on achieving this fine structure. I am certain that this mosque will stand the test of time and come to serve many generations. May I wish all who worship here, now and in the future, my very best wishes!”
Councillor Josie Iles – Mayor of Medway
“Your Holiness, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is a delightful and unique privilege to be here with you all on this special occasion. Local Muslim communities have been in the Medway towns for 50 years and as you celebrate this golden anniversary year, I should like to thank you for the service you have given and continue to give to the local community. Your hard work and efforts involve charity collections, blood giving donations, homeless feeding sessions, woodlands cleanups and volunteer services in Medway Hospital and many other local projects. Medway truly appreciates what you do! You underline the very essence of its motto, ‘Forward Together’ and I quote, ‘By encouraging everyone to work together, to make the area a better place in which to live, work and play.’ Moreover, this is so strongly linked with your own motto, ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’, a desire for cohesion and peace, that we can see a good and respectable interrelationship that benefits us all. As we celebrate the unveiling of this beautiful new building, that you have worked so hard to transform, I offer you every sincere wish, that your aspirations will be enhanced by its presence and as you open its doors to anyone who wishes to enter it, the Mosque will beam out your message of cohesion and peace to all its neighbours, visitors and passersby. I wish you all the very best for the future. Thank you!”
Rehman Chishti – MP Gillingham and Rainham
“Assalamo Alaikum, Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and friends. I am delighted and privileged to be here today. But before I say my few words, can I just say it’s a real honour and privilege to have His Holiness here in Gillingham and Rainham and for me, as a Member of Parliament, when you have the head of a leading faith in the international community here in Gillingham and Rainham, it can only be a good thing so it’s a real privilege and honour for you to be here, Your Holiness.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community here may only be a small community, but it’s a community which has contributed so much to community life. If one looks back to 1964, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community used to worship on Arden Road, in the cellar of Qari Muhammad Yasin. In a cellar, 1964 on Arden Street, just down the road and through aspiration, hard work, determination, perseverance, we are here today with a fantastic mosque for the community, where the community can come together because I certainly believe, it’s about where faith communities, places of worship which bring people together and by having such a fantastic Ahmadiyya Muslim Community mosque here in Gillingham, that can only be a good thing!
The other good things which I say and which is very prominent with the Ahmadiyya Community is that they have contributed to so many aspects of community life. I remember reading an article about the 500 people here taking part in a very long walk to raise money for charity…it shows what they do, apart from simply faith, it’s about community, it’s about society. The issue of human rights was touched earlier and as colleagues here may be aware, we recently had a debate in parliament on the issue of persecution of Christians abroad. I took part in that debate, and my debate was focused on Pakistan and in that debate, I said, in parliament that the government in Pakistan should abolish the blasphemy laws. It should; because those are used to persecute minority communities; the Christian Community but also the Ahmadiyya Community who are being persecuted by those laws. So my views on interfaith, faith, freedom of worship are very clear. And so therefore, where there is an issue of oppression, in relation to faith, then I think we all have a responsibility to ensure that we stand up and do the right thing and say, “That is not right!” We have to ensure that everyone can come together and integrate as we see here in Medway. One of the greatest things about Medway is where people from all different faiths, all different backgrounds have together to make our towns fantastic, vibrant and safe towns. I want to see that continue for many, many, many, more years. I know the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community will play their role and when I was once a young lawyer; a judge said to me, “Brevity is a virtue, not a vice. Keep it short!” so tonight those are my few words to you today and I look forward to working with you in the future.”
Brigadier David W Southall OBE – Commandant of the Royal School of Military Engineering Group
“Assalamo Alaikum. Your Holiness, Lord Leftenant, distinguished guests, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to say a few very brief words at this splendid evenings celebration marking the inauguration of your new mosque. I first wish to thank your Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, not only for the kind invitation to this reception, but also for the wider support you have given so generously to our servicemen and women. This has ranged from significant fund raising and support for the Royal British Legion to a raft of support for the poppy appeal collections across London last year. I believe your community work, in so many ways, mirrors the values and standards we hold so dear in the Army and the Royal Engineers. We both set great store by the principals of selfless commitment and respect for others and our motto of “Service not Self,” that ethos is, I believe, common ground for us both. At a local level, my staffers, my Royal Engineers, also have a historical link with your community. I understand, in 1990, Royal Engineers from Chatham visited your headquarters in Southfields, near Putney, in London. We were asked to check and confirm the direction of Makkah and after a very detailed survey, the mosque alignment, having been accurately measured, was changed by a few degrees.
At all levels, like your Association, we draw strength in the army from our breadth and depth; we’re a team! We are built from different people, with different skills but working towards common goals and in this sense, I believe, as your armed forces, we will always reflect society as much as we defend and serve it. Thank you again for inviting me here today. I do feel very honoured to be part of the celebrations on this very special evening, not only marking the inauguration of your new mosque, but also in celebrating the 50golden years and your anniversary. I hope you all have a super evening! Thank you all!”
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba then took to the podium to deliver his keynote address.
After reciting Tashhahud, Ta’awwuz, and Bismillah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vabasaid:
“All distinguished guests – peace and blessings of Allah be upon you all.
First of all I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the distinguished guests, who have come here this evening to attend the inauguration of our new mosque, and by doing so have demonstrated their strong ties and close relations with Ahmadi Muslims. I have particularly mentioned this strong relationship because in today’s world only those who care for the feelings of others and have a strong personal connection with them would accept an invitation to a purely religious event.
Thus your attendance is extremely praiseworthy and has increased the love and respect we hold for all of you in our hearts. These are not just superficial words on my part, given as a courtesy, but rather true gratitude requires for feelings of love and respect to develop in a person’s heart. Further, the religion that we Ahmadi Muslims believe in and follow – Islam – teaches us that a person cannot reach God until he displays mutual gratitude wherever it is due and becomes an exemplary model of showing thankfulness to the people of the world.
Consequently, it is only possible to form a close bond with God Almighty and to please Him when we become those who please and love His Creation. An ordinary worldly person does not believe that pleasing God is anything special or important and certainly sees no need to strive or endeavour towards doing so. However, a person who believes in God Almighty and believes his religion to be a means of reaching Him, will and should certainly consider pleasing God to be a very great objective based upon the teachings of his religion. This is especially true from the perspective of a true Muslim whose purpose is, and should always be, to please His Creator and to become attached to Him.
Thus from the perspective of a true Muslim, my thanks is not a mere courtesy or gesture, but is actually an essential element of my faith in order to please God and to develop a close union with Him. As I have already mentioned, the overriding objective of a religious person should always be to please God. When I study the Holy Qur’an, which Muslims consider to be the direct Word of God and the final law-bearing book, I find very beautiful guidance explaining the best ways to please God and the purpose of my creation. The Qur’an very clearly and repeatedly informs us that the objective and purpose of our creation is to worship Allah the Almighty. Where the worship of God has indeed been deemed a fundamental objective, it has also been clarified how such worship should be performed.
I, and indeed every true Muslim, have been clearly commanded that merely physically prostrating or bowing or crossing our arms or repeating certain prescribed prayers do not fulfil the true objectives of worship. Rather, the purpose of worship can only be fulfilled, when a person comes to follow and act upon all of God’s commands. And God’s commands entail fulfilling the rights of both God and also of His creation. In terms of God’s creation, Islam does not teach us to fulfil only the rights of humans, but rather it teaches that every form of creation, including animals and birds, must be treated with love, mercy and compassion. The truth is that Allah has directly intertwined and interwoven the rights due to Him with the rights due to mankind.
This is why when we study the details of how to worship in the Holy Qur’an, we find that Allah the Almighty has said that a person’s prayers offered in a mosque and which he tries to perform with respect and due etiquette, will not be of any value and will not be accepted if alongside such worship he or she is not fulfilling the rights of mankind.
A person’s prayers will not be accepted if they do not seek to help the poor and deprived. A person’s prayers will not be accepted if they are not fulfilling the rights of orphans. A person’s prayers will not be accepted if they are not striving to end all forms of slavery. And a person’s prayers will not be accepted if they do not show mercy to one another and indeed to all forms of God’s creation.
Another major right taught by God is to fulfil the due rights of one’s neighbours. God has clearly stated that if a person does not fulfil the rights of his neighbours his prayers and his worship will be entirely without value or merit. Thus these are some rights due to one another and there are hundreds more that have been stipulated by Allah in the Qur’an. And so a person can only be considered a true Muslim when alongside his worship he fulfills the rights of mankind.
A person can only be deemed a true Muslim when he seeks to remove the pain of others and to alleviate their anxieties. And a person can only be considered a true Muslim when he feels the grief of others as though it was his own personal grief. As we are aware, a person’s place of worship holds a very special status in the heart of every religious person.
Thus, this mosque, which has been built here in Gillingham or in this area, also holds a special status to us and we harbour great respect and a sense of reverence towards it in our hearts. To fulfil the rights of a mosque itself has been made obligatory on all Muslims. As I said there are two overarching rights that a Muslim has to fulfil – the rights of God and the rights of mankind. I have just outlined some of the ways in which the rights of mankind are fulfilled.
Consequently the rights of this mosque will only be fulfilled when we pay due heed to this and when all of our acts prove to be those that fulfil the rights of God’s creation. As you will be aware this mosque has been named the ‘Nasir Mosque’, and ‘Nasir’ means ‘one who helps’. As such, this mosque is not only a place of worship where worshippers will come to beseech God’s help, but it is also a meeting place for people who wish to serve others and to help those who are suffering and are in any kind of need.
Thus it will be a place for people to gather in an effort to help the poor, to help orphans and to free people from every type of slavery once and for all. It will be a place for them to join together to serve humanity and benefit mankind and it will also be a place to fulfil the rights of the mosque’s neighbours and to help them. In regard to the rights owed to one’s neighbours, I would like to clarify that according to the teachings of Islam a person’s neighbours have a great value and status.
A neighbour is not just he who lives nearby, but in fact all of the people who are within reach of a Muslim are deemed to be his neighbours. The rights of neighbours are so vast that a Muslim is expected to treat them in the same way that he would treat his immediate family and dearest loved ones. Also, according to Islam, the scope of a person’s neighbours extends far and wide, and so our work colleagues and our travel companions are also included amongst our neighbours.
Thus it is incumbent upon a Muslim to help all the people who fall under this definition of a neighbour. And so according to Islam, even if you come into contact with someone just once you are duty bound to help them if they are ever in need. This is the beautiful definition of a ‘neighbour’ that Islam has provided.
Furthermore, and as I have said, Islam teaches Muslims to fulfil the rights of God’s creation, and so it is necessary for a Muslim to fulfil the rights of those mired in poverty and to help those who are orphaned or enslaved. That is why for the cause of social welfare the Ahmadiyya Community has opened various hospitals, orphanages and schools, both in Africa, and in other under-developed parts of the world. In places where people do not have access to water the Ahmadiyya Community is devising plans and running projects to provide them with clean drinking water by installing hand-pumps and other devices.
Another fundamental way in which we strive to help those in need is by seeking to abolish all forms of slavery. To end or abolish slavery may perhaps seem a strange concept to some of you and you may wonder, who in today’s world, is shackled by the evil of slavery?
I should therefore explain that even today there continues to be people who are enslaved, because the definition of slavery is actually very wide ranging. For example, a person who has to take out a loan to survive, to buy food and other necessities for his family and is subjected to interest will find himself at the mercy of the lender for the rest of his life as the debt continues to accumulate. In this way the lender shackles the borrower into a desperate bond of slavery.
In the Third World there are countless examples of people having to take out loans just to feed their families and by doing so they have automatically become slaves to their lenders and are forced to serve them for the rest of their lives. There are many people who take out loans so they can pay for the education of their children, but for whatever reason, are unable to repay them and so they too are practically enslaved in this manner.
With the Grace of Allah, the Ahmadiyya Community is striving to help such people to the best of our abilities. Wherever possible we try to free them from their debts and so grant them true freedom and independence. These are just a few examples at a local level that I have given, but at a national level we also find that in today’s world certain countries are being consumed by debt and enslaved in this way. Weaker and poor countries are preyed upon by the powerful nations who give them loans with strings attached.
In this way the poorer nations are becoming indebted to the lender and as a result they are forced to follow their polices. Invariably, the policies dictated are not in the interest of the vulnerable country but serve only the interest of the powerful and rich lender. In the long term such unjust policies can never give rise to peace but will rather be a cause of deepening resentment and frustrations.
Thus rather than take advantage of the weak and vulnerable, all parties should seek to educate them and try to help them stand upon their own two feet with dignity and honour and free them from all forms of slavery. At present the Ahmadiyya Community does not have the resources to free those nations which are consumed by debt and who as a result have found themselves practically enslaved by the richer countries and forced to follow their policies.
But certainly we do attempt to make major nations and organisations realise that they must allow every individual and every nation to enjoy the right to live with liberty and freedom and the key to this lies in the establishment of justice and equality. Furthermore, we also find another form of slavery that exists in today’s world and that is in relation to the world’s natural resources.
Due to a lack of technical expertise or knowledge some countries are unable to successfully tap their own natural resources and so powerful nations take advantage of these circumstances. Whilst, they may offer to extract the resources or to provide the weaker nation with the necessary technology to do so, they also take advantage of the vulnerability of the weaker party by placing onerous conditions and making unjust deals. The end result is that the country which has ownership of those natural resources receives far less benefit than the powerful country extracting the resources.
As I said, this too is another type of slavery and bondage, and so every educated person should unite against this. Only if we make such a stand will the developing countries countries be able to stand on their own two feet and independently run their affairs. Bearing all of this in mind, I should make it clear that, whilst on the one hand, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community propagates the true teachings of Islam in the world and builds Mosques for its followers, it also draws the attention of the world towards fulfilling the rights of humanity.
We draw the attention of the world towards justice and equality at all levels. We draw the attention of the world towards peace and prosperity. Also, I should make it clear that the way we draw people’s attention and the way we raise these issues is always done in an entirely peaceful and law-abiding manner. Indeed it is essential for a true Muslim to forever uphold and honour his country’s laws because this is a compulsory part of our faith.
To respect the laws of a country is sign of our love and loyalty to our nation, as the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa taught that holding sincere sentiments of love and loyalty to your country is an essential part of faith. Thus, there is no question of a true Muslim ever breaking the law because by breaking the law he is acting against the state. And by acting against the state he proves that he does not love his nation and if he does not love his nation he has no faith and consequently he is not a true Muslim.
And so this mosque, that is being inaugurated today, will be filled by those people who will not only fulfil the rights of God, but will also be those who hold a passionate desire to serve humanity. It will be filled by those people who care for the poor and destitute. It will be filled by those people who seek to help the weak and vulnerable. It will be filled by those people who love and support children who have been left orphaned and bereaved.
This mosque will be filled by those people who will pay attention to the well-being, health and educational needs of all those in any kind of need or who are vulnerable in any way. The people who enter this mosque will also be those who fulfil the rights of their neighbours and will advocate the establishment of justice and freeing the world from all forms of slavery. And it will be filled by those people who will happily sacrifice their wealth and time to fulfil these due rights of others.
This is the the reason the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community raises its voice loud and clear calling for justice at all levels so that the peace and security of the world may be secured and personal enmities, grievances and distances can all be transformed into a close bond of mutual love. I have no doubt that you will come to see that, God Willing, the worshippers of this mosque will prove all of what I have said to be true.
Only a call to serve humanity and of love and affection will echo far and wide from this mosque. What I am saying are not just mere words, but wherever in the world the Ahmadiyya Community has built mosques the local people have very soon come to realise that alongside the construction of the mosque, our community makes every possible effort to serve humanity and to promote social welfare.
Due to the fact that we are a Muslim community, there may even be people here today who hold certain concerns or reservations about us. However, God Willing, they will also soon come to realise that, even more than before, the people who enter this mosque will be those who fulfil the rights of their neighbours.
They will be those who consider the joy of their neighbours to be their own happiness, and who consider the pain of their neighbours to be their own grief. I am certain all our neighbours will come to witness this and it will be prove to be an everlasting reality. I am also certain that you will all come to witness and testify to the truth that wherever and whenever we are called to serve humanity we will be at the forefront and ever ready to serve.
The past history of our community attests to the fact that we do not only run and support our own charity organisations, but rather whenever any other charity or group seeks our help we immediately extend our assistance and support to them. To give just one recent example, as you are all aware, over the past few weeks flooding and heavy rain has engulfed this country and caused misery and loss to so many people.
In response, our own Ahmadi Muslim youth volunteers have reached out to the afflicted areas and have worked with government teams and the local authorities to help those in urgent need. And so in conclusion I will repeat that this mosque will not be one that proves to be a cause of concern or fear for the local people, but rather this mosque will prove to be one filled with people who will always be ready to serve and help all of you. This mosque will be a beacon of light that illuminates its surroundings and be known as a symbol of peace, harmony and justice for all. With these few words I would end by once again thanking you all for attending this event this evening and listening to what I have said.
Thank you very much.
To read guest comments on Gillingham mosque: https://reviewreligion.wpengine.com/10590/guest-comments-reflections-on-gillingham-mosque-opening/