At the inauguration of the new headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness reflects on the true nature of integration and the importance of helping the local communities in which we live.
On 29th June 2019, the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Fifth Khalifah, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), delivered the keynote address at a special reception held to mark the opening of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s new headquarters in Islamabad, Tilford, UK.The headquarters, including the beautifully designed Mubarak Mosque (the Blessed Mosque), administrative and residential complex was inaugurated earlier in the year on 17th May 2019.The gathering of over 300 guests included members of parliament, members of the House of Lords, members of the armed forces, various other dignitaries and local residents and neighbours. Prior to the keynote address delivered by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), the attendees heard from several speakers, including the National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK, Mr. Rafiq Ahmad Hayat, the former Attorney General for England and Wales, Dominic Grieve MP and local councillor Keith Budden of East Hampshire. The official transcript of the keynote address delivered on this occasion by His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), is presented below.
After reciting Tashahhud, Ta’awwuz and Bismillah, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, said:
‘All distinguished guests, Assalamo Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahe Wa Barakatohu – peace and blessings of Allah be upon you all. First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all of our guests for accepting our invitation to today’s event.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s association with this area began approximately thirty-five years ago when we purchased this site on Sheephatch Lane and renamed it Islamabad. Previously, there was a boarding school here that closed in 1977 and thereafter, as far as we know, the site remained unused, until it was bought by our community in the mid-1980s. The existing wooden barracks, which had previously served as classrooms and dormitories, remained structurally the same, but some internal changes were made, which enabled them to be converted into small homes, where some of the workers of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community lived happily for many years.
In addition, for around twenty years, we held the annual convention (Jalsa Salana) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community here at Islamabad, an event that was attended by thousands of people from across the world each year. From 2005 onwards, the annual convention was moved to a different location, because this site became too small to host it. There were considerable traffic and parking issues, which also affected the local residents. In recent years, we have been holding our annual convention in Alton and we are grateful to the local council and residents there for their generosity and cooperation in this regard.
Anyway, before moving on, it would be entirely remiss of me if I did not place on record my sincere thanks to the local residents in this area and to the council, who permitted us to hold our annual conventions at Islamabad for many years and also allowed around thirty Ahmadi Muslim families to live here.
Furthermore, I wish to apologise and express my regret if, during that period, the local residents faced any problems or discomfort on account of our annual conventions.
Certainly, this was never our intention because true Muslims have a duty to care for their neighbours and must strive to ensure that they never cause them any harm.
Moving forward to the present day, I wish to offer my heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to our neighbours and to all the local residents in this area, as well as to the local council members, who have shown immense generosity and proved that they are tolerant and open-minded, by enabling us to redevelop this complex. As a result, we have been able to construct a beautiful mosque and build over thirty residential homes. In addition, we have been able to construct a multi-purpose hall, which we would be happy for the local community to utilise for their events whenever available.
The redeveloped complex has been built upon almost the same footprints of the previous buildings and so the overall covered area remains similar to before, but it has now been redeveloped in a way that will serve the needs of our community far better.
Consequently, once again, I wish to express my deep thanks to the local residents and to the council for their kindness, open-heartedness and cooperation in this project.
As I said, our annual conventions no longer take place here, but according to the capacity of the mosque, worshippers will come to attend the weekly Friday prayers and so during that time, increased traffic is likely. In addition, the number of people coming to this mosque on a day-to-day basis has increased because of the fact that I am now living here and so members of the community come to meet me and to offer their prayers here.
As the roads in this area are quite narrow and single-track, there may be occasions when the road traffic is slower than normal and so, on behalf of our community, I offer our sincere apologies if the local residents ever face any delays or issues. Nevertheless, I wish to assure you that I have instructed the members of our community to ensure that they respect the rights of the local residents at all times and that they must always drive safely, courteously and according to the road laws.
Of course, you will understand that because more people are coming here, it is not possible for me to say that there will never be any traffic or road issues. However, I can guarantee that we will endeavour to prevent any disturbance and to mitigate the effects of the increased numbers of cars passing through this area. This is our religious obligation, because Islam repeatedly emphasises the rights of one’s neighbours and instructs Muslims to be considerate to their needs. For example, chapter 4, verse 37 of the Holy Qur’an imposes a code of moral values, which true Muslims must adopt and live their lives by and it guides them about how to interact with other members of society.
Where on the one hand, the verse states that Muslims must worship Allah the Almighty alone and not associate any partners with Him, it also commands them to show compassion and love to all mankind. First of all, the verse calls on Muslims to treat their parents with tenderness and affection, as our parents are the people who have loved us selflessly and made countless sacrifices for our benefit. Thereafter, Muslims are taught to be loving and sincere to their relatives and friends. They are taught to be sympathetic to orphans and to all people who are suffering or are vulnerable in any way.
The verse then categorically states that Muslims must fulfil the rights of their neighbours, including those with whom they have personal relations and those with whom they do not. Fulfilling the rights of neighbours means that Muslims must treat their neighbours with grace and compassion and be ever ready to help them in their times of need and to be a shoulder to cry on in their times of grief. It means to respect them and to hold them in the highest regard.
Furthermore, according to Islam, the definition of a neighbour is extremely far-reaching. The Founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) stated that a person’s neighbours are not just those who live in the immediate vicinity, but include at least the nearest forty houses. Additionally, the Qur’an teaches that a person’s neighbours include his work colleagues and travel companions.
In light of this, we consider all of the people living in this area and even those who may travel on the roads near this site, as our neighbours.
Consequently, it is incumbent upon all Ahmadi Muslims, whether they live here at Islamabad, whether they live locally or even if they just travel here to attend the prayers, to follow the laws, to be considerate at all times and to fulfil the rights of our wide circle of neighbours and to try to ensure that no distress or disturbance is ever caused to them.
I personally pledge that I will uphold and honour your rights and strive to care for all of you and I will continually urge the members of our community to do the same.
It is a great blessing for us to have been able to build this new mosque, where we can join together to worship God Almighty and we firmly believe that the opening of the mosque compels us to fulfil the rights of humanity more than ever before. Indeed, we staunchly believe that we can only do justice to this mosque and to the rights of Allah the Almighty if we are fulfilling the rights of mankind. Most certainly, our faith demands that we demonstrate and practice the best morals and conduct at all times. For example, chapter 2, verse 84 of the Holy Qur’an states that you must open your heart to others and be sympathetic to their needs.
If the standards of an Ahmadi Muslim falls short of this then he or she is not fulfilling the demands of their faith. To be clear, Allah the Almighty has commanded Muslims that it is not enough for them to merely worship in the mosque, but they must also serve their local communities and constantly strive to help those who are in need. In fact, Allah the Almighty states that the prayers of those who fail in their duties to mankind are worthless and will never be accepted by Him.
In short, where it is our religious obligation to worship God Almighty in this mosque, it is also our religious duty and an inherent part of the worship of God for us to join together to fulfil the rights of the local community and to serve God’s creation. This is why wherever the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community opens a mosque, or has a presence, we strive to fulfil the rights of our neighbours and the wider society.
In this regard, we consider it a great blessing that we have been able to establish a range of humanitarian projects across the world, notably in economically deprived countries and we especially target those areas, which are particularly remote and impoverished. We seek to feed the hungry and to aid those mired in poverty. We seek to provide inexpensive and wherever possible, free medical treatment, to people who would otherwise have little or no access to healthcare. Thus, we have built many hospitals and established medical camps and clinics in Africa and other disadvantaged parts of the world.
Similarly, we have opened primary and secondary schools in the developing world that provide education to children, so that they can gain literacy and the skills and knowledge through which they can arrest the vicious cycle of poverty and inequality, which has plagued their communities for generations. Furthermore, engineers from our community regularly volunteer their services and travel to remote parts of the world to install water pumps or wells that provide access to clean drinking water.
I have personally lived in Africa and so I have witnessed the intense levels of poverty and destitution of the local people first hand.
I have seen school-aged children walking for miles on a daily basis with large vessels rested on their heads in search of water for their family use. Some are unable to go to school because of this responsibility and so are deprived of an education due to their dire circumstances, whilst others endure the gruelling journeys outside of school hours.
Given the abject poverty they face and their desperate living standards, you cannot imagine the joy and excitement on the faces of those children and their families when we install pumps that provide them with clean and safe water, from which they can drink and utilise for their domestic needs.
You cannot imagine their sheer delight when they see water flowing from a tap at their doorsteps for the very first time.
I should clarify that all of the humanitarian and relief services rendered by our community are provided irrespective of religion or belief. It makes no difference if the people are Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Atheists or of any other faith or belief.
Our only aspiration and motivation is to eradicate the suffering of innocent and defenceless people and to enable them to live their lives with dignity. Hence, whenever we build a mosque or centre it focuses our minds towards serving humanity even more than before.
It does not matter who is suffering, we consider it our duty to comfort and support all those who are in need.
This is the command of Allah the Almighty.
For example, in chapter 90 of the Holy Qur’an, Allah the Almighty instructs Muslims to free all those who are shackled by the bonds of slavery and servitude. It calls on Muslims to feed those who are hungry and to love and protect the weak and vulnerable, such as orphans or those afflicted by ill health. Furthermore, the Holy Qur’an states that those who fail to show sympathy or aid to those in need, will plunge from the path of righteousness and descend onto a dark path, which takes them away from the refuge of God Almighty.
Thus, it is our heartfelt ambition to serve humanity and now that we have this new mosque and centre here in Surrey, we are determined to further elevate our efforts to fulfil the needs of mankind. Our humanitarian efforts are not limited to the developing world, but we also seek to contribute and give back to our local communities.
For instance, here in the United Kingdom, our community has established an array of projects designed to help those who are suffering in this country. We regularly hold fundraising events through which we raise money for British charities. Wherever we can directly help people, we do so, but if there are certain areas we cannot reach, then we assist by partnering with charities or relief organisations, who have the ability to reach the places we cannot access.
We seek no praise for this and nor do we restrict our assistance to certain people or groups.
Thus, let it be clear that all of our efforts are rendered irrespective of caste, creed or colour.
This is our mission.
This is who we are.
This is Islam.
At the end, whilst some of you may be well-versed in our beliefs, for the benefit of those who are not, I wish to very briefly mention that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was established 130 years ago, in accordance with a prophecy of the Founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He foretold that after a period of around 1400 years a Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi (A Guided One) would be sent by God Almighty from amongst his followers to revive the true and peaceful teachings of Islam.
We, Ahmadi Muslims, believe the Founder of our Community was sent by God Almighty in fulfilment of that prophecy.
He founded the Community in 1889 in a small and remote village of India and it has grown steadily ever since and now, with the Grace of God, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has spread to 212 nations across the world.
No matter where our members are based, where they seek to fulfil the rights of God Almighty through His worship and by building mosques, they also consider it an essential part of their faith to serve mankind.
The same has been true here since we acquired the Islamabad site.
Ever since we came here, we have sought to assimilate into the local society and this is proved by the fact that many of you are our old friends and acquaintances and also by the fact that two Ahmadi Muslims who live here are members of the Waverley Council. Certainly, we have no desire to live an isolated existence, rather we desire to integrate and to be responsible citizens who serve and benefit the local community.
Indeed, this is what I believe to be the definition of true integration – to be entirely loyal to your country of residence, to uphold the laws of the land, to serve your local community and to use whatever skills or capabilities you have for the betterment of your nation.
Finally, I wish to reiterate that as a means of expressing our gratitude at having been able to redevelop this site, which now serves as our community’s centre, all Ahmadi Muslims living here, or nearby, will seek to care for you and to fulfil your rights more than ever before.
I am certain that you will come to see with your own eyes that this mosque and centre proves to be a glorious symbol of peace and service to mankind.
It will prove a beacon of light illuminating the skies above with a spirit of love, mutual respect and compassion.
With these words, I end by once again thanking you for joining us on this joyful occasion.
May God bless you all.
Thank you very much.’