Opening of The Mosque of the Grand Victory in Zion – A Symbol of True Religious Freedom

Keynote Address by Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community at the Inauguration of Fath-e-Azeem Mosque in Zion, Illinois, USA on Saturday 1st October 2022

On 1st October 2022, the World Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Fifth Khalifa (Caliph), His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) delivered the keynote address at a special reception held to commemorate the opening of the Fath-e-Azeem Mosque (the Great Victory) in Zion, Illinois. His Holiness (aba) had officially inaugurated the mosque a day earlier with his weekly Friday Sermon. The reception was attended by more than 140 guests, including politicians, faith leaders, and local residents. The keynote address delivered by His Holiness (aba) on this occasion is presented below.

*Please note that this transcript may not be reproduced without express permission, either on other websites or in print format.

Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community said:

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem – in the name of Allah, the Gracious, Ever-Merciful.

All distinguished guests, Assalamo Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahe Wa Barakatohu – may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon you all. 

Firstly, I would like to thank all of you for joining us this evening. Rather than being a worldly event, this is purely a religious function hosted by an Islamic community, and so your participation is a testament to your open hearts, tolerance and broad mindedness. Thus, I am sincerely grateful to you all for joining us as we mark and celebrate the inauguration of our new mosque here in Zion.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was established in this city several decades ago, but we did not previously have a proper mosque in which to worship. Hence, today is a means of great happiness and significance for our community. Indeed, it is vitally important for all religious communities to have places of worship where their members can congregate to worship. In terms of Islam, we believe that having a mosque affords two over-arching benefits. Firstly, it enables Muslims to join together to worship God Almighty and to fulfil their religious duties and obligations to their faith. Islam instructs Muslims to worship five times daily. In addition, the second great benefit of building a mosque is that it serves to introduce Islam and its teachings to the wider community. If those who worship in the mosque earnestly strive to reflect and represent Islam’s teachings, it will naturally stir a curiosity and interest in Islam amongst the local people. Their knowledge and understanding of Islam will increase and any fears or concerns they harbour will, God willing, dissipate, upon seeing Muslims living peacefully amongst them and contributing positively to society. So, it is to fulfil these twin objectives that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community builds mosques worldwide. 

Moving on, some of you may wonder what distinguishes Ahmadi Muslims from other Muslims. In this regard, according to a great prophecy in the Holy Qur’an and as foretold by the Holy Prophet of Islam, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, it was destined that as the centuries passed by, Muslims would gradually move away from true Islamic principles. Eventually, the majority would abandon its teachings and be Muslims in name only. At the same time, Allah the Almighty and the Holy Prophet of Islam, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, gave the glad tiding that at a time of such spiritual decay, God Almighty would send a promised reformer to revive and rejuvenate the original teachings of Islam and he would bear the title of the Messiah of Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. That messiah would proclaim that Islam’s teachings were of peace, love and harmony. He would urge all people to live together peacefully and to forge ties of mutual love and affection, irrespective of their different religious beliefs. As Ahmadi Muslims, we have firm conviction that the founder of our community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (as), was that very promised messiah and reformer who was foretold of in the Holy Qur’an and in the prophecy of the Holy Prophet of Islam, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

During his life, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community instructed his followers to convey the message of Islam by acting upon its teachings of love, benevolence and sympathy for all people and to win the hearts and minds of mankind. Indeed, the Promised Messiah (as) proclaimed that he would convey the teachings of Islam whilst walking upon the spiritual footsteps of the Messiah of Moses, the prophet Jesus (as). Thus, like prophet Jesus (as), the Promised Messiah (as), exhibited sympathy and compassion for mankind. His every word and deed were for the sake of peace and to cultivate a spirit of reconciliation in society. He reminded his followers that the very meaning of Islam is peace and security and that following his advent, Islam would return to its spiritual roots and would one day be recognised the world over as a religion of love, tolerance, peace and harmony. The Promised Messiah (as) explained, according to the teachings of the Holy Qur’an that the wars in early Islam were entirely defensive in nature and fought in response to the gravest possible persecution. Never once during the blessed era of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, or in the time of his four rightly guided successors did Muslim armies initiate warfare or inflict cruelties or injustices of any kind. Rather, any wars and battles they partook in were fought to end all forms of inhumanity and oppression. 

In the modern era, whilst geopolitical conflicts continued to wreak havoc and destruction in the world, the Promised Messiah (as) said that religious wars had ended. Hence, there was no justification for Muslims or people of any faith to fight in the name of their religion. Thus, let it be crystal clear that the objective of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is not to conquer lands, seize territories, overcome cities or vanquish nations. Nor in those lands or nations where our teachings and beliefs have been accepted in large numbers have we ever asserted a desire to gain political power or worldly influence. 

Our only mission and our sole aspiration is to win the hearts of mankind through love and to bring people closer to God Almighty so they become true worshippers of Him and fulfil the rights of one another. In a beautiful couplet, the Promised Messiah (as) affirmed that he had no desire for political power or worldly status. He wrote: ‘What can I have to do with any country, for my country is distinct from all others. What can I have to do with any crown, for my crown lies solely in the pleasure of my beloved.’ [1]

This complete indifference to worldly and political powers has remained the hallmark of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community ever since its inception and will continue to remain so in the future. We only yearn to convey Islam’s teachings of love and peace as we have for more than 130 years, and with the grace and mercy of Allah, many thousands of people join our community from all around the world each year. We have no grievance, quarrel, or enmity with any person or religion. As for those who stand against God Almighty or seek to destroy His religion, our answer will never be to take up arms or initiate violence of any kind. To the contrary, our only response will be to bow before Allah the Almighty in all humility. Our only weapon is prayer, and we are certain that Allah listens to our supplications. Indeed, the 133-year history of our community bears witness to this fact. 

Regarding freedom of belief and freedom of conscience, we firmly believe that religion and belief is a personal matter and it is for each person to choose their own path. Ours is not a new position that we have assumed belatedly; rather, it is based entirely on the original teachings of the Holy Qur’an. 

As I am sure you will be aware, recently the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II passed away and her son, King Charles III has succeeded her. In the United Kingdom, one of the official titles of the monarch is Defender of the Faith. On various occasions, King Charles has expressed his respect for all religions. He has also expressed his desire to be known as the defender of all faiths as opposed to the defender of the faith. This statement is undoubtedly praiseworthy and demonstrates the broadminded nature and inclusive approach of King Charles. However, upon his ascension to the throne, some commentators speculated that such a modification to the language would not be universally welcomed within the Christian community, or indeed by some non-Christians. One headline stated that the King’s desire to defend and promote all faiths may prove to be wishful thinking. Whilst some may consider such efforts to foster religious harmony are futile or wishful thinking, in my view, defending all religions and establishing true freedom of religion and belief is in reality the foundation for establishing peace in the world. In this regard, I also commend the United States government for establishing under the auspices of the State Department, The Office of International Religious Freedom, which now hosts an annual international summit to promote global religious freedom. In terms of establishing world peace. 

A momentous and groundbreaking principle ensuring universal religious freedom is enshrined in chapter 22, verses 40 – 41 of the Holy Qur’an. In the verses, Allah the Almighty states: ‘Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made because they have been wronged and Allah indeed has the power to help them. Those who have been driven out of their homes unjustly only because they said, “Our lord is Allah.”’ It further says, ‘And if Allah did not repel some men by means of others, they would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques wherein the name of Allah is oft commemorated. And Allah will surely help the one who helps Him. And Allah is indeed the Powerful, Mighty.’ 

In the two verses that Allah the Almighty granted the Holy Prophet of Islam, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, permission to fight a defensive war, He also made it categorically clear that permission was granted because the aggressors sought to eradicate religious freedom from the world. Warfare was not permitted to protect only Muslims and their mosques or to further the cause of Islam; rather, the Quran explicitly states that if a forceful response to the injustices perpetrated against the Muslims was not forthcoming, no church, synagogue, temple, mosque or any other place of worship would remain safe. Thus, the Holy Qur’an is the only divine scripture that not only grants absolute religious freedom to the people of all religions and beliefs but goes further by instructing Muslims and those who enter mosques to protect the religious rights of non-Muslims. It is that heavenly scripture which is the protector and defender of all religions, faiths, and beliefs. It is these pure and all-embracing Islamic teachings that we strive to propagate to all parts of the world. 

In terms of this mosque, you may wonder why we have chosen to build a mosque in Zion. Obviously, the main purpose is the same as I have mentioned. Secondly, those well acquainted with the history of this city will likely be aware that the person who founded Zion was a Christian Evangelist, Mr Alexander Dowie, who claimed to have been sent by God from this city of Zion. Mr Dowie expressed great hostility towards Islam and hatred for Muslims which eventually came to the attention of the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and he responded directly to Mr Dowie. Some of you may query why the Promised Messiah (as) used firm language whilst addressing Mr Dowie and question how this squared with his claim of preaching love and compassion. However, there is absolutely no contradiction between the peaceful teachings of the Promised Messiah (as) and his response to Dowie. The Promised Messiah (as) never once called for any form of violent or extreme reaction. Indeed, when he first became aware of Mr Dowie’s venomous pronouncement against Islam and its founder, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, the Promised Messiah (as) sought to reason with him respectfully and to persuade him to show restraint and to respect the sentiments of Muslims. Conversely, it was Mr Dowie who sought confrontation with Islam and was explicit in this desire. For example, Mr Dowie wrote, ‘I pray to God that Islam should soon disappear from the face of the earth. O God, accept my prayer, O God, destroy Islam.’ [2]

Furthermore in his writings, Mr Dowie spoke with relish at the prospect of what he described as a great war between Christianity and Islam. He wrote that if Muslims did not embrace Christianity, they would meet with death and destruction. In response to such extreme rhetoric and vitriol, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (as) sought to ensure that thousands or even millions of innocent people were not harmed, which would have been the case if Mr Dowie’s desire for religious wars between Christians and Muslims was realised. Accordingly, he challenged Mr Dowie to a prayer duel. He said that rather than call for death and destruction of all Muslims, he and Mr Dowie should both engage in solemn prayer and pray to God that whichever of them was a liar should die in the life of the other party. This was actually an act of compassion and a means to diffuse the situation. Rather than risk an all-out confrontation between Muslims and Christians, the Promised Messiah (as) asserted that he and Mr Dowie should resort to prayer and leave the matter in the hands of God Almighty. It was a fair and peaceful means to determine the truth. It is no exaggeration to state that it was a magnificent example of restraint in the face of immense provocation and hostility. Upon receiving the challenge, Mr Dowie responded by describing the Promised Messiah (as) in the most offensive of terms.

It is recorded that Mr Dowie said, ‘In India there is a Mohammadan Messiah who keeps on writing to me. Do you think that I should answer such gnats and flies? If I were to put my foot on them, I would crush them to death.’ [3] The Promised Messiah (as) reiterated his challenge and it received widespread publicity in the United States and elsewhere. Journalists reported on Mr Dowie’s towering status in his community, his wealth and power, and compared it unfavourably with the Promised Messiah (as), who they noted was from a distant and remote village in India and whose wealth and worldly power were no match against Mr Dowie. Furthermore, in purely physical terms, Mr Dowie was younger and in better health than the Promised Messiah (as), yet despite the discrepancy in material terms, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community never hesitated, never took a backwards step or considered withdrawing his challenge, and against all worldly odds, the result soon became apparent in his favour. In quick succession, Dowie lost his supporters, wealth, and physical and mental faculties. He ultimately suffered what the US media described as a pathetic end. Indeed, the US media of the time deserves credit because their journalists reported honestly on the outcome. For example, a famous Boston Herald headline declared that ‘Great is Mirza Ghulam Ahmad the Messiah’

In short, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community never sought to assert his views or values upon anyone forcefully, nor did ever consider responding to the hatred of Mr Dowie or other opponents of Islam with physical force or might. For Ahmadi Muslims, this incident serves as a sign for the truth of our founder, and so in this respect, the city of Zion holds a significant place in our history. Due to the limits of time, I cannot go into further detail; however, a special exhibition about the prayer duel has been set up at this mosque and so if you wish to learn more you can visit before you leave or you might have visited it already.

In conclusion, today the followers of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, the Guided One, offer thanks to Allah the Almighty that we are inaugurating the Fath-e-Azeem Mosque, the Mosque of the Grand Victory in Zion as a symbol of true religious freedom. Its doors open with an enlightened message pronouncing that the religious rights and peaceful beliefs of all people and communities are to be forever protected and cherished. It is the paramount objective of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to direct mankind to the path of spiritual salvation and to ensure that all people, irrespective of their caste, creed or colour, live together with a spirit of goodwill and harmony, and in true peace and security.

From the depth of my heart, I pray that this mosque will, God-willing, always serve as a beacon of peace, tolerance and love for all mankind. I pray it proves to be a place where people congregate in all humility to recognise their creator, to bow before him and to fulfil the rights of mankind, for we earnestly believe that we can only be successful and prosperous if we fulfil the rights of worship of God Almighty and the rights of humanity. With these words, I wish to once again thank you all for joining us this evening. May Allah Almighty bless you all, Ameen.”


1. Barahin-e-AhmadiyyaVol 5. (Eng. Translation) p. 193

2. Leaves of Healing, February 14, 1903

3. Leaves of Healing, December 27, 1903