Love for all, hatred for none. The core values of what the global Ahmadiyya sect of Islam conveys every day, and has done so for well over 100 years. Yet this is not amplified as much across the global news narratives.
“An unstable individual commits an atrocity in the world, and in his distorted state of mind claims it to be in the name of religion and this is global news. Yet the fact that hundreds of thousands of muslims worldwide are pledging an allegiance to peace and love to all of humankind, and that’s not newsworthy?”
These were the words of one of the many thousands of Ahmadi volunteers gathered at a farm in rural Hampshire this weekend. Upon arriving at the farm, there is a strong sense of community spirit that can be felt instantaneously, akin to the kind once felt in the UK and which has lost its significance, according to another community volunteer from Leicester, or ‘Nayib Naazim’ as they are referred amongst their collective brotherhood.
Upto 30,000 Ahmadi followers are said to be congregating to this usually quiet countryside location over this weekend, 200 acres of land that also happens to be owned by the Ahmadi community.
“Everyone you see working here are all volunteers, and this all gets funded by the community members themselves and for the good of everyone.” a member of the security team explained.
“Think of it as one big community centre that is there to help and support anyone who requires it. And think of this as like our very own Glastonbury Festival, promoting peace and unity amongst everyone. You just have to walk around for a little while and you will feel the spirit and vibe. This is what being a part of our ‘Jamad’ (community) represents.” he told us.
Whilst the tens of thousands congregate over this weekend, global numbers are said to be upto as much as 80 million plus, but the community has long suffered persecution at the hands of other Muslims who do not believe that they are true members of Islam.
There is a consistent claim of Ahmadiyya being based on “the true teachings of the Quran”, and everything has a contextual explanation in accordance to what is written in the holy book. But it is statements such as this that also cause the issues of conflict amongst other muslim sects who believe their claims are almost blasphemous, such as claiming the prophet Muhammad wasn’t in fact the last prophet of God to have graced this world.
At Friday prayers, His Holiness Masroor Ahmad, known as the Fifth Caliph of the worldwide Ahmadiyya community, called on Allah to give the community “protection” from those he said had “cruel plans” against them.
Just seeing the visual presence of the team of security guards surrounding the residence of the Caliph, and accompanying him everywhere he travels including two who even carried briefcases containing devices which we were told are designed to deflect bomb blasts.
There were teams of security, standing fully alert and ready to whisk him to safety in case of any emergency.
Why any other group of people would wish to cause harm to a community leader and people who never call for retaliation when community members are faced with persecution. A community that promotes peace and goodness daily to everyone. And one that wishes to integrate as opposed to segregate or live outside of society in any way.
“Britain is our home, and we are taught that your home, wherever it may be in the world, is with whom your allegiance and loyalty must be. We believe in humanity first, and for us living in Britain, being a muslim and a Briton go hand in hand beautifully.” an attendee visiting from Bradford in the north of UK explained.
This years annual Jalsa event is the 50th anniversary event and this year takes place in the wake of the murder of the Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah, who was a member of the Ahmadi community.
His attacker, Tanveer Ahmed from Bradford, was sentenced to 27 years imprisonment just this week, and many spoke about the sadness felt by everyone worldwide hearing of this tragic incident. It is however accepted that the conflicts shall exist in the minds of many people and to the extent where many are prepared to even harm others in the name of their own God.
“It is about educating each other. It is very much our duty to explain to all that we want to make the world a better place for everyone and that there is no sense in continuing arguing and fighting about differences in opinions, or variations in what we all believe,” said Javed Uddin, a member of the Leicester ‘Jamad’ or ‘community’ as the word literally translates as.
The three-day event opened with Friday Prayers early on in the day followed by a symbolic Union Flag raising ceremony.
“You can say that the flag raising is like a symbolic gesture, but it is also a key part of our faith. It is saying that we are proud members of both the British and Ahmadiyya communities and we represent both positively in everything we live by daily.”
Speaking to a non-muslim attendee who was visiting the event after hearing about it online by chance he told us:
“I understand how locally in this rural, predominantly white British town there would be many who would feel worried that this event is taking place here. But they are only the ones who believe everything they read about in the newspapers and who are force fed negative information about the small minority factions worldwide committing unlawful, barbaric acts.” he said.
“It’s time to amplify this overall positive message of peace and humanity to become the new narrative. That is what the majority of muslims worldwide believe at the core of their beliefs, and events such as this Jalsa are the perfect examples of what masses of people who are promoting goodness can achieve.”
Over the weekend, visitors can expect to see the world’s first community – Quran writing project in which men and women in attendance will write individual verses of the Quran by hand, with the aim of compiling the entire Holy Book, verse by verse, with thousands of such scribes. Men and women gathered in separate areas of the site, but both sides were identical in terms of what was taking pace, expect however here the men are doing all the cooking for the women’s side too. A culinary army operation called ‘Langar’ is in full force at the centre of the site where fresh bread and a tasty array curry dishes are being prepared around the clock, feeding all attendees for free during the whole weekend.
Charity and a sense of duty to serve all communities is at the core of the faith. It is common practice for Ahmadiyya mosques around the world to open their doors for wider community members to visit and learn about their faith, and indulge in the free food prepared on site.
For all visiting the ‘Jalsa’ as the event is called, there are exhibits on display including that of a life-sized replica and exhibition of the Shroud of Turin displayed along with guest speaker Barrie Schwortz, world-leading expert on the shroud.
While most Orthodox Muslims believe Jesus was a righteous prophet, who was never crucified and, instead, ascended bodily to heaven, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believes he was crucified but survived after his friends restored him to health with healing ointments and herbs.
But in terms of being able to verify which perspective is the right one to believe, that’s insignificant for what this Jalsa event as a whole represents. First and foremost it is about encouraging an open dialogue amongst everyone of all faiths, and from all walks of life, and to promote love for all, and hatred for none.
Now that’s the kind of world vision no one can argue with, and it is values like this and the reclaiming of the word ‘Caliphate’ by Ahmadiyya Muslims worldwide to represent a pledge for peace as opposed to a pledge for ‘Holy War’ that needs to overshadow the media narrative.
On Sunday the highlight of this 3 day Jalsa event held in the UK, and attended by members of the community visiting from all over the world, it is a very visual display of the peaceful, collective allegiance to the Ahmadiyya faith. It can be viewed in the video embedded above…
Special thanks to the Ahmadiyya Media Office and to everyone at the event for showing such kindness on the day.
For further information visit:loveforallhatredfornone.org
By @vinsharma reporting for Sputnik International