Some insights from a visit to Ahmadiyya headquarters in Tilford
ByAlec EvansCommunity Reporter
19:00, 24 SEP 2019
The Mubarak Mosque, located in Tilford village and not far from Farnham, is the world headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
The headquarters moved from Southfields in May 2019, and it could be seen as something of a hidden treasure in Surrey. I had driven around the surrounding Tilford roads on a weekly basis in the past, but you’d never imagine to see a building of that design or scale in an area of Surrey that is so out of the way of any major town centre.
It is surrounded by a courtyard with places of residence and education, with a sports hall and all sorts of meeting rooms. The whole complex is surrounded by a security gate and many worshippers live on site.
Here are some of the main things I learned when I visited.
1. They are always happy to receive visitors
The entrance is protected by a set of gates, but once you have booked and entered inside the gates, it is very welcoming. My hosts gave me tea and snacks, and were all too happy to talk at length to help me learn more about their community.
Imam Farhad Ahmad says email@example.com is the best place to speak in advance if you wish to visit.
They say outreach is a big part of what they do, and 300 non-Muslims came to the grand opening of the mosque in July. Members of the community send out leaflets and set up stalls in town centres to engage with the public.
2. It is the largest Muslim community under one leader
The Ahmadiyya community was founded in 1889 by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.
The world head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community is known as the caliph. ‘Caliph’ means successor, as each caliph is seen as a follower of its founder, and the concept of having a caliph is called a caliphate. While it has negative connotations due to the only other caliphate being that of the extremist group ISIS, this could not be further from the Ahmadiyya community.
The caliph reinforces the need for peace, and encourages his community to live by the motto: “Love for all, hatred for none.”
The current caliph’s name is Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, and he is referred to by members of the Ahmadiyya community as ‘huzoor’ or ‘his holiness’.
3. You are welcome to attend their prayers
When I visited, it was just before 2pm, so I was able to watch what prayers at Mubarak Mosque look like. While I was aware of five prayers a day that happen throughout the Muslim community, I had never been inside a mosque before, and certainly wasn’t expecting to be able to video the caliph’s arrival and him leading the prayers.
Again, if you want to observe the prayers you will need to request access to the site, to be able to reach the mosque, so just email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to attend.
I observed his holiness reciting prayers in an almost song-like way, as worshippers knelt and prayed. The prayers lasted for around 10 minutes.
4. Some other sections of the Muslim community don’t consider them to be true Muslims
Farhad describes Ahmadis as something of a separate sect. There are many places that refuse to acknowledge Ahmadis as Muslim. There is a great deal of hostility towards the community due to theological differences – while the majority of the rest of the Muslim world believes they are waiting for Jesus’s coming, Ahmadis believe he has already come as their community’s founder, and that it was a metaphorical prophecy.
The Muslim Council of Britain, the country’s largest and most diverse national Muslim umbrella organisation, urges respect towards the Ahmadi community, but specifies that Muslims have the right not to classify them as Muslims.
“Whoever does not subscribe to that declaration cannot be eligible for affiliation with the MCB,” they said in a 2016 statement. “Muslims should not be forced to class Ahmadis as Muslims if they do not wish to do so, at the same time, we call on Muslims to be sensitive, and above all, respect all people irrespective of belief or background.”
5. Ahmadis have communities in South Asia, North America, Africa and Europe
As previously mentioned, there is a fair amount of hostility towards the Ahmadiyya Muslims – despite members of the community living in Pakistan, they are considered ‘disloyal’ there.
There is quite a following in African countries, including Ghana, Gambia and Sierra Leone. There is also quite a following across Europe and North America, with many big events in the UK.
March saw the National Peace Symposium 2019 take place at the Baitul Futuh Mosque in London, the largest in Western Europe. The theme was ‘the critical need for peace’. A recent Ijtema festival in Kingsley in September saw over 6,000 attendees gather to celebrate its central theme, The Existence of God.