Islamic sect has appealing message for U.S. politicians but has global enemies
Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, presides over a sermon to his followers in suburban Washington, D.C.
July 7th, 2012
01:00 AM ET

Islamic sect has appealing message for U.S. politicians but has global enemies

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – You’ve almost certainly never heard of him, but Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad drew some serious star power at a recent Capitol Hill reception in his honor.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Republican Sen. John Cornyn were among the many lawmakers who showed up to meet Ahmad, a Muslim leader who was in town last week on a rare U.S. visit from London.

At a time when the United States is struggling with its views about Islam – as Islamists gain power in the Middle East and with ongoing concerns about Quran-citing terrorists – it’s not hard to see Ahmad’s appeal to both parties. As he said in his Capitol Hill speech, he has “love for all, hatred for none.”

It’s a sentiment that Sen. Robert Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, echoed in introducing Ahmad, praising the “leadership you have shown to tolerance and to peace.”

It’s not just Ahmad who espouses his can’t-we-all-get-along read on Islam. The 61-year-old is the spiritual leader of the global Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, whose friendliness toward the West and whose criticism of other Muslims has earned the sect allies at the highest level of the U.S government, even as it faces mortal enemies in other parts of the world.

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Unlike most Muslims, Ahmadis believe that the 19th century founder of their sect was the metaphorical Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

It’s because of that belief that Sunni and Shiite Muslims do not regard Ahmadis as true Muslims. The rift has provoked Egypt to charge Ahmadis with blasphemy, Saudi Arabia to deport them and Pakistan to pass a law that designates Ahmadis as non-Muslims.

Persecuted abroad

On a sweltering recent Friday, a long line of people sat patiently in a mosque on the outskirts of Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside Washington. Despite the heat and humidity, they seemed happy to be there, waiting for a chance to meet the leader of their faith.

Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, who leads an international Ahmadi community is the sect’s fifth Khalifa, or leader. The group claims tens of millions of followers around the world, but outside experts say the number is smaller, in the millions.

For Ahmad and his followers, their relatively small sect is the real face of Islam, which has more than a billion followers around the world.

“It is time that we, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, should give the real and true picture of Islam,” Ahmad said in an interview inside the Silver Spring mosque. “I will always be talking about peace. That peace is not from myself or some new teaching but it is the true, real teaching which I gather and get from the holy Quran.”

That emphasis, says Ahsanullah Zafar, the leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, is rooted in a belief that the only jihad worth practicing is against one’s own self – a jihad of self-improvement. The word jihad is often translated as struggle or war.

“Even more important than prayer, which we talk about a lot, is how you behave as a human being,” Zafar said. “It is not physical fighting that accomplishes anything. It is dialogue and the progressivism that leads somewhere.”

Founded in 1889, the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect is the only Islamic group that believes that a second prophet has come, in the form of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Ahmad lived at a time of great religious upheaval, said Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic Studies at American University.

“In India, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad said that he has the message of the renewal of Islam,” Ahmed said. “Slowly it began to build momentum - it is a kind of spirited, modern version of Islam.”

Ahmed characterized the makeup of the Ahmadis as “very scholarly, very prominent leaders in Pakistan.”

But when the Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist political party in Pakistan, began to push the country to a more orthodox view of Islam in the 1970s, the Ahmadis were cast out.

Jamaat-e-Islami argued that the Ahmadis did not conform to a key tenet of Islam – the finality of the prophet Mohammed. “That is the elephant in the room for the Ahmadis,” said American University’s Ahmed. “The Ahmadis say that there are two kind of prophets. One is the lawgiver. Then there are messengers who come with a message and not necessarily a new book.”

In light of the crackdown, many Ahmadis began to leave Pakistan, some as religious refugees. Large numbers of Ahmadis now live in Germany, England, Ghana, Canada and the United States, where the Ahmadis claim tens of thousands of followers.

But persecution persists.

In 2010, almost 100 people were killed when two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore, Pakistan, were attacked by men armed with hand grenades and AK-47s.

In the U.S. government’s 2012 International Religious Freedom Report, the plight of Pakistan’s Ahmadis was front and center.

“Among Pakistan‘s religious minorities, Ahmadis are subject to the most severe legal restrictions and officially sanctioned discrimination,” reads the report. The same report outlined violence against Ahmadis in Indonesia, where it said that at least 50 Ahmadiyya mosques have been vandalized.

A unique view of Islam

Harsh treatment in various corners of the world has instilled a deep Ahmadi appreciation for life in the United States.

“In America, all these small Muslim communities are flourishing, they love being in America,” said Ahmed. “They are 100% Muslim and they are 100% American.”

Ahmad, the Ahmadis’ current leader, was in the United States for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s annual convention, which drew 10,000 to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, last week.

“Wherever I go I have one goal … to meet my people,” Ahmad said.

But he was also here to meet politicians and journalists. For the Ahmadis, the scrutiny of American Muslims in the decade since 9/11 has been treated as an opportunity to discuss beliefs and answer questions.

Many in the community came out in favor of Rep. Peter King’s, R-New York, insistence last year on holding congressional hearings on radicalization within American Islam, even as other Muslim groups blasted the hearings as anti-Muslim.

“If the government thinks that congressional hearings will improve homeland security and help expose those exploiting Islam, I assure full cooperation. I, too, aspire to have a more secure America,” wrote Kashif N. Chaudhry, the director of an Ahmadi youth program in the United States, in a New York Times letter to the editor.

Chaudhry was hardly the only Ahmadi Muslim to speak up.

“You need to be with other people, you need to talk about your ideas and in that conversation and discussion, new things arise,” said Zafar. “It is like throwing the seed and putting water on it, you need the seed and you need the water for it to sprout.”

“We need to come together with the people around us in the United States, we need to do that and see how it flowers,” he continued.

The split between the Ahmadis and other Islamic sects is also apparent in how Ahmad, the sect’s leader, talks about extremists.

“Nowadays, Islam is being targeted only because of so-called Muslim groups who claim themselves to be Muslims but are not following the true teachings of Islam,” Ahmad said, speaking of what he calls “fundamentalists Muslims.” “If it is that Islam that is being portrayed by those orthodox Muslims, then I don’t think there is any chance in spreading Islam.”

Using terms like “so-called Muslims,” to refer to some outsiders has not endeared Ahmadis to other Muslims. Leading Sunni and Shiite groups are reluctant to even talk about the Ahmadis.

CNN contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America, two major Muslim groups, and neither responded to requests for comment.

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A future in America

Zafar, the leader of the Ahmadis in the United States, said his sect is looking to grow.

The group has an organized media operation and operates three 24/7 satellite-television channels under the name Muslim Television Ahmadiyya International.

The initial purpose of the channels was to broadcast the sermons of the Khalifa, but it also provides other programs in different languages. The Silver Spring mosque is surrounded by large satellite dishes that beam the shows around the world.

In addition to satellite television, the Ahmadis run Islam International Publications, a publishing outfit.

Many Ahmadis are concerned about the version of Islam being portrayed in the media, which they say is too focused on the radical elements of Islam and not focused enough on peaceful Muslims.

“Right now there is a caricature of Islam,” said Zafar. “The biggest challenge I believe in the United States is for Muslims to get out of that image of extremist behaviors which are so popular in the press.”

Ahmed of American University sees the future of the Ahmadis as a bridge between Islam and the West.

“On the American side, they [the Ahmadis] are acting as a positive bridge to Islam and the Americans need that right now,” he said. “And then for Muslims, if they do link up and join mainstream Muslims, they are able to give Islam a link to the world and also help them work out these polemics that are tearing the world apart.”

For now, Ahmadis are stuck in between those two worlds.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Ahmadi Muslims believe their founder was the Second Coming of the Prophet Mohammed. They believe he was the metaphorical Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Islam

soundoff (1,074 Responses)
  1. Yasmeen Sam

    The Prophet (pbuh) gave us two definitions of a Muslim–
    1............ At the time of the first census of Medina, the Prophet (pbuh) said:
    ‘Write down for me the name of everyone who calls himself a Muslim.’

    2....On another occasion the Prophet (pbuh) said:
    ‘Whoever prays as we pray and turns to our Qiblah and eats what we ritually slaughter is a Muslim; he is dhimmat-Allah and dhimmat al-rasul.
    So do not put Allah in contravention of his dhimmah [responsibility].’

    1 Sahih al-Bukhari, Bab Kitabat al-Iman al-Nas .
    Ibid., Kitab al-Salat, Bab Fadl Istaqbal al-Qiblah


    December 10, 2012 at 4:54 am |
  2. saykrrust

    Монтаж кровельных материалов, сайдинга и водосточных систем.

    October 23, 2012 at 4:52 am |
  3. Sadjid Taujoo

    Some People say "there is no better things in life than being the richest man on earth", I say "gather the wealth of every single living creatures in the whole universe, yet it would fade away from the blissful wealth of sailing in the Ark lead by the Khalifa."

    October 6, 2012 at 2:51 am |
  4. Ashfaaq Khan

    The Promised Messiah Said :

    It is a Divine law that God does not grant respite to a false prophet. Such a one is soon seized and suffers his punishment. In view of this we shall honour and accept as true all those who claimed to be prophets at any time, whose claim was established and whose religion became widespread and was established and flourished over a long period. If we should discover mistakes in the scriptures of their religions or should observe the misconduct of their followers we should not attribute these defaults and shortcomings to the founders of those religions, inasmuch as the perversion of scriptures is possible and it is possible that mistakes of interpretation might find their way into the commentaries, but it is not at all possible that a person should fabricate lies against God and should claim to be a prophet and should put forward his own compositions as the word of God falsely and yet God should grant him respite like the righteous and should bestow upon him wide acceptance by people ( Tohfa Qaisariyyah, p. g 10 ).

    Has an impostor ever been granted respite for the propagation of his lies as God Almighty grants to the true recipients of His revelation? Has God not affirmed that false claimants of revelation and impostors would be seized? The Torah affirms that a false prophet shall be slain and the Gospel sets out that an impostor would soon perish and his followers would be scattered. Is there a single instance that a false claimant of revelation should have been granted respite over a period which has been granted to me since the publication of my claim of being the recipient of Divine revelation? If there is any such instance then let it be put forward. I claim emphatically that there has been no single instance of it since the beginning of the world. Is there anyone who should fear God Almighty and derive benefit from this firm and conclusive reasoning? I do not claim that an idol worshipper or an atheist or a claimant of Godhood is not granted long life, because these errors and such misguidance would be punished in the hereafter. But I do affirm that he who falsely poses as the recipient of Divine revelation is soon seized and his life is cut short. The Torah, the Gospel and the Holy Quran bear witness to this and so does reason. An opponent cannot set forth a single instance to the contrary from history (Ayyamus Solh ( Qadian, Ziaul Islam Press 1899); Now printed in Ruhani Khazain (London, 1984), Vol. 14, pp. 35–36 ).

    I am an Ahmadi Muslim from Fiji Islands , The country where the first sunrise is born also called the corner of the land , God promised the Promised Messiah , That I Shall Cause Thy Message To Reach The Corners Of The Land... All Praise Belongs to Allah , that we are Ahmadi Muslim ... If Promised Messiah (as) had being false (God Forbid) then according to Holy Quran and Hadiths we Ahmadies should not prevail today .. May Allah always guide us all on the right path ...

    August 9, 2012 at 1:03 am |
  5. 007isalive

    This is in response to QUDSIA
    A caliph represents the whole Muslims of the world. Qazi of every muslim country report him and select him.
    My concern is how many qazi of muslim countries have selected your caliph and when as the caliph of Muslim world.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  6. 007isalive

    This is in response to QUDSIA
    Your response is full of exaggeration, distortion, half truth and lie.
    I admit that most ahmadis are socially better people.


    July 24, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  7. Sanity Check

    Peace be on all,

    OK. Lets say for argument sake: Ahmadis are a cult, etc. What is your responsibility then?

    Be a torch bearer of Islam and don't let Ahmadis out do you...Spread the message of love and peace and harmony, i.e. true Islam. Ahmadis will loose significance.

    All of the resources, PR Ahmadis are using are not banned for you, right? And Ahmadis are a minority by any calculus. So it should be easy for the majority to raise awareness and use 'propaganda' even more effectively to demonstrate that Ahmadiyyat is not the only peaceful island in Islam.

    Rather than using their energy for destructive criticism, wise people adapt what is working for others.


    If you wish, you can continue your campaign like this. One day either you will have to become part of Ahmadiyyat or disappear into nothingness and no one will remember what happened to those who used to put up barriers. Your notoriety, if any will be w.r.t. Ahmadiyyat.

    Invitation to Ahmadiyyat is an invitation to see and meet God in this life. Now that's a tall claim!

    Any one out there willing to test it...

    July 19, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  8. an avg ahmadi

    The forum speak up to the writing by the author of the article on the difference between Ahmadi Muslims and the other Muslims. The abusive language and indecency used by various so called Muslims–keep on alleging that Ahmadis are non-Muslim and a cult, etc, etc–have nothing good to say what Islam teaches but shows their hate and animosity against the Ahmadis.
    We as an Ahmadi are glad and proud to be different Muslims than the other "Muslim world" as we are the only Muslim who follow Islam to its true teaching. Islam means peace, submission, which is what Ahmadis show. Peace & Love, this is what true Islam is and this is what the Ahmadis follow.

    July 16, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Shahzad

      Pointing out facts or voicing opinions is not hate. According to my opinion Ahmadiyya is a cult. Cults have certain hallmarks of which Ahmadiyya fulfills many. According to my opinion the theology of Ahmadiyya is incompatible with Islam. How is that hate? This is a typical victim mentality and sympathy garnering often displayed by Ahmadis.

      July 16, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  9. LoveforallHatredforNone

    Thanks Dan Merica
    Your story is so well written, and so comprehensive, it does include a lot of information for not only NON ahmadies, but also Ahamdis.
    Kindly keep it up, and many thanks for your very kind efforts.

    July 16, 2012 at 6:09 am |
  10. Salim

    Real Talk .. You have run out of philosophical issues to discuss and resorted to pick on physical appearances and clothing and sunk such lows as toilet talk.

    I doubt that where Hazrat Ghulam Ahmad died is the corner stone of your reason not to accept him, but an honest search will get you the answer. Jamaat Ahmadiyya has done its best to preserve the history.

    Bit of trivia ,,, search will yield you two people Elvis and Shah A. Noorani. My feeling for both has not changed based on where they passed away. As a parent I have taken care of infants and have been fortunate to take care of elderly parents when they were bedridden. I and all others deal with it as fact of life.

    I pray for you that whatever you fear does not come to pass in front of your eyes. May we all be blessed by God's kindness and spared from His wrath.

    July 15, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
  11. The Real Talk

    Ahmadis are not Muslim. They are a self derived cult. Period. This cat isn't a calipha nor is he recognized as anything by anyone but his own cult followers.

    July 15, 2012 at 10:06 am |

      Other Muslims can only Call Ahmadis as non Muslims. They have nothing else but calling Ahmadis as non-Muslims. I would like to remind such Muslims that THEY are nobody to decide whether Ahmadis are Muslims are not. Leave that God The Almighty. If they think Suunis or Shia Muslims are better then don't look too far and see whats happening inside Pakistan, where are human rights. Tell me only one good think which a Muslim suppose to do and it happens in the country. From poor to rich everyone is worse than an animal.

      July 15, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • The Real Talk

      Your cult has nothing to do with the human rights issue. You guys keep pivoting the fact that your cult says a man in a dress shirt and Sikh turban is Jesus. I'm not judging you. I'm merely stating the fact that you keep trying to become the mainstream face and image of Islam when you are NOT, by pretending you're Muslim by creating a variation of it. Like stated before, call it anything else and do what u wanna do, but not Islam. You don't even conduct salat at the right times, dont even have imaams, pretend you have hafiz among your clan when you do not. Call it religion of ahmad guy or whatever. Don't call it Islam. It's propoganda.

      July 15, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  12. The Real Talk

    These people are not Muslims. They pretend to be. This is not Islam. This is a cult. Just a friendly reminder. Thanks!

    July 15, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Ahmadi

      Believe whatever you want, it's your right. At the end of the day though, you don't decide if I'm Muslim or not, that decision lies with Allah the All Mighty. So you can scream it at the top of your voice or you can write it a hundred times to make others believe the same thing, but do you honestly believe that you have any say in that decision?!!! You see, I wish and pray that you were Ahmadi and that you knew what it was like to see Allah's miracles everyday, but the fact that you're not one does not give me the power to decide your fate or to proclaim you a non Muslim, Astaghfar. I'm sure you're a good Muslim and you probably think its your duty to warn the others, but let me warn you spreading rumour is against the teaching of Islam. No Imams and different prayer timings! seriously it would do you good to do a bit of research before you say stuff and embarrass yourself. At least be fair in your judgement if you have to be judgemental!!!

      July 17, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Nasir m

      You call ahmadis non Muslim, do you also call Osama bin laden non Muslim? , simple yes or no answer please.

      August 14, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • For reals

      Bid‘ah in its finest.

      August 17, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  13. Ahmadiyya

    Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the leading Islamic organization to categorically reject terrorism in any form. Over a century ago, Ahmad(as) emphatically declared that an aggressive “jihad by the sword” has no place in Islam. In its place, he taught his followers to wage a bloodless, intellectual “jihad of the pen” to defend Islam. To this end, Ahmad(as) penned over 80 books and tens of thousands of letters, delivered hundreds of lectures, and engaged in scores of public debates. His rigorous and rational defenses of Islam unsettled conventional Muslim thinking. As part of its effort to revive Islam, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community continues to spread Ahmad’s(as) teachings of moderation and restraint in the face of bitter opposition from parts of the Muslim world.

    July 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Been there, done that

      Thank you for spamming this thread with meaningless PR babble. People aren't as dumb as you think they are, unfortunately.

      July 14, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  14. SFA

    Look around you people. What do u see Islam as? Those in Middle East, In the Far East? What do those Muslims represent? It has been foretold that Islam will go through dark ages and that Ahmadiyyat will be the revival of true Islam, the Islam of our beloved prophet Muhammed (PBUH) as he visioned it. Every other type of Islam in the world today is a farce. The so called Islamic world nows it and that is why the Ahmadis are persecuted. The time is now accept the true Islam of the Prophet, understand the respect what it is to be an Ahmadi Muslim and you and the world will be saved, if not then good luck to all of you!!!

    July 12, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • The Real Talk

      LOL man are you kidding? Ahmadis are rejected because you believe some dude who died on the toilet was Jesus coming back. The dude looked like a Sikh punjabi cabbie warring a dress shirt from Tj Maxx. I know so many of you clowns. You actually are nice people. Just really brainwashed by this guy and his cult leaders to date.

      July 15, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • 007isalive

      Dont try to be a security guard of the entire muslim world. they can take care of themselves. if you think you know the secret of peace then why do not you tell us what are those? Or will you whisper it in our ear?

      July 15, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • Qudsia

      This is in response to 007isalive: If you think the "Muslim World" is in any condition to safeguard itself, you must have been living with your head buried in sand. You probably haven't an inkling of history for the past several hundred years, or even of the past few decades.

      I hope you would visit the official Ahmadiyya community website (www.alislam.org) and see what our leaders state as the "secret" to world peace. The solution is nothing other than the pure and pristine teachings of Islam. The same Islam about which the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) said that a time will come when it would go to the Plaides and its so called "religious scholars" would be the worst creatures under the sun. And then with his hand on the shoulder of Hadhrat Salman Farsi (the only non-Arab sitting there), the Holy Prophet said that someone (or "some men") from among his people would bring it back to earth.

      So even if you don't believe in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (whom Ahmadis believe to be the promissed Messiah) according to the prophecies of the Prophet (s.a.w) how can you not believe that the Muslim world has deteriorated to the point that now it is time for that foretold Messiah to come and re-introduce the true teachings of Islam which people have twisted and turned so much, as to give this beautiful and perfect faith such an unbecoming face before the world? It has not remained possible for the Muslim world to safeguard even their own selfish interests anymore let alone spread the beautiful word of Islam.

      July 21, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.