For Ahmadi Muslims serving humanity means being an active citizen in society and honouring the government in their host country. I was invited to find out more at their annual convention, “the Jalsa Salana” in Hampshire, which welcomed more than 38,500 people from 115 countries.
Many of the people I met are British born: second or third generation and very grateful for the freedom of religion and freedom of speech which Britain affords, given their experience as a persecuted minority at home.
His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the worldwide leader of the Ahmadiyya Community, had to leave Pakistan and move his headquarters to London in the 1980s because theological differences set him at odds with the majority of Muslims in Pakistan.
Some sects of Islam do not recognise Ahmadi Muslims as Muslims because Ahmadis believe the awaited Messiah has already come in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadian, India.
But in Britain the Ahmadi Muslims have prospered through hard work and respect for the country they now call home. Many are investment bankers, traders, property developers, IT consultants, even Nobel Prize winners, leaders in their field, because education is of paramount importance to them. If the government analysed the economic contribution of the Ahmadiyya community I think they would be amazed.
Nasser Ahmad Khan volunteers with Humanity First which is the Ahmadis’ disaster relief charity. He believes that the UK is still one of the greatest countries in the world, even post Brexit, because of the level of diversity, thought and tolerance. He said: “Our home countries wouldn’t allow it.”
He agreed that the secret to the Ahmadis’ success is education. He said: “Our religion compels us to further our knowledge for the benefit of humanity. The Prophet Mohammed himself said every piece of knowledge is the lost property of a Muslim.”
Abdus Salam is perhaps one of the best examples of an Ahmadi Muslim serving humanity. I met his son, Ahmad Salam and grandson Osama Abdus Salam. They told me their father/grandfather was a physicist who studied in Cambridge where he became a fellow of St John’s College and he was appointed as the first professor of theoretical physics at Imperial College, London. He won the Nobel Prize for physics by proving that the weak nuclear and electromagnetic forces were actually one. He also worked extensively in hisnative Pakistan as chief scientific adviser to the President from 1961 until 1974.
Mr Salam was appointed to head up science and technology at the United Nations and he was tasked with setting up an incubator to bring together the best brains in the world. As a result, an institute (ICTP) opened in Italy in 1964 which has trained 300,000 scientists from around the world including Vietnam, Brazil and Rwanda. It was founded on the conviction that without science and technology countries can’t grow and prosper economically.
Others volunteer with Humanity First which is a charity set up by the Ahmadiyya Community originally to provide disaster relief. However, its purpose has evolved and it now also focuses on longer term sustainable projects. It’s registered and active in 52 countries promoting healthcare, education, vocational training, water and safeguarding orphans. It builds and runs secular schools in disadvantaged areas where literacy is low and provides equal access irrespective of gender or social standing. The charity provides an opportunity for Ahmadi Muslims to use their skills and knowledge to serve humanity.