By The Editorial Board, May 22, 2020
Leadership. It has always boiled down to the question of leadership!
From the smallest of tribes to the largest of empires, the so-called free western democracies, and the besmirched eastern despotic dictatorships, the rise and fall of great nations have always depended on leadership.
Even today, the world observes as the majority of the Muslim community continues blindly on its path towards self-annhilation, without any leader to guide them in the right direction.
Many may think that this has been the state of the Muslim world from time immemorial – destined to be the ugly duckling among the swans.
However, history tells a different tale.
Just as it was said that the sun would not set on the British Empire, the Muslim Empire experienced a similar pivotal moment in history. Referred to as the Islamic Golden Age1, the Muslim world was in all its glory while the western world was still struggling to come out of the dark ages. In actuality, Muslims were responsible for sparking the age of a cultural, economic, and scientific revolution, of which the results we continue to experience today.
This all came about because of leadership.
Leadership that continued in different shapes and forms, but ultimately traced its roots back to the original Caliphate, which was established after Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Due to the descriptive nature of the Holy Prophet’s prophecies2 and sayings, the Muslim world has managed to differentiate between various periods of Islamic leadership.
Caliphate is the anglicised version of the Arabic word Khilafat, which literally means successor. Caliphs are therefore successors of Prophets. The caliphs of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) were known as the Rashidun3 (the rightly guided). Although the term Caliph continued to be used, the rulers that followed after were nothing more than political kings, and in many instances they proved to be authoritarian in nature, exactly in line with the prophecies4 of Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Along with these kings, another aspect of leadership widely accepted by the Muslim world are spiritual reformers for different ages5. Established in Islamic thought and derived from the prophecies of Muhammad, generations of Muslims believed that the success of the Ummah (community) lay on the leadership it inherited. Although the Ummah may have changed from time to time, it was always present as the will of God.
This continued until a single moment in history when all signs of a cohesive community disappeared. The collapse of the Ottoman and Mughal Empires in the hands of the British Raj ended fourteen hundred years of scientific, philosophical and spiritual glory which Muslims basked in.
With no Caliphs, kings or spiritual reformers in sight, the plight of the Muslim world for the re-emergence of the Caliphate began.
Many scholars took this as a sign for the latter days and many even referred to the prophecies6 of Muhammad, as well as saints of the past, as the exact calculated time for all this to happen. In accordance with these same prophecies, this was the time for the re-emergence of true Islamic leadership.
Narrations in this regard are overwhelming, but as the western world continued to advance in civilisation, it seemed as though the prophecies of Muhammad were no longer manifesting in the favour of the Muslim Ummah. As the west became more civilised, the Muslim world kept descending into the abyss of darkness, stricken with the disease of extremist clerics or as they are often referred to, the “Mullah”.
However, as Muslims continued to lose hope, it seemed as though there were still prophecies being fulfilled – but, being largely overlooked by the grief of loss. The majority of the Muslim world may be plagued with the antithesis of anything that resembles true leadership, but this too was part of the prophecies made by Muhammad6, which had been contributing to the understanding of Islamic history for so many years.
So, is it possible the Muslim world already has the very leadership it has been looking for since that fateful time of loss?
When one thinks of Muslim leaders, the Saudi Kings, Ayatollahs, extremist dictators and religious fundamentalists of the past thirteen decades come to mind. Although these self-proclaimed stewards of Islam have been many, not a single soul from among them has been able to establish a Caliphate that has fulfilled its true purpose until this day. Their poor leadership has thus been masked by using the loudest of voices, committing the most heinous of atrocities.
There has always been, however, one entity that has held onto the title of Caliphate unrelentingly.
An honest and fine-toothed analysis of history leads one to come to this conclusion without a glimmer of doubt. Though the individual representing the Caliphate has changed five times, the torch of pure spiritual presence has evidently continued to be passed on to each Caliph. This leadership, although some may claim they barely know it exists, is best acknowledged by the work it has done and by the purpose it has fulfilled.
It is as though the plight for true leadership that the Muslim world was blindly searching for, exists right under their noses.
Like a glimmer of light on an unending night, the solution to the dilemma appeared exactly when it was meant to.
His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed to be the Promised Messiah and Mahdi7 in exactly the time in which the plight of the Muslim world began.
According to the Holy Quran, the Bible, and other archaeological records, he claimed that Jesus of Nazareth8 had fulfilled his mission to the lost tribes of Israel and died a natural death. He also claimed that the long-awaited Messiah and Mahdi were in actuality the same entity as per the prophecies of Muhammad9. In 1889, this Promised Messiah established the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community through the Islamic custom of Bai’at (oath of allegiance) which was also prophesied by Muhammad10. Throughout his life, he was a prolific writer in the defence of Islam. He eloquently proclaimed his love for Muhammad (peace be upon him). He boldly announced that heavenly signs were being manifested in his favour, documenting them throughout his prolific writings.
A fair inquiry into his life would compel one to believe that within all that was going wrong for the Muslim Ummah, there was one individual that was bringing about a glimmer of hope. He met all prophecised criteria for being the restorer of Caliphate, including that of vehement persecution as described by Heraclius to Abu Sufyan11 regarding Muhammad and his followers. His Caliphate continues to experience global discrimination and severe oppression12 in the face of their peaceful practices. Nevertheless, despite opposition, His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s life came to a poetic end with the establishment of a Caliphate in 1908.
Because of the plight of the Muslim Ummah, it seems as though the prophecies of Muhammad were being accomplished with the advent of this Messiah and his Caliphate. The promises of the re-emergence of genuine Islamic leadership were silently being fulfilled, as Jesus (peace be upon him) may have described, “like a thief in the night”13.
Fast forward thirteen decades and this leadership continues to progress.
The candle that was lit more than a hundred years ago is still glowing until this day. It is the custom of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to place pictures of His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and his successors in a prominent place within their homes or offices. These homes and offices exist all over the world. Yet, in whichever home or office one looks into, no matter what part of the world it may be, each photo appears as though it is illuminating the mighty flame of a genuine caliphate14 across the globe.
Today, this caliphate is led by an incandescent personality in face of the surrounding darkness—His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad.
His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad is the fifth Caliph of His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and the current spiritual and administrative head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He is called the Caliph because he is quite literally the successor of the founder of the Community who claimed to be the promised Prophet of this age. Many may not accept the Community’s interpretations of prophet-hood; however, it is completely in line with many prominent Islamic saints and scholars14 of the past.
His Holiness leads millions of Muslims from diverse backgrounds in more than 210 nations across the globe towards one objective—peace.
All the while, these Muslims face the strongest forms of persecution. You could cut the irony with a knife! However, at the despair of their opposers it is nothing short of prophetic.
Though His Holiness is very vocal on foreign policy and injustices around the globe, he has no political agenda. As explained by his predecessor—the second Caliph—the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is purely a spiritual one and the Khalifa does not require any political dominion. The Caliphate for this age does not require political power to unite the Ummah. His Holiness, the second Caliph, explains that a genuine Caliphate in this age:
“should be linked not with any government but with a spiritual organisation of Islam so that the other governments do not interfere. Since it would be a spiritual organisation and will not meddle with the affairs of the government, such an organisation would be able to unite the Muslims living in other countries and Islam would be saved from disarray…”15
Based on the Quran, the second Caliph further explains how Muslims have erred in their quest for Caliphate in this age:
“Muslims committed a mistake during the period of their decline. They presumed that since they could not establish an organisation in the whole world to address both the religious and the secular, there was no scope for them to establish a purely religious organisation. They also presumed that these two organisations could not be separated under any circumstances. When the establishment of one organisation became impossible, they abandoned the other too… Just like the other commandments, if compliance of one part is not possible, the other parts are not automatically cancelled. One who cannot participate in Jihad, cannot be excused from Prayer. One who cannot perform Ablution, cannot be excused from bowing and prostration. He who cannot perform Salat by standing, cannot be excused of performing his Salat by sitting or by laying or by nodding. Similarly, even if there cannot be a political organisation for the whole Islamic world, yet Muslims cannot be free from the compliance of other parts of the obedience of “those in authority”16. Therefore, the Muslims committed a great mistake when they inferred that, as one organisation had become impracticable for them so they were also freed of another organisation. On the contrary, the establishment of a purely religious organisation does not become impossible when Muslims are divided in several political entities as has been proved by the advent of the Promised Messiah.”15
This is not merely a claim that the Caliph has put forward, but is backed by a proven model, which the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has achieved for more than a hundred years of its existence.
Like his predecessors, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad continues to lead the Community in a manner which is nothing short of being worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Humble in his character, dedicated in his mission and resolute in his efforts towards unity, without the need for bloodshed, war crimes and political injustices which has become the trademark of modern-day leadership, His Holiness has established the spiritual leadership17 that the Muslim world currently needs.
By means of keynote addresses at conferences and parliaments across the world, as well as print media and digital media, His Holiness strongly advocates for inter-religious harmony18, tolerance, and the establishment of human rights. He boldly speaks against unjust policies and the increasing political chase for power, warning against the threat of another world war and its catastrophic consequences. He has been a promoter for the rights and empowerment of women, and profoundly speaks for the establishment of justice, and endorses a separation of religion and state.
His Holiness has been leading worldwide campaigns promoting peace and education to remove misconceptions by means of grassroots efforts to disseminate an authentic understanding of ‘true’ Islam19. The campaigns also focus on building tolerance and promoting humanitarian services undertaken by the Communities various charity organisations like Humanity First International17.
His efforts in public service have facilitated the development of schools and hospitals in many under-provisioned countries across the world. You will find the Communities members at the forefront of servicing humanity and promoting peace; from Nobel laureates like Professor Abdus Salam, Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, executive member of the United Nations, and Mirza Muzaffar Ahmad, vice-President of the World Bank, to everyday citizens who revel in His Holiness’s leadership to strive towards harmony.
From the many achievements of his predecessors, the establishment of the first-ever international Islamic broadcasting channel called Muslim Television Ahmadiyya 20 is probably one of the most astonishing. Broadcasting worldwide on a broad range of topics, in multiple languages and catering for a diverse audience, MTA is managed entirely by hundreds of dedicated volunteers. Throughout the year, on a weekly basis, many programs are relayed live for the millions of followers of this Caliphate. Among these programs, the ‘International ‘Bai’at Ceremony’21 held during the Annual Convention22 in the United Kingdom is a spectacle to behold – millions of participants pledge allegiance at the hands of one Caliph, converging from across the globe.
Is this not what was prophesied to be a sign of an authentic Caliphate?
Ultimately, His Holiness leads a peaceful revolution promoting global peace on a universal level, yet still able to touch hearts at an individual level with his indiscriminate and unlimited love and kindness.
Today, he maintains an intimate connection with all his followers through letters that he reads every night and signs off every morning. When asked if his followers should refrain from writing to him to save his time, he insists that they should maintain a personal connection with him for their own spiritual growth – mind-blowing, to say the least!
This in fact has been the case with all his predecessors; regarding the Caliph before him, an article was published in The Sunday Times called ‘A life in the day of Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad‘23 that described his busy schedule and his dedication towards the Community. Similarly, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad’s schedule consists of waking up early in the morning to offer voluntary prayers for his Community and the world at large. In his own words, His Holiness describes this: “Before sleeping at night there is no country of the world that I do not visit in my imagination and no Ahmadi for whom I do not pray whilst sleeping and whilst awake. I am not doing any favour because this is my duty and may Allah enable me to ever increase in assuming my responsibilities. The only reason I have said this is to make it clear that there can be no comparison between Khilafat and other worldly or secular leaders.”24
Other than personal worship, he leads five daily congregational prayers at his local Mosque in Surrey, United Kingdom known as Masjid Mubarak. Starting with the early morning prayer which happens at dawn, ending with the last congregational prayer which happens after dusk. Before the afternoon prayer, he works on the various administrative correspondence he receives from across the globe regarding the many projects he guides. This he does whilst simultaneously granting audience to Missionaries and office bearers of his Community regarding their work.
He also gives audiences to delegations that come from the UK as well as across the globe. These include groups from all walks of life, including young men and women as well as children who travel thousands of kilometers to attain guidance from his Holiness; he specifically spares time for them to personally answer their questions. After the congregational prayer at midday, he continues his office work, and in the evening, he grants personal audiences to hundreds of members of his Community who enter his office in turns to seek his guidance on personal matters. He continues late into the night reading thousands of letters from the Community every night leaving his own personal notes on them and praying for those that write to him from across the world.
Besides his day-to-day activities, he still manages to write all his own speeches and addresses after conducting extensive research for every one of them. Every week, he prepares a comprehensive, hour-long, Friday Sermon, which he delivers to an international audience from Mubarak Mosque in Surrey, United Kingdom. He regularly attends engagements within the UK and goes on international tours25 throughout the year delivering his addresses at key venues whilst maintaining his daily schedule, which tends to increase manifold while traveling. All this while granting a daily personal audience to thousands of members of his own Community as well as local dignitaries during his tour.
The true essence of His Holiness’s presence is best described in the following words: “You have someone who has true sympathy for you; who truly loves you; who considers your pain and sufferings to be his own; and who is always praying to Allah for you.”
Seldom has the world witnessed such calm and reverential leadership that comprises intimate closeness with millions of followers whilst maintaining an awe-inspiring authoritative position with no motives other than establishing peace!
In his own words, he describes the purpose of his Caliphate: “Whilst worldly leaders have secular goals, the purpose of Khilafat is to draw the attention of all people towards fulfilling each other’s rights. It is to instill a spirit amongst Ahmadi Muslims of giving precedence to their faith over all worldly matters and Khilafat makes every effort to peacefully establish the Unity of God in the world.”26 With such an extraordinary motive, this Caliphate seems to have captured all that pure leadership requires.
As such, it goes without saying, that His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad can be declared as the most credible Muslim leader for the current times.