Ahmadis are followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1839-1908), who founded a religious community in the late nineteenth century in what was then British India. He began to publish his Barahin-i Ahmadiyya in 1880. He declared himself a mujaddid (a renewer of faith) in 1882 and set about spreading his message. In 1889, he announced he had received divine revelation authorizing him to accept the baya, the allegiance of the faithful. Then in 1891 he declared himself the Mahdi, the promised Messiah (masih) of Islam, and the last avatara of Vishnu. He ruled out jihad against the kuffar (unbelievers) who occupied the Islamic lands.

Although Ahmadiyyah departs from mainstream Sunni Islamic doctrines in terms of its belief in the special status of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, they follow most of the main duties of Islam such as prayer, fasting, pilgrimage and almsgiving, as well as the basic Sunni interpretations of Islamic theology.

History and Development

On the death of the founder in 1908, a successor called Mawlawi Nur ad-Din was elected by the community. In 1914 a schism occurred over whether or not Ghulam Ahmad had claimed to be a prophet (nabi) and if so how he saw his prophetic role. The secessionists, led by one of Ghulam Ahmad's sons, rejected the prophetic claims of Ghulam Ahmad, regarding him only as a reformer (mujaddid), and established their centre in Lahore (in modern day Pakistan).

The majority, however, remained at Qadiyan and continued to recognise Ghulam Ahmad as a prophet. Following the partition of India and Pakistan, the Qadiyanis, as the majority group came to be known, moved their headquarters to Rabwah in what was then West Pakistan. They remain both highly organised and very wealthy, due largely to the monthly dues received from their members.

Ahmadiyyas Today

Of the two branches of Ahmadiyyah in existence today, the minority Lahore branch, is considered to be within mainstream Sunni theology. The majority Qadiyanis are, however, not considered to be part of Islam by orthodox Muslims.

The Lahore group, which is known as the Ahmadis and is considerably smaller than the Qadiyanis, has sought to win converts to Islam rather than its own particular sect. The Lahore group was also much more involved with the Indian Muslim struggle against the British presence in India.

Both groups are noted for their missionary work, particularly in the West and in Africa. Within Muslim countries, however, strong opposition remains to the Qadiyani group because of its separatist identity and its claim that Ghulam Ahmad was a prophet.  The sects' members are identified through their wearing a red turban and a red veil. The Qadiyanis also employ a red banner.
The Qadiyanis currently have a presence in many countries, including most western countries. Their world wide numbers are estimated as high as 10 million (Harris et al 1994, 79).  The Qadiyanis have their headquarters in Rabwah in Pakistan; the Ahmadis have their headquarters in Lahore in Pakistan. 

Although Ahmadis consider themselves to be Muslim, some Muslims in Pakistan hold the opposite view because of the Ahmadis' claim that their founder was a recipient of divine revelation and a prophet of God. This claim is believed by some Muslims to violate a basic Islamic tenet regarding the finality of the prophet Muhammad. This religious difference has been used in the past by certain Pakistani governments to justify a number of legal restrictions on the Ahmadis' practice of their faith.

The constitutional amendment of 1974 denuded the Ahmadiyya community of their religious identity. This constitutional amendment declared Ahmadis to be a non-Muslim minority because, according to the Government, they do not accept Mohammed as the last prophet of Islam. However, Ahmadis regard themselves as Muslims and observe Islamic practices.

Barred by law from "posing" as Muslims, Ahmadis may not call their places of worship "mosques," worship in non-Ahmadi mosques or public prayer rooms (otherwise open to all Muslims), perform the Muslim call to prayer, use the traditional Islamic greeting in public, publicly quote from the Quran, or display the basic affirmation of the Muslim faith. It is illegal for Ahmadis to preach in public, to seek converts, or to produce, publish, and disseminate their religious materials. These acts are all punishable by imprisonment of up to three years.

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