International Bai‘at – What it means and why it is important

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Fazal Masood Malik and Farhan Khokhar, Canada

“Hearken ye, hearken ye! Ready yourself to embrace the International Bai‘at that will encompass the heavens and the earth!”

With these words began the historical notice seizing the attention of millions of Ahmadi Muslims around the world towards an experience that humanity had not seen since the time immemorial. It was an invitation from Khalifatul Masih IVrh to every Ahmadiyya mission in the world, urging members to intensify their tabligh efforts, inviting new righteous souls to the Jamaat of the Promised Messiahas. It also reignited the spirit of every member to reaffirm their faith at the hand of Khalifatul Masih, concurrently, no matter where in the world they resided.

Seven short months earlier, in the ides of winter of 1993, a small delegation from Hungary had an audience with Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh. The Hungarian delegation consisted of Hadi Silard Sahib, his wife and two other Muslim friends; they were representatives of a Muslim organisation from Hungary and were travelling under the leadership of a devoted Ahmadi Muslim, Ravil Bukharaev (d. 2012).

The Hungarian delegation travelled to the UK to bring glad tidings that 1,000 of their countrymen would be joining the fold of Islam Ahmadiyyat. It was a joyous occasion. Huzoorrh prayed for guidance and discussed the most feasible method to conduct the Bai‘at of these new devotees.

It was sometime before the spring of 1993 that Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IVrh came across an account of the Promised Messiahas, that stated “To date, 400,000 people have taken the Bai‘at at the hand of this humble one.” This instigated a deep desire in Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh.

Since the migration of Khilafat to London in 1984, 250,000 people had entered the fold of Ahmadiyyat and the desire in Huzoor’srh heart became intense that “if another 150,000 join the fold of Ahmadiyyat this year, I will have the honour of resemblance with the Promised Messiahas.” Thus, he started praying.

He issued a target of 150,000 new Bai‘ats to all missions in the world and started praying for 200,000 new righteous souls.

On the blessed day of International Bai‘at, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh explained how the idea came about:

“Regarding the International Bai‘at ceremony, I would like to briefly mention that when Allah the Almighty placed this inspiration in my heart, the number of those taking the Bai‘at was 10 to 20,000 … and a very short time remained before Jalsa … I was concerned … How would this occur in such a short period? At that moment, Allah the Almighty intuitively inspired my heart and its entire outline came before me.”

As prophesised the Bible (Acts 2:1-12) the prayers of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh were answered. On 1 August 1993 (the third day of Jalsa Salana UK) in a small farming community in England, 204,308 people from all around the world entered the fold of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat. The Bai‘at was held in Islamabad, (Tilford) UK and millions of Ahmadi Muslims from around the world joined in large gatherings via live satellite transmission of the event on MTA.

On the blessed day, people sat in accordance with the instructions given. Five people, each person representing a continent was seated in front of Huzoorrh and all others seated behind them, joined together in unison by placing their right hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them, with the front five placing their hand under the hand of Khalifatul Masih. In a symbolic likeness, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh wore the green coat of the Promised Messiahas. He spoke to the eager audience about the significance of the event and then proceeded to take their pledge.

Mirza Muzaffar Ahmad Sahib (Former Amir USA – d. 2002), Missionary Khalil Mubashar Sahib (at the time representing Africa, presently missionary in-charge Canada) and Abdul Qayoom Sahib (of Indonesia, representing Asia) were among the blessed five chosen to represent their respective continents.

Huzoorrh sat down and said, “I shall place my hand on their hands and take the pledge of initiation. People assume that the whole affair is merely a hand placed on another’s hand. The Holy Quran does not mention this. It states, ‘O Messenger, when you were taking the pledge of allegiance, it was not your hand which was upon their hands, rather یداللہ فوق ایدیھم [Surah al-Fath, Ch.48: V.11]; because you have completely become God’s, it was God’s hand which was upon theirs.”

What is Bai‘at?

The Arabic term Bai‘at [بیعة] has numerous English translations, with the most popular being “pledge of allegiance” or “oath of allegiance.” The Promised Messiahas has explained the objective and purpose of Bai‘at most eloquently in many of his writings. In one place, he writes:

“The true object of Bai‘at is to acquire the spiritual knowledge, blessings and signs which brings about true repentance. The real purpose of Bai‘at is to (willingly) enslave oneself to the spiritual leader and guide, and to acquire, in exchange, the knowledge, spiritual insight and blessings which help to fortify the faith and sharpen the spiritual vision and establish a pure relationship with God.” (The Need for the Imam, p. 45)

In Islamic history, the earliest described use of the Bai‘at is its role in conversion to Islam and in the testimony of faith. The method of taking the Bai‘at is outlined in the Holy Quran. The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa was commanded that if anyone wished to take the Bai‘at, they should take “the oath of allegiance at thy hands that they will not associate anything with Allah, and that they will not steal, and will not commit adultery, nor kill their children, nor bring forth a scandalous charge which they themselves have deliberately forged, nor disobey thee in what is right …” (Surah al-Mumtahinah, Ch.60: V.13)

After the demise of Holy Prophetsa, the Bai‘at was also offered to each of the Khulafa-e-Rashideenra upon their appointment to the office of Khilafat. When Hazrat Abu Bakrra took the Bai‘at upon becoming Khalifa, he added the following obligations upon those wishing to offer their allegiance:

“O people, I have indeed been appointed over you, though I am not the best among you … Obey me so long as I obey Allah and His Messenger. If I disobey them, then you have no obligation to follow me …” (K Armstrong, Muhammad, p. 258)

Under divine commandment, the Promised Messiahas took the first Bai‘at on 23 March 1889. 40 fortunate people took the Bai‘at at the hand of the Messiahas in these words:

“I repent today, at the hand of Ahmad, of all the sins and bad habits to which I was addicted; and most truthfully and solemnly do I promise that, to the last day of my life, I shall eschew, to the best of my ability, all manner of sin. I will hold my faith above all worldly considerations. I shall try, as far as I can to observe the ten conditions of Bai‘at laid down in the leaflet dated 12 January 1889. I seek forgiveness of God for my past sins.” (AR Dard, Life of Ahmad, p. 206)

Similarly, in May 1908, following the demise of the Promised Messiahas, the First Khalifatul Masih issued an admonition to those wishing to offer their Bai‘at at his hand:

‘If you want to do Bai‘at at my hand, be very clear about what Bai‘at means. It means to sell yourselves. A man eschews everything and that is why Allah has called his servant ‘Abd’ [one who worships]. So, whatever feelings and inclinations you have, you have to follow what I say, and if you accept these conditions, then in the name of Allah, I accept these responsibilities.’’ (Hasanat Ahmad, Hakeem Noor-ud-Deen, p. 114)

Why should I take part in the International Bai‘at?

The short answer is, because we are directed to do so by the Holy Quran (Ch.9: V.111). The Prophet of Allah, Muhammad Mustafasa guided us in these words:

“When you find the Mahdi, perform Bai‘at at his hand. You must go to him, even if you have to reach him across icebound mountains crawling on your knees. He is the Mahdi and the Caliph of Allah.” (Sunan Ibn-e-Maja, Kitab-ul-Fitan, Vol. 2, p. 1367)

Today, Khalifatul Masih is the embodiment of the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdias.

Before the first International Bai‘at took place on 1 August 1993, generally people would have only two opportunities to take part in public initiation. Once when they entered the Jamaat and second, when a new Khalifa took the office of Khilafat. The gist of the pledge was, and remains to be, a simple confirmation that a person who wants to enter the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat will follow the word of God, will not harm any living being through their actions, words or thoughts and refrain from all moral and social ills. In addition, they will follow the appointed Khalifa in “all things good.”

Like millions of Ahmadi Muslims around the world, I have been blessed with the occasion of performing Bai‘at at the hand of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih many times, via the most blessed scheme of MTA. However, in 2016, Allah bestowed a special favour upon me and I was able to travel to London and perform the Bai‘at with thousands of Ahmadi Muslims who had travelled especially for the Jalsa Salana and the Bai‘at that has become an integral part of it.

For days before the Jalsa, I watched with amazement the sheer multitude of people, all colours, all creeds that were gathered together. All joined in spirit with the love of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih. Every prayer in the Fazl Mosque felt as if I was in the gardens of heaven and everyone before my time and all those yet to come stood beside me, praying to Allah the Almighty.

Jalsa started and was over in a matter of three very short days. The third day, perhaps the most memorable, was when the International Bai‘at took place. An hour before the designated time of Bai‘at, with our souls thirsting for the words of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa, thousands gathered in the main marquee. Subhanallah! What an astounding scene that was! But the main event was yet to come.

At the designated hour, our beloved Imam, Syedna Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa entered the hall and a silence of windless desert night surrounded the anticipating souls. The seconds became unbearable and then, we heard the voice of our master as he greeted us with Salam.

Almost immediately, in anticipation of events to come, the tears started gravitating. All around me were people who had travelled a great distance to come there that day. Some from places geographically far, some from places spiritually far; but there we were, from Europe, Asia and Africa, from theism and Hinduism, from Christianity and Islam, all voices now one and all souls now bare in front of Allah, our Lord. I cannot describe the feelings as the prophetic words of the Holy Bible came to fruition in front of my very eyes; “Holy Spirit descended on the disciples of Jesus and they began to speak in various languages which they had no knowledge of beforehand.” (Acts 2:4)

Much to my astonishment, the Bai‘at ended far too soon and I reflected on where I stood that day. For an Ahmadi Muslim, the Bai‘at is an opportunity to reflect on the ten conditions of Bai‘at as outlined by Promised Messiahas. It is an invitation for us to reflect where we stood the previous year at the time of taking the Bai‘at and where we are today. Huzooraa has guided us on the importance of each condition of Bai‘at and how we can implement the spirit of each condition in our daily lives (see Conditions of Bai‘at and Responsibilities of an Ahmadi)

I am not fortunate enough to travel to Jalsa Salana UK this year and be close to my beloved Huzooraa and be in the marquee which, I am certain, is encompassed by angels at most times. Nevertheless, Insha-Allah, I will partake in the heavenly commissioned Bai‘at through MTA.

With my wife and children, I will stand in front of God, once again, and promise to improve myself; promise to become a better Muslim.

Primary sources:

  1. Speech of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh on 1 August 1993
  2. Memo from Ahmadiyya Muslim Foreign Missions Office, March-April 1993
  3. Interview of Chaudhry Hadi Ali Sahib – Former Private Secretary to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh – on 8 July and 10 July 2019, conducted by Fazal Malik

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