We have discussed the roots of Majlis-e-Shura (central consultative body of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya) in a number of issues over the last year. That was usually with reference to the central institution coming into being as a twin of the institution of Jalsa Salana. As the Jamaat spread to countries outside India (and later Pakistan), the institution of Shura evolved naturally and started off on informal grounds, developing later in a more formal and organised manner.
Jamaat UK held its 40th Majlis-e-Shura last weekend on 15-16 June. We decided to go through the annals of history to see how this Majlis-e-Shura came into being in the UK.
We are pleased to share with our readers the pleasant surprise that we received during this research.
The first ever Shura of the UK Jamaat was held not only under the instruction of Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IIra but was also graced by his august presence. The research took us back to 1924 when this historic Shura of the UK Jamaat took place in London – 6 Chesham Place in Belgravia, London, to be precise.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra had delivered his lecture before the Conference of the Living Religions of the Empire on 23 September. This had been his primary motive behind the travel from Qadian to London and it was now out of the way. The next big milestone was to be the foundation-stone laying of the Fazl Mosque. This Majlis-e-Shura was called by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra between these two landmarks. Who would have thought that it was to become a landmark of the Jamaat’s history in its own capacity?
The Ahmadi missionaries had been around in the UK since 1913 and their reports – regularly published in Al Fazl and Al Hakam, Qadian – show that they worked with mutual consultation, but we do not find an organised form of Shura to have taken place in the decade leading up to the one in 1924.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra called a mushawarat (a session of mutual consultation) on 3 October 1924 to meet after the Isha prayer at 6 Chesham Place – his rented residence in London during the 1924 tour of England.
The main matter at hand was the launch of the Review of Religions from London – originally launched by the Promised Messiahas in 1902 from Qadian. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra drew detailed guidelines regarding every aspect of the journal; from the nature of the content, the size of the publication, to printing and circulation.
Among other matters discussed was the number of missionaries required in London, their duties, their obedience to the newly appointed missionary in-charge, Maulana Abdur Rahim Dard, and the allowances of missionaries who were to reside in London thereupon. (For details: Safar-e-Europe 1924 by Hazrat Bhai Abdur Rahman Qadianira)
This historic event marked the first Majlis-e-Shura of the London mission. Shall we call it informal as there was no institution of Shura established by then in London? Or shall we call it formal because the session was called directly by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih who was also present and rendered guidance to the missionaries and others present? We opt to go with the latter.
The second session of a Majlis-e-Shura is found in a report by Syed Safiruddin Bashir Ahmad Sahib published in the Al Fazl of 25 December 1949. It is reported that the London Jamaat wrote to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra seeking permission to hold a national Jalsa of the UK Jamaat. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra not only granted permission but instructed that a Majlis-e-Shura of all European missionaries be called on this occasion (referred to as “conference” in the report).
The Jalsa was held on 29 and 30 October 1949, with the conference (or Shura) on the second day. Starting after the Zuhr and Asr prayers, the session ended at 7pm.
Some of the recommendations made by the house are recorded as follows:
1. Every member of the Jamaat should devote a week, a month or as much as time as possible for the service of the Jamaat. (Presented by Hazrat Mir Abdus Salam Sahib and seconded by Syed Safiruddin Ahmad Sahib)
2. The financial contribution (Chanda) should be done in line with the guidelines of the Markaz. (Presented by Abdullah Sahib and seconded by Abdul Karim Herbert Sahib)
3. A syllabus to be set out that every member of the Jamaat should study to enhance their understanding of the teachings of the Jamaat. (Presented by Maqbool Ahmad Qureshi Sahib and seconded by Dr Omar Suleiman Sahib)
4. Every Ahmadi should actively participate in tabligh and a plan should be made to facilitate their endeavors. (Presented by Bilal Nuttall Sahib and seconded by Abdul Aziz Deen Sahib)
5. The Lajna auxiliary be established for the Ahmadi women of the UK. (Presented by Janet Wells Sahiba and seconded by all female members present at the session)
The second major turning point in the history of the UK Shura is again in the time of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra during his second visit to England in 1955. While in London, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra called for an international conference of Ahmadiyya missionaries serving in Western countries. This conference was held from 22 to 24 July 1955. A day before the conference commenced, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra sent a telegraphic message to all the Jamaats around the world to request Ahmadis to pray for the success of the conference. The message read:
“Putney, 21 July: After the time of the Companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, a very important conference will commence tomorrow in London to ponder over and plan the propagation of Islam worldwide. Ahmadi missionaries from almost all major countries of America, West Indies, Africa and Europe will participate.
“Chaudhry Muhammad Zafrulla Khan will also participate on 22 July. Members of the Jamaat are requested to cordially pray for a significant and broad success of this conference. (Signed) Khalifatul Masih”
Five sessions of the conference were held and all sessions were blessed by the presence of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra. Every mission’s report was thoroughly discussed along with plans for further strengthening missionary activity, publication of literature in respective languages, establishing new mosques and other means of extending the message of Islam to the Western world. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra listened to each and every single proposal and granted the house with guidance.
A telegraphic message sent from London to Al Fazl, Rabwah reported the conference (Shura) in detail and mentioned that all missionary-delegates formally pledged to dedicate their whole lives for the service of Islam. (Al Fazl, Rabwah, 27 July 1955)