Over 400 locals, neighbours and dignitaries convened at the picturesque abode of Islamabad in Tilford on the evening of 8 July 2022 to commemorate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – an event organised by the Islamabad administration.
The event included a tour of Islamabad, including the Mubarak Mosque, a visit to an exhibition about Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya’s rich history – exhibited by the Ahmadiyya Archive & Research Centre (ARC) – and a presentation ceremony that included speeches by Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, Michael More-Molyneux; Mayor of Waverley, John Ward; MP for Woking, Jonathan Lord; Amir Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya UK, Rafiq Hayat Sahib and Naib Amir, Sir Iftikhar Ayyaz KBE. The guests also enjoyed a three-course meal after the various tours, speeches and presentations.
Many of the guests were touring Islamabad for the first time and the evening helped introduce the Ahmadiyya Jamaat’s teachings of true Islam and its message of peace, love and harmony.
A highlight of the evening was to present the deep and often unknown history of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat and its relation with Britain, both in India and England. The Ahmadiyya Archive & Research Centre presented this incredible history in the form of short reads accompanied by historic pictures that had been discovered by the institute over the years.
The exhibition saw floods of people visit the exhibition, keen to learn more about the Jamaat and Islam in general. Guided tours were given by a team of Jamia Ahmadiyya UK students and members of ARC.
As the exhibition tours started, many were taken aback after learning the holy founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas had held a celebration in Qadian, India to celebrate Queen Victoria’s jubilee, over 100 years ago. The manner of this celebration also drew attention as Hazrat Ahmadas had meticulously organised the whole event, which included a prayer ceremony for the Queen that was held in multiple languages (something that was replicated on 8 July 2022 in Islamabad) and a feast to which the poor were invited too.
After reading Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V’saa message of congratulations and appreciation to the Queen, both in 2012 and 2022, upon her Jubilees, visitors often enquired more about Huzooraa and his work.
Early missionary work in England during the time of the First and Second Khilafats was displayed and how Ahmadi missionaries would begin preaching the true Islam to the inhabitants of England from their mission house on 4 Star Street, London.
It was often surprising for guests to learn that the first time a Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat set foot in England to preach Islam to her inhabitants was back in 1924 when Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra was invited to deliver an address to the Conference of Living Religions, which was part of the British Empire Exhibition that invited famous leaders of important religions within the British Empire to speak.
Visitors took a keen interest in a rare and recently discovered image that was exhibited at the exhibition for the first time. This was a group photo of the representatives who attended the conference during a tea party hosted by Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra at the prestigious Ritz Hotel in London for all the representatives and organisers of the conference. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra had said that to show respect to the women, all the men would stand or sit on the floor while the women would take a seat on chairs during the group photo. This amazed and surprised many of the guests who were told this backstory.
A natural and expected question addressed during the exhibition was why the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat praised the British. The answer was given on the boards of the exhibition itself in the words of Hazrat Ahmadas who praised the Queen for granting absolute religious freedom in India. In the book A Gift to the Queen by Hazrat Ahmadas, he praised the Queen as all people of faith – especially Muslims, who had faced oppression before the British – could freely exercise their faith due to the non-interference policy of the British. In the book, Hazrat Ahmadas presented the best possible gift for the Queen that he could offer: Islam – thereby inviting the Queen to accept this true religion.
The background to London’s first mosque – the Fazl Mosque – intrigued the visitors; particularly the fact that it was funded solely by poor Ahmadi women back in India, who had often sacrificed their jewellery to contribute. Photos of Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra laying the foundation stone of the Fazl Mosque and praying in the vicinity were displayed.
The last section of the exhibition was about Islamabad in Tilford and the deep religious history of the locality where Islamabad is situated. Visitors heard about the religious significance of Farnham (a historic town some miles away from Islamabad) as it stood as a halfway and resting point for the Bishop of Winchester, who was amongst the highest officials of England and often the Chancellor. Farnham, therefore, became a resting point whenever the bishop of Winchester would travel to London (and back). (For more information, see: “The Holy Ground of Tilford”, Al Hakam, 1 November 2019, Issue LXXXV)
Islamabad served as the pasturing grounds for the Christian monks who lived at the Waverley Abbey Monastery, a few miles away from where Islamabad is situated today. During their time, the area Islamabad sits on today was used as pasture ground for the monks’ sheep as the monastery’s land would often get flooded whereas the Islamabad area stood on high ground. Many visitors expressed how they had no idea of this history, despite living in the area for a long period!
The migration of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh from Pakistan following General Zia-ul-Haq’s Ordinance XX that barred Ahmadi Muslims from practising Islam, and then the ultimate purchase of Islamabad in the UK was discussed too. Visitors were appalled and hurt to hear that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was severely persecuted in Pakistan and other Muslim countries – countless visitors said they had no idea about the persecution and inquired more about the matter. What came as a surprise for the visitors was that the Jamaat had a positive outlook and strived for peace and not retaliation, despite being constitutionally persecuted. The guests realised that this perseverance and positive outlook was spearheaded by the Ahmadiyya Jamaat’s leadership, to this very day.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V’saa move to Islamabad and the redevelopment of Islamabad were also exhibited including a display of beautiful pictures of the Mubarak Mosque during and after its construction.
The exhibition concluded with a look into the tireless efforts of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa in preaching true Islam to world leaders and dignitaries and urging them to bring the world back to peace and absolute justice.
This is where conversations – led by the visitors’ questions and interest – about Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa and the Jamaat continued.