Khalida Jamilah, USA
I was standing in line to get chai and a Pakistani sister asked me, “Are you a convert? Are you a guest? Please get ahead of the line. You should not wait in a long line like this.”
I replied, “Oh no, I’m not a convert. I’m originally from Indonesia and now live in Los Angeles.”
“Oh I see. The way you dress is different,” the sister said. Then I smiled at her while continuing to wait in line to get the pink chai.
After that moment, I told myself that being the only Indonesian Ahmadi in Southern California is very unique. In fact, there are not that many Indonesian Ahmadis in the United States. If I count, there are only about seven Indonesian Ahmadi households in the whole country.
It feels unique as sometimes, I feel like a minority inside a minority – Ahmadiyyat is a minority sect within the larger Islamic community. Jamaat members are predominantly from Pakistan, so being Indonesian is considered a minority within the US Jamaat.
Then I ponder even more; often I ask myself, “Why am I an Ahmadi? Is it just because I was born and raised as an Ahmadi? Is it because my great grandparents were one of the pioneering Ahmadis in Indonesia and were able to serve in national offices? Is it because I just follow blindly the family value that my parents taught me? Or is it something else? Why is it that Indonesia, a place far away from Qadian, was able to receive the message of Islam Ahmadiyya?”
These questions always stay in my heart. The answer to these longing questions is that I am an Ahmadi because at every step of my life, I always find the answer to all of my questions, be it in the lowest moments of my life or the happiest moments. There is always comfort and answers from the Imam of the age, beloved Huzoor, may Allah be his Helper.
I am an Ahmadi because I believe this is the truth. Ahmadiyyat has become who I am and what I do. Its teaching is in my heart, soul and mind, so much so that I am willing to present my life to defend this truth that I hold dear and near to my soul. I will not and cannot barter this way of life with anything else. It is the truth that envelops your whole being. It is like clean water. You don’t need expensive water to quench your thirst. You only need clean water to survive.
Similarly, I don’t need the glamourous world to survive; I only need the clean water that quenches my thirst on my spiritual journey and I can only get that clean water from Islam Ahmadiyyat.
When we accept Ahmadiyyat with our mind, heart and soul, we realise that being an Ahmadi does not just consist of rituals like attending meetings or paying chanda (financial sacrifice). It also means that we should not complain when asked to make financial sacrifices or to attend Jamaat meetings because these things have become our need, just like our need for physical nourishment through food and drink.
Nobody ever has to tell us to eat. We eat because it is a necessity. Thus, all of the commandments in Islam and the Jamaat are our spiritual food; we just cannot live without them.
Being an Ahmadi means we are expected to become light in darkness; a rose that grows in the middle of a desert. This is difficult with many temptations of the modern world. As a peace and conflict studies graduate, I always remember one lecture about cosmopolitanism.
My professor told us that cosmopolitanism, by a simple definition, is the idea that you belong to a single community, despite your differences such as race and language. So if I live in America, I should also care about someone who lives in India because after all, we belong to one community.
When I heard this, it sparked my mind. This is what Ahmadiyyat is all about. This is what Islam is. You can be anything, but you have one thing in common, which is the belief in One Creator.
So I am an Ahmadi not because I was born and raised as an Ahmadi. I am an Ahmadi because it teaches me the true purpose of life. It teaches me who I am and what I am to do.