1,200 Ahmadi Muslims gather in Chino for 26th West Coast convention
Ahmadi Muslims from 36 chapters across America convened for their 26th annual West Coast convention. Most of the participants came from chapters stretching from San Diego to British Columbia, but a decent number hailed from chapters on or near the East Coast such as Philadelphia, New York and the Islamic Community’s U.S. headquarters in Silver Spring, MD.
Several dozen more came from as far away as Canada, the United Kingdom, Pakistan and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Many of these conventioneers were national office-holders of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which is now established in 200 countries with membership in the tens of millions.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India, began holding these conventions in 1891, several years after the Community was established in 1889. Ahmad started the Islamic reformation movement at the behest of God, who Ahmad claimed appointed him as the Reformer of the Age and Imam Mahdi (the guided spiritual leader) for the Muslims, as well as the awaited manifestation of the Messiah expected in Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam. With the exception of most Jews, who believe their messiah is still yet to come, the followers of all the other major faiths are waiting for the Second Coming of their messiah or prophet.
Ahmadi Muslims believe Mirza Ghulam Ahmad came not only as the Imam Mahdi for the Muslims, but also as the fulfillment of all awaited Second Comings, including that of Jesus (peace be upon him). Christians and most Muslims believe Jesus was taken up bodily alive to Heaven 2,000 years ago and will, in the latter days, descend bodily alive from Heaven.
Ahmadi Muslims believe as Jesus taught – that Second Comings are not literal, but metaphorical, occurring through another prophet appointed by God in the “power and spirit” of the earlier prophet – just as (according to Jesus) John the Baptist was the “second coming” of Elijah.
The purposes of the Ahmadiyya Muslim conventions are to foster mutual love and brotherhood among the members, offer new converts a chance to meet other members, increase the righteousness of members, and offer those not already members the opportunity to meet and interact with Ahmadi Muslims directly and hopefully experience a renewed zeal for spiritual knowledge and nearness to God.
Satisfying one’s hunger for nearness to God is accomplished in Islam through the five-time daily prayers that all Muslims traditionally perform, preferably in congregation. At the convention, the sheer volume of parishioners adds a deeply-affecting emotionalism to the prayer ritual that heightens one’s sense of community and togetherness while at the same time intensifying the experience of individual connection to God during the prayer itself.
A person’s thirst for spiritual knowledge is regularly sated during the three-day convention by many heartfelt devotional poems and thought-provoking and inspirational speeches delivered on topics related to Islam, the Holy Prophet (pbuh), the Holy Quran, the examples of great Muslims past and present, and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, its founder Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, and his Khalifas or spiritual leaders. (The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is currently blessed with its fifth Khalifa, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, who directs the worldwide affairs of the Community from London. He was elected in April of 2003.)
To see video coverage for all three days of the 26th annual West Coast Ahmadiyya Muslim convention, go on-line to: www.Ahmadiyya.us then look under “Updates From Alislam.org” and click on the link that says: “26th Jalsa Salana USA West Coast 2011 (23 to 25 Dec).” Clicking on this link will open a YouTube window showing all the video coverage of the three-day convention in the order it was delivered.
The speeches on Friday dealt with subjects as diverse as: the Holy Quran as a Divine Sign from God; the Benevolence of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh); and the meaning of the term “throne” in relation to God and His seat of absolute authority and majesty as opposed to the belief by some that it’s a physical chair for God to sit down on when He’s tired.
The speeches on Saturday featured separate sessions in the morning — one for ladies, where they delivered their own discourses to their fellow Ahmadi sisters, and a simultaneous session for men.
The speech line-up for the ladies featured these topics:
Power of Prayer: Complete Trust in Allah.
Patience is a Virtue: Examples from the Life of Muhammad (pbuh).
A Woman’s Role in Raising Children.
A Wife’s Responsibility towards her Husband.
Ahmadi Youth Identity in Western Society.
On the men’s side, the scheduled topics included:
Life of Uthman, the Third Khalifa in Islam.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s Love for the Holy Prophet (pbuh).
Islam is a Way of Life.
A Husband’s Responsibility towards his Wife & Family.
Both sessions ran from 10am until 1:30pm, the traditional time for the first afternoon prayer, Zuhr, which was combined due to the convention program with Asr, the late-afternoon prayer.
After these two congregational prayers were completed, the main session continued in the men’s lecture hall, where the speeches covered these topics:
Worship of God and Service to Humanity.
Prophecies about the Advent of the Imam Mahdi.
Directives and Advice by the Khalifa regarding Moral Training.
This last speech was delivered by Shamshad A. Nasir, Imam of the Chino Mosque where the convention was held. He related the directions from the Khalifa given to Ahmadi women on such things as increasing one’s piety and humbleness, maintaining one’s chastity and righteousness, keeping away from harmful and un-Islamic habits and customs which are accepted in the West such as unrestricted socializing with members of the opposite gender, wearing inappropriate clothing, and using Facebook and other social media. Advice to men followed along similar lines, because being modest and righteous applied equally to both men and women.
Following the completion of Saturday’s afternoon program around sunset, the two remaining daily prayers (Maghrib and Ishaa) were performed consecutively because of additional evening programs, including a seminar for parents and their unmarried children on how to find suitable and righteous spouses.
The concluding Sunday session began at 10am and ended around 12:30pm and featured these speeches: “Prayers are the Key to Bliss and Fortune” and “Remembering the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi.” The concluding address was given by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s national vice-president, Dr. Naseem Rehmatullah. This was followed by collective silent prayer, then the two afternoon congregational prayers (Zuhr and Asr) were performed in the prayer halls, and then lunch was served.