Short History of Khalifat Ahmadiyya

After the demise of the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), the Community has been led by caliphs that are chosen through the vote of an electoral college. 

1. Hazrat Hakeem Noor-ud-Din (ra) Khalifat-ul-Masih I (lit. Caliph of the Messiah) 

Lived 8 January 1841 - 13 March 1914; Period of Khilafat 27 May 1908 – 13 March 1914

(© Makhzan Tasaweer)

Hazrat Hakeem Noor-ud-Din (ra) was a colossal personality – a talented author, eminent scholar, extraordinarily virtuous and a theologian par excellence. Becoming renowned for his excellence in the field of medicine, he was appointed as Royal Physician to the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir for many years. 

His name “Noor-ud-Din” meaning “light of faith,” is how he came to be perceived by his contemporaries. He garnered admiration for his pious personality and his perceptive insights into matters of faith, becoming recognized as an eminent scholar of the Holy Qur’an. Individuals such as Sir Muhammad Iqbal (20th century South Asian philosopher and national poet of Pakistan) extensively sought his response to theological queries. 

Seeking the Perfect Guide

Yet, his life still felt incomplete, and he found himself in search of a spiritual leader to guide him to even deeper insights into the verities of the spiritual universe of Islam. That search was electrified as he came across the book Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, the magnum opus of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as). He was surprised to find that its author claimed to be a recipient of Wahi (divine revelation)– a spiritual phenomenon that the world considered to be either an impossibility or obsolete in the modern age. Becoming stirred to meet the author, he journeyed to the village of Qadian in 1885, describing his experience in the following words: 

‘It was after asr prayer, I approached Masjid Mubarak. As soon as I saw his face, I was overjoyed, and felt happy and grateful to have found the perfect man, that I was seeking all my life... At the end of the first meeting, I offered my hand for Bai‘at*. Hazrat Mirza Sahib said, he was not yet divinely commissioned to accept Bai‘at; then I made Mirza Sahib promise me that I would be the person whose Bai‘at would be accepted first...’.

[*Note: Bai‘at:: (pledge, initiation; ,lit. a "sale" or a "transaction") is an Islamic practice of declaring on oath, one's allegiance to a particular leader. In an Islamic religious context, this oath is the standard procedure of pledging allegiance to a religious leader. It is known to have been practiced by the Islamic Prophet Muhammad (sa) and his successors (caliphs) after him with those wishing to join the Islamic community. Read more here: https://www.ahmadija.cz/en/bait]

Four years after this meeting, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) established the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community after claiming that he had been commissioned as the Promised Messiah by God. The first person to become initiated into the community was Hazrat Hakeem Noor-ud-Din (ra).  

Accepting the Messiah

TAs the claim of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) of being the Promised Messiah garnered opposition and hostility, other Muslims became perturbed that a man of the standing of Hazrat Hakeem Noor-ud-Din (ra) had accepted him and become his foremost devoted follower. 

Once, he was asked this very question, what need did a scholar of his repute have of accepting a man who claimed to be the Promised Messiah? His concise answer is filled with immense depth about the nature of spirituality: Before accepting Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), I used to see Prophet Muhammad (sa) in my dreams. Now, I see him (sa) even while I am in a state of wakefulness (in visions)”. .

He commented that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s (as) divinely bestowed understanding of the Holy Qur’an revealed insights that guided one to God in unparalleled ways. 

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) expressed his love and regard for him in a beautiful Persian couplet: How wonderful would it be if everyone among my followers were to become Noor-ud-Din. It can happen only if every heart is filled with the light of certainty of faith.”

(© Makhzan Tasaweer)

The First Khalifa

Upon the demise of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) in 26 May 1908, Hazrat Hakeem Noor-ud-Din (ra) was unanimously elected as the first Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He laid the foundations for the institution of Khilafat and carried many important tasks such as the establishment of the first foreign mission in London. He ultimately passed away on March 13th, 1914.

2. Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad (ra) Khalifat-ul-Masih II

Lived 12 January 1889 - 7 November 1965; Period of Khilafat 14 March 1914 –  7 November 1965

(© Makhzan Tasaweer)

The second Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmood Ahmad (ra), was the eldest surviving son of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) and Nusrat Jahan Begum (ra). In 1886, after a special period of praying for 40 days in seclusion, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) claimed to receive revelation from God which prophesied that within a period of 9 years, he would be blessed with a Promised Son, who would prove to be an unparalleled strength for Islam. 

(© Makhzan Tasaweer)

Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmood Ahmad (ra) was born 3 years later in 1889, and went on to become elected as the second Khalifa at the age of 25, in 1914. He ultimately claimed to be this Promised Son in 1944. A renaissance man, prolific author, and skilful orator, his knowledge base included comparative religious study, philosophy, city planning, agriculture, Qur’anic exegesis, world history, linguistics, economics, political science, and more. His extensive knowledge and piercing insight into various fields was a fulfilment of the prophecy of the Promised Son, which foretold: “He will be extremely intelligent and understanding and will be meek of heart and will be filled with secular and spiritual knowledge.”

During his Khilafat, the Community established missions in 46 countries and translated the Holy Qur’an into 14 languages. He united and expanded the Community despite attempts by a rogue group to splinter the Community and external threats bent on annihilating the Community.

Books

He wrote over 220 books and pamphlets. For nearly 52 years, he delivered speeches and lectures that have been compiled into over 26 volumes and his Friday sermons alone make nearly 40 volumes.

His 10-volume commentary, Tafsir-e-Kabir (English: The Grand Exegesis), which covers 59 chapters of the Holy Qur’an, spans over 10,000 pages, and is revered as an incomparable treasure trove of knowledge across Islamic history.

He also wrote a shorter, more accessible commentary of the Holy Quran with an in-depth translation, Tafsir-e-Saghir (English: The Short Commentary). Treasured to this day, these works have been acknowledged by Muslims even outside the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community as deeply insightful. These commentaries answered allegations against the Holy Qur’an by orientalists like Theodor Noldek, Rev Vere, JM Rodell and Sir William Muir.

Tafsir-e-Kabir (English: The Grand Exegesis)

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II (ra) proclaimed that God had granted him a unique level of insight into the meanings of the Holy Qur’an, and he challenged:

Anyone – no matter what knowledge they may have or whichever religion they may follow – can raise any allegation against the Holy Qur’an and by the grace of Allah, I will answer [their allegation] from the same Qu’ran. I have challenged the world again and again to compete with me in writing the deeper meanings of the Qur’an.” (Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 13, p. 255)

Hazrat Sir Zafrullah Khan (ra), a renowned diplomat who is the sole person to have served as the President of both the UN General Assembly and the International Court of Justice, said regarding Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra):

He possessed great versatility of mind and the range of his intellect was unmatched among his contemporaries. These qualities were strikingly illustrated in his speeches and writings … His speeches were intellectual banquets at which those present were regaled to their great delight and enjoyment. In that guise, he stimulated their intellects, enlivened their faculties, incited them to climb moral and spiritual heights and sent them home greatly enriched …” (Ahmadiyyat – The Renaissance of Islam, p. 234)

(© Makhzan Tasaweer)

Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra) with Hazrat Sir Chaudhry Zafrullah Khan (ra)

Partition of British India

When British India was partitioned in 1947, Ahmadis migrated from Qadian to the newly founded Pakistan, where Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II (ra) established the new headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in a city Rabwah .

(© Makhzan Tasaweer)
(© Makhzan Tasaweer) (Rabwah,1948)

Prior to its establishment, this parcel of land was barren, uninhabited, and considered by authorities to be infertile, thus the decision of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to purchase the land was widely ridiculed. However, over the years, Rabwah was built into a prosperous and thriving city. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II (ra) ) once remarked:

I am astonished, as to what was the force that brought and inhabited you in a place which even the government had failed to inhabit. Seeing Rabwah one is reminded of the times when Allah had re-laid the foundation of Mecca through Hazrat Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and his son Hazrat Ismail (peace be upon him).” (Al-Fazal Nov. 26th 1961)

Today, Rabwah continues to flourish as a model city within Pakistan. As described by The New York Times:

Today the city contains about 70,000 Ahmadis. The roads are paved and lined with greenery. An Olympic-size swimming pool, state-of-the-art library, free eye and blood banks and a world-class cardiology hospital have been set up. Much of the community is affluent, and the literacy rate is over 85 percent.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/27/world/asia/pakistan-rabwah-ahmadi.html)

" Rabwah " is an Arabic word meaning “elevated place”. As part of the Pakistani government’s continuous denial of Ahmadis’ right to identify as Muslims, the government officially renamed the city to Chenab Nagar, as the word ‘Rabwah’ is found in the Holy Qur’an 23:51, referring to the elevated place God gave Jesus (as) and his mother, Mary (as), refuge.

(© Makhzan Tasaweer) (Rabwah, 2021)
3. Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad (rh) Khalifat-ul-Masih III

Lived 16 November 1909 - 9 June 1982; Period of Khilafat 8 November 1965 – 9 June 1982

(© Makhzan Tasaweer)

The third Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad (rh), was the eldest son of Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmood Ahmad (ra) and a grandson of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as). Earning his B.A and M.A from Oxford University, he was well-versed in political science and economics and served as the headmaster for the Community’s secondary school prior to his appointment to Khalifa. During his Khilafat, the Community established mosques in numerous Western European countries as well as establishing the Nusrat Jahan scheme, to build hospitals and schools in Africa. In the 1970’s, he guided the Community past a nefarious state-sponsored attempt in Pakistan to delegitimize and persecute the Community.

(© Makhzan Tasaweer)
Blasphemy Laws

Due to political motivations and the pressure of fundamentalist clerics, the Pakistani government began their state-sponsored persecution of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in 1974, when they introduced an amendment to the constitution which prevented Ahmadis from identifying as Muslims.

Later, in the 1980’s, during the period of the 4th Khilafat, the government expanded Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, further targeting Ahmadis. As stated by Humans Right Watch:

“Ahmadis thus could no longer profess their faith, either orally or in writing. Pakistani police destroyed Ahmadi translations of and commentaries on the Quran and banned Ahmadi publications, the use of any Islamic terminology on Ahmadi wedding invitations, the offering of Ahmadi funeral prayers, and the displaying of the Kalima (the statement that “there is no god but Allah, Mohammed is Allah’s prophet,” the principal creed of Muslims) on Ahmadi gravestones. In addition, Ordinance XX prohibited Ahmadis from declaring their faith publicly, propagating their faith, building mosques, or making the call for Muslim prayer. In short, virtually any public act of worship or devotion by an Ahmadi could be treated as a criminal offense.” ((https://www.hrw.org/node/231429/printable/print))

Examples of religious offences and punishments under the blasphemy laws:

  • Penal code section: § 298B

  • Description: Misuse of epithets, descriptions and titles etc., reserved for certain holy personages or places, by Ahmadis.

  • Punishment: 3 years imprisonment and fine

  • Penal code section: § 298C

  • Description: Any Ahmadi who directly or indirectly, poses himself as a Muslim, or calls, or refers to, his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims.

  • Punishment: 3 years imprisonment and fine

(© Makhzan Tasaweer)
4. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) Khalifat-ul-Masih IV  

Lived 18 December 1928 – 19 April 2003; Period of Khilafat 10 June 1982 – 19 April 2003

(© Makhzan Tasaweer)

The fourth Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh) was the third child of Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmood Ahmad (ra) and Syeda Maryam Begum, and a grandson of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as).

A prolific scholar, he penned works on religious polemics, philosophy, evolution, poetry, homeopathy, and more. He was Khalifa from 10th June 1982 – 19th April 2003. During his Khilafat, the Community founded its independent humanitarian organization, Humanity First,and launched Muslim Television Ahmadiyya, the only 24-hour Islamic programming television channel in the world (www.mta.tv) In the 1980’s, he united and expanded the Community despite intensified state-sponsored persecution which forced him to personally migrate to England.

Migration to England

Despite the two major outbreaks of violence against the Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan (1953 and 1974), the Ahmadiyya movement continued its systematic progress during the periods of the second and third Khilafat. In the face of grand new schemes launched by Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh), the government of Pakistan and its orthodox Islamic clergy mounted another wave of violence, persecution and severe restrictions against Ahmadi Muslims, which culminated in Ordinance XX on April 26, 1984. These were led by the dictator of Pakistan, President Zia-ul-Haq. As it became increasingly difficult to safeguard the institution of Khilafat in Pakistan in view of the new restrictions prohibiting freedom of religion for Ahmadi Muslims, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh) migrated to England on April 29-30, 1984.

Challenge to Prayer Duel

President Zia-ul-Haq persisted in his human rights abuses despite repeated public warnings by Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh) that urged him to fear God and respect humanity. 

When he did not desist, on June 3rd, 1988, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh) opened the challenge of Mubahila. A prayer duel, against President Zia-ul-Haq. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh) claimed to have been instructed to do so by God, as a final resort. This meant that by offering prayers for God’s judgement, God would inflict His sign of wrath on the liars. 

Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh) went further and said that God would do so even if the prayer contest was not formally accepted by President Zia-ul-Haq. On August 12th, 1988, after receiving divine communication of Zia’s impending destruction, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh) publicly stated that there was now no way back for Zia-ul-Haq to be saved and that he would most certainly be destroyed.

As a result of this prayer contest, just five days later on August 17, 1988, President Zia-ul-Haq and many of his associates died in a freak aeroplane accident, with the authorities finding no evidence of foul play, and with all parties being shocked at the inexplicable nature of the incident. For Ahmadi Muslims, this was a great sign of divine support against those who sought to persecute them. While Ahmadi Muslims will never take up arms against their opponents, sometimes God Himself will demonstrate his anger at those who seek to harm the Community.

(© Makhzan Tasaweer)

Most importantly, this stands among the many signs in the history of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of God’s communication with His chosen ones. 

5. Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his helper) Khalifat-ul-Masih V

Born 15 September 1950; Elected as Khalifa in 22 April 2003

(© Makhzan Tasaweer)

The current Khalifa, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aa), is the fifth successor of the Promised Messiah (as). His Holiness was born on 15 September 1950 in Rabwah, Pakistan, the global headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community at the time. He is a nephew of Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the fourth caliph, his mother being a sister of the fourth caliph. His Holiness attended and graduated from Talim-ul-Islam High School and obtained his BA from Talim-ul-Islam College, both located in Rabwah. In 1976, he earned his Master of Science degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan.

Services in Ghana and Pakistan

Having served the Community in various capacities, His Holiness Masroor Ahmad (aa) served in Ghana for over eight years. He established the Ahmadiyya Secondary School in Salaga, a school in the northern region of Ghana, where he served as principal for two years. His success with the school in Salaga made him an obvious choice as principal of the Ahmadiyya Secondary School in Essarkyir, located in the central region of Ghana. There he served as principal for four years.

After his tenure as principal, His Holiness was appointed as the manager of the Ahmadiyya Agricultural Farm in Depali located in the northern region of Ghana where he served for two years. He successfully planted and nurtured wheat for the first time in Ghana. The experiment of planting, growing and nurturing wheat as an economic crop in Ghana was exhibited at an international trade fair and the results were submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture of Ghana.

Shortly after serving in Ghana, His Holiness returned to Pakistan and was made responsible for finances on 17 March 1985. He also served as the Director of Education within the Community in Pakistan and on 10 December 1997 he was appointed as Nazir A'ala (Principal Director) until his election as Khalifa.

(© Makhzan Tasaweer)
Prisoner of Conscience

In 1999, His Holiness was wrongly imprisoned as part of Pakistan's discriminatory blasphemy laws. A resolution was presented in the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab which demanded that the name of Rabwah be changed because that name appeared in the Qur'an, and the blasphemy laws sought to make it illegal for Ahmadi Muslims to demonstrate their affiliation with Islam. The resolution passed without much debate and the name of Rabwah was officially changed to Chenab Nagar. Signage was placed in prominent parts of Rabwah which bore the new name. A few days later, a First Information Report (criminal complaint) was filed accusing certain members of the Community of erasing a sign which bore the new name. Though the complaint did not mention any names, a case was registered, resulting in the arrest of Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad and a few other senior members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. They were imprisoned for 11 days without bail, but were released without charge on 10 May 1999.

Khilafat

Since being elected in April 2003 as the worldwide spiritual and administrative head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, he has travelled extensively across the world to meet the members of the community and address their annual gatherings. In many of the countries he has visited it has been the first visit by an Ahmadiyya Khalifa.

Under his leadership, the Community's global satellite TV network MTA International, launched by his predecessor, has expanded into several further affiliated TV channels, social media and radio stations to provide transmission in different languages. Besides further 12 campuses worldwide of Jamia Ahmadiyya, the Ahmadiyya Islamic seminary and educational institution, have been established including one in Ghana and one in the United Kingdom, the latter being the first in Europe. He has focused particularly on directing the Community in systematically countering negative media coverage of Islam and engaging in grassroots efforts to propagate what the Community believes is the true message of Islam.

In 2004, he launched – and regularly addresses – the annual National Peace Symposium (held twice in 2015) in which guests from all walks of life come together at the largest mosque in Western Europe (the Baitul Futuh Mosque) to exchange ideas on establishing world peace. These symposia have attracted parliamentarians, religious leaders and other dignitaries. In 2009, he initiated the Ahmadiyya Muslim Peace Prize; an international peace award for individuals or organizations that have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment and service to the cause of peace and humanitarianism.

Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aa) has frequently met heads of state in different parts of the world as well as having delivered keynote addresses to the United States Congress on Capitol Hill, the European Parliament, the United Kingdom Houses of Parliament, the Parliament of Canada and the Dutch Parliament on the teachings of Islam regarding the establishment of peace, presenting Quranic solutions to world problems. He has consistently called for honesty and the observance of unconditional justice and fairness in international relations. In response to ongoing conflicts, he has sent letters to world leaders warning of the real risk of World War, and urging them to make practical efforts towards lasting peace. Read more here: https://www.ahmadija.cz/en/chalifat/

(© Makhzan Tasaweer)
Conclusion

Although a Khalifa is elected through the vote of an electoral college, it is believed by Ahmadi Muslims that this election is divinely guided. A short glance at the brief history of the Ahmadiyya Khilafat spanning over 100 years shows deep traces of spirituality. The primary role of the institution of Khilafat is to revive faith in a Living God, and help Ahmadi Muslims to connect with Him. This forms a unique connection between Ahmadi Muslims and their leader, in their journey to seek God. 

The following fascinating English article demonstrates these unique ideas that cannot be found elsewhere in the religious world. It is a compilation of the dreams of 40 Ahmadi Muslims that claim that God informed them about the election of the fifth Khalifa, ahead of time: https://www.alislam.org/articles/dreams-foretelling-fifth-khilafat/