Muslims have a new mosque in which to worship, and a worldwide religious leader held an inaugural celebration.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim community welcomed their fifth Khalifa (Caliph), His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, to inaugurate the Masroor Mosque on Saturday, located at 5640 Hoadly Road near Woodbridge. This marks Mirza Masroor Ahmad’s first visit to the U.S. in years on a tour that also included stops in Houston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.
“Every time he is here, or we are near him, it’s heaven on earth,” said Dr. Nasim Rehmatullah, National Vice President of the Ahmadiyya community.
Rehmatullah said the mosque is a place for the whole community to worship — not only for those of the Muslim faith.
“Once you know each other, the fear that you have of each other disappears,” Rehmatullah said.
Rehmatullah adds that the inauguration of the mosque is an announcement to the world “that we have done this” as well as an “inspiration to the community.” Christians and Jews alike are welcome in the mosque, and this message of inclusion and religious tolerance is one that was repeated throughout the day.
Masroor Mosque, which sits next to but is not affiliated with Dar-al-Noor Mosque, is home to a community of almost 1,000 Ahmadiyya Muslims – a sect of Muslims that believe in the authority of the Khalifa, who is a successor of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who they believe was the awaited Messiah. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad founded the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in 1889 in Qadian, India.
Since then, the Ahmadi have spread throughout the world, and have 74 chapters here in the U.S. Worldwide, there are tens of millions of members in 212 nations with 17,000 Mosques, 600 schools, and 30 hospitals.
What differentiates the Ahmadi from other Muslims is their belief that the Messiah has come in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad; and that they are united under the Khalifa. Due to these differing beliefs, the Ahmadi have faced religious persecution from other Muslims.
Rehmatullah estimates about 50% of Ahmadiyya Muslims are here because of religious persecution.
Asifa Kainat, a refugee from Pakistan and a member of Masroor Mosque, lives in Fredericksburg with her husband and two children. She arrived in the U.S. in 2013, leaving Pakistan with her parents because of the religious persecution toward the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. She said she would automatically receive poor grades on school tests because of her religion.
She explained that if a new student came into her class, her teacher announced that Asifa was an Ahmadiyya and if anyone sat with her, they would get the same treatment as Asifa did. She said her family couldn’t go grocery shopping because people wouldn’t sell food to them and would tell her family, “you should starve and die.”
People threw stones at them and her father had to move place to place to save his family’s lives, she added.
Upon reaching the U.S., Asifa said she earned A’s here and realized she was a good student. Despite the political turmoil and unrest in the country.,
“It’s still good compared to where we came from,” she said. “We really feel like home here.”
The Mosque is in a building that used to be a Presbyterian church and was renovated and rebuilt into a mosque and bought by the Ahmadiyya community less than a year ago.
Naila Ijaz, a Lorton native and a local member at Masroor Mosque, explained that the mosque is entirely paid off, with no mortgage, due to the generosity of the Ahmadi community.
Ijaz explained that families skipped yearly European trips and gave up gold jewelry – a culturally significant item – to fund the $5 million property. Knowing that the Khalifa was coming to inaugurate the mosque helped encourage everyone to complete the Mosque quickly. Ijaz said the Khalifa’s visit was “such an honor”.
She said that due to religious persecution, many of their mosques in Pakistan are destroyed. She is happy to have the Masroor Mosque where “we can safely worship.”
Zaryab Mahmood, another religious refugee from Pakistan, said that his whole family fled to the U.S. Growing up, he was always afraid to talk about what sect of Islam he was and hid it as much as he could due to the persecution.
In May 2010, two of their mosques were attacked by terrorists. He said he heard people were celebrating the deaths of Ahmadi by distributing sweets. Despite that, he said living in that environment “made my faith stronger.”
He said coming to the U.S. has been great and everyone has been helpful. “At least here I don’t have to hide my faith,” Mahmood said. “I don’t have to be scared coming to the mosque here.”
The Khalifa delivered a keynote address to a crowd of guests in a festive tent outside the mosque. Before the Khalifa delivered his address, several dignitaries, including Congressman Gerry Connolly, Dr. Katrina Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, and Delegate Hala Ayala of the 51st District spoke. State Senator Jeremy McPike gave the Khalifa a certificate on behalf of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and lauded him for his humanitarian work.
The Khalifa’s keynote address focused on the role of religious freedom and tolerance in the world. He emphasized that true Islam is one of peace and not of cruelty by extremists. He said he “prays the mosque proves to be a shining light in the community.”