August 8, 2006 at 11:18 am (Arabic, Islam, Islamism, Pakistan, Persian, Religion, Religions, South Asia, Theology)

Near where I am staying in Karachi, there is an Ahmadi jamatkhana (Urdu and Persian: جماعت خانہ, jamaat-khaanah, “gathering-building”). If one passes by it, one cannot guess this immediately. This jamatkhana is in a home – although I don’t know if the whole home is a jamatkhana or just a few rooms in it.

A few Muslim groups call their places of congregation “jamatkhana.” Aside from Ahmadis, Nizari Isma’ili Shiites and Da’udi Tayyibi Musta’li Isma’ili Shiites call their places of congregation “jamatkhana”. Like other Shiites, Da’udi Tayyibi Musta’li Isma’ili Shiites make a distinction between a mosque and jamatkhana or imambargah or hussainiyah. Among Twelver Shiites, any place of congregation for prayers is a mosque (in Urdu, Arabic, and Persian: مسجد, masjid). Certain places of congregation built for the community at large (where people from various areas will gather together for the Friday afternoon prayer) and which have a shrine, of sorts, to their Imam Hussain, is called a hussayniyah (in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu: حسینیھ, Arabic: Hussayniyyah; Persian: hossayniye; Urdu: hussainiyah) or imambargah (in Persian and Urdu: امام بارگاہ, imaam-baargaah). The idea is that a hussayniyah/imambargah recreates the sanctity and significance of the martyr-ground and mosques of Karbala as well as the tomb of Imam Hussayn at Karbala so that the devout can visit them in their own locality instead of going all the way to Karbala. In Pakistan, for example, imambargahs are often easily noticeable because of the towering flagpole with a green or black banner (usually bearing the names of the five central figures in Shiite theology) topped with a massive silver hand (the Hand of Fatimah). On the hand there may be a number of things written, although the most common is the name of Abbas (In Arabic, Persian, and Urdu: عباس, cabbaas), Hussayn’s flagbearer.

Any place for congregation for prayers for Da’udi Tayyibi Musta’li Isma’ili Shiites is also called a mosque. A gathering site for the community, larger than mosques, is called a jamatkhana. A community in The United States would have only a jamatkhana, because there would not be enough memebrs to justify having more than one place for congregation, whereas in Bombay there would be many mosques and a few jamatkhanas as there are far more members which would justify such an arrangement. Although there is a marked difference in sanctity between Twelver Shiite mosques and hussayniyahs/imambargahs, no such difference exists between Da’udi Tayyibi Musta’li Isma’ili Shiite mosques and jamatkhanas, although socially more importance is given to the jamatkhana, which is the community’s spiritual hub.

Nizari Isma’ili Shiites call each of their gathering-places “jamatkhana” (although those serving as regional centers are called “darkhana”). They have no mosques. This reflects, in part, the utterly different way Nizari Isma’ili Shiites believe in and practice Islam. Entrance to Nizari Isma’ili Shiite jamatkhanas, Da’udi Tayyibi Musta’li Isma’ili Shiite jamatkhanas, and Ahmadi jamatkhanas is restricted only to members. the first two because the nature of spiritual ceremonies is for members only. For the third, it’s for security reasons. Now, I should modify my statement about Ahmadis. They call their gathering-places as “jamatkhanas” in Pakistan. Elsewhere they’re called “mosques.” Pakistani law forbids Ahmadis from calling their gathering-places “mosques.”

A family friend is Ahmadi. He took me with him to an Ahmadi mosque (officially a jamatkhana) to speak with the imam, as I wanted to learn more about Ahmadi Islam. The imam was nice, if a little cautious. The family friend wanted to show me something which the imam was very hesitant to show me. In the large room used for prayers (the three of us spoke in the imam’s office), there was written on the wall the Islamic statement of faith. The imam was hesitant because Ahmadis are forbidden to write, say, proclaim, or in any other way use it. If found, they could be fined or imprisoned (or killed, if a mob gets word of it) and would have to remove the statement.

Now, if one compares Ahmadi theology and practice with Nizari Isma’ili Shiite theology and practice, one would say that the Ahmadis are Muslims while the Nizari Isma’ili Shiites are not. Nizari Isma’ili Shiite Islam is truly quite different from mainstream Islam, Sunni and Shiite. In comparison, Ahmadis seem quite orthodox (particularly Hanafi Sunni). One reason why Ahmadis have been proclaimed to be non-Muslims, treated as such, and laws created to enforce this, but the same has not occured with or for Nizari Isma’ili Shiites is because of the clout and influence of the Nizari Isma’ili Shiites’ imam, the Aga Khan (originally آقا خان, aaqaa khaan, Persian: aaghaa khaan; in Urdu: آغا خان, aaghaa khaan), currently His Highness Prince Shah Karim al-Hussayni Aga Khan IV. Ahmadis have no such clout. The persecution of the Ahmadis shows, indeed, what may be called the Inquisition-mindedness of Islam: people are judged for heresy and, if found guilty, are punished. The Ahmadis have been found guilty of heresy in Islam, and so if they try to practice Islam they are accordingly punished. Having been cast out of Islam, they are technically not persecuted when they adhere to their non-Muslim nature, as judged and proclaimed by other Muslims.

For some reason, Pakistan’s ulema (in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu: علماء, culamaa’; “clerics”; singular in the same languages: عالم, caalim, “cleric,” literally “one who knows”) are obssessed with Ahmadis. The Pakistani constitution has been amended numerous times to legislate on and persecute the Ahmadis. They are not even numerically significant!

Ahmadiyyah (in Arabic and Persian: احمدیھ, in Arabic: aHmadiyyah; in Persian: ahmadiye; in Urdu: احمدیت, ahmadiyat or احمدیہ, ahmadiyah) – the Ahmadi religion, theology, practice, group, et cetera – is actually divided into two distinct factions. They are both treated and considered to be the same by Muslims worldwide, and are called Ahmadis1 (after the last name of the movement’s founder, Mirza Ghulaam Ahmad (مرزا غلام احمد, mirzaa ghulaam ahmad)) and/or Qadianis2 (after the founder’s city of birth, Qadian (قادیان क़ादियान, qaadiyaan)). One may be known properly as Qadianis and are based in London, England, UK. They are officially the “Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.” The other is based in Lahore and are officially the “Lahore Ahmadiyya Community” or the “Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement for the Propagation of Islam.” The difference between them is quite stark: the Qadianis believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a prophet, the Promised Messiah (which most Muslims say would be Jesus returned, but which Ahmadis refute), and the Imam Mahdi (which Ahmadis interpret as being a position, not a person). Lahoris believe only the last two: they do not believe he was or claimed to be a prophet.

From what I have learned, and in my opinion, the differences between Qadiani Ahmamiyyah and Lahori Ahmadiyyah, although significant, are more or less minor. There are significant hierarchical differences (the leader of the Qadianis is the Caliph to the Messiah3, just as the early leaders were officially “Caliph (literally, successor) to the Prophet4, who are descendants of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, while the leader of the Lahoris is the Amir with no relation to Ahmad) and theological differences (mainly based on interpretation and who said what). Nevertheless, both belong to the same movement, overall, with equal emphasis on Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. (Qadianis, despite considering Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be a prophet, quote Muhammad far more than Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.) Both are, fiqh- and shareecat-wise Hanafi Sunni.

Even the differences between Ahmadis and other Muslims are more or less semantic, really. The crux of the matter–that of another prophet after Muhammad–revolves around how one defines “prophet” (both نبي, nabee and رسول, rasool), whether there are distinctions and levels among them, and what “seal of the prophets” (خاتم النبیین, khaatamu-n-nabiyyeen, a title of Muhammad) exactly means. Other differences are a matter of interpretation. I would go so far as to say that Shiite Islam differs from Sunni Islam more than Ahmadi Islam differs from mainstream Sunni Islam.

The Shiites have given birth to a number of movements that some consider to be non-Muslim (and one which everyone considers to be non-Muslim). From Isma’ili Shiite Islam comes the Druze (who call themselves “al-Muwahhidoon,” “the Monotheists”), from Twelver Shiite Islam comes Babism, which gave birth to Baha’iism. From Twelver Shiite Islam also come the Nusayris or Alawis of Syria and the Alevis of Turkey. All of these (and other groups, such as the Nizari Isma’ili Shiites mentioned before) are considered non-Muslim and it is easy to see why. And yet all Sunni Islam has is the Ahmadis, who seem more Muslim than any of these Shiite movements. Indeed, some may even say that the Ahmadis are more orthodox, according to Sunni Islam, than regular Shiites.

I don’t understand why the Ahmadis are being so severely persecuted when other more heterodox sects exist, even in Pakistan. But I suppose this exposes the neurotic and inexplicable tendencies of the ulema.

Adjective forms for “Ahmadi”:
Arabic singular: احمدي, aHmadee (male) and احمدیۃ, aHmadiyyah (female)
Arabic plural احمدیون, aHmadiyoon (nominative) and احمدیین, ahmadiyeen (oblique)
Persian singular: احمدي, ahmadee
Persian plural احمدیان, ahmadeyaan
Urdu singular: احمدی, ahmadee
Urdu plural: احمدیاں, ahmadeeyaan (nominative) and احمدیوں, ahmadeeyon (oblique)

Adjective forms for “Qadiani”:
Arabic singular: قادیاني, qaadiyaanee (male) and قادیانیۃ, qaadiyaaniyyah (female)
Arabic plural: قادیانیون, qaadiyaaniyoon (nominative) and قادیانیین, qaadiyaaniyeen (oblique)
Persian singular: قادیاني, ghaadeyaanee
Persian plural: قادیانیان, ghaadeyaaneyaan
Urdu singular: قادیانی, qaadiyaanee
Urdu plural: قادیانیاں, qaadiyaaniyaan (nominative) and قادیانیوں, qaadiyaaniyon (oblique)

Arabic, Persian, and Urdu: خلیفۃ المسیح, khaleefatu-l-maseeH.

Arabic, Persian, and Urdu: خلیفۃ رسول اللہ, khaleefatu rasoolillaah.



  1. Yahya said,


    I have no idea why you think Ahmadis call their mosques jamaat-khaanah which is an alien word to them to use for mosques. Ahmadis always call their mosques, mosques except in Pakistan purely because it is illegal for Ahmadis to call them mosque and not out of choice. In Pakistan Ahmadis use alternate words such like Bait-ul- (hous of- ) followed by one of the god’s names. This is purely a strategic act due to the constitutional limitations of Ahmadiyya freedom of religion.

  2. Anon said,

    The promised reformer of Islam, Mirza Mahmood Ahmad (who was incidentally also theson of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad) has stated in no uncertain terms that his father was a prophet and in order to be a muslim it is mandatory to believe in all of the prophets.
    (The Truth About the Split by Mirza Mahmood Ahmad is available from the website http://www.alislam.org)

    This therefore means that non-ahmadis are to be considered non-muslims and that the Kalima has been abrogated.
    Perhaps the Ahmadis should consider changin their Kalima to:
    There is no God But Allah and Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is his messenger.

  3. Muslihoon said,

    Close but not entirely accurate.

    Whereas from the perspective of Qadiani Ahmadis (not Lahori Ahmadis) other Muslims are not Muslims, the kalimah remains intact. Indeed, although the other Muslims’ recitation thereof has become invalid because they do not accept Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a promised Messiah, all Ahmadis continue to recognize Muhammad as the greatest prophet and the last law-bringing prophet and continue to believe in the shahādatayn as others Muslims say it. That Muhammad is the greatest prophet is brought out most clearly when their current literature is read, which has copious quotes of Muhammad.

    After all, no form of the shahādah/shahādatayn explicitly proclaims Muhammad as the last prophet or messenger: he is referred to as (رسول الله, rasūlullāh, “the messenger of God”) and (عبده ورسوله, ‛abduhu warasūluhu, “his (God’s) slave/servant and his (God’s) messenger”).

  4. M.Sajid said,

    I want to ask you some thing. Can you tell me that why are u claming himself imam mehdi & the refuses the last profit of Muhammad ( SA )( PBUH ).
    you have no Logical Point of View.

  5. Muslihoon said,

    M. Sajid: I’m answering only because you explicitly asked me a question.

    I do not claim I believe Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is anything, let alone an imam, the Mahdi, et cetera. I am simply repeating what Ahmadis (Qadianis and Lahoris) are saying. Indeed, I am no longer a Muslim, let alone an Ahmadi of any type.

    I see no reason to respond to your other claims.

  6. oakhan said,

    Thank You for your portrayal of Ahmadiyya and pointing out the ridiculous bias against us.as stated above Ahmadis themselves call their mosques “mosques” and the prayer area Mussallah and their persons Muslims, in response to person claiming Ahmadis have changed the Kalima (in Our hearts or on our lips) My answer is as he already stated if you Make a distinction between any of Allah’s Appointed servants you have Forsaken your own faith.

  7. oakhan said,

    Similarly, your claim that the Ahmadi khilafat are the descendants of Hazrath Ahmad is not entirely accurate we find the 1st in particular to not be of his family line also blood Relation is not criteria in the appointment of a Khalifa

  8. maz said,

    Salaam ( peace ) All
    I would like to piont out that the statement that it is ecumbant on all muslims to believe in all prohets, and the comment of the writer adding that it makes all non Ahmadi’s non muslim is such a trouble seeking comment that if the writer read it with a balanced and open mind he would agree, appologise and take away the thread, as i could add a comment to help him by saying as a muslim he believes that those that dont pray the 5 prescribed prayers daily fail to be muslims also does the reader understand what the also means in the same text that he wrote his statement. It is on a individual to know wether he fills the role describded in islam to be considered a muslim or not is soley within himself and at the hands of the Almighty alone.



  9. shamim said,

    very good and TRUE writing, may Allah bless u for this… u have written and said nothing but wht is true…. good… yet yes, first khalifa was not in his lineage

  10. shamim said,

    if u dont mind, can i ask why r u not a muslim? the systems being run by the different school of thoughts may be wrong…infact very wrong on basis of their oown interpre ations, and looking at s/thing with their own understanding ,but to be a Muslim, to me is not to follow these systems but to have strong connection with WHO made us .. our CReator … call Him ALLAH, or call HIM Om , Jehovah, God but call HIM out of utter love and devotion serve His creation with love and mercy….and do the acts of kindness and believe in Prophet’s suunat and Holy book..maybe with ur own reasearch… but show me where our Prophet (pbuh) ever oppressed anyone… todays Muslims are oppressing each other in the name of islam.. the only conquest ever made without a single bloodshed was only by the Prophet of this religion…who fought only in defence, but today so called muslims kill in his namee…but please look for urself .. u will never find any perfect code of life and complete love and connection to your Creator other than islam’s teachings…it teaches true spirituality in most subtle ways…..just if we obey sunnah and Quran ..

  11. shamim said,

    one more thing ahmadi / qadianis dont say non ahmadis non muslims….(at least not openly) …

  12. Goolam said,

    Sorry Muslihoon, but you’ve got a few things wrong here. All Muslims, Sunni or Shia (whatever the sect), call their main Friday place of worship a Masjid or Mosque. All Muslims call the places of congregation Jamaat Khana (urdu) or Mussalla (arabic) or whatever language best denotes a prayer facility not used for the main Friday prayer.

    The reason the Ahmaddiyya community is not allowed to adopt the legal classification of Islam, is simply because there’s a large group that represents 90% of the countries worshippers, that can provide scriptural/historical and factual evidence of its actual meaning.

    Consider it an intellectual property thing.

    As for the mobs and persecution … well … what can I say … in Pakistan … everyones persecuted for something. In the north, there are these Pakistani villages being bombed by these inanimate atheistic flying machines.

    • nasir jan said,

      Pakistan or Mullahstan – the US is doing a favour to the rest of the world by killing these Mullahs – the mullahs are murderers who kill more muslims then any american i know! – this is a fact

  13. nasir jan said,

    In Pakistan ahmadis cannot use the word Mosque as they can face Jail for 3 years (there is NO frredom of religion and both Bhutto and Zia decided to they were a better judge then God to decide wha is in one’s heart and who is a muslim and whose not)
    I all other countries they call their worship places Mosques

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