Who are the Ahmadiyya? - History & Beliefs

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 15 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

The Ahmadiyya are a religious sect of Islam. This lesson reviews the faith's history, the reason for its separation from orthodox Islam, and its basics tenets.

Sects vs Mainstream Religion

Imagine that you are in a sporting club. When the club started, there weren't very many people and everyone had similar ideas for how to run the club. For example, it was decided unanimously to meet on Wednesday nights for practice and scrimmage games. Another rule agreed to by the group was that there would be no physical contact in the games. You decide to call yourselves the Wednesday Ballers.

But, over time, more people joined the club. The sheer numbers of the new members made single gatherings difficult, and some members have issues with the meeting night as well as a few of the rules. Finally, a group of the members decided to meet on Thursday nights instead of Wednesday. They kept some of the rules and by-laws from the original group but changed the rule about contact in games to allow for tackling.

Now, change the sporting club scenario to a religion, and you have a basic idea of how a religious sect is formed. A religious sect is an off-shoot (or subset) of the main religion. However, some of the primary beliefs of the parent organization are changed. It stems from a large group of members of a religion deciding to break away from their primary faith and follow a different path. A sect is not considered a new religion because many of the foundational beliefs remain the same as the original parent organization. Also, many members of a sect may still identify themselves in terms of the original faith (for example: 'we are like Wednesday Ballers, but we have a few different rules').

Two sects of modern Christianity are the Community of the Lady of All Nations and Palmarian Catholic Church.

A few modern Islamic sects are Sunni, Shia, and Ahmadiyya.

This lesson reviews the Ahmadiyya, their history, and beliefs.

The Ahmadiyya

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was named after its founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.

The Ahmadi believe Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is a true prophet of Islam.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad

It was founded in 1889 in Qadian, India. After a move to Pakistan in 1947, the headquarters eventually became based in London, England.

Ahmadiyya is a peaceful religion that sees its divinely chosen leader, the khalifa, as a spiritual guide instead of a political power. There are between 10 and 20 million people in the world that identify as Ahmadi Muslim. While this seems like a large number, it accounts for less than 2% of the total worldwide Muslim population.

Due to a doctrinal divide, many Ahmadi are persecuted by the orthodox Muslim ummah (Islamic term for community). In fact, anti-Ahmadi sentiment became so strong that in 1974, the Pakistani prime minister declared Ahmadiyya to be non-Muslim. Over time, this declaration led to a ban on the term mosque being used to define Ahmadi places of worship.

It is interesting to note that even the sect of Ahmadiyya has divided into two sects: the Ahmadi (or Qadiani) and the Lahore Party. This divide was caused by a fundamental difference in how each group labeled Ahmad: either as a true prophet (Ahmadi) or as a reviver of the faith (Lahore).

Ahmadiyya Beliefs

Overall, the Ahmadi faith encourages acceptance of others (including other faiths) and peaceful, non-violent interactions.

As with the sporting clubs, the Ahmadi did not leave all of the doctrines of its parent faith behind but altered some of the specifics of the faith.

How is Ahmadi similar to orthodox Islam?


Just as with other religions and the sects that have branched from them, Ahmadi Muslims have maintained as a foundation for their faith the core beliefs of orthodox Muslims:

  • The 5 Pillars
  • The 6 Articles of Faith
  • Kalimah which is a declaration of faith
  • Prayer schedule and gestures
  • The book of faith, Qur'an
  • Acceptance of the successors of Muhammad

The Ahmadi share many of their foundational beliefs and doctrine with orthodox Muslims. So, how are they different?

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