This was not my first time visiting a local mosque here in Calgary. The first time I went was for a Friday Prayer Service and I was very uncomfortable. You can read about here. So with my friend Dan, I was eager for a more positive experience after receiving an invite to visit the Ahmadiyya mosque this past weekend.
Arriving at the entrance to a beautifully silver domed worship centre, I was a little surprised that there was not more people there. It was a public event to meet Muslims while exploring some of the many questions our culture faces in light of a growing Islamaphobia. Yet, it seems Calgrians are uninterested in meeting their Muslim neighbours.
Still, as we exited my vehicle, we were quickly greeted by two young men walking towards us from the front entrance with outstretched hands. Welcoming us, we introduced ourselves while returning to the front foyer of the mosque. So eager to learn about one another, we probably stood there talking for half an hour or more about our pursuit in religion and the traditions we came from. Fahadh, our host was most definitely vibrant & passionate about his faith. I found him to be very warm as he spoke openly from the heart about his traditions and beliefs.
Moving down the hallways, Fahadh showed us a set of panels describing several quotes from the Qu’ran and there modern interpretations or contemporary social & cultural significances. Our conversation seemed to give the feeling that the Ahmadiyya Islamic tradition had a strong belief in us being a part of the eschatological times or end times for creation.
Further down, there was several pictures of the founder to their movement, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, and his successors to the Khalifa. After hearing about their history, we took a quick look at the main hall before going to a hospitality centre and continuing our conversation over bottled water and samosas (I can never say “no” to good homemade samasos!).
The Ahmadiyya Islamic movement started in 1889 when their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, made claim that he was the long awaited messiah prophesied in Surah Al-Jumuah 62:3-4 of the Qu’ran and considered the metaphorical second coming of Jesus of Nazareth. I was surprised as I looked at their website and saw several articles written about their beliefs that Jesus survived the crucifiction and then later traveled to India in search of the “Lost Tribes Of Israel” while continuing to teach.
As we stood there in the hallway discussing their founders history, I was struck by the thought of our shared need for a messiah. Raising this point, Fahadh spoke of the common theme between many religions being focused on this needed characterization. Their founder was a saviour who sought to bring unity to the world, “ending religious wars, condemning bloodshed and reinstituting morality, justice and peace”, particularly in the practices of the Islamic tradition.
So in considering this shared need for a saviour, how might the messiahship of the Jesus I find in the gospels be different from that of the Ahmadiyya Muslim? I find this question intriguing as I reflect on Fahadh’s question to Dan & I in the hospitality centre; “Why are the four gospel accounts of Mark, John, Luke, & Matthew slightly different from one another?”
While trying to answer Fahadh’s great question, I first told him a story from the gospel of Matthew. Entering the town of Caesaria Philippi, Jesus turned to his followers and asked, “Who do the people say that I am?” Their answers were many from the second coming of Elijiah to other teachers & prophets. Without rebuking or denying the answers they offered, he then asked, “Who do you say that I am?” After a long silent pause, it was Peter who said, “ You are the messiah, the Son of the living God.”
While Jesus goes on to praise Peter for his answer and reveal the blessing of his discernment, I chose not to finish the story and instead spoke of the different relational perspectives & dynamics each of the four followers of Jesus had, and how it shaped the way they expressed their gospel writings. My hope was to share with Fahadh the beauty of Christ’s authority not being confined to a singular gospel interpretation but rather a deeper relationship we find ourselves in with him as both Christian & Muslim neighbours.
Similarily, my question of Jesus’ messiahship is perhaps deeper then any one singular persons interpretation. The Ahmadiyya Muslim’s have a deep desire for moral purity & religous unity; something I deeply feel is revealed in the character and life of the Jesus found in the gospels. But I also sense he is a saviour for far more then just religous moral piety. He is a messiah that transforms our complete living identity; a story only possible through the salvation work of a shared communal telling; a practice my Muslim brother Fahadh and I have only just begun the other day.
Unsure of what Fahadh thought of my story and explanation, I thanked him for being an incredible host and guide to Dan & I as we visited him in his mosque that afternoon. We exchanged contact information and I am hoping we might get to continue our conversation and friendship. While there was so much more I could write about our experience in meeting our Muslim neighbours this past weekend, I am also eager to sharing & telling the story of our future encounters while communing at the table of God’s commonwealth!!