BOSTON (RNS) — The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is marking the 100-year anniversary of the sect’s beginnings in the U.S. with a day of prayer and community service at its 62 chapters across the country.
This weekend, in mosques in Boston, Chicago, Silicon Valley, Miami, Phoenix, North Jersey and Los Angeles, Ahmadi Muslims plan to prepare meals to donate at food pantries and distribute at area shelters. In Portland, members will plant trees; Austin members will volunteer at a local farm; in Richmond, Virginia, members plan to clean a historic cemetery; and Willingboro, New Jersey, members are holding a coat drive alongside local emergency service departments.
All will begin the day by gathering at mosques to perform congregational tahajjud, a special night prayer, to pray for another century of progress for this nation, the organization’s leaders say.
“We have been here 100 years, deeply love this country, and have a track record of serving this nation and its people since the beginning,” Amjad Mahmood Khan, national director of public affairs for the organization, said in a statement. “We invite Americans to join us at this historic moment and collaborate to make this country the best it can be.”
The Ahmadiyya community was formally established in the U.S. shortly after Feb. 15, 1920, the day its first missionary arrived on the shores of the United States, making the persecuted sect the oldest organized Muslim movement in the country.
The pioneering missionary Mufti Muhammad Sadiq also established what is likely the country’s oldest mosque still in existence, Chicago’s Al-Sadiq Mosque, as the community’s U.S. headquarters in 1921 or 1922. From there, he published the country’s longest-running Islamic magazine, The Moslem Sunrise, and preached to Americans from New York City to Detroit.
Later this year on May 9, during Ramadan, the organization will hold a nationwide “Open Mosque” Centennial Iftar to invite locals to attend mosques around the country and meet their Muslim neighbors.
“Last year, Pew Research concluded that 54% of Americans don’t know a Muslim,” Khan said. “We are committed to changing that figure drastically and hope our fellow Americans will accept our invitation to meet us.”
In 1889, the international Ahmadiyya Muslim sect was founded in India as a revivalist Islamic movement by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, whom the community accepts to be its messiah and a metaphorical second coming of Jesus. This belief has led to intense and often violent persecution across the world, particularly in Pakistan, where the group is legally declared non-Muslim and disenfranchised by the state.