The Ahmadiyya claims to have “the largest mosque in Western Europe”. This claim was made when I was still a member of the Ahmadiyya group and of course, I repeated it without question. We were urged to promote this “fact” to newspapers, politicians and so forth. We were made to feel proud of this achievement.
What is a mosque? Can a Baha`i for example, create a building and call it a mosque? Technically, there is nothing to stop them doing that in this country. “Mosque” is the English word for the Arabic masjid, which is derived from the Arabic root sajada, for which I’m sure no Muslim requires any translation. So “masjid” is literally a place where one bows down in prostration. Linguistically then, it is legitimate for Qadianis and Lahoris to call their places of worship “mosques”, but theologically, and particularly in the case of the Qadianis, this claim is problematic, as the Muslim reserved word “masjid” is only applied to a place of congregational worship for Muslims. So whilst we don’t make takfeer on individual Qadianis, the Ummah and its `ulama are unanimously of the view that certainly the Qadiani Ahmadiyya community is not Islamic, with the views on Lahoris being only slightly less rigid, though the consensus still appears to be that they are not within the fold of Islam. A mosque then, is a place where Muslims gather in congregation to bow down in worship to Allah.
Let’s set aside the theological issue for the purposes of investigating the claim at face value. We already know that the Qadianis are in the habit of making outrageous claims that have never been substantiated in fact and sadly, their followers tend to accept and promulgate these claims without question. Most notably, the ludicrous claims of a membership of 200 million have been parroted in the Islamophobic media. The “largest mosque” claim was also shamefully cited in The Guardian, which obviously didn’t check its facts.
Let’s also ignore mosques in mainland Europe and focus only on those in Britain. The authoritative, respected, fact-checked and peerlessly comprehensive report on British mosques by the Muslims In Britain site has this to say on the Qadiani claims that their place of worship in Morden accommodates 10,500 worshippers:
Baitul Futuh is promoted by the Ahmadiyya movement as “the largest mosque in Western Europe” based on a claim of a capacity of 10,500 worshippers. The Ahmadiyya have their own reasons for making this claim. But they admit that dedicated prayer space (on which all the above masjids’ capacities is based) is 4,000. (http://www.baitulfutuh.org/construction/index.shtml ) In fact the prayer space is comparable only to the larger masjids of circa 3,000 capacity, hence my adjusted figure of 3,000. By comparison, most larger masjids have substantial areas that are routinely used for salaah on Friday Jumu’ah, not to mention Eid and Tarawih salaahs. E.g. Regents Park Masjid (Islamic Cultural Centre) has a substantial concourse, large basement rooms and a big plaza, all of which are filled for Jumu’ah, more than doubling the 5,400 capacity dedicated prayer space.
Having visited Bait ul-Futuh when I was a Qadiani, it was certainly large, but no larger than the Birmingham Central Mosque, and certainly not as big as the Islamic Cultural Centre, which has multiple storeys available for worshippers as well as a routinely used concourse. It’s not anywhere near as big as the East London Mosque, which I have also had the pleasure of visiting frequently, especially for `Eid, and which continues to undergo expansion.
Let’s have a closer look at the Baitul Futuh site’s claims. It claims the following for prayer capacities:
- Total Area of Mosque 4000
- Ancillary Areas in Mosque 2000
- Remainder of other Areas 4500
These appear to be exaggerations, notwithstanding the fact that the capacity is rarely utilised. So what about authentic mosques?
The Qadiani place of worship comes at the bottom of this list. So the next time someone tells you that the Qadiani place of worship is “the largest mosque in Western Europe”, don’t just tell them that it isn’t a mosque, offer them the facts, and if they’re really interested and you’re in London, take them on a tour of proper mosques and show them that Islam doesn’t require deception. Just don’t be surprised if the Qadianis revert to type and indulge in character assassination of the people behind the above report.
May Allah guide the believers in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad back to Islam, insha’Allah, blessing them with the guidance I received eight Ramadans ago.