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How the Canadian Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Promotes Sense of Community

So today (June 19, 2009), the American Ahmadiyya Muslim Community are gathering at their annual three day convention, coined Jalsa Salana (which actually means “Annual Gathering”).

In my post last week, I gave you an overview of who the Ahmadi's are and what their Jalsa Salana is all about. Next week, like their cross-border brothers and sisters, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Canada will be holding their 33rd Annual Jalsa Salana.

Instead of again explaining what the convention is about – I did this in last week's post – I'm going to use McMillan and Chavis's seminal theory on Psychological Sense of Community to explain just how a convention like the Jalsa Salana promotes a sense of community.

McMillan and Chavis define 'Sense of Community' as 'a feeling members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members' needs will be met through their commitment to be together.'

McMillan and Chavis propose that Sense of Community is composed of 4 elements

  • Membership

  • Influence

  • Integration and Fulfillment of Needs

  • Shared Emotional Connection

I'll use the rest of this post to explain how the Ahmadiyya Muslims fulfill McMillan and Chavis' 4 elements for a sense of community, and then I'll give some more information on the convention itself and the community.


There are 5 attributes identified with forming a sense of membership

a. Boundaries

b. Emotional Safety

c. A Sense of Belonging and Identification

d. Personal Investment

e. A Common Symbol System

All these attributes are developed ideas to indicate and identify who belongs and why you should belong.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community does a good job of defining the concept of membership by outlining what it means to be an Ahmadi and how you can become an Ahmadi.

The Jalsa Salana reinforces these listed attributes of membership with speeches on topics that put the issues important to Ahmadi's in a modern context.

The whole point of the Jalsa is to reassert the stake each person has in their faith, and to bring the community together from different parts of the country and strengthen their sense of brotherhood and sisterhood.

When Ahmadi's come to the Jalsa, one of the main reasons for doing so is to meet up with old friends, colleagues, and family. Those Ahmadi's who are not acquainted with many people in the community, came to meet people like them and to spark friendship through their common bond.


The bidirectional influence between the community leaders and the people is set as follows: The leaders are entrusted by the people to maintain an organizational standard, and provide validation for spiritual and religious needs through successful organization of events like the Jalsa, the people in-turn, influence the leadership through their show of spiritual fulfillment. This is usually in the form of the yelling of positive slogans at the speech-givers; validation is shown through the crowd's reaffirmation of the slogan yelled.

Furthermore, the Jalsa itself influences Ahmadi's who are not interested in feeling a sense of community, by exposing them to different facets of the community, including the intellectual and social aspects. They see books written on various subjects by community members which may entice them to read into the experiment of community members. Socially, otherwise non-interested members are exposed to people from other local communities of Ahmadi's where they can meet people who are like them, and are 'befriendable'.

Integration and Fulfillment of Needs

McMillan and Chavis assert that the idea of 'integration and fulfillment of needs' includes the “status of being a member, as well as the benefits that might accrue from the competence of the other members. 'shared values' is discussed as the concept that can give direction to the issue of which 'needs' beyond survival will be pursued.”

The Jalsa achieves this requirement for 'Sense of Community' by providing these 'needs beyond survival' by reinforcing the Ahmadiyyat messege and promoting spiritual sustenance. This comes in the form of speeches, poems, and Quranic recitation that fulfills their Islamic needs, and provides direction for peoples lives.

The Jalsa also globalizes the faith by showing what is going on in other parts of the world, in relation to the community. This includes informing the Ahmadi public of growth in certain parts of the world, humanitarian projects that are on-going and might need more help, perpetuated violence against the community and systematic oppression, as well as speeches that put in context how to be a faithful Ahmadi Muslim living in Canada.

All these things promote the shared values of members of the community.


Shared Emotional Connection

This is caused at the Jalsa by the most basic idea of being an Ahmadi Muslim. That is, to believe in Allah as the one and only God, to believe in Muhammad (pbuh) as the Prophet of Islam and Seal of the Prophets, and finally, through the affirmation of Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as the Messiah promised to Islam.

The spiritual connection and belief in these 3 ideas is the single most powerful shared emotional connection Ahmadi's have with each other and is the greatest catalyst for their sense of community.

The population of Ahmadi's in Canada is estimated to exceed 20,000; and may actually be higher than their American brothers and sisters.

In Canada, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has built two large mosques. The older of the two is the Bait-ul-Islam Mosque in Vaughn, Ontario. This site is the central location for Ahmadi's in Canada, and the location where hundreds, if not thousands of Ahmadi's in Canada, and the location where hundreds, if not thousands, of Ahmadi's have settled around. Literally. The housing surrounding the mosque is primarily occupied by Ahmadi Muslims.

The other mosque finished construction in 2008, and is located in Calgary, Alberta. This mosque, Bait-ul-Noor is larger than the Bait-ul-Islam Mosque, but currently is home to a smaller contingent of the Ahmadi Muslim Community.

So this year, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is coming together from June 26-28 in Mississauga, Ontario, for their 33rd Annual Jalsa Salana, where a sense of both community and pride in their faith will be at the forefront of almost all activities.

If you are interested in information about events and speeches at this years program, you can go to their website.


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