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International Baiat

International Baiat

Bai'at (Pledge of Allegiance)

Ba'iat or Bay'ah (Arabic: بَيْعَة) is an Islamic practice which is literally translated with the meaning to sell. In a religious context it means 'oath of allegiance'. With this oath the convert to a certain community declares himself/herself a part of that community. In islamic-religious sense, this oath is the standard procedure of pledging allegiance to an Imam or spiritual leader or to sell ones self in exchange of the spiritual guidance given by an Imam or spiritual leader. A large Bai'at ceremony of initiation for entering the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is held every year during the annual gathering of the community in UK. This ceremony is called the International Baiat. The ceremony is led by the head of the community, the Caliph, at whose hand the new converts take the oath of initiation.

History

The tradition of bay'ah can be traced back to the era of Muhammad. Anyone who wanted to join the growing Islamic community would be initiated at the hand of the Prophet. The wordings of the oath differ in different traditions but it contains the shahadah and prayers of repentance. The bay'ah of Rizwan, a collective initiation of thousands of Muslims at the hand of Muhammad, is mentioned in the Quran. This tradition was continued by the Caliphs.

In subsequent ages, bay'āt were associated with sufi orders; spiritual masters would initiate their followers. This practice still exists in sufi orders around the world.

The concept of bay'ah is considered very important to Ahmadiyya muslims. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, after claiming to be divinely appointed took the first bay'ah in 1889 at Ludhiana. After this, many of his converts traveled long distances to Qadian to be initiated in the community. The tradition was carried on during the Ahmadiyya caliphate.

International Bai'at

In 1993 Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the fourth Caliph, internationalised the bay'ah through MTA by which people from all continents of the world are now able to partake in this pledge which is simultaneously translated into twelve different languages. This international oath of allegiance takes place every year at the annual gatherings of Ahmadis.

Distinctive Features

Since the first international Baiat, some acts have become part of the tradition during the ceremony. Foremost, the Caliph wears a green coat of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad at the ceremony. This coat was lent to the fourth caliph for this ceremony by his sister. However, the coat was given to the caliphate at the request of the fifth caliph.

The members of the community form five or seven lines in front of the caliph at the ceremony to represent the five/seven continents of the world. Officials of the community organisation and other people who have worked for the community or are otherwise selected for this ceremony are present in these lines. The lines proceed to some extent in an orderly manner after which other members are present. Members of the community all over the world join the ceremony live through TV coverage by the community's own satellite channel MTA the Muslim Television Ahmadiyya International. The members and those who want to become members place their hands on the back of the person in their front, as is known from the tradition of the early muslims at the time of Muhammad, and so form chains of physical contact with the caliph. This physical contact is seen necessary only for those present at the ceremony. The worldwide baiat ceremonies function without this physical contact.

The oath of alligence or Baiat is taken by the caliph in the following way: first he reads a sentence or a part of a sentence from the oath in english or in urdu language. After him the memebrs of the community repeat those words. Then the same sentence or part of the sentence is repeated by the translators in many languages of the world simultaneously.

After havig gone through the whole text of the oath of alligence in this manner, the caliph leads the members in silent prayers.

After completing the oath and the silent prayers a prosteration in congregation is performed by all members all over the world. This prosteration is not directed in any particular direction but it is lead by the caliph. Therefore, all members do the prosteration in whichever direction they find suitable. The tradition of this prosteration goes back to Mirza Tahir Ahmad who started it as an act of gratitude to Allah.

Number of Converts

The year by year count of converts in accordance with the reports given to the Caliph and announced by him at the occasion of the International Bai'at and printed officially by the community are as follows
Year Number of Converts Reference
2008 354,638 Daily Alfazl, Pakistan, 30. July 2008, http://www.alislam.org/alfazl/rabwah/A20080730.pdf
2007 261,969 Daily Alfazl, Pakistan, 1. Aug. 2007, http://www.alislam.org/alfazl/rabwah/A20070801.pdf
2006 293,881 Daily Alfazl, Pakistan, 2. Aug. 2006, http://www.alislam.org/alfazl/rabwah/A20060802.pdf
2005 209,799 Daily Alfazl, Pakistan, 3. Aug. 2005, http://www.alislam.org/alfazl/rabwah/A20050803.pdf same for all preceeding years
2004 304,910
2003 892,403
2002 20,654,000
2001 81,006,721
2000 41,308,975
1999 10,820,226
1998 5,004,591
1997 3,004,585
1996 1,602,721
1995 847,725
1994 421,753
1993 204,308
Total 167,193,205

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