Ahmadiyya (äh mə dēˈ yə) [key], a contemporary messianic movement founded (1899) by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1839–1908), b. Qadiyan, the Punjab. His Barahin-i Ahmadiyya, which he began to publish in 1880, was well received by his Islamic community. In 1889, he announced that he had received a divine revelation authorizing him to accept the baya, the allegiance of the faithful; he later also declared himself the Mahdi and the promised Messiah ( masih ) of Islam (1891). His doctrine, incorporating Indian, Sufi, Islamic, and Western elements, attempted to revitalize Islam in the face of the British raj, Protestant Christianity, and resurgent Hinduism.
After his death, his followers elected Mawlana Nur ad-Din as his successor. Nur ad-Din died in 1914, and the community split into two branches. The majority remained in Qadiyan and recognized Ghulam Ahmad as prophet ( nabi ). The basic belief held by the Qadiyani community was and is that it is the sole embodiment of "True Islam." The founder's son, Hadhrat Mirza Bashir ad-Din Mahmud Ahmad (1889–1965), was chosen as Khalifatul-Masih [caliph of the Messiah] by the Qadiyani branch, known today as the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam ( jamaat-i ahmadiyya ). His half-century of leadership shaped the movement, operating after 1947 out of the city of Rabwah (which they founded and gave a Qur'anically inspired name) in Pakistan and administering a network of schools and hospitals. His successors have been chosen from among Ghulam Ahmad's descendants; the leader of the movement (since 2003) is Mirza Masroor Ahmad (b. 1950).
The other branch, less willing to distinguish itself from mainstream Islam, recognized Ghulam Ahmad as a reformer ( mujaddid ) and established what came to be known as the ahmadiyya anjuman ishaat-i Islam movement in Lahore, Pakistan, also known as the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement. Both branches engage in energetic missionary activity in Nigeria, Kenya, Indonesia, and the Indian subcontinent.
Orthodox Islam has never accepted Ghulam Ahmad's visions, and Ahmadis in Pakistan have faced religious and political attacks to the extent that they have been declared apostate and non-Muslim by the country's religious and political elite. A 1984 Pakistani government decree banned the use of Islamic forms of worship by Ahmadis, and the fourth Khalifatul-Masih went into exile in London until his death in 2003. Ahmadis have also suffered from discrimination in other Islamic nations. The most widely cited figure for membership in the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam is 10 million, although this figure dates to the 1980s; current official movement figures are significantly higher.
See H. J. Fisher, Ahmadiyyah (1963); S. Lavan, The Ahmadiyyah Movement (1974); Y. Friedman, Prophecy Continuous (1989).