Thousands of Muslims gathered at the UK's largest mosque to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Ahmadiyya community over the weekend.

At a service in the Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden on Friday, March 21, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, international leader of the Ahmadiyya community, delivered a sermon broadcast to millions of followers in 204 countries around the world.

London has become the centre of the Ahmadiyya community, with thousands of members fleeing Asian, African and Arabic countries where they have faced persecution for their belief in the second prophet.

The current leader, who is the fifth successor to the community's founder, has lived at the London mosque in Southfields since 2003, when he was elected to rule and exiled from his native Pakistan.

In his sermon, attended by 4,000 people and delivered in Urdu, he spoke about the signs foretold by the prophet Muhammad about the coming of the Messiah which members believe verify the authenticity of their founder and asked members to pray for peace in war-torn countries like Syria and Ukraine.

The Baitul Futuh Mosque in London Road, which spans 5.2 acres, was opened in 2003.

Farooq Aftab, general secretary of Ahmadiyya Muslim youth association, said: "There was a lot of opposition to the mosque but now it's used more by the community than us.

"We are the oldest Muslim community in the UK. Our members are proactive in getting involved with inter-faith events to get the community involved in diverse issues."

Morden residents showed their support for the community after the mosque was targeted on Facebook and Twitter during the anti-Muslim backlash following the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in May last year.

Police and Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden, joined a special ceremony to pray for the murdered soldier in a show of solidarity against extremism.

Since the current leader migrated to the UK and the new mosque was built, Morden has attracted about 7,000 members of the Ahmadiyya community.

Rafiq Hayat, national president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK, who moved to London from Kenya as a child in the 1960s, said: "I went to Rutlish school and me and my brother were the only two Asian boys.

"We were a bit of a novelty. I was the school hockey captain. The prejudice came much later, in the 70s with the skinheads.

"In the mid-to-late 70s ten new centres were established in the UK. We had problems in Pakistan and in 1974 more people started to arrive.

"In 1984 the fourth leader migrated here - that's when we saw the community grow in the UK.

"Then 9/11 happened and it changed the way Muslims were considered completely. Suddenly people started worrying. A lot of people came to see us to find out what is Islam."

The Ahmadiyya community is devoted to promoting what they believe are the true teachings of Islam, of peace in every aspect of life, which they say have been corrupted by Muslim fundamentalists.

Community groups around the country work with all people, regardless of race, religion or colour, to raise money for charitable causes.

There are about 30,000 members of the Ahmadiyya community in the UK, with 15,000 residing in London.

  • The community was founded in 1889 in Qadian, an Indian village, by the Prophet Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who claimed to be the awaited Messiah whose advent was foretold in the Muslim, Christian and Jewish traditions.
  • In 1984 the fourth leader migrated to London.
  • The London Mosque in Southfields opened in 1926.
  • The Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden opened in 2003.