As some 38,000 Ahmadi Muslims from more than 110 countries gathered in the countryside outside London this past August for the fast-growing denomination's annual convention, thousands of Ahmadis camped out in tents less than a mile from a small house.
For the three days of the convention, or Jalsa, the modest building on Oakland Farm in Hampshire was the home of Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the Ahmadis' spiritual leader, or caliph. In their nearby tent village, his followers gather to pray behind him and hear him speak on everything from women's rights to achieving world peace.
"He might be the most accessible world religious figure," said Imam Abdun Nur Baten, an Ahmadi missionary serving in Paraguay who attended the Jalsa in the first week of August. "He always keeps the door open. There is distance for logistical and security reasons, but you can visit him, get personal responses to your letters or find him praying in the mosque."