Unity and Community: The Blessings of Jalsa Salana

Nooresahar Ahmad, Bordon

Consider, if you have them, your childhood memories of Jalsa Salana.

In one specific memory from when I was about ten years old, I had been wandering around the Jalsa Gah (taking a break from my hard work doing water duty) and came across an AIMS ID face down on the floor. After briefly considering whether I should leave it there, I decided to pick it up to hand it in so it could be returned to its owner. Except when I turned it over, not only did I realise it was my own cousin’s ID, but within a few minutes I ran into that same cousin and returned her card before she had even realised it was missing.

As a child, it was difficult to realise that the mini village erected in the summer to create a three-day spiritual experience, was brought about with anything other than the serendipitous ease with which I returned my cousin’s property. The reality of the sheer amount of community effort required to do so dawned on me as I grew older. From planning and building the Jalsa site, to cooking the food, to sorting out the admin, to keeping the toilets clean, thousands volunteer their time and energy to create the best experience for the guests of the Promised Messiah (peace be upon him). By far the most awe-inspiring work, however, is carried out by His Holiness Khalifatul Masih V.

In the United Kingdom, we have the unique privilege of having His Holiness in attendance at Jalsa Salana. Even a glimpse of the Khalifa’s duties — preparing one sermon and four speeches for the event, handing out academic awards for academic excellence, meeting guests — paints a picture of overwhelming responsibility. On top of that, His Holiness routinely guides both duty holders and guests alike of their mutual obligation to one another, and to remember the spiritual significance of the event. After all, as he noted in a Friday Sermon in 2010, it is a sign of the truth of the Promised Messiah (peace be on him) that he was successful in forming a Jamaat without borders, which can display a unique bond of brotherhood and unity.

The restrictions due to COVID remind us of the value of this community element of Jalsa Salana. Islam emphasises the importance of communal Prayer, and in doing so reminds us of the spiritual significance of gathering together to rejuvenate our faith. This year, as before, hearing the familiar slogans being raised and being immersed in the communal experience of Jalsa has been as uplifting as ever.

https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/2010-07-30.html

Jalsa Salana: Quenching a Spiritual Thirst

Iffat Mirza, Raynes Park

It is far too easy to be caught up in what we consider to be our conquests, victories, and achievements. In doing so it can be quite tempting to only see ourselves as part of an external world and forget about the world internal to us. Consequently, we forget our true selves and seek only to conquer the world outside.

The world within, then, withers away.

I sometimes think that others think faith is static. Or at least, that’s the expectation. Once you have it, you keep it and it’s always there. I think I also used to think this when I was little. But as I’ve grown and experienced the world a little more, it’s become apparent that this is not the case for someone like me. Perhaps for those more righteous and holy, it is, but not for an ordinary person like me.

In these moments where the waves of faith ebb and flow, I am grateful that I belong to a community which acknowledges human nature and has put in place ways to ensure our faith can be rejuvenated. The Jalsa Salana, the annual convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a three-day event with humble beginnings in a small village, Qadian, in Northern India, proves to be just this for me. The first Jalsa Salana saw some 75 blessed individuals attending. By the grace of God today we see around 40,000 attendees at Jalsa Salana UK. It truly is a sight to behold.

From the preparations that are underway months ahead of the actual event, to the concluding silent prayer, there is no doubt that this event is truly a blessing from God. I have never, in any other context, seen men, women, and children sacrifice their time and efforts. There is truly no worldly gain to the effort which goes into making this event a reality, but the pure passion of faith which drives each individual. Practically overnight, the huge site is turned into a miniature city purely functioning on the idea that the hosts and attendees all believe it to be three days of faithfulness.

Just seeing this microcosm of what the world could be is enough to cause me to look at the world within me. It allows me to reconsider my own priorities and reconcile these priorities with my faith.

Beyond this, key moments of the blessed three days are essential to my understanding of faith. Namely, the international Bai’at. The very symbolism of pledging my allegiance to the leader of a community which professes the motto ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ is beyond words any language can articulate. The grand human chain, leading to just one hand, that of Amir ul Momineen – The Leader of the Faithful – is one which reminds me that me being content in my faith is of personal concern to someone.

Like most events, the Jalsa Salana, as we usually know it, was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID 19 Pandemic. Upon its return in 2021, though to a reduced scale, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his Helper) stated at the inspection of the event “this year, though the restrictions fluctuate, it was decided that even if at a small scale, the Jalsa Salana should be held so that people’s spiritual thirst could be quenched, and the volunteers who long to serve the guests of the Promised Messiah (peace be on him) could also perform their duties.”

I am so grateful to belong to a community where it is openly acknowledged that faith and spirituality is not always consistent – that is not to say it is absent, but nonetheless it needs nurturing and rejuvenating. The Jalsa Salana serves to quench this thirst. It is the nurturing rain in what could otherwise be a drying desert. The three days are beyond this existence. From the clattering of the chairs as they are packed away, and the headlights illuminating the country lanes as attendees make their way home, there is no sound nor sight which is not saturated with a faith-inspiring spirit.

Khilafat: A Unifying Force at Jalsa and Beyond

Ayesha Naseem, Blackburn

A significant part of my childhood was spent in Pakistan, and it was during those years that the national and regional events of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the country were restricted due to the increased persecution and safety concerns.

So, witnessing the International Annual Convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the UK – also known as the Jalsa Salana – was a first for me. I had never quite experienced something like that before. Three days in a place where members of the Community gather from across the world to reawaken their faith, to show gratitude to Allah the Almighty for all the blessings and to make a renewed effort to concentrate and improve one’s spiritual growth. The Jalsa Salana is a demonstration of unity and togetherness that anyone unfamiliar with the Community would find astonishing and rare.

What’s so extraordinary is that even if you are not physically present at the Convention, watching its proceedings Live from home feels no different either. The emotions, the thoughts, and the feelings that one experiences at the Jalsa Gah – the Jalsa Site – are experienced by those watching from afar too.

But this incredible show of unity, the Community’s unwavering faith and the members’ aspiration to grow and improve spiritually would never be possible without the sheer Grace of Allah the Almighty, the fulfilment of His promises to the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace), and the institution of Khilafat.

Explaining the purpose of the Jalsa Salana, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said:

“The purpose of the Jalsa was that the members of our Jamaat may somehow undergo a transformation by repeatedly meeting one another and that their hearts may be completely drawn towards the Hereafter and filled with the fear of God; they may become an example for others in righteousness, virtue, fear of God, goodness, soft-heartedness, mutual love and brotherhood; they may develop humility, humbleness and virtue and that they may instil a passion for religious endeavours.” [1]

From the first Jalsa Salana held during the time of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) to the ones that have taken place ever since under the leadership of Khilafat, the one central factor is unity. After the demise of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace), it has been the institution of Khilafat that has guided and shielded the Community at every step.

During his inaugural address at the Jalsa Salana UK last year, the fifth Caliph and the current worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his Helper) said:

“Real glory and splendour are achieved when the attendees pay attention to bringing about a pious change in themselves and when they follow a permanent path of taqwa – righteousness…” [2]

The three days of the Jalsa Salana traditionally include a sermon and four addresses by the Caliph and one International ceremony of the Bai’at – the Pledge of Allegiance – at his hand. Essentially, with the guidance of His Holiness on how the Jalsa Salana should be organised and his continuous prayers for everyone involved to his blessed attendance at the Convention itself, Khalifatul Masih is at the heart of everything. As a guiding light, as a spiritual father figure, who is constantly encouraging his Community to excel, to do better, to be ambitious.

This encouragement for spiritual development, this guidance, and this unshakeable influence that the Khalifa has in uniting his Community is not limited to the Conventions he attends only. His Holiness gives the same love, the same prayers and the same amount of guidance and support to those countries where the Jalsa Salana is held without him gracing it. And those places see the same demonstration of brotherhood and unity and eagerness to learn and develop spiritually as places His Holiness graces.

Where else in the world do we find this unifying force and this unconditionally compassionate leadership? As for me, I see none. Among so many proofs of the truthfulness of Islam Ahmadiyyat and Ahmadiyya Caliphate, this is an example of just one of them.

Spiritual Growth at Jalsa: Magnified by Khilafat

Maleeha Mansur, Hayes

The presence of Khilafat at Jalsa entirely transforms the experience of Jalsa Salana, and indeed, if we try, life thereafter. Whether it be from the magnificent addresses of His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, our Caliph or Khalifa, personal meetings with His Holiness, the opportunity to received academic achievement awards, or indeed, the great fortune to directly behold the beautiful countenance of the most beloved one of Allah on Earth today.

Truly, being in the company of our Imam is an unparalleled means of experiencing spiritual ambience. Explaining the importance of attaining his company, which today can be achieved through his Khalifa, the Promised Messiah (peace be on him) states, “The purpose of pledging allegiance is to dampen the worldly ardour so that the heart is engulfed in the love of the Bountiful God and of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) … In order to achieve this, it is necessary to stay in my company and to spend a portion of one’s life in this cause […] It is essential to meet me now and then. Bai‘at is devoid of all blessings and is a mere formality if one does not care to meet me.[i]

The Jalsa addresses of His Holiness enable us to understand the true purpose of Annual Convention. So profoundly did His Holiness explain to the attendees last year that the true purpose of Jalsa is achieved when we strive to bring about a pure change within ourselves and tread upon the path of righteousness. Our spiritual thirst cannot simply be quenched at once. Rather, after these three days, we must take the water with us, in order to maintain the change that has been brought about.[ii]

The addresses of His Holiness deal with so many areas of spirituality and are certainly a perfect means of satiating the thirst for one’s spiritual growth. The addresses speak to each person individually and will take on a different meaning for each listener. So beautifully did His Holiness explain last year that the true meaning of piety is to carry on our duties in this world, to our families and to humanity, all while maintaining our devotion and connection with God. This can only be done when we adopt righteousness, the fear of God, and His love. [iii]

The spiritual growth we achieve at Jalsa takes on many forms. Certainly, the brotherhood and sisterhood at Jalsa is like no other. Whatever age, ethnicity or socioeconomic status one may hold, at Jalsa we learn and feel the Islamic spirit of oneness. One finds a sea of over 35,000 devotees and countless more participating via satellite, united behind Khilafat. Despite the vast numbers of attendees, we find no bickering, no quarrelling. There is peace, there is tranquillity and there is love.

The emphasis Islam puts on serving humanity is no secret. His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad sets before us a pristine example of the extent to which one should strive in fulfilling this obligation. Not only does His Holiness remind us of the standard expected when serving the guests of the Promised Messiah (peace be on him) attending Jalsa, but through his consummate personal example, His Holiness practically demonstrates the levels of sacrifices we should be exhibiting. His schedule is relentless, yet each person who is blessed to meet His Holiness cannot help but be deeply moved by the serene smile, love and warmth they receive. Selflessness is truly epitomised in Khilafat.

Certainly, however much we thank Allah Almighty for the great blessing of Khilafat, it can never suffice. The growth one can achieve through the blessings of Jalsa, is magnified through the presence of Khilafat. Thus, we can but pray; O our Allah! Strengthen our beloved leader with the Spirit of Holiness, and bless us through his lone life and Khilafat, Ameen.


[i] The Heavenly Decree, p. 73

[ii] Inaugural Session of Jalsa Salana UK 2021, https://www.alislam.org/articles/righteousness-mutual-love-fulfilling-true-purpose-of-jalsa/

[iii] Ibid

Khalifa at Jalsa: The Path to Allah

Bareera Ghaffar, Birmingham

As the white tents and marquees are erected and the Ahmadiyya flag is raised high, many Ahmadis eagerly anticipate the three days of the blessed Jalsa Salana or the annual convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community here in the UK. For these three days the whole world comes to a pause, and we are transcended into a world enveloped by spiritual bliss, peace, and harmony. During those three days nothing outside Hadeeqatul Mahdi, Garden of the Mahdi, our UK Jalsa Salana site, matters and there is only one focus, there is only one focal point and there is only one place one’s heart yearns to be, and that is with the Khalifa of the time, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (may Allah be his Helper).

Due to the pandemic, for the past two years the annual convention has been unable to take place in its usual capacity, with this knowledge the air is mixed with excitement and deep emotions for the whole community as we gather and stand together shoulder to shoulder and Pray behind the Khalifa, the Successor of the Promised Messiah and Mahdi (on whom be peace) who was prophesied to come by the beloved Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him).

The first Allahu- Akbar – Allah is the Greatest- raised on this Jalsa site moved all hearts present, and we were all be behind our leader as one supplicating to our Lord.

The way in which the force generated by aligned atoms creates a magnetic field, the same way the presence of the Khalifa at Jalsa creates the same magnetism and electricity that connects people from different tribes who may have otherwise never met. Yet, in the countryside of Alton they meet and have a strong and unique brotherhood based on mutual love, loyalty, and devotion towards the Khalifa. The love and loyalty one has towards the Khalifa is one that exceeds all, it is what makes one stay steadfast in one’s faith and hold on to the rope of brotherhood that unites us all. The very system of Khilafat created by Allah is one rooted in obedience and preservation of Islam and its teachings. Therefore, a bond with the Khalifa of the time is crucial in one’s spiritual enhancement. I must emphasise the Khalifa is there as a guiding light and wherever one is, they must search for this light and partake in the blessings and the sanctuary of brotherhood that accepting the Khalifa provides.

To believe in Allah, is to believe in and obey the Khalifa as he is the Successor of Allah’s Messiah and Mahdi on this earth. Allah continually shows His love, grace and mercy to mankind and the presence of Khilafat is an example of such. Allah loves unity, and this sense of spiritual unity can only be achieved through the divine institution of Khilafat.

Hence, to be in the presence of the Khalifa of the age generates a deep sense of oneness and the divinely inspired brotherhood and sisterhood that comes with it. The main aims of the annual convention as laid down by the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi, His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (on whom be peace) are to increase one’s communion with Allah the Almighty, to pray for those brothers who have passed away, to meet new members and increase in brotherhood and to gain and increase in knowledge; this should be ones aims and objectives in attending and being in the presence of Khilafat.

Everyone Belongs at Jalsa

Sarah Ward, London

As Maya Angelou famously said “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. ”1

As I grow older, I am beginning to realise how very true this wisdom is. Memory, as we travel through life and time, begins to play tricks upon us; twisting events together, melding words and forgetting finer details. In the residue left behind in the trail of our memory, what endures longest is the way we felt at the moment the memory was created. Fond remembrance of happy events from decades earlier can warm the soul with a gentle glow which is never extinguished by the ticking of life’s eternal forward clock.
 
Jalsa Salana, the Annual Convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, for me, has produced many such memories which uplift and rejuvenate. Memories which can be brought out like a treasured gift on a cold winter’s day to remind that the hope of coming spring remains. Jalsa Salana is a focal point of my year and I have been attending since my childhood years – so there are many memories to cherish. I vividly recall parking on the field in Islamabad, Tilford and walking into the ladies section, no AIMS card, no shuttle and running back and forth all day. I recall waiting for my father to come and meet us at the car when no mobile phones existed and there were many friendly faces for him to greet. I recall the torrents of rain in sticky summer storms and heatwaves and dust kicked up by the dry ground. But, most of all, for me, I recall that Jalsa was a place where I belonged.
 
I grew up as an English Ahmadi child, for some years, in the deepest depths of Cornwall. In the 1980s and 1990s (MTA started its full operations in 1994) it did feel a place apart from other areas of the country. There was no internet and little exposure to other cultures at the time. The world was a different place then. As I looked around my secondary school, there was no-one quite like me, no-one else who was a Muslim. The teachings of Islam were unknown to most of the local residents and as a result I never quite felt that I fitted in. A proverbial square peg in a round hole. Jalsa was always a time of year which alleviated that feeling and reminded me of who I was – and that I wasn’t alone.
 
On the days of Jalsa, I would arrive and be greeted by friendly faces. Friends of my parents were always affectionate and kind. Through doing duties such as water duty, helping in the creche and later working at MTA, I developed my own friends amongst fellow Ahmadis – something that was an impossibility in the green fields of Cornwall. I felt a peace in my mind, a peace that this was a home for me (even if just for a few days) and a realisation that I belonged. It was this enduring sense of belonging which was refreshing for me and the thread of which remains in my memories of Jalsa to this day.
 
As the international guests arrived each year, speaking their own languages and wearing their own dress, I saw that Ahmadiyyat did not belong to any specific group or nationality. As I greeted sisters from Indonesia, Jordan, Ghana, the USA and later South American countries, I saw that Ahmadiyyat was indeed for all. That in this beautiful faith, no-one was a square peg because there were no holes. Instead, diversity was a strength of the Community and it didn’t matter what my background was, I fitted here, amongst everyone else adhering to those same shared values and beliefs. It brought to life the verse of the Qur’an ‘…And know that this community of yours is one community, and I am your Lord… ’2
 
There were so many memories I hold of Jalsa across the years. So many moments woven in my mind. Yet some remain stronger than others. There is always one moment each year which strikes a chord for me – the singing of the international poems when the Khalifa graces the ladies marquee. This is a moment that combines my faith, and adherence to Khilafat, with personal identity. I stand before the Khalifa, amongst thousands of others, with nothing to recommend myself except the desire to be beside my sisters in faith. And reflected back in those moments, I see myself. I hear my own language being sung ‘There is no God but Allah’ and it intertwines in melodious voices merging the languages of others – reinforcing that there is always a place for me in the fold of Islam and the Community of my Khalifa. On more than one occasion, tears would stream down my face as I am overwhelmed by the enormity of that belonging and appreciate how integral such a feeling is to life.
 
My father used to often tell me, as a self-conscious teenager, that Jalsa was not a fashion show and he was right. I have no memory of what I wore, or how I did my hair. All my memories revolve around how I felt when I attended. Because while the details may fade, I have yet to find another time of year which makes me feel so very much that I belong.
 

References:

1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2014/05/31/the-maya-angelou-quote-that-will-radically-improve-your-business/?sh=43ce4848118b

2. Holy Quran 23:53

Podcast – Jalsa Salana: A Moment of Growth

Jalsa Salana: A Sense of Community

Shumaila Iftikhar, London

With the grace of Allah, his year’s annual convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the UK, begins today.

The Jalsa Salana is a three-day event filled with speeches from key figures from within the Community as well as outside, including politicians, philanthropists and others from around the world. This year, in light of post-pandemic measures, Jalsa will only be open to Community members from the UK. However, the keynote addresses of the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his Helper) will indeed be the highlights of the event.

Another aspect of the event is that it draws members of the Community together in an exemplary symbol of peace and unity – displayed vividly during the flag-hoisting ceremony, where the flags of countries in which our Community has been established since its founding, encircle its flag. Or through the crowds that form over the three days, and the voluntary work carried out diligently by members of the Community, young and old, to ensure the convention runs smoothly.

Throughout the event, members of the Community from various kinds of backgrounds and walks of life, congregate to listen to the same teachings, establishing a sense of togetherness that many others outside the Community yearn for.

An annual convention that, in the UK, breathes life into rural Hampshire, and pre-COVID-19 hosted an approximate number of 35, 000 people from the world over, this year’s event will look a little smaller, to incorporate COVID-19 precautions. But the purpose of the spiritual event remains the same: bringing all under the banner of one common faith. This sense of community, at a time when the world is embroiled in divisive politics and individualism is becoming a pervasive force, is few and far between to find elsewhere. Yet it is the pinnacle of Islamic principles.

The Holy Qur’an states: “And hold fast the covenant of Allah all together and be not divided; and remember the favour of Allah upon you when you were enemies and He united your hearts in love, so that by His grace you became as brothers;…”1

This verse clearly states the importance of holding together as a community is a necessary means to avoid being pulled into darkness and disorder, and the favour bestowed on believers by Allah after those who came before did not obey. The oath-of allegiance taking (or Bai’at) ceremony is a visual example of this. The chains that form as members of the Community recite the oath of allegiance after our Khalifa or Caliph, and this recitation is echoed in various languages simultaneously, exemplify the notion this verse exhorts, to remain firm on the agreement made between a believer and Allah and to do so reflecting unity.

The unity and sense of community displayed in the annual convention, from the preparations that come before it, to the various duties that are integral in ensuring the success of the event, exemplify the true meaning of Islam because they symbolise a single unit working to spread a message of peace.

  1. Holy Qur’an chapter 3, verse 104

Jalsa Salana: The Start of a Spiritual Journey

Cemal Inam, Thornton Heath

It was at the 50th UK Jalsa Salana in 2016 when I cried during the Bai’at ceremony conducted by His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V. Bai’at literally means to sell yourself or to make a pledge of allegiance. The Promised Messiah (peace be upon him) said “To take Bai‘at means handing over your life to the Almighty Allah. It means, ‘Today we have sold our lives to the Almighty Allah.’ It is wrong to say that by treading the path of Allah, anybody can ultimately suffer a loss.”

I was lucky enough to have been born an Ahmadi Muslim, but it was not until my teenage years that I felt like I had truly accepted my faith. Taking the pledge of allegiance was a promise to myself to understand and learn more about the faith that I was born into. After taking the Bai’at that year I felt like a whole new person.

And that is exactly what Jalsa Salana is. For some, it can be the start of a spiritual journey, as they start acknowledging their faith and educating themselves about it. For me, on that sunny day in 2016, it was truly the start of my spiritual journey. His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the current Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has, several times highlighted to members within the community the importance of learning and understanding our religion and not simply inheriting it. True love for Islam comes from learning about it. And that was my exact goal leaving the Jalsa Salana site six years ago.

Since then, Jalsa has been about reconnecting again to my faith. Many say the hardest part of one’s spiritual journey is to keep the momentum going because we all lead very busy lives and sometimes our faith can be lost in it. Our faith can become second to worldly pursuits when we have other priorities to focus on. But when Jalsa Salana comes around thousands of Ahmadi Muslims gather in the countryside away from our worldly interests to come together to attempt to reignite the spark in our spiritual journey, it is our source of keeping our momentum going. It is said in the Holy Qur’an, in Chapter 43 Verse 63 “And let not Satan hinder you. Surely he is to you an open enemy” . Satan hates to see us consistent within our spiritual journeys; his main objective is to ‘hinder you’. Jalsa Salana thus is a tool to help us not let Satan’s goal be successful.

This is mentioned by His Holiness too, in his inspiring address at the occasion of Jalsa Salana Germany 2021, he stated “The objective of the Jalsa is to increase Taqwa (righteousness) in the participants whilst spending time in a spiritual environment. If this is not the case, then organising the Jalsa is a futile pursuit. When the Jalsa Salana takes place and one spends time in a religious and spiritual atmosphere, meeting one’s brothers and sisters and exchanging good and pious ideas, it creates a spiritual and religious rejuvenation.”

The observation of congregational Prayer, a significant part of the annual convention, is one way to rejuvenate our spiritual journey. It is the one time during the busy weekend when the whole site goes silent. We all stand shoulder to shoulder with our heels aligned and pray together behind His Holiness. The way we simply Pray unites thousands of strangers from all around the world together and that is the best feeling. Praying with others helps to rejuvenate our faith, we support each other in our spiritual journey because everyone’s spiritual journey is our spiritual journey.

Six years ago, I started my spiritual journey at Jalsa Salana and since then the annual convention continues to serve as the source to keep that spark alive in my journey. Those who pray persistently to find the means to connect to Allah the Almighty are guided by Himself.

References

Malfuzat, Vol. 7, pp. 29-30

The Holy Qur’an, 43:63

Jalsa Salana Germany 2021 Concludes With Faith Inspiring Address

Inspiration and Fortitude: Some Lessons of Jalsa UK

Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

Every summer, generally at the start of the school holidays, Jalsa Salana UK arrives, certain and exciting. Many weeks, if not months of preparation followed by three days of speeches by scholars, exhibitions, meeting friends, and four addresses and a sermon by His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, (may Allah be his Helper) worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. I find it greatly inspirational thinking of the work put into holding such an event and how we learn to manage change.

The first Jalsa UK, attended by only a handful of people, was held in a back garden near the Fazl Mosque in Wandsworth; over the years the size has increased, and recent Jalsas in Hadeeqatul Mahdi, Hampshire, have had an attendance of over 30,000 men, women and children and several thousand volunteers.

In addition to the changes brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, we have notoriously changeable British summers to contend with; in the month of July this year, Hampshire swung between the record breaking high of almost 40°C to more than twenty degrees lower in a matter of days. Jalsa UK has seen its fair share of different weather conditions, and at last year’s rainy, Covid-safe Jalsa, I especially thought about how we keep going no matter what is thrown our way.

The 2007 Jalsa UK fell during a very wet summer; three months of regular rain saturated the farmland and heavy equipment left swathes of soft mud over the site. That year, many vehicles became stuck on the evening of the first day and teams of volunteers spent hours pushing cars out; all was apparent chaos but help and assistance was on offer everywhere. Jalsa continued, of course, and a bus service was put on from a nearby car park to get people to the site. In following years, this has become a regular park and ride service with a fleet of double decker buses making multiple journeys to and from Hadeeqatul Mahdi. On the site now, there are metal tracks as pathways, land drainage systems ready for wet weather, and many of us have bought wellies which are kept ready just in case.

In contrast, several Jalsas have been extremely hot, including the one in 2018 which saw temperatures over 30°C and little breeze; it felt like we were melting. But we carried on with lots of water, sunscreen and fans; now the large marquees have ventilation systems blowing cool air as well as electric fans available. And who doesn’t keep a bottle of water with them?

In 2021, Jalsa Salana returned after a year’s break due to the pandemic; a large scale event after over a year of virtual ones was a daunting prospect, but following strict safety guidelines and with attendees complying, it went smoothly, despite the rain for which we all brought out those wellies previous wet Jalsas had taught us to keep handy!

Everything happens for a purpose, and adversity does make us stronger; I have often thought it is God’s way of keeping us on our toes. Workers and attendees of Jalsa UK have found this to be very much the case, while they continue to organise and attend increasingly larger scale events, with many prayers and the guidance of His Holiness (may Allah be his Helper). Thinking of all those workers and guests, I feel inspired by their expanding skills, commitment and faith which keep Jalsa UK going every year.

Now we are preparing for this year’s Jalsa Salana, and with Covid-19 restrictions greatly eased, little rain recently and the heatwave over, it looks like conditions will be perfect for a return to a large gathering. If we do face some adverse condition, we have gained experience through the years and I am confident we will handle it and have a blessed weekend.

Understanding The Meaning Of Sacrifice

Eid ul Adha, also known as Eid of sacrifice, was celebrated by Muslims all over the world in this month. We marked this with a series of blogs on sacrifice and what it really means to followers of the Islamic faith. Here is the last blog of the series.

Khoula Saeed, Tilford

All over the world, Muslims celebrate Eid-Ul-Adha in the 12th month of the Islamic year, with thousands of people coming together and commemorating the special story of the sacrifice by Prophet Abraham ( peace  be on him). But what does it mean to sacrifice? Throughout our lives, we see that many people give up one thing in order to pursue another, such as a favourite hobby to make time for a work-related meeting, or certain types of food to better our health and fitness. These types of sacrifices ultimately help us progress further in our lives.

On the special day of Eid-ul-Adha, Allah has taught Muslims to pray and slaughter an animal in remembrance of Prophet Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, who in turn was prepared to fulfil his father’s blessed dream. At that moment when Prophet Abraham (peace be on him) was about to slaughter his son, Allah forbade him from doing so and blessed them greatly for their obedience. Instead, Allah instructed them to slaughter a ram in remembrance of their preparedness to fulfil God’s command. In this way, Allah Almighty reminds Muslims of the fragility of life and that the riches of this life are fleeting whilst also teaching that it is the spirit of sacrifice and our good deeds that will be enduring. Regarding this, Allah Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an in Chapter 22 verse 38:

“Their flesh reaches not Allah, nor does their blood, but it is your righteousness that reaches Him. Thus has He subjected them to you, that you may glorify Allah for His guiding you. And give glad tidings to those who do good.”

At the same time, Muslims are instructed to distribute the meat of the sacrificed animal to the less fortunate members of society and in doing so bring communities and families together.

In Islam, the spirit of sacrifice is so highly regarded that the very term ‘sacrifice’ is written in the Holy Qur’an several times. In Chapter 6 verse 163 of the Holy Qur’an it is stated:

“Say, ‘My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.”

And again in Chapter 108 verse 3:

“So pray to thy Lord, and offer sacrifice.”

The above verse so clearly distinguishes that all aspects of a Muslim’s life, even in death, are for attaining the pleasure of the Almighty God. Thus, the sacrifice that Islam calls for is different to that of everyday life: God does not require our prayers or our money. Rather in offering such sacrifices with the spirit described in the story of Prophet Abraham (peace be on him), Muslims are promised bounties beyond the temporary world and into the afterlife.

The sacrifices that a Muslim ought to make in their lives are made in the name of God, the Creator and Sustainer of our lives. Following the festivities of Eid-ul-Adha, Muslims are reminded that this spirit of sacrifice shown in the days of Eid are to be carried on for the rest of our lives, and that only in God’s remembrance can hearts find peace. All sacrifices, both in life and in death are for the sake of Allah and we as Muslims pray that may Allah the Exalted accept them and bless us for them. Ameen!

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Podcast – Eid-ul-Adha: Essence of True Sacrifice

In this episode of the British Muslim Women’s podcast, Ayesha Naseem, Maleeha Mansur and Iffat Mirza talk about the Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Adha, “Festival of Sacrifice”, and delve deeper into the meaning and purpose of this Eid and the broader emphasis on the subject of sacrifice in Islam.

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