71st Jalsa Salana USA 2019

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Faran Rabbani, Al Hakam Correspondent

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA, 12-14 July: On Thursday, 11 July 2019, the inspection for the 71st Jalsa Salana USA officially began. 

This year’s Jalsa Salana was held at the Farm Show Complex, located in the heart of Harrisburg, the capital city of the state of Pennsylvania.

The Jalsa inspection began at 7:40pm with Amir Jamaat USA, Sahibzada Dr Mirza Maghfoor Ahmad Sahib passing through the security gates. 

After the initial security inspection and visit to various departments, Amir Sahib addressed the volunteers of Jalsa Salana USA.

Recitation of the Holy Quran was presented by Imam Faheem Arshad Sahib of Phoenix, Arizona, after which Amir Sahib addressed the volunteers of this year’s Jalsa. 

In his remarks, Amir Sahib reminded the volunteers:

“Every year, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih, may Allah be his Helper, addresses the volunteers of Jalsa and reminds them of their responsibilities. Those are the real guidelines for us all to abide by. We should all remember that each and every guest at the Jalsa Salana is in reality the guest of the Promised Messiahas and as such, must be treated with the utmost respect that they rightfully deserve. 

“It was observed that some volunteers lost their temper in previous years while on duty. This is not an acceptable behaviour. We must never lose our temper, come what may. Similarly, the badges that we all wear should serve as a constant reminder that we are servants of the Jamaat and must obey the nizam while treating everyone alike with kindness and compassion. 

“Keep an observant eye on your surroundings as that is the best form of security. Huzoor-e-Anwaraa has time and again reminded us that those who are on duty must offer their prayers in congregation. If someone is unable to offer the prayers with the main congregation, then they must offer it in congregation with other such volunteers later on.”

Then addressing the Ziafat (kitchen) needs, Amir Sahib said:

“In previous years, our Ziafat department has had food shortage due to which not all the guests at Jalsa Salana were served. Ziafat department should do their best to address this issue so that food is prepared in enough quantities so that every single guest of the Promised Messiahas is served in the best possible manner.” 

At the end, Amir sahib led everyone in silent prayer. 

Around 500 volunteers, including men, women and children were present at the Jalsa Salana inspection.

99 years ago, when Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra was not permitted to enter the country upon his arrival in the USA, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra addressed the Jamaat and stated:

“America, which claims to be a world power, has only faced worldly powers until now and has defeated them. However, it has not faced a religious power until today. If it ever faces this community, it will realise that it cannot defeat us because God is with us … It is our hope that one day in America, the sound of “La ilaha illallahu Muhammadur-Rasulullah” will most definitely echo”. [Tarikh-e-Ahmadiyyat, Vol. 4, pp. 250-251]

Alhamdolillah, a testament to that historic day once again dawned on us on a beautiful Friday morning in Harrisburg, USA. Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya USA celebrated its 71st historic Jalsa Salana. 

This momentous day began with the observance of Tahajud prayer followed by Fajr at the Hadi Mosque in Harrisburg along with all the hotels where guests of the Promised Messiahas stayed this year. Then, a few hours later, the live Friday Sermon of Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa was listened to and soon after, everyone started making their way to the Jalsa Gah. 

This year’s Jalsa Salana had an amazing pictorial exhibition on Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya in Islam, capturing the history of Khilafat and the various visits by Khulafa to the United States over the span of several decades. Similarly, a book store, a tabligh booth with its own exhibition, multiple booths for The Review of Religions magazine, a Humanity First exhibition, multiple food halls and multiple bazaars were also set up for the guests of the Promised Messiahas.

At 12pm, lunch was served to the guests of this year’s Jalsa Salana USA. At 2pm sharp, Azhar Hanif Sahib, Naib Amir and Missionary In-charge USA, presented the Friday Sermon based on the one of 1 January 1988 by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh highlighting the significance of Friday prayers in Islam and comparing it with the institution of Sabbath in Judeo-Christian scriptures. He mentioned the great service that the Promised Messiahas had rendered for the Muslim Ummah by petitioning the British government to grant Muslims a partial leave on Fridays so that they could participate in the Friday prayers. 

At 4:10pm, the flag hoisting ceremony took place at the entrance of the main Jalsa Gah, where the Liwa-e-Ahmadiyyat (flag of Ahmadiyyat) was raised high next to the American flag. This was followed by a short silent prayer. Everyone then proceeded to the Main Jalsa Gah where the opening session of the 71st Jalsa Salana USA began promptly at 4:30pm, which was presided by Amir Sahib. 

Message from Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa

After tilawat and nazm, Amir Jamaat USA, Sahibzada Dr Mirza Maghfoor Ahmad Sahib read out the message that Jamaat USA received from Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa

The message read:

“Dear members of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat USA, Assalamo Alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

“By the grace of Allah, you have been granted the opportunity of convening another Jalsa Salana. As most of you are aware, one purpose of holding the Jalsa as has been explained by the Promised Messiahas is that the members of the Jamaat should gather together to advance their religious training and spirituality. Religious and spiritual matters should be the subjects of the Jalsa so those attending may develop a closer relationship with Allah and endeavour to increase in their spiritual status.

“Similarly, another objective of the Jalsa is to promote love, affection, unity and compassion with the Jamaat. So, you should strive to adopt these values much more than before. Always remember and adhere to these principles. 

“Further, the purpose of the advent of the Promised Messiahas was to teach us that by fulfilling the obligations due to Allah, we would increase in piety. We are also required to fulfil the rights owed to others by following the commandments of Allah, that is to behave lovingly and with affection and cultivate better relationships with each other. Therefore, adhering to the teachings of the Promised Messiahas will prove a source of blessings for you in your tasks. Whereas such actions will be beneficial for your tarbiyat and keep you aright in your affairs, they will also prove blessed for you in your tabligh work and you will be able to convey the message in the best manner. 

“Another point you should always remember is that irrespective whether you are implementing a tabligh programme or a tarbiyat activity, or you are striving to improve your personal character, your efforts cannot succeed until you develop khashyatullah that is the fear of Allah. Once this is firmly established within you, you will then witness how Allah blesses your work and your efforts. 

“Your every endeavour should be independent of personal gain. The office-bearers are expected to fulfil their responsibilities by considering the service of Islam as a blessing. 

“This year in the Jamaat elections, some new and some serving office-bearers have been given the opportunity to serve the Jamaat. It is now your responsibility that you direct even more attention towards the service of religion. You are to forge ahead along and together with the other members of the Jamaat. 

“Similarly, the members of the Jamaat should realise that they are expected to dispel all thought of personal interest and offer their service purely for the sake of Allah, and in complete obedience to Nizam-e-Jamaat. As the relationship between the office-bearers and the general members of the Jamaat develops, your work will be blessed and you will be enabled to express your attachment to Khilafat genuinely with your hearts, and thereby you will be able to fulfil your pledge. If this is not the case, then your statements are empty words.

“In this age, Allah has favoured us with the divine institution of Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya and so to fulfil our obligations towards Khilafat, it is incumbent on the office-bearers and all other members of the Jamaat that they should deal with each other affectionately and with love, and by cooperating with one another; they should become of those who strive for the success of the Jamaat. When all of you join and work together, then you will be considered among those who have truly entered the Jamaat of the Promised Messiahas and are most rightly fulfilling the obligations of your Bai‘at. 

“Allah Almighty sent the Promised Messiahas as the Imam of this age and servant of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. Only if we follow the teachings of the Promised Messiahas with sincere hearts and fulfil the requirements of our Bai‘at, can we consider ourselves to have fully exhibited our total allegiance to the Holy Prophetsa and his commandments. May Allah enable you to do so. Amin.

“Yours Sincerely, [signed] Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V”

This was followed by the first speech of the day’s session on the topic of “Al-Wali – the True Friend and Protector of Believers” presented by Omar Shaheed Sahib. In this speech, various anecdotes were mentioned that showed how Allah helps and protects those who truly believe in Him with all their heart and keep Allah as their ultimate friend. 

Next was another exhilarating speech on the topic of “Tazkirat-ul-Auliya – Narrations and Noble Qualities of the Friends of God” by Rizwan Khan Sahib. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra had mentioned that the “Companions had an ishqiyya [loving] temperament whereas the youth of today only have a philosophical temperament”. The speaker then illustrated various faith inspiring incidents from the lives of the blessed Companionsra and tabi‘een of the Holy Prophetsa as well as from the lives of the Companionsra of the Promised Messiahas exemplifying their expressions of love for these blessed personages. 

The third and the final speech of the day was presented by Dr Waseem Sayed Sahib on the topic of “The Tenth Condition of Bai‘at – Our Matchless Bond of Love With Khilafat”. Outlining the true purpose of our Bai‘at, the speaker quoted the Promised Messiahas where he stated that the system of Bai‘at had been instituted solely with the purpose of bringing together a large group of righteous people who should cast their own virtuous influence upon the world. The speech highlighted many practical examples through which an Ahmadi Muslim can enhance their relationship with Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa.

The first day of Jalsa Salana USA ended with dinner, after which Maghrib and Isha prayers were offered in congregation.

Courtesy of Al Islam

Day 2 of Jalsa Salana USA began with congregational Tahajud prayer followed by Fajr Salat and a brief dars at the Jalsa Gah and various hotels where the guests of the Promised Messiahas stayed. 

Prior to the morning session, fresh and warm breakfast was served at the Ziafat halls at the Jalsa Gah. 

The morning session was presided by Naib Amir Dr Hameedur Rahman Sahib, which began with a beautiful recitation of the Holy Quran and a nazm of the Promised Messiahas. After this, the first speech of the day was presented in Urdu by Haris Raja Sahib on the topic of “Survival of the Fittest – Living in the West Without Losing Faith”. 

Raja Sahib quoted Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira where he said that the biggest problem of this day and age is materialism and this is why the Imam of our Jamaat, the Promised Messiahas added the proclamation, “I will give precedence to my faith over worldly matters”. After this, Raja Sahib shared many anecdotes from the stories of prophets from the Holy Quran. Raja Sahib also shared many faith-inspiring incidents from the lives of Ahmadi Muslims who are new to the USA but have not given up on their religious values and are being blessed by Allah in every sense of the word.

The second speech of the morning session was on “Our ‘Ilah’ is One! – Demolishing Inner Idols That Hinder Sincere Belief”. This speech was presented by Sahibzada Usman Latif Sahib. He presented the example of Hazrat Sahibzada Abdul Latif Sahib Shaheedra who laid down his life in order to set the example of true belief in Allah in this day and age.

The following speech was on the topic of “The Modesty and Humility of Our Messengersa – How to Avoid Immoral Societal Trends”. This speech was presented by Abdul Hai Thomas Sahib who shared a detailed contrast between the concept of haya (modesty) and riya (showing off). He presented many faith inspiring incidents from the life of the Holy Prophetsa where his modesty prevailed over the societal ills. The blessed model of the Holy Prophetsa serves as a citadel of refuge for us in dire times when society is ridden with myriads of spiritual ills.

The final speech of the morning session was presented by Imam Mahmood Kauser Sahib on “The Critical Need of Life Devotees to Spread the Light of Islam”. Imam Kauser presented the life of Hazrat Musabra bin Umair, the first life devotee for the sake of Islam. He shared many incidents from the lives of life devotees of the past and present who are known as stalwarts of Islam Ahmadiyyat. At the end, he shared the dire need that Islam Ahmadiyyat requires in this day and age from all of us and that is to come forward and present ourselves for the ultimate sacrifice to dedicate our entire lives for the sake of propagating our faith.

At the end of the morning session, Humanity First USA recognised some of its volunteers for exceptional services that they had rendered in the service of humanity via different projects under the Humanity First USA flagship. 

The session concluded with lunch break followed by Zuhr and Asar prayers in congregation.

A special lunch with Amir Jamaat USA, Sahibzada Dr Mirza Maghfoor Ahmad Sahib was prepared for the dignitaries that had come to this year’s Jalsa USA. The notables included US congresswoman Norma Torres (D-California), Kurt J Werthmuller (Policy Analyst), US Commission on International Religious Freedom Blake Strayhorn, President Habitat for Humanity Durham Sue Henderson, Vice President of US & Canada, Habitat for Humanity International Hon Neftaly Aldana Herrera, Judge of Constitutional Court of Guatemala, Siddique Abou Bakr Wai (Ambassador of Sierra Leone to the US), Craig Considine (author and professor of sociology), Rice University Representative Andrew Lewis, Member Pennsylvania House of Representatives Bob DeSousa, Representative from Office of US Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa) and Rushan Abbas (Executive Director Campaign for Uyghurs).

After Zuhr and Asr, lunch was served to the guests of the Promised Messiahas. The afternoon session started at 3:45pm and was presided by Naib Amir Dr Nasim Rehmatullah Sahib. In this session, there were two speeches; the first was presented by Mujeeb Ijaz Sahib on the topic of “Service to Humanity – A Fundamental Form of Divine Worship” and the second speech was presented by Rasheed Reno Sahib on the subject of “Compassion in a Time of Crisis”. 

The Ahmadiyya Community of USA presented its annual Humanitarian Award to two awardees this year. The first was Blake Strayhorn, President and Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity of Durham. The second recipient was Congresswoman Norma Torres of California for her underlying commitment to protect the rights of immigrant communities, especially those fleeing from violence and persecution. In her acceptance speech, she commented:

“I want every immigrant to have the experience I had; to be welcomed into a loving community. I am so honoured to be here. I am grateful for this award and our friendship”.

Another guest speaker, Hon Judge Neftaly Aldana Herrera of Guatemala, said: 

“I want to express my gratitude to this community for its commitment to serve humanity and create bonds based on love and peace and humanity. Nasir Hospital (Guatemala) is a hope for our community”.

Miss Rushan Abbas, the Executive Director for the campaign for Uyghurs said:

“The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has given us the most precious gift: the light of hope”.

Special messages were received and presented at Jalsa Salana from Tom Wolf (Governor of Pennsylvania), Bob Casey (US Senator, D-Pa) and Eric Papensfuse (Mayor of Harrisburg).

After the evening session ended, a special dinner was organised for tabligh guests which was presided by Amir Sahib along with Missionary In-charge Azhar Hanif Sahib. Various new converts to Islam Ahmadiyyat presented their motivating stories of how and what led to their conversion to Ahmadiyyat, the true Islam.

One young new convert in the gathering was Alejandro Pino of Puerto Rico, who said, “I was in a spiritual search for something to satisfy my soul which I ended up finding in Ahmadiyyat, the true Islam”.

A question and answer session was also held with tabligh guests and new converts where Azhar Hanif Sahib and Amir Sahib answered many questions from members of the audience. Azhar Hanif Sahib said, “Faith is part of the human family, our history, our daily experiences … We are blessed to have prophets to guide us to God”. 

The special dinner ended with Amir Sahib reading an excerpt from the writings of the Promised Messiahas on how to avoid sin and attain nearness to God, followed by silent prayer. 

The second day of Jalsa Salana USA ended with Maghrib and Isha prayers at 8:40pm.

Day 3 of Jalsa Salana USA also began with congregational Tahajud prayer followed by Fajr Salat and dars. Breakfast was served to the guests of Jalsa after which the closing session of the Jalsa began at 10am.

The closing session was presided by Amir Jamaat USA, Sahibzada Dr Mirza Maghfoor Ahmad Sahib. The session began with tilawat of the Holy Quran by Salman Tariq Sahib and the recitation of a nazm written by the Promised Messiahas by Bilal Raja Sahib.

The award for the best Majlis of Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya was announced thereafter. This year the “Alam-e-Inami” went to the South Virginia Majlis where Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa recently inaugurated the newly acquired Masroor Mosque in 2018.

Next on the agenda were the educational awards for the men’s side who, over the course this past year, acquired exceptional excellences in various educational fields. The same awards ceremony had taken place the day before on the ladies’ side for the ladies of the Jamaat.

After the announcement of educational awards, the first speech of the closing session was presented by Dr Bilal Rana Sahib, National Secretary Umur-e-Ama on the subject of “A Crumbling Tradition – The Benefits and Blessings of Marrying While Young”. Dr Rana spoke about the ill effects of not marrying early in this day and age. He presented statistics to show that early marriage solidifies the bond of love between couples as they stick together through thick and thin. 

The second speech was on “From a Single Soul – Islam’s Response to the Rise of Racism” by Nasirullah Ahmad Sahib, National Secretary Waqf-e-Jadid. Nasirullah Ahmad Sahib discussed the history behind the racial and systematic oppression that the African American community has endured over the span of many centuries. Nasirullah Sahib further elaborated that systematic racism is still ongoing in America and the only way out of it is to adopt the pious teachings of the true Islam.

Next was another faith-inspiring speech on the subject of “Loyalty to the Messengersa or Love of the World” by Naib Amir and National Tarbiyat Secretary, Dr Faheem Younus Qureshi Sahib. In his speech, Naib Amir Sahib mentioned the incident of the Battle of Uhud and the unmatched loyalty and bravery of Hazrat Abdullahra bin Jubayr who obeyed the command of the Holy Prophetsa even when 40 of his fellow archers left their critical positions. He further mentioned that although Hazrat Abdullahra bin Jubayr was martyred by the disbelievers, he did not die, rather he transcends in every era and that we need to become like Hazrat Abdullahra bin Jubayr who gave up his life and never disobeyed the Holy Prophetsa even for a single moment.

The last speech of the Jalsa Salana USA was by Missionary In-charge and Naib Amir, Azhar Hanif Sahib on the topic of “Zikr-e-Habib: Befriended by God as if One Chord of Two Bows”. Azhar Hanif Sahib mentioned that those who are friends of Allah are dear to Him and He blesses them in such a way that when they say something, Allah readily accepts their prayers and at times, certain actions are performed by them that serve as miracles and prophetic in nature. But among all such friends of Allah from among the prophets and otherwise, the one who enjoyed the highest and closest level of friendship with Allah was none other than the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. Azhar Hanif Sahib shared many examples from the life of the Holy Prophetsa to show his close relationship with Allah the Almighty. 

The Jalsa Salana came to its conclusion with the concluding remarks by Amir Sahib in which he mentioned that this year’s Jalsa Salana USA began with the message from Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa which was read out to the audience. Amir Sahib then mentioned that the real test began now for everyone. We ought to not just remember what Huzooraa mentioned in his message, Amir Sahib added, but we must also act upon these words of our beloved. 

Amir Sahib presented a detailed analysis of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya USA and expressed his concern for the wellbeing of the youth specifically and everyone else in general. Amir Sahib shared the expectations the Promised Messiahas had of members of his Jamaat and urged everyone to pay heed to his teachings. 

Towards the end, Amir Sahib asked everyone to introspect and make the firm pledge to walk the path of righteousness. Amir Sahib then led everyone in silent prayer.

The total attendance at this year’s Jalsa Salana, by the sheer grace and mercy of Allah, was 9,294, Alhamdolillah. Jalsa Salana USA ended on Sunday, 14 July with Zuhr and Asr prayers at 1:15pm.

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