From a town hall to 208 acres of countryside

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The migration of Khilafat from Pakistan to the United Kingdom in 1984 was a momentous occasion in the history of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya; a story of hardship, followed by ease. The move was sudden and came as a shock to Ahmadis around the world, particularly those in Pakistan.

Wandsworth Town Hall where Jalsa UK once took place

The Jamaat, blessed with the arrival of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh was the United Kingdom – a small community of humble means. Very soon, this Jamaat witnessed the divine blessings Khilafat attracts, a new era for the progress of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya was about to unfold before the world.

An example of this success is the transformation of Jalsa Salana held in the UK.

From the outset, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh instilled the importance of Jalsa Salana within the minds of the UK Jamaat members, while also laying great stress upon the proper hospitality of guests.

an aerial view of Hadeeqatul Mahdi, the current venue for Jalsa Salana UK

Scanning through records, one can witness the sheer blessings of Allah at every Jalsa and how the insight, guidance and presence of Khalifatul Masih matured Jalsa Salana UK into the enormous, highly organised International Jalsa we witness today.

The story of Jalsa Salana United Kingdom journeys through Allah’s blessings and captures the magnificence of Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya.

Jalsa Salana UK

1984: The 19th Jalsa Salana of the UK Jamaat was a great moment in history. It was the first Jalsa attended by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh after his migration from Pakistan. It was for two days – 25 and 26 August – a few months after Huzoor’srh arrival. Their was a humble attendance and it was held in Mahmood Hall at the Fazl Mosque, while the final session took place at Tolworth Recreation Centre, London. Huzoorrh delivered a speech on the final day, highlighting the importance of tabligh.

From this point on, Jalsa Salana UK was to function as the Markazi (central) Jalsa and Khilafat would steer this ship towards continuous progress.

1985: This year marked the first ever Jalsa held at Islamabad. It was a new chapter in the history of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya. Khuddam and Ansar flocked to Islamabad to prepare it for Jalsa Salana. It became the largest gathering than any previous year in the history of the UK Jamaat, with over 7,000 attendees. The Jalsa Salana instantly bore an international capacity as guests from 48 countries attended. The beautiful Islamabad would now serve as the Jalsa Salana UK site for the next 18 years.

The first International Majlis-e-Shura also took place after this Jalsa.

Huzoorrh held the first Jalsa Salana press conference at Café Royalle, London, attended by 27 Foreign delegates.

1986: The entire proceedings of the 21st Jalsa Salana UK was recorded on video and audio cassettes.

International conferences began appearing at Jalsa. These included conferences of missionaries, doctors, architects and engineers and the International Ahmadiyya Association for Human Rights.

1987: Several new features appeared this year. Flags of countries being represented at Jalsa Salana were hoisted adjacent to the main Jalsa Gah. The number of flags, to this date, continues to increase.

A new roti plant was installed in Islamabad, producing thousands of rotis (flat bread) for Jalsa Salana guests.

Before Jalsa Salana, the first International Tabligh and Tarbiyat Conference of the Jamaat was held, with 30 delegates from all over the world participating.

For the first time, a large number of Arab and African guests attended. Two Nigerian kings who had accepted Ahmadiyyat also attended and received garments of the Promised Messiahas by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh, fulfilling the prophecy, “Kings shall seek blessings from thy garments.”

For first time, the French translation of Jalsa Salana was provided.

New conferences were held this year, including the International Forum for Centenary Celebrations and the International Audit Conference.

1988: The 23rd Jalsa Salana was the last major function of the first century of Ahmadiyyat held on 22 and 24 July 1988 at Islamabad. Eid-ul-Adha was celebrated on last day of Jalsa.

1989: This marked the centennial year of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Jamaat. A special exhibition of the Jamaat’s achievement was set up at Jalsa and a record number of attendees was also witnessed, with a total of 12,748 guests.

During the Jamaat’s centenary Jalsa Salana, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh, in his inaugural address, spoke of the persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan.

A very special feature of this Jalsa was that Huzoorrh invited Hazrat Maulvi Muhammad Hussainra, a companion of the Promised Messiahas who, in spite of his old age and health conditions, flew to the UK to attend the Jalsa on the instruction of Huzoorrh.

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh requested him to sit adjacent to him on stage. Huzoorrh told the audience that by virtue of seeing this companion, the audience had become tabi‘een (the second generation aft er a prophet who have been in the company of a companion).

Earlier, Huzoorrh had set a target for the centenary celebrations of the Jamaat: to spread to 100 countries in 100 years. By Jalsa Salana, the Jamaat, by the grace of Allah, had spread to 120 countries.

By this year, 50 translations of the Holy Quran had been completed.

1990: This was the Silver Jubilee of Jalsa Salana UK.

1991: Jalsa Salana was relayed live on radio to 11 counties. The coverage was heard in the main cities of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Germany, Japan, Mauritius, New Zealand, Sweden, Spain, Kenya, Indonesia and Fiji.

The release of a new edition of Tafsir-e-Saghir in Urdu and A Man of God by Iain Adamson.

For first time, a large delegation from the USSR attended Jalsa UK. Huzoorrh mentioned the various publications that were printed during the year in Russian and that publishing companies in Russia had requested for Jamaat literature. 80 people from the USSR accepted Ahmadiyyat. Huzoorrh said this Jalsa held historical significance as the prophecy of the Promised Messiahas (that Russians would accept Ahmadiyyat) was fulfilled and the foundations of Ahmadiyyat had been sown in Russia.

1992: The first Jalsa Salana was broadcast live on MTA to several countries, with more than 50,000 viewers. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh mentioned how this was a fulfi lment of the Promised Messiah’sas revelation, “I shall cause thy message to reach the corners of the earth.”

Huzoorrh expressed how Allah had blessed the Jamaat in miraculous ways – on 7 January 1938, the first loudspeaker was installed in Masjid Aqsa, Qadian and it was a huge development within the Jamaat. However, MTA was now broadcasting the Khalifa’s video and audio live to the whole world.

Baba Anoop Singh Baidi from the 15th generation of Hazrat Guru Baba Nanak’s off spring attended Jalsa Salana UK and addressed the gathering. He invited Jamaat members to Qadian.

1993: The 28th Jalsa Salana UK was monumental as the first International Bai‘at took place. It is estimated that more than 200,000 people from across the world participated in this Bai‘at. Huzoorrh wore the blessed green coat of the Promised Messiahas and recited the Bai‘at wording in Urdu, which was then translated immediately in various languages. The International Bai‘at, from this date onwards, became one of the greatest highlights of Jalsa Salana UK and has taken place every year with an ever-increasing participation.

This Jalsa was broadcast to 5 continents.

For the first time, Arabic press reports of Jalsa Salana UK were published.

1994: Asiran-e-rah-e-maula (prisoners in the name of Allah) of Sahiwal, Pakistan, who were released after nearly 10 years imprisonment were invited as special guests of Jalsa Salana UK. Hazrat Khalifatul Maish IVrh called them onto the stage and embraced them in front of the worldwide Jamaat.

During the concluding address of the 29th Jalsa Salana, Ahmadis from across the globe began ringing MTA International and gave messages of congratulations; these messages were read out live by Huzoorrh.

1995: A new feature this year was the live online streaming of Jalsa Salana UK on alislam.org, the Jamaat’s official website.

1996: The entire proceedings of Jalsa Salana on MTA were broadcast along with simultaneous translations in 8 languages. The recordings were made available online on alislam.org. For the first time, a question and answer session was held on the first day of Jalsa, exclusively for foreign guests.

1999: A new milestone for Lajna Imaillah this year was reached as Lajna from 40 countries attended Jalsa.

1999: Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh showed the pocket-watch of the Promised Messiahas to the audience. This was also relayed on MTA. Parhezi (special dietary food) was made available to all guests this year.

2000: Two kings from Benin received garments of the Promised Messiahas by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh at Jalsa Salana, once again fulfilling the prophecy of the Promised Messiahas, “Kings shall seek blessings from thy garments.” The new Jalsa Radio FM covered live proceedings of Jalsa for 3 days. Jalsa FM developed into Jalsa FM 87.7 and today, it covers a wide area and includes multiple programmes, weather updates, traffic updates and, of course, the live proceedings of Jalsa Salana.

Exhibitions by Humanity First were on display for the first time. MTA International also presented an exhibition. The ladies involved in the scheduling department set up a display showing the activities of MTA in various countries.

2003: The 37th Jalsa Salana UK was significant as it was the first Jalsa of Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa after Allah bestowed him with the mantle of Khilafat.

This Jalsa witnessed a record number of attendees, reaching 25,000 from 81 countries. Huzooraa highlighted the purpose of Jalsa Salana in light of the Promised Messiah’sas writings and emphasised the importance of remembering Allah, Durood, and Istighfar.

Tahir Foundation was launched by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa at Jalsa Salana.

2004: Huzooraa announced at Jalsa his desire for an additional 15,000 Musian to join the blessed scheme of Wasiyyat. In this way, by 2005, the centenary of Wasiyyat, we will reach 50,000 Musian since 1905.

The academic awards for excellence in studies became a new feature at Jalsa Salana UK. Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa presented men and ladies with these awards.

This year was the first time the main Jalsa Gah marquees had ventilators to regulate the temperature as the months chosen for Jalsa had previously been very hot.

2005: As the Jalsa was growing, Islamabad proved to be inadequate to cater for the tens of thousands attending. Therefore, the 39th Jalsa Salana UK was held in the Rushmoor Arena, Aldershot. Islamabad was used for accommodation, parking and dining.

During Jalsa Salana, Huzooraa announced the purchase of a new site for Jalsa in Hampshire, which was 208 acres, nearly 10 times Islamabad.

2006: Two years after Huzooraa was chosen as Khalifatul Masih, the Jamaat was blessed with a new site in the beautiful countryside of Alton, Hampshire; it was named Hadeeqatul Mahdi (Garden of the Mahdi) by Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa. The 40th Jalsa Salana UK was held here. The attendance was larger than any previous year with more than 29,000 guests representing 81 countries.

It was a totally new setup; a mini city had to be erected. Accordingly, a great number of volunteers came for waqar-e-amal to get the grounds of Hadeeqatul Mahdi ready for Jalsa; these included over 1,000 Lajna members.

15 more marquees were set up and most of the guests were able to reside at Hadeeqatul Mahdi. This enormous site had space for more than 5,000 cars, and buggies were used to transport the elderly and disabled during Jalsa Salana.

The setup and wind-up of Jalsa Salana at Hadeeqatul Mahdi had to be done within a 28-day time frame, according to the local council’s rules, a new challenge for the Jalsa organisers.

Two large Langars (kitchens) were created in Islamabad and Baitul Futuh. The Langar in Islamabad supplied food for Hadeeqatul Mahdi, while the food cooked at Baitul Futuh was given to Jalsa guests at Fazl Mosque and Baitul Futuh.

This year’s Jalsa took place 4 weeks after the tragic London bombings. The media reported on the Jalsa and noted Huzoor’saa condemnation of the attacks.

This was also the first Jalsa Salana recorded in HD (high defi nition) and preserved. Also, Jalsa Salana was streamed live for the first on MTA Online.

A new exhibition was on display: the Makhzan-e-Tasaweer department put up a spectacular exhibition of various historical images. This has now developed into one of the most visited displays at Jalsa Salana UK.

2007: The 41st Jalsa Salana UK witnessed MTA 3 Al-Arabiyya broadcasting live proceedings for the first time. Over the years, MTA 3 AlArabiyya has grown from strength to strength and now has its own studios at Jalsa Salana, from which various programmes in Arabic and studio discussions are aired throughout the Arab world.

An exponential amount of rainfall took place and created a new challenge for the Jalsa organisers at the Hadeeqatul Mahdi. However, guests showed great patience and continued with smiles on their faces. Local shops had run out of wellington boots, which were heavily used during this Jalsa.

Majlis Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya Germany sent a group of cyclists to Jalsa Salana UK to monitor the feasibility of bringing a larger group of Khuddam on bikes for the Khilafat centenary the following year.

2008: The 42nd Jalsa Salana UK, convened in the same year as Khilafat Centenary (1908-2008), witnessed a record 85 countries being represented and an attendance of 40,665 guests.

It was the 16th International Bai‘at Ceremony and Ahmadis from 193 countries took Bai‘at through MTA.

A larger roti plant was installed and used in Islamabad, while the old roti plant was on standby but also produced rotis in low numbers on the instruction of Huzooraa.

To celebrate 100 years of Khilafat, 100 Cyclists from Germany travelled to the UK on bicycles, drawing lots of media attention. This was in tradition with the cycling scheme started by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh in Pakistan. Cycling to Jalsa during the Khilafat Jubilee year of 2008 was initiated by Khuddam Cyclists in Africa who cycled 1700 kilometres from Burkina Faso to Ghana for the annual Jalsa on old bikes and broken roads. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa expressed his desire for cycling to Jalsa to continue, as cycling had many benefits, one of which was tabligh.

2009: The 43rd Jalsa Salana saw the establishment of a new, large scale, health and safety department. With the growth of Jalsa Salana UK, governmental representatives had begun to regularly inspect Jalsa, ensuring health and safety standards were met.

This year, there was a national threat of swine flu as well. Accordingly, in complying with the instructions of Huzooraa, homeopathic medicine for the swine flu was distributed to guests throughout the 3 days. 15-20 kilograms of medicine was dispensed every day.

2010: The 44th Jalsa Salana UK was very special as it commemorated the martyrs of Lahore. Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa spoke of them in high regard. Speeches were delivered on the topic of the Lahore martyrs and the Jalsa Salana backdrop was designed in their remembrance.

As with every year, flags of the countries being represented by Jalsa guests were put up. This year, for the first time, the flag of Pakistan that was erected was sent by Pakistan’s high commission in London.

The translation of the Jalsa Salana proceedings reached 12 languages.

11 new countries were represented at Jalsa Salana.

2011: Food preparation shift ed from Islamabad to Hadeeqatul Mahdi; the food for Jalsa Salana would now be cooked in the new make-shift Langar Khana at Hadeeqatul Mahdi.

2012: At the occasion of the 46th Jalsa Salana, MTA live-stream was largely extended, and it was estimated that 300,000 people viewed the Jalsa online.

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The accommodation of many of the dignitary guests outside the Jamaat was arranged at the newly acquired building of Jamia Ahmadiyya UK this year. In his Friday Sermon, Huzooraa spoke of the new Jamia UK site’s beauty and recommended those visiting from abroad to visit it. Over the years, Jamia Ahmadiyya UK has developed and housed an increasing number of Jalsa Salana guests. Huzooraa also inspected the arrangements at Jamia UK during the inspection prior to Jalsa. Mr Jolyn Martyn Clark, the grandson of Dr Henry Martyn Clark – an adversary of the Promised Messiahas – visited the Jalsa Salana and expressed his delight in meeting Huzooraa. Regarding the first meeting with Huzooraa, he expressed:

“It is very difficult to put in words what I felt; the depth of feeling, warmth and understanding I have never felt before. He was a good man, a great leader; sincerity with humility. I was shaken – I still am.”

Ms Ann Buckley, the granddaughter of John Hugh Smyth-Piggot – who had received warnings from the Promised Messiahas to repent from his claim of divinity – attended Jalsa Salana and mentioned the good feelings she had about the Ahmadiyya Community.

A new department for cleanliness was formed.

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2013: The 47th Jalsa Salana UK commemorated Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya UK’s Jubilee. In 1913, the first missionary, Hazrat Chaudhry Fateh Muhammad Siyalra arrived in England.

Various speeches and programmes commemorated the establishment of the Jamaat in the UK.

A new, fully equipped Langar Kitchen was built at Hadeeqatul Mahdi.

The first roti plant in Hadeeqatul Mahdi was installed. It was purchased from Lebanon and produced thousands of rotis (flat bread) every day.

Ghana National TV, for the first time, broadcast parts of Jalsa Salana UK. The following year (2014), this increased to a 90-minute slot covering each day.

The UK Jamaat presented £100,000 to Huzooraa for the jubilee of the UK Jamaat. Huzooraa announced that he would donate the money to the projects of IAAAE (International Association for Ahmadi Architects and Engineers).

2014: The 48th Jalsa Salana UK experienced exceptional press and media coverage, with 13 million people in the UK informed about the Jalsa through media, while a similar number of people outside the UK were also informed. Huzooraa commended the efforts by the press teams in his sermon following the Jalsa.

2015: A group of Canadian Khuddam travelled to the 49th Jalsa Salana UK to volunteer. These Khuddam performed an excellent job in the magnanimous task of Jalsa Salana wind-up and were commended by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa in his Friday Sermon. This waqfe-arzi group grew and expanded to USA Khuddam volunteering in the following years.

This year, again, there was a huge media coverage of Jalsa Salana UK. BBC News 24 broadcast from Jalsa three times, French national news agency AFP also broadcast about Jalsa and their coverage was aired on various websites, including Yahoo News, NBS News and MSN News. 34 radio interviews were broadcast including one by BBC radio 4. 10 million people listened to the Jalsa Salana proceedings on the radio in Congo. Ghana TV aired 8 hours of the UK Jalsa.

A life size replica of the Turin Shroud was on display by The Review of Religions’ team. A shroud expert, Barrie Schwortz, also attended and gave talks.

2016: This year was the silver jubilee of Jalsa Salana UK.

The live proceedings were broadcast on the newly launched MTA Africa. A separate studio was created for MTA Africa in Hadeeqatul Mahdi, from which various studio discussion were shown.

With the development of MTA Africa, many national TV channels broadcast proceedings of Jalsa, including Ghana National TV, Cine Plus TV Ghana, TV Africa, Sierra Leone, MI TV Nigeria, Benin, Rwanda, Uganda.

MTA online French stream was a new feature. It began to show live proceedings of Jalsa Salana along with studio discussions.

Several new exhibitions were seen, including The Al Qalam Project by The Review of Religions and launched by Huzooraa; thousands took part in it at Jalsa Salana.

Ahmadiyya Archive and Research Centre (ARC) also exhibited their first display of precious relics of the Promised Messiahas and Khulafa. This exhibition proved to be very popular with Jalsa guests and continues to grow each year.

Nizamat (department) waqf-e-arzi was created. The department organised the local and international volunteers arriving to serve at Jalsa Salana UK. In 2016, Huzooraa mentioned that Jalsa Salana UK has truly become international due to the various volunteers from across the world. Over 150 volunteers from Canada and USA took part in the Jalsa wind-up, while from the UK, about 6,000 girls and boys volunteered from all age groups.

The press and media department hit its biggest milestone with the largest media coverage than any previous Jalsa. BBC, Radio 4, Th e Economist, The Guardian, The Independent, Channel 4, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Express, The Sun (most read newspaper in the UK), Radio LBC, London Live TV, Sky News, Channel 5, Scottish TV, Belfast Telegraph and Nottingham Post all covered the Jalsa. Print and online media reach was about 41 million. Overall, including all modes of media, the total coverage was to 135 million people.

2017: The 51st Jalsa Salana UK and the 25th anniversary of MTA International; by 2017, multiple channels of MTA were broadcasting Jalsa Salana live in various languages.

10 African channels showed the proceedings and in total, the coverage from across different countries was over 150 hours.

A chartered flight of 350 Canadian Khuddam was flown to the UK for Jalsa Salana waqare-amal.

Several new exhibitions were set up including the 25th Anniversary MTA Exhibition that was placed inside a gigantic bubble tent and offered Jalsa guests a 3D experience of the Bai‘at ceremony.

The first International Turin Shroud Conference was organised by The Review of Religions. Keynote speakers included shroud experts such as Bruno Barberis, Former President of the Scientific Committee of the International Centre of Sindonology and Barrie Schwortz, Official Documenting Photographer of the 1978 Turin Shroud Research Project.

2018: The 52nd Jalsa Salana UK. For the first time, MTA French was shown on satellite; four African satellite channels aired the French coverage of Jalsa Salana UK.

In 2019, 7 African channels will, Insha-Allah, air the Jalsa proceedings in French.

The UK tabligh department held the Al-Quran Exhibition and a speech competition about the life and character of the Holy Prophetsa. This was in response to the hate campaign initiated by the Dutch politician, Geert Wilders. Many non-Ahmadi and non-Muslim Europeans took part in this contest.

The newly launched Al Hakam newspaper displayed its first exhibition at Jalsa Salana.

(These facts and figures have been taken from reports published in The Muslim Herald, The Ahmadiyya Bulletin, Al Fazl, Al Fazl International and various interviews. Compiled by Ataul Fatir Tahir, London)

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