Hospitality and Jalsa Salana UK 2019
2 August 2019
After reciting the Tashahud, Ta‘awuz, and Surah al-Fatihah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa stated:
Allah the Almighty has once again granted us the opportunity to participate in Jalsa Salana [Annual Convention] UK. The Jalsa Salana in Germany took place last month, and annual conventions of various other large Jamaats in the West such as Canada (which was held on the same dates as Jalsa Germany) and Jalsa Salana USA was also held last month. Many other Annual Conventions also took place around the world in which we continue to witness how God Almighty is gloriously fulfilling His promise of divine help and succour granted to the Promised Messiahas.
The Jalsa Salana UK is unique in that people from around the world, members of our community and the non-Ahmadis alike, have their sights set particularly on this event. The Jalsa Salana UK is not only limited to the UK, rather it has become an international Jalsa.
Although I recently mentioned that the Jalsa Salana of Germany has also become an international Jalsa as many countries are represented there and they may even have a higher attendance than the Jalsa Salana in the UK, nonetheless Jalsa Salana UK is the central Jalsa. Moreover, people make an even greater effort to attend the Jalsa UK as the headquarters of Khilafat are established here.
Therefore, in this regard, members of the community and non-Ahmadis from around the world, endeavour to participate in this Jalsa. Likewise, the responsibilities of the volunteers serving at the Jalsa also greatly increases, and in order to setup what is almost a temporary city requires even more attention from us in relation to its arrangements. Thus, as is the case that I remind the volunteers of their duties and responsibilities, I will say something with regard to this first.
By the grace of Allah the Almighty, since the headquarters of Khilafat moved to the UK 35 years ago and the Jalsa is being held in its presence, members of the UK Jamaat, including the elderly, children and ladies, have been participating in the Jalsa arrangements and have been happily fulfilling their duties.
Indeed, the history of the UK Jalsa Salana is much longer than 35 years, however, the attendance of the Jalsa Salana held during those years was probably less than the monthly meetings of a local Jamaat today. It is for this reason that I made reference to its history of the last 35 years because it is since then that the Jalsa Salana UK is being held with the headquarters of Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya also in the UK.
In the early years of Jalsa Salana, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh would grant extensive guidance for the arrangements of Jalsa. He spent great effort to teach the members in relation to the organisation of Jalsa. They received assistance from certain office-bearers from Pakistan who then worked alongside the administration here.
The Langar [dining] arrangement is a huge operation. The resources and facilities here are unlike what is available in Pakistan. Hence, during those times it was difficult to make arrangements for even 4,000 to 5,000 people and was as if they were catering for 200,000 to 250,000.
After Khilafat migrated to the UK, the first UK Jalsa I attended was in 1988. At the time, after observing the condition of the management, one could see the great strain it had on them to make arrangements for even 5,000 to 6,000 people. However, today we can observe that in terms of Jalsa arrangements, the volunteers here are perhaps capable enough to help those working in Rabwah.
Last week, at the dinner with the volunteers of the Jalsa after the Jalsa Inspection, nazir umur-e-kharijah [director for external affairs, Pakistan], who is also the naib afsar Jalsa Salana [Pakistan] and is visiting from Rabwah, was also sitting nearby. After dinner, I saw him call another member of the delegation from Rabwah, who he started conversing with.
I enquired as to what the issue was and he said, “The roti from langar that we are eating right now is of great quality. The test runs carried out in Rabwah to make the rotis…” By the Grace of Allah Almighty, they consistently organise temporary tests of the roti plant for a few days at a time to maintain the machines and to remain accustomed to performing their duties. In any case, he said, “Our roti is not up to the standard of the roti here. So, I was asking this worker to enquire about the details of the roti made here from the roti plant management. To also find out how it is made and the ratio of water and flour used. The ratio of water to flour is a very important factor and so I asked him to obtain their recipe.”
Thus, by the grace of Allah the Almighty, our workers here have become such experts after having acquired so much experience that their roti is appreciated even by the officials of Rabwah.
This year, the young engineers working at the roti plant have made specific improvements to the flour kneading machine which has made the flour extraction process even more effective. The person in charge of the roti plant and the young engineer, who is also a waqif-e-nau, and their team is now working to make further improvements to ensure that the flour moves from the kneading machine to the cooking machine directly instead of the current practice of having the workers carry the flour in buckets and deliver it physically and this particular hurdle of the process will no longer be required.
However, it does not mean that we will deprive the workers of serving because of this automatic machine, rather, God willing, these workers will be assigned to roles where they can serve in an even better manner. In fact, this is a distinctive feature of the Jamaat that from childhood to senior age, our workers strive to perform any duty with utmost joy, to the best of their abilities.
In any case, the reason I mentioned this is because there was a time when it was challenging for the management to provide food for 4,000 to 5,000 people. During those times, ninety per cent of the roti was purchased from an outside vendor. A small second-hand roti plant was installed, but even that would constantly break down. It required constant attention of the engineers.
Our senior engineers of the Jamaat spent a lot of time working on this. Even then, this old plant would only produce a few thousand rotis, which were not round and were of the same shape as the pita breads. Now, by the grace of Allah the Almighty, they produce hundreds of thousands of rotis themselves in order to serve 35,000 to 40,000 attendees.
People also appreciate its quality and I also regularly assess the quality of this roti and indeed, it is far better than the rotis which were produced previously. May Allah Almighty further increase the skills of the youngsters who are carrying out this work. May He also grant them the wisdom and further increase their capacity to do this work so that they can serve the guests of Jalsa more than ever before.
Similarly, the Langar teams, under the supervisor of their respective team leaders, are working tirelessly and passionately to cook the food. The quality of food has also improved significantly. May Allah enable them to maintain this standard during the three days of Jalsa.
Within the Langar Khana department, there is a team washing the large metal cooking pots. This is also a huge task. A few years ago, they were provided with machines produced in Germany by Ahmadi engineers to wash these large pots. The German Ahmadis really like these machines and they work really well for them. They are convinced that these machines wash the big pots and clean them at a very fast pace.
Here in the UK, our team used it for a few years and continued to wash the pots with their own hands as well. They continued to use the machines upon my instructions, but last year they very pleadingly requested me to allow them to wash the pots with their own hands. They stated that it would take them less time to do so; in fact, they said that they could wash them three times faster if they did it by hand. Meaning that the time it takes for the machine to wash one pot, they can wash three pots and they said that they are able to clean the pots even better than the machine. I said to the person in charge in a light-hearted manner that it seems he has Jinns on his team who are able to clean so quickly because the German Ahmadis are not ready to admit that any person can wash these big pots in such a short time.
Nevertheless, they are working extremely hard in this department. Their task is not only tough and time consuming; in fact, it is very laborious. In Qadian and Pakistan, this type of work is carried out by hiring labourers, but in this country, these volunteers are working with utmost sincerity and passion.
Then there is the department of serving food. They have also made efforts to make improvements by increasing the size of the marquees in which food is served so that they can serve the guests food more comfortably and in less time.
Then among other departments, there is the department of cleanliness and hygiene, car parking, traffic etc. Also, there are various departments within the Jalsa Gah. The security is also a very huge and important department.
Similarly, there are numerous other departments and each every one of them is important in its own right. There are thousands of volunteers who are being enabled with the opportunity to serve in all these various departments.
Similarly, there are many female volunteers also who have also been granted the opportunity to serve. May Allah the Almighty give them the opportunity to serve their duties in the best manner possible.
I usually advise all the workers that since they have offered themselves to serve the guests of the Promised Messiahas with such determination and passion that it is now their duty to maintain this standard right till the end of the Jalsa.
There is also the windup department which works for approximately one week after the conclusion of Jalsa. The smile on your faces and your respectful and courteous conduct towards the guests of the Promised Messiahas will testify to the fact that you have continued to maintain the passion to serve them.
Both, the male and female workers alike, who are serving the guests of the Jalsa in various departments, should always bear in mind that they are attaining twice as much reward – firstly, the reward of attending the Jalsa and attaining its blessings and secondly, by attaining the blessings of serving the guests of the Promised Messiahas.
Indeed, Allah the Almighty also likes the act of serving others in a hospitable manner. In fact, He finds this act so commendable that He has mentioned it twice in the Holy Quran with reference to Prophet Abrahamas. If presenting food to guests was not such a significant act, then it would not have been mentioned every time the account of the arrival of guests was mentioned. It mentions that after greeting them with the prayer of Salaam [peace], the very first thing Prophet Abarahamas did was to present a roasted calf-meat. Allah the Almighty states:
فَمَا لَبِثَ أَنْ جَاءَ بِعِجْلٍ حَنِيذٍ
“and was not long in bringing a roasted calf..” (Surah Hud: 70)
He afforded them with whatever hospitality that was possible in that era. To slaughter his animal and to present it before his guests was indeed a very hospitable act and animals were easily available in that time. Therefore, he extended to them the best possible hospitality. Thus, we should also extend our hospitality according to the standards of today and treat our guests in the same manner.
It is not necessary that one must go out and search for a calf. Rather, one ought to do whatever can be acquired easily and quickly. In those times, slaughtering a calf was both easily and quickly accessible as well as the highest standard of hospitality of that time, and this is what we should also do.
With regard to this, the excellent example of the Holy Prophetsa is before us. If dates were easily available, he would offer them; if meat or some other exquisite food was available, he would offer that; if only goat milk was available, he would offer that. If the Holy Prophetsa had no food of his own to offer, he would tell his Companions to take the guest to their homes and host them.
The three things which the Holy Prophetsa enjoined upon those who believe in Allah and the Last Day are all in relation to fulfilling the rights of one another and establishing the peace of society. The first thing is to either speak a good word or remain silent. Do not stir disaccord by uttering meaningless things. Do not create conflict between one another. A believer does not utter unseemly and inconsequential speech.
The second thing is to honour one’s neighbour for neighbours possess a great right to be entitled to respect and care. Those participating in the Jalsa here today are also each other’s neighbours, the arriving guests, the workers and the volunteers serving the guests. For this reason, the guests should also treat those serving them with dignity and respect, and workers should also be mindful about treating the guests with honour and esteem. Moreover, when they meet one another, they ought to meet with mutual respect.
And the third thing that the Holy Prophetsa told us was to honour one’s guest. (Sahih Muslim, Kitab-ul-Iman, Hadith no. 47)
Now, this is something especially important for the hosts. It is fundamental for establishing a beautiful and peaceful society.
They are the commandments of Allah the Almighty and the hallmark of a true believer. When the Holy Prophetsa had a large number of guests, he would distribute them among the Companionsra and would later enquire from the guests, “Did your brothers entertain you in a becoming manner?”
Indeed, the Companionsra had received their spiritual and moral training directly from the company of Holy Prophetsa; they partook directly from his spiritual grace. They would take such excellent care of these guests that the guests would answer the Holy Prophetsa saying, “Our hosts took greater care of us than themselves and gave us better food to eat than that which they themselves ate.” (Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Vol. 5, p. 357, Hadith no. 15644, Alim-ul-Kutb, Beirut, 1998)
So, this was the manner of hospitality of the Holy Prophet’ssa Companionsra. The guests in the time of the Holy Prophetsa would come in pursuit of religious knowledge, and those coming here are also coming for the same purpose. We also have been appointed to especially extend our hospitality to those who have come purely for participating in this spiritual gathering at the invitation of the Promised Messiahas.
Through His grace, God Almighty has greatly blessed and increased the means of the Jamaat and the hospitality is now organised under the system of the Jamaat. In fact, there is even permission and a system in place for some of those hosting guests in their homes to come and take home food from the Langar of the Promised Messiahas, that is if they wish to take it home, they can.
However, the circumstances of the Companionsra were not such that there could have been a centralised system in place. Moreover, the personal circumstances of many of these Companions were not very good either. In fact, we find instances where they put their own children to sleep hungry and both husband and wife also remained hungry so that whatever meagre food they had, they served to the guests. God Almighty then greatly lauded this action of theirs and was well-pleased. And it is found in narrations that God Almighty also informed the Holy Prophetsa about this particular incident. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab Munaqib-ul-Ansar, Hadith no. 3798)
Hence, those people whose examples we are commanded to adopt would extend hospitality by making sacrifices. And today, there are many people in the Jamaat of the Promised Messiahas who host guests with a spirit of sacrifice, and this is exactly what we should do.
In spite of the available Jamaat resources, some people still seek to personally host guests. Whatever service the workers on duty have been assigned – not just some, but each and every one of them – workers should render hospitality with the spirit of sacrifice while observing the highest morals as well.
As I mentioned that the sacrifice that is being asked of us today is not of hunger, rather, in this day and age, the sacrifice that is being asked of us, and the one that the volunteers are making, is of time.
Moreover, a sacrifice of personal emotions is also required. At times, guests end up behaving inappropriately, so in such a case, one must sacrifice one’s emotions, be patient and keep silent.
The reason for keeping silent is that one should think positively about these guests, that they have come to sincerely quench their religious and spiritual thirst. Perhaps they have demonstrated such excessive behaviour as a result of some misunderstanding. This is why one should simply apologise, and even if they are not at fault, they should look after their needs. These are the lofty morals which one ought to show to their guests in this era and this is what the Promised Messiahas desires from us in this day and age.
There are numerous accounts of the Promised Messiahas which demonstrate the excellent standard of his heartfelt care and hospitality toward guests.
Once, some guests who had arrived from a far-off place became upset and turned back on account of some Langar workers refusing to remove their bags for them. When the Promised Messiahas found out, his condition became such, it is said, that he could hardly put on his shoes – as though in a state of pandemonium – and he hurriedly followed them on foot.
These people were travelling by a horse carriage. Anyhow, when they saw that the Promised Messiahas is approaching, they stopped the carriage and got off of it. The Promised Messiahas apologised to them and asked them to come back with him. He then turned their carriage around. The guests also felt embarrassed and did not ride on the carriage and instead walked alongside the carriage as well. When they finally returned back to the Langar area, the Promised Messiahas personally extended his hand toward their luggage to begin removing it, and the Khuddam, who were already embarrassed, leapt forward immediately and took down the guests’ luggage. The Promised Messiahas remained there until satisfactory arrangements were made for their lodging and food. (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 2, pt. 4, pp. 56-57, narration no. 1069)
On one occasion, the Promised Messiahas stated to the workers, “Many people will end up coming, some of whom you recognise while others you may not. This is why it is fitting that you serve and care for them, deeming all of them worthy of respect.” He went on to say, “I trust that you shall make ease for the guests.”(Malfuzat, Vol. 6, p. 226)
Hence, we must uphold this trust even today.
After this, I also wish to say something to the guests. Firstly, as I mentioned before, taking good care of each other’s emotions is the duty of everyone – the guests, as well as the hosts. Where Islam commands us to respect and honour our guest, it also instructs the guest not to be a great burden upon the host.
The Holy Prophetsa stated that overstaying a visit to someone’s house and thereby becoming a burden upon them is just like one who takes from Sadqa [charity]. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Adab, Hadith no. 6135)
Not everyone enjoys circumstances that allow for them to extend the same level of hospitality from beginning to end, so the guest is also instructed to take care of the hosts.
If the stay is extended, then live in the house as though the other residents of the home live. If any need arises to help the dwellers of the house with their domestic and household chores, then that should be done as well – especially in these countries.
Generally, people do this, and this is what is needed for a beautiful society to emerge. When one ends up feeling like his guest is a burden upon him, feelings of love and sincerity wane. And when these feelings lessen, the situation does not remain peaceful. Hence, the guest should also bear in mind that it is a guest’s responsibility to discharge all of their obligations.
If hospitality is the right of a guest, that he be taken care of, then the host also has a right that the guest fulfils his right and not become a burden upon him.
The Holy Prophetsa has established this right of the guest for only a few days. However, I would like to also point out for the administration that the guests who have come to our Jalsa, even if they end up staying for a month, they should be extended hospitality. Do not take away from this that after only three or four days, we will stop entertaining the guests. The Promised Messiahas has deemed the establishment of the Langar as one of the five branches of his central work. (Haqiqatul Wahi, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 22, p. 221)
Hence, whenever the guests of the Promised Messiahas arrive, not just in the days of Jalsa, but in regular days as well, they should be treated in the best manner.
Then, a commandment with regards to establishing a beautiful society, and something which the guests should especially act upon, especially in this Jalsa environment, is exchanging greetings of peace. The Holy Prophetsa has also, while listing the characteristics of those who would be admitted into paradise, mentioned that they spread greetings of peace. (Sahih Muslim, Kitab-ul-Iman, Hadith no. 54)
In fact, the Holy Prophetsa instructed that whether you know someone or not, extend them the greetings of peace. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Iman, Hadith no. 28)
Also, among the objectives for the Jalsa, the Promised Messiahas stated that it is so that people should gather and thereby, a relationship of love and mutual understanding be established. (Aasamani Faisla, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 4, p. 352)
Hence, Salaam is an excellent means of increasing this love and the opportunity to become acquainted with one another. And this also has the additional benefit that it will remove any rancour that people harbour about one another.
Those who have come here have done so exclusively for the sake of Allah, and this is the mentality with which one should come. Their purpose is for Allah alone.
They have come to quench their thirst for religious, secular and spiritual knowledge and to attain them, and as I have mentioned, this is what the true purpose must be. Therefore, every one of them must strengthen their mutual bonds and make exerted efforts to remove whatever malice and aversion they may harbour for one another.
The Promised Messiahas stated that by attending the Jalsa, one must also try to attain the goal of “extinguishing their love for the world and let their love for the Holy Prophetsa become dominant in their hearts.” (Aasmani Faisla, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 4, p. 351)
Hence, in order to attain this love, you should pay special attention to participating and listening to the Jalsa programme, pondering over them during the Jalsa, busying yourselves in the remembrance of Allah at all times, paying special heed to offering the daily prayers in congregation and to pay special focus to offering the voluntary and Tahajud prayers.
Those who are staying here must continue their efforts to build an even purer atmosphere and to improve themselves. Those who come from morning to evening also have the duty of fulfilling this objective and the purpose of the Jalsa, which is to strive to attain nearness to God Almighty and to increase in one’s love for the Holy Prophetsa.
This indeed is a tremendous task, which the Promised Messiahas has assigned to us, i.e. to have the love of God Almighty and His Messengersa prevail over our hearts.
If the attendees of the Jalsa have this purpose in mind and make full efforts to attain it, then it can be said that they have truly fulfilled their objective, and the purpose of attending the Jalsa and other matters such as accommodation and food will be given secondary importance.
They will deem the true purpose as to improve their spiritual state as much as possible and to advance in it. As I have mentioned that once this is achieved, they will have truly attained the purpose of attending the Jalsa.
Similarly, in terms of administration, the guests should bear in mind that there are always shortcomings with temporary and large-scale management. If one happens to see such shortcomings, he should overlook them.
I have instructed the workers that if they are faced with any hostility from anyone, they should tolerate it. But it is also the duty of the guests and attendees to overlook the weaknesses and shortcomings, and if they do witness any, they should assist the workers.
I have seen that some guests very passionately act as the hosts and help out when needed. For example, when it comes to the cleanliness of the washrooms, those on duty may not always be able to fully arrange for the cleanliness due to the rush, so some guests themselves help those on duty and this is the zeal which should be present in every Ahmadi. This is the true spirit which will establish a pure atmosphere.
Guests should not waste their time in merely testing the workers, and as I have said, they should assist in every department if need be. Likewise, at times, there may be a rush in the parking department. In such circumstances, those coming in their cars must fully cooperate with the workers with great patience and forbearance.
At times, complaints are received from both women and men that attendees do not fully cooperate. Similarly, there are often queues on the internal routes where there are the scanning departments etc. where one must demonstrate patience. But sometimes the atmosphere is disturbed due to a handful of people. In such circumstances, each and every person must display complete patience. There is no harm if it takes a little longer than usual, as this queue allows for better flow [of traffic].
I always say that those sitting in the Jalsa Gah during the proceedings must always keep an eye out on their surroundings. Likewise, whilst up and about, you should be aware of your surroundings.
In terms of security, you should try your best to follow the instructions of the administration and the most important thing is to continue praying for the success of the Jalsa, to be able to fulfil the purpose of the Jalsa and to remain safe from the evil of those who cause mischief.
The jealousy of those who envy the progress of the Jamaat is ever-increasing, so there is a greater need to turn our attention to prayers.
During these days you should also pray for the state of the Ahmadis in Pakistan. It seems that the situation is turning once again towards hostility.
May Allah Almighty also grant them a life of peace and security, protect them from all kinds of evil and may He render the plots – new and old – of the enemies futile.
Apart from this, I shall also remind the attendees of the Jalsa that this year there are again several central departments such as the Archive and Research Centre, The Review of Religions, Makhzan-e-Tasaweer and other departments the like thereof, who are holding exhibitions which are very academic and full of information. So, you should try to visit these in your free time.
There is also an announcement from MTA that a new app, which is a smart TV app, will be launched today by MTA International.
This can be downloaded in any country on LG, Phillips, Amazon Fire TV, Sony and Android TV sets. All of the MTA channels can be watched without the need for dish antennas, such as MTA 1, MTA 2, MTA 3, MTA Al-Arabiyyah, MTA Africa.
Likewise, MTA is already available on the Samsung platform in the US by the grace of Allah. This was the announcement and by the grace of Allah, those abroad can benefit from this app. After the Friday prayers I shall launch this app.
May Allah bless this Jalsa in every regard and enable you all to reap the maximum benefit from it.
(Originally published in Al Fazl International, 23 August 2019, pp. 5-8. Translated by The Review of Religions)