Mir Daud Ahmad Sahib – Afsar Jalsa Salana Rabwah 1963-1973
English Rendering from Sirat-e-Daud
Those that present themselves for the hospitality and comfort of the guests that attend Jalsa for the sake of Allah and fulfil the obligations of hospitality never fall short of partaking in blessings. It was for this hospitality that Allah the Exalted – from the High Throne – revealed to his Messiahas:
ياايها النبي اطعموا الجائع و المعتر
“O Prophet, feed the hungry and those who supplicate.” This means that those who undertake the hospitality of the blessed guests attending this blessed gathering, fulfil the responsibility of hospitality placed upon the Promised Messiahas.
Syed Daud Ahmad Sahib was appointed Afsar [Officer] Jalsa Salana for the first time at the 1963 Jalsa and continued to serve in this capacity until his demise.
According to eye witness testimony, Mir Sahib too, much like his esteemed father, would spend day and night in the service of guests. In 1963, upon appointment as Afsar Jalsa Salana, his first endeavour was to publish an informative announcement regarding the hospitality of guests. Al Fazl wrote on this matter:
“For the ease of guests travelling this year, an announcement titled ‘Ahlan Wa Sahlan Wa Marhaba’ to those attending Jalsa Salana Rabwah has been published, in which, apart from highlighting the purpose of Jalsa Salana, important guidelines have been issued about how to benefit from its magnificent blessings. Moreover, necessary details related to the Community’s accommodation, arrival times of special transport, return timings and porter fees are also included. This announcement shall be distributed prior to Jalsa amongst those present at the stations of Sargodha, Hindyo-wali, Lyallpur [now Faisalabad], Chak Jhumra and Chiniot. Such beneficial information can be obtained from reading it that guests will be aided towards their respective accommodations after arriving at Rabwah Station.”
The task of hospitality at Jalsa Salana is a vital, vast and dutiful one. Motivating those that are tasked with the care and hospitality of guests, the correct and timely manner of taking service from the cooks, providing the goods on time and arranging for insulation etc. – in short, such a branch entails vital duties within it. Syed Daud Ahmad Sahib, similar to his revered father Hazrat Mir Muhammad Ishaq Sahibra, was characterised with a high degree of hospitality and was one who would pay full attention towards the respect of elders.
His passion for hospitality of Jalsa guests would be fully manifested with love and affection. Two or three years ago, he went to inspect the initial organisation of the accommodation at Jamia Ahmadiyya. After seeing mattresses laid out in all the rooms, he went back to his office and said, “How can the rest of the rooms be blessed through the accommodation of guests while my office remains deprived? This is not possible.” He immediately called his workers and instructed them to empty his office and stated, “Guests should certainly be accommodated in this office.” Hence, it came to pass, giving him great delight.
Munir Ahmad Sahib Chattha – missionary from Nigeria writes:
“Mir Sahib would always highly respect the guests that would come for Jalsa. When a new hostel was erected at Jamia Ahmadiyya, the washrooms had toilets that flushed water. At the occasion of Jalsa Salana, the hostel was being emptied for guests. A student said that the flush system should be closed. Mir Sahib became very displeased when he heard this and said, ‘You wish for every kind of comfort for yourself and want to close down the flush system for the guests? I am amazed at those who use every kind of facility throughout the year, but at Jalsa, close them down for the guests of the Promised Messiahas.’”
Taking care of the elderly and attending to matters related to the comfort of guests, Mukhtar Ahmad Sahib Hashmi narrates:
“Respected Syed Daud Ahmad Sahib would take care of the comfort and facilities of those guests staying in private accommodation during Jalsa Salana. He would also ensure that such households were not inconvenienced by the guests of the Promised Messiahas. Hence, I recall that for the breakfast of guests staying at households, he would provide sugar, tea and wooden coal along with rice for those that preferred rice. Once he visited my house in relation to an official matter and saw that guests were having tea in our living room. When I came out, he smiled and asked, ‘What is happening inside? The noise of the teacups can be heard from the road outside.’ I replied by saying that the guests were having tea. He then asked, ‘How much sugar is used during these days?’ I said that five kilograms were used. He then discussed some official matters and left. At night, he sent five kilograms of sugar and this continued for the duration of his life.”
Regarding his passion towards serving the guests of the Promised Messiahas and his determination to spend his full energy – and he followed the footsteps of his esteemed father in this matter – Shiekh Muhammad Ahmad Sahib Mazhar narrates:
“Customarily, our Jalsa would take place on 26 , 27 and 28 December, when winter would be at its height. In 1965, the Jalsa was to take place during Ramadan. Therefore, during the Shura of 1965, a point of discussion was whether to change the dates of Jalsa due to Ramadan or to adhere to the former practice. During the Shura, arguments were presented both for and against. One argument presented was that to provide sehri [pre-fast meal] during the winter nights for approximately 80,000 to 100,000 people was impossible. Upon this, Mir Sahib stood up, and in a simple, yet firm manner, said, ‘Do not worry about food for sehri and iftari [meal to break the fast] not reaching the guests. It is my responsibility that food reaches every individual on time’. His exact words were: ‘If you say so, then even during Ramadan we will – Insha-Allah – arrange for this. It is not difficult to exert one’s best effort.’”
What is worthy of noting is that through his determination, steadfastness and organisational prowess, in the bitter cold at 3am, taking responsibility of providing food for 100,000 people, Mir Sahib displayed a unique resolve and also demonstrated the fact that he had created such an element of determination among his colleagues that they were engulfed in the principle of “We hear and we obey”, and by presenting every kind of sacrifice, they were able to fulfil their obligations in all difficult circumstances. Such high resolve on the part of Mir Sahib is worthy of consideration in many aspects.
Another such example is well known in our community. At the 1927 Jalsa Salana, the space allotted by the organisers for the gathering was somewhat small for the attendees. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra stated during the Jalsa that the fault lay with the organisers and that he would investigate this matter. Huzoorra said that the organisers should have taken into account that the number of attendees at Jalsa always increases from the previous year. After saying this, Huzoor left. However, what followed is truly inspiring.
Hazrat Mir Muhammad Ishaq Sahibra, who was the chief organiser of Jalsa Salana, gathered the volunteers working at Jalsa, and during the night in the cold weather of December, demolished the Jalsa Gah and rebuilt it anew whilst expanding it. This happened during the night whilst the guests were asleep. When they awoke during the night, they found the landscape of Jalsa completely altered, as if the lamp of Aladdin had been used to rebuild the Jalsa Gah. (Al Fazl, 3 January 1928)
When Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra came to the Jalsa Gah on the second day and found the Jalsa Gah to be spacious, he remarked, “How can I look into the matter now?”
Mir Daud Ahmad Sahib was the son of the very same devotee who has been mentioned above, and the same determination, resolve, steadfastness, courage and loyalty of colleagues was a part of him, due to which Mir Daud Ahmad Sahib demonstrated such determination during the Shura.
Maulvi Muhammad Ahmad Sahib Jalil writes, regarding the excellent management of Syed Daud Ahmad Sahib at the Jalsa Salana and on other occasions:
“Mir Daud Ahmad Sahib was an exceptionally capable organiser. He remained Sadr Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya and Afsar Jalsa Salana for many years. He discharged both of his duties with excellence and success. It is an extremely difficult task for the Afsar Jalsa Salana to continually keep preparing two meals for thousands of people for days on end, to oversee its distribution, organising the lodgings of thousands of guests, to fulfil all the requisites of hospitality for thousands of guests from within and outside the Jamaat during the bustling days of the Jalsa and to satisfy people of varying natures and temperaments by redressing their complaints. Mir Sahib exquisitely carried out these tasks for a long period of time which is proof of his outstanding management capabilities. He inherited organisational abilities from his parents. Besides this, Mir Sahib possessed another great quality which acted as a crowning stroke and the adornment of his immense capabilities. He did not merely carry out his assigned responsibilities as an obligation. On the contrary, his duty would become his hobby. For this reason, he would neither tire from his duty, nor become weary. I have personally observed that in the days when Mir Sahib was not yet Afsar Jalsa Salana, it would be his practise to circle and inspect the Langar Khana [kitchen] at nightfall, after he was free from his duties. He would exchange views with the organisers as regards the work and give counsel regarding the latest difficulties. I have seen that he would depart a Langar and enter a second and then a third for this purpose. He would travel back home when a hefty part of the night had passed. Similarly, he would directly gain knowledge of the details of work in Jalsa Salana. The result of knowledge of his responsibilities, enthusiasm and interest was that he became fully acquainted with the Jalsa Salana arrangements and proved to be an extremely successful organiser.”
Munir Ahmad Chattha Sahib, missionary of Nigeria writes:
“Former Spain missionary, Iqbal Ahmad Najm Sahib related to me that once, his duty was in Langar 3. Mir Sahib issued his the order that all the arrangements for the Langhar Khana should be readied by evening of 23 December. Najm Sahib mentioned that the hand-pump machine of the Langar was so spoiled that it had not been fixed up until midnight. ‘At that moment in time,’ Najm Sahib says, ‘there was also no arrangements for light and it was difficult for it to be fixed in the dark. After midnight, I informed him of the condition of the spoilt machine over the telephone having only just arrived home from his Jalsa Salana duties. As soon as he heard of the issue, he hung up the phone. I thought that due to his extreme fatigue, he must have fallen asleep. I thought to myself, What can I do? We shall just have to arrange for the machine to be fixed in the morning. I came into the office and sat down. After a short while, I stepped outside and to my astonishment, I saw Mir Sahib stood next to the machine with a torch in hand and arranging for the machine to be fixed. As long as repar work was beign carried out, he stood nearby with the light. When the machine was fixed, only then did he go home.’”
Originality in management
When work for Jalsa Salana was executed with Syed Daud Ahmad Sahib in-charge, the number of guests had increased to such an extent that arrangements for their food, drink and lodging demanded a new method.
In the era of Mir Sahib, focus was drawn toward the use of natural gas [commonly known as “sui gas” in the Indian subcontinent] and electricity instead of wood and coal as fuel. From then on, upon observing the heating tandoors [clay-ovens] and ovens by means of gas and the prepared food through electric machines, hearts would spontaneously become replete with feelings of praise and gratitude to Allah the Almighty of how many facilities He had provided His servants. Behind these comfortable means, the continuous prayers of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih and his servants, their constant efforts and great struggles were working at hand. By the grace of Allah the Almighty, through these, many problems and challenging stages were overcome. In relation to the installation of “sui gas” machines, Syed Daud Ahmad Sahib once travelled to Afghanistan to observe with his own eyes the machines there which cook bread, and [with that experience] adopt a suitable method back at home.
Chaudhry Hameedullah Sahib, who used to be a close deputy and assistant to Syed Daud Ahmad Sahib and is now Afsar Jalsa Salana, states:
“The tale of the bread-cooking machines is quite lengthy. Following a deep and lengthy review and prolonged trialling, the present form of machines came into being. The design of these machines was not prepared in imitation to any foreign machines. Rather, the design was the result of the reflection, trialling and continuous efforts of Syed Daud Ahmad Sahib. For this purpose, he would have to reside in Karachi for many days. During this period, he did not only strive on a personal level but raised the resolve and morale of those who worked with him as well. Despite the fact that in the initial stages, the trials clearly proved to be unsuccessful, he never lost resolve himself, nor did he allow others to lose resilience. Finally, his constant striving proved successful by the grace of God, by which the cooking of food, especially the bread, was made considerably easier. All praise be to Allah.”
In his era, Syed Daud Ahmad Sahib made a few more significant changes in order to improve the Jalsa Salana management. For example, the supply department had the responsibility of providing goods, solid apparatus, buckets etc. and floral decoration. By dividing this burden, he created a separate department for apparatus and floral decoration. The supply department only had the task of the provision of remaining goods. The task of supplying contracts to the people who cooked the bread and other workers and labourers was transferred from the supply department to a new department named the Department of Labour.
He established a new department by the name of the Department of Review. It was determined to be their obligation to review the accounts of the items in the Jalsa Salana store, throughout the Jalsa. Similarly, from 1968, an independent department for “sui gas” was established. Like the supply department, the accommodation department was also given new shape, bearing in mind its vast responsibilities. He established a new department by the name of Information and Immediate Assistance for Lost Property. Prior to this, there was no permanent arrangement to provide immediate assistance. A parali [paddy stems] department was established whose responsibility was assigned to always ensure the procuring and distribution of parali. In this manner, a new Langar, i.e. the dietary Langar was established in his era in which the preparation of food for unwell guests was separately managed.
The method of issuing slips also underwent a change in his era of management. In the beginning, the slips of food for guests lodging in private houses would be obtained from their respective areas. He initiated the method where the seconding of the issuing of slips should be from their areas, but the issuing of food slips should be carried out by the respective Langar Khana.
Prior to the time of Syed Daud Ahmad Sahib, all of the Jalsa Salana departments were not collectively in a single area. In his time, apart from the departments of Langar for hospitality, meat, first aid and reception, he gathered all the offices of other departments together. This was so that the guests could go to a designated area rather than having to go to various areas to fulfil their needs. In this manner, all offices were in close proximity to communicate with the Afsar Jalsa Salana. Although most of the offices of the Jalsa Salana would be erected with tents, it was his will for permanent rooms to be constructed for all the offices.
In relation to his engagements at the Jalsa Salana, Chaudhry Hameedullah Sahib states:
“On the occasion of the 1968 Jalsa Salana, when cooking food by ‘sui gas’ was being suggested, he would remain in the Langar Khana for the better part of the night for around two months prior to the Jalsa Salana. I remember that on many occasions, if he went home at 2am, he would be present in the Langar Khana straight after the Fajr prayer. His regular presence and conscientiousness also used to be displayed during Jalsas later on. However, in 1968, this engagement and wakefulness consistently occurred for many months. In reality, in relation to work, he would personally supervise whether what an organiser requested was practical or not? In order to gain reassurance, he would personally go and make an observation for himself on the occasion.”
In the affair of hospitality, Syed Daud Ahmad Sahib possessed a very sensitive nature. Mirza Abdul Haq Sahib Advocate of Sargodha writes:
“Allah the Almighty had granted him special capabilities in organisational matters. The management of Jalsa Salana demanded great effort, time and focus, and consisted of numerous aspects. He would fulfil them in an excellent manner. He was sensitive to such an extent that if the slightest complaint was made in any aspect, he would become incredibly restless. During the previous Jalsa Salana, which proved to be the final Jalsa under the management of Mir Sahib, he was cycling one night, but when he saw me, he halted. I said, ‘Masha-Allah, the organisation is running very well.’ He responded, ‘Somewhere a complaint has been made concerning the bread.’ As soon as he had said this, he embraced me, tears began falling from his eyes and he was choked with emotion. He said, ‘May Allah forgive me. Our friends have been inconvenienced.’ He then left as he wiped tears away from his eyes.”
Another close colleague and deputy of his during Jalsa Salana, Professor Basharat-ur-Rahman Sahib MA writes:
“This humble one had the opportunity to work with the revered Mir Sahib (Allah bestow forgiveness and mercy on him) firstly in Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya and afterwards, in connection with Jalsa Salana duties. In those very days, I was influenced by various aspects of the revered Mir Sahib’s character. For many years, he was serving in the capacity of Afsar Jalsa Salana. I, too, had the opportunity of working as his companion and deputy. He would present himself to his colleagues with great love and affection, would encourage them in every manner and overlook their mistakes. During the days of Jalsa, we would, on occasions, work with him in the office of Jalsa Salana till midnight. This humble one used to attempt to be present at the outset of duty for the following day after gaining necessary rest. Therefore, I would arrive in the early morning for my duty but what I would see would embarrass me because Mir Sahib would be present in the office before me.
“This humble one was entrusted with the task of supervising the bureaucratic routine. Mir Sahib would himself work in the office as well, in the capacity of Afsar Jalsa Salana and he would also go to supervise the various departments. He would continuously work from 6am in the morning to 11pm at night. On one night, only a year ago, he visited his home at around midnight. After he had left the office for Jalsa, I was informed that a lady had fallen seriously ill in the ladies’ residence and that her situation was critical but that there was no arrangement to take her to hospital. Upon hearing this, I immediately phoned Mir Sahib at home and apologised for causing him inconvenience. Upon this, he responded that there was no need to apologise as what I had done was completely correct. He said that in such matters, immediate action should be taken, no matter how much somebody may be inconvenienced. Similarly, on the occasion of a Jalsa, I went to his home around 21-22 December at Maghrib time in relation to the Jalsa duty chart. At that period, he was extremely ill due to high blood pressure and confined to a bed. In this state, he issued this humble one important guidelines and bade me farewell. However, the very next day, I was surprised to see that respected Mir Sahib presented himself for his duty at the office of Jalsa Salana on 23 December. It appeared as if he had slightly recovered from illness and he had arrived to present himself for his official duty.
“Hazrat Museh Maudra used to say, ‘There are some people who are martyrs of the field and there are some who are martyrs of work.’ Hazrat Musleh Maudra was himself included in this category and Allah the Almighty also granted this servant of his, respected Mir Sahib, the honour of entering this group of excellence. Moreover, he displayed such enthusiasm in his official duties that he also sacrificed his own health and was raised up towards his Lord at a young age.”
Aside from Jalsa Salana, Syed Daud Ahmad Sahib would also be entrusted with the responsibility of hospitality at other important functions of the Jamaat due to his excellent organisational capabilities. At the Ansarullah Ijtema, he would be entrusted with the responsibility of food and Mir Sahib would carry out this duty with cheerfulness, happiness and inner contentment.
Mirza Abdul Haq Sahib writes, “Apart from Jalsa, respected Syed Daud Ahmad Sahib would usually manage other large gatherings and feasts, and the organisation at such events would be excellent.”