In 1918 the subcontinent was visited by an influenza Pandemic which resulted in the decision to move the Jalsa Salana to April 1919. Though the Jalsa was intended to take place during the Easter break of 1919 to facilitate the rural communities, it was held during March. Some highlights of Jalsa 1918 along with announcements published in the days leading up to it and immediately after it are presented below which gives us an insight as to how the essence and importance of Jalsa was spread 100 years ago.
Programme for Jalsa 1918 (held on 15-17 of March 1919)
Saturday 15 March 1919 (morning session):
1. Maulvi Mahfuzul-Haq Sahib
2. Hakim Maulvi Khalil Ahmad Sahib
Thereafter, there was a break for Salat which was followed by a second session chaired by Seith Abdullah Alladin Sahib. Hafiz Roshan Ali Sahibra delivered an address on the truth of the Promised Messiahas.
Sunday 16 March 1919
The morning session began at 9am and was chaired by Maulvi Ali Ahmad Sahib (Professor Bhagalpur College) who also delivered a brief address. Thereafter, the following reports were presented:
1. Dr Khalifa Rashiduddin Sahibra (Secretary Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya) presented a report highlighting the undertakings of the Anjuman
2. Hazrat Maulvi Sher Alira, in the capacity of Nazim-e-Ala, presented a report
3. Maulvi Sheikh Abdul Rahman Sahib presented a report on Umur-e-Ama
4. Sheikh Muhammad Mubarak Ismail Sahib, Naib Nazir Talim and Tarbiyat, presented a report
After this Chaudhry Fateh Muhammad Siyal Sahibra delivered a speech. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra then proceeded to address the Jalsa on Irfan-e-Ilahi [Cognizance of God].
Monday 17 March 1919
The first session of the day was chaired by Hazrat Mir Muhammad Ishaqra with the opening speech delivered by Hazrat Hafiz Roshan Alira, which was followed by a short speech by Hazrat Mir Muhammad Ishaqra.
The Jalsa concluded with the closing address of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra.
Our Jalsa is not a festival, rather its objectives are unique. A day before the inauguration of Jalsa Salana, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra delivered a Friday Sermon and highlighted the importance of deriving maximum benefit from it.
“If those who come here do not convene [for the sessions of Jalsa], they walk around without purpose and thus waste their time. They should remember that this is not a festival. This Jalsa – under Divine will – has been established through the Promised Messiahas so that centuries of decay that had shrouded the hearts of humans be washed away, and those that were in darkness and oppression be elevated to the tower of light. Thus, Allah the Exalted wishes to gather people at this place so that He may purify them. The individual who does not fulfil these objectives, his faith is in danger. You all have very little time, hence you should spend it well and gain much benefit from it, and you should act upon whatever is relayed to you.” (Friday Sermon, delivered by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra on 14 March 1919, Al Fazl, 1 April 1919)
A Welcome to Those Arriving in Qadian
In the days leading up to Jalsa, various articles were published in the Jamaat’s newspapers and periodicals, encouraging Ahmadis to partake in this Jalsa and remind them of the spiritual benefit attached to such a gathering. Moreover, we repeatedly find the theme of encouraging the residents of Qadian to ensure every effort is made for the hospitality of guests of the Promised Messiahas.
زمینِ قادیاں اب محترم ہے
ہجومِ خلق سے ارضِ حرم ہے
“The land of Qadian is now revered; by the gathering of people, it is a sacred land.”
“O you who are coming to the holy and respected land of Qadian! I welcome you with sincerity and love. The wave of emotion that surges alongside the blood in your veins in a state of full faith and determination moves other hearts like the effect of lightning. There is no doubt that you tread upon the beloved and esteemed land of God with respect and regard and witness the signs of God within it. What doubt is there that every individual amongst you is a sign of God himself? It is for this reason that every individual among the residents of Qadian, seeing you as a sign of God, considers your respect and esteem a part of their faith.
“According to Divine revelation, the Champion of Allah in the garbs of the Prophets [i.e. the Promised Messiahas] stated, ‘They will come to you from every distant track.’ Hence, whoever comes from whatever far-off distance, they become, in the same proportion, a grand part of the importance and might of this Divine sign. Our hearts are saturated with love, and we consider it our honour that we are able to witness signs of God Almighty in such number.
“Hence, when, in the capacity of an old servant of this community, I greet you, I do not do so pretentiously or by mere custom, but rather an uncontrollable emotion arises after seeing the blessings of God Almighty. Therefore, once again I say, ‘Ahlan wa sahlan wa marhaba’ – may God Almighty make this journey successful and blessed for you in every way.” (Hazrat Sheikh Yaqub Ali Irfani Sahibra, Al Hakam, 7 March 1919)
9 prayers of the Promised Messiahas for participants of Jalsa
“The Promised Messiahas prayed the following for those who travelled for this heavenly Jalsa:
1. May God Almighty be with them
2. May He reward them
3. May He have mercy on them
4. May He make easy for them their difficulties and lessen their burdens
5. May He remove their worries from them
6. May He grant them escape from every kind of pain
7. May He open up for them paths for [the fulfilment of] their wishes
8. May He, on the Day of Judgement, raise them up amongst such servants whom He blesses and shows mercy
9. May He be their Khalifa in their absence, until their journeys come to an end
“O Lord! O Glorious One; the One who gives; the Merciful; Remover of difficulties; accept all these prayers. Amin.” (Al Hakam, 14 March 1919)
A glance at the early Jalsas during the Second Khilafat
The Al Hakam editions subsequent to Jalsa Salana 1918 contained reports and reflections upon the proceedings of the Jalsa. One article in particular narrated the progress that the community was rapidly making especially in relation to how arrangements were being improved at Jalsa.
“The advent of the Second Khilafat emerged at a time of trial and tribulation. The greater the hurdles and difficulties lie in one’s path, the greater the glory and grandeur of his success.
“The soul trembles, even thinking of the discord which arose in the Jamaat immediately after the demise of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira. But God Almighty has decreed for the true rightly guided Khilafat to flourish in trials and tribulations, so that its establishment and the change of fear to peace becomes plainly manifest, and so that it is made clear that it is solely God Who appoints the Khalifa.
“The first annual Jalsa [during the Second Khilafat] was held in December 1914, at the same time as the trial which initially began on 13 March 1914. And thus, it was the first Jalsa to be held nine months following the outset of this trial whereas, another Jalsa alongside it, was held in Lahore and every possible endeavour was made to gather people in it.
“Then, in 1914, members of the community had to constantly visit Qadian. Most people continued to visit Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira during his illness in the beginning of 1914, but a large number of people gathered upon his demise in March 1914. Afterwards, in April 1914, when Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra delivered an instrumental address titled Mansab-e-Khilafat [the status of Khilafat] and on the organisation of the Jamaat, a large crowd of the community gathered. Then, on the third occasion, people had to come for the Annual Jalsa. However, God Almighty demonstrated whom He was with, through His hand of support. Thus, clear proof of this revelation from God Almighty became apparent, which was a manifestation of succour at the time of this split: ‘God is with one party from among the two’…
“The [First] World War had begun prior to the first annual Jalsa, and this was a means of the fulfilment of the prophecy of worldwide destruction. Along with the severe opposition from those who had separated themselves from the Jamaat, we had to face the ongoing famine, inflation, financial crisis and atmospheric pollution which was caused by the war. Yet despite this, the number of those gathering in the sacred land [of Qadian] continued to rise. And each Jalsa continued to grow greater than the previous year in glory and strength…”
“A unique characteristic of this Jalsa was that a large number of women participated for which special arrangements had to be made for their convention on this occasion. The ladies’ Jalsa Gah would usually be accommodated at the house of Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad. However, on this occasion, that space proved to be insufficient, and the Jalsa was held in Masjid Aqsa in which, apart from the addresses of respected Maulvi Ghulam Rasul Rajeki Sahib, respected Hafiz Roshan Ali Sahib, respected Maulvi Ghulam Rasul Wazirabadi Sahib and Maulvi Muhammad Ibrahim Sahib, an address of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih, may Allah the Almighty strengthen his hand, also took place. The ladies presented a sizeable donation for the affairs of the community.
“It is essential for ladies to participate in this Jalsa for a child’s primary learning takes place in the company of the mother. If we can acquaint the ladies of the Jamaat with the purpose and grandeur of this Jamaat, then this is a huge achievement and our future generations will be deeply influenced…
“There was a time when, in the early days of the claim of the Promised Messiahas, very few people would visit Qadian. During those days in fact, even prior to this, the Promised Messiahas was given the glad tidings of frequent visitors and was commanded not to become tired from meeting these people. And the following revelation [in Arabic] to the Promised Messiahas foretold that people would come to visit: ‘Do not turn your face away from Allah’s creatures and do not tire from [meeting] people.’ The magnificence of this prophecy increases day by day. And now people are visiting in such numbers that the need has arisen to place the system of Mulaqats under special arrangements. Hence, the system of Mulaqats has been placed under the Department of Correspondence.” (Al Hakam, 21_28 March 1919)
A Masterly Discourse: Irfan-e-Ilahi
On the second day of this Jalsa, 17 March 1919, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra delivered a lecture, which would later be published as a book titled “Irfan-e-Ilahi”. The significance of this address was described by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh in the following words:
“The subject matter was very difficult, and amongst the audience were illiterate farmers all the way to highly educated individuals. Moreover, not only Ahmadis, but non-Ahmadis in large numbers, after hearing about the academic prowess of this young Khalifa and after being moved by the mention of the extraordinary spiritual atmosphere of the headquarters of the Jamaat, were in attendance.” (Swaneh Fazl-e-Umar, Vol. 2, pp. 235-236)
The Hindu newspaper, Parkash, published the following regarding this Jalsa:
“A cause of a special allure in the Jalsa were the lectures of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad Sahib. We should praise the faith and patience of our Ahmadi friends that the lectures of Mirza Sahib continued for five hours and they [continued] to listen… we congratulate our Ahmadi friends on the success of their Jalsa.” (Al Hakam, 7 April 1919)
Though the Jalsa of 1918 had to be postponed and arrangements had to be made in a short amount of time, by casting a glance upon history, it becomes apparent that the Jamaat continued to progress in its undertakings despite hurdles. Moreover, it was only a few months after this Jalsa had ended that arrangements for Jalsa Salana 1919 began to take shape, and thus it was proven that our progress never stops.