Friday Sermon – Hospitality and Our Responsibilities: Jalsa Salana UK 2021 (6 August 2021)

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Friday Sermon

6 August 2021

Hospitality and Our Responsibilities: Jalsa Salana UK 2021

After reciting the tashahudta‘awuz and Surah al-Fatihah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa stated:

Jalsa Salana UK is commencing from today, insha-Allah. Firstly, I would like to say that during these days, you should pray profusely for the days of Jalsa to be blessed in every regard. May Allah the Almighty establish a purely spiritual atmosphere during these days and may He also increase the piety and righteousness in the hearts of the attendees. Although the number of attendees is very limited due to the current pandemic, [members of the Jamaat] will be listening to the Jalsa at home and I have also been informed that arrangements to listen to the Jalsa have been made by various jamaats, wherever possible in our mosques or halls etc. 

Nevertheless, whoever is participating in the Jalsa in this manner should do so and consider as if they are present here in the marquee. They should listen to the proceedings and remain engaged in prayers over the three days. Holding the Jalsa this year in this manner is a new experience for the organisers as well as for the attendees. Various amenities that the organisers had at their disposal for the comfort of the guests are not available this year. They thought that they would be able to acquire them, but were unable to do so. 

As such, the guests attending Jalsa should understand these circumstances and overlook any shortcomings on part of the organisation. They should also pray that Allah the Almighty may swiftly improve the circumstances so that the Jalsa may once again be held in its entirety as was held in the past. 

Some people have complaints that they were not permitted to attend the Jalsa due to certain rules, or that in some places, the selection of the attendees was not correct. In any case, the organisers have given their justifications in this regard, i.e. the organisers of some local jamaat’s have explained their reasons for this. Irrespective of whether this justification is correct or not, I will say to the members of the Jamaat that they should overlook this as well and understand that some errors might have been made as this was a new experience [for the organisers]. As such, they should pardon them and not hold any grudges in their hearts.

Following this, I will speak in relation to Jalsa Salana and hospitality. Usually, on the Friday of Jalsa, I remind the guests of their responsibilities, or speak about certain administrative matters. Similarly, in the Friday Sermon one week prior to Jalsa, I speak briefly in relation to the duties and responsibilities of the hosts and those on duty. However, as I did not mention anything this time with regard to the responsibilities of workers, today, I will say a few words in relation to both the hosts and those on duty.

Firstly, I would like to say to the hosts and those on duty that despite the circumstances, there should be no shortcomings in the matters of hospitality. On this occasion, six or seven thousand guests that usually come from abroad will not be attending. The guests will be coming from various cities within the UK and even they will attend in limited numbers. Therefore, you should not relax thinking this to be an easy task. When there are any shortcomings, [Ahmadi] guests who have closer ties [to the Jamaat] usually have more grievances. Therefore, you should show great diligence and care to ensure you are hospitable to each and every guest. 

As I mentioned in my address to the workers during the inspection yesterday, by the grace of Allah the Almighty, the workers of Jalsa Salana UK in each department – be they Nasirat, Lajna, Atfal, Khuddam as well as the Ansar [auxiliary organisations of the Jamaat] – have become experts in their duties and responsibilities, and are capable of managing great tasks. They are also able to teach the boys and girls, who have newly joined, to carry out their duty to a high standard. As such, there is no concern with regard to being unaware of how to carry out their duties. There are workers in every department who are able to carry out their duties diligently and meticulously. Nevertheless, it is a commandment of Allah the Almighty to continuously remind the believers and that this is beneficial for them. 

Furthermore, as I mentioned, the arrangements of the Jalsa are on a smaller scale. At times, one may become overconfident that since the Jalsa is being held with such few numbers, they will be able to manage the Jalsa easily. Hence, as a result of negligence in certain matters, shortcomings arise and problems are created and those who are new to their duties may take the wrong message away from this. Thus, for the comfort of the guests and in order to teach the new workers – irrespective of the fact that the arrangements are not to such a large scale – it is important to remember that the tasks within each department are extremely vital. Moreover, with the difficult weather conditions, some departments should be even more mindful of their duties. 

Every person on duty should remember that the guests – be they few or many, each individual – attending the Jalsa is a guest of the Promised Messiahas and we should serve them to the best of our abilities. Hospitality is a distinctive quality of Prophets and their communities. Hence, as a religious community, it is our duty to adopt this quality, whereby it becomes our hallmark and even more evident. 

During the time of the Holy Prophetsa, when guests started arriving in large numbers, he would divide them between his companions, who would happily welcome them into their homes. In the morning, the Holy Prophetsa would ask the guests about their stay overnight and the hospitality of the companions; i.e. ask how they were and about the hospitality they received. Each and everyone would reply that we have never seen such hospitable hosts, who have fulfilled their due rights. (Imam Ahmad bin HanbalrhMusnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Vol. 5, Hadith 15644 [Beirut, Lebanon: Alam al-Kutub, 1998], p. 357)

Hence, this is the example set for us by the companions, which is a result of the moral training of the Holy Prophetsa. Now that we have accepted the Promised Messiahas in this era, he has also urged us to follow this example established by the companions.

On one occasion, the Promised Messiahas advised his companions and said: 

“According to my principles, one must tolerate guests even if they use abusive language,” (Malfuzat Vol. 5, p. 91) i.e. if the guest uses foul language, acts in a harsh manner and does not behave decently. Here, the Promised Messiahas has advised in relation to non-Ahmadi guests. However, we should remember that whoever the guest may be, even if it is an Ahmadi, the duty of the host is to conduct themselves with excellent morals and not to respond to harshness in the same manner. We find extraordinary examples of the hospitality of the Promised Messiahas that he extended to both Ahmadis as well as non-Ahmadis. The Promised Messiahas showed an extraordinary example of hospitality towards Ahmadis as well and indeed this was way. It was, in fact, the Promised Messiahas, who was to establish those excellent moral qualities, through which the beautiful picture of Islam would be shown to us, so that we could, in turn, present to the world. 

Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiq Sahibra relates:

“Once, I travelled from Lahore to Qadian. The Promised Messiahas seated me in Masjid Mubarak, which, at that time, was quite small.” It is still a small mosque, but at that time, it was even smaller; equivalent to a single room. “The Promised Messiahas told me to take a seat and that he would bring me some food, and then he went inside.” 

Mufti Sahib continues: 

“I thought that he would send a worker to me with some food, but after a few minutes, when the window opened, I saw him carrying a tray of food for me with his own hands. He saw me and said, ‘Eat; I will bring you some water.’” Mufti Sahib says, “I began to weep profusely, that despite being our leader and guide, this is the manner in which the Promised Messiahas would look after us. Imagine, therefore, the manner in which we ought to care for one another.” (Dhikr-e-Habib, p. 327, Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiq Sahibra, Qadian)

Once, when there was a shortage of beds, the Promised Messiahas gave up his own bed for the guests. In fact, he gave up all the beds in his home and spent the entire night in discomfort without a bed and without letting anyone know that he was in discomfort. (Ashab-e-Ahmad, Vol. 4, p. 180, Riwayat 76, Rabwah) 

This is the true essence of sacrifice in the way of hospitality. There are some who do make sacrifices at times, but later make it known that they had to endure hardship because of that sacrifice. 

Once, the Promised Messiahas said, “This matter concerns me greatly that no guest should experience any sort of discomfort. In fact, I always emphasise that guests should be made to feel as comfortable as possible.” He further said, “The heart of a guest is as fragile as glass, which can break at the slightest knock.” 

The Promised Messiahas continued, “Previously, I made arrangements to eat with the guests myself. This would allow me to see the manner in which they were being cared for; whether there is an ample amount of food, what the quantity is, and whether or not everyone was fed.” He then says, “However, due to illness, ever since I have had to restrict my diet, I have not been able to carry on doing so. Another reason is that the number of guests has increased so much that there would not be enough room and it was difficult for everyone to sit in one place to eat.” Food must have been served at different locations or in turns which was why he was unable to eat with them. (Malfuzat Vol. 5, p. 406)

Once, when there was a large number of guests, the Promised Messiahas said to the in-charge of the langar khana [kitchen of the Promised Messiahas], “There is a large number of guests, some of whom you may recognise and others you will not. Hence, it is best to serve everyone in a respectful manner.” In this way, all guests should be treated equally by the hosts. No one should be given preferential treatment. One should not give better service to someone because they are an office-bearer or an acquaintance or give them special treatment. Everyone should be treated equally as guests. All guests should be treated with dignity and respect and this is the essence of hospitality. The Promised Messiahas said to him, “I trust that you will make the guests feel comfortable and serve them in an excellent manner.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 6, p. 226)

This is the same expectation for all the workers, and by the grace of Allah Almighty, most of the workers honour this trust. As for those who do not meet this expectation, they should analyse themselves and determine how they can remove this deficiency and improve their standards of hospitality. 

I am aware that the volunteers of some departments are given a hard time by some guests; however, it is our duty to never abandon good morals and to set a good example. No matter what the guests may say, all the volunteers must make it incumbent upon themselves to display the highest moral conduct. 

This year, since the attendance is limited, the workers may not have to face certain difficulties, or perhaps they may be under the impression that they will not have to face them. However, when workers draw the attention of guests to certain restrictions, it is possible that some guests may take offence to this. For example, the workers will remind everyone to wear masks and to maintain social distancing, as not everyone adheres to these things. Also, certain restrictions must be kept in mind whilst eating. 

Upon hearing all of this, if someone reacts harshly and does not adhere to these guidelines, then despite what they say, one should try to explain to them in a loving manner. 

Generally, guests are aware that they must adhere to certain restrictions, but some people by nature are offended easily. There are only a handful of people who cause these issues, but if a worker reacts in a harsh manner, then this increases the chances of leading to disputes and misunderstandings. Hence, if something needs to be explained or a request needs to be made, or anything needs to be said, it should be done so with great patience and kindness. 

The Holy Prophetsa has stated that one of the signs of a believer is that they honour their guests. (Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Iman, Bab Hath ala Ikram al-Jar wa al-Daif, Hadith 173)

Hence, this hallmark of a believer should be inculcated in each and every one of us. Due to the rain, there will be limited parking in Hadeeqatul Mahdi. Despite there being space on the grounds, the rain has caused the grounds to become waterlogged and there is a potential for cars to slip or become stuck. For this reason, an alternate site has been acquired for parking, where there will be buses to bring guests to the site. Those on duty will have to explain this to those arriving by car in a calm and loving manner. 

There are some who drive straight here [to Hadeeqatul Mahdi] and insist that since they are already here, they should be allowed to enter. The matter should be explained to them politely and the guests should follow the instructions of those on duty. It is only through mutual cooperation that the work can be carried out easily and smoothly. 

Hence, there should be cooperation from both sides. The guests should not expect that these people are only here to serve them and to listen and do everything they say. Instead, the guests themselves should adhere to the guidelines which have been put in place. Only then can everything move along smoothly. Guests should also always be mindful that not only has Islam instructed hosts to honour and respect their guests, it also reminds guests of their responsibilities as well. 

Islam clearly states that when a person visits someone as a guest, they should be mindful of their schedule and go when they are invited or after having given prior notice. On the one hand, the hosts have been instructed that if a guest comes to their home, they must treat them well no matter when they arrive. On the other hand, guests have been instructed to visit someone’s home after giving prior notice. 

If one goes without prior notice and those at home do not permit them to come in, then that person should return without any complaint. Generally, this does not apply to the guests of Jalsa; however, this year, as I mentioned, an age restriction has been instated due to the prevailing circumstances. A minimum and maximum age limit has been set along with other health-related conditions. Keeping these factors in mind, a guideline has been set, based on which jamaats have been informed to send only those people who meet these conditions. 

As I mentioned earlier, there may have been some discrepancies in this designation resulting in some complaints. Similarly, there are some people who have recently come to the country but do not meet the conditions, yet they insist that they should be allowed to attend Jalsa. It is possible that some people from outside [the UK] try to attend along with their relatives or insist to their local organisers to be given an entry pass. These people should be mindful that problems arise when people try to bypass the system. 

Allah Almighty has provided basic guidelines for a believer and has imparted guidance for adopting fundamental morals by stating that one should not enter a house without the permission of the residents. And if they are turned away, they should return without complaint. Allah the Almighty states:

وَاِنۡ‭ ‬قِيۡلَ‭ ‬لَكُمُ‭ ‬ارۡجِعُوۡا‭ ‬فَارۡجِعُوۡا‭ ‬هُوَ‭ ‬اَزۡكٰي‭ ‬لَكُمۡ

“And if it be said to you, ‘Go back’ then go back; that is purer for you.” (Surah al-Nur, Ch.24: V.29) 

One of the main purposes of attending Jalsa is self-reformation and purification. Instead of trying to forcefully attend, it is more virtuous to abide by the system put in place. Thus, for all those who have insisted to me in writing or are pressuring the organisers, it is better to follow the appointed system. They should not take offence from this nor have any complaints. Instead, they should pray to Allah Almighty – especially in these times when one can pray fervently – for Allah to soon return the circumstances to normal so that those who desire to attend the Jalsa can do so freely. 

The Companionsra had an extraordinary way of following Quranic injunctions. One companion relates that for years, he visited peoples’ homes during odd hours only so that he would be refused entry and told that it was not possible to meet at that time. He desired to be turned away for the sole purpose of fulfilling this very commandment of the Holy Quran and attaining blessings through it. It so happened that he was never turned away. (Tafsir Durr al-Manthur, Vol. 6, pp. 175-176, Dar al-Fikr, Beirut, 2011) 

As such, both the guest and the host would strive to fulfil their obligations in order to attain the pleasure of Allah the Almighty. 

I mentioned this as a general principle and in the context of adopting basic morals and how one should act upon the teaching of the Holy Quran passionately. However, some people are such that they mention these things in order to convince the organisers and say that the organisers should not deny them. 

In normal circumstances, the organisers do not deny such requests and should not do so either. If they deny them, then they are not fulfilling the rights of the guests and are acting contrary to the teachings of Islam. These are the teachings which the Promised Messiahas has emphasised that we should follow and has demonstrated through his own example; whereby even if a guest would come at odd hours during the night, he would ensure for their hospitality as well. 

Nonetheless, as I have stated, the circumstances under which the Jalsa is being held are exceptional, due to which there is no choice but to refuse entry to [some] guests. These instructions should be followed without any complaints. I would also like to say to those people who have received an invitation and entry pass for Jalsa, aside from extremely exceptional circumstances, they should all make sure to attend the Jalsa. Otherwise their failure to attend would be an injustice to those who were not given an invitation. Do not make the harsh weather an excuse not to attend. 

As far as the harsh weather conditions are concerned, Jalsa is held in Rabwah and Qadian in the open air during the winter months. Due to restrictions, for many years now, no Jalsa has been held in Rabwah. However, when the Jalsa did take place in Rabwah, people would manage even in the case of rain and would somehow cover themselves and listen to the Jalsa proceedings. Even when Jalsa used to be held here in Islamabad, during times of rain, despite being seated in the marquee, conditions would become severe because everyone would be seated on the grass and no wooden flooring was in place as it is now. 

I remember whilst attending a Jalsa, the rain caused parts of the Jalsa Gah to become soaked. There were puddles of water all across the outer edges of the marquee, and those who had to pray there would find their knees and foreheads in water or mud. I, myself, remember that I experienced this. After prostrating, I would have to first wipe my forehead clean to prevent the water or mud from getting into the eyes or to remove any grass etc. Regardless of all this, I saw that everyone would attend Jalsa with a passion. 

By the grace of Allah, that same passion exists even today, and in fact, the majority of Ahmadis have this same passion. However, I am addressing those who are more sensitive to these conditions, or who, with the passage of time, have become sensitive, that if they have received an invitation, they should strive to attend and should not make excuses. 

As I have mentioned before, there are some who have a habit of quarrelling. Similarly, there are also those who have a habit of complaining. They try to criticise the organisers and say that it should have been organised in such and such way or they will make excuses as to why they did not attend. Nonetheless, these points should be kept in mind. All those who have received an invitation, and have been granted permission to attend today, tomorrow and the day after, should certainly attend. 

I will mention some administrative matters as well. Everyone should follow the social distancing measures from the organisers in the dining marquee when receiving and eating food. All over the site there are signs and guidelines about maintaining social distancing. However, some members do not have a habit of reading these guidelines. 

These days as well as other times, it has been observed that some people do not maintain social distancing. For this reason, everyone should mindful of social distancing while receiving and eating food. Of course, one has to remove their mask in order to eat; however, masks should be worn while waiting in line to receive food. Similarly, workers and volunteers should strictly ensure that they are wearing masks at all times. If they show leniency and negligence in this matter, then the guests will also not follow the rules. Thus, workers and guests should ensure that they are wearing a mask, whether they are in the car park, washrooms, walking around, in the Jalsa Gah, or the food marquee. Masks should be worn whilst seated in the Jalsa Gah. 

At times, the organisers will request you to remove your mask to reveal your face and everyone should cooperate. Also, if the organisers have arranged for slogans to be raised during speeches, they must ensure that no masks are removed when raising a slogan or when responding to it. 

Some people are not careful in this regard. This Jalsa is an entirely new experience which is why we must be mindful of this and pay special attention. In order to keep ourselves and others safe as well, both the nose and mouth must be covered. 

Then, whilst entering the gate, there will be two kinds of checking; the AIMS card will be checked and perhaps the vaccination card and entry pass will also be checked. In this regard, you should cooperate with those who are checking and you should not express any sort of displeasure because of these checks. All of these measures are being taken for the safety of the attendees. 

Another thing that I would like to mention is that despite the limited attendance and all of these measures that are in place, you should not become relaxed in terms of security. Both the workers and attendees should remain extremely vigilant, as has been instructed in the past. 

With regard to food, I should mention that insha-Allah, lunch will be provided in the dining marquee, and the precautions, which I mentioned earlier regarding this, should be kept in mind. However, for dinner, the idea is for it to be packed and distributed so that it can be taken home. Efforts will be made to distribute it as swiftly as possible; however, if there is a slight delay, there is no need to worry. 

Similarly, with regard to listening to the Jalsa proceedings, I will repeat the same instruction which is given every year; you should listen to the Jalsa proceedings instead of sitting elsewhere and talking with relatives and friends because you have not met one another for a long time. It is for the Jalsa that you have come and so you should listen to the Jalsa proceedings. 

Due to the pandemic and due to a lack of Jamaat functions during this time, many people, including close relatives and friends as well as those who live in different cities, will be meeting each other after quite some time. However, meeting after a long time should not distract them from listening to the Jalsa proceedings, nor should it detract from offering prayers. Having attended the Jalsa, you derive full benefit from it. 

Whilst drawing attention towards the remembrance of Allah during the days of Jalsa, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra has stated the following:

“It occurred to me that Allah the Almighty has said to remember Allah during the days of Jalsa, i.e. when members are sitting in the various sessions, they should remember Allah. God Almighty has stated the benefit of doing this is that if you remember Allah, He will also:

اُذْكُرُوا‭ ‬اللّٰهَ‭ ‬يَذْكُرْكُمْ

“‘Remember Allah and Allah the Almighty will then remember you.’ Who can be more fortunate than one who is remembered by his Master; who is remembered by Allah.” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol. 4, p. 258)

Hence, during these days, the remembrance of Allah becomes an even greater means of drawing the blessings of Allah Almighty. That is why one should pay special attention to the remembrance of Allah during these days. Even the Ahmadis who are gathering around the world to listen to the Jalsa or those listening to the Jalsa at home with their families should also focus on the remembrance of Allah, so that we may draw as much of Allah the Almighty’s blessings as possible; so that we may improve in our spirituality and we may be saved from the calamities of this world by drawing the grace of God. 

Therefore, try to derive maximum benefit from the Jalsa atmosphere, listen to the scholarly and educational speeches and focus on prayers. 

This time, due to the limited attendance, arrangements have been made for attendees to sit on chairs, and so there should be no excuse of having to sit for a long time. In any case, the Jalsa sessions are not very long; they are generally two to two and a half hours long, or approximately three hours at the most. Hence, even if one had to sit on the floor it should not be difficult. 

In the end, I will present a quote of the Promised Messiahas. He states:

“Would all the gentlemen listen attentively. I wish and desire for my community, and even for my own person and soul, that we must not be pleased with empty words and expressions that are to be found in lectures. Our entire aim and focus must not culminate merely on the spell-binding nature of a certain individual’s speech and the power of their words. This does not please me. What pleases me – and not by any pretence or affectation, but rather as a natural and inherent demand of my soul – is that everything be done for the sake of Allah, and to serve God.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 2, p. 113)

He further states:

“This was a significant reason for the decadence and downfall of the Muslims. Countless conferences are held, and a plethora of bodies and councils exist, where renowned and prolific speakers and lecturers read out their papers and deliver addresses and poets mourn the state of our religion in their poetry. But why does none of this have any effect? Instead of moving forward, with every passing day, our people only fall further and further into decline. The fact of the matter is that those who participate in these gatherings do not come with sincerity.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 2, p. 115)

Nonetheless, you should listen to every speech; it should not be the case that you listen to some speeches and not others because you consider a speaker to be more eloquent. You should listen to every speech at the Jalsa with sincerity and by paying full attention to them. This sincerity can only be achieved when one longs to attain the pleasure of Allah the Almighty. When this longing is established, our conditions can be improved and can guide our future generations along the right path. We should continuously strive in this endeavour. 

May Allah the Almighty enable everyone taking part in this Jalsa or listening to this Jalsa to establish true sincerity and loyalty within them. Also pray for the weather these days, that it does not hinder any of our programmes. Instead, may Allah turn it in our favour.  

(Original Urdu published in Al Fazl International, 27 August 2021, pp. 5-8. Translated by The Review of Religions.)

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