Ahsan Mahmood Khan, Afsar Jalsa Gah, USA
The 36th West Coast Jalsa Salana USA took place on 22-24 December 2023 at the Baitul Hameed Mosque in Chino, California, which is situated about 30 miles east of Los Angeles. Over 2,000 Ahmadi Muslims from throughout the country, but primarily the 11 chapters of the Western states, attended the annual gathering, which first started in 1985 to cater to the many Ahmadis living in the western parts of the country but has now grown to an international event, live streamed this year on MTA to over 10,000 viewers.
The theme of this year’s Jalsa Salana was the Ten Conditions of Bai‘at, with speeches in the Jalsa programme covering each of the ten conditions in a stand-alone presentation.
Dr Sahibzada Mirza Maghfoor Ahmad, Amir Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya USA, hoisted the Liwa-e-Ahmadiyyat to open the Jalsa Salana. The opening session featured an opening talk on the Divine Attributes of Al-Khaliq, Al-Bari and Al-Musawwir in the context of the Islamic concept of evolution presented by Dr Arshad M Khan Sahib. Salaam Bhatti Sahib expounded on the subject of steadfastness in the face of trial, and Dr Sohaib Awan Sahib delivered a speech defending the pristine character of the Promised Messiahas.
Saturday morning speeches this year covered a variety of topics, including the Islamic perspective on homosexuality delivered by Rahman Nasir Sahib and another talk expounding on Allah’s commandment in the Quran to approach not foul deeds, both hidden and in secret, delivered by Ashfaq Khan Sahib. Syed Ibrahim Ahmed Sahib then gave a talk on the New World Order, highlighting the speech of Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, and also explained the system of Wasiyyat. Finally, Usama Rehman Sahib gave a Seerat talk on Hazrat Sahibzada Mirza Sharif Ahmadra, the son of the Promised Messiahas.
The afternoon guest session drew 137 external guests, including local and state government officials, members of local enforcement, professors, university students and inter-faith congregations. The feature presentation was entitled “The Role of Faith in Our Lives” given by Bobby Cruz, a member of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya Los Angeles, who highlighted the Islamic teachings of love for humanity and duty to mankind and duty to God. He expounded on the Promised Messiah’sas message about the role religion plays in our lives and the importance of believing in a Creator.
California State Assembly Member Bill Essayli (63rd District), Mayor of Upland Bill Velto, Mayor of Redlands Eddie Tejeda, and Mayor Pro Tem Chino Karen Comstock provided official remarks.
Amjad Mahmood Khan Sahib, Secretary Public Affairs provided an introduction to the Jamaat and distilled the recent pronouncements of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa about the present conflict between Israel and Palestine.
This year’s session featured a special presentation of the “Jalsa Cares” service initiative in partnership with a Christian non-profit, Isaiah’s Rock. Jalsa volunteers spent three days serving food, clothes and toys to over 600 needy families in Chino. Pastor Charleen King, CEO of Isaiah’s Rock, joined Chino Councilman Christoper Flores, to convey their profound thanks to Jalsa Cares for their generous donation and volunteer time.
Dr. Heather Ferguson, Professor of History at Claremont McKenna College, provided reflections on the crisis in Gaza and the power of sharing the stories and words of Palestinians who’ve faced unspeakable harm. Several members of the US Congress and other officials also sent letter greetings to all Jalsa attendees.
The guests then enjoyed dinner on Zahir Basketball Court and many were taken through the Voices for Peace Jalsa exhibition and also interviewed on MTA.
The ladies’ separate session included a speech on Divine Signs Proving the Existence of God, by Amtul Rahman Ahmad Sahiba. Rumsha Ahmad Sahiba delivered a talk on the Holy Prophet Muhmmad’ssa blessed guidance on the pursuit of peace. Misbah Rashid Sahiba gave a speech on cultivating a love for God in our children. Kafia Ahmed Sahiba’s speech was titled “Approach, Not Foul Deeds, Open or Secret”. The closing speech by Sadr Lajna Imaillah USA, Dhiya Bakr, discussed the empowerment of women through purdah.
The closing session on Sunday began with a speech in Urdu by Faran Rabbani Sahib on the importance of fostering harmony in our homes. Umar Nayyar Sahib then gave a speech in which he provided moving stories of martyrdom in the history of Islam, from the Battle of Badr to the most recent example of Ahmadi Muslims martyred in Burkina Faso, Africa. Abdullah Dibba Sahib, Sadr Majlis Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya USA, then delivered a talk on the duty of Ahmadi Muslims to spread the message of Ahmadiyyat under the guidance of the Khalifa of the time. The closing address by Sahibzada Dr Mirza Maghfoor Ahmad was a heartfelt and emotional call for parents to shepherd their children in this society as good Ahmadi Muslims, to follow the guidance of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa, and to avoid the pitfalls of materialism and immorality.
MTA USA ran live on-site interviews, both roaming and in the studio, throughout the Jalsa and the entire Jalsa was live-streamed on YouTube and on the official Jalsa Salana website. Spanish live translation of all speeches was also provided by the Spanish Desk. Over 9,000 live streams took place.
Additional programmes were held by the Tabligh, Waqf-e-Nau and Nau-Mubai‘een (new converts) departments, along with the Ahmadiyya Association of Muslim Scientists (men and women) and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Medical Association.
A blood donation mobile bus was also present on Saturday of Jalsa and several attendees donated blood.
This year’s Jalsa Salana featured a large stand-alone exhibition titled Voices for Peace, highlighting the message of peace in Islam from the time of its inception through the example of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa all the way to the advent of the Promised Messiahas and currently through the global messages of peace delivered by Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa during his most recent tour to the United States.
The national Rishta Nata department once again held a Meet and Greet programme to facilitate the introduction of families in a prearranged fashion. Majlis Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya USA hosted the MKA Hub, where Khuddam and Atfal could enjoy games like chess, air hockey and table tennis and enjoy the onsite cafe. Lajna also hosted a Lajna Exhibition commemorating 100 years of Lajna Imaillah, and they also had a “Lajna Hub” similar to Khuddam.
This year, the Jalsa welcomed 66 international guests from nine countries. The Jalsa Salana was covered by local newspapers (Daily Bulletin and Orange County Register).