Jalsa Salana: What makes it unique?

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M Adam Ahmad, Al Hakam
Qadian
An old view of Qadian | Image: library

Jalsa Salana, the annual convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, carries a great deal of significance for millions of Ahmadi Muslims around the world as it is held in continuation of over a century-old tradition of the Jamaat’s Holy Founder, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian, the Promised Messiah.

Initiation of Jalsa Salana by the Promised Messiahas

One of the unique aspects of Jalsa Salana is its remarkable foundation in 1891 by Prophet Ahmadas, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, whose arrival was eagerly awaited by believers of diverse faiths. Highlighting Jalsa Salana’s importance in its initial years, the Promised Messiahas said:

“Do not consider this Jalsa to be equivalent to any ordinary worldly gathering. The fact of the matter is that it is founded upon the pure support of truth and the propagation of Islam. The foundation stone of this Jamaat has been laid by Allah the Almighty Himself, and nations have been readied that will soon come to join its fold. This is due to the fact that it is the work of the All-Powerful God, for Whom, nothing is impossible.”  (Majmua-e-Ishtiharat [2019], Vol. 1, p. 361)

Presence of Prophet Ahmadas in its initial gatherings

Another uniqueness of Jalsa Salana which sets it apart from any other event is the holy presence of the Promised Messiahas in its early gatherings. Prophet Ahmadas graced his followers with his company, and his lectures had an enduring effect on their hearts. The Promised Messiahas said, “The key purpose of Jalsa Salana is to enable every devoted person to personally experience religious benefit, broaden their knowledge, and deepen their understanding of Allah the Almighty through His sheer grace and blessings.” (Ibid., p. 360)

The Promised Messiahas personally attended Jalsa Salana guests

In the early years, the guests of Jalsa Salana had the honour of being personally taken care of and served by the blessed hands of the Promised Messiahas. In spite of his highly busy schedule and extensive writing work, Prophet Ahmadas remained approachable to his guests. The Promised Messiahas also established a Langar Khana (public kitchen) to fulfil the needs of and provide for his guests.

Consequently, the Messiahas of Muhammadsa warmly welcoming and attending to his visitors is also a distinctive aspect of early Jalsa gatherings. (See Zikr-e-Habib: Hospitality of the Promised MessiahAl Hakam, 21 July 2023, Vol. 6, Issue 279)

The Promised Messiah’sas wife, Hazrat Nusrat Jehan Begum Sahiba, commonly known as Amma Janra, also played an exceptional part in helping and assisting her husband by all possible means during the initial years of Jalsa Salana. Her dedication and devotion to serving the guests of Jalsa Salana were beyond comparison. Hazrat Amma Janra not only actively participated in the efforts to show hospitality to the visitors by preparing food in her kitchen, etc., but also manifested her great selflessness by presenting her own jewellery to provide for the arrangements of Jalsa Salana (Al Fazl International, 22 March 2019, p. 45).

This is also a prominent aspect of the initial Jalsa years when the blessed wife of Prophet Ahmadas worked alongside him in serving and looking after the guests.

God’s blessings upon the institution of Jalsa Salana

At one point in his life, the Promised Messiahas had to eat the leftovers that his brother’s wife would give him (Al Fazl, 9 February 1960, p. 3). Then came the time when he was Divinely commissioned, and God showered His blessings upon Prophet Ahmadas. In the later years, the world witnessed those bounties, especially in the days of Jalsa Salana. Summing up the above-mentioned series of developments, the Promised Messiahas said:

لُفاَظَاتُ الْمَوَائِدِ کَانَ اُکْلِيْ

وَ صِرْتُ الْيَوْمَ مِطْعَامَ الْاَھَالِيْ

“There was a time when leftovers from other people’s dinner tables were my food, but today, by the grace of Allah the Almighty, countless families are eating at my table.” (Aina-e-Kamalat-e-Islam, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 5, p. 596)

The picture drawn in the aforesaid Arabic couplet is vividly observed in the days of Jalsa Salana. So, it is another peculiar feature of Jalsa Salana that God Almighty Himself helped to feed the masses who would come to Qadian, as given the financial state of the Promised Messiahas, it was impossible to look after the guests without divine succour.

Qadian
An old view of Qadian | Image: library

Presence of Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa

After the passing of Prophet Ahmadas, the Jalsa Salana is being held under the guidance and leadership of his successors. The blessed presence of the caliphs of the Promised Messiahas is also one of the distinguishing characteristics of Jalsa Salana, setting it apart from any other gathering across the globe.

In this era, the fifth Khalifa and the current head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, may Allah be his helper, blesses the guests of Jalsa Salana with his holy personage and grants them spiritual and moral guidance. The personal presence of God’s elect uplifts the whole atmosphere of Jalsa Salana and adds a unique beauty to it. Consequently, the guests are literally able to experience the Promised Messiah’sas mission being carried on under the personal command and directions of his Khalifa.

Regardless of his excessively occupied and exhausting schedule, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa keeps a close eye on the necessities and requirements of Jalsa Salana’s guests. Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa makes sure that every single person who has come to attend the blessed gathering feels welcomed and deeply cared for. Huzooraa inspects the arrangements made by the various departments of Jalsa Salana. Before the commencement of Jalsa, Huzooraa gives detailed instructions regarding the preparations and points out those matters that need to be addressed, even if they are apparently trivial or insignificant in the eyes of others.

In a documentary regarding Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V’saa engagements during Jalsa Salana, his Private Secretary, Munir Javed Sahib, related:

“Huzooraa asks about the wellbeing of all the guests that come here [for Jalsa Salana]. Huzooraa takes care of their needs, with such consideration that wherever the guests are staying, he stays up to date with it and sends them things they need. If someone has had any issue, then medication or anything else required is arranged immediately. Time after time, Huzooraa asks if they need anything else and sends it to them. All of this is provided. When the time for their return journey arrives, Huzooraa blesses them with gifts. […]

“Huzooraa keeps an eye out for everyone; he sends them things, takes care of them, and asks about them again and again. Huzooraa may be sitting in the office, but he is looking after all guests as he is always concerned about them. This is also his daily routine for the whole year. However, during the Jalsa days, when Huzoor’saa engagements increase immensely. To continue this routine [is near impossible]. An ordinary person would think, ‘Leave this to the workers, the duty holders, etc., as I cannot do it.’ No! For Huzooraa , they are his own guests, and for Huzooraa, it is his duty to take care of them and fulfil each of their needs. Fulfilling their basic needs aside, gifts are not a basic necessity, but still, going beyond it – something they are probably not even anticipating – Huzooraa still blesses them with gifts. […]

“During the days of Jalsa, first Huzooraa inaugurates the duties and preparations for Jalsa. Normally, it is done a few days prior, on the Sunday before the Jalsa. On this day, the inauguration and inspection takes place, after which the duties begin. However, after the start of these duties, Huzooraa seems to be in jihad-mode [i.e., exerting utmost efforts in this regard], which remains till the end of Jalsa when the guests leave. During these days, where, on the one hand, Huzooraa is concerned for their facilities, he also worries that the guests are not troubled in any way, i.e., in accidents, or any other difficulties. When Huzooraa finds out that they had to leave at a certain time, [he asks] what time their flight was, whether they were taken to the airport on time, etc. Hence, Huzooraa is concerned with the smallest of details. To remember each and every one of them, and then to ask about them, is no ordinary matter. Many great leaders may not even think about such details. [Huzooraa even asks] where someone is staying, whether appropriate arrangements have been made for them, if they have transport, or whether preparations have been made or not. Huzooraa asks that they were supposed to come today, so has a car been sent for them or not? 

“In addition to all of these considerations with the preparations, if Huzooraa receives information that there have been issues somewhere, i.e., the roti plant, or there was a weakness somewhere, as soon as Huzooraa has the opportunity, he goes there himself. When Huzooraa arrives there, he examines the situation, asks questions, and gives guidance to the duty holders.” (“A Day in the Life: Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa during the Jalsa Salana”, https://youtu.be/kZ6eFmjjEUc)

Munir Javed Sahib further narrates:

“A few years ago [in the days of Jalsa], it began to rain, and a group of people were leaving in the evening, towards their guest houses, and there was heavy traffic due to the rain as people were getting onto the buses. When Huzooraa found out, he himself went there in the rain and stood there until the people waiting for the buses did not depart on their return journeys. Huzooraa took time out, went to see, and remained standing there. It gives others confidence. Then, slogans were raised there. A spiritual atmosphere is created. Huzooraa had gone there for hospitality, to take care of the needs of the guests. [Huzooraa didn’t think] that, “Presently, they are in this difficulty, so I will remain in peace indoors.” No! Huzooraa stood with them in the rain. If they [the guests] were getting wet, so was beloved Huzooraa. Such scenes, aside from those in divine communities, cannot be witnessed elsewhere.” (Ibid.)

International bai‘at

A one-of-a-kind event of Jalsa Salana, which started in 1993, is the international bai‘at [initiation ceremony]. People from all backgrounds and diverse ethnicities join in to take part in the initiation ceremony. A lot of new converts, along with young and old members of the Jamaat, get together and take bai‘at at the hand of the Khalifa of Islam Ahmadiyyat.

This significant feature is also peculiar to Jalsa Salana, and no other gathering on earth has this distinction of having scores of people in every part of the world taking the oath of allegiance at the exact same moment and repeating every word of their Khalifa in unison.

Spirit of serving with humility

Another astounding and unique aspect of Jalsa Salana is the selfless dedication of its workers to serving the guests. Despite the highly educational and professional backgrounds of many of them, these individuals volunteer without any sense of superiority or entitlement in a variety of roles, such as cutting and serving food, and even washing toilets, etc.

Apart from Jalsa Salana, there is probably no other event in the world where engineers, doctors, lawyers, etc. carry out such seemingly trivial tasks and contribute with humility to the smooth running of every single department. They greet every visitor wholeheartedly and treat them with the highest regard, fostering an atmosphere of awe-inspiring unity and brotherhood.

After Jalsa Salana UK 2019, Hazrat Khaliafatul Masih Vaa presented the views of some non-Ahmadi or non-Muslim Jalsa guests in his Friday Sermon. Malay-Hoso Yaqoob Sahib, Vice President of the Muslim Community in Benin, who participated in that Jalsa, said:

“I have performed Hajj more than twenty times; however, I witnessed a far greater level of organisation by attending the Jalsa Salana of the Ahmadiyya Community. Never in my life have I ever witnessed such an atmosphere as I did at the Jalsa. I have previously attended many religious conferences and gatherings but never experienced an atmosphere like the Jalsa Salana. The level of organisation, from being received at the airport to being transported to the accommodation, was such that it felt like one was in the comfort of their own home. I met people from all sections of society at the Jalsa, including engineers, doctors, professors, and many other highly educated and intellectual people, who all served us with great humility.” (Friday Sermon, 9 August 2019; Al Hakam, 6 September 2019, Vol. 2, Issue 77)

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa said that the volunteers of Jalsa Salana come from different walks of life and include CEOs, doctors, engineers, and other professionals, but they carry out duties that may be far removed from their day jobs. Some of them happily stand and attend to hundreds of huge pots of food cooking on fire, even teenagers do this work cheerfully. Groups of men and women clean toilets most selflessly; others drive the elderly and disabled in buggy carts from one point to another. Children serve drinking water in the heat while groups of men and women serve food to the guests. There is also a very important and extensive department of security. In short, each volunteer, whether or not he is familiar with a particular task, carries it out with great passion and to the best of his ability. (Friday Sermon, 28 August 2015)

Engagement of youth

The active participation of youth in Jalsa Salana and their key roles in volunteer work, from parking to hospitality, shows their deep interest in this religious gathering. When one observes Ahmadiyya youth on Jalsa Salana in comparison to all the young people involved in pseudo-activism across the globe, one cannot help but admire their efforts and commitment to their faith. By the grace of Allah, our youth are engaged with their hearts and souls in serving humanity under the guidance of their spiritual leader, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa.

A Police Commissioner by profession, Chester Williams Sahib from Belize, attended the Jalsa Salana UK 2019 and said:

“My knowledge of Islam has increased. Prior to attending the Jalsa, I perceived all Muslims to be the same; however, I have now realised that there are many sects within it. Ahmadis promote peace and invest a lot of time in the reformation of the youth, which indeed is most commendable.” (Al Hakam, 6 September 2019, Vol. 2, Issue 77)

The enthusiastic and healthy presence of youth in the Jalsa Salana performing significant voluntary works also sets it apart from any other gatherings.

Conclusion

In short, compared to any other secular gatherings around the world, Ahmadiyya Jalsa Salana is a truly one-of-a-kind convention. Its uniqueness lies in the blend of an uplifting spiritual atmosphere, unparalleled hospitality, and a message of grand unity. It stands out from other gatherings due to its emphasis on promoting tolerance, peace, and mutual harmony.

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