Lubna Suhail, Secretary Ishaat Lajna Imaillah UK
What brings more than tens of thousands of Muslim women from different walks of life, different ethnicities, creeds and cultural backgrounds to an open field in leafy Hampshire? The answer is an Islamic Khilafat that preaches a peaceful message of unity and love.
This Khalifa spreads the message of tolerance and acceptance. The women here feel empowered, motivated by each other to be the best version of themselves. They aspire to be the best mothers, wives, daughters and sisters and all this can be achieved by being a practicing Muslim woman. That is what the love of Khilafat encourages them to be.
Walking around the temporarily constructed mini city, named Hadeeqatul Mahdi, hidden in the vast greenery with all the amenities anyone would need, women walk and talk freely in their colourful and beautiful traditional clothing.
But they are not here to socialise, dress up and show off their clothes and jewellery. They are here for a higher purpose – to spiritually rejuvenate themselves and pledge allegiance to this Islamic Khilafat. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih, may Allah be his Helper, advised the ladies attending that modesty is the best adornment for a Muslim woman and this is the beauty she should be most proud of.
There is no topic that is not touched upon by the Khalifa in his various addresses over the three-day convention. He advises on social and domestic issues that affect family and home-life, to have a happy home and righteous children is what every Muslim woman desires. Huzooraa advised both men and women that this responsibility must be shared by both men and women equally. They both must discharge their duties towards each other and the family as well as towards their faith and Allah.
Only by having the love of Allah at the forefront of their thoughts, would they have a successful home and work life and protect the world from destroying itself morally. His message to all was that your actions should be such that they give precedence to your faith over any materialistic worldly attractions.
Carrying the responsibility of the moral upbringing of her children, a mother feels confident entering the Jalsa site. She knows her and her children’s every need will be catered for. With a toddler in the pram and two bags full of spare clothing, food and snacks, it is exhausting walking from the car park into the women’s area and through security. However, energy levels boost back up when she is inside. The pushchair gets parked in the allocated marquee, a ticket gets issued, making collection more convenient, and then it is straight to the mother and child area. There are volunteers always around to help carry or look after your belongings, with a creche for the children.
Many people question the separation of men and women at Jalsa, this is because Muslim women observe purdah, which is dressing modestly and discouraging the free mixing of men and women.
We hear a great deal at present in the media, and society in general that women do not feel the same sense of security and safety that men do. Women are more likely to be victims of a whole variety of crimes in the work place and home. All this makes the Jalsa Salana a unique and safe experience, where a woman enters an environment, free to enjoy, flourish, be educated, meet old friends and new, and let her children play independently. She enters an environment where she has no worries of being judged or made to feel in some ways inadequate. Where you can see her serving in every walk of life; from recording for a television channel to cleaning the toilets; from serving food to 18,000 women and children to cleaning the arena; from presiding over sessions to taking care of the guests’ food, drink and bedding; from running a big bazaar to providing milk for babies.
Ladies have the freedom to be business entrepreneurs at the Jalsa bazaar, given an opportunity to sell and promote their businesses. The Ladies bazaar is solely controlled by women, with a variety of food and drink, clothes and toys. The tuck shop is open for children throughout the day. Attendees can choose between hot tea and cold beverages, which are free for all.
Many young educated women are able to use their skills and profession to good use at the Jalsa. Doctors and pharmacists volunteer in the First Aid department. Women who have studied media can volunteer with the live television channel Muslim Television Ahmadiyya International and the Voice of Islam Radio. You will find professionals from all walks of life, but here, they love to be identified as Ahmadi women serving for humanity. You can never enrich or serve people with your money alone, with Jalsa an incredible opportunity to help others by volunteering one’s time, effort and skills.
The Jalsa is known for its amazing food, loved by everyone, with six different food marquees catering for all needs – children, elderly, international guests, the disabled, with all dietary requirements catered for. Food is available 24 hours a day for those who stay at the site.
In most public spaces, finding clean toilets is a struggle. Jalsa has many clean toilets, manned by volunteers all day, with organised lines entering and exiting.
There is a fantastic facility for children and adults with special needs and disabilities. The SEND marquee is designed to be comfortable, with volunteers providing assistance with love and care. This year, a unique feature, only provided on the women’s side, were SEND cards. These were issued for those who wished to use them, allowing them to have priority access to food, toilets and all other facilities available at Jalsa.
Every woman takes something different away from the Jalsa Salana, with the numerous speeches that guide, advise and educate. But every woman leaves feeling more connected to her Creator and empowered to reach her full potential through the aspiring words of the Khalifa of the time.