Al Hakam asked Ataul Awwal Abbasi Sahib, Head of MTA Canada Studios, to recount the experience of participating in a milestone event, the live audio and video link of over 200 Atfal of Canada with their beloved Imam, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa. Below is his account
Ataul Awwal Abbasi, Head of MTA Canada Studios
15 August 2020 marked a historic day in the history of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya. It was the first time ever that a Khalifa of the Promised Messiahas held an online virtual class.
This is my personal account on leading up to this historical day as a team member of MTA International Canada Studios, who were to facilitate this class technically from Baitul Islam Compounds in Peace Village, Canada.
This day would be etched forever in the memory of the fortunate 224 mayar-e-kabir Atfal who took part in this august gathering, but there were also 23 other members of MTA Canada team that will not forget this historical event, I happen to be one of those and here is how it unfolded:
In late June 2020, I received a telephone call from Naib Sadr Majlis Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya Canada, Adnan Rabbani Sahib who excitedly told me that the private secretariat in London had asked Sadr Sahib Majlis Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya Canada to submit a proposal for an online class with Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa.
He explained that MTA Canada would potentially facilitate the technical aspect of this stream. I instantly contacted my supervisor in London, Munir Odeh Sahib (Director of Production, MTA International) to seek guidance and see what the possibilities could be.
This was a challenging proposal since it was to happen amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, where the world was going through a change and how normal and usual things were being transformed to a new norm.
Huzooraa had instructed that a proposal be sent to see how this would be possible with the Canadian Government and Provincial guidelines being fully met.
Further discussions with Zubair Afzal Sahib, Sadr MKAC took place to see what would be feasible and how it could be made possible with the Covid-19 guidelines of government, as well as technical instructions received from Munir Odeh Sahib in London. Sadr Sahib was keen to involve as many Atfal as possible due to this unique opportunity of being in the presence of their beloved Imam, Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa.
Due to technical, security and Covid-19 constraints, the limitations were set that this would only be feasible from one location; hence it was now time to find that suitable site that could accommodate a decent number of Atfal and be technically suitable. After looking at one other location, it was conclusively decided that there would be no better solution then Aiwan-e-Tahir in Peace Village as that also housed the MTA Canada Studios. This would allow us to use the equipment and control room in the studios, rather than a mobile setup used for outdoor broadcasts.
The following six weeks, in which the proposal was sent for approval and then the dates being graciously given by Huzooraa for the class to take place, have been the most challenging time for me that I can recall. The thought of Huzooraa viewing what we are showing him over the internet started daunting me. We had to ensure that technically, there was no risk of failure; however, we all know that this isn’t possible, no matter how advanced systems and technology have become just one slight hiccup in a chain of operations could falter the whole outcome.
As Ahmadi Muslims, we are all too aware that the only guarantor for success is prayer. No matter how fragile a system is or how weak the technical capability of the operators are, Allah the Almighty, following sincere prayers, will ensure that the setup becomes as robust as ever.
Nevertheless, a weak individual like me still garnished a thought in the back of my mind; “What if something goes wrong and we end up wasting our beloved Huzoor’saa precious time?” “What if this historic event ends up becoming historic for all the wrong reasons?”
As time drew closer, multiple tests were done with Munir Odeh Sahib in London and at no point was I given any comfort from the tests that there would be no issues. Each test had some small issues that needed ironing out. However, here is another faith inspiring incident for the readers.
I began to write to beloved Huzooraa for prayers a couple of days prior to the event as we were facing a technical issue that wasn’t being resolved; however, before that letter was complete, I was told by our technical team – Shahryar Mirza and Bazil Khan – that alhamdolillah, that particular issue was now resolved. Before the letter was even sent to a man of God, his prayers for whatever was being written had already gained acceptance at the divine threshold.
I have experienced many times over that whenever I have written to Huzooraa, instantly a source of comfort and calm envelops my mind and at this point, it was no different.
The day of this major event arrived and the call time for MTA crew members was 8am. I could see during the morning debrief some sense of anxiety and nervousness in the team. In all honesty, I wasn’t fairing any better than them. Regardless, they were briefed before being sent on their roles. Another test was agreed with the London team at 11:30am and we assumed our positions for the final test before the live stream to beloved Huzooraa.
When we started this test, it was from beloved Huzoor’saa office and again, at this point, it hit us all that this is where our Beloved Imamaa would soon be engaging from his offices in Islamabad with Atfal in Peace Village, Toronto.
The wonders of Allah the Almighty were being taken into a new era, one where His chosen Khalifa was interactively engaging live across a different continent with his people. Subhanallah!
We checked the audio and video quality from both ends in this test and alhamdolillah, by now, it was all satisfactory and we were ready for the class. The class started promptly at 1:30pm Eastern Time and alhamdolillah, it went smoothly without any hiccups.
The most comforting words for all of us in the studio were when beloved Huzooraa said:
“Through this meeting, I feel as though I am in Canada. I can see the mosque and the exact spot where I was interviewed by a Canadian journalist. I can see the hall where many of you are sitting. It is as if I am with you!”
May Allah the Almighty soon bring the day when we can all be free to meet our Imam in person and we in Canada are again blessed with the physical presence of this beautiful person of Allah the Almighty, our dearest Imam, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa.
The following day, 16 August, would also become part of history, where the national amila of Lajna Imaillah Canada became the first amila to be granted an official online virtual meeting with Huzooraa. The national amila were blessed to have this unique opportunity to get direct one on one guidance from their Imamaa on their respective administrative offices.
This meeting took place from the Jamia Ahmadiyya auditorium, which is located on the third floor of Aiwan-e-Tahir. A similar MTA setup was used, but this time, with MTA Lajna crew members.
At this point, as these were historic events, I would like to mention the names of the people involved from MTA to successfully stream and broadcast the class and amila meeting. All praise belongs to Allah.
MTA International UK: Munir Odeh (Director of Productions), Syed Jahangir Shah and Imran Ahmad (technical engineers)
MTA International Canada Studios: Ataul Awwal Abbasi (Markaz representative of MTA International), Shaharyar Mirza (production manager & technical engineer), Ansar (director), Bazil Khan (racking & technical engineer), Raveel (vision mixer), Abdul Hamidi (audio operator), Athar Chattah (IT), Aizaz Khan (missionary and VT/GFX operator), Athar Ahmad (VT/GFX), Tahir Nasim (production assistant), Shoaib & Maajid (PA from sami basri team)
Aiwan-e-Tahir Crew: Saqib Kahlon (floor manager), Basil Raza Butt (missionary and main mic operator), Shahzaib Mirza, Faateh Malik, Nauman Mian (camera operators), Nadeem Ahmad & Uvaice Nasir (boom mic operators)
Baitul Islam Crew: Behzad Ahmad (floor manager), Basil Tishna, Jalees Ahmad, Faraz Ahmad (camera operators), Irfan Ahmad (boom mic operator)
Lajna Mulaqat Crew: Munaza Khan (production manager), Fareeha Zafar (floor manager), Sofia Saeed, Imama Majid, Attiya Ghumman (camera operators) and Razia Ahmad (floor audio operator).
May Allah the Almighty give our most dearest and beloved Imam, Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa strength to continue giving us guidance; may He give us all the opportunity to continue serving our beloved Imamaa to the best of our abilities; may He accept our efforts in propagating the true teachings of Islam Ahmadiyyat. Amin