Jalsa Salana is the spiritual convention of the Jamaat, that takes place every year, with thousands of people flocking from far and wide to attend this three-day retreat. Within a 28-day period, the 208-acre farmland in Alton is transformed into a marvellous tent city, that caters for the esteemed guests of the Promised Messiahas.
Each year, the Jalsa improves and grows, from the sizes of the marquees to the overall number of guests. The very first Jalsa of 1891 saw 75 people in attendance – this figure has now transformed into an estimated 50,000 attendees for this year.
With each Jalsa being bigger and better than the last, here are 8 brand new features for Jalsa Salana UK 2023:
Cutting edge butchery
This year, all the meat used in the kitchens will be cut and prepared in-house at the new butchery in Hadeeqatul Mahdi. Zaheer Khan Sahib, who is serving as Naib Afsar Jalsa Salana, explained:
“Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa instructed us to install a new butchery at the Jalsa site where all the slaughtered meat bought from local, regional, and national suppliers would be cut and prepared by Ahmadi volunteers for the Jalsa Salana kitchen. Accordingly, a new and well-equipped meat processing facility has been established, accompanied by a 40-foot chiller to store the meat.
The benefit of having a meat processing facility is that a lot of costs will be cut and savings made. Along with this, the meat for the guests will be fresher, and we have also made conditions to the suppliers that they must provide us with the highest quality meat.”
Irfan Quraishi Sahib, Afsar Health and Safety, elaborated on how food waste will be cut down this year:
“Any fat released from the carcasses will not be wasted, and instead will be taken back by the abattoirs for reselling. This way, even the unused fat will be recycled and reused.”
New “Exhibitions Road”
This year, for the first time ever, the historical and educational exhibitions will come under one roof to enhance the viewing experience. Visitors will just have to take a stroll down the new “Exhibitions Road”, and exhibitions will be on either side.
Women will have timings for viewing the exhibitions – the first will be on Saturday, 29 July following the address of Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa and remain until 15 minutes before maghrib prayers. The second viewing time for Lajna will be on Sunday 30 July from after Zuhr prayers up until the final session.
PAAMA marquee debut
There will be a dedicated marquee for the Pan-African Ahmadiyya Muslim Association. We spoke to Tommy Kallon, the president of PAAMA UK, who gave us exclusive insight:
“With the blessed approval of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa, the Pan-African Ahmadiyya Muslim Association (PAAMA) will, for the first time, have its own dedicated marquee at Jalsa Salana UK.
We are immensely grateful for this privilege, as it will enable us to hold not only our annual Global PAAMA Forum, but also host a number of programmes and activities aimed at furthering the noble aims and objectives for which PAAMA was founded.
The marquee will afford us the space to put up an Africa-centric exhibition that will showcase, inter alia, the history of Islam and Islamic Empires in Africa, the visit of Khulafa-e-Ahmadiyyat to Africa, Quranic translations and other literature in various African languages, the expansion of PAAMA into now eight chapters worldwide, and, of course, the memory, legacy and sacrifices of the martyrs of Burkina Faso.”
Enhanced drainage system
With the unpredictability of UK weather, rain is never far. In the past, water logging has always been a huge issue. This year, however, things have been different. Zaheer Khan Sahib spoke of how the drainage system has come about:
“Last year, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa instructed the installation of a water drainage system at the Jalsa site to prevent water logging, which had caused significant disruption for vehicles in the past.”
“This year, during the 28-day construction period at Hadeeqatul Mahdi, the area experienced heavy rainfall, leading to the formation of large water puddles. However, unlike previous years, when the water would persist on the surface, the newly installed drainage system efficiently cleared the puddles. As a result, the construction work continued smoothly without significant hindrance.
“According to Huzoor’s instructions, the drainage system has been covered with rocks rather than mud, to ensure the water properly drains downward. The drainage system was installed according to Huzoor’s instructions, and now we are witnessing its benefits.”
In addition to this, land drains have been installed throughout the site. Also, the main marquees this year all have a guttering system, which will take water from the drain points directly into streams. The site is now draining much quicker than it was in previous years.
Improved traffic control and parking
To reduce traffic around the Jalsa site, roads have been widened and expanded, and new roads have also been laid. A new two-way traffic system has also been added, which will ease the traffic conditions at Hadeeqatul Mahdi.
Also, the overall parking capacity of the site has been increased now due to improved ground conditions, with the addition of the drainage system.
Regarding this, we were told by Irfan Quraishi Sahib:
“We have found additional areas on-site where parking is available. This way, we have been able to maximise the space we have, as areas that were not previously used are now being utilised. Also, we have increased the tracks laid on-site to 11 miles, as opposed to 9.5 miles.”
Everything is much bigger and better
This year, all the marquees have increased in size by 20%. These include accommodation, the main marquees, the exhibition, etc. Not only the size, but the number of marquees has also gone up.
In preparation for this Jalsa, more than 50 marquee companies were contacted for quotes, and 20 companies have been used for various marquees. The number and sizes of marquees have increased significantly in comparison to the last full-fledged Jalsa in 2019.
A new separate section has been made next to the main kitchen, where 40 new burners have been installed in order to aid the kitchen staff in preparing food for the estimated 50,000 attendees.