Sahibzada Mirza Waqas Ahmad, Sadr Majlis Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya UK
When, in 1985, we returned to Pakistan from Ghana, the ordinance of Zia ul Haq was in place, which meant that holding Ijtemas was prohibited and any major gathering of the Jamaat was not allowed. However, in 1989, when Mahmood Bengali Sahib was Sadr Majlis Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya, permission was given for a one-day Ijtema.
Myself, along with other children of my age, were extremely delighted to know that an Ijtema was going to be held. Our duty was to provide drinking water to attendees and we were very glad to be part of the Ijtema; an event that had become a rare occurrence. This Ijtema of 1989 ran only for a day and a half but we still got to enjoy it thoroughly because we knew that something next to impossible was happening.
I have explained this so that those that live [outside of Pakistan] should be very thankful to Allah the Almighty that they have, without any fear, an opportunity to gather and to learn from one another and develop a sense of brotherhood and fraternity. The Jamaat of course, as a result, strengthens too through such gatherings. Constantly meeting one another fosters a strong bond of love and unity.
Tarbiyat of the organisers is another good result of such gatherings because when they have to organise events constantly, they improve in terms of organisation as they seek to fill the shortcomings that they had experienced in the previous programmes. So, such Ijtemas work as a training camp for administrative skills.
Attendees also get the opportunity to meet and to learn from one another, this being the primary purpose of Ijtema. The purpose of communities is to come together and enhance their relationship and love towards one another which ultimately results in virtuous deeds. The blessings that exist in uniting for a task, which is also a Divine injunction can simply not manifest through individual efforts.
It is also a known fact that when some events happen frequently, they are prone to be taken for granted. This could potentially mean that one may lose the true understanding and purpose behind the event. To remind ourselves of the importance of Ijtemas and such Jamaati gatherings, we should see how fortunate those Khuddam feel that have come here from Pakistan. They are overjoyed to attend the Ijtema because they never saw such Ijtemas in Pakistan. On the other hand, we can hold such events here with great ease because the law provides religious freedom. If every khadim bears this in mind, they will be even more grateful to Allah the Almighty and would never take any such event for granted. Alhamdolillah, the majority of Khuddam understand this importance but it is always good to remind ourselves of the blessings of Allah.
No matter how much we may be grateful to Allah the Almighty, it will always be insufficient. So, we need these reminders from time to time so that our hearts bow before Allah and always be thankful to Him for his countless blessings, one being able to assemble in His name at Ijtemas and Jalsas.
Imagine if here in the UK, God forbid, Jalsas, Ijtemas, programmes and activities were to be halted by the law or for any other reason; this would cause so much loss because all these occasions of meeting one another, gathering to learn from another, being able to exercise patience and tolerance will cease to exist. The spirit of fastabiqul-khairat (progress in matters of virtue) only exists when you are more than one. This injunction can only be exercised when you are in a group. An individual can progress in virtue but their progress will be limited to himself as he would not know how others were progressing.
The meaning of fastabiqul-khairat is to witness your brother’s virtue and try to adopt it yourself and even go a step further. This is such a beautiful teaching of Islam and Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra has also pointed to this on many occasions.
One great blessing of the Ijtema is that that it makes possible the competitive spirit with regards to not only excelling in virtue in your own accord but also learning goodness from others around you. Hence, the absence of Ijtemas could potentially mean missing out great opportunities of learning and progressing in virtue.
Another angle of looking at this is that every individual is taught so many good manners at home. That works as their private training. When that individual comes to the Ijtema where so many others are gathered, they bring along those good habits and share them with others. So the opportunity to share those good manners is made possible in Ijtemas. This works as collective training.
Then there are some manners that cannot be taught at home. How to behave in a crowd, how to queue up, how to be patient in situations that go against your will, how to tolerate something you don’t like about other people around you; these are the good deeds that we can only learn when we are around a group of people. So, Ijtema provides that atmosphere where we get to develop our civic sense.
Another incident I remember from 1989 is that when the Ijtema was banned in Pakistan, the then Sadr Majlis Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya, Mahmood Bengali Sahib delivered a very heartfelt and emotional speech. Huzooraa [Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V]was then Mohtamim Bairoon (dealing with foreign majalis) in Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya. (At that time, Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya was markazi and the majalis in the whole world were part of it with the countries having a Qaid of that respective country.) So Huzooraa was Mohtamim Bairoon, covering all the Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya auxiliaries outside of Pakistan. Huzooraa was responsible for their correspondence, reports, records and making sure that they were functioning.
In the administrative structure of that Ijtema, Huzooraa was Nazim Androon (internal arrangements) of the Ijtema Gah. There was an Ijtema Gah, places of accommodation and a few other responsibilities which were under Huzooraa.
I remember I said to Huzooraa that there was great sadness that the Ijtema had been cancelled. Huzooraa replied to this by saying that whatever my sadness or pain may be, I should express that before Allah the Almighty and pray to Him because the threshold of the Almighty is the proper place for its expression. He told me that I should express this sadness before the Almighty so that He may accept prayers and give something even better in return. This was an incident from 1989 and I was around ten years old.
In short, what I said to Huzooraa was that I felt sad that the Ijtema had been cancelled and Huzooraa replied that the expression of that sadness would be to say it all to Allah and to pray because that is the only way where one’s sorrows can extinguish. This was the guidance that I received directly from Huzooraa in relation to the sad situation of Ijtemas in Pakistan.
Another point is that we all have our personal sorrows and griefs. A ten-year-old would have their own emotions of sorrow or joy. But I must say that it was through that Ijtema (that got cancelled halfway) that I learnt what a national grief was like. With regards to national sentiment and a sense of belonging, that Ijtema was a means of collective distress and grief. I experienced the feeling of collective, national grief for the first time, but by the grace of Allah, it developed in me a stronger sense of attachment to the Jamaat.
What I mean to say is that the feeling of collective grief was felt by me for the time and, of course, by others around me, though we were still very young. There was an element of anger as well but there was also great pain because at that age we would even become excited at the fact that we could raise slogans. Now this may seem a minor thing, but the excitement of even raising slogans ceased to exist in Pakistan. But then Alhamdolillah, we have been blessed with the opportunity to hold Ijtemas and Jalsas which bring us together. And now, through MTA, all Ahmadis around the world get to feel that they are part of these Ijtemas and Jalsas.
We always have to campaign to persuade Khuddam to attend the Ijtema. This means that some still do not understand the importance. What I have said above is for the purpose of making Khuddam understand the importance of them being able to attend and for them to make every possible effort to do so.
Once, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra noticed that some Khuddam had not attended the Ijtema. He stated:
“I direct pity and surprise at those Khuddam that did not attend the Ijtema and I wish to tell them that the purpose of Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya is to inculcate the realisation that they are the servants of Ahmadiyyat, and a true servant is he who remains close to his master. The servant that does not remain close to his master in a timely or apt manner he cannot be called a servant”. (6 February 1949)
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra says that a khadim is he who remains close to his master, whether physically or through thought and emotion. Hence, Huzoorra says that they were meant to attend the Ijtema that was being held under the guidance of the Khalifa of the time but they did not hearken to his call; the call of the one whom they had pledged allegiance to. So this meant that they did not have the right to call themselves Khuddam because a khadim is he who honours his master’s wishes and desires.
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra also stated:
“I would like to remind the youth of the Jamaat of the fact that such tasks have been assigned to the Ahmadiyya Community that shall create a mighty spiritual revolution in the world.” (6 February 1941).
So the spiritual revolution that is to take place in the world, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra has attached that to the Ijtema because it is only through collective effort that this revolution can be brought about, and not individually.
The Ijtema is the flagship of the whole year’s activities in the sense that it shows the essence and outcome of the entire year. If, during the year, the Majlis has not done much work, has not been strengthened, has not remained in touch with each other and has not remained involved in activities, the low attendance will reflect this sad fact. It will be apparent that the programmes at the Ijtema are not up to the mark. Similarly, if the Majlis has been functioning efficiently throughout the year, then the attendance of the Ijtema will reflect this promising fact too.
At another place Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra has stated:
“We say others are bad, though our own condition in some matters is worse than theirs. There is no doubt that the example of our community is better in most matters than other communities, but in some matters we have been unable to match them… If the Khaksar movement announces a gathering in a city, then sometimes two or three thousand members attend and remain in that city for two or three months.”
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra expresses his sorrow here that some of our events attract small numbers. He gives the example of a political movement which calls its members to an event and, in response, two or three thousand leave behind their occupations and homes, and they remain in attendance for two or three months at a time – all in the name of a political ideology. Then, how is it not possible for one to leave behind everything to attend to a call of their faith? It makes one sad to read further when Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra states that if our opponents threw this sad fact at us, I would be extremely embarrassed before them.
We are all striving to become perfect khadims, but it is essential to understand the purpose of Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya. The purpose of Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya is, as Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra has stated, that a khadim understands the directions of the Khalifa of the time. Moreover, the individual working in Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya is not an officer, but a khadim, and a khadim is one who is a field worker. He is supposed to do Waqar-e-Amal [labour work with pride], Khidmat-e-Khalq [serving mankind] and to actively engage in manual work.
A large part of the work carried out by Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya is actively engaging in manual work and labour. This Waqar-e-Amal results in saving the Jamaat’s funds which would otherwise have to be paid to contractors. For example, the arrangements of set-up and wind-up of Jalsa UK range between a period of 28 days. Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya is actively involved in both set-up and wind-up through Waqar-e-Amal, which, as a result, saves around forty- to fifty-thousand pounds of the Jamaat a day. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra highlights this very aspect of Waqar-e-Amal and encouraged it as a means of saving the Jamaat’s funds.
Another fundamental purpose of Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya, which is also outlined in the very pledge, is that whenever the nation needs sacrifice, a khadim should actively step forward and present his sacrifice, whether it be of time, wealth or honour. For instance, we had the opportunity to serve during the floods here in the UK. That was a service for our nation. Then there was the Grenfell Tower fire and other tragedies that caused national concern. During such testing times, Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya steps out and leaps forward to serve. Feeding the homeless is another such example which MKA does very regularly here in the UK.
Another fundamental responsibility of Khuddam-ul-Ahamdiyya is that whenever Islam comes under attack, it is for us to step forward and answer those allegations and present before the public the beautiful, peace-loving teachings of Islam. If such steps are taken by an individual in young age, then by the time they reach a mature age, they will become habituated in them, remaining attached to the greater cause.
Sports is a very good means of attaching youngsters to the Jamaat. Hence, sports make an essential part of Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya activities. This entire vision was given by Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, emphasised further in this day and age by Huzooraa. Connection with Allah the Almighty, a living relation with Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya, Khidmat-e-Khalq, Waqar-e-Amal and Sports; all are the bloodline for Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya.
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, on one occasion, pointed out a very fine angle of national wellbeing. He stated that once, as he was on his way to the Ijtema, there was a football match taking place. He noticed that the spectators did not seem engaged. So, in his speech, he drew the attention of the Khuddam to the fact that a good crowd of spectators motivates the players and watches the match with full attention. The spectators should not turn their backs to the players and engage in their own talk because this shows a lack of attachment to one’s nation. Spectators tend to overlook such minute issues, thinking that it is just a match, so it does not matter if we remain engaged in our own activities. But an onlooker will take this as a lapse of discipline when a match is going on and the crowd is disengaged. This could be seen as a trivial matter but when seen in a national perspective, then we can see that this is how nations are built. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra always wanted the Khuddam to progress in everything that leads to national stability and prosperity.
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra also states that a general knowledge exam should also be conducted at the Ijtema. Lectures and talks should be arranged on various matters of religious and contemporary importance. Moreover, moral, spiritual and academic abilities should be enhanced. Moral abilities for instance, can be developed at the time of eating when you may have to wait for food and queue for it. Moreover, from a discipline point of view too, if you are told to go right, you must do so, and if you are told to go left, you must do so; if there is something that makes one lose their temper, then remaining calm and not showing anger is encouraged; if one makes a mistake, then one should speak the truth, regardless of the consequences. So, any situation that may arise during one’s duty or even as a participant of the Ijtema creates opportunities for moral training.
In terms of moral training, the participation of Atfal in Ijtemas is even more important as training at that age is more effective.