It has now become common to see Khuddam holding long walks with the aim of raising funds to support not only the various causes within the Jamaat but also to support the causes of other charities all around the world.
Such walks that have now taken a modern and well-established outlook have its roots in very humble beginnings.
The annual walk of Jamia Ahmadiyya in Rabwah was one of the main events on their sports calendar. Students had to walk a distance of about 150 miles, not hitch-hike, make arrangements for overnight stays and live all through the course of the walk on a very little quantity of food that they were allowed to carry along with them.
The primary objective of such walks (or “on-foot journey” to literally translate “paidal safar” as it was termed) was to inculcate endurance, perseverance, economy, resilience, planning, management, independence and trust in Allah; the essential ingredients of a true soldier.
Syed Mir Daud Ahmad Sahib (Principal Jamia Ahmadiyya Rabwah, 1957-1973) initiated this walk and would ensure that every student took part in this walk. He would himself patrol the route in a car, not only to monitor that every student was taking part but also to ensure their wellbeing.
Maulana Muhammad Ahmad Jalil Sahib (then a teacher at Jamia Ahmadiyya Rabwah and later Mufti-e-Silsila) once recalled these walks in the following words:
“The toughest of such physical exertions is the 150-mile walk that every student has to undertake at least once during their time in Jamia. It becomes demanding enough with the strict conditions. Most students would get back in a pitiful condition; swollen feet and ankles, sores on soles for many days. If teachers or students ever complained about the level of exertion, Mir Sahib would reply by saying that those students were going to become missionaries, and missionaries had to go through challenging phases in life, hence the need to inculcate endurance; lest they fell short in such times.”
Mirza Naseer Ahmad Sahib, teacher and superintendent of Jamia Ahmadiyya UK Hostel, was a student at Jamia Ahmadiyya Rabwah in 1969. He very fondly recalls this 150-mile walk:
“Mir Daud Ahmad Sahib was our principal. He lived by the theory that missionaries should be able to endure all types of hardships, so he initiated this journey on-foot for students to undertake at least once during the seven-year course of Jamia.
“I remember that we all set off at around 8 o’clock in the morning from Rabwah, and walking through Chiniot, then Pindi Bhattian through to Sukheki; walked to Sangla Hill, then to Shahkot, and then via Khorianwala and Faisalabad after which we headed back to Rabwah. This took me three days and two nights.
“All we were allowed to carry with us was half-a-kilo of food items, which could be any type of edible items. We were allowed to eat it in one go or to spread it over the course of the journey. We would have only five rupees with us but that was only for emergency purposes. We were not allowed to use it. Only 25 paisas could be utilised should our lives be in danger due to lack of food or water; this, however would invalidate any position in the race.
“We would sleep in open corridors of markets or inns if they so allowed and if they let us in. It was not permitted to stay with a relative or even at the local Jamaat’s as there was a good chance that the local Jamaat would naturally be hospitable, killing the whole idea behind this journey. We could not ask for a lift, or help of any kind from anyone, however, if there arose an opportunity to earn some money through labour, then we could earn it and spend it the way we chose, but this would obviously take up our time and we wouldn’t be able to make it back in time.
“The whole idea behind this journey was ‘survival and resourcefulness’. I remember that as I was approaching Rabwah on my way back, Mir Daud Ahmad Sahib was on patrol and spotted me walking. He came to me and asked how I was doing. I replied to him by saying, ‘Mir Sahib, I don’t know how I am feeling, but I am happy that I can travel many miles on foot, should I ever have to.’”
So the training of undergoing such tests where one has to walk or run for miles and miles has been a flagship of Ahmadi youth. The department of Sehat-e-Jismani in Majlis Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya has been there from the very inception of the organisation in the late 1930s. What is even better now is that alongside the training of enduring hardships, the element of charity has been added to make it even more beneficial; not only for those taking part, but for society at large.
The walks that Jamia Ahmadiyya Rabwah or Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya once held in the good old days of Pakistan, are no longer possible in Pakistan as they were in their initial shape and form. To live as an Ahmadi in Pakistan is not easy at all; target killing, torturing, persecution of all kinds and forms have become a norm.
However, in countries where religion does not automatically call for persecution, Ahmadi Muslim youth are not only upholding their golden values and traditions, but holding them higher and higher.