My Jalsa Salana Down the Years

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK

As long as I can remember there have been three occasions every year that I have almost always attended; there are the two Eid days which our UK community used to celebrate together and there is Jalsa Salana, the Annual Convention. Eid now takes place regionally or locally but Jalsa has not only remained as one national event, it has grown over the years until now a mini town springs up in the Hampshire countryside to accommodate 35,000 plus attendees.

Before Hadeeqatul Mahdi became its home, Jalsa took place for many years at Islamabad in Tilford, near Farnham. I would travel there with my family by coach or car and if we were late and had to park near the gate we’d lament the ‘long’ walk to the marquee; now the memory makes us laugh as the current marquee area, the Jalsa arena, is bigger than the whole of Islamabad and transport is a park and ride system from a different site!

Jalsa has always been an event which, due to its three full days of speeches, congregational Prayers and a sense of separation from the world, has an intense effect of spiritual rejuvenation and reaffirmation of one’s faith. The congregational pledge taken at the hand of His Holiness the Khalifa is an annual experience that shakes one to the core.

One bonus of Jalsa is meeting up with family and friends you would not otherwise see regularly from different parts of the country and the world. There have been years when every single room in our house, except the bathroom, had guests sleeping in it, including a line of mattresses set up in the front room for all the male guests, a line I have had to tiptoe across just to reach the fridge when returning in the early hours from working at Jalsa! It is hectic but the year Jalsa was cancelled due to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease felt so lonesome as if we were missing out on a part of our life.

Other than family we have had guests that we didn’t know; one year a mother and daughter from Kababir stayed with us. Many years later the youngest daughter married and came to live in the area leading to an emotional reunion despite the fact she herself hadn’t been on that Jalsa trip with the rest of her family. It is a wonderful feeling that Jalsa brings you together with people you would not otherwise meet.

Another bonus of Jalsa is the opportunity to become part of the vast team of volunteers that help to run such a large event. Whether it is jobs such as stage design, camera work, hospitality, car park attendant or cooking, it is volunteers who carry out the work. Imagine cooking lunch and dinner for 30,000 people – all those onions and potatoes to chop and fresh roti (flatbreads) to make in hot kitchens in the middle of summer! Like all the other volunteers they receive no monetary reward but do this work purely to gain the pleasure of God.

It is the same for the army of children who cheerfully patrol the marquees with fresh water to quench the thirst of guests; their eagerness and smiles make one take a cup of water with or without thirst which leaves the children happy.

I’ve never worked in the kitchens at Jalsa but I have worked in a variety of other jobs, for example cleaning, setting up guest accommodation areas, hospitality and food stalls. I drove golf buggies transporting guests for three years in weather ranging from hot sunshine resulting in strange tan lines on my feet, to wet mud and freezing nights with the cold wind rushing through the open buggy leaving me chilled to the bone.

One particular Monday I was driving guests to catch their coaches to London after the Jalsa; it was my fifth day of working long hours and exhaustion was threatening to make an appearance. One family from USA asked me who our Lajna (women’s association) president was and when I told them they said they wanted to write to her to say thank you for the Lajna members working tirelessly and cheerfully to look after them. My exhaustion receded and I was thankful to be among those that had cared for Jalsa guests and sent them home happy.

This year my Jalsa has already begun by sending invitations to non-Muslim friends and contacts to join us and experience Jalsa. As well as that I have been planning for the Jalsa days, both the work I’ll be doing, guests that will stay with me and shopping. Supplies including sunscreen, wellies in case of rain and crisps have become family necessities!

However this Jalsa turns out I know I will be storing up more memories of my Jalsa experience.

My Jalsa Memories

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by Mishal Aziz, Raynes Park, UK

As the summer term is coming to an end, many children and students are anticipating the holidays that they have planned so they can relax and regain the energy for the next school year. However, Ahmadiyya Muslim children and students have started to count the days for Jalsa Salana 2017. Every Ahmadi waits for these blessed days year after year; it is a time to get together and gain religious knowledge and develop a stronger bond among ourselves.

In my house, the Jalsa preparation started few weeks ago when me and my mum went for duty training at the mosque and my dad started visiting Hadeeqa tul Mahdi (Jalsa venue); it felt like Jalsa was just around the corner.

When I invited my friends who are not Ahmadi Muslims to Jalsa, they were quite confused as they had never heard of something like this before. I explained to them that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community holds an annual convention over of three days in which all people get together and enhance their religious knowledge. I showed them videos of Jalsa and they were astonished to see such a number of people attending the event. They also asked me if we hired any people to help us such as in serving food, but when I told them that thousands of people volunteer to give duties, they were quite stunned.

I shared my last Jalsa memories with them. I told them that I went to the venue a day before the Jalsa starts, I participated in duty and spent quality time with all my relatives that came from different cities. During the three blessed days of Jalsa, I put extra effort into performing Tahujjud Prayer (a voluntary Prayer offered in the night), tried to be extra nice and kind to everyone and listened to and followed the beautiful guidance given by the Khalifa (fifth successor of Promised Messiah).

My most special memory from last Jalsa was when I was standing on duty and His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the head of worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community passed just behind me. That feeling is something that will stay with me forever; just the feeling that he was few steps away from me was the best part of my whole Jalsa memories. I still remember, I was shivering with delight and I had tears in my eyes and the most beautiful and satisfactory smile that I could ever have.

My favourite part of Jalsa is when we do Bai’at (Pledge of Allegiance) on the 3rd day, at the hand of the Khalifa. Such a large number of people connected physically and emotionally is not a sight that you see every day; you feel special that you are connected to such a blessed community. That few minutes are something that I always look forward to every year because they give me a chance to seek forgiveness of Allah and become a better person.

After relishing the memories through this article, I am quite excited and looking forward to this Jalsa.

Jalsa Salana Mubarak!

The Jalsa Experience

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 by Aalia Qureshi, London, UK

Thoughts of a Teenager

Once again, the dazzling, long-awaited season of summer among its incessant delights has at long last reached us.  Another year has passed us by in the blink of an  eye.  And this can mean only one thing for the Ahmadiyya Community; the blessed Jalsa Salana – Annual Convention – is finally upon us! The endless wait has finally come to an end! Along with the anticipation for the coming 3-day spiritual festivities comes an onslaught of charming childhood memories: from losing my family in the seemingly infinite, vast marquees to running gleefully on the enormous, green fields with friends and family.

The purposes for which our beloved Promised Messiah (as) asked us to hold an annual Jalsa Salana are indeed plentiful: they consist of social interaction – building ties of kinship and friendship with our fellow Ahmadi sisters and brothers; spiritual improvement – to better ourselves in terms of our closeness to God and dedication to our faith as well as intellect – to advance our knowledge of the morals, principles and reasoning surrounding not only Ahmadiyyat but the very world itself such as politics, environmental issues to name but a few.

Personally, my favourite part of this annual convention is the Pledge of Allegiance held at the very hand of our beloved Khalifa Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, on the third and final day. The sensation of being connected to the entire Community, hand to shoulder, is like no other; utterly extraordinary.   Moreover, the chorus of disparate languages unanimously translating our beloved Khalifa’s sacred words merges to form an otherworldly harmony and emanates an overwhelming sense of unity and devotion to Allah. Disparities overlooked, ethnicities disregarded, and hope of past sins forgiven we are all stripped down to our cores by his mere words: Ahmadi Muslims with one purpose – to worship Allah and lend a hand out to those in need of it for as long as we are on this Earth. The subsequent prostration following our renewal of faith is one of complete peace and harmony accompanied by a sense of rejuvenation and replenishment: a fresh start, a new beginning.

The notion that this entire convention is constructed with just the voluntary donations of us Ahmadis is absolutely astounding in view of the vast quantities of food prepared, the enormous amounts of provisions provided in addition to the intense manual labour put in for the ultimate Jalsa experience we all assuredly will receive. Even more so, the fact that our Jalsa Salanas are put together wholly by volunteers from the Community is outright phenomenal. Despite this, it would be naïve to lose sight of the fact that none of this would be feasible without the Grace and Help of Allah.   We should all be indebted to Allah for bequeathing upon us with all His Grace and Wisdom the power and strength to organise and carry out this wonderful Annual Convention.