The scenic farmlands of Hampshire, England were brought to life as tens of thousands of people gathered in a make-shift city, for an international religious gathering organised by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK. The event is called Jalsa Salana, a formal annual gathering that is held over the course of three days, and is attended by a number of religious leaders, parliamentarians, civic leaders and diplomats from across the globe. The Convention took place at a 200 acre farm in Alton, Hampshire known as ‘Hadeeqatul Mahdi’.
The Jalsa Salana in UK is now in its 48th year and is thought to be the largest Convention of its kind in the UK, uniting over 33,000 participants including Ahmadis and people from all different religious and political backgrounds from 97 countries across the globe. Millions of people around the world also watched live coverage of the Jalsa through the community’s television station MTA International.
The event was translated in approximately 14 different languages including Arabic, English, Bosnian, Persian, Turkish, French, Russian and German. Ghana and Sierra Leone TV also provided national coverage of the three day event in various countries throughout the African continent.
The event aims to ‘convey the principals of Islam and promote a sense of peace and unity between all faiths.’
“Terrorists who seek to justify their hateful acts in Islam’s name can only be condemned. They are motivated by a selfish desire to fulfil their own personal interests and ambitions…ignorant of the true teachings of Islam – of peace and tolerance” said His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba, the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community during one of his five addresses at the Jalsa Salana.
He addressed the gathering throughout the three-day Convention. His Holiness’s speeches over the course of three days were relayed to all men and women attending and covered various topics including the misconceptions held against the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa as well as highlighting the principles of Islam and the role religion could play in bringing peace to the modern world:
“The Qur’an has deemed the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa as the ‘Mercy for Mankind’ – and his mercy and compassion was not limited to Muslims but encompasses every person, in every place, in every time. Thus, the mission of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is to spread the mercy and compassion of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa to the corners of the world,” said His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba.
This year the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community celebrated its 125th anniversary since its establishment in 1889 by Founder Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas in Qadian, India. The Jalsa was inaugurated by raising the Flag of Ahmadiyyat (Lawai Ahmadiyyat) alongside the Flag of the United Kingdom. The Flag of Ahmadiyyat stood alongside the flags of all nations attending ‘as a sign of unity and peace.’ Many inspiring speeches were delivered in both the men and women’s marquees by learned Ahmadi speakers throughout the event. They covered many topics including ‘The Treatment of the Holy Prophetsa to non-Muslims,’ ‘Faith Inspiring Incidents of Relationship with Allah,’ ‘The Promises of Divine Help Made to the Promised Messiahas and their Manifestation’ ‘The Progress of the Community is Bonded to Khilafat,’ ‘Cause of World Unrest and its Remedy’ ‘A Review of 125 Years of Ahmadiyyat,’ and ‘Islamic Teachings about Family Life.’
Guests including politicians and diplomats from several countries across the world also addressed the Convention and delivered messages of support and goodwill including, The Rt. Hon. David Cameron, Prime Minister UK, sent a message of support to the Convention, read out by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon. In attendance in person were, among others: The Rt. Hon. Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for International Development, The Rt. Hon. Ed Davey MP, Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, The Rt. Hon. Chris Grayling MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dr Crispus Kiyonga, Defence Minister Uganda, Hon. Tim Uppal MP, Minister of State for Multiculturalism, Canada, Francis Stijnen, Deputy Mayor of Turnhout, Belgium, Professor Gary Guiteau, Director General, Ministry of Religion, Haiti.
“I want to send my best wishes to everyone taking part in this year’s Jalsa Salana. I know how incredibly important this gathering is for Ahmadis in the UK and around the world and I praise you all for coming together in such a positive way to reject extremism and to pray for peace”, said David Cameron MP, Prime Minister UK in his message to the Jalsa Salana.
The Community’s press and publication and human right’s teams have worked diligently to create awareness of the true message of peace that Islam represents and have promoted the teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa which is to defend the poor and oppressed people of society.
“The Values of the Ahmadi Muslims hold such as a commitment to peace, helping those less fortunate and looking after the vulnerable in society, are also our One Nation values. This Convention is an opportunity for us to praise the significant contributions that British Ahmadiyya Muslims make to this country, from the economy to business and politics,” said Ed Miliband MP Leader of the Labour party.
With some of the Muslim youth of Britain being drawn by Syria and ISIS to support the new and baseless ‘Islamic Caliphate’ in the Middle East, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has motivated its youth to channel their skills positively and in doing so spread the true message of Islam peacefully to the people of the world.
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba stated in his Friday sermon at the Jalsa that even if other Muslims leaders have rejected the claim of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas as the Promised Messiah, prophesied to come to revive the true teachings of Islam, “it is incumbent upon the Ahmadis to show the beautiful face of Islam to the world.”
“It’s events like this [Jalsa] that help you reconnect with your faith, and understand the true message of Islam. I know there are many people claiming Islamic Caliphate; they promote violence and inspire hate, but it is only the Khalifah (Caliph) of the Ahmadiyya Jama’at who has shown the world what Islam truly means, and that is Love for All and Hatred for None,” said Saira Khan, a university student who had willingly volunteered to be part of the team helping clean the toilet facilities on site.
Saira represents just one of the 4000 volunteer workers both men and women, all working tirelessly behind the scenes to make the Convention a success. Imran Ali is head of the Sound System department throughout the Jalsa. His department ensures that everyone on site is able to listen to all the speeches delivered in all the languages provided. Apart from the main marquees his department covers the kitchens, reception, crèche and car park.
“As this is such a huge event the success of the Jalsa very much demands an excellent sound and visual system. Over many years we have now developed a team who may not be necessarily working in this field but have become true professionals through on job training over many years. Jalsa unites people in a way that no other event can, people from all different professions and backgrounds and different countries come and volunteer their efforts and are willing to do whatever they can. It’s important for younger members to be part of the team because they learn a lot; they learn about how our entire Jalsa system works which is important because they will be responsible for it in the future,” said Imran.
Around 1500 of the volunteers working on site are women, they cover all departments on the women’s side from on-site security to accommodation, kitchens and work in the MTA television studios.
“Women play a big role in society and family life, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when Muslim women play a big role in Islamic events like this. It’s not only the men who take part in organising the event, women have just as much responsibility; Ahmadi women are not in the shadows at all,” said Anila Orchard. Her family joined the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community through her grandfather Lt James Bryan Orchard, a British soldier, who converted to Islam Ahmadiyyat in March 1945 and became the first European Missionary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
“My duty at Jalsa involves looking after the new converts. We welcome them, register them and go through the programme with them, if they need translation headsets we provide those for them. I enjoy this duty because I feel like I understand what they are going through and can help them. Since doing this duty I have made a lot of good friends here who I never knew before from different countries around the world. That is the beauty of Ahmadiyyat. We are like one big family” said Anila.
Saima Khalid is an Assistant Accountant by profession; but throughout the three day Convention she volunteers her time to the huge kitchen department, serving food in the mothers and children marquee.
“The spirit of Jalsa and the presence of our beloved Khalifah (Caliph) inspires the teams to work tirelessly and sometimes in very difficult circumstances to make everything run smoothly. This is the true spirit of our Jalsa. This spirit also encourages all teams to work for a common goal which is to make the Jalsa enjoyable and spiritually uplifting for all our guests who have travelled from far to be a part of this unique event,” said Saima.
“Huzur [Huzur means His Holiness, and is term generally used by Ahmadis when referring to their Caliph]wants the youth of the Community to come forward and take part in every aspect of the Jalsa and work in every department, it’s a blessing to know that he cares so much about us and gives us so much guidance because a community’s success is closely bound with the success of its youth. Our Khalifah has taken special care to nurture this process and we continue to see Allah’s blessing as a result,” said Anum Khan, a volunteer from the European food health and safety department.
The highlight of the event was the Congregational Pledge [Bai’at] ceremony, where the entire Community united to re-new their faith and vows to Ahmadiyyat Islam under the hand of the Caliph, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba. The participants formed a human chain leading to the Caliph as they reaffirmed their commitment to the Community’s principals of brotherhood, charity and goodwill towards others. They pledge to sacrifice everything for the sake of their faith and country and in doing so reaffirm they loyalty to their religion and country.
During the Jalsa, His Holiness announced that more than 550,000 people had joined the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community during the past year. He also announced that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was now established in 206 countries of the world with communities in Belize and Uruguay being established for the very first time. The Community has now also translated the Holy Qur’an in to 72 languages, the latest translation being the Maori Language.
One of the key teachings of Islam is to help the poor and needy. The Community under the guidance of their Caliph works actively in the third world to provide food, clean water, education and medical assistance where needed. Humanity First and the International Association of Ahmadi Architects and Engineers (IAAAE) play a key role in providing such facilities. Some of their projects were displayed at exhibition during the Convention. The progress of the Community over the last 125 years was also captured and exhibited in a pictorial display at Jalsa by the Makhzan-e-Tasaweer department.
Despite the unpredictable British weather people came to Jalsa in high spirits. The fields were covered by grand white domed tents; the flags of each represented country decorated the skyline above the hustle and bustle of men and women alike. People from all different faiths and countries united in celebration in a global village fully equipped with accommodation, kitchen, food, bazaar, library, book stalls, and TV and radio stations.
Some of the guests expressing their thoughts about Jalsa said:
“It was my first visit to Jalsa and I observed the entire proceedings including international Bai’at. I felt everyone at Jalsa interacted with each other as old friends…I was amazed at the organisation of Jalsa where no one ever spoke in a raised tone and even small children served drinking water most lovingly. Children usually like to have everything for themselves but the Ahmadiyya Jama’at has thus trained its young children that they put the comfort of others first. After attending Jalsa I went to my embassy and told the ambassador that I had attended many a conference but had never seen one with as excellent organisation as I witnessed at the Jalsa,” said the Speaker of the Assembly from Kinshasa, Congo.
A journalist from Nigeria also gave her views on the Convention:
“Having attended the Jalsa I realised that every member of the Jama’at had sentiments of love and affection for each other and everyone greeted each other with a smile and was ever ready to help each other. I have been a journalist for eighteen years and could say without hesitation that only the Jama’at Ahmadiyya was displaying the true Islamic model. Men and women both greeted guests with love and friendliness and I had never seen this at any other Islamic event.”
The tradition of Jalsa Salana was first established by the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas. In 1889 he claimed under Divine guidance to be the Promised Messiahas, whose advent was awaited by the major religions of the world. The first ever Jalsa Salana was held in Qadian in 1891 with an attendance of 75 people. The Community has since gained millions of followers and has spread to 206 countries throughout the world.
Britain hosted their first Annual Jalsa Salana in 1966. In 1984 the Caliphate of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was forced to move from Pakistan to Britain as a result of persecution in Pakistan, where Ahmadis were officially declared non-muslims in 1984 and forbidden by law to practise Islamic rituals and customs. Today National Jalsas are held annually in countries around the world where Ahmadiyyat is established, however the International Jalsa is held in the UK because the Caliph of the Community resides in London.
Quotes internal reports.
1. http://www.mta.tv/live/- Sky Channel 787.
2. Taken from English summary Huzur’s Friday sermon dated 29th August 2014 English powerpoint page 7 http://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/index2.php?d=2014-08-29