Sarmad Naveed Ahmad, Canada
December 27, 1891; the beginning of a global phenomenon.
It was on this day that the Promised Messiah (as) and founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community called upon members of his community to convene in Qadian, a small hamlet in India, for a convention. This would become the first ever Jalsa Salana (Annual Convention).
The companions had to travel from far and wide, despite the difficulties of travel at the time. Even in Qadian, means were meagre and accommodation was made possible only through exemplary sacrifice.
This begs the question – what was the purpose of establishing this convention? Was this a gathering merely for the sake of gathering?
In fact the Promised Messiah (as) himself has explained the purpose of this Jalsa Salana. He writes:
‘The primary purpose of this Convention is to enable every sincere individual to personally experience religious benefits; They may enhance their knowledge and – due to their being blessed and enabled by Allah, the Exalted – their perception [of Allah] may progress.’ 
But the purpose of this convention has not been limited solely to individual benefit, rather it also serves to embody unity, under the banner of the Unity of God. Thus the Promised Messiah (as) has explained the secondary propose of this convention when he says:
‘…this congregational meeting together will promote mutual introduction among all brothers, and it will strengthen the fraternal ties within this Community…’ 
Thus, the purpose has been made clear. Not only has this Jalsa Salana been established for spiritual uplift and increase, but it is an opportunity to come together and put that spiritual rejuvenation to practice at the same time, by creating a harmonious, unified community in accordance with the teachings of Islam.
This year is different however; just like everything else in 2020, Jalsa Salana won’t be the same.
From the humble beginnings with an initial attendance of 75, this convention has grown as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has grown to over 200 countries in the world, to the extent that in some countries, the attendance of this Jalsa reached over a hundred thousand. Over the years, we’ve become accustomed to the gathering of thousands upon thousands for the Jalsa Salana, but just because the multitudes of people cannot gather this year, does that mean Jalsa won’t happen?
This would have been the case, had the Jalsa Salana been just an ordinary gathering. But as the Promised Messiah (as) emphatically states:
‘…you must not rank this convention in the same league as other, ordinary, human assemblies. This is a phenomenon that is based purely on the Divine Help, for propagation of Islam.’ 
A phenomenon cannot be limited to the mere gathering of people. This phenomenon transcends simply gathering; for the very purpose of Jalsa Salana is to inculcate the spirit of a living connection with God. As the Promised Messiah (as) so eloquently states, this phenomenon is Divine, and thus is based purely on Divine help. It is certainly a manifestation of Divine help, that though there may not even be 75 people physically at a Jalsa this year, there will be millions in spiritual attendance; this is what truly makes it a phenomenon.
Other worldly conventions may be postponed, but there is no need to postpone the Jalsa, as it is predicated not just on the physical gathering, but upon the spiritual gathering as well. And so, through the blessing of MTA, the words of the Fifth Caliph and Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), which utter the true essence of spirituality in today’s day and age, will be broadcast around the entire world; both live, and from addresses during previous Jalsas around the world. And so we will still receive the same spiritual uplift, and we will express our united harmony by doing our part in protecting the world and listening to the words of our beloved Caliph (aba) from our homes.
Perhaps we ought to think of it this way: though there may not be a single grand gathering for Jalsa this year, the spirit of Jalsa will be taking place in millions of homes all around the world. A global phenomenon.
About the Author: Sarmad Naveed is an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community who graduated from the Ahmadiyya Institute for Languages and Theology in Canada. He serves on the Editorial Board of The Review of Religions and coordinates the newly launched Facts from Fiction section. He has also appeared as a panelist and host of programmes on Muslim Television Ahmadiyya (MTA) such as ‘Ahmadiyyat: Roots to Branches.’
 Ishtihar 7 Dec. 1892, Majmoo`ah Ishtiharat Vol. I, Page 340
 Ibid Page 341