Komal Hadi, UK
‘God gives ample reward to sincere believers at every step and no hardship or trouble goes to waste (It is definitely rewarded by God).’ 
There is a special place for Jalsa Salana (Annual Convention) in the hearts of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, who leave behind worldly endeavours and escape the fast-paced life, in exchange for a spiritually charged event like none other. In the words of the Promised Messiah (as), and founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, as well as this convention: ‘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.’ 
The Jalsa Salana affords its attendees the opportunity to be enriched with the spiritual atmosphere and brotherhood that exists inside the mini-city, which is erected in a matter of days. Above all, it serves as a calm haven, where one can sit before the Caliph and listen to his inspiring and enlightening addresses. In essence, the Jalsa Salana is a microcosm of true Islam; an embodiment of peace, love, harmony, service to humanity, and most importantly, servitude to God Almighty.
For more than a trying year, Covid-19 had ravaged the globe, thus hindering the Jalsa Salana to take place in its usual form last year. Now, after much anticipation of those historic three days, there is a familiar, energising buzz in the air. Watchful eyes had been following all the government guidelines and updates, until finally, the happy news broke that Jalsa Salana UK will welcome back its eager attendees once again, allowing members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK to fulfil these words of the Promised Messiah (as), ‘…sincere members of the Jama’at [Community] should be able to derive religious benefits and at the same time they should acquire more knowledge and advance in their God realisation. One advantage is that meeting their friends will broaden their circle of brotherhood and it will strengthen the mutual ties’. 
This year, however, will be much different to the Jalsa we have usually experienced in the previous 53 years – due to social distancing, a considerably smaller attendance is to be expected in comparison to the 39,982 attendees from 115 countries across the world at the last full-fledged Jalsa Salana UK in 2019. Nonetheless, the duty workers and attendees look forward to the blessed days with the same zeal, as faithful members return to rejuvenate their faith and dedication to the Community and to listen to the words of their beloved Caliph, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba).
The Review of Religions spoke with some of the key organisers for this year’s Jalsa Salana UK, to get some insight as to what the Convention will look like this year.
As always, there will also be enlightening addresses delivered by other speakers throughout the Jalsa days. Providing exclusive insights of the Jalsa Salana preparations and detailing how His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) has guided each stage of this extraordinary event, Imam Ataul Mujeeb Rashid, Jalsa Gah (Convention Site) In-charge said, ‘We present a list of the speakers so that Huzoor (aba) may choose three or four speeches in Urdu or English as the case may be. So all these things are submitted to Huzoor [His Holiness] (aba) and then Huzoor (aba) himself chooses the speaker and the topic.’
National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK, Rafiq Ahmad Hayat told The Review of Religions, ‘The whole planning has been done with full direction from Hazrat Amir al-Mo’mineen [His Holiness] (aba) and he has supervised every aspect of it. Even to the fact that we have done a random selection of the individuals and Huzoor’s instruction was that we should ensure that the whole of the country is represented at this event.’
Detailing the changes viewers will see this year, Imam Ataul Mujeeb Rashid also shared that, ‘This year, for the first time, they [the attendees] will be having a chair to sit on. Definitely a feeling which is a big difference between any Jalsa in the past where they always have to sit on the floor. That is actually the oldest tradition of the Jalsa since the time of the Promised Messiah (as).
On the subject of the stage design, the background design, I would like to say that this year, all the viewers all over the world, they are going to enjoy a new experience, because it will be a sort of wall and you will see certain pictures and certain writings there which will be subject to change. We will be able to add new things and even the colours will change from time to time.’
Undoubtedly, thousands across the globe will tune into MTA (Muslim Television Ahmadiyya) to watch the proceedings digitally and keep up with the social media updates, however, further provisions have also been made to include guests who are not able to travel to the Jalsa. The Jalsa Salana In-charge, Mohammed Nasser Khan, told The Review of Religions, ‘Huzoor (aba) instructed that even within the UK, each mosque should open up its doors and hold a gathering of Jalsa with social distancing in mind, exactly the way we’re operating in Jalsa Gah. So, around the country, we’ve opened up the mosques, we’ve arranged food for all the participants that will turn up to those mosques and again take-away for the evening meals. So that, in a way, we’re all together celebrating Jalsa around the UK and around the world. I’m getting messages now from various other countries that they’re setting up their Jalsa Gahs in their mosques exactly the same way we’re holding it here. So we’re all together, and it’s almost like we’re having an international Jalsa from Huzoor’s (aba) addresses to us over the three days.’
Regarding those who are fortunate enough to personally attend the Jalsa, he said, ‘Those that are able to attend they are very blessed that their name was selected from a random computerised system so they should remember they’re very blessed that they were selected.’
Dr Fariha Khan, President of the Ahmadiyya Muslims Women’s auxiliary organisation informed The Review of Religions about the number of women who would be attending the Convention, along with the health and safety precautions that have been taken; ‘This year, God-willing, at Jalsa Salana UK, we are expecting 1500 women to attend Jalsa. Children are not allowed to attend because, in this country, they haven’t received two doses of the vaccine yet, and only those people who have been double vaccinated can attend the Jalsa.’
So why are the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community so captivated by Jalsa? The Promised Messiah (as) explained that this event aims to, ‘Neutralise the love for worldliness and to allow the love for the Exalted lord and the beloved Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, to dominate the heart; to create such a condition of indifference [to this life] so that the journey to the Hereafter is not detested.’ 
As preparations have been well underway for months to bring the nostalgic setting at Hadeeqatul Mahdi (Garden of the Mahdi – the Jalsa site located in Alton, UK) back to life after a break in 2020, in which a two-part address was delivered by His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) instead, Jalsa duty holders now prepare for the tasks ahead, from the langar (kitchen of the Promised Messiah (as)) responsibility of nourishing the guests of the Promised Messiah (as), to broadcasting the proceedings on MTA while simultaneously translating them into many different languages, to keeping the site tidy and secure; though this list is not at all exhaustive and does no justice to the hundreds of items on a checklist which forms the Jalsa Salana. A new coronavirus committee, informed by the NHS has also been set up this year to ensure safe and smooth proceedings.
Imam Abdul Quddus Arif, President of Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association UK said about these careful preparations, ‘Throughout the few months since we’ve started planning his [His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, (aba)] main focus is ensuring the safety and well-being of Ahmadi members who are going to be coming to Jalsa Salana. And the second element was how to make everyone involved in this Jalsa Salana, whether it’s virtually or through any other means possible. And these two things went hand in hand with the guidance that we received. So, even the size of the marquee, the distances that we will be sitting apart from each other, how we’re going to be going into the dining marquee, how we’re going to be exiting, whether there’s going to be a bazaar this year or not, whether there’s going to be tracking or not; every single element was dictated by Hazrat Amir al-Mo’mineen (aba).’
Although the attendees will not be used to wearing facemasks and socially distancing during the Jalsa Salana, they and millions around the world, passionately await to enter this spiritual city once again, whether physically or from afar.
This year, the Jalsa Salana UK will be taking place on 6-8 August 2021. Stay tuned to The Review of Religions for continued coverage and content surrounding Jalsa Salana.
 Promised Messiah (as) (Ishtihar 7 December 1981).
 Majmua-Ishteharat, Volume 1, Page 341
 Asmani Faisla
 Majmua-Ishteharat, Volume 1, Page 302-304