Jalsa Salana/Annual Conventions

So Far Yet So Close: Experiencing Jalsa from Afar

Jalsa UK site

Ayesha Nusrat Jahan, The Netherlands

On a typically hot and humid summer evening in my hometown of Rabwah in 1990 or 1991, I received an incredibly special letter from Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh), the fourth caliph of the Worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

Although I treasured and cherished all of his loving replies to my rather childish letters; this particular letter from my beloved Huzoor (rh) would leave an everlasting impact on me. I had written to His Holiness (rh) from the depths of my heart, asking him to pray that Allah would give me an opportunity to attend Jalsa as it had been a long time since I had attended any Jalsa and that I missed him very much. Jalsa’s in Rabwah had been for me a vague and distant memory as I was quite young when I left Pakistan.

In fact, the last Jalsa I had attended was very historic in its nature as it was in fact the first-ever Jalsa held in Islamabad, Tilford, in April 1985. We had travelled to England from Spain and although I was quite young, I still vividly remember the excitement of the Jalsa atmosphere, and the joy and happiness my parents were expressing about the newly acquired place. I clearly remember the squelchy grounds, the wet hay and a most perfect, vibrant, wonderful rainbow which adorned the horizon. I remember Huzoor (rh) used to hold Majalis-e-Irfan (Q&A sessions) every night and I used to doze off in my mother’s lap while listening to Huzoor (rh).

As I excitedly but carefully opened the envelope containing Huzoor’s (rh) letter, I still remember my late mother looking at me worriedly as I read and re-read the letter with tears rolling down my face.

Huzoor (rh) had replied by praying that Allah may give me the opportunity to attend Jalsa Salana UK soon. He then asked me to pray that Allah the Almighty may enable Huzoor (rh) to attend Jalsa Salana Qadian and then, he said: and most of all you should pray to Allah that we may see the day that Jalsa’s return to Rabwah in their full glory.

I was still too young to comprehend Huzoor’s longing for Ahmadis in Pakistan to be able to attend Jalsa with their beloved Imam present among them, but I could understand that Huzoor wanted me to pray for it to happen and so I did and have always done so ever since. Not long after that Allah accepted Huzoor’s prayers, and we were blessed with what still seems like a miracle: Huzoor (rh) was able to travel to Qadian for a historic Jalsa Salana in December 1991. It was the first time a successor of the Promised Messiah (as) had visited Qadian after the partition of India. Alhamdulillah (all praise belongs to Allah) I was also able to attend the historic event with my parents. It was an extremely emotional experience for the whole family to revisit Darul Masih (home of the Promised Messiah (as)), the grave of the Promised Messiah (as) and other sacred places of Qadian, especially so for my maternal grandmother Hazrat Maryam Siddiqa Sahiba (may Allah have mercy on her), wife of the Second Caliph (ra).

Little did I know then that Allah would accept Huzoor’s prayer mentioned in that letter in my favour and a few years later I would move to the United Kingdom and would be blessed with the opportunity to be present at every Jalsa since 1997 until this year. Even after moving to the Netherlands, the UK Jalsa has firmly remained the highlight of our year. For me personally, Jalsa Salana UK also means family get-togethers and most importantly a chance to spend some precious time with my dear father who has been travelling to the UK from Pakistan regularly to attend Jalsa despite his weakening health.

My pen is simply unable to describe the yearning of my heart to have been physically present at Jalsa this year. So close yet so far but having gone through a rather horrific encounter with COVID-19, I understand the need for the restrictions. I am deeply grateful to Allah for the blessings of MTA (Muslim Television Ahmadiyya) as it will bring the whole Jalsa experience to my living room. We as a family have planned to attend Jalsa from our home in our best clothes and have planned out a special three-day Jalsa menu. Needless to say, aloo gosht (potato and meat curry), pulao (a rice dish) and langar daal (lentil soup) will be the highlights of the menu.

 This year’s Jalsa Salana UK will Insha’Allah (God-willing) rejuvenate my spirit and enhance my faith as all Jalsa’s have done before albeit in a different way. I may not be physically present in the garden of the Mahdi, but my heart will certainly be there. Through the eyes of my mind, I will be watching the smiling duty holders at the entrance welcoming the guests of the Promised Messiah (as); then at the entrance of the marquee, familiar faces will smile and greet the guests with open but socially distanced arms, at lunchtime, the aroma of aloo gosht and langar daal will take me back to the years I spent on duty in the Ziafat (hospitality) department, proudly clad in hairnets and bin bags distributing food while a kind aunty looked after my youngest daughter; I would imagine myself walking past the offices of Nazima (co-ordinators), and recall my time there desperately sorting out duty holders’ attendance and providing them with drinks as my newborn slept in her baby seat on a stack of mattresses; I will cast an imaginary eye on the cleanliness team and as always quietly say a ‘JazakAllah’ (may Allah reward you) and a prayer for them for being so devoted to this incredibly demanding duty. My heart will beat faster as Huzoor-e-Anwar, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), raises the Liwa-e-Ahmadiyyat (flag of Ahmadiyyat) to formally inaugurate the Jalsa. I will be looking forward to watching the proceedings of Jalsa and listening to the faith-inspiring speeches by respected scholars, but most of all, I will be eagerly awaiting our beloved Huzoor’s (aba) addresses providing much needed spiritual nourishment to the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim community; and most importantly as a lajna member and mother, to his Holiness’s (aba) address to the ladies on the second day of Jalsa.

As the Jalsa Salana edges to its conclusion on Sunday, my heart will surely have that familiar sinking feeling of it all coming to an end too soon. As Huzoor (aba) leads the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in silent prayer, my heart will turn once again to the letter by the Fourth Caliph (rh) and another prayer he entrusted me with, that Allah may, in His infinite mercy, bless the residents of my hometown Rabwah with the opportunity, very soon, to hold their glorious Jalsa’s in the presence of the Caliph, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, (aba) Insha’Allah. Ameen.