By Syed Amer Safir
I had the blessed opportunity to ask Huzur-e-Anwar about his reflections on the historic Jalsa Salana UK 2021, which took place after an absence of two years. The Review of Religions interviewed workers from a variety of departments about their thoughts and feelings about this historic jalsa. We spoke with those serving at the Roti (flat bread) plant, the Langar (communal kitchens) the car park attendants, the MTA staff and many more. I showed Huzur-e-Anwar a Jalsa ‘highlights video’ we had made where people were expressing their emotions on seeing Huzur-e-Anwar after so long. However, during our team meeting, one team member said, ‘we have asked everyone from the public how they feel, but have you asked Huzur-e-Anwar how he felt during this Jalsa?’. Recently, Huzur-e-Anwar graciously gave me the honour and opportunity to submit some humble questions to him relating to Jalsa, Islamabad and the pandemic, the answers of which are humbly presented here. Huzur-e-Anwar also graciously provided me with guidance regarding some personal matters which I have recorded here in the hope that it may be of some benefit to others.
After watching The Review of Religions Jalsa highlights video, Huzur-e-Anwar smiled and started by saying:
Huzur-e-Anwar: So you started the video with Emir (Bajramovic).
Amer Safir: Yes Huzur. Huzur, Mubarak Baad on the successful completion of Jalsa. Huzur, we interviewed so many people and without exception, everyone was emotional seeing Huzur after so long. Huzur, how did you feel seeing so many people at Jalsa after so long?
Huzur-e-Anwar: I was enjoying seeing people and meeting them and hope and pray that Allah will open further similar paths in the future as well. I saw some of these Ahmadis after a long time. In normal days before the pandemic, just as many people or more would attend Juma (Friday Prayers) in the mosque – but I was seeing people after a long time saying prayers behind me.
Amer Safir: Huzur, did you get emotional upon this occasion?
Huzur-e-Anwar: I said Alhamdulillah upon this occasion. I was very happy that people had come and gathered together. However, I am not someone who becomes overly emotional or one who openly displays my emotions. But I was happy and expressed my gratitude to Allah.
Amer Safir: Huzur, what did you pray leading up to the Jalsa and during the Jalsa?
Huzur-e-Anwar: I was just praying that it occurs properly, and Allah protects and safeguards everyone.
Amer Safir: Huzur, how did you remain so confident of the success of Jalsa, even when it appeared that the Jalsa could not happen because of the situation at the time – yet you were confident that it would happen and happen so successfully?
Huzur-e-Anwar: We should always trust Allah and that is what I did, I put my trust in Allah. I had an intention but the rest I left to Allah. When do I ever rely on myself or my own efforts? I never do, but always rely on Allah. This confidence is purely because of having trust in Allah that He will make things possible. If Allah decrees something, then why will I need to worry? Allah will cause it to occur.
Amer Safir: Huzur, during the inspection you visited a few sites like the Langar, (communal kitchens) Roti Plant (flat bread making), MTA etc. I had the honour of covering this and was nearby. I noticed on several occasions Huzur himself called out to certain people and said ‘cover your mouth and nose fully!’ as their mask wasn’t on properly.
Huzur-e-Anwar: It is said that the infection often enters when one inhales through the nose and is transmitted when exhaling from the mouth. When one takes a breath, they may be taking the infection in from their nose and spreading it out through their mouth. This is why I was particularly reminding people to cover their mouth and nose fully.
There was a child from Indonesia who asked me ‘why don’t you wear a mask yourself!’ – I am very careful in many other ways. I take a lot of extra precautions and that is why I don’t wear it – and sometimes there are exemptions allowed as well for people not to wear one. Nonetheless, I still strictly take all apparent precautions.
Amer Safir: Huzur, in your Friday Sermon on the first day of Jalsa. you requested prayers for the weather to turn in our favour…
Huzur-e-Anwar: No, I did not say ‘may the weather turn in our favour’. I said pray that we are protected from any negative effects of the weather (‘may the weather not prove to be a hinderance to us and may it benefit us’). A few years ago, I said pray that the weather turns favourable for us. However, this is not what I said this time. I said [and meant] pray we are saved from the negative impacts of the weather. Listen again carefully as I believe this is what I said…
Amer Safir: Huzur, now that I think carefully, I remember that is what you said, I was mistaken!
Huzur-e-Anwar: And this is what occurred. You can see for yourself that we were saved from any negative effects manifesting in the Jalsa taking place and it continued and completed successfully.
Amer Safir; Some people felt the rain and wind helped control the spread of the virus at Jalsa and this worked in our favour.
Huzur-e-Anwar: Yes, some people say the virus may have settled down due to the weather. Whether that happened or not, Allah knows best.
Amer Safir: Some people were taken aback when Huzur said he would change the Jalsa administration if they did not fulfil their duty and give due diligence to organising the Jalsa properly.
Huzur-e-Anwar: Yes, I said I would change the administration if they do not work properly and I told them I have many people who can fill their shoes and give justice to doing the work.
Amer Safir: Huzur, in terms of the future of Hadeeqatul Mahdi site, how will it cater for such weather conditions in future?
Huzur-e-Anwar: I have already recently given extensive instructions to the Jalsa administration to work on this and on the ground. InshaAllah this will be fixed for the future.
Amer Safir: Huzur, on the last day, after your final speech I was standing outside with Munir Odeh Sb from the exit of the Jalsa Gah where your car was waiting. We were a good 6-7 metres away, and you called Munir Odeh over. The Qafila route had been changed and you had to go right through the middle of the Jalsa site. Then, when you sat in your car I was standing next to a few missionaries and we waved, and you lowered your window and graciously waved at us. After, I followed your car as much as I could and saw you had your window down along this way.
Huzur-e-Anwar: I thought as people had come after a long time, I should put my window down and wave. It wasn’t just on that occasion. On a previous day in the evening, I also opened my window for the people. Then, on the ladies side, I also opened my window so the ladies could see me and I could wave at them. I also opened it at times on the men’s side. Sometimes I would open the window on the left side and sometimes on the right side.
Amer Safir: Huzur, in one of your addresses you mentioned that once you had to wipe dirt or mud off your face at a previous Jalsa. Can Huzur-e-Anwar share on what occasion Huzur-e-Anwar was referring to?
Huzur-e-Anwar: This was in 1988. At the time I was Mohtamim Bairoon (Helping oversee MKA in countries outside of Pakistan). There was only one Sadr Khuddam for the entire world and in each country there was a National Qaid. I had come as a representative of Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya, Pakistan at the time, when the Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya Pakistan had an international role to oversee Khuddam.
Amer Safir: Huzur, the address given to Lajna was groundbreaking in many ways. Can Huzur-e-Anwar share some thoughts on this.
Huzur-e-Anwar: I tried to cover several different types of rights, like the right of divorce and so on. There are some [Lajna] who didn’t listen to it properly and said that I should have addressed men in the same way as I did the ladies in terms of their rights and obligations. However, had they listened carefully, I said that if you reform and better yourself, then Allah the Almighty rewards such women who fulfil their rights and dues and are also more deserving of having rights discharged to them by men.
Amer Safir: Huzur, in the concluding address you mentioned that you have selected some rights that have been expounded on by Islam. You also mentioned that there is a long list of rights that extends far beyond this. Huzur, how did you select those particular rights for the concluding session?
Huzur-e-Anwar: In the past, I once went through and extracted nineteen major or overarching rights to cover at various times. I covered some of these previously. Then in this Jalsa I mentioned a number of rights, and in the future, I will continue to cover these rights. Within each right are branches of various forms of dues and rights. I also connected and linked some of the rights that I mentioned. For example, in the address I connected the rights of friends with the rights of people who are ill, and the rights of the ill with the rights of friends.
Amer Safir: Huzur, now that this Jalsa has occurred do you feel this will pave the way for future events to open up?
Huzur-e-Anwar: If this Jalsa had not happened and I had not pushed it to happen. then it would not have opened up the way for others. Now, because of this Jalsa occurring, Lajna Imaillah, Ansarullah and Khuddam ul Ahmadiyya want to hold their Ijtemas. And in this way some things are opening up.
Amer Safir: Huzur, I noticed that during the sessions in which you were present, the people reciting Nazms were generally quite young, as opposed to the sessions where Huzur-e-Anwar was not present they were relatively older and more traditional nazm recitors.
Huzur-e-Anwar: This time I chose younger people for the sessions I would be present in. I also told them not to keep repeating various lines of poetry within the nazam more than once. There are some who did not like this approach. But nonetheless for both the men and women, I had the more traditional poetry reciters changed this time with younger ones.
Amer Safir: Huzur, this time after a long time, Munir Odeh Sahib had the opportunity to recite the Qaseedah.
Huzur-e-Anwar: Yes. How did he feel after reciting it and what were his sentiments?
Amer Safir: Huzur, he told me he felt like his heart was going to explode and that he was so nervous whilst in Huzur-e-Anwar’s presence. He said he could not even begin to describe the overwhelming emotions when he was on the stage.
Huzur-e-Anwar: Munir Odeh recited it very well.
Amer Safir: Huzur, many people were emotional hearing Feroz Alam sb recite the Azan after so long. It made them feel we are returning to a period of normality.
Huzur-e-Anwar: Didn’t you see the last Juma? I told Feroz Alam Sb to recite the Azan here in Masjid Mubarak again. That is the reason why I let him do it, as many people wrote to me that they were emotional hearing his Azan. Therefore I decided to let him do it again so that people can be happy again.
Huzur-e-Anwar: My granddaughter [Yusra Dahri] also wrote some of her emotions about Jalsa in the form of poetry.
Amer Safir: Huzur we would love to publish it. May we?
Huzur-e-Anwar: Well (as it is published on the Lajna blog) it is the copyright of Lajna. So you have to ask Sadr Lajna and if she says, then you can!
Amer Safir: Huzur, now that people have had a glimpse of you at Jalsa, what is next? How will they see you?
Huzur-e-Anwar: Now the virtual mulaqats are starting again. This past Saturday and Sunday I had two virtual Mulaqats including with Khuddam from Denmark. So ‘This Week with Huzur’ will return once again. People eagerly wait for ‘This Week with Huzur’. So this will now return and people can connect and see me. Also we have expressed gratitude to Allah and I thanked the workers during my address as well, and now we move on to the next event.
Amer Safir: Beloved Huzur-e-Anwar, this is a lesson for all of us. We often become emotional and stay in one place, whereas Huzur always demonstrates to us that we must continue marching forward and not remain stationary.
Amer Safir: Huzur, I would like to say with utmost humility Jazakamullahu Ahsanul Jazaa that during one address when relating an account, you helped all of us translators when you explained the medical term from Urdu to English and said it was gout or sciatica.
Huzur-e-Anwar: I think ‘sciatica’ is the correct term for it. I said ‘gout’ first during the address and then said ‘sciatica. This was what I believe is sciatica, ‘Langree ka Dard’ or ‘Erq ul nisa’.
Amer Safir: Huzur, I cannot help but express here my emotions. On this occasion I had to translate more of Huzur-e-Anwar’s addresses than normal as Imam Sahib had additional responsibilities as Afsar Jalsa Gah. Huzur-, I hope I have not let you down but all I know when people ask me how I manage to translate, I say that it was only your training that has enabled me to do anything and you taught me words and nurtured me whereas I had no knowledge of Urdu at all.
Huzur-e-Anwar: When people ask you how you manage to translate, you should say just how Wakil-e-Ala used to ‘remember you’ [yaad kur rahe hain] this is how we ‘remembered’ each other and you learnt Urdu in this way!
You normally write to me in English and I reply to you in Urdu. This helps to improve my English but I will continue replying in Urdu to improve your Urdu. Generally, when you submit to me the final translations of my speeches I check various parts of it rather than every word or all of it as it is not possible. This in Urdu is called to read Jasta Jasta, that is to read from the middle. I check parts of it and the rest I leave and trust that you will have done it correctly.
Have you seen Abid’s translations?
Amer Safir: Yes Huzur, I have read them and often when I see the translations he has done for example in press releases, with quotes of Huzur-e-Anwar’s Urdu addresses into English, it is very good. Often I think it is much better than my translation!
Huzur-e-Anwar: Abid has also learnt to do translations simultaneously when I dictate to him. He does it well.
Amer Safir: Huzur, I have also seen it first hand when in the early days you gave me many blessed opportunities to come to see Huzur-e-Anwar with Abid and I witnessed how Huzur-e-Anwar trained him.
Amer Safir: Huzur, when do you feel the pandemic will end and we will return to full normality?
Huzur-e-Anwar: I do not know, but some scientists say the pandemic will continue until 2022. Allah knows best and it is our prayer that it will end soon.
Amer Safir: Huzur, we have seen your close attention to detail and training for so many people in different departments in the Jama’at. Particularly with the youth, Huzur, you spent so much time for over the last more than 15 years nurturing them, allowing them to make mistakes, giving them room to grow, guiding them and praying for them at every step. I experienced this myself, personally how you guided me but also so many others. There were so many young Murabbis who Huzur trained and who are now in senior positions. But Huzur you never take any credit yourself, you always just praise others whenever anything is achieved or after any success!
Huzur-e-Anwar: What have I done? I haven’t done anything. This is all Allah’s work. Nowadays I have been regularly sitting with the Shahid Class at Jamia in the mosque and personally training them. They have now completed their course with me and now I will teach the next class after them.
Amer Safir: Huzur, what have you gauged from personally giving so much time to this Jamia class each week?
Huzur-e-Anwar I have come to know just how much Jamia teaches them!
Amer Safir: Huzur, if you permit me to turn to Islamabad, a lot of people viewed on MTA news, the report of Huzur-e-Anwar inaugurating the children’s playground. Huzur-e-Anwar at the same time people were wondering whether they would be able to bring their children there when they visit Islamabad?
Huzur-e-Anwar: If the local residents let them use it, then they can!
Amer Safir: Huzur, do you feel that the family or personal evening Mulaqats will resume anytime soon?
Huzur-e-Anwar: Even now sometimes it happens that people from outside who are properly vaccinated have come to meet me here. A few people have met me personally in this way. Although the formal system has not started, however amongst whoever has asked me, I do sometimes give people permission to come meet me and they have.
Amer Safir: Huzur, I have noticed something new since coming to Islamabad some time ago that now there are street names assigned; Taj Din Road, Majeeda Road, Hilmi Shafi Road, Mustafa Sabit Road, Raza Street, Mahmood Avenue and Sadr Avenue, etc.. Huzur, how were these names chosen?
Details of the names of different people whom roads/buildings were named after.
There are street or road names at different locations in Islamabad. Here Holy Ground Walk, on the path to the mosque.
Huzur-e-Anwar: These are all people who lived in Islamabad a long time ago or who have given a lot of service to Islamabad. A list of names was made of people who fitted a certain criteria. I then myself selected the names and then these were finalised as a memory. I chose names of different people; some Arabs are also included amongst them and then others as well.
Amer Safir: Huzur, I have heard of some other developments soon to take place here.
Huzur-e-Anwar: A small tuck shop is being made by Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya; it is the corner building in the beginning. There will only be some light food items like snacks and drinks and so that will be made available and that is all. A book shop may be opened at some time as well.
A digital screen gives prayer timings, quotes of Promised Messiah (as) and other information.
Huzur-e-Anwar: How is your wife? She recently had a miscarriage. Has she come out of the trauma emotionally?
Amer Safir: Huzur, with your prayers she is now faring much better. Alhamdulillah although she is in some pain but it is an improved situation.
Huzur-e-Anwar: Give her Sandaleen – this is a ‘desi’ medicine so take this permanently. Also during pregnancy take caullophyllum x200 throughout the pregnancy. May Allah enable her to recover.
Amer Safir: Huzur, if I may mention a lighter incident. My seven year old swallowed a 20p coin. The doctors say it will hopefully remove itself naturally but if not after some days then they may have to do endoscopy or some form of surgery. Kindly pray. Most of all despite being seven, he kept insisting I write to Huzur-e-Anwar. Even when we reached A & E in hospital he kept saying ‘have you written to Huzur-e-Anwar for prayers yet’.
Huzur-e-Anwar: When I was small child there was a small iron piece shaped like a grape. I put it in my mouth and swallowed it. Thankfully I did not choke, nor did it get stuck in my throat, and it moved straight to my stomach. My father tried all types of things like turning me upside down, and making me vomit, but it wasn’t clear if it had come out. Now 60 years have passed. Or perhaps 65 years have passed since that incident. That was in Rabwah in my childhood, so hopefully that small piece is no longer there!
[About the Author: Syed Amer Safir is the Chief Editor & Manager of The Review of Religions.]