October 2022 marks a special and historic moment for members of Lajna Ima’illah, the Women’s Auxiliary Organisation of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. It signifies the completion of the first hundred years of this blessed institution, established exclusively for women by the Second Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra). It was upon the suggestion of his wife, Amatul Hay Sahiba (ra) that the Second Caliph (ra) began Lajna Ima’illah in India in 1922. At that time, the Second Caliph (ra) reflected why such an organisation was vitial:
‘In order to fulfil the objectives of our creation, the efforts of our women are equally necessary to the effort of our men.’[i]
The Second Caliph (ra) also recognised that the progress of any community or nation relies upon the progress of its women and hence Lajna Ima’illah (Community of the Servants of Allah) was created. with the principle objective of helping women progress in both spiritual and secular terms.
An organisation that is run by women for women, Lajna Ima’illah was, and is a forward-looking sisterhood that seeks to empower all its members, regardless of race, class or age. At this momentous milestone, The Review of Religions‘ Women’s Section asked Lajna members around the world to express what it really means to be a part of Lajna Ima’illah.
Dr Fariha Khan, serving as Sadr (National President) Lajna Ima’illah, UK
‘Lajna Ima’illah is an important part of our daily life, our heart and soul, an organisation we adore, a safe haven, a community that has given us sisters for life, friendships stronger than our kin, a platform where we learn new skills, flourish and pass on our knowledge, where old and young both learn from one an another, all parts of the tree of the Promised Messiahas, all under one Khilafat (the Caliphate).
For me personally, it is an organisation around which my whole life revolved for nearly two decades. I would say my heartstrings are strongly attached to Lajna Ima’illah. I feel immense pride on its achievements and feel immense pain on its shortcomings. It’s almost a maternal relationship. It’s a huge responsibility but brings great joy. It is the strongest community of sisterhood. It has given me best friends and sisters for life.
But the best part of being Lajna Ima’illah is no doubt serving Khilafat in my humble way. It has given me an immense opportunity to serve Khilafat and to be able to receive direct guidance from Khalifa-e-Waqt (the Caliph of the Time), and the privilege and honour to observe the love between Khilafat and Jama’at (the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community) and Jama’at and Khilafat. To us our role model is our Khalifa and to be able to see him leading by example, practicing what he preaches day and night, has been the biggest privilege of my life and something I am eternally grateful for to Allah the Almighty and to Lajna Ima’illah.’
Fatima Sadid, Researcher in Educational Science, Frankfurt, Germany
‘To be a Lajna means to be a member of a large family. Sisters from all parts of the world are united under divine guidance and are protected from the ugliness of the superficial material world. For me, being a Lajna means learning to be a woman who frees herself from all societal chains. A Lajna is a woman who leads by example with her sisters, to show the world how independent, empowered and united Muslim women can be. For me, Lajna Ima’illah is a safe space.’
Ayesha Ahmad, Dentist, Southampton, UK
‘How do I begin to explain what Lajna is? The only best way is by understanding what Lajna means to me… there isn’t a single word or phrase I can use. For me, it’s a smile passed quietly as you stand shoulder to shoulder, a sister who greets you with peace, a friend who you haven’t seen in years but reminisce with, sharing in one’s joys and sorrows and the years gone, caught up in a single moment. The grace shining through the cloth they adorn, the patience seen on their faces and their lips uttering God’s name and invoking His help, the resolve, respect and love that transcends places, borders and generations. A warmth and welcome felt in every corner of the world. Humour, hope, a shoulder, a God-given family. A belonging, an identity, it’s the very fabric embedded in me, it’s the air I breath.
I thank Allah the Almighty for enabling me to grow from a young girl to a woman, a student, a career, a wife and a mother – all these life experiences made easy through the guidance and knowledge I have gained from the many experienced Lajna I have met through this time, acting as my role models, my mentors, guiding us through life with love and care like a mother’s. I hope and pray that one day my daughter grows up to experience and learn from these very learned individuals that grace us in Lajna Ima’illah.’
Amnah Khan MSc, Malta
‘A powerful organisation, Lajna Ima’illah provides women with an organised structure that they can use to train, develop, and enhance both their religious and academic knowledge. Its aim is peace, love, compassion and harmony. It has been encouraging women to come together to increase their knowledge and spread it, to uphold the spirit of unity under unique spiritual guidance, to work at ever improving morals, spirituality and empower themselves. Being a member of Lajna, I always concentrate on education, because an educated woman improves the life of everyone related to her and is directly linked with the education of the whole family.
Being a science graduate, science teaches us how to think analytically. Being a Bone Cancer Researcher, I want to continue a proud tradition of contributing to global improvements in bone cancer outcomes and explore other areas as well, to increase my knowledge and benefit humanity. Being a scientist, I can do amazing things for the sustainable development of society and the world.’
Humera Malik, Author, Amman, Jordan
‘To me, Lajna means having a family wherever I am. I have lived in five different countries in the past 12 years and one constant for me is the sisterhood of Lajna, one that transcends culture, race and age. As a member of Lajna, I have been able to fulfil many different roles, wherever I am in the world. I have been a friend, mentor, mother, daughter and sister. And I have received the blessings of each one of these roles. During the difficult times, I have felt the supportive hands on my back and been comforted by the knowledge that others are uttering my name in prayer. And in the good times, I have enjoyed much laughter and more importantly, been inspired to better myself by seeing how others are striving in their faith.’
M A Rehman, LLM, Master’s in Law, Qatar
‘As an organisation, Lajna encompasses so many facets of Ahmadi women’s lives.
From a purely material perspective, education and work are often associated with fulfilment. My younger, more naive self was no different. At that time, I never envisioned how profoundly and positively Lajna would impact my life, not just in one phase but all through. I had never imagined that after actively pursuing higher education for years, moving countries to study at a top university, working in my dream job at a prestigious institution, I would look back and find that above all else, it would be Lajna that would give me the greatest sense of fulfilment and purpose. No other endeavour has been able to teach me, challenge me, empower me or stretch my capabilities as much.
My association with Lajna also serves as a constant reminder of the genuine, deep-rooted care and love that Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya (the Ahmadiyya Caliphate) has for women of this Community. Lajna Ima’illah was born of Khilafat and has been consistently fostered and strengthened by Khilafat in all its 100 years. Every time I reflect upon the workings of this extraordinary organisation, the breadth of its activity and its sheer impact on woman’s lives, I am left amazed and humbled, feeling incredibly fortunate to be a part of it. My association with Lajna is surely my greatest badge of honour.’
Stay tuned for part 2 to hear from more Ahmadi Muslim women, from Africa, North America, Europe and more.