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.
Naila Ahmad – Accra, Ghana
‘Lajna Ima’illah has taught me confidence, independence and the realisation that wherever I travel in the world, whether it be in Western countries or less developed countries, I can stand high and proudly call myself a Muslim woman belonging to Lajna Ima’illah. Lajna Ima’illah within itself has created a unity of sisterhood throughout the world.
Currently, there are discussions and debates across the world on the matter of freewill and the removal of the hijab. Yet, I’m walking freely here in Ghana with full purdah(the veil) while I’m recording documentaries, be it in a jungle or a formal project, attending meetings, doing presentations. Not for a single second, have my hijab and religion been an obstruction.
This reminds me of an incident where my Muslim colleagues in school would refrain from discussing immoral practices in my presence as they felt the minute they would say something I would be the first to correct them. It is because of the moral and religious teaching and education I was fortunate to have gained through Lajna Ima’illah, that I was able to express my views in a palatable fashion.
I firmly believe we are as free as a flying, white pigeon, who stands out amongst the other birds but is still part of the same species. It is through the guidance and moral training of Lajna Ima’illah, that I am able to stand today and proudly class myself as a Muslim woman of the 21st century.’
Christine Atkinson, Hartlepool, UK
‘What Lajna means to me? It means blessings, love, support, guidance and friendship. Blessings are bountiful. You have so many opportunities being one of the ‘maidservants of Allah’. Not only are you able to serve and represent Ahmadiyyat, the true Islam, but also to serve your fellow man/woman. Throughout our life, in the good and in sad times, we are always helped and supported to improve spiritually, physically and mentally. Help is always given with such love and kindness, that it makes you feel not only grateful but humble as well. Being a member of Lajna means we are sisters in faith and part of an extended family. May we be ever grateful to Allah the Almighty for allowing us to be part of Lajna Ima’illah. Ameen.’
Attiya Salik, Washington D.C., USA
‘As Lajna Ima’illah is celebrating strong women, their sacrifices, zeal and devotion that helped fortify Ahmadiyyat over the last 100 years, it reminds me how the institution has impacted millions of women around the world, particularly women like me who may not be at the forefront of service or have made any remarkable progress towards its aim. What it gives me as an ordinary woman is the aspiration to be better and strengthens my desire to rise. Every meeting, every interaction, every event gives me the courage to embrace my identity. If I fall behind, hundreds of hands carry me forward; if I forget, kind guides surround me; if I lose my drive, young trailblazers light the path for me.
The Second Caliph (ra) founded Lajna as an organisation to educate and empower women in a society crippled with ignorance and prejudice. It revived the status of Muslim women against the harsh, cultural norms. From India to the United States, the stories of Lajna and their enormous sacrifices for Ahmadiyyat cannot be captured in words. If my grandmothers were selling their dowry jewellery for mosques in their small village, women in America during the Great Depression sold candy and crafts to establish mission houses.
We are forever indebted to these women who stood by Khilafat (the Caliphate) in obedience and pride and inculcated nothing but the spirit of sacrifice in their children. Stories of my grandmother travelling on foot for days to see the Caliph of that time, in Qadian (India) inspire me, while the spark of devotion in the eyes of my little nieces give me great comfort. It is my hope and prayer that our journey, in the footsteps of our mothers and grandmothers, carries on for centuries to come, and despite my lapses I hold on to this rope to the end of my road.
Sadia Ahmed, Teacher, Berlin, Germany
‘In times of Western feminism, which can be very exclusive towards certain women, Lajna Ima’illah is the place where I found my feminist home. Women are educated to become independent and self-reliant people. We organise huge events, workshops, interfaith dialogues and much more. Every one of us is an event planner.’
Laila Butt, Educator, Kassel, Germany
‘What I find particularly significant is that a Lajna does not see herself in competition with a man. Men and women work together on projects without crossing each other’s personal boundaries. As a Lajna you don’t hate men – unlike some feminists. It’s about evolving as a woman to the point where you become a shining example for future generations.’
Amna Khan, Middle East
‘It is an immense blessing to be a part of this Community. Sometimes it’s hard to believe the favour that God has bestowed on me. I could have been born into any religion, but He chose Islam Ahmadiyyat for me. One of the many perks of being born in this Community is that I am a part of Lajna Ima’illah. It means that wherever I go, I am never alone. I always have a strong feeling of belonging and sisterhood. I have recently experienced this, having moved from the UK to another country.
Being a part of Lajna also means that I’m never aimless. It means that wherever I go I have a new set of responsibilities awaiting me. I am always surrounded by extremely hard working and determined women. Women who are eager to step out of their comfort zone and learn new skills just to serve their Community. I have seen homemakers volunteer to be website designers, radio broadcasters and event managers. Lajna provides us with a platform to constantly learn and grow.’
Monsurat Ikumapayi, Sadr Lajna (local Lajna branch leader), Basse Santa Su, The Gambia
‘Alhamdulillah (all praise belongs to Allah), for being part of Lajna Ima’illah, an auxiliary body of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Lajna has helped to shape my life in many positive ways, especially by not relying much on worldly things. I have learnt more about my religion Islam through being a member of Lajna. Wherever Lajna meet, irrespective of their culture, language and nationality, we immediately bond as one family.
As Lajna, we are always ready to serve the cause of Islam with our children, life and property, as enshrined in our pledge. Without the formation of this auxiliary body by the Second Caliph (ra) of the Imam Mahdi, we would have not been able to achieve knowledge of Islam as it should be. Alhamdulillah again, to be Lajna!’