As an advocate of ongoing learning, I have and continue to, attend a number of national and international conferences.
These conferences have ranged from professional to personal development as well as spiritual.
As a result, I can say without the slightest hesitation that, for me, the most educational, uplifting, enlightening and fulfilling conference of them all has been Jalsa Salana.
What is Jalsa Salana? Very simply it is the Annual Convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community initiated by the founder of the community, his Holiness Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be upon him)
Usually, the gathering spans over three days, beginning on Friday after the Friday Sermon. 1
The very first Jalsa was held in Qadian, India, in 1891 and had 75 guests. The very next year this grew to 327 and by 1908 approximately 2,500 guests were flocking to Qadian for the spiritual gathering.
Within 100 years, from 1891-1991, Jalsa Salana Qadian grew from 75 to 66,000 guests. 2
In the early 1980s, the UK Ahmadiyya community bought a rural site in Tilford Surrey, which was named Islamabad. This site was to host the International Jalsa Salana, however, the site was in disrepair and an incredible amount of effort was required to prepare it to host the many thousands of visitors that were to attend.
As a volunteer teenager at that time, it was exciting, exhilarating and incredibly hard work. However, my abiding memory is one of teamwork, fun, brotherhood, long hot days, great food and a feeling of wonderful accomplishment and contribution.
Organising the Event
Depending on where you lived you were put into different groups ie we were part of the London based, Middlesex team and for the first few Jalsas we were assigned to work in the kitchen. We peeled sacks of potatoes and onions and prepared whatever was needed for the food to be cooked which was done by some of the elder gentlemen of the community.
Other teams were assigned car parking duties, hygiene duties, greeting of guests, security etc. Every region had a job to do and its leaders were tasked with ensuring that these jobs were completed.
All of this work was performed by volunteers. We all contributed gladly and as mentioned earlier, created memories which we still talk about to this day.
Over the years the event has grown in size and consequently was moved to another location. At the 2019 Jalsa, there were over 40,000 people in attendance over the 3 days.
Obviously, over time and growth of the event, some specialist teams have been hired to erect the main Marquee and look after the sanitation of the site, however, as always the majority of the work has always been performed by volunteers.
What events occur at the Jalsa
The conference has speeches on many topics delivered by people from across the globe.
The focus is on reminding the members of the beauty of Islam, educating those who have little knowledge of the faith and showcasing the truth of what it really means to be a Muslim and how Muslims should be conducting themselves on a daily basis.
There are obviously key speeches by the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, his Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad.
The event has been attended by many dignitaries from around the World, including serving members of the British Parliament.
As mentioned, many thousands of people attend the event, yet, there is no discord. The whole event is conducted with the spirit of the community’s motto “Love for all, hatred for none.”
Freshly cooked meals are provided and there is a market with many stalls for people to enjoy during meal and break times.
Congregational prayer is key at the Jalsa and to be part of many thousands worshipping together is and remains my favourite time at the event.
The whole event is live streamed on MTA (Muslim Television Ahmadiyya) which can be accessed on many platforms including YouTube.
The purpose of the event is perfectly summarised by the Founder of the community. 3
“The major aim of the gathering is that the sincere members of the Jama’at 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.”
I conclude with a hadith, saying of the Holy Prophet Muhammad Peace and blessings be upon him
“He who calls people to guidance has the same reward as those who follow him without any diminution of the reward of the latter, and he who calls people to error carries the same burden of sin as those who follow him without any diminution in the burdens of the latter” (Muslim) 4
Blog based on VOI show:
- Jalsa Salana: https://www.alislam.org/jalsa-salana/
- Jalsa Salana History, Instant Money: https://www.alislam.org/articles/jalsa-salana-history-instant-money/
- Jalsa Salana UK:(Asmani Faisla) https://www.jalsasalana.org.uk
- Guiding other towards faith and goodness: https://www.alislam.org/hadith/guiding-other-towards-faith-and-goodness/