Friday Sermon: Hospitality at Jalsa Salana

July 23rd, 2010

Hudhur gave a discourse on hospitality at Jalsa Salana in his Friday Sermon today. Hudhur said with the grace of God, the UK Jalsa Salana commences from next Friday. He said the first thing he wished to mention in this regard was that Jama’at in general and UK Jama’at in particular should pay a lot of stress on prayers and sadqa for the Jalsa to be held successfully and for it to be blessed in every sense. May God protect us from all mischief and evil of the enemy and may the Jalsa begin and conclude amidst countless blessings.

As is customary with the Friday Sermon preceding Jalsa, Hudhur drew attention of the duty-holding men, women and children to their obligations and responsibilities. Hudhur said with the grace of God now the men and women are quite well-trained for Jalsa duty with workers of each department having a good knowledge of their specific work. However, in order to further improve the work and to enhance the sense of responsibility reminding is important as it is also a Quranic commandment: ‘And keep on exhorting; for verily, exhortation benefits those who would believe.’ (51:56). Hudhur said it is also important to impart the significance of Jalsa duty to children as well as youth who are perhaps doing duty for the first time or who do not fully realise its significance. Hudhur said Jalsa duty is not an ordinary duty. The old and the young present themselves for the service of the Jalsa guests who come to the Jalsa in compliance of the Promised Messiah’s (on whom be peace) call for their spiritual nourishment. There may a few who simply come to pass time but this should not deflect us from our duties.

Hudhur said there are many kinds of guests at Jalsa. There are those who are from the UK and stay over at the Jalsa site either in their private tents or in accommodation provided by the Jama’at. They have dealings with almost all departments of Jalsa during their three-day stay. Workers of each department should present a model of extreme courtesy to them. Any existing resentment with a guest should be forgotten and should not come in the way of serving them; if it is so, it would be a betrayal of one’s duty. If a worker feels that he/she cannot honour the dues of hospitality towards a certain guest then they should ask their co-worker to do it on their behalf. The other kind of guests is of those who are also from the UK and daily travel to the site. They eat once or twice at the Jalsa site under the auspices of the Ziafat department. It is the responsibility of this department to look after them. In the last few years complaints were received that not only food was not served, the attitude of the workers was also not good. On investigation it was found that this was not due to workers’ fault, perhaps food was not to be served at the particular spot where the demand was made. However, even if food is not to be served at an area, guests should be explained to most politely. Car parking, traffic control and security workers should also display courtesy and civility when speaking with the guests. Hudhur explained that complaints are not the norm, rather only the odd complaint is received, but it can upset the entire administration. Generally speaking the workers tolerate excesses of the guests. The third kind of guests is of those who come from Europe, some are accommodated by the Jama’at while others stay privately. However, due to being outside of the UK, their expectations are somewhat high. A few among them make undue demands but workers should try their very best not to give anyone a chance to complain. Another type of guests is of those who come from Pakistan, India and Africa. African and American guests are looked after by the Tabsheer department to a large extent. However, they also have to deal with the general departments, so their needs must also be looked after. In spite of their disadvantaged position, guests from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh come to quench their thirst for Khilafat. In particular the state of the Ahmadis of Pakistan has reached a critical point in victimhood. Extreme courtesy and politeness is needed with such guests. Some have language problems, whatever their need may be, men and women workers should be ever ready to serve them. If a guest makes a request which is not the duty of the department of the person asked, rather than give them a blunt response, the person should guide them to the right place. Generally the guests from Pakistan are helped by their relatives, but those without any relatives [living in the UK] can at times get anxious. Hudhur said for the past two to three years the accommodation and hospitality of the guests who stay longer than three days has been good, but as he mentioned earlier, reminding is important. Hudhur said those who have visiting relatives from Pakistan should realise that it is not just the task of the Jalsa management to look after the guests. Rather, they too should offer their hospitality to their relatives. Another kind of guests is of those who are non-Muslims and are invited by the Jama’at. However, they often take note of how the Jalsa workers operate. Usually, each year, they are very impressed by the courtesy of the men and women workers.

Hudhur said now many outside guests also come to the Jalsa in Germany and are also impressed by the services provided there. This year many expressed such views to Hudhur. This indeed is the standard of Ahmadi workers everywhere that even if they are not directly involved with guests, the way in which they work, their eagerness and diligence impresses the guests. It is as if the workers, apart from performing their respective duties are also acting as ‘silent missionaries’ and thus earning double reward. Firstly by serving the guests of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) and secondly by portraying a true picture of Ahmadiyyat, the true Islam to others through which some pious-natured people identify the Truth. Jalsa duty is a means of earning God’s pleasure for every man and woman worker at Jalsa. May God enable everyone to fulfil it in an excellent manner.

Hudhur said this year he wishes to draw special attention to the department of security. This department has improved and grown a lot since last year, however, this year even the slightest of doubt should not be overlooked and every procedure should be carried out to the letter. The [ID] cards issued by the Jama’at should be completely verified through the scanning system that is in place. Each person’s card, even if they are known to you, should be processed. Slight and brief annoyance of a guest should be tolerated but no compromise should be made in this duty. This year Germany had very good security arrangement and no problems were faced as they had arranged for several entrances. All the details of each card would appear [on the screen] upon scanning. This year apart from the good arrangements at Jalsa Germany, their security system was extremely commendable. May God reward all the young Ahmadi men and further enhance their capabilities who worked most diligently in devising this system. Hudhur said usually he mentions the services of the German y Jama’at at their Jalsa but as the opportunity did not present itself this year he thus briefly mentioned it.

During Jalsa as well as the Friday Prayers, the checking at entrances as well as the security here too needs to be carried out with great alertness. Young people should not be given duties on their own. In fact, at each point they should be accompanied by their mature naibs and officers. Above all it should be remembered, as mentioned earlier, that our real reliance is only in God, therefore no moment should pass without prayers. With regards security of the temporary accommodation areas in Hadiqatul Mahdi or Islamabad and Baitul Futuh as well as the private tents an odd case of theft can sometimes take place. Therefore their protection should be ensured. If theft can take place, other harm can also be perpetrated. Although people are urged to take their valuables with them, which they do, the security of these areas should be carried out with due vigilance. The security workers should always be confident and must never panic.

Though with God’s grace it does not happen often but if there is a delay in the serving of food, because during Jalsa food is not cooked on-site, the guests should be assured in a calm manner. Similarly, at times there is overcrowding on the transport provided. Workers should remain calm and also calm the guests about the temporary inconvenience, assuring them gently. Due to the hot weather there can be shortcomings in the service of the Water department. As we now get high temperatures here as well, this department has gained significance. Water supply to the washrooms is also needed. In spite of the experienced workers these departments are such that due to the impatience of the guests it can get chaotic. Therefore, while the workers need to stay calm they also have to guide the guests with patience and in a calm manner.

Hospitality is a distinction of a believer. Moreover, guests who come specifically for religious motives and who have been called by the Imam of the age as ‘his guests’ should be looked after with that much more care. Their religion motives are to seek maximum knowledge of the faith that was revealed to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and bring about pure changes in themselves and in the process try and gain Divine nearness.

Next Hudhur cited examples of the most excellent hospitality of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). When a guest arrived he would send message to all his wives to arrange for food for the guest. Each household would reply that they only had water to serve [and no food]. Hudhur said this also illustrates the steadfastness of his blessed wives, who, by virtue of his power of holiness did not ever even slightly protest at the lack of food. In fact the situation of no food in the household is only found out because of the arrival of guest. In one such instance a Companion takes the guest to his house where although some food is available, it is only enough for the children. So, the children are made to go to sleep and the parents extinguish the lamp when serving food to the guest so that the guest may eat satisfactorily unaware of the scarcity of food. God is so pleased at this act that He informs the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) of this incident and says that the act of the believing man and believing woman made Him laugh. Hudhur said whoever’s act makes God happy has indeed attained the blessings of both worlds.

Then there is the incident where a guest left the bedding soiled and the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) insisted on washing it himself, telling his Companions that as he was his guest he must wash the bedding.

Hadhrat Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) said that a believer who believes in God and the Day of Judgement has three signs: Firstly, have fine morals, always says what is good and do not injure anyone’s feelings for discourtesy tarnishes faith. This would gain God’s pleasure and will strengthen faith as well as guarantee peace in society. Secondly, respect your neighbour. Hudhur said God has given very clear commandments with regards the neighbour and the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) also said that such was the stress laid on the rights of the neighbour that he wondered if God would command to include the neighbour in inheritance. Hudhur said the term neighbour also connotes temporary neighbours, like those who we are together with for short periods of times. They too have rights over us, whereas this [with reference to Jalsa] is about our brothers in faith. Thirdly, honour your guests. Hudhur said hospitality strengthens faith and it is important to express it. It is a source of attaining nearness to God. Whereas here, [at Jalsa] we only have to sacrifice our time and emotions.

Hudhur explained that the true and ardent devotee of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) also followed this blessed example. The hospitality of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) was not for a few. Rather it was a permanent state of affairs and was extensive. Although he honoured all his guests most excellently, God revealed to him: ‘Be not arrogant towards God’s creatures and be not tired of receiving visitors’ (Tadhkirah, page 73, 2007 edition). Hudhur explained that God repeatedly drew the Promised Messiah’s (on whom be peace) attention to this matter because the numbers of his guests were going to grow and grow and after him the Khalifa of the time and the administration of the Jama’at was to keep this in view and never forget the significant task of hospitality. Hudhur said this is an important attribute that each one of us who presents him or herself to serve the guests of the Messiah has to adopt.

Writing about the hospitality of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) Yaqub Ali Irfani sahib says he would be delighted at the arrival of guests and would instruct the workers at the Langer Khana to make every possible effort to make them comfortable. He would take special care about the dietary requirement of the guests in view of the region they came from. He would say if their health was not right how would they learn about faith. He would also say that guests should candidly express their requirements. Maulwi Abdul Kareem sahib relates that once in the heat of June he happened to be in a newly built house of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) while his family was away. Hudhur said there are many facilities here but those who have lived in the subcontinent would know and appreciate the cool aspect of a newly built house in the intense summer heat. There was a simple bed in the house on which Maulwi sahib laid down as the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) took a stroll. Maulwi sahib fell asleep. When he woke up he was startled to see that the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) laid on the floor next to the bed. He smiled and explained that he was in fact looking out for his guest, stopping some boys from making noise so that his sleep was not interrupted.

Hudhur said such was the Promised Messiah’s (on whom be peace) hospitality. While these lofty standards only belong to Prophets of God, we, who are appointed on the task of serving Jalsa guests should try and partake some measure of it.

Hudhur said although the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) kept the status of his guest in consideration, generally his hospitality was the same for everyone. Hudhur said at Jalsa we give special care and attention to some guests from outside. Indeed, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) said that leaders of nations should be honoured according to their status. However, we should have moderation in this regard at Jalsa. Management unnecessarily further categorises these guests, entailing extra expenses; this should be managed properly. Hudhur is informed that at times some marquees remain vacant. In places wrong use of VIP arrangements has started. Management should pay attention to this. Indeed, make special arrangements for special guests, but it should be in one place and should be implemented with moderation.

Apart from serving his guests, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) had two objectives of his hospitality; their Tarbiyyat and Tabligh. Likewise, the relevant departments should pay attention to this at Jalsa. Indeed, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) did not make any difference in his hospitality even when his opponents came as guests. He instructed the Khuddam to serve them and if they were intemperate to give no response. Hudhur prayed that may God enable us to follow the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) who had adopted his ways by following the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). While paying the dues of our guests, Hudhur said he wished to say again that we should be vigilant, keeping an eye on the surroundings. Hudhur said today enmity and opposition of the Jama’at has made the mischievous elements devoid of any moral limitations and any kind of mischief can be expected from them. May God enable all of us to fulfil our responsibilities in an excellent manner and keep us safe from all evil.

Next Hudhur announced the passing away of Mubaraka Begum sahiba, wife of Sufi Nazir Ahmad sahib. She passed away on 14 July at the age of 89 after brief illness in Germany. She was a very prayerful, steadfast and grateful person who experienced visions. She was extremely devoted to Khilafat and even during her brief illness before passing away she asked after Hudhur not caring about her own illness. She was a beneficent person for every one and had a great sense of sacrifice. Once she was asked for prayers she would continue to pray. She had a very content nature and gave her jewellery in Maryam Shadi fund. She had some savings which, before passing away, she said should be given to Sayyidna Bilal fund. After the wives of her two brothers passed away, in spite of her own limited resources, she looked after the education and training of their children. She leaves behind two daughters and four sons. Two of her sons are life devotees (Waqfe Zindagi), Jalal Shams sahib, in charge of the Turkish desk and Munir Javed sahib, the Private Secretary to Hudhur. One of her daughters is married to Hanif Mahmood sahib, Nazir Islah O Irshad and in this sense Hudhur said may be counted as a life devotee, for wives of life devotees are also the same. May God forgive and elevate the status of the deceased. Hudhur announced leading her funeral Prayer in absentia after Jummah.