Translation of the Friday Sermon delivered by Ḥaḍrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul-Masih V, may Allah be his helper, at Baitul-Futūḥ, London on 5 August 2016.
After Tashahhud, Ta'awwudh and Fatihah, proceeded:
The annual convention of the UK Ahmadiyya Community is starting this Friday, God willing. Guests have started arriving from various countries of the world, by the grace of Allah. May Allah allow the management of the convention serve the guests in an excellent manner whether they are coming from different countries of the world or from different parts of Britain.
By the grace of Allah, old, young, children, women, from the width and breadth of Britain, present themselves as volunteers to serve the guests. As the number of attendees is increasing, arrangements for the convention are expanding, more volunteers are needs. By the grace of Allah, without any difficulty and with pleasure, children, youth, women, men, present themselves to serve. Majority of the serving youth and children takes it as a favor and grace of Allah that He gave them an opportunity to serve the guests of the Promised Messiah (may peace be upon him). By the grace of Allah, it has become a character of the members of the Ahmadiyya Community in all countries that the members from all sections and ages have to serve the guests at the annual convention. Last week, from Friday to Sunday, US Ahmadiyya Comminuty held their annual convention. Their programs were relayed on Internet. I saw an interview of a member of Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya explaining how Khuddam and volunteers worked for the preparation for the annual convention. There also was an interview of a 19-20 year old youth who was born and raised there. He was asked, What do you get for all the work you do? How much money you will get? How many dollars will you make? The reply of the youth born and raised in the US, where materialistic approach reigns, was, We work as volunteers. Our compensation is beyond the apprehension of the worldly understanding. We carry out this work to gain the pleasure of God. This is the character of Ahmadis living in all countries of the world whether an African, Indonesian, Islander or a citizen of the developed countries of the West.
When the priorities of the world during summer vacation in schools and colleges are sports and sightseeing, when the priorities of worldly employees during their vacations from work are to rest and spending their vacation with their families, the priorities of an Ahmadi are different. If the annual convention falls during these vacations, literate and illiterate, officers and subordinates, professionals and laborers, and students present themselves voluntarily to serve the guests of the Promised Messiah, peace be upon him.
In the rest of the developed world, their conventions are held in halls with numerous amenities but the UK Ahmadiyya convention is held at a place where all the arrangements are on temporary basis and all the amenities are arranged that are possible anywhere else. Council has the requirement that after the event all the arrangements have to be rolled off the land to leave it as farmland within 28 days. Therefore, to carry out a large project within a limited time period a large number of volunteers are needed. Considering the nature of the project, time from its start to end is quite short. Volunteers start working on tasks in preparation for the event that are not carried out right at the convention venue 2-3 weeks before the 28 days. That means that there are some volunteers from here who sacrifice their time and wealth for approximately a month to a month and a half. This is a large chunk of time for a person to spend on volunteer work. That is, the volunteers know the necessity of sacrifice and importance of the duties at the convention. They have been engaged in this service year after year. There are some who are joining in the first time. Some deal directly with guests. Some will start during the days of the convention, some have started already as the guests have started arriving, as I said. As usual, as a reminder I will say something to all of them.
Some time, some people have great enthusiasm for service but everyone has their own temperament. Some lack patience. Some due to lack of knowledge may act or act in a way that may cause inconvenience for guests. Reminding alerts volunteers. They try to carry out their duties more attentively. I do not have any doubt that workers carry out their responsibilities with great enthusiasm. Certainly all volunteers work with the spirit of service. To remind and to alert is also a directive from Allah, the Almighty. That is why I bring attention to this Friday before the convention.
The Holy Qur'ān, in regard to guests, has given the example of the hospitality of Abraham, may peace be upon him, to highlight the importance of hospitality. The Holy Prophet Muhammad also has explained at various instances the importance and duty of hospitality, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.
In this age, the Promised Messiah, may peace be upon him, has brought this matter to our attention. He has mentioned one of the purposes of his advent to take care of the seekers of truth traveling for the sake of faith. He writes at one place,
The third branch of this Divine workshop relates to visitors and callers and travelers who come in search of truth and for other purposes … This branch also is growing…
He said that people were coming in thousands in those days in the small hamlet of Qadian where there were no amenities available during those days. The promised Messiah, peace be upon him, had provisions for guests brought from Batala or Amritsar. In such circumstances sometimes a person is troubled that there are no means of transportation. People either went on foot or generally on a horse-carriage. Hospitality in a remote area in such conditions was difficult. That is why, to strengthen his heart, Allah had told him beforehand in an Arabic revelation, People will come to you in large numbers so it is upon you not to be crass with them and it is incumbent upon you that you do not get tired seeing their great numbers. Today in all corners of the world these conventions show these scenes that people come in great numbers and are blessed with spiritual and physical feasts. In Britain, due to the presence of Khalifa, guests comes from all corners of the world just to gain knowledge of faith and quench their spiritual thirst.
Today the servants of the Promised Messiah, peace be upon him, according to the directive of Allah, are serving the guests unselfishly, selflessly, without tiring, without showing indignation. This is our duty that we serve the guests and have the arrangements of the convention carried out in a befitting manner.
Non-Ahmadis and non-Muslims also attend the convention and are always impressed by the work of the volunteers and are surprised how small children are discharging the duties assigned to them with great responsibility. Last year a guest from Uganda who also is a minister there said that he was surprised by looking at the arrangements how people sacrifice so much voluntarily. He said, it was not even in my imagination that he was going to attend a convention where not humans but angels will be visible working. He said that even if something was requested twenty times, they presented it smiling. Many revealed that children served food with pleasant demeanor and when they were serving water in the convention marquee with greatly pleasurable appearance. They asked of needs, of water, time and again. This treatment by the volunteers was not limited to only special guests but was extended to every guest. This is the quality of the spirit of service that is and should be the hallmark of every worker of the Ahmadiyya Community. Every volunteer has to keep this quality alive forever whatever department he may be working in.
When our guests come they interact with different departments. As they come in, they interact with the welcome department. Welcome department usually welcomes guests in quite a good manner. As a guest come after a journey, he is tired. How much ever amenities may be available during a journey, there is exhaustion and fatigue of travel even in these times. The welcome department should always keep this matter in view.
Welcome department is working at the airport and usually there are good arrangements. But when guest come traveling from neighboring countries by car or by bus, they come after many hours of travel. They are tired. If they are staying in the Ahmadiyya Community lodgings then the management there should remember this saying of the Holy prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, that
Meet your brother smiling and it is a charity.
He said at another instance,
Do not take as insignificant even a small good deed. It is a good deed to face a brother pleasantly.
Note the teachings of Islam, how beautiful it is. There is injunction to honor guests anyhow. It is a directive that results in reward. Hospitality, that to interact smilingly, is like participating in charity. By equating it with charity it is made worthy of reward, worthy of double reward, one reward for hospitality and the other reward for charity on showing a pleasant demeanor. To interact with love, to interact with good manners, counts as a virtue, and how much Allah will reward for a virtue, only Allah knows better.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
Showing way is also charity.
The department responsible for this function should also keep in mind to greet pleasantly a person coming from a journey and then have them taken by their assistants to their places of lodging. Especially when there are women and children and there are no men with them then it is the duty of the respective assigned volunteers to accompany them to their lodging. It is an important matter as sometimes there is need to transfer belongings where help should be provided.
To interact with pleasant demeanor and smilingly is not particular only to the welcome team but also to workers in every department.
In view of the current circumstances, it is necessary to carry name-card. Some coming from outside bring introductory letter with them then their convention cards are prepared here. Sometimes such matters are encountered that the introductory letter is not available. In such situation it is very important to be sure. Card cannot be issued without assurance. Procedure for confirmation should be carried out. During this procedure it is also very important to deal pleasantly with the guest and to have proper arrangement for his seating while they are waiting. Sometime small children are in company and they become restless due to long wait.
All guests should bring the confirmation from Ahmadiyya Community with them when coming to the convention or should bring their name-cards. If due to some reason it is missed then the related department should provide the amenity that they are seated comfortably.
Food is another aspect of hospitality. Hospitality is necessary for two or three meals a day for guests at the lodgings arranged by the Ahmadiyya Community. During the three days of the convention every guest usually comes to the convention to listen to the proceedings and has at least lunch under the arrangements of the Ahmadiyya Community. The feeding officers and assistants should keep in mind to interact politely with the guests.
To interact politely is the right of the guest and the duty of the host. Some people put the workers in difficulty with regard to food. They ask for this and that and make odd demands but the workers should bear. Feeding is such a matter that unseemly behavior or a comment or saying anything by the host hurts the feelings of the guest.
The Companions of the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, showed such examples of hospitality that will be written in golden ink forever. The Holy Prophet asked a Companion to take a guest with him and feed him. He took the guest to his home in accordance with the directive of the Holy Prophet. Wife said that there was only a small amount of food at home that was for children. The husband and wife planned to get the children to sleep somehow and when the food is presented before the guest, to turn off the lights, and in the darkness, the hosts pretend to eat so that the guest eats at ease without knowing that the hosts are actually not eating at all. With this strategy, the guest did not know how hospitality had been carried out by the hosts and the guest ate in comfort. Next morning as the Native Companion appeared before the Holy Prophet, he said that due to his strategy of the night before even Allah smiled. That family sacrificed because the guest was the guest of the Holy Prophet in particular otherwise Comapnions did entertain guests in general. The guest was treated especially because of that.
Today each of our workers presents a sacrifice and he should present sacrifice with this passion that he is serving the guests of the True Servant of the Holy Prophet. Though the sacrifice of one's own food and that of the children and to have them sleep hungry is a great sacrifice and it has not to be offered these days but with the grace of Allah, according to the promise of Allah with the Promised Messiah, in the world, everywhere there is the Ahmadyya Community is established on firm ground, kitchens (Langars) are operational. Especially during the days if the convention there is special arrangement for this hospitality. The only service we have to do is to take the food from the kitchen and to present it to the guest and deal with the guest courteously and Allah is pleased with this that guests traveling for faith were served.
If hospitality is not conducted adequately there is displeasure shown from Allah. At one instance, some guests were treated extraordinarily while others were ignored. It was done by the hospitality workers during the time of the Promised Messiah, may peace be upon him. Allah informed the Promised Messiah during the night that hypocritical show took place the past night. There was pretense and the guests were not served properly. Some needy were not fed. The Promised Messiah was displeased over the incident and took the arrangements in his own hands. It also is related that those workers were expelled from Qadian for six months.
Thus when we present ourselves for service, then we should serve everyone without distinction. Every guest coming to convention is the guest of the convention. To deal with everyone in a good way to interact with everyone courteously is necessary, not that one is rich or is a special guest and should be fed at a particular site rather everyone should be fed where the arrangement is.
In general Ahmadis should eat at one place. They should not be taken to special places made for outside guests. Management should keep this in mind. Some workers take their acquaintances to eat where outside guests are supposed to eat. Generally an Ahmadi guest even if he is an office bearer should eat where Ahmadis eat.
One should also be praying all along that may Allah accept this small service to the guest of the Promised Messiah and that our work is devoid of any kind of show and is purely for Allah.
There were so many guests of the Promised Messiah some days during his time that the arrangements for their stay appeared to be difficult as Qadian was a small place. According to the directive of Allah that do not be overburdened and do not get tired, the Promised Messiah made informal arrangement that could be arranged. Sometimes it so happened that due to the large number of guests in winter he gave his and his children's beds to guests.
At one time there were so many guests that even his wife (Ḥaḍrat Amman Jan, may Allah be pleased with her) was troubled as to where the guests will stay and how the arrangements will be made. At this instance, the Promised Messiah, may peace be upon him, related a story to them.
A traveler came upon the evening in a jungle. Night was dark. There was no village nearby. There was no place, no town, where he could go and rest. The poor soul lied down under a tree to spend his night. There was a nest of birds on the tree. The male and female decided that the person lying under their nest was their guest therefore it was their duty to be a host to him. How did they host him? First they thought that the night was cold so they should provide him something to warm himself with fire. They thought that they did not have anything else. They could break their nest and throw it down. By making fire from its leaves and twigs, the guest could light a fire and warm himself. So they threw down their nest. The person put it on fire and started warming himself. Birds decided that they did not have anything to feed the guest but they themselves could fall into the fire and when they are roasted in fire the guest could eat them. So they did so and arranged food for the guest.
The purpose of telling this story by the Promised Messiah was that rather than being perplexed on the arrival of guests, one should entertain the guests through as much sacrifice as is possible for man. Thus, this is a lesson for all of us especially those who present themselves for Islam that they make full effort to discharge duties assigned to them.
Car parking is another important department. Sometimes guests show improper behavior and insist on parking against the directions of the volunteer and want to park their way. In such instances the worker should softly try his best to make him understand and then inform his superior. There were complaints last year. Some ladies wanted to take their car further onwards. There was rough exchange with the person on duty. It is the responsibility of every worker to discharge their duty. There is need to be extra cautious in the current circumstances especially in parking but along with it, as I said, good manners should be exhibited. If someone is making a valid demand, the person is sick or there is some other reason, patiently make him understand and tell them that you will call your supervisor so that he may facilitate for you. And request then politely to stand aside while waiting and guest should cooperate so that the rest of the traffic is not affected because sometime in this discussion and argumentation long lines of cars form and other are affected. When people come to the proceedings of the convention, persons already seated there are disturbed.
All incidents that happened in previous conventions, management should review them and look at every aspect and every department facing the issue should review it. Then they should report to the convention officer how it can be resolved so that minimum issues arise this year. Small and big issue arise but effort should be to minimize them.
Arrangement for scanning and checking with all cautions should be such that guest do not have to wait for long time and they are not inconvenienced. Announcements should be made at the entrances that the entrants should keep their cards in front and keep in their lines so that people can pass through quickly.
There are workers assigned to cleanliness. On both men's and women's side workers are sometimes troubled that people leave behind them a great mess. If the assistants, time and again, make announcements to bring to attention of the guests that cleanliness be maintained, that cleanliness and tidiness are part of faith so keep your surroundings clean, and clean the bathrooms without hesitation, people cooperate generally. Last year similar reports were received. If someone does not cooperate then workers should themselves clean up; that is their duty. Keep in view that there should be no unpleasantness in any way from their side. Never leave hold of patience. General cleanliness is also the responsibility of the workers. They should continue cleaning continuously as it happens if they see any garbage on either men's or ladies' side. Children sometimes drop cups, wrappers, boxes, etc. Sometimes elders are not careful either. It becomes easy for the wind-up workers as their work is not only to pick up marquees and large items rather it is important to pick up every rubbish or piece of paper. Then the council gives clearance. Anyway, guests should be reminded of this side too politely time and again that they throw containers, boxes, etc., in dustbins rather than throwing them around.
The training department should be active in bringing the importance of convention to the people who come to attend the convention.
The worker who presents himself for service, it is his duty that he should work selflessly. By the grace of Allah, as I said earlier, generally workers work with this passion but sometimes show wrong behaviors. They should always remember this advice of the Holy Prophet, that I related earlier too, that politeness should be shown in every situation.
Same way every worker should be alert all the time. Work of security is not the work of security team solely rather every worker of every department should keep an eye in their respective environment.
Workers should also keep in mind that after the conclusion of the convention only the wind-up workers are not present rather every worker should stay in the place where he is assigned until any guest is present there or until their respective officers do not relieve them that they are done and can go.
All the workers and the member of the Ahmadiyya Community should pray that may Allah allow everyone to discharge their responsibilities in an adequate way. All the workers who are working at the convention site, may Allah keep them safe in all ways. Sometimes heavy work has to be done and there is chance of getting hurt. May Allah keep everyone safe in every way.
May Allah make the convention blessed and successful in every aspect. May Allah keep Ahmadiyya Community safe from every adversary and mischievous person. And may Allah give the opportunity to every worker that they continue to serve the guests of the Promised Messiah at the convention in the best way.
Workers, who have attained high standards of service, may they present even higher level every next time above the levels they have already achieved, and perform this time too better than before. There should never be decline in their level of service. Every step of ours should fall forward and when such service takes place then Allah sees with the eye of love. May Allah give everyone this opportunity.