Friday Sermon: Hospitality of the guests of the Promised Messiah

August 31st, 2012

With the grace of God UK Jalsa Salana is approaching and will InshaAllah begin next Friday. As before, with the grace of God, workers of various departments are giving a lot of their time to their tasks and are working hard. Each year people from outside the Jama’at come to the Jalsa and are amazed how a small city is set up on temporary basis for Jalsa and that this is accomplished in ten to fifteen days. Some from outside think that professionals undertake this task at great cost but are most astonished when they are informed that all the work is done by Ahmadi volunteers who have no connection with the services they provide for Jalsa in their daily life. Indeed, some of the preparatory work is contracted out but 75% of the work is carried out by the young, the old, women and children volunteering themselves. And it is these volunteers who look after the organisation of Jalsa during the three days and they do it with warmth and enthusiasm. They undertake all kinds of tasks so that the guests of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) may be served. It is a great privilege for them and they do it year in and year out in an excellent manner.

As it is traditional to address Jalsa workers the Friday before Jalsa Salana, Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih drew attention of the workers to their Jalsa tasks in today’s sermon and said that this kind of reminder further draws one to the task at hand and at times a particular advise generates new vigour and enthusiasm.

At present the UK Jalsa has the distinction that it is the only Jama’at that is addressed prior to Jalsa. The UK Jalsa workers have the distinction that they are particularly addressed on the significance of serving Jalsa guests. This is not because the UK volunteers have any dearth of enthusiasm and the workers of other countries have greater enthusiasm. Not at all. Rather, this is because the significance of the UK Jalsa is greater than any other Jalsa in the world. For the past 27 to 28 years the UK Jalsa has taken the form of international Jalsa. It is not essential for the Khalifa of the time to attend any other Jalsa. However, since restrictions were placed on holding Jalsa in Pakistan, the [international] Jalsa has been taking place here. Due to the restriction on holding Jalsa in Pakistan, due to the persecution of Ahmadis there, due to the Khalifa of the time coming here and making London the centre for the past 28 years or so, the attendance of the Khalifa of time at the Jalsa here has become essential. This is the reason people attend it from the all corners of the earth. According to them the UK Jalsa is not simply UK Jalsa anymore, rather it is the central Jalsa because the Khalifa of the time resides here.

In this regard the organisation of the Jalsa here has grown extensively and in turn the guests have higher expectations from this Jalsa. As such, Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih and the management of the Jalsa have greater concerns for the hospitality to run properly and for the various arrangements to run smoothly and as much as possible improvements should be made. Many a time the expenses increase and the budget of the UK Jama’at cannot sustain them. Although the UK Jama’at pays for most of the Jalsa expenses, at times the centre has to pay 30% or so towards it. This is being mentioned because at times certain people opine that the UK Jama’at is being burdened by the centre. Although the majority of people here make sacrifices and it is hoped that they would wish to bear the expenses themselves, yet there are some who spread anxiety about this matter. The centre feels that it ought to share the cost.

The responsibilities of the workers of this Jalsa greatly increase due to it being a central Jalsa and Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih is concerned to draw attention of the workers prior to the Jalsa to be mindful that the eyes of the guests, including dignitaries will be on the organisation and the workers. As a result the attitude of the workers, their courtesy, their standards of hospitality should be to the best of human capacity. Men, women and children should try their very best. Each year guests from outside the Jama’at in particular praise the Jalsa workers. It should be the aim of the workers this year and indeed always that these standards do not slip; rather they should get better for a believer always treads towards progress.

Hospitality is not a trivial practice. It is mentioned in the Qur’an. A worldly person of good morals is also hospitable, however when one is hospitable purely for the sake of God and not just to look after one’s personal guests or relatives, rather most selflessly does it to attain the pleasure of God, certainly such hospitality earns twice as much merit with God. The Holy Qur’an relates incidence about Hadhrat Ibrahim (on whom be peace) and the excellence of his hospitality that how no sooner had his guests arrived that they were served an elaborate meal. When the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) received his first revelation and was awestruck by the experience, one of the qualities owing to which Hadhrat Khadija (may Allah be pleased with her) spontaneously assured him that God could not be angry with him was his hospitality. Thus hospitality is not a trivial practice and is one of the qualities of Prophets of God. It is also a significant task among the tasks given to the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace). God revealed to him that people in their multitudes would come to see him and he should not be weary of them and he should not be tired of meeting them.

Indeed, every member of our Jama’at also abides by this important duty. An incidence from the life of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) shows how he looked after guests. Once he was quite unwell but when he heard that a guest had arrived, he promptly came outside. He said that he was not well enough to come outside on the day but a guest takes the trouble to come and has a right and the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) came out to fulfil that right of his guest. Indeed, the Promised Messiah’s (on whom be peace) guests used to visit him to seek benefit from him and did so on his instigation. Today the guests who will come for the Jalsa will also arrive in accordance with the instruction of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) to attend a Tarbiyyati system initiated by him. In this sense they will be the guests of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) and it is the privilege of each worker to fully serve them and not let them experience any difficulty.

The Jalsa guests come for a few days from all around the world because the UK Jalsa is the central Jalsa. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) said that a guest should be given his or her rightful due and should be given the hospitality of a few days. However, his own hospitality was constant. It is related that those who stayed at his doorstep, so to speak, in order to learn about religion were his guests. Hadhrat Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) was one of them. He was impoverished and stayed as a guest of the Prophet while others went to see him either during the day or in the evening. That is why he has narrated more Ahadith than anyone else. Companions like him certainly did not make any demands and the hospitality the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) afforded them was through his own choice. Once, Hadhrat Abu Huraira was desperately hungry after days of starvation. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) took him home. A bowl of milk had arrived from somewhere as gift. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) asked Hadhrat Abu Huraira to fetch all those who were hungry and thirsty. They all sat in a circle and the bowl of milk was first given to the person sitting to the right. Hadhrat Abu Huraira felt that due to his acute hunger it was his right to drink the milk first and was anxious that the milk would run out by the time his turn came. However, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) had taken a sip of the milk himself and it was blessed and everyone drank it satisfactorily.

These were the people who had sacrificed everything of their for the sake of learning religion and were constant guests of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). Today, we do not have any permanent guests, however people will come to Jalsa to learn about religion and it is our duty to serve them. As well as being a commandment of God, it is also the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and God commands us to put Sunnah in practice. In the current age one of the important tasks entrusted to the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) is hospitality. Thus, in order to be helpers of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) in every sense, we should perform the task of hospitality which is entrusted to us in a most excellent way. The features of the hospitality of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) are familiar but each time they are related a new aspect is highlighted and some incidences have a lesson for the Jalsa workers. At times during Jalsa due to lack of time the workers are rushed. In particular when people are having their meals and the workers try and rush things through the guests are not pleased. At times the workers rush because the Jalsa proceedings are about to start or Salat time is approaching. A relevant incident from the life of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) throws light on this matter.

Hadhrat Khair uddin relates that he arrived at Qadian from his village. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) was sitting in his Gol Kamra (name of a room) having a meal. He welcomed Khair uddin sahib to join them. Khair uddin sahib said he had already eaten but the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) insisted that he had something to eat. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) had finished his meal but he served food to Khair uddin sahib. Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II was of young age at the time and was also eating with them. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) placed his plate in front of Khair uddin sahib. Soon after, another companion started clearing the plates and in haste picked up Khair uddin sahib’s plate as well. When the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) saw this he reprimanded most harshly. Khair uddin sahib says he did not have the strength to say that he had eaten to his fill. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that unless he said so the dinner utensils should not be cleared. This incidence depicts that if a guest is eating he or she should be left to eat in peace. If Salat time or Jalsa time is close by, more time should be allocated for the meals. Indeed, it should be announced how much time is left to Salat or Jalsa but diners should not be rushed and plates should not be removed.

As regards hospitality, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said: ‘I am always mindful that no guest should be inconvenienced and this is why I always give instructions that as much as it is possible, guests should be afforded comfort. The heart of a guest is fragile like glass and is broken by the slightest of knocks. Previously I had it so arranged that I used to eat with the guests. However, since my illness has increased and I have started eating special diet, that arrangement remains no more. In addition, the number of guests increased so much that there was lack of space, therefore, reluctantly I eat separately. Everyone has my permission to present his problem. Some people are not well and special dietary arrangements can be made for them.’

Everything mentioned in this extract should be kept in view by all workers, not just those who serve food. There is advice in it for every Jalsa worker. The first advice is to give as much comfort to the guest as possible. This advice is also applicable to accommodation of the guests, traffic control and better parking, because sometimes the guests are inconvenienced in this regard as well. Sometimes people make complaints that they had to walk from a fair distance because the car parking was at a distance or the bus/shuttle service did not run regularly. Similarly good service should be provided as regards washrooms and toilets with attention to cleanliness. Last year’s deficiencies should be kept in view for this year’s arrangements. Scanning should be organised in such a manner that guests from outside the Jama’at and the disabled do not have to wait for long, similarly young mothers should also be fast-tracked, especially in rain or intense heat. Another matter that the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) has raised which is applicable to everyone is that the heart of a guest is like glass. It is very important to look after this fragile heart. If due care is taken and all the facilities are provided usually complaints do not arise. However, if out of habit some people still complain or say something inappropriate, the workers should hear them out with patience and forbearance. In particular when the security workers enforce their regulations they should do so with love and affection. Security discipline is very important both inside the marquee and outside, particularly these days it is of paramount importance. However, others’ sentiments should not be hurt and if the matter gets serious it should be taken to the management. In particular guests from outside the Jama’at should be afforded extra courtesy. Usually outside guests are known and are given good treatment, however, even if an outside guest is not known the treatment should be most civil. This will only be possible when most civil treatment is given across the board. Courtesy is also a good source of Tabligh.

In early days the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) used to personally be around to serve his guests. Later, due to the numbers increasing as well as his special dietary requirements he started eating separately. Now, the number of Jama’at has increased further still and in representation of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) it is not possible for the Khalifa of the time to eat with guests and personally take care of everyone. In addition, other engagements have also increased and this is why a system is in place so that each department can take maximum care of the needs of the guests and with full appreciation. Khalifa of the time puts his trust in the workers and each worker should honour this trust.

The guests feel that the people working for Jalsa live closer to the Khalifa of the time and expect higher standards from them in every aspect. Indeed, their standards should be higher. These include standards of worship of God, piety and courtesy. Attention to Salat and worship is most important as is attention to other pieties and courtesy. All these attributes should manifest themselves further enhanced during Jalsa days. While counselling Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih was reminded of Rabwah Jalsas and the counsel given there by the Khalifa of the time which each Ahmadi of Rabwah listened to. Now, due to the circumstances Jalsa is not held there. Prayers should be made for them that may God make good what they miss out on.

There is no doubt that the UK Jama’at tries to fulfil the dues of Jalsa hospitality each year. There was a time when it was said that the UK Jama’at did not have the strength or the capacity to organise Jalsas and help was sought from the centre in the early years after the migration of Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IV. However, now with the grace of God the management and the workers are fully trained and discharge their duties in a fine manner. While progress has been made, it should generate further humility in each worker and each office-holder. The daily report received from the Officer Jalsa Salana shows that MashaAllah in-depth preparation is taking place. May God enable each worker, men, women and children, to perform their duty in an excellent manner.

As mentioned earlier, due to the circumstances, security is of paramount important and no kind of compromise can be made in this regard. However, it is also important to be mindful of the sentiments of others. The workers cannot take the law in their own hands; any difficult situation should be handled judiciously. As regards Ahmadis bringing guests to Jalsa from outside the Jama’at, prior information about such guests should be given and the matter fully resolved so that neither the Ahmadi host has cause for complain due to any delay or possible refusal nor the guest is embarrassed. It should also be kept in mind that extra investigations will be made about those guests who are not very well known to the hosts and this process should take place in advance. This instruction is not for the Jalsa workers, but it is important to give it out now because such arrangements should be settled well in advance. A week remains before Jalsa and any arrangements needed should be made now. People do write in after Jalsa to complain about such matters. There should be no complaints if the management refuses a request in this regard. Management should also resolve such matters judiciously; such is the courtesy that we need to extend to others.

Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih wished to say it openly that due to the current situation in the world in general and that pertaining to the Jama’at in particular the mischievous element is very active. As such, those bringing guests from outside should be mindful of this. People should not bring guests with whom they are merely acquainted, rather only long-term contacts should be brought as guests only when fully assured and for this the management should be consulted.

Hospitality in general and hospitality of the guests of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) in particular should be considered Divine grace and for this, services should be offered and executed with heightened fervour. May God enable all workers to do so; most of all emphasis should be given to prayers. May God bless the Jalsa in every way and may all the tasks of the management be accomplished on time and may the workers serve in an excellent manner.