More Than Just a Gathering

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Amna Saeed Salman

It seemed to have begun; impatiently I paced back and forth from my room to the lounge where MTA’s regular transmission was playing. A little into the afternoon, the house was abuzz with cleaning and lunch preparations and so was my heart, pulsating with uncertainty and discomfort. A little earlier, we had received a call from London, my Uncle confirming that the day’s morning activities for the Khalifa (Rh) had been cancelled or postponed until further notice. 

Could it be? It did not seem right to think about it. But could it be? Shying away from staring at the TV, because it could not be. I sure hope not. 

That summer, I was kept from meeting him. It was a stab in the heart; a 17 year old’s yearly custom for the last 13 years had been disrupted. I was asked to stay back with my very young and energetic brothers because Huzoor (rh) wasn’t well and the kids could cause too much noise and distress when we met. I was promised a meeting next year. A meeting that never came. But I already knew that.

Jalsa Salana 2002, when our beloved Huzoor (rh) came to the Ladies side, said his goodbyes and left. The entire jalsa gah stood up and women hugged each other, only bound by their love for this very special man.

And then the announcement came, he had passed away. The whole house sulked into an immortal silence as Private Secretary to the Khalifa (rh) confirmed our worst fears.  My father rushed home from work, booked his ticket and announced his travels for the Janazah. I shut myself in the room, cried for hours while my parents tried to reason with me from the other side of the door. It seemed so unfair, to have missed the opportunity to meet him for a final time. 

Abu said, “come with me, see him for the last time.”

And so I travelled towards him for the last time where scenes of love lost greeted me. Masjid Fazal and all around were in mourning. But, our grief would soon lessen…

‘Baith Jayain’ (sit down) he announced. This sound of comfort, like a warm but steady hug. We have a leader again, the fifth Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad’s (May Allah be his Helper) first instruction to his jama’at, and we all sat down like a wave in the sea. On cold pavements and bare roads, as obedient believers abide. 

You see, the Jalsa is for me more than just a gathering. It is about returning home. Not the four walls, but a feeling. A feeling that transcends race, colour, age, and ethnicity. Where you see humanity, selflessness and love. From the volunteers who put this tiny city together, to those who work tirelessly throughout the event, to the attendees who travel from far and wide to be spiritually motivated, every year. My love and prayers, for the sake of Almighty Allah, are for each and every soul attending the Jalsa. Blessings on you all, cherish this gathering under beloved Huzoor (May Allah be his Helper), and remember in prayers those who want to but cannot make it for many reasons.

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