Islam · Women

Day of the Girl Child

Sameea Blog DayOfTheGirl

Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

I grew up as a Muslim in Britain, was educated here and, in fact, teachers told girls at my school they should strive to be whatever they wanted in their lives, regardless of whether the profession was traditionally thought of as a ‘boy’s’ job. In history, however, it was a different story as the treatment of girls was not equal to that of boys. When we studied kings and queens the women were usually pawns in a political game; in day to day life they weren’t educated, got married and had children. It was men who were doctors, men who were engineers, men who were learned in all professions.

At the same time I grew up learning about Islam and the rights granted to women. Girls were sometimes considered a nuisance in pre-Islamic Arabia which led to many instances of baby girls being buried alive at birth. This was one of the countless atrocities stopped by the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, and indeed he showed by example that girls were as valuable as boys through his love and pride for his four daughters.

Over 1500 years ago it was Islam that encouraged girls to be educated as well as boys. It was Islam that gave women the right to own property and Islam that allowed women to work in various professions.

Rufaida Al- Aslamia is known as an early Islamic medical practitioner, Zubaidah bint Ja’far was responsible for the construction of water wells on the pilgrims route to Mecca, Fatima Al Fihri founded the earliest existing university in the world in 859. Hazrat Ayesha, honourable wife of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, is well known as an exceptionally learned scholar from a young age.

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Recently I attended the annual gathering of the UK Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association – Lajna Ijtema. It was full of examples of empowered girls taking part in spiritual academic research and presentations, lectures in many subjects and scientific exhibitions.

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We could make smoothies with the power of a bicycle, learn about and grow healing plants of many different types, experiment with an invisibility device and study archaeology. A lecture taught us about the meat industry so we could find ways to ethically feed our families. A stargazing session was also arranged. The significance of all these were that they were organised, researched and presented by women and girls, many of whom had studied in those fields. How inspirational for all the young girls attending!

On International Day of the Girl Child it is sad we need to remember to promote the human rights of girls and sad that girls may not feel empowered in themselves. This is a reality of life even in these modern times.

That’s why Islamic rights granted to women and the encouragement given to girls’ education is an inspiration even in the modern world and shows that girls can grow up to become confident, educated, productive members of society achieving their full potential in whichever field they choose.

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Islam · Women

Why I Look Forward to the Ijtema Each Year!

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Sarah Ward Khan, London                    

As I get older, as yes I must face the inevitable, Ijtema* has taken on new shades of meaning for me.  In my younger days as a Nasirat* it was all about meeting friends and not forgetting the words I had memorised for the speech competitions.  As someone who’d newly joined Lajna*, it was about transitioning from a youngster into a mature woman and listening carefully to information and evaluating its place in my own life.  As a new mother it was about finding a pattern that would fit in with me and my child’s needs.  This might mean coming late or leaving early but always trying to get the best out of each attendance. Now my children are grown and Ijtema has a new meaning. 

Of course, the highlight of any Ijtema is the address of His Holiness the Caliph, and being blessed to live in Britain where the Caliph resides and attends most national Ijtemas, I have many gems to treasure. But more recently I have attended the ijtema not as a participant or a mother but as a volunteer worker and this has by far been the most rewarding role I have held.

In my first year working with the Nasirat team I did not know my fellow team members very well.  It was daunting to work with new people in a new role and I was very much learning the ropes and watching the routines.  But one thing sticks in my memory from that first year as a volunteer: loneliness.  Sometime people cannot tell that behind the smile lies sadness but that year as I watched the other team members meet their sisters, aunties and cousins, I felt what I have felt before – an aching gap where my family should be.  Being a child of converts, or having your family live far away, it’s easy to forget amidst the hustle and bustle of life that loneliness can creep into even the happiest of places.  So that first year I was a volunteer I left with bittersweet emotions.  Happiness for an enjoyable time with friends and loneliness for a family not present.

But the next year, and every year after that has been a different story completely, I worked again with the team and we were now familiar friends who had met and communicated throughout the year.  Where before there was something missing, now lay deep friendships and sisterhood.  We met each other as old friends and laughed and joked.  I was so busy I didn’t have time to feel lonely.

The Holy Qur’an states:

And know that this community of yours is one community, and I am your Lord. So take Me as your Protector (25:53)

For me, this is the blessing of Ijtema and the abiding blessing of being an Ahmadi Muslim.  We make our own family in Lajna Ima’illah and for every lonely moment I now have a thousand bonds of friendship to bind me to my sisters in faith.  Ijtema is one point in the year but it is the culmination of work done by Lajna every month. Ijtema is not simply the competitions, bazaar and food, it is also about meeting as a community and building friendships that cross divides of language, race and age.  So, my advice would be to build your own sisterhood and Lajna family, keep in touch on a regular basis and then the Ijtema will feel like a family celebration for you too.

Ijtema is an annual spiritual and academic gathering. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association has their Ijtema coming up this year with the theme ‘The Existence of God’.

Nasirat ul Ahmadiyya is an auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community for young girls between the ages of 7 and 14. Literally, ‘Helpers of Ahmadiyyat’.

Lajna Ima’illah is the women’s auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Literally, ‘Group of the Handmaidens of Allah’.

Women

Ijtemas: a Time Honoured Tradition

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Qudsia Ward, Cornwall

At this time of year in the UK, members of the Ahmadi Muslim Community are finalising plans for their annual Ijtemas*. Speeches are being practiced and timed, poems polished, handicraft models and craft work completed, other skills honed.  Travel plans are being made, checking with friends and family how to reach our destination and sleep comfortably for two or three nights away from home. These Ijtemas, or gatherings are the culmination of activities throughout the year, throughout the community.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has auxiliary organisations for young boys and girls and for adult men and women.  Each auxiliary is organised with its own administration, locally, regionally, and nationally.  Each auxiliary has its local, regional and national meetings which unite, train and educate members of the community.

The national annual Ijtema, or gathering, of the Lajna Imaillah, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association, will be taking place in September this year.

When I first took part in Ijtemas 45 years ago, I did not appreciate their value.  It was always fun to meet locally with old and new friends, to enjoy the competitions and speeches but I never realised the strength of the organisation that lay behind them. 

Wherever I have been the community has been there. All around England, France, and the Middle East, I have been able to find friends, to share good fellowship, to have fun, to keep fit and to gain understanding of what it means to be a Muslim and what Islam really teaches.  The community in Europe has grown so much and with this growth the skills, knowledge and experience of the ladies has grown too.  Long ago I happily enjoyed joining in with the extempore English speech competitions.  Not so intimidating when you know each lady and feel friendly support all around!  Now the competitive edge is greater, and the young girls so well educated and experienced I stick to enjoying listening!!  I listen with enormous pleasure to the well prepared and well-presented speeches, even with audio-visual presentations these days!  I love to hear the melodious recitation of Holy Quran and poems of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) who founded this wonderful community.

As the community has grown in UK the handicraft and sports department have grown too.  There is something for everyone and that’s what binds us together.

Think of the skills and experiences that ladies gain in preparing for the competitions; first locally, then regionally, then nationally.  The life skills and knowledge gained is what makes the ladies of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community stand out as strong, active citizens wherever they live in the world.  Being trained and then training our children to understand and take part in the organisation unites us and makes us strong.  It protects and guides us.  Seeing, and being part of the ijtemas sets an important example for younger women and girls.  Knowing there is always a place and a role for you when ever you are ready is so important and is one of the reasons our young people are ready to take part in the active service of others within and outside the community.

The greatest blessing of the community is that it is led by the Khalifa, the community’s worldwide spiritual head. Ahmadi Muslims worldwide are united, taught, advised and loved by our Khalifa.  He oversees the community’s organisation and it is this leadership and organisation that makeIjtems it strong. His prayers and guidance lead us all towards success.

The message of the community is one of peace.  Our Khalifa is constantly reminding us to remember our obligations to our Creator, Allah and to His creation.  This message is reinforced and repeated throughout the world through the organisation of the community, and lastly, through its Ijtemas.

 

Ijtema is an annual spiritual and academic gathering. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association has their Ijtema coming up this year with the theme ‘The Existence of God’.

Freedom and Responsibility · Integration · Politics

The Media Narrative

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Yusra Dahri, London

As my fingers skid across the keyboard, I not only present my thoughts to you, but I influence how you hear them. Is one thing more significant than another? Or another more stressed? What do you hear? Is it it LOUD or quiet? AmIconfusingyourushingyouafterallhowshouldyoubereadingthis?

How do you feel when you read this? Who do you think I am, and what do you think I’m trying to say?

What is the voice you hear?

And whose story do you think I’m trying to tell?

The above tend to be questions that any active reader asks themselves whilst reading. However, as constantly bombarded with information we are on a daily basis, surely even the most active reader would become exhausted and start passively accepting information at some point.

Usually from an early age, by either our teachers or our parents, we are taught to think before we speak. Nowadays, we think that happens less and less with introduction of social media. However, is that really true?

In reality, the duty to carefully curate our words is the first, universal responsibility we have and everyone keenly senses how we use them. We know the power of language. We know how it can be used to manipulate, even in the most innocent of ways. And this is amplified by the mainstream media.

The narratives that we know are founded upon the same ‘truths’, obviously. However, it is in the presentation of these truths that diversity of opinion emerges. All language has a purpose, otherwise why would it exist?

Likewise, the very way that we perceive the world, others and even ourselves is affected by this. We all know that we are connected more than ever before, but on a human level, are we really? Hiding behind our screens, we are often inflicted with a false sense of bravado. Ironically, we tend to witness the kind of immature shouting match that we thought we left behind in our diaper days more than constructive and intelligent dialogue. If everyone is fighting to get the last word, the sad truth is no one can really be heard. If everyone is in a bid to ‘out dazzle’ each other, the truth never really gets its moment in the spotlight.

Furthermore, the media can change the perception we have of ourselves. Of course, we know this. Take for instance the “even smarter, even slimmer, even richer” standards that are impossible to meet, or conversely what is in my opinion one of the great trends of the last few years namely that self-care and motivation has been riding a hype, but that hype too is dying down. All of this can alter our self-perceptions and have deep-reaching impact.

However, what I’m mainly referring to is the portrayal of minorities and marginalised communities. To be fair, I don’t think the mainstream media is particularly as cruel as some individuals can be. However, speaking as someone who grew up in a generation where social media and global connectivity were almost a rule of life, I think we have to think what message we are sending to the children of this generation. I wouldn’t want any child to read or hear a part of themselves, be it religion, race or identity, ripped apart by someone who ‘forgot to think’.

There was nothing more harrowing to me as a child to read the cruel, alien words of others about myself yet to hear them echoing in my own mind. I was both my own victim and criminal. When you can’t find the words to fight back, you feel nothing but a woeful acceptance. I was lucky in the sense that I could just close a tab or browser, but for the children who couldn’t escape what the media reflected in our world, I only hope they never began to believe it. That they had the courage to find their own sense of self. Especially as what we believe, we tend to become.

Not to get to twisted up in Pavlovian theory, but the words we see commonly lumped together in the news such as ‘crime’ and ‘refugee’ and ‘Muslim’ and ‘terrorist’ are going to create (and have created) adverse connotations in our minds such that even refugees and Muslims themselves will have trouble forgetting the ‘classical conditioning’ that has created this fear, even though we know better. Is the media narrative to blame?

In our time on this earth, we have amassed a mountain of history and literature. We know how people thought, what they believed (Shakespeare’s plays, for instance, are a testament to the anti-Semitism of his time) and yet we still have the audacity to laugh at them.

If our words are really (as they were for our ancestors) our ‘time capsule’ for the future I suggest we cease our mocking. We are remembered for as much we say as we do.

And if this is our legacy, I think our descendants will get their fair share of amusement.

Holy Quran · Islam

Freedom of Speech & Its Limits – Finding the Middle Path

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Iffat Mirza, London

The development of the notion of freedom of speech in the West has run parallel to the construction of democracy in its states. Looking at British history, we see that the 18th and 19th centuries were ridden with laws that suppressed any organisation, literature, or activity that was seen as a threat to the ruling order. With laws such as the 1795 Treasonable Practices Act and Prevention of Seditious Meetings Act, the government was able to establish its dominance over the country and limit the consciences of those who dared question their rule. Ideals of freedom of speech were reactions to these laws. Freedom of speech was created in order to facilitate a true democracy, and we can see the direct correlation between the increase in freedom of speech and the progress of democracy.

Now we must ask the question why this has once again become a big issue now? Well, the idea of political correctness has taken hold, which many see as an attack on freedom of speech. We have seen recent examples of Boris Johnson’s controversial statements on the burka and Geert Wilders’ proposed Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) ‘drawing contest’ (now thankfully cancelled), and once again the debate over freedom of speech has risen again. However, I would argue that both stunts were nothing more than political charades and had very little to do with protecting freedom of speech. It must be clarified to all that freedom of speech is not synonymous with right to hurt. Freedom of speech is a tool that helps us grow as individuals and societies. We must set ourselves boundaries to distinguish what is acceptable and constructive dialogue, and what is simply an excuse to tyrannise.

In any case of conflict or difference of opinions, dialogue is essential to advance as a society, therefore we must welcome an atmosphere of trust and respect where each and every member can share their opinion and worries over any topic, regardless of how sensitive it may be. Yes, freedom of speech is our right, and indeed, a right that must be exercised to ensure true democratic rule.

However, it is also a responsibility that must be taken seriously. We can vocalise our opinions without dehumanising and hurting people. Freedom of speech is not being threatened by those who take offence at hurtful words. It is being threatened by those who defend their bigotry under the shield of freedom of speech. A shield that is increasingly being worn thin. By stubbornly using the guise of freedom of speech to offend others, we are limiting constructive dialogue as we are focussing more on our right to speak rather than our need to speak.

The Holy Qur’an captures the essence of how freedom of speech should be approached by encouraging an attitude of moderation. In Chapter 2, Verse 144, which can be understood as ‘We have made you into a nation which adheres to the middle path…’, God has taught us to strike a balance in all that we do and this will most definitely ensure a peaceful and harmonious society. If this teaching were to be applied to freedom of speech we would learn that freedom of speech is necessary to challenge us and to help us grow. We would learn to see the world from other perspectives and in doing so learn more about our own perspective. But neither would we take it to such an extreme that we are not facilitating conversation, but are instead screaming over each other, resulting in a lot of words with very little meaning. So, it is in treading the middle path that we can do justice to freedom of speech.

Customs and Rituals

Teenage Years: Keeping Faith in a Faithless World

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Nooresahar Ahmad, Hartlepool

In many ways, being a teenager is much harder than being an adult. We’re in the years when we have to make decisions that will impact the rest of our lives, even though most of us don’t really know what we want from our lives. Pressure is piled on what with exam results and parental expectations; having to balance our faith with our studies, our studies with our hobbies, and our hobbies with our rest. At a time when we need more sleep than ever, late nights are more often spent frantically completing homework than actually sleeping!

And then- on top of all that- there’s the peer pressure. Pressure from classmates and friends is something that weighs heavy on all teenagers. But when you’re a Muslim girl, and you stick out just a little bit (okay, a lot) more than everyone else, and the list of things you refuse to partake in (like wearing revealing clothing, socialising with boys or drinking alcohol) is much longer than others’, the pressure can be even harder to deal with. It is this very distinction that can make some people feel as though their religion and beliefs are becoming cumbersome; especially when their peers have no faith of their own, no religion that they are connected to, and cannot relate to their situation at all.

Some Ahmadi girls may well find it uncomfortable to enter discussions regarding their religion, drawing extra attention to themselves in an environment where they already feel (like all teenagers) self conscious. When they are asked questions about their faith they may want to shrink away from responding. However, as Ahmadi Muslim girls, we know this isn’t what we should do.

Looking towards the examples of the very accomplished, inspiring women in our Community, it is vital we calmly and kindly answer the questions of our classmates regarding our religion, stand our ground even if we are pressured to do otherwise, and learn that our unique identities as Ahmadi Muslim girls are not something to be ashamed of. Rather, we should take pride in who we are and what we believe. Doing so can often gain us more respect than changing ourselves to fit in.

To do this, however, it is vital that we have knowledge of our own religion. Otherwise, if we do not understand the reasoning behind the teachings, we can become confused and, when faced with a difficult question regarding our religion, may find we don’t know the exact answer. We do not have to blindly follow what our parents are telling us; instead, we should constantly ask questions and read religious books, articles and blogs so that we develop a faith in God, and an understanding of Islam, that is personal.

In short, no matter how busy we become, or how awkward we may feel, our faith isn’t something that we can afford to ignore or neglect. Because before long school will finish- and we will never see the classmates who once pressured us or made us feel uncomfortable ever again. The way we decide to act now will determine whether we can look back at our conduct with pride, or with regret. Even as teenagers, it is our responsibility as Ahmadi Muslims to put our faith first and prioritise our religion before anything else.

And once we have done that, we find that we are free to enjoy our adolescent days as much as-if not more- than the next person.

Politics · Women

Lessons Worth Learning

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Sarah Ward Khan, London

I love studying history. I have always been enthralled by the lives of those who paved a way forward before me and steered society towards its current point. Growing up in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was also a heady time: we felt history unfolding before us and we were part of it. And the history I saw around me as a young child was an intoxicating, positive movement: it was change for the better. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of apartheid, the end of the Cold War – the future at that time looked bright. Social movements were making life better for the oppressed and the downtrodden, righting the wrongs of the past and moving forward with hope.

So, it is with a heavy heart that I ponder over the world today, Society is still changing, technology and communication are changing the way we interact and forging new norms. But is it, I wonder, a better society we are building? Where are the values of freedom, tolerance, equality which were upheld in those heady days? Where is the sense of social justice and liberation?

The burqa debate and the comments of Boris Johnson only seem to highlight the difference between my childhood and now. Instead of moving towards a better life, we seem to be regressing to the dark days of nationalism, popularism and self-interest. As I look to the future I don’t see better things ahead, I see division and separation: them and us mentality and fear of others.

And who will lead the charge against this decline? Who are the leaders in society who will uphold those virtues and values that made the world a better place for all? I would hope that people in public life might feel the weight of their role and understand this facet of their influence. This is especially true of politicians. Politicians are there to serve – the needs of everyone and not just themselves. They are there to stand up for the poor, the weak and the oppressed. Their goal should be to uphold an inclusive and peaceful society and if it isn’t that goal – then what are they aiming for?

Which is why Boris Johnson’s words matter. They weren’t off the cuff, they were planned and printed in a national newspaper. They very deliberately targeted a small minority of women using mocking and ridiculing language. Commentators and Twitter trolls have leapt on the band wagon telling women to get over it, have a laugh and to get a sense of humour. Are these the values we want to build our society upon? That we are free to offend and insult and if your feelings are hurt you should grow up? What kind of a society would that create?

It’s certainly not the society I create in my classroom as a teacher and I would have failed to qualify for the profession if I had taught children in my care this principle. I teach them that words matter, that we laugh with and never at others. We share a joke – we don’t target one person or one group. This is part of the British Values of tolerance and respect which every teacher in the UK is obliged to promote. Why is Mr Johnson exempt from these values his government created and enforces? Why does is he not held to the standards he expects us all to teach? This is hypocrisy of the clearest kind.

In my personal life I go further than these broad notions, I try to uphold a very specific standard. In the 10 Conditions of Bai’at, a pledge of allegiance taken by all members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which set out standards of faith and conduct. The fourth condition is: That under the impulse of any passion, he/she shall cause no harm whatsoever to the creatures of God in general and Muslims in particular, neither by his/her tongue, hands, nor by any other means.

What an inspiring principle and aim this is in my life! I may well fall short of this but the renewed pledge taken at Jalsa Salana UK annually reminds and refocuses our minds on this. What a beautiful, peaceful, equal society this principle could create if we all stuck to it. We would not hurt anyone by any means – including the words we say. What unity there would be. Nobody would fear, like the Muslim women so openly targeted in the national press all week, that they would be coerced and bullied into conforming to the beliefs of others at the cost of their own choice. Mutual respect and care would mean that we would prevent ourselves from offending others and unity would be the result. Not uniformity and force and coercion, as many in the burqa debate wish to impose by removing women’s right to choose their own clothes, but fellowship built on peace and respect.

So, faced with these two versions of society – one in which we can say what we feel and ignore the impact on the sentiments of others, or one in which we try not to hurt any member of the community, I know where I would rather live. I, and so many other women are speaking up now because we know that this is a moment in history where the society in which we live is about to make that choice. Either we agree that insult is acceptable in public servants or we defend the value of respect and unity. History will show which side of the battle succeeds.

Hijab · Women

Muslim Women

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Yusra Dahri, London

This is not just a cloth
Nor the hatred that you’ve made,
But a symbol of faith and trust.
A decision that will not fade.

Yet all cloths are woven from thread.
And this thread has been constantly weaving.
From our mothers to our grandmothers,
From ancient scriptures to a world never sleeping.

We are not hidden but carrying a trove of history.
Our minds are bejeweled with meaning.
So let us teach you how we live.
We are not asleep, but dreaming

Features

Inspirational Smiles

InspirationalSmiles!

Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

At the inspection and inauguration of Jalsa Salana on Sunday, after Sadr Lajna UK had earlier requested advice from Hadhoor regarding Jalsa work, Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih gave Lajna Jalsa duty workers the advice that they should engage in prayer and that they should smile and keep smiling all three days of Jalsa. This brought to mind some memories from past Jalsa days.

It was the Thursday before Jalsa in 2014 and I was working in accommodation on the Hadeeqatul Mahdi site. Our job was to register guests, see if they needed any bedding and settle them with mattresses in the marquees. Guests had been arriving all morning and the marquees were filling up fast when in the late morning the fire drill inspection team arrived and we had to do a fire drill. Our team sprang into action, one took over the fire bell to alert the guests, several swept through the marquees making sure no one was left behind and within five minutes everyone, even the disabled elderly, had assembled outside the accommodation area. The inspection team were happy and we helped the guests go back to their marquees and continued working.

Afterwards it got me thinking about all the various work I had done at Jalsas down the years and that other volunteers did, both male and female, adults and children. For this Jalsa I had attended a fire safety course along with female volunteers from other departments, learning about fire hazards, how to deal with fires and keeping people safe. It meant that at Jalsa each area had a fire safety team who could swing into action and evacuate the whole site if necessary. My accommodation team work gave me skills in dealing with people in sometimes difficult circumstances, such as tiredness, bad weather, etc. Last year at the end of Jalsa, I visited my daughters who were still working in accommodation and found them and their team in rain capes helping guests and their children and baggage onto golf buggies to leave the site; this was after they had settled their department’s finances and helped stack returned mattresses And all of this with smiles on their faces.

Around the jalsa site there had been hundreds of women working throughout the weekend, keeping the site clean, distributing food and water, running various stalls, managing respite and crèche areas, inspecting for hygiene and safety, driving guests around, administering first aid and many, many more jobs. And whenever they saw someone they knew or just made eye contact with, they would pause, often only briefly, to smile, offer greetings and ask “how are you?” before continuing with their work.

Down the years, I’ve seen and experienced working at different jobs in extremely hot, sunny conditions as well as wearing wellies in the rain and mud. And down the years I’ve been astounded at the passion and skill displayed by these ordinary women volunteers. I’ve worked with teachers, doctors, mothers, students, scientists and more, each volunteer unafraid to get her hands dirty and each working her hardest to get the job done, just to make the Jalsa run smoothly and to please God.

What an example these cheerful women are for the younger generation and as has happened through the years, that younger generation will undoubtedly follow in their footsteps and become similar inspirational, smiling women.

Features

Jalsa Stories – Roti

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

My dad was telling my daughter and I about Jalsa Salana in Rabwah and how the last Jalsa there had an attendance of 275,000 people, making our Jalsa in the UK seem tiny by comparison. Imagine cooking food for that many people, my dad laughed, imagine the number of rotis that were made!

He recalled a Jalsa in the mid-seventies when the rotis were made by non-Ahmadis from areas surrounding Rabwah rather than Ahmadi volunteers. It had reached Jalsa time and some people trying to make trouble told the roti makers to demand more money at this last moment or refuse to make the rotis assuming the Jamaat would give in because the Jalsa guests had already arrived in Rabwah and needed feeding.

Jamaat officials seeing no way around this difficulty thought it might be best to give in to their demands on this last minute occasion but Hadhrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih III, told them not to. He advised that every household in Rabwah should be asked to help by making rotis and at this last moment the ingredients were sent around to homes and the members of the community answered the call and made rotis to feed the guests!

This reminded my mum and I about an incident during the nineties when Jalsa UK was held at Islamabad. Early on the morning of the final day we got a call that the roti plant had broken down and a lot of dough was already mixed so rotis could be made for lunch. All the households in Islamabad jamaat including those in Aldershot were asked to take dough and make rotis. The large plastic bowls of dough were distributed and we began making rotis.

Both my parents and I had houses full of guests from abroad and most had already gone to Jalsa for the congregational pledge. One of my cousins came to help me and her sister remained with my mum and we spent the whole morning listening to Jalsa on MTA while making rotis.

Finally we had two large crates filled with round, soft naan-like bread which we were then able to transport to Islamabad in time for lunch. By then the roti plant was working once more so our rotis joined those to feed the thousands of Jalsa guests. Just as the families of Rabwah had answered the call to serve the jamaat so now had the families of Islamabad been given the opportunity to do so.

It was a hot, frantic, arm-aching morning but so fulfilling and one which will always stand out among our memories of Jalsa.