The largest and longest running Islamic (Muslim) Conference in Canada, the Jalsa Salana, takes place this weekend in Toronto. The high-profile event is attended by many well known faces including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mayor John Tory, and Premier Doug Ford. Over 20,000 people will be in attendance at the three-day conference here in the city.
Jalsa Salana conferences and gatherings are held globally and it’s come a long way from the first conference which was held on December 27, 1891 in Qadian, India. For the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community it is an annual gathering to bring greater spiritual awareness and to also promote peace.
We were interested in learning more.
What is the purpose of this conference?
The purpose of the Jalsa Salana, an annual conference that takes place in every country in which the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at is established, is to enable every attendee to attain religious benefits. It is an opportunity for the attendees to increase their knowledge about their faith, and comer closer to it. It is also an opportunity to meet other Muslim brothers and sisters, and strengthen bonds with them.
What will people expect?
Over 20,000 people will be travelling from across Canada to attend and volunteer for this event. Over the course of 3 days, many speeches will be delivered by our esteemed speakers, each covering a different topic in relation to Islam. For example, one of the speeches this year, being delivered by Imam Imtiaz Ahmad, will be discussing Islam as a champion of women’s rights. Throughout each day, over 20,000 Muslims will be seen offering congregational prayers together. There will be an array of exhibitions, each presenting different aspects of Islam, such as the world-renowned Holy Qur’an exhibition, featuring over 70 translations of the Holy Book.
It’s a major conference, can you share about what goes into planning something of this magnitude?
The planning for the next Jalsa Salana usually begins right after the last one ends, just about a year in advance. Planning this large-scale gathering includes putting together a comprehensive duty-chart, in which various departments are assigned to hundreds of volunteers. Some of these key departments include; security, transportation, accommodation, food preparation/serving, audio/video, setup/windup, first-aid, and public relations. Specifically, in regards to maintaining health and cleanliness in the preparation of meals, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at has its own kitchen facility called the “Langar Khana (a community kitchen that feeds all).” The volunteers who work in this kitchen maintain a high degree of cleanliness and ensure that all of the equipment and utensils used while cooking meals are thoroughly cleaned and stored away right after use until they are needed again. There is also a volunteer security team on site at all times, to ensure that the kitchen and all of its supplies are safely guarded. The meat, vegetables, and other ingredients used to cook each meal are always fresh and never stored for too long.
What are some of the customary dishes that will be served?
The customary dishes that you will find at the Jalsa Salana include daal (lentils) and aloo gosht (meat and potato curry), both South Asian dishes. There will be over 100,000 free and fresh meals cooked by volunteers over the course of 3 days. The meals will be cooked at the community’s kitchen facility in Vaughan and transported to the International Centre in Mississauga each day.
Can anyone register to attend?
Yes, the Jalsa Salana is open to all, and we are joined by hundreds of guests every year, including many notable personalities. This year, we will once again be joined by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Mayor John Tory, among other guests.
What about the etiquette?
The event sessions have prayer breaks in between, and at that time, all of the attendees who are not volunteering in a role that requires their immediate attention, are expected to join in the congregational prayers. Also, the Jalsa Salana is a segregated event, with males and females in separate halls.
The Jalsa Salana has become a meeting place for people of all faiths and backgrounds, and we invite everyone to come and attend, as we promote the true peaceful teachings of Islam.
For more information visit www.jalsasalana.ca
*Interview conducted with Jalsa Salana’s media spokesperson