by Sarah Waseem, MTA Intl.
Attention ! All you mothers out there coming to the UK jalsa!
Bottles packed. CHECK. Clothes packed. CHECK. Extra clothes packed. CHECK. Backup clothes for the extra clothes packed. CHECK. Healthy snacks packed. CHECK:
Attendance at our UK jalsa can be quite demanding on mothers, requiring military precision. First, there are the clothes to think about - something for hot weather, something for when it gets cold, and of course a change of clothes for when they may become sick or dirty or both! And if you are a tad obsessional like me, you pack backup clothes, because the change of clothes might get used up! Food and drink for the little soldiers is something else which requires thought. Whilst Jalsa food may be great for us, our little and/or fussy troops require extra sustenance. And then of course we need to pack something to keep them amused so that we can all sit quietly (as much as possible!) listening to the addresses. Now, multiply all of this planning two, three, four or more times!
Younger children also need to have some sort of identification on them which usually takes the form of a label giving parental details, unceremoniously safety-pinned to their shirts or dresses, in a location where they can’t be removed by inquisitive little fingers! Go for their backs, ladies! Thankfully children rarely get lost at Hadeeqatul Mehdi and on those rare occasions when they do, the organisers are superb – it is as if that one lost child is everyone’s lost child.
When you get to Jalsa, perhaps having sat through multiple traffic jams on the way, pushchairs have to be manoeuvred to the Jalsa gah. Hadeeqatul Mehdi is a farm and there are none of the paved walkways of the US or Germany Jalsa. On the positive side, this is a good time to start that resistance training you always meant to do after the baby was born. Finally you find somewhere to sit and in-between trips to the toilet, or the food stalls, you try to listen to the Jalsa addresses. Yes, of course you packed healthy snacks for them, but that won’t compare well against those offerings from the bazaar! All of this is repeated for the 3 days of Jalsa and by the end, we either feel ready to take on the world, or exhausted!
So why do we put ourselves through this? With the advent of MTA , mothers in the UK can enjoy the proceedings in the comfort of their homes can’t they ? What do our children learn from coming along to Jalsa? After all even the brightest under-fives are unlikely to appreciate the subtleties of the content of the Jalsa addresses?
We go because our children learn through our example. They see our patience as we stand in line for food or the toilets. They hear us trying to make light of our attempts to push those prams across the fields. They see us greet friends and guests at the Jalsa. From our faces they behold the rapt attention, and reverence that we hold our beloved Khalifa in as he speaks. They hear our love for him bursting across the jasla gah through all those spontaneous ‘narays’ that our African sisters perform so affectionately . And they see our tears as we bow our heads down in prostration during the international baait. None of this can be fully captured on television. This is the learning that moulds young characters and prepares them for the time when they can sit and appreciate the wealth of academic and spiritual knowledge being imparted during these blessed days.
There was only one year I didn’t go to jalsa – my youngest was born the week that the jalsa was held. There were no clothes to fret about or food to pack. There were no prams to push, or games to be selected. We all sat around the TV in the comfort of our home, eating, watching, glued to everything that was happening. But deep down in my soul, something just wasn’t the same.
Are you a mother attending the Jalsa? What drives you to bring your children to this blessed event? Let us know in the comments below.