For the last 15 years, I have been given the opportunity to be a Muavin in the Reserve 2 (UK Guests) marquee. This department is responsible for hospitality towards the guests of Jalsa, especially UK dignitaries such as Members of Parliament, Mayors, Councillors, civic leaders, and other dignitaries.
My earliest memories were when I was a young Tifl, washing pots and cutlery during the days when Jalsa was held in Islamabad. My duty was to fill a large bucket full of water and wash the dishes. As the years progressed I got to serve food to the guests and help out more in the kitchen.
My duty started many months before Jalsa, when we would send out invitations to guests to attend the event. I would spend long nights at Baitul Futuh Mosque packing invitation cards and updating our tracker on who was attending. It was during that period I would become familiar with the names of many guests, and so when they arrived at the Jalsa, I was able to match faces with names. Over the years, many of these guests have become regular attendees of our Jalsa.
There are countless examples I can recall when guests would be amazed at the peacefulness of the Jalsa and also many non-Muslim women guests went into the Ladies’ arena and commented on the multi-coloured clothes they saw and also how the segregation was far from oppressive, but empowering for the women.
Mayors and Mayoress on Jalsa Salana Tour
The duty before the Jalsa can sometimes be stressful when you have to make sure all invitations are sent out as well as organising for the logistics of so many guests arriving. Also, due to the limited mobile signal onsite, we normally have to make sure that we have a team stationed at the gates to receive our guests and guide them to the marquee.
Our preparation for the marquee typically begins on the Wednesday before the Jalsa. You can imagine the task when you are presented with an empty, large marquee that needs to be equipped with enough refreshments and seating arrangements for a large number of guests. Two days before Jalsa, the majority of the work entails filling up the marquee and making sure it looks neat and tidy.
Amongst one of the regular attendees to our marquee are the local police who provide their services throughout the Jalsa. They all love to attend the Jalsa as they say it’s the easiest job for them as there are never any issues they have to deal with.
Reserve 2 Marquee volunteers Left to right: Imran Chaudhry and Imran Dean
At the forefront of our minds is that all of the guests that attend the Jalsa are the guests of the Promised Messiah (as) and so it is our honour and pleasure to serve guests and explain to them the true essence of Islam. For many, it would have been the first time they have an opportunity to see the Jamaat in action and so it always brings us great satisfaction when guests depart the Jalsa Salana with brimming smiles on their faces due to the fact that the Jama’at is a peaceful community and a positive example of an organised and spiritual-religious community.
By Imran Dean
@imrandean via Instagram