46th annual Jalsa Salana conference kicks off in Bradford (2024)

More than 20,000 people registered for Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada’s three-day event celebrating spirituality, knowledge and harmony

A convention celebrating spirituality, knowledge and harmony between faiths is set to draw tens of thousands of people to Bradford this weekend.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at (AMJ) Canada officially kicked offthe start of the 46thannual Jalsa Salana conference at the Hadiqa Ahmad Ahmadiyya Muslim Community at 3078 Line 11 on Friday, for which more than 20,000 people had registered, and the festivities are set to continue on both Saturday and Sunday.

In an interview with BradfordToday, Lal Khan Malik, national president of AMJ, explained the annual event is intended to help guests learn more about Islam and how they can lead good lives through practising faith.

With this year’s theme being the Qur’an and the guidance it provides, Malik recommended anyone who wants to know more about Islam should attend the conference.

“They would be amazed to find how much guidance we have about day-to-day life in this holy book,” he said.

The conference is usually held indoors at the International Centre in Mississauga, and this is the first year that the full-scale event has been held in Bradford following a pilot event in 2022.

“We are very excited about it,” Malik said. “It’s a village that is set up, and it’s a lot of work, but it’s much more enjoyable.”

This year, the conference includes a main hall for presentations and prayers, a space for verbal and multimedia exhibits, a book store, dining hall, cafe, tea stall, the charity Humanity First, a peace fountain and a bazaar featuring vendors with clothing, jewelry, food, information and more.

While exact numbers are expected to be tallied and released after the three-day conference, organizers estimated hundreds of volunteers spent thousands of hours over several weeks preparing the site of about 41 hectares on the northeast corner of Sideroad 10 and Line 11, and erected more than 30 tents of various sizes.

One of those many tents was home to the Great Blind Taste Test, an interactive exhibit operated by The Review of Religions magazine, which challenged whether the fives senses can be trusted to perceive God.

During the test, participants were asked to wear a nose clip and blindfold before being handed a candy and asked to identify it based on one of five flavours.

Most fail, according to Sarmad Naveed, an imam with the magazine, and he said it shows our senses cannot always be trusted, but even if they could, they might not be right for the job.

“If we’re saying this ... is a spiritual being, then just like we would use our appropriate physical sense, we should use the appropriate spiritual sense,” he said. “Have you ever seen the actual force of love? No. But we all believe that love exists.”

Early in the afternoon, AMJ national vice-president Sohail Mubarak Sharma gave a speech about the importance of following the teachings of Allah, finding piety and reminded guests to adhere to “high morals” while visiting in Bradford, before leading hundreds in prayer.

Later in the day, Asif Khan, national director of public relations for AMJ, and Musleh Shandoor, an imam and missionary for AMJ with Palestinian descent, joined Malik for a Q&A panel discussion in which they denounced injustices in Gaza, after Israel officially declared war on Hamas on Oct. 8 and initiated strikes on Gaza following Hamas militants’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

“We need to pray for the plight of our Palestinian brothers and sisters,” Khan said. “They have lost their country, they have lost their infrastructure, they have lost their homes.”

Shandoor explained AMJ has also reached out to politicians to urge for a permanent ceasefire.

Representatives of international media also asked questions in variouslanguages including Urdu.

As they sky darkened and raindrops began to fall at 5 p.m., Malik and other AMJ officials raised both the Canadian and Liwa-e-Ahmadiyya flags near the peace fountain.

At 22, Chaundry Usman Ahmed of Vaughan said he’s been coming to the event every year and volunteering in different positions since childhood.

“Meeting new people and getting to help out is a great experience,” he said. “It’s been fun. The biggest part about it is that it’s fulfilling.”

Ahmed stressed the sense of community that comes from working together to make the event possible and getting to reunite with those he may not have seen since last year.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada is a non-profit charity organization and the Canadian branch of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama‘at, an international Islamic group, founded in 1889, which claims to be active in more than 200 countries, with membership exceeding tens of millions.

Due to increased traffic this weekend, the South Simcoe Police Service encouraged people to avoid the area of Sideroad 10 and Line 11 if possible.

46th annual Jalsa Salana conference kicks off in Bradford (2024)
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