With the Grace of Allah, after a journey lasting around seven and a half hours, the flight safely arrived at Dulles airport.
I was slightly nervous about Huzoor’s arrival. Ever since the 9/11 attacks, travelling to the United States has been a source of anxiety for countless Muslims around the world. Many have told stories of how they were held up for a long period of time by US immigration authorities or stopped for ‘random’ checks.
The risk of something going wrong this time seemed far greater, as the United States was passing through a Presidency that had sought to implement a so-called ‘Muslim travel ban’ as one of its early flagship policies.
However, I have always seen that Allah the Almighty protects the honour and dignity of Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya and certainly, Huzoor’s arrival in the United States was a manifestation of the Grace of Allah.
It was the third time I had travelled to the United States as a member of Huzoor’s Qafila and, by a distance, the way in which Huzoor and Khala Saboohi were received was far more respectful than on the previous visits.
The US State Department had approved full state diplomatic courtesies and protocol to be given to Huzoor throughout his visit to the United States.
Thus, immediately after stepping off the plane, Huzoor was greeted by Sahibzada Mirza Maghfoor Ahmad sahib, National Ameer Jamaat USA and a representative of the State Department, who escorted Huzoor and Khala Saboohi to a private immigration lounge via a short journey on a ‘mobile lounge’.
In the immigration lounge, the Qafila members, except for Huzoor and Khala Saboohi, were called one by one to have their passports checked by an immigration officer.
During this period, the State Department official and an airport official remained with Huzoor. It was their official duty to remain with the Qafila until everything was clear.
At the same time, Huzoor made it clear that he did not personally desire or require such protocol.
Speaking to the State Department official, Huzoor said:
“It is quite late already and I do not wish for you to be delayed and so if you need to leave please feel free. I do not wish to burden you.”
The State Department official seemed surprised by Huzoor’s offer. Perhaps, it was the first time that an official guest had offered her the chance to leave early!
In reply, she said:
“Your Holiness, we are here for you until the very end and it is our pleasure to be here.”
As the immigration process continued, Huzoor noticed that Ameer Sahib USA remained standing respectfully to one side.
Very affectionately, Huzoor said to Ameer Sahib that he should take a seat with them and it was only then that Ameer Sahib did sit down.
Some people may have presumed that, as Huzoor’s elder brother, Ameer Sahib USA would be more relaxed or informal with Huzoor. Yet, if anything, the levels of respect and deference he displayed towards Khilafat were higher than many other senior office bearers of the Jamaat I had seen.
Huzoor continued his discussion with the State Department official and enquired about the weather in the United States. Upon this, Ameer Sahib USA mentioned that it was expected to be 72 degrees Fahrenheit in Houston where Huzoor was to travel in a few days.
In reply, Huzoor said:
“I don’t know Fahrenheit as I am used to Celsius!”
As quick as I could, I converted the figure from Fahrenheit to Celsius on my phone but before I had obtained the correct figure, Huzoor said:
“I have checked, 72 Fahrenheit is about 22 degrees Celsius.”
The State Department official asked Huzoor if he planned to take any time for sightseeing or tourism.
Huzoor smiled and said:
“The schedule with my community is such that there will probably not be any free time for sightseeing on this trip.”
Upon this, Ameer Sahib USA said:
“At least 4,000 people have submitted requests to meet Huzoor personally during this tour.”
Visibly surprised, the official present on behalf of Dulles airport said:
Huzoor laughed and said:
“Actually, in the past in one tour I met 6,000 people personally.”
The State Department official suggested Huzoor visit Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
She described the park in detail and mentioned the different colours of nature on display and mentioned that she had been to the park the day before.
Hearing this, Huzoor said:
“I was thinking that you were describing the park very vividly and now I understand that it is because your memories are very fresh as you only went yesterday!”