I have been fortunate to have attended many wonderful events over the past few years which have been graced by Hazur‐Aqdas. Nonetheless it is my honest belief that 27 June 2012 will be remembered as a truly historic day for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat.
It was the day that Hazur‐Aqdas made an historic address in the Gold Room of Capitol Hill entitled:
Due to many reasons it is a day that I, and those who were present, will surely never forget.
Well in advance of Hazur’s tour Amjad Khan, the National Umur‐e‐Kharija Secretary, contacted me and sought my advice on a number of issues regarding the event.
One major issue was the type of event the Jamaat should hold. Should it be in a hotel with very local guests or should it be held at the offices of a think tank where academics could attend?
Another alternative he mentioned was to hold it at Capitol Hill. Although this sounded appealing he admitted that it was a very risky idea because it was extremely difficult to get politicians to attend such functions for more than ten or fifteen minutes.
A further question Amjad raised was what type of audience should be invited.
I have learnt over the past few years to seek Hazur’s guidance wherever possible. Sometimes you may expect or even hope for one thing but Hazur may give instructions or guidance that is different to what you were anticipating. Yet invariably in the long run it has always been proven that Hazur’s guidance has born the most fruit and led to great success.
Thus when Amjad asked me those questions I took them to Hazur to seek his guidance. Immediately Hazur said that they could hold the event wherever they pleased but that they should strive to invite a true cross‐section of society, including politicians, academics, diplomats, think tanks etc. I relayed this back to Amjad and thereafter he and his team truly worked towards fulfilling Hazur’s directives, Masha’Allah.
Despite all of their hard work until the very last moment Amjad and his team were concerned about multiple issues. There were issues of security checking, there were concerns that a number of politicians may at the last minute choose not attend, there were issues of some who said they could only attend for a few minutes and many other matters that were causing anxiety.
I myself was very worried because such a high profile event was being held in the USA for the very first time and there was this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that God forbid something happens during the event not in keeping with the honour and dignity of Khilafat.
On 27 June 2012 Hazur’s Qafila left Baitur Rahman at 8.30am and headed towards Washington DC. I was sat at the back of a 7‐seater and our car was directly behind Hazur’s car.
Apart from our driver, also in our car were Private Secretary Munir Javed Sahib, Abdul Majid Tahir Sahib, Mirza Waqas Ahmad Sahib and Sakawat Bajwa Sahib.
All the way to Capitol Hill I could feel a tension amongst all of us. We were all very quiet, with hardly a single word being spoken throughout the 45minute journey.
For example, the USA Jamaat had been informed very strictly by the Capitol Hill protocol officers that only Hazur‐Aqdas would be exempt from security checking. They said it was an absolute rule that nobody could enter Capitol Hill without going through full scanning and security.
We were all prepared for this and had even brought our passports along as an extra form of identification but when we arrived the security people just waved us through and we were all able to enter without any obstruction or delay. It was truly unbelievable.
I have since been told that just a few months previously the Dalai Lama visited Capitol Hill and he was made to go through the full security procedure, yet due to the blessings of Khilafat we were all able to walk through without any checking.
Hazur‐Aqdas was immediately guided to a small office where he was greeted by Senator Robert Casey and Congressman Bradley Sherman with Congressman Michael Honda joining after a few moments.
I was stood at the side of the room and it was fascinating to observe the respect and reverence with which Hazur‐Aqdas was received by the American politicians.
On the other hand, despite the fact that it was Hazur’s first ever visit to Capitol Hill he controlled the conversation in the most exemplary and dignified manner. Hazur‐Aqdas asked them questions and answered some of theirs with serenity and calm.
After about fifteen minutes the initial meeting concluded and Hazur was then escorted to the Gold Room where the main event was to take place.
As we entered, I saw that the room was completely packed to the brim, to the extent that some guests were left standing on the sides. When Hazur entered all those who were seated spontaneously rose to their feet as a mark of respect.
Hazur was led to the main table where he was seated with members of Congress and other dignitaries.
The rest of the room was also filled with dignitaries from various sectors of society. In all there were 30 members of Congress, members of the diplomatic corps, human rights leaders and university academics. Also in attendance were, representatives from religious communities, think tanks and the media.
I was told afterwards that at least 119 high level guests attended and that many more would have come but for the lack of space.
Whoever I met spoke with great shock at the number of members of Congress who attended. They all said that for such functions it was virtually impossible to get more than eight or nine members of Congress and even then they only came for ten or fifteen minutes. Yet for the event graced by Hazur‐Aqdas there were 30, the vast majority of whom stayed for the entire event which lasted for more than one hour.
Perhaps the most high profile of the non‐Ahmadi guests at the event was the current Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who until a few months previously was Speaker of the House and thus occupied the highest political office of any woman in the history of the United States.
Over the past few years I had seen her on TV often and so I was looking forward to hearing her speak. She came across as friendly and warm and her speech was well written.
She spoke of her respect for Hazur‐Aqdas. She called him a leader of ‘wisdom and compassion’. She also said that despite the persecution faced by the Jamaat:
“His Holiness has refused to turn to bitterness or vengeance.”
When I heard her speak this line I was pleased because it proved that the peaceful and loving message of Khalifa‐tul Masih had reached the highest echelons of the United States Government. This particular line also got widespread media coverage in the American press and media..
It was clear to me that seeing and listening to Hazur‐Aqdas had a positive effect on Nancy Pelosi. I looked directly towards her a number of times during Hazur’s speech and you could see she was genuinely listening with intent. Indeed a few days later, whilst Hazur‐Aqdas was in Harrisburg for the Jalsa Salana, a handwritten letter was received from her by Hazur in which she spoke about her pleasure at meeting him. In the letter she spoke frankly about the blessings she felt she had received from meeting with Hazur.
There were many other guests speakers at the event who all spoke with admiration for the Jamaat and for Hazur‐Aqdas.
Listening to her it was clear that she had a real passion for human rights and religious freedom. It was also clear that she had a good understanding of the persecution faced by the Jamaat and that she felt real sympathy.
It was her comments about Hazur that pleased me the most. Her respect was apparent as she said:
“I have to say that there is a particular sense of blessing that seems to rest on this brimming room today and I am sure that that’s due in part to the wonderful spirit of goodwill, the warm hearts and sense of optimism and love of the participants. But, Your Holiness, it is undoubtedly a reflection of the blessing that you bring to this Capitol. And so we are honoured and so grateful to have you here.”
After the various guest speeches at around 10.30am Hazur‐Aqdas took to the podium to address the audience. As he stood the audience once again stood together in unison as a mark of respect.
It was clear that there was a deep sense of interest and curiosity in the audience about what Hazur‐Aqdas would say.
I am sure many of them will have heard the words of Muslim leaders or authorities in the past but they will never have had the opportunity to listen to the words of a Muslim leader who could genuinely claim to represent his entire Community globally.
Hazur’s address was truly inspiring. It was a narration of real Islamic teachings based purely on the Holy Qur’an.
Whilst others may have been overawed by the audience and the setting, Hazur‐Aqdas spoke with surety and confidence about the beauty of Islam.
As I listened to Hazur’s words I was reminded of the meeting he had held the previous day at Baitur Rahman with a number of military chaplains and how Hazur had said that he did not feel nervous because he knew that whatever he would say was based on the true teachings of the Holy Qur’an.
The confidence Hazur had in the Holy Qur’an was such that no place on earth could, God forbid, overawe him because he knew that his weapon, the Divine Word, was All Powerful and Universal.
At the very beginning Hazur clearly informed the audience about what his primary source was. Hazur said:
“Everything that I will say in relation to establishing peace and in relation to conducting just international relations, will be based on Qur’anic teachings.”
Without any fear Hazur‐Aqdas spoke of the failure of international organisations such as the ‘League of Nations’ and in terms of the modern day Hazur spoke of the inequality that existed at the United Nations.
He said that some countries were given preferential treatment, but that the Qur’an and the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) both taught that all men and all women were born equal and nationality was a means of recognition rather than a means of superiority.
Hazur‐Aqdas spoke about how rich and powerful nations were exploiting the weak and deprived nations of the world and preventing them from progressing. He said that this was not only unjust but was leading to negative reaction from those who were oppressed and so naturally the peace of the world was disturbed as resentment took hold.
He said that rich nations often dealt with corrupt leaders so long as their own interests were observed. All of this was leading to a lack of trust.
Towards the end of his speech, Hazur summarised the means for peace. Hazur said:
“Islam has drawn our attention to the means for peace: It requires absolute justice. It requires truthful testimony to always be given. It requires that our glances are not cast enviously in the direction of the wealth of others. And it requires that the developed nations, put aside their own vested interests, and instead help and serve the less developed and poorer nations with a truly selfless attitude and spirit. If all of these factors are observed then true peace will be established.”
Hazur concluded his speech by challenging the leaders of the USA to act. Hazur said:
“And so the United States, as the world’s largest power, should play its role in acting with true justice and with such good intentions as I have described. If it does so then the world will always remember with great admiration your great efforts. It is my prayer that this hope becomes a reality.”
As Hazur concluded the entire audience rose to their feet once again. I cannot remember seeing or hearing of any other function where a person was given three separate standing ovations within the space of an hour.
Certainly I am sure that a Muslim leader will never have been given such respect at Capitol Hill before as Hazur‐Aqdas was afforded on that day.
Thereafter, Hazur met with some of the guests but due to time constraints many were left unable to meet. I was later informed that after hearing Hazur’s words many had felt a keen desire to meet with him personally and were disappointed that they were unable to do so.
Many of the dignitaries commented about how impressed they were with Hazur’s countenance and his address.
Only Allah knows if the effect on all of them will be long lasting or merely temporary, but I am personally quite sure that amongst the 120 or so guests there must have been some who would seriously contemplate upon the importance of Hazur’s message.