By Haseeba Syed
Take a look around you—in front of you, behind you, to your left and to your right. All you see is a sea of people. They’re all doing the same thing as you. This is the feeling you get when you’re at the ICNA Convention, especially during prayer (although we shouldn’t be looking around in prayer!) You are surrounded by thousands of fellow Muslims that are all there for the same reason as you are, to gain more knowledge on Islam and to worship Allah (SWT).
Thousands of Muslims gathered in Hartford, CT over Memorial Day weekend for the 37th Annual ICNA-MAS Convention. The theme for this year was Defending Religious Freedom and Understanding Shariah. Highlights of the weekend included talks and discussions led by almost one hundred top scholars, a bazaar area with a couple hundred vendors, a career fair, programs for children, and matrimonial sessions. In addition, there was a full afternoon of parallel interfaith programs that promoted understanding and was open to people of all faiths. Topics for this program included stories of prophets in the Qur’an, God’s existence and authority, and the history of Islam in the US. Speakers chosen for this session were among the best and brightest.
Saturday night also featured a talk by Imam Omar Suleiman, who told a story of who his hero was, his mother. Before speaking, the Imam said it was going to be one of the hardest lectures of his life. This talk was especially moving because of the way he described his late mother, the emotion he put into the talk, and how much she meant to him. We all felt like we had met her by the end of his speech.
Another highlight was the entertainment session, featuring Nasheed artists Zain Bhikha and Ahmed Bukhatir, comedian Omar Regan, and other great performers. Zain Bhikha also had a smaller session specifically for youth about creative expression. This year the entertainment session, along with so many other sessions, were packed! There was only standing room in many sessions; people were sitting on the floor, standing outside the doors, trying to find a small place to stand or sit to hear the great speeches and watch the great entertainment. The parallel Youth Conference was so full that people were sitting on the floor in the prayer area right next to it. MashaAllah! It’s always great to see so many people interested in the speakers and their talks, especially younger people.
The bazaar was also almost always crowded, except during prayer time. Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr are starting soon, so many vendors took advantage of that fact and brought additional items. Attached to the bazaar area was a fun area for kids that included a bounce castle, a rock-climbing wall, and other rides. There was also a parallel program for them with other fun activities.
All in all, the ICNA Convention is truly a fun experience for the whole family. We look forward to the ICNA Convention all year, and then it goes by so quickly. But the memories stay with you for a long time to come. If you missed this year’s conference, sessions will be uploaded to www.youtube.com/icna. Don’t forget to like ICNA on Facebook for more updates on more ICNA activities like the convention, and follow ICNA on Twitter. InshaAllah next year will be even bigger and better. On to the next one!
Photography by Muhammad Tahir