By: Zakia Ahmad
“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.” This year’s Youth Conference centered around this verse of Surah Nur and explored various aspects of crises in faith. The theme, “Hearts of Glass: Shadows of Doubt” had immense relevance because many youth feel their faith fluctuate over time, sometimes falling so low as to hit rock bottom.
The conference highlighted the causes of these faith crises, provided solutions to overcome over them, or even avert them all together, and most importantly, instilled in the participants the motivation to become closer to our Lord.
The conference began with a workshop, “A Vessel in Distress”, with Dr. Altaf Hussain and Sh. Saad Tasleem. Establishing the foundation for understanding the faith crisis, Dr. Altaf started by explaining iman and then delving into how a crisis arises if one’s belief is incomplete or incorrect. Sh. Saad explained the crisis as waves of faith, where it can fluctuate between highs and lows. To elucidate his point, he narrated the story of Hanzalah radhiyallahu anhu, Allah be pleased with him, who labeled himself a hypocrite due to his waves of faith. The Prophet (pbuh) explained that iman does rise and fall, and we incessantly must struggle to increase our faith. This first workshop of the conference imparted the lesson that in order to improve our iman we must not demean ourselves. We must internalize knowledge and and remain humble with it.
The first main session of the conference, “Emerging from Darkness”, began with Sh. Abdul Nasir Jangda explaining the purpose of our creation – to worship Allah and only Him. Building on this, Sh. Hamza Tzortzis expanded on several of Allah’s attributes, including al-Wadud, the loving; al-Hakeem, the all-wise; and al-Haqq, the absolute truth. To conclude this session, Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan provided a detailed linguistic explanation of the term “Rabb”.
Br. Qasim Mazhar began the second session, “Hearts of Glass”, with the story of Barseesa, a righteous individual led astray slowly and subtly by Shaytaan. He emphasized the importance of always asking Allah for guidance on the straight path. Sh. Omar Suleiman then discussed the nature of the heart and signs of hypocrisy. He was succeeded by Imam Wisam Sharieff who addressed the presence of doubt in faith. He said, “Allah is absolute, Allah is all-knowing. Your doubt is answered by Allah.”
The third session, “Here or Hereafter”, started with a discussion about the importance of the Qur’an and its countless benefits by Dr. Farhan Abdul Azeez. Sh. YaserBirjas then directed the audience to reflect over the perfection of the creation of Allah and noted that recognition of Allah’s perfection would compel faith. Lastly, Imam Siraj Wahhaj reminded the attendees to fear Allah because this inspires us to improve ourselves.
Sister Yasmin Mogahed, Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan, and Dr. Altaf Hussain concluded the Youth Conference in the session, “The Bearer of Light”. Sister Yasmin reminded us that we should not deprive ourselves of the remembrance of Allah, and to protect our hearts from exposure to potential threats. Ustadh Nouman explained how Allah’s light is everything. It illuminates our hearts and allows us to reflect. Our light is our iman and it shines in the darkest of times.
This year’s Youth Conference was an enlightening experience and an excellent learning opportunity. All the sessions, workshops, and, my personal favorite, secret sessions were practical and relatable. This year’s theme hit hard because many youth experience faith crises and this conference addressed the issue and suggested solutions. “Hearts of Glass: Shadows of Doubt” was a well organized conference with excellent programming. It provided hope for a problem that many face and equipped them with the know-how to triumph with faith.