This blog post is hard for me to write because I have so many mixed feeling about the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference itself. I wanted to be able to sort them out properly. I like to keep things positive on this blog, but my nature is to always stay real. I do not have a poker face, I wear my feelings on my sleeve. However, as I get older I am doing better in controlling my emotions and thinking about things objectively. It is hard to give an honest opinion when you want this conference to continue to grow and be successful. Although there are some things that I do question.
Let me start by saying that I have discovered I really am not the big conference type of person. I have never been to an ISNA conference, I have only been to an ICNA conference one time, so this experience was new to me. Reviving the Spirit had about to 20,000+ people and it was overwhelming for both Humble Dad and I. Our Beloveds, on the other hand, enjoyed it, they stayed with us the whole time never going to the childcare area and I had very minimum issues with them. I had to get up and walk around with Lil A one time, the other times she played and slept quietly in the row we were in. I think the RIS appeals to the younger generations and people who need alot of stimulation. With all the fancy cameras, beautiful lights, short talks, it really felt like going to the Academy Awards. It was sensationalized and my children ate it up, but me- not so much. I am trusting that most people do not have a personality like myself, most people are attracted to the glitter and gold, they love the sparkly stuff, like my Lil A. I know this because I have a very hard time finding kindred spirits in my personal life, so I am sure out in the big world of cyberspace those that read my blog are not much different. I want to say there is nothing wrong with enjoying these big conferences, I would much rather see our young people at an RIS conference than partying and drinking at a Dance Club. But I just want my readers to understand my biases.
|Lil A with one of the little friends we met.|
Organization I think RIS was well organized considering how many people. I had little problems checking in. The minor issue was the guy did not know what age was free, which happened to be 5 and under. So he sent us to pay for Lil A, but before we paid for her, he came running to us and said that he made a mistake just in the Nick of Time, Alhumdulilah. I have mixed feelings about paying for children to attend the conference. On one hand they are taking a seat, but on the other hand they are not really benefiting from the speakers until age nine or ten. The only way it is worth the money is if you send you child to childcare which only runs from a certain time to a certain time. For us it was hard to make it for childcare after staying up so late the night before to listen to the "Headliners".
The biggest issue we had with organization is not that it was too little, but that it was too much law enforcement. They require for you to show your wrist bands, so before you go down one flight of escalators you must show your wrist band, then again to go down a second flight of escalators, pretty redundant right. Then everytime you enter the Main Hall you must show your wristband to about 10 different women on your way in. And this is everytime you re-enter after using the bathroom, getting a bite to eat and some of the women were overbearing and borderline rude. I understand not wanting to loose money on people who sneak in, but treating your paid registrants like criminals and having an overabundant people at the door each asking to see a wristband is over kill.
Another rule that I liked is that you can not save seats which is a great rule. However, it becomes a little trivial when you are harassing someone about a seat they have saved for their husband that took their little one to the bathroom. Especially when you are trying to put one single sister in the family section. Why separate the sections "Sisters" "Family" and "Brothers", if all the single women are taking up spaces in the Family section, especially when the Sisters section has plenty of empty seats. Although the increasingly amount of single sister entering the family section did make me feel uncomfortable, I really appreciated the family section. We were never split up, we sat, slept, and played together along our row. Anyone who knows Humble Dad and I know that we are not shy about showing public affection. In fact at one Conference to end world hunger by Imam Zaid Shakir, some young Muslim girls yelled out the window at us "you are the Cutest Couple!" What was beautiful about the family section at RIS is we were not the only couples who were showing public affection. I captured an elderly Arab/Persian? couple in this picture.
Salat I loved the prayer area, it was very nice. Very huge with plenty of space to make prayer. Imam Zaid Shakir did the Jummah Khutbah on Friday and it was really good. My boys seemed to like making Salat with so many Muslims also. The only issue some people had was being able to have time to get to the Salat area due the crowd, but MashaAllah, they did recognize when they needed to open up more exits and they tried to address the issue at hand.
Shopping They had alot of wonderful booths, some with great prices, some with not so great prices- but they had great quality items. I am not much of a shopper, so again my opinions are not the best. I give you permission to laugh at me, honestly, I purchased mostly PRACTICAL items. I didn't come back with much of anything. For myself, I purchased two hijabs and a baking stencil. For my children, I purchased toys and books for Lil A, a spinning thing for Z Man, not sure if S Man received anything, but for Big A we bought a shirt and a hijab. I also bought these travel water istinja bottle for the home. I did buy a gift or two for friends as well, but no really serious shopping for me. We were on a budget. They did not have many food options inside the convention, but the convenience was very nice. There were an abundant of Halal food places near the convention center, so food was never a major issue for us. I don't think I would take a trip to RIS just for the shopping, but I did love the amount of choices of items they had to choose from.
The Talks (The Meat & Potatoes) There were some talks that I really enjoyed and others that I left out for. Then there were other talks in Arabic that I did not understand, but from the reaction of the audience, it must of been interesting. I am not big on 40 minutes lecturing and then you have no more contact with the teachers. I really want to have a consistent teacher that constantly works with me, guiding me along the way. This is a prayer of mine, May Allah grant this to me when He deems that I am ready. Ameen. I don't think the superstars of the Islamic World should take the place of having real life teachers. And superstar is no way written as a negative mark on the Scholars, it is the mass population of Muslims who give them this title. So who did I really like, I really enjoyed Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric of Bosnia and his talk on Islamic Caliphate.
I also enjoyed some of the other talks, but not as much as I enjoy our Seekers Guidance Circles that involves a circle of knowledge seekers or as much as I enjoy our weekly Halaqas with Imam Mikael. I think it is more effective to a have weekly revivals with a good scholar, than have a yearly revival with someone you have not developed a relationship with. One of the reasons that I wanted to originally go was to see Shaykh Hamza Yusuf speak, and he wasn't there due to family reasons. May Allah heal and bless his family. There are so many of his lectures and videos on the internet that you could watch something different each week out of the year and feel a connection to him. His last RIS talk where he just mentioned Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead generated a large response where people attempted to juice and was motivated to take responsibility with their health. This was from people who did not attend the conference, but watched the highly circulated video.
The Entertainment I am not a big Sami Yusuf fan, however, my children seemed to like him. Although Sami Yusuf was the headliner singer, I found more enjoyment at the Seekers Guidance booth with Nader Khan. The best entertainers was actually these little boys who won the amateur competition.
There was a sister who also won the amateur competition who did a spoken word piece "I am Islam." MashaAllah, she did a great job and although she was Arab, her style was very African American. Another example of how African- American culture has had a positive affect on the world.
The Comedian Azhar Usman did a really good piece about how we are all the same and how we should not hold grudges, especially against someone for what their great-grandfather did.
Many times we group all White people together or all African American together. Thinking all white people were slave traders, when the Irish and German Immigrants were historically not. Or all African-Americans were idol worshippers and came to America as heathens, when many of them were educated, Muslim, and more Civilized than their captors. He related this same hatred amongst the Whites & Browns for Colonization in India. He said that both sides need to understand that we are all the same and stop the hatred.This hatred is used to divide and conquer. Anyone who has read history will understand this.
The other comedian Mo Amer was pretty funny as well.
Winter Road Trip 2012 continues with:
Winter Road Trip 2012
Canadian Mosques & Halal Foods
Reviving the Islamic Spirit