Imam Siraj Wahaj was one of many speakers at the ICNA-MAS conference. Photo credit: Zaid Nakadar.
By Zaid Nakadar
BALTIMORE – On this past Memorial Day weekend, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) held its 40th annual ICNA-MAS Convention. The convention took place from Saturday, May 23rd to Monday, May 25th, in the city of Baltimore. Thousands of people attended the conference, whose theme was “Muhammad: Peace and Blessings be Upon Him.”
There were many notable scholars, over 130 in fact, in attendance at the conference, from across the United States and the world, such as Naeem Baig, Mazen Mokhtar, Shaykh Yasir Birjas, Imam Suhaib Webb, Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda, Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed, Dr. Mokhtar Maghraoui and Shaykh Abdool Rahman Khan. A few of the key speakers included Nouman Ali Khan, who is the founder of the Bayyinah Quranic Arabic Program based in Dallas, Shaykh Omar Suleiman, noted scholar from New Orleans, and the ever famous Imam Siraj Wahhaj from Masjid Taqwa, in Brooklyn, New York.
All the lectures given were connected to the Prophet Muhammed, whether they are related to the demeanor of the blessed Prophet or what he taught to all Muslims. A few vivid connections made by the scholars included the lectures on human pursuits and the Sahabah, both by Nouman Ali Khan.
Nouman Ali Khan, in his lecture about human pursuits, described different pursuits that human beings undertake in their everyday lives, and how they are at differing levels of difficulty to achieve. It is mentioned that the Declaration of Independence guarantees all men the unalienable right of the “Pursuit of Happiness,” but Khan stated that “Happiness” is the lowest of all pursuits, as it is the most temperamental. He works his way up to the Pursuit of Truth, which is the highest pursuit as it was the one followed by all the prophets, including the last Messenger, Muhammad. Khan discussed the Sahabah of the Prophet, as those who were the most pious, in the Keynote Session, using a single ayah of the Quran, Surah Al-Fath, Ayah 29.
The overall feeling at the convention seemed very exuberant. One convention attendee from Santa Clara, California exclaimed, “This is one of the best conferences I have been to in the past few years. The theme is very impactful, and there is a lot to learn from these global scholars. I honestly can’t wait for the next lecture to begin!” Another attendee from Richmond, Virginia said that the convention really allowed him to “connect with other Muslims” and “learn from the very best.”
As much as people very interested in the lectures of the scholars, just as many people could be seen roaming around the Bazaar, looking for a good deal on Islamic apparel, household decorations, and everything in between. Booths such as TDI Wood Carvings from Chicago sold custom hand-made Arabic calligraphy wooden carvings that ranged from tens to thousands of dollars. Other booths, such as Zeena and Elegant sold chic Islamically appropriate apparel for women and men, respectively.
ICNA is a grassroots Muslim organizations in North America with many projects, programs, and activities designed to help in reforming society at large. Founded in 1968 in order to provide Muslims living in America the opportunity to become more involved in their religion in both theological and sociopolitical aspects, ICNA has developed greatly over the past 46 years. Starting off with only a few families at the first conference, the 40th conference had a turnout of over 20,000 people who came to learn more about the religion and how to better themselves and the societies around them.
ICNA has many branches, which were all represented at the conference. ICNA Relief and Helping Hand, ICNA’s social services, sponsored the conference. ICNA Relief USA is a multicultural human development and community building organization. The purpose of the organization is to address the basic human and social service needs of the underserved communities with in the United States. As a vision and value-led organization, ICNA operates under the principle that all people are created equal and when given the tools, will thrive and bring about change in their own lives and the lives of their communities. ICNA’s mission is to promote justice through creating opportunities with young people and families to lead healthy and productive lives.
Another key division of ICNA is the Young Muslims (YM) division, whose sessions were attended by those who were both young in body and young at heart. The YM Division, for both YM Brothers and YM Sisters, had to do with issues that were around during the Prophet’s time and those which are still relevant today in our society. The lectures enlightened the younger generations on the steps and path they should take to become successful Muslims in the United States.
All in all, this year’s convention in Baltimore was another success on ICNA’s part, as they were able to control the flow of the convention even though there was a very high turnout.