Alhamdulillah, the 38th Annual ICNA-MAS Convention, held in Hartford, CT over the Memorial Day weekend, was a huge success! The theme of this year’s convention was “Islam: The Pursuit of Happiness.” This year’s convention focused on the core driving force in every human’s life – The quest for true happiness. All praise is due to Allah, the Most High, who gave us the opportunity to make this convention possible. We also thank the Connecticut Convention Center and the City of Hartford for hosting us. The President of ICNA, Naeem Baig, said, “We thank Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, for such a wonderful event. And, we also thank our speakers and scholars, our attendees, vendors and volunteers all of whom made this convention a memorable event.”
About 18,000 people attended the convention. Attendees came from 37 states, and among those, roughly 35 percent were youth. Over 78 percent of the participants attended all three days. Close to 14,000 unique viewers watched the convention programming by live webcast. Keynote and entertainment sessions on Sunday drew the most viewers. Attendees survey revealed that majority of convention delegates are multi-lingual and spoke over 40 languages representing almost entire Muslim world.
An Environment of Camaraderie and Fellowship
As in past years, attendees were excited about the opportunity to learn, to meet friends old and new, and to be in the company of brothers and sisters of diverse backgrounds from all over the country. The feelings of camaraderie and fellowship were palpable as attendees listened to inspiring speakers, enjoyed halal meals or snacks from the many stands set up throughout the facility, or browsed through the extensive bazaar.
Varied and Issue-Specific Programming
The convention featured 95 sessions that were designed to address the needs of all age groups and both genders, along with those of varying ethnic, professional, and educational backgrounds. There were 11 main sessions, 10 youth sessions, and 74 parallel sessions. The parallel sessions addressed topics such as marriage, family, and parenting issues, self-development, Muslim role models, reverts, and much more. New additions this year were Islamic Art and Arabic Language sessions.
Diverse Speakers and Field Experts
As always, a very diverse pool of speakers addressed this year’s convention, including leading scholars, academics, imams, and community activists. Among the 111 who gave presentations were Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Sh. Mokhtar Maghraoui, Sh. Yasir Qadhi, Nouman Ali Khan, Sh. Yusuf Islahi, Dr. Jamal Badawi, Imam Zaid Shakir, Sh. Yaser Birjas, Imam Suhaib Webb, Sh. Abdul Nasir Jangda, Wisam Sharieff, and Fr. John Crossin.
ICNA speakers who were showcased at the convention included Sh. Abdool Rahman Khan, Sh. Mokhtar Maghraoui, Dr. Zahid Bukhari, Imam Hafiz Zafeer, Imam Omer Sulieman, Dr. Irfan Khan, Dr. Khurshid Khan, Dr. Mohammad Yunus, Dr. Abaid Choudry, Jane Aslam, Javaid Siddiqi, Malika Rushdan, Dr. Zahid Bukhari, Hafiz Inyatullah, Sr. Sumara Khan, Sr. Farhana Matin, Dr. Mohsin Ansari, Sr. Saadia Yunus, Waqas Ahmad, Yasir Ali, Dr. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Nahela Morales and Qasim Mazhar
Leaders of other national Islamic organizations were present. There were also family experts, community activists and leaders, interfaith leaders, entertainers, and sports celebrities who spoke and contributed to the diverse experience for all who attended. We thank all of our speakers, the majority of whom covered their own logistical expenses.
The eleven main sessions at this year’s convention spoke to the theme which included the following topics: the trends in society, materialism and consumerism, social justice, and secrets of true happiness. The Keynote Session discussed faith as the source of true happiness, distinction between fun and happiness, and the moment of ultimate happiness.
ICNA Shariah Council
Saturday afternoon’s main session included a Q&A with the ICNA Shariah Council, featuring scholars from diverse backgrounds. The session was dedicated to answering any questions that the audience had.
Deen Intensives and Classes
The convention hosts a myriad of sessions in which field experts cover numerous aspects of a topic in a short period of time. This year, as last year, the program committee also catered to those who were interested in longer intensive classes for in-depth study of a particular topic. Sessions that were three-plus-hours long were held on the following topics:
- Intensive: The Seekers of Sustenance
- Understanding and Achieving Happiness
- The Gift of Merciful Love; Love me by / for the Love of Allah
- I CAN Learn Arabic! and Learn Quran in 48 Hours
Civil Rights Series
ICNA Council for Social Justice hosted attorneys and activists from various fields for brief presentations and Q&A. The topics included:
- Guilty of Being Muslim
- Preemptive Prosecution: Prison with No Crime
- Informants? How and Why do they do this?
There was also a screening of an award winning documentary “The Test of Freedom” showing how US Muslims live out their faith and confront discrimination facing growing hysteria and bias
The matrimonial volunteer team assisted the match-making process throughout the convention. An office was set up to provide courteous service and a quiet setting for the application process. All applicants were then invited for a special session on Sunday night to have face-to-face meetings in the presence of their guardians and ICNA representatives. Additional sessions were held on Saturday night in which topics were discussed related to the spouse-selection process and getting married. The sessions were very well attended and went late into the night.
Youth Conference: The Seekers: A Quest for Hope
Thousands of youth made this summer unforgettable by starting it off at the Youth Conference 2013, a Young Muslims (YM) hosted event running parallel to the annual ICNA convention. They rejuvenated minds, bodies, and souls with dynamic speakers, intensive workshops, basketball tournaments, Qiraat competitions and entertainment sessions. The main sessions hosted by the Youth Conference were as follows:
- The Valley of Despair
- The Trail of Repentance
- Where Are We Headed: Trends in Society
- Crossroads of Hope: Journey to an American Muslim Identity
- The Peak of Serenity
Programming for Children by MCNA
MCNA held programs in children featuring reptile show, drumming sessions, arts & crafts, face painting, story telling, self-esteem workshops, group activities and motivational talks by youth. Alhamdulillah, activities were well received.
Midnight Basketball for Male Youth
Once again boys and young men were all marching at midnight towards the basketball courts set up by YM on Sunday night. This event is very popular among youth, young presenters, and some of the speakers whose hearts are particularly attuned to the young people. The basketball tournament runs from midnight to Fajr prayers.
Fun and Games by Camali for the Kids
Camali, the loveable Muslim character, was again a huge hit among children and parents. This year, mountain climbing and bungee jumping were the main attractions, packed with children at all times. Camali hosted shows at regular intervals and also performed a play in the main hall on Sunday. The attendance was impressive.
First Ever Mobile App for Convention
This year ICNA launched the first ever web app for iPhone and Android. The app which was downloaded by about 2700 people, allowed for people to watch the live stream, view the program including parallel programs, hotel information and accommodations, food menus, flight information, and much more.
Window to Islam
“A Window to Islam,” a diverse interactive gathering, provided an opportunity for people of all faiths and backgrounds to discuss a range of issues pertaining to Islam in America. This was a full-day program that featured informative sessions, extensive Q&A rounds, a dinner and time for socializing. This event featured the following sessions:
- Quran in the Scientific Revolution
- Modernity, Secularism and Islam
The prime objective of this session was to break stereotypes and provide the attendees with the opportunity to ask questions they may have and to interact with Muslims in a friendly and engaging atmosphere. One of the convention attendees accepted Islam and took his shahadah publicly during an entertainment session.
There was a convivial spirit in the air at the bazaar which featured roughly 300 booths. Beautiful and uplifting recitations of the Qur’an resonated from the audio/visual booths. Everyone enjoyed the wide variety of books, CDs and DVDs, gifts, and artwork. And the women also had much to see as they browsed through booths featuring hijabs, jilbabs, jewelry, scarves, and healthcare products. Many of ICNA departments had a strong showing on the bazaar floor, allowing the people to become more familiar with ICNA’s diverse services and projects. Businesses, as well as relief, dawah, and educational non-profit organizations also had a good presence.
Community Recognition Luncheon
This invitation-only luncheon was held on Sunday at noon. The event was attended by 200 distinguished guests. It featured an award presentation to following individuals:
- Imam Zaid Shakir
Life Time Achievement Award
- Professor Jimmy Jones
Community Service Award
- Michael Costelli (General Manager, Hartford Convention Center)
Appreciation of Service Award
A competition was held for boys and girls on Sunday. Participants between the ages of eight and sixteen were divided into three categories and competed in two rounds.
Interfaith Dinner Session
The convention hosted an interfaith dinner on Sunday. Local leadership from all major faith groups was represented. Close to 125 individuals participated in this event. Interfaith leaders spoke in two main sessions as well. A special parallel session for Newtown Interfaith Panel Discussion on the Newtown Interfaith Experience was held on Saturday.
And the Survey Says…
- Masha Allah, 93.4% were satisfied with the convention while 3.3% were not.
- As for convention publicity, 42.2% heard about the convention via email, 32.2% via website, and 15.9% via social media. Confirming ICNA’s massive grassroots presence, close to 30% also heard about the convention from an ICNA volunteer.
- 79.4% attended the convention for its effective programs. 21.6% treated the convention as their family vacation. 58.3% appreciated the Isalmic environment. 25.9% enjoyed shopping in the bazaar.
- While main sessions, youth programs and parallel sessions were attended by everyone, 16.6% attended a non-English session as well.
- Food choices was the most complained-about issue.
- Sharing Some Comments and Feedback
- Alhamdullilah! 🙂
- Absolutely wonderful! My family and I look forward to it every year!
- Definately need a bigger place for this type of convention.
- I would like a more healthy food options like fruits and vegetables.
- Please arrange one room for mothers to attend to their babies.
- Very well organized but very hard to find hotel rooms.
The annual convention, as always, is a huge undertaking. The task becomes even more daunting when performed by volunteers. These dedicated individuals work day and night to make sure that the convention delivers on promises made to participants. May Allah SWT reward them all for their sincere efforts, and forgive any shortcomings. May He make this a reason for all to be saved from Hellfire, and entered into Jannah. Ameen.
We invite all of you to be part of this dynamic team of volunteers. Join ICNA and the convention team to serve the cause of Islam. To volunteer, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also invite you to share your photos, blogs, and constructive criticism to further enhance this effort, insha’Allah. See you all next year!