By Maria Luevanos
Attending the MAS California convention, whose theme was “One Ummah, One Brotherhood, One Pulse” was an uplifting experience. My family and I have been attending Islamic conventions on and off for more than 20 years. It always saddens me to leave after spending several days among many Muslim brothers and sisters. It really gives you a sense of belonging and pride.
The convention brings Muslims together to seek knowledge, better their communities and themselves. There were lectures and programs for all ages. I was very glad to see many improvements in the overall organization of the convention such as the children’s programs, which included exceptionally professional staff preparing and delivering excellent activities for the children of all ages. The lecture content was well organized and started on a timely fashion and addressed current and contemporary issues in our society. It was amazing how things have improved in terms of people taking turns and lining up, especially during meal times (something that years ago was a major issue with lots of pushing and shoving). Knowledgeable speakers were invited to attend, such as Suhaib Webb, Imam Zaid Shakir and various other well known speakers and Imams.
The lectures were not only about religious matters. The topics discussed encompassed the problems and challenges facing Muslims in our society. There were discussion groups, panel discussions and interactive lectures for Muslims to share their challenges and accomplishments. Some of the topics discussed were: Raising children in this society, Building your own business, Brotherhood across cultural lines, Addressing Islamophobia, Youth empowerment, Physical health and well-being as well as lectures geared towards the youth.
There was even a lecture addressing depression, anxiety, drugs, addiction, domestic violence and suicide. A psychiatrist and two psychologists gave this lecture and discussed stereotypes regarding mental issues, such as “Muslims don’t get depression”. Also, there was a lecture about foster homes for Muslim children given by a sister who volunteers in this area even though she is a CFO in the private sector. Imam’s Suhaib Webb and Jamal Diwan spoke about the do’s and dont’s of Facebook and what limits you should have and how to use it to benefit your Muslim brothers and sisters.
Besides having excellent lectures, there were Tahajjud prayers everyday before Fajr followed by heart softening duas and of course an outstanding Jumma speech about the unity of the Ummah.
Although I wasn’t able to attend most of the lectures due to the demands of my 3 year old, the little that I was able to hear was quite impressive. Let me start by giving you a brief summary of one of the lectures. A husband and wife who are active in their California community with issues of family matters gave this particular lecture. Their names are Imam Suhail Mulla and Sr. Lobna Mulla. They discussed the importance of always taking a positive approach when dealing with our children no matter what age. We should parent each child as an individual according to his or her personality and needs. Always keep in mind a child’s self-esteem and building it up to make them into confident adults. Best of all was “always be available to listen to your children.”
They mentioned the importance of keeping in mind that we cannot parent/raise our children the same way our parents raised us because every generation is different. They discussed the importance of modesty and getting our children used to this at an early age. They encouraged parents to “raise children with Islamic values and ethics to develop strong Islamic identities and decrease rebellion.” Of course we are human and we should not give up when we become stressed or overwhelmed with the demands of parenting. We should look at what we are doing wrong and try to improve and of course always seek any kind of assistance necessary, whether it be in the form of counseling or support from other parents. And best of all always make dua.
The convention ended with a fun entertainment session for everyone. There was a very entertaining skit put together by a group of youth. There were several talented singers as well, including a new group, The Sound of Reason, from Canada. And of course best of all, Maher Zain, from Sweden who sings amazing songs.
After attending such an event, I have to admit that it saddens me to come back to my community where we are so behind in Islamic programs and activities. However, it was impressive to see Muslims of all ages volunteering for this event. May Allah reward their hard work and dedication and may our community one day flourish and become a truly active Islamic center that can serve the needs of the new generation. Ameen.