By Omer Bin Abdullah
Al hamdu lillah, the in-person 59th ISNA Convention ended the two-year pandemic-imposed hiatus. The crowd, consisting of thousands of regular and first-time attendees, welcomed the chance to reconnect with friends, speakers and the bazaar.
CBS News (Sept. 3) reported that the “ISNA Convention in Rosemont [Convention Center] is the nation’s largest gathering and networking event for the Muslim community.”
There were learning opportunities, as well as times to relax and enjoy. However, as the speakers made clear, it’s time to rethink Muslim priorities in North America. The community is rich in professionals from medicine to law and from engineering to technology. And yet it lacks enough qualified professionals in the crucial areas that make up public communication. Young Muslims need to consider training and excelling in fields such as journalism, writing, audiovisual communications, and public speaking.
After all, we need to be skilled enough to converse on the same level of English fluency, knowledge of other faiths, debate and logic as our opponents. How else can we tell our own stories from our own minds and hearts, instead of leaving such efforts to others?
Rasheed Rabbi deserves full credit for compiling the convention report despite facing difficulties. The young Rabiyah Syed also deserves credit for her reporting.
Kiran Ansari, who has returned to the pages of Islamic Horizons after a long absence, offers an interesting sideline of the convention — comments from a few organizers and attendees on what they liked about their experience and what can be improved.
Islamic Horizons invited Khalid Iqbal, a longtime MSA/ISNA leader, to coordinate this issue’s cover story of volunteerism. Despite falling seriously ill, he inspired others to provide two articles. May God restore his health and reward him.
Volunteering, an essential but oft-forgotten aspect of charity, has become restricted to donating money to the mosque or an online Muslim charity. However, this noble endeavor has taken on a mechanical, almost sanitized, transactional nature that fosters no connection with fellow humans or society.
To experience volunteerism’s real spirit, Muslims need to remember that the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) encouraged Abu Dharr (‘alayhi rahmat) to love and live with the poor (“Musnad Ahmad,” vol. 5, pg. 159). When we spend time with the socially disadvantaged, we learn about their stories and sorrows, their happiness and hopes. In short, we humanize them and understand that “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
Reem Elghonimi, an author and academic, discusses the post-Roe v Wade situation, pointing out that while most Muslim Americans rightly support women’s reproductive rights, we must recognize a glaring omission in that narrative: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during childbirth Black women die from preventable conditions at three times the rate of white women and at a higher rate than any other ethnic or racial group (advocate.nyc.gov/reports/).
Monia Mazigh, the prize-winning Muslim Canadian writer and journalist, shows how Islamophobia is used as a political tool in Quebec, where Muslims and immigrants have become scapegoats in the province’s election cycles. Dr. Mohammad Abdullah, a retired USDA director, asks how organic the organic food for which we pay premium prices really is.
While we were finalizing this issue, the umma lost a most illustrious scholar, Yusuf al-Qaradawi. No one questions his status as one of the 20th century’s most influential Islamic scholars — some say the Renewer of Islam (al-mujaddid).
Last September, the umma bade farewell to another remarkable person, Syed Ali Geelani, who dedicated his life to upholding the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, after their right to the Kashmiris, after India brutally usurped their princely state on Oct. 26, 1947. They continue to be held in India’s genocidal grip.