With a timely topic and much needed theme, the 2017 Women's Committee of Masjid Saffat Conference (WCMAS) took place on April 14-16, 2017 in Hunt Valley, Md. The Committee chose a theme for their 34th conference that should be on the minds of every Muslim everyday, every hour: the hereafter. Since this life is a preparation for the life to come, the sisters did an excellent job of reminding us of that very clear fact --Jannah or Jahanam, these are our only choices and what we do to achieve either one is the great trial that every Muslim faces.
The sisters really wowed the audience this year with the efficient and organized manner in which they presented the conference. The conference, which is usually held every year on Easter weekend, is attended by 700-750 sisters from all over the United States. This year they were a little short of attendance with approximately 600 women, due to the ICNA conference being held the same weekend in Baltimore, MD. After 34 years of consistent diligence and perseverance to provide a quality program, this year's conference was a testament to the saying, that all good things improve with age.
WCMAS continued practice of requiring sisters from the committee to conduct each workshop and provide the keynote addresses is most impressive. Occasionally, there is a guest keynote speaker, as there was this year- famed international author Umm Zakiyyah. But usually the sisters take on that responsibility themselves. It is a strategy that fosters scholarship among themselves and it also encourages them to be responsible for imparting the dawah to every sister who attends the conference. They do the research and they rely on the knowledge of the well-known scholars to educate themselves as well as the other sisters attending the conference. Such commitment to education propels the sisters in the Junior Women's Committee to follow by example. The Junior Sisters Committee has a parallel conference simultaneously while WCMAS is convening.
This year there were ten sessions and two keynote addresses. A vibrant bazaar bring 60 vendors selling everything a Muslim woman could hope for, catering to the African American culture, which is sometimes missing at other conventions. Private swimming, Friday and Saturday night, and entertainment on Saturday night provided by some of our very talented sisters made the weekend a fun as well as a spiritual retreat.
The first keynote address on Friday night was presented by Sister Hafiza Abdur Rahman. The title, The Reality of the Hellfire, was delivered Hafiza style with passion and fire. The audience were made to see the realities of the hellfire through her proofs from Quran and Sunnah. Hafiza said that Allah is "scaring us straight". It was a presentation that the audience won't soon forget. A Saturday morning presentation, Is Your Elevator Going Up or Down, given by Sister Jamilah Garner, was very interactive and focused on Paradise and Hell. Her presentation was divided into four parts, Do You Really Believe, Seeking Allah's pleasure, Jannah or Jahannam, and Is Your Elevator Going Up or Down. Under each part were sub-topics with ayats from Quran and Hadith giving listeners proofs and many reminders about our responsibility to Allah ta 'Ala, to the Prophet, to ourselves, our families, and the Muslim ummah. Like Sister Jamila said, most of what she was sharing was nothing new to most of the audience, but the reminders were invaluable.
The next session on Saturday morning was Saving Ourselves and Our Families From the Fire, presented by Sister Maisha Muhammad. Again, this was a very interactive session. There was a great deal of participation from the sisters at the prompting of Sr Maisha. The focus was Surah Rahman and shared our perspectives and understanding of what Allah was imparting to us in the Surah and how that Surah could be used to realistically protect ourselves and our families from the fire. Sr Maisha concluded that it is about educating ourselves and our children.
Another Saturday afternoon by Sister Hawa Kareem, from Newark, New Jersey, a mortician and a licensed funeral home director who owns her own mortuary practice, was enlightening. She gave a informative presentation on preparing for death. She covered the will, washing and shrouding the body (with a demonstration), the janazah, and the burial. She also, talked about the blessings and rewards for preparing our sisters and brothers for the meeting with Allah ta 'Ala. Taking care of the deceased is Fard Kafiyah for the Muslim ummah, she could not emphasize this point enough.
Lastly, on Sunday morning the audience were rewarded by a very powerful lecture given by Sister Umm Zakiyah, a well-known national and international author of a number of books, essays, and blogs. As an activist she also strives to make us aware of the various relationship issues plaguing the Muslim ummah within families and among the general Muslim population. Her session was titled, What Will Be Your Reality. She said that Allah ta 'Ala, has instructed the believers to have patience and to have hope that on the Day of Judgement we will be saved, even when we are weak, iman (faith) may save us on the Day of Judgement. She explained the very famous hadith about the man who committed 99 murders and at the end he did one good deed that ultimately saved him from the fire. We can't know how Allah ta 'Ala will choose to judge us, but perhaps with faith and sincerity, diligence and khushoo in salat we will meet Allah ta 'Ala's standards and be forgiven and granted paradise.
Seeing old friends and attending these sessions were the highlights of the conference experience this year for the writer and for other attendees. "I'm a regular, I attend the conference every year. It's a time for me to interact and socialize with my sisters and to have a good time learning and having fun. I look forward to this every year," Asakia Abdul Barr stated.
"I have not attended the conference in a long time, but I am very happy that I came. I've seen friends that I haven't seen for a long time and I benefitted from being here, it has helped me a lot," Sumayya Lane said.
One sister came to the conference from as far away as Alaska, another came from California; one sister took her Shahadah, and one sister even got married on Saturday evening.
As is customary at WCMAS conferences, the intention is to educate, to give dawah, and to give back to the community through sadaqah provided by the conference participants. Scholarships were awarded to deserving students who have graduated from an Islamic high school, money was raised for the Masjid Saffat building fund, and other organizations are given sadaqah as well.
With prayers and farewells, the sisters departed looking forward to reuniting in 2018.
For more information about WCMAS, or to make a donation, go to www.wcmas.org