By Farkhunda Ali
Muslim Link Staff Writer
More than 650 Muslim women attended the weekend-long 24th annual conference titled “Building Passion Reviving Our Deen” held on April 7-8 at the Turf Valley Resort in Ellicott City, Maryland. The two-day retreat was sponsored by the Women’s Committee of Masjid As-Saffat in Baltimore, Maryland.
The committee was formed in 1974 to mobilize Muslim women to be able to help their Muslim sisters in matters of domestic abuse, social services, Islamic education, and Islamic upbringing of the Muslim children. The committee’s goals are to foster growth of Islamic education for Muslim women and youth and to facilitate the public awareness of Islamic beliefs and practices.
“This is a dawah conference. It is all about letting the sisters know that you will get the blessings of Allah from staying in the religion of Islam. We base everything on the Quran and the Sunnah. We work 24-7 in our community,” said Beverly Rushdan, member of the Women’s Committee.
Rushdan told the Muslim Link the conference drew Muslim women from Trinidad, Canada, WA, NY, NJ, PA, CA, and the DC Metropolitan Area. The committee worked all-year long mobilizing Muslim women from all over the United States to attend this all weekend conference, which includes three catered meals, keynote speakers, workshops, vending, spa services, and an indoor pool reserved for all-women swimming party.
“Since I was fifteen, I’ve been coming to this conference. I come for the sisterhood to interact with sisters from different states and for the motivational lectures. It is an opportunity for me to enjoy myself. Over the years, this conference has advanced to a big-scale gathering,” said Takiya Lyles, wife of the secretary of the CCMO.
“I think it is a much needed conference. The speeches and workshops always help my Islamic spirit. This event gives me a spark of Islamic unity. I’ve been bringing my children, and grandchildren here for the last twelve years,” said Amina A. Haqq, resident of Queens, New York and the public relations specialist of the Muslim Women’s Alliance (MWA).
The primary objective of the event was to raise funds for the “Halimah Mujahid Scholarship,” which grants funds towards college or university education to Muslim children who completed home schooling or an Islamic high school in Maryland. The scholarship was named after of one of the late members of the Women’s Committee who became a victim of domestic violence.
The scholarship was designed to provide Muslim children with an opportunity to receive grants to further their education. The Women’s Committee believes that some Muslim students are not able to fully benefit from the government subsidized federal aid programs because they did graduate from public schools. Therefore, this scholarship is an alternative means of supporting Muslim youth completing Islamic education.
“This scholarship is our way of showing our Muslim children that we recognize their struggles in the Islamic schools and we are behind them in supporting the advancement in their education,” said members of Women’s Committee.
The conference also provided a one-time opportunity for Muslim women to leave their every-day responsibilities and de-stress from their daily routine. The event provided an avenue for Muslim women to receive massage and aroma therapy in a privately reserved hotel room by a Muslim woman.
The vendors sold Islamic clothing, books, essential imported oils, naturally-manufactured hygiene and beauty products, antique jewelry, Islamic painting and artwork, herbal medicine and essential vitamins for women, and Islamic CD’s.
The keynote speakers spoke on the importance of revitalizing Islamic identity through constant prayer, giving of charity, service to the community, proper nourishment of children and accepting the decree of Allah in all affairs of life.
“We just have to memorize the right dua for everything to make everything as part of your worship as long as you remember Allah while doing it,” said Khadijah Bilal, wife of Attorney Melvin Bilal of Baltimore.
The event made awareness of a Muslim woman’s obligation as a mother, wife, sister, and a community leader. During the smaller workshop sessions, many Muslim women felt comfortable to discussing personal problems. While some sisters crowded the hallway networking with Muslims business owners, some gave extended hugs to see long-time lost friends.
The even drew a diverse group of Muslim women, ranging from African, African-American, Caucasian, Southeast Asian, Middle East, and Latin-American. Their Islamic clothing styles and the use of different colors displayed the diversity and the beauty in modest clothing.
“We find that many people go back feeling renewed,” said Zakia Amin, member of the Women’s Committee.
“I love it. I get rejuvenated in my deen every time I come. I buy things for myself that I normally can’t find in the shopping malls. I love the workshop sessions,” said Safiya H. Griggs, resident of Winston Salem, North Carolina, who has been attending the conference for the last twenty years.
The event location also contributed to the great turnout. The resort is surrounded by all-green landscape. From the window of the hotel room on the top floor, one can sense tranquility by seeing the freshly bloomed flowers lined parallel to the hills. The sunshine beams directly into the room once the shades are removed. The spacious suites can easily accommodate 3-4 women in one room. The resort provides a sauna, indoor poor, and entertainment room with pool table, arcade, and board games, escorts, dry cleaning, and 24-hour front desk service.
“Sisters like to come here because it is the best location for us to relax and, mingle, and enjoy ourselves in an Islamic environment. I am here to show my support for sisters in my community, establish a bridge from Baltimore to Virginia, to DC,” said Asma Hanif, a Baltimore resident, and chair-person of the Coordination Council of Muslim Organizations (CCMO).
The most important advantage for out-of-state visitors was the convenience of being minutes away from Baltimore city. Each day, at the end of the festivities, women got together in vans to visit the Baltimore Harbor and dine in the famous seafood restaurant as the waterfront.
“Alhamdulillah, it has been a great event. I don’t’ know of any other gathering or a program designed by Muslim women for Muslim women that draws this many people,” said Jamilah Garner, member of the Women’s Committee.