Sold out crowd (1,700+ in attendance) packs into the DC Convention Center from 10am to learn about The Hereafter. Photo courtesy of DC Hidayah
Over 1,700 Muslims experienced a journey through the Hereafter, Saturday, June 23, 2012, at Washington’s newest and finest conference – DC Hidayah, an annual youth-organized mega event, which centered on the theme “The Last Day.”
Held at the Washington Convention Center, the one-day conference was packed with both attendees and knowledge from across the region. Attendance jumped two-fold from last year and the program featured nine 40-minute lectures by locals such as Darussalam’s Imam Safi Khan and Sheikh Karim Abu Zaid and national speakers such as newly appointed Al-Maghrib instructor Sheikh Saad Tasleem and Sheikh Omar Suleiman of Louisana.
“When you meet Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala on the Day of Judgment, you want it to be a reunion – not an introduction. It begins here.” Suleiman said.
This is DC Hidayah’s third conference since a handful of youth pioneered the project in 2010.
Sheikh Saad Tasleem of Washington set the stage with a discussion on the minor signs of the Day of Judgment, followed closely by Dr. Abdurrahman Hegazy who tackled the major signs. The remaining speaker line-up transported the audience from the Barzakh to the resurrection to the arrival of Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala. Sheikh Shakiel Humayun from New York’s Foundation for Knowledge and Development covered the Siraat. The presentations concluded with moving, vivid descriptions of Jannah and Jahannam.
“We chose this theme due to its particular relevance this year in 2012 as there has been much talk about the end of times featured in popular culture,” DC Hidayah’s Ameer Farooq Yousuf, an engineer of Sterling, Virginia said. “It is more importantly one of the pillars of faith, so it raises our ‘eeman as we prepare for our next life.”
The halls’ setting complemented this quest for knowledge – over a dozen rows of rectangle tables and chairs lined the hall in classroom formation, one of the conference’s many unique features.
It also featured a sold-out bazaar with over 40 vendors such as Al-Mujalbaba and the MiskShoppe from as far as New Jersey; it had a small showcase of community art, a kids’ fair, and babysitting.
“The environment was really motivating, especially the fact that the programs ran out within the first few hours and the seats soon after,” Rahma Zakaria, a tenth grade Al-Huda School student and DC Hidayah volunteer said, “As the hadith goes, whoever treads a path in search of knowledge, Allah will make easy for him the path to Jannah.”
Organizers attributed this year’s success to an earlier push in marketing – as early as late 2011 - the attraction of popular speakers that for the first time flew in from across the nation, aggressive social media pushes, and the attraction of a one-day conference as opposed to a two-day one, Yousuf said.
This “hype” of this year’s event also began weeks before attendees checked in at Washington’s second largest building, Creative Director, Arif Kabir, a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, said. Speakers toured area masajid the day before the event. DC Hidayah and the non-profit charity foundation Muslims Without Borders also had a basketball tournament a few weeks before the conference.
Despite its growth in the last year, DC Hidayah has no immediate plans to branch out, likely remaining at the heart of the nation, Yousuf said.
But its organizers – a crew of over 70 volunteers and an executive board of many youth – will remain at the heart of this conference and future projects to come. “If anything, youth realize you can do so much at a young age,” Operations Co-manager, Omar Abbasi, a student at the University of Maryland, College Park who has been a part of the conference since its inception, said.
The conference has also popped the bubble between masajid across the greater Washington DC and Baltimore metro region – encouraging youth to explore new inter-masjid projects and increasing communication among the region’s approximately 50 Islamic organizations. “Youth are now setting up their own local conferences and have also received requests to share our best practices for people to start conferences in their own locale,” Kabir said. Recently, University of Maryland students organized the Islamic Finance Conference and ADAMS Center in Sterling, Virginia showcased its ADAMS Youth Conference.
“This is happening because we are reaching out to the talents of youth that have never been utilized,” Abbasi said. “Help youth find what they’re good at and allow them to enjoy themselves at the same time. It [brings] many friends in one place, at the same time.”
For more information on DC Hidayah visit www.DCHidayah.org . Recordings of the lectures will be up by March 1st, according to the website.
The DCH setup team took the entire day Friday setting up the beautiful stage and audio/projection system which was ready to go Saturday morning for the day's events.
Imam Safi Khan, of Dar-us-Salaam in College Park, MD, captivates the audience with his talk on Paradise. Photo by Zahin Hasan.
Dozens of Imam Okasha Kameny’s students arrived from Philadelphia all together on a bus.
The mega bazaar (80+ vendors) is busy with attendees browsing and shopping, reminiscent of a traditional marketplace in the old Muslim world.
After a morning of lectures attendees line-up for salah followed by lunch, shopping at the bazaar and hanging out with family and friends.
Learning can really stir up an appetite! Hungry students of knowledge wait in line for their turn to purchase meals.