IlmSummit: I came, I saw .. I Can’t Believe its Over – Part 1

Was IlmSummit truly one of the most historic academic events in the history of the development of Islam in North America? What was all the hype about? What was taught and learned?

Though it’s only been a few days since IlmSummit concluded I wanted to give the readers here a feel of what it was like, as I truly do believe it was am important event for Islamic academics in the West in the sense that we are on the road to formal and upper-level Islamic study.

I also wanted this to serve as my own personal ‘testimonial’ for the seminar, and what I benefited from it in hopes that it will motivate others to attend the future IlmSummits and also give those who couldn’t attend an inside glimpse. If you’re reading this and you were of the 140 or so that attended, then I hope that this may serve to rekindle some of the wonderful memories of the time there.

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This post will give a brief overview of IlmSummit, who was there, some memorable moments, and of course, the class content, along with some concluding remarks of what I hope is in store for the future.

So what exactly is this whole IlmSummit thing?

A 16 day intense Islamic seminar covering multiple subjects, with the cream of the crop AlMaghrib students. Entrance was by application, and the criteria for admission included the number of AlMaghrib classes taken with exam scores, amount of Quran memorized, and community activity. People with different backgrounds and qualifications were there, even some students who had not taken AlMaghrib seminars (or only taken 1 or 2). In any case, attendance here was purely from the blessings of Allah (swt) to simply allow someone to come be in that environment and attempt to learn whatever they could.

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IlmSummit is an attempt to give students a solid academic exposure to basic issues, and issues relevant to their daily lives as Western Muslims. Some of the material builds upon information from other seminars, and some of the material is completely new.

It was a 2.5 week intensive, with a full schedule from 845am to after 10pm, with the regular breaks in between, and no extended lunch or dinner. Even on days where I rushed to eat and get back to my room and just go straight to bed to catch a lunchtime nap, I was barely able to catch 30 minutes.

Who was there?

The instructor team was the best. Shaykh Yasir Qadhi and Yaser Birjas were both onsite the whole time, and Sh. Waleed Basyouni also moved in. Sh. Isam Rajab (Arees Institute), also came by for a number of sessions, Dr. Jonathan Brown came to teach hadith, and we had appearances from Imams Hasan Khalil and AbdulNasir Jangda (Dallas), Zoubeir Bouchiki (Houston), Nouman Ali Khan (Bayyinah) and other speakers for WildCard sessions.

Interacting with all the teachers was one of the biggest highlights of IlmSummit. For some, it was the first time seeing the more ‘human’ side of them, and hearing them joke and interacting with them casually (usually playing ping-pong).

The student body was a great assembly of people. We had brothers who were reciting aqeedah poems by ibn Taymiyyah from memory, Arab brothers singing Junaid Jamshed nasheeds by heart, a number of huffadh, brothers self-taught in Arabic, guys who sounded like BBC Radio when they spoke, expert level ping-pong players, a whole crew of people from AlHuda in Toronto (I think they were all related somehow – I saw the family tree), and many others. It was refreshing to be around people for 2 weeks who all took this program so seriously. If someone missed a session, someone else was there with notes before they even had to ask. When I normally take a class, it is easy to get a seat in the front, but IlmSummit was a constant struggle to barely get in the 2nd or 3rd row. You saw people studying during the breaks despite an almost 14 hour schedule. Even in the lobbies late at night you saw people sitting in groups and studying.

Memorable Moments With the Shuyookh

There’s too many to list here, but I will try.

The moment that I felt encapsulated the entire program was also one of the best moments of the entire program. It happened in the first few nights. Sh. Waleed was scheduled to give a WildCard session on the life of Shaykh Bin Baz (rh). This was one unforgettable night. The dinner delivery was delayed, so we sat around from 7 til almost 930 not doing anything but waiting. Right at 920 or so the dinner came, but they had him go ahead and start the talk due to Isha salah time getting close. Since it was the beginning, everyone was still getting used to the schedule and the long talks about hardships in the path of knowledge were still fresh on our minds. Isha was scheduled for 10, and Sh. Waleed indicated he was going to end very quickly around that time. But then, he got into it, telling story after story about the life of Bin Baz. It was nearly 1130 or midnight when he finished and we finally prayed and then ate but i don’t think a single person complained (though I don’t think my wife believed me when I kept replying to her text messages by saying we were still in class) or even thought about the food. I think at one point in the talk he even said for people to go get food and eat during the class, but not a single person got up, as if no one wanted to miss a single second of his talk. All this of course, on top of the content of the actual talk. The quote that summed it up best is that after one sees the life of Bin Baz, its like he was not even a man of our times, but someone who was from the earlier generations of Islam.

I’ll also never forget the Arabic alphabet song by Sh. Yaser Birjas. Alhamdulillah, I still remember one version. And of course, Br. Atif (with his unique style of dress) singing the alphabet nasheed, and giving the brothers pink balloons to toss around. This was an activity where you wrote something on a piece of paper (an action or question) and put it in a balloon and blew it up. Then after tossing around balloons, everyone popped their balloons and we went around and people had to answer the question or do what was written inside. I put “kiss Yasir Qadhi on the forehead” in my balloon, but alas, whoever got that balloon didn’t volunteer :)

Jokes aside, I think all the students grew in their respect for our teachers, and we caught a glimpse of what it means to accompany someone to learn their adab. In between sessions, during lunch/dinner, and even into the night – all the instructors made themselves available to the brothers and sisters to continue answering questions and talking to them. I remember one night coming down to the lobby around 130am to use my phone and I saw an unusually large group of brothers sitting around, and then I saw that Sh. Waleed was hanging out, talking, and still answering questions. And I’m certain that long nights due to dealing with student issues were not uncommon for our shuyookh. They, in fact, made it the motto of IlmSummit that “no question will go unanswered.”

The teachers were quick to lay down the rules of respect and interaction. When the brothers started making one too many jokes about the sisters, Sh. Yaser gave a heartwarming reminder that got everyone back on the same page. One of the main things we learned though, was to respect the knowledge, and know the focus of our attendance.

I miss the stories from our shuyookh about studying with their shuyookh. Sh. Yaser Birjas shared so many stories with us about his time with Ibn Uthaymeen (rh). I’ll never forget the story that was accompanied with the audio recording from his talk (insha’Allah I will leave that story to him to share :) ). Sh. Yasir Qadhi shared many stories with us too, the one that affected me most was some of his interactions with one of the scholars in Saudi Arabia and his humbleness and dedication in the face of attacks against him.

It was also interesting to see Sh. Isam, who many of us have not had the pleasure of taking formal classes with. I’m sure that many of the brothers have gone home to find Nooniyyah by Ibn al-Qayyim [download] after his tafseer of Surah Naba’. I also don’t think anyone will forget Sh. Zoubeir and the inevitable tangent when he took off his glasses, or the Sunan of the Wajibaat of the Preconditions of the Sunan of Wudu ;)

I won’t forget seeing the instructors coming and attending each others classes and asking questions – especially in Hanafi Fiqh (I don’t think there was any instructor under as much of a microscope coming in!). Seriously, seeing them doing that helped reinforce that all of us, no matter what stage we are in, are students and that we need to learn whenever and wherever we can benefit.

It was almost embarassing how much the instructors were all bending over backwards to host us. We are the ones who are supposed to travel to sit with them and learn, yet they were the ones accomodating the students. I’ll never forget Sh. Waleed taking out the brother for lasagna, and even offering up his own house if anyone needed help with anything. And I don’t know how to even begin enumerating everything that our 2 onsite instructors Sh. “Yasir with an ‘I’ and Yaser with an ‘E'” did to help the students, showing us by example the true spirit of brotherhood.

I will always remember Dr. Jonathan Brown (West meets East) coming dressed like his picture deserved to be in this post. I also won’t forget the sisters asking him to turn on the mic between sessions so they could hear the answers while he was talking to the brothers, and him responding, “they can come stand here, its a free country.”

The activity that tied all the instructors together with their students though, was the new archery (ping-pong). It seems every single teacher was a ping-pong savant. From Sh. Waleed with his Cereal Killer shirt, Sh. Yaser Birjas holding up his thobe for mobility, and Sh. Yasir Qadhi diving all over the floor with moves reminiscent of the Matrix, to Sh. Isam not answering questions in class from Brother Afif without making a comment about their upcoming ping-pong game during the break.

And who can forget Sh. Isam trying to get Haytham married? Or Yaser Birjas’ halal jokes about people in salah? Or Yasir Qadhi’s impeccable Brittish accent? Or Bollywood movies being brought up during the Juma session? Or the poetry face off?

I’ll always remember the conversation I had with Yasir Qadhi about the hallmark of manhood (the beard) and how it is marred by feminity, while discussing which brand of beard conditioner can make our beards the softest (more on this in a future post insha’Allah) :)

Sh. Yaser Birjas taught us the ultimate event mixing fun and learning with the Qira’ah game after Isha salah, and Sh. Yasir Qadhi showed his soft side for us desis while making intercession for a brother to not be kicked out after pronouncing a ‘th’ sound as ‘s’. The game really works though, once you get eliminated for a mistake, you won’t make that mistake again while reciting :)

I will forever appreciate the efforts of every single teacher we had during this event, and their constant striving to help us learn and benefit, may Allah (swt) grant them tawfeeq and put barakah in their efforts, and allow them to be pillars of light in our communities, and grant them and their families success in this life and the Hereafter.

The most moving gem though from our time with the instructors was being put to tears in salah. I vividly remember Isha that night and hearing (I believe) Surah Insaan, although the Imam didn’t finish reciting it. After salah you could hardly spot a dry eye anywhere. We pray 5 times a day, and we rarely remember any of them, but this is one Isha that will forever be engrained in our hearts and minds.

Part 2 – Student memories and what we learned…

Related Posts: Everything on IlmSummit

30 / View Comments

30 responses to “IlmSummit: I came, I saw .. I Can’t Believe its Over – Part 1”

  1. Haytham says:

    maaan.. subhan Allah… i just cant let go of this memory as of yet… sigh…

  2. Zuhair says:

    Jazakumullahu khair…

    One of my favorite gems was from Br. Mehdi’s farewell speech: “These are our scholars, they make us laugh during the classes and put us to tears during our salaah”

    May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala bless our teachers, forgive them of their sins, and grant them jannatul firdous.

  3. SaqibSaab says:

    IlmSummit just sounds awesome, mA. May it grow and grow year in and out.

  4. Asad S. says:

    AA,
    IlmSummit makes me want to take 50 Al-Maghrib courses…and write 50 exams just so I can get a chance to go…

    …Now all we need is 50 Almaghrib courses during the year :D.

  5. MR says:

    So when is the next one?

  6. Ibn Qays says:

    You forgot to mention Nouman Ali Khan in the instructors – his session left everyone astounded and was my personal favorite!

  7. ibnabeeomar says:

    he’s coming in part 2 inshallah, but i did go back and add to this post too :)

  8. Mustafa says:

    Saqib,

    I saw IbnAbeeOmar, and his mannerisms and demeanor so much reminded me of you that I had to ask if he was related to a Saqib in Chicago. Imagine my surprise when he tells me no, but he does work with him on a website, and when asking further I found out he’s IbnAbeeOmar of MuslimMatters! But seriously, you were missed.

  9. Abu Ninja says:

    I would LOVE to hear Shaikh Waleeds talk on the life of Shaikh Ibn Baaz (raheemaullah).

    Anyone kind enough to upload it for MM readers?

    Please tell me someone recorded it!!

  10. zfnd says:

    ibnabeeomar,

    Jazakallakhair for taking the time to write such a candid article. I always appreciate your efforts to blog your experiences in a timely fashion!

    This is one of the first accounts that truly revealed the depth and impact of the IlmSummit experience, mashallah.

    Without this, we could have all been lat risk thinking it was ping-pong matches, accent battles, and poetry slams :)

  11. Hassan says:

    ibnabeeomar, which scholars gave fiqh of tahara of different madhabs? Sh Waleed was telling me that you guys had 4 days of hanafi fiqh, then shafi for 4 days, then maliki for 4 days, and then hanbali for 4 days, and then comparative. I know for sure Sh Waleed did the comparative, who taught rest?

  12. Hassan says:

    Abu Ninja said:

    I would LOVE to hear Shaikh Waleeds talk on the life of Shaikh Ibn Baaz (raheemaullah).

    Anyone kind enough to upload it for MM readers?

    Please tell me someone recorded it!!

    You know I have heard Sh Waleed talk on the life of Ibn Baaz (RA) atleast 2 (if not 3, I am forgetting) times in different settings. One was I guess at TDC, one in Arlington, TX mini conference. Yet its always fun and inspiring.

  13. Hassan says:

    BTW, for past 2 years Sh Waleed has been spending entire Ramadan in Houston, leading traweeh and fajar in his base masjid, plus doing A’itikaf in last 10 days there. I would ask what it looks like this ramadan. The reason I am telling is that, if someone wants to come and learn from him, this would be good time. Last ramadan, he read to/with us (few students) the summary of the summary of Ahya-ul-Uloom. I forgot the authors, I am sure Ahya-ul-Uloom is by Imam Gazali (RA) and one of the person doing summary was Ibn Qudamah Al Maqdisi. He did it after fajar whole month almost (he was sick few days). And in last 10 days when he was doing A’itakaf, he did quite a few books with Dr. Ali Shehata, he can perhaps tell you more about it, I remember one of the book was realted to athkaar, very good one, and I think one was perhaps Hanbali fiqh book (not sure on it).

    So insha’Allah I would ask Shiekh if he is planning to do same routine, then may be brothers (or sisters?) would want to do a’itakaf with him this ramadan.

  14. So when is the next one?

    I believe it’s supposed to be an annual thing inshaAllah.

    Alhamdulillaah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala gave me to opportunity to volunteer at IlmSummit and thus catch a glimpse of the circles of knowledge on a nightly basis… even the few glimpses I was able to catch were amazing and I miss it so much already, subhanAllah. InshaAllah, 7 years of seniority down the line, when I will, inshaAllah, have a spike in # of vacation days given to me by my employer :) I hope to attend a future IlmSummit in its entirety :)

  15. Ilmsummiter says:

    JazakAllahu khairan brother, for that awesome testimonial or essay!

    Nicely written, cant wait till the next part is up inshAllah.

  16. ibnabeeomar says:

    it was actually 2 sessions or so for each madhhab (ie about 2 hours)
    Sh Yaser Birjas – Shafiee
    Sh Yaser Qadhi – Hanbali
    Sh Nasir Jangda – Hanafi
    Sh Zoubeir Bouchiki – Maaliki

    comparative fiqh was taught by sh waleed, sh isam, and sh yasir.

  17. Brother Noor says:

    SubhanAllah.. that was a fantasitc read.. cant wait for more. why.. cos it was put so well.. keep it up..

    inshAllah may we all have the oppertunity to reunite next year..

  18. Harun says:

    Sounds good mashaAllah. I wanted to ask though, why did they spend so long teaching the fiqh of different madhabs? Did this cause confusion to those who do not follow a Madhab?

  19. IbnAbbas says:

    sounds fantastic! did you guys record any class? plz plz plz upload it somewhere or put it up on sale.

    yaa dear shayyokhs, please bring it to London next year!!!

  20. AnonyMouse says:

    I feel as though I missed out on one of the greatest treasures on the earth :(
    May Allah help us all in seeking knowledge, and make us worthy of that knowledge, and help us in implementing it, ameen!

  21. Fatima says:

    Brother Harun: Salaamu ‘alaikum.
    I speak for myself when I say, learning the Fiqh of all four Madhhaib was a rich experience which made me less confused than I previously was.
    It increased me in tolerance and understanding, as well as in respect for the four Imaams, and made me realise that there are some issues we just have to learn to disagree on, with good etiquette, and move forward from. In fact I realised that there are issues we can break our heads over until Yawm Al-Qiyaamah, but we will never really know who is right and who is wrong, and this realisation, rather than being confusing, was actually liberating.

    Also, growing up in a community which is Hanafi, I was supposedly taught Hanafi fiqh – but at Ilm Summit, when Imaam Nasir taught us Hanafi fiqh, I learnt that perhaps I was never really taught Hanafi fiqh in the first place.

    And finally since we learnt that it’s usually the case that whilst something may be Fardh in one Madhhab, it is considered to be Sunnah in the Madhhab – so I thought to myself, why not err on the side of caution? (i.e. I’m not going to be sinful for doing an extra Sunnah).

    In sha Allah, maybe other attendees have more to add.

    wassalaam
    Fatima.

  22. Yasmine Gharib says:

    Brings back good memories…..
    JazakumAlahukhiar

  23. Harun says:

    Sister Fatima: Jazakillahkhair for you comments. It does sound like it was quite beneficial. I think it is important that Muslims do understand each others Madhabs whatever they may or may not be. A lot of people don’t realise that sometimes there is more than one valid opinion for a certain thing and that all opinions should therefore be respected. Muslims should not be divided over these small issues of fiqh and should work together. InshaAllah I hope more of these conferences can encourage that

  24. abu dawood says:

    Salaam

    Is it possible to get the notes from this summit and this material, that we may benefit? Please let us know where you will publish it.

  25. Hidaya says:

    Reminder: we are looking fwd to part 2 =)

  26. Hidaya says:

    Part 2?????? After Ramadhan?

  27. ibnabeeomar says:

    coming…soon inshallah. but dont worry, we’ll have 2 more ilmsummit posts instead of one inshallah

  28. Halima says:

    Mashallah so many memories, it feels like were there all over again
    May Allah swt reunite us all together again in ilmsummit 2009 Ameen!!
    looking forward to Part 2 inshallah….

  29. Asma says:

    I am new to this. Could someone please tell me where is this IlmSummit held? And how does one apply for it?
    jazakAllah.

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