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Blogging TDC (Texas Dawah Convention) 2008: Thoughts & Reflections I

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Greetings of salam from Houston, Texas, where the Texas Dawah’s eight and allegedly “final” convention is in full swing. Since my post is going to drag out a bit, let’s begin with a little motivational message from AbuAbdallah:

As salamu alaykum to all MM readers from TDC, the happiest place in America. :)

For me, the happiest place on earth would be Madinah.  But for this country, today, it’s TDC.  TDC is a state of mind, too, not just a place to attend a lecture or workshop, shop at the bazaar, or eat halal food.

Here’s a glimpse: alhamdolillah, the TDC hosts invited all the attendees and anyone in Houston to breakfast this morning, and I stumbled upon a huge group of people that spontaneously formed around shuyukh including Yasir Qadhi, Yaser Birjas, Ibrahim Dremali, and Muhammad Salah.

I have not seen the like since I gate-crashed Ilm Summit, and the difference here was that the crowd was just ordinary Muslims (as opposed to tested-students).  If each of us had been wearing a tshirt, it would probably have read “we love shuyukh!”

Where else could you have had a day like ours today… in America?

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As I entered the halls of Texas Dawah on Wednesday evening, I saw an enclave of Muslims, an enclave of brotherhood, and enclave of love and spirituality. As a “local” Houstonion still at heart, TDC was an opportunity for me to meet my friends of old as well as many Shayookh.

First step was registration. The registration process was efficient, no more bungling of years past with wrong name-tags and missing names.  Lines were relatively short and those who registered online were in and out in relatively short order.

Soon, I started meeting friends and acquaintances from the past, and was reminded of “Southern Muslim Hospitality” that is so characteristic of the Muslims of Houston. One has to have lived both in the South and the Northeast to truly feel this Southern spirit of hospitality, and to notice the difference between the regions. Don’t get me wrong, there are brothers and sisters to die for everywhere in the country, even in our Northern nook of the country. But at the “city-ummah-level”, among the masses, it is a spirit that is unique to the South, and specifically Houston. Some call it Hosnatility (from the AlMaghrib Qabeelah name), I just call it the H-town love!

And yes, I have had an opportunity to attend a few sessions since TDC began. But lectures are only part of the experience. The “real experience” for me and many others is the brotherhood (and I include sisterhood in the loose translation of the comprehensive and inclusive word “ikhwaan”) that encompasses everything that is so beautiful about Texas Dawah.

First stop after registration was the opening session with Shaykh Yasir Qadhi. I sat next to Shaykh Yaser Birjas for a few concluding minutes. The speech sounded interesting but I was too caught up in the moment of my TDC arrival and the sight of familiar, warm faces, that I couldn’t grasp anything of significance.

I also met up with others from our extended MM family. I met AbuAbdallah, the Houstonion and ibnabeeomar, meeting (as opposed to seeing) both for the first time. I mention this to express amazement of how the online world connects us in ways that we would never have been connected, and how we get to know each other, “e-talk” to each other every day, sometimes for years, become friends, become part of the same efforts, organizations, yet we may have never met each other in person. And sometimes the faces that we concoct in our minds about our internet pals turn out to be completely different from the “real person”, some for the better, other for the worse– a cautionary tale of uncertaintly for those who are into the internet match-making :)

While the crowds on Wednesday were quite thin, things picked up quite a bit of steam on Thursday. Based on word from the organizers, there were about 3000 people at the Convention (instinctively I would have said at least 2000), which apparently beat less-than-optimistic expectations that organizers had. Apparently, the level of marketing was not as good as it could have been, and there was just a lot of unhealthy chatter about the future of TDC around Houston.

And what is the future of TDC? That is the million dollar question that is yet to be answered. It has been advertised as the last TDC, but is this a marketing gimmick? A change of direction? A different organization? Or is it really the end of an era for an event that highlighted and brought together brotherhood like no other even in the South?

The first speech I actually paid attention to was one by Shaykh Ibrahim Dremali, “Quest for Excellence:  A conceptual and practical look at Ibadah and Mu’amallat”. The powerful lecture dealt with our dealings with Allah and with other human beings. It reminded us of stories from the Quran and how they teach us everyday lessons, on how to deal with our parents, deal with the society, etc. It reminded us how justice and peace were the greatest values that Muslims hold.

The next speech that I caught the last few minutes of, was a speech that some of us feel should be an obligatory speech that all Islamic organizations should listen to. According to Br. Musa Maguire (a speaker at the TDC and MM writer):

Nouman Ali Khan’s lecture on “communication catastrophe” is essential for anyone working in Islamic institutions or organizations, particularly those with positions of responsibility.  He describes a model of leadership and organizational ethics that is firmly rooted in the Quran and Sunnah.

This speech touched upon many of the issues plaguing our Muslim organizations: from lack of sincere intentions, to lack of leadership skills, to lack of project execution. We are hoping that Br. Nouman can pen an article together on this topic of great significance. For instance, he touched upon the etiquette of meetings in the light of Quran. How the Quran instructs people to spread out a bit in the meeting-rooms, so that the late-comers, usually the trouble-makers don’t make their own najwahs (secret plotting groups) in the corner. He talked about how we must put an end to the meeting-after-the-meetings, and how so many of us wait for other volunteers to make a mistake so we can jump all over them. How could Muslims serving Allah become so cut-throat?

Br. Nouman talked about the issue of permission, how one ayah in the Quran talks about the permission-seekers as being the disbelievers, and another talks about the same group of people as being the believers. The first group of people are slackers, they seek permission to excuse themselves whenever the time of need arises. The latter are those who seek permission or excuse because they really CARE about their work. When the meeting is announced, they don’t blow it off just because it is a volunteer effort, but rather they care enough to seek an excuse. Br. Nouman also talked about the need for the leader to know “their flocks”, to not overwork the hard-workers, and also not to give other people tasks that they won’t be able to do, otherwise they are being set for failure. Some other gem of quotes (not exact):

Immigrants sometimes think that they own Islam, and renting it to converts!

One of the best ways for conflict-resolution in a Masjid is to prioritize issues, and since everyone can have a shared sense of priority on children, make that the issue, not baklawas or biryani!

What’s missing in our communities? Enough motivational speeches from the Quran!

Bad actions come from evil intentions or ignorance. Since you don’t know which one, assume benefit of doubt and blame ignorance, so you will have less conflict and more love.

The next talk that I ended up moderating was by Dr. Bashar Shala, an accomplished cardiologist as well as a leader in the Muslim community of Memphis. He took a very systematic, seemingly simplisitic approach towards how the basic 5 pillars of Islam create the building blocks for the “Islamic identity”, and how we can use these principles in our tool-box to become better and more effective da’is. I have added Dr. Bashar’s must-see presentation below, which he graciously permitted to be posted online. Don’t miss the opportunity to download this amazing dawah tool-kit below.

The final couple of sessions/events I attended were the much-anticipated “Chai-Chat” between Sh. Yasir Qadhi and Sh. Yaser Birjas on controversial issues of halal meat, moonsighting and uncle-youth Masjid conflicts, as well as the Talent Competition. As for the “Chai-chat”, it was relatively entertaining, with both Yasi/ers dressed in the same-colors of shalwar kameez (YQ insisted that it was a pure coincidence).

The talk started with discussions around tea, and then jumped into halal meat. YQ’s opinion is that all meat that does not have “bismillah” pronounced over it, is haraam, while YB claimed that the Medinan ayah in Surah Maidah abrogated previous rulings on meat, and makes all meat permissible from the ahl-kitaab, as long as it met some other conditions of slaughtering. So, while YB believed that chicken was okay because it was “slaughtered”, he did not believe that it was permitted to eat red-meat because of the use of stun-guns or road-kill equivalency. The difference of opinion hinged between the two ultimately boiled down to the interpretation and context of the Maidah ayah.

As for moonsighting, both Shayookh believed in local moonsighting, both believed that Eid-al-Fitr and Eid-al-Adha should be celebrated according to the same timing methodology (i.e. following the local calendar for both, and not following hujjaj for one, and the calender for the other). Finally, Sh. Waleed made an announcement of an Al-Bayyinnah/Al-Maghrib partnership for Arabic courses done by Nouman Ali Khan.

Ultimately, while there was some entertainment value to the “debate”, I doubt that many were swayed one way or the other. There was also some value in observing the scholarly manner of ikhtilaaf and the respectability that both maintained for each other. However, in light of the bigger and more important priorities and problems facing Muslims living in the West, I really wonder if this prime-time event couldn’t have addressed more important and timely issues. Like issues around family, marriage, sex, etc., the issues that seem to be on the mind of so many these days.

As for the talent-show, I stuck around for about half of it, but after about an hour, I had to get out so that I could share some of these happenings with my MM family of readers. Some of the talent show participants did a great job, performing skits and anasheed. A 14-year sister read a particularly poignant poem on “My choice”, a take on hijab that she wrote herself.

While others shared their talents with the TDC audience, I wanted to share my thoughts with the thousands of MM readers, so that even while you are not with us physically, you can at least be with us in the electronic dimension, where we can all connect and enjoy a wonderful Texas Dawah Convention, the 8th.

As I sit in the lobby, I can see the “ISNA-lobby” effect slowly entering TDC. Young brothers and sisters chilling out in the lobby, mostly in separate “segregated” groups. This is an unfortunate consequence of becoming bigger and how “crowd control” becomes harder. This is also a reminder of how oblivious parents are about what their kids are up to as they go to sleep, letting their kids “enjoy” the conference. Still though, this is a far cry from some of the dating-scenes at other “Islamic conferences”, so we hope and pray that organizers can think of ways to do a better “lobby-control” job.

Reporting for MM on Thursday, December 25, 2008, this is Amad, live at the Texas Dawah Convention!

Resources:

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Abu Reem is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from Wharton. He has been involved with Texas Dawah, Clear Lake Islamic Center and MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Abu Reem is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").

33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Amad

    December 26, 2008 at 3:12 AM

    If any other folks are at TDC and see this post, feel free to add your own thoughts and reflections. Consider this an open thread of sort.

  2. Ibn Jafaar

    December 26, 2008 at 10:45 AM

    brother i am trying to send you an email though the MM contact us link but it is not working. It is in regards to sister Aafia and is very important. I am posting this here because this seems the best way to get your attention. Please email me with information on how to contact you.

    **E-mail info at muslimmatters dot org inshallah -amad**

  3. MR

    December 26, 2008 at 10:52 AM

    JazakAllah khair for the update.

  4. sam

    December 26, 2008 at 12:03 PM

    did Sh. Yaser Birjas use any hadith to back up his position?

  5. sam

    December 26, 2008 at 12:05 PM

    Hit the post too soon. Did Sh. Yaser Birjas use any hadith to back up his position on the issue of halal meat?

  6. Amad

    December 26, 2008 at 9:01 PM

    I am right now in the middle of an awesome session on racism with Dr. Fazaqqa and Dr. Shehata. Inshallah more later.

  7. Ibn Jafaar

    December 26, 2008 at 9:27 PM

    Jazakum Allahu Khairan Amad

  8. Amad

    December 26, 2008 at 9:28 PM

    Priceless moment: a little girl, probably 8-10 yrs old sitting next to me texts her dad, “dad, sorry getting late. Still in lecture. The guy’s talking a lot”.

    Loved it!

  9. usman

    December 26, 2008 at 9:51 PM

    Salaam, thanks bro amad…awsome coverage…i really wanted to attend this year….but living in NY it is hard to get to texas..u have take like 10 days off if u want to drive…anyway keep it coming…its great.

    why is this the last TDC…does that mean its the last one in Texas or the last one for gud everywhere

  10. abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    December 27, 2008 at 12:40 AM

    bismillah. mashaAllah, the second full day of TDC has been sweeter for me than yesterday, alhamdolillah.

    late last night, i wrote that TDC is the happiest place in America. and i really meant it. and i am truly grateful to Allah for my time here, and the pleasure of joining the Ansaar.

    today, though, some words that i have heard over and over took on special meaning: the Muslim hurts when another Muslim is suffering. how do i reconcile my joy here with the knowledge of so many righteous Muslims being oppressed or facing torture? with news of heightened posturing of India and Pakistan? subhanAllah, of possible Israeli attacks on the defenseless and downtrodden Gazans?

    …may Allah give me and all of us His Guidance and Mercy.

    (newsbreak: shaykh waleed just announced that TDC really is over. if we mean it, that we want more of what we get at TDC, then (current) participants will rename and re-work it. so there may or may not be a place this happy next year…)

  11. Basil Mohamed Gohar

    December 27, 2008 at 12:45 AM

    Jazaak Allaahu khayran for sharing this with us, especially those of us that could not attend this year.

  12. sis

    December 27, 2008 at 2:33 AM

    Jazakallahu khayr. I love MM for this coverage!

  13. RW

    December 27, 2008 at 7:26 AM

    Finally! Its about time somebody got the registration process right!

  14. Amad

    December 27, 2008 at 1:00 PM

    RW/ramsey, it wasn’t the same without u. We all missed u!

  15. RW (alright...its Ramsey!)

    December 27, 2008 at 1:10 PM

    Miss you all too. Hope to attend next year’s event (whatever it will be called).

  16. Amatullah

    December 27, 2008 at 1:15 PM

    Jazaakum Allahu khayran. This was a very nice read, for those who were not able to make it. InshaAllah I hope everything is recorded like last year.

  17. PRAY for GAZA at TDC

    December 27, 2008 at 1:54 PM

  18. sincethestorm

    December 27, 2008 at 2:13 PM

    Can someone post the top 10 reasons to go to TDC from the late night show?

  19. Amad

    December 27, 2008 at 3:11 PM

    sincethestorm, I missed most of the late night show..

    Earlier I sat in for part of a healthy political activism discussion featuring Mohamed Elibiary and Shahed Amanullah.

    In a bit, I’ll be sitting on a panel on Islamic schools vs. public schools vs. homeschools. I’ll be the Islamic school advocate, may all Islamic schoolers forgive me :)

    I’ll try to do another blogging round later tonight inshalah.

  20. Amad

    December 27, 2008 at 8:57 PM

    The panel session on schooling turned out to be one of the most entertaining and most interactove session in the conference. It went 45 mins over schedule and ppl were still in line for making their own points.

    We r hoping to take that debate online here inshallah with a post on the discussion. In related news, all islaMic school- supporters believe I won ;)

  21. Syed Arif Ahmad

    December 27, 2008 at 9:45 PM

    Brother Assalam Alaikum, I appreciate your efforts in making us aware of the goings on in the Texas Dawah Convention 2008. The coverage is vivid and compelling to say the least. As always the very high standards of the contents and the quality of articles deserves praise.
    If you dont’ mind than let me ask you to have a dedicated column on the Breaking News of the day. Actually this thought comes to my mind when I wanted to consult your site for the news on the Gaza offensive by the Israeli’s today. Needless to say that you will cover the story and enlighten us all in the coming days.

    Greetings and good wishes

    Syed Arif Ahmad

    Muslim India
    http://muslimindiablog.blogspot.com/

  22. MuslimahCA

    December 28, 2008 at 3:19 AM

    Asalamu Alaykum

    JazakhAllahu khayr for sharing your highlights guys, BUT keep them coming! Details about next years TDC or no TDC would be great as well!

    Here is the lecture with Sh. Yaser and Yasir, it made me feel like i was there :)
    http://almaghrib.org/chaichat.mp3

    Signing out from Cali…

  23. H

    December 28, 2008 at 11:59 AM

    No news regarding the massacre in Gaza?

  24. Hassan

    December 28, 2008 at 3:01 PM

    Based on the numbers I saw, I would say the low end estimate of attendees is 3000. I know Amad I told you 2000, but that was 2nd day only, and I did not see real data by then.

    And btw remember just one name “Adam Syed” !!!

  25. Howdyado?

    December 28, 2008 at 3:10 PM

    Salaam,

    Is Nouman Ali Khan’s lecture on “communication catastrophe” available on the net?

  26. Mahin F. Islam

    December 29, 2008 at 12:39 AM

    Off the top of my head I can only remember 3 of the top 10 (in no particular order)

    – The maids and hotel people will hate you by the time the conference is over.
    – The same brothers come from the same locale trying to get married and don’t
    – The hotel staff is dumbfounded when you ask for an extra coffee pot and then realizes why when the maid cleans the restroom

  27. Mahin F. Islam

    December 29, 2008 at 12:49 AM

    Assalaamu alaikum,

    Regarding the situation of our brothers and sisters in Gaza, Sh. Yasir Qadhi gave a powerful reminder of their struggle in the final session on Saturday night.

    Other gems from the conference:(no particular order)

    – The real “late night show w/ Irtiza” (Wednesday and Thursday night with some of the brothers)
    – Dr. Altaf Husain. Enough said.
    – Late night at Katz’s. For those who don’t know, Katz’s is a Jewish establishment with kosher cuisine in the heart of Houston’s ‘Qawmul Lut’ community; I think the staff there (like the maids) probably hated us by the time the conference was over.
    – Sh. Yasir Qadhi’s entire 10 minute section for the final session; giving props to Sh. Salah as-Sawy and Sh. Waleed before the reminder on the terrorist attacks on our brothers and sisters in Gaza.
    – The wild nature of brothers from the Dirty South…very different from the reserved nature of Midwest and East Coast brothers.
    – Brothers huddled around Sh. Abu Al-Fadl taking notes after the conference is over; sitting at the feet of a muhaddith.

  28. Arif

    December 30, 2008 at 1:22 AM

    I believe that Texas’s turn is over. I say we hand it over to the Washington Metro Area! (MDC, VDC, DDC) :)

  29. khawla

    December 30, 2008 at 11:52 AM

    Jazzakumullahu khair for menitoning the phrase “lobby control”

    Again, my husband and I walked past a group of TDC youth while they were being scolded by a hotel security for doing pranks on level 3 lobby areas.
    And, It was the same scenario at TDC two years ago too.
    How embarrassing!!!

  30. msa

    December 31, 2008 at 4:36 PM

    those who say move TDC to VA/DC/MD, first prove that you can start even a conference half the size/caliber of TDC, before wanting to take the burden of the whole thing…

    The only place that can handle TDC is Texas.

  31. ALGEBRA

    January 2, 2009 at 6:40 PM

    Asalamu-alaikum:
    I would like to mention a brother who i was impressed with his foresight, take charge attitude, organization skills, and COMMAN SENSE.
    MashAllah. He did a great and successful job MashAllah.
    I don’t know who he is or which community he is from but i did want to mention his name over here. I think it is brother JEHAD or JEHAN.
    When they were having Yasir Qadhi ‘s lecture to the MSA, there were many sisters(about 40) standing outside of the lecture hall who had nothing to do during that time and were hanging out in the lobby and hall. I think the rule was no older students than 25 and younger than 15 but you see there were soooooooo many girls that didnt’ have any where else to go but that hall.
    Well thank Allah someone i think an INTELLIGIENT MUSLIMAH brought this fact to the attention of Brother JEHAD and he took care of the MATTER WITH COMMEN SENSE instead of REBUKING the MUSLIMAH’s suggestion.
    He took charge, called the manager or whoever was above him and made a JUST AND SMART DECISION. I was impressed mashAllah.

    Also not only did i see this brother helping out at that lecture but also helping at every lecture mashAllah. I told my brother to learn from this brother and i think this brother looked only 24 or 22 to me. I was immensely impressed with his good organizational skills and leadership skills.
    I really didn’t know this brother from before or his name until i asked another volounteer of this brother’s name.
    JUST WANTED TO APPRECIATE ALL THE HARD WORKING VOLOUNTEERS THAT MADE TEXAS DAWAH A GREAT SUCCESS MASHALLAH.
    YOUR EFFORTS ARE GREATLY APPRECIATED AND I HOPE MY BROTHERS LEARN FROM YOUR EXAMPLE of DEDICATION.
    THANK YOU
    salam

  32. Umm Reem

    January 2, 2009 at 10:42 PM

    “lobby control” is not an easy issue to deal with…before we moved into Hilton, it was far easier because the entire conference was done in just one place (i.e the hotel), fewer lobbies to keep an eye on, handful of exits/entrances etc. But now not only we have a HUGE place to deal with, Hilton has a lobby on every floor…how many floors can we keep an eye on especially when our volunteers/organizers have only a few hours to sleep and rest…
    I honestly think that every attendee should participate and help out and if they see the lobbies turning into a “hangout” place then they should advice them and ask them to go to their rooms or else their names will be taken and reported to “authorities”….wAllahu ta’ala ‘alam…

  33. msa

    January 5, 2009 at 6:29 AM

    the brother that algebra mentioned was GEHAD… mashallah, great brother.

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