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Evolution Is a Reality — Lesson Learned at Texas Dawah Convention (TDC)

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Innalhamdolillah. Audhobilaahi minash-shaytanir-rajeem, wa min shururi anfusina, wa min sayyiaati a’maalina. Bismillah.

[by abu abdAllah at TDC.  For the next few months, I am taking a break from writing here at MM.  I have to focus on preparing for the Texas Bar Exam.  Jazak Allah khayr for your time and your duas.]

You know, a lot of times a blog entry starts with what seems like a good intention.  The Muslim blogger, alhamdolillah, is armed by Allah with a powerful mechanism to prevent his seemingly-good-intentions from ramming his foot in his mouth while throwing his elbows in a hard foul.

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I’m talking about the benefits of seeking refuge with Alllah not only against shaytan, but against the evil that might be ready to erupt from the least-kind part of a person’s heart, and against the sinfulness of words and actions WHILE they can still be taken back.

One of the benefits: you are not reading the post I intended to write after attending a TDC debate on how Muslims should educate their children.

I actually feel physically different now than I did when I started typing, and so again, innalhamdolillah.  I feel better!  As I sought refuge from Allah, I found myself wondering how much evil my words could do.  And I was remorseful.  Not just of what I had been about to write, but of my earlier enthusiasm during the debate, enthusiasm which may have in, however small or terrible a fashion, have contributed to reducing decorum, civility, and mutual respect in that room.

I pray that that decorum was restored after I left. I am grateful to Allah that my Ansaar duties required me to leave early.  And I ask forgiveness from Allah, the speakers, and the other people in the room, if anything I said spurred any rancor.

Alhamdolillah alaa kulli haal.  There is one thing that the debate taught me.

Shaykh Waleed, mashaAllah, asked us last night to take on a great challenge: take the lead in the evolution of this convention or lose it altogether.  (quick aside: No, TDC is not dead, but either it will submit to metamorphosis, or it may pass from the earth as assuredly as if we had witnessed the death of a great scholar from the lack of willing blood donors.)

Ya jam’aa!  TDC, indeed it must evolve.  Or, put differently, TDC itself must climb the mountain pass.  TDC began with striving to do good in a way that was a challenge to all Muslims everywhere, and mashaAllah, it is beloved for the good it has done.

Here is the next evolutionary step that i suggest after witnessing the debate on education: as much as humanly possible, all the top non-shuyukh TDC leadership positions must be filled by women, qualified women whose voices have been, for whatever reason, relegated to the audiences.  But also, women whose perspective on what constitutes a worthwhile program and who should be on the podium
appears all but ignored.

How to take that step? Blindly? Foolishly? no.

Here’s just one way to proceed:
1) Because every TDC begins in January, with the work of the program committee, have the current committee begin the work so that the new evolution can still keep its December calendar position.
2) Simultaneously begins the work of a search committee for the most qualified women.  Academic, professional, social service, theological, and other backgrounds could all be relevant.
3) By March, inshaAlllah, have the newly constituted committee take the reins, with the old committee members as mentors/institutional-knowledge-base.
4) The shuyukh base and its (chiefly Shaykh Waleed’s, mashaAllah) role will not be changed — veto of anything that attempts to undermine the Qur’an and Sunnah.  But also providing guidance, enthusiasm, and much more, mashaAllah.
5) Since the bulk of non-program committee work might easily begin after March, have those committees and job functions begin with women governance, again, with mentoring available from previous personnel.

I’m not talking about two TDCs, one for men, one for women.  Nor a TDC with no male volunteers.  I am talking about something no major Muslim convention has yet offered the whole ummah.  The wisdom and vision of our women.

What are some ways in which such a change could have changed the TDC which has just ended?

First, only Allah Knows for certain.  Second, asking a man what women would do if given the chance might be counterproductive, eh?  But giving your question the benefit of the doubt, maybe, wAllaho’Alim, this TDC about community would have had at least one full session about domestic violence, children swept up in the foster care system, or the need to address an increasing number of aging Muslims who lack a family support structure and need at least assistance and companionship as they wait for the promise of Allah.

All three of those are addressed eloquently and cogently by the Qur’an and Sunnah.  And Muslims need reminders and solutions to address these matters.

And all three of them happen to be, alhamdolillah, the concerns of Niswa, a Southern California social service organization, founded by women, and whose board members have all been women.  MashaAllah, that’s a group of women who could even teach TDC about community service.

And women like them should get exactly that chance.

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22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. MR

    December 29, 2008 at 4:43 PM

    Shaykh Waleed, mashaAllah, asked us last night to take on a great challenge: take the lead in the evolution of this convention or lose it altogether.

    In other words, TDC needs a new group to take over or else it will die.

  2. AbdulNasir Jangda

    December 29, 2008 at 5:23 PM

    people want to attend, enjoy, learn from these isalmic conventions or classes but they dont want to do any thing to make sure such major events take place…

    This is so accurate and that’s why you need to move to my area.

  3. Hassan

    December 29, 2008 at 6:47 PM

    MR said:

    Shaykh Waleed, mashaAllah, asked us last night to take on a great challenge: take the lead in the evolution of this convention or lose it altogether.

    In other words, TDC needs a new group to take over or else it will die.

    You wish..

  4. Amad

    December 29, 2008 at 7:22 PM

    I don’t think MR is wishing anything. That was what he got from the post, and if a person doesn’t know tdc well or hasn’t gone there, could get a wrong impression from the article.

  5. Siraaj

    December 29, 2008 at 7:24 PM

    I think the first evolution every conference needs is to realize that calling in massive amounts of people to hear talks which cater the lowest common denominator in knowledge and understanding is silly and counterproductive.

    I think a better use for a conference would be:

    1. Limiting the size: should not exceed 700 participants.
    2. Limiting the talks: no more parallel sessions – let’s get the concentrated discussions followed by workshops for formulating a concrete plan for practical implementation and the means by which participants can network and support one another.
    3. Learning Tracks: No more random one hit wonder lectures. Let’s get a learning track going, like a university would have, and let it focus in certain areas with full note taking involved (how to make daw’ah, how to give a khutbah [which was done in the past, I didn’t think it was that great], etc).

    If it’s a daw’ah conference, then get da’ees, train them up, re-energize them, and then send them back out. Spend the year finding out who they are, invite them personally, and really make a big impact when they return home, insha’Allah.

    Siraaj

  6. Amad

    December 29, 2008 at 7:47 PM

    Siraaj, I gave a similar low-volume-high-price/quality suggestion and HAD been a big proponent of it until this last wknd at TDC.. Learning tracks was done last year and some of it this year. I don’t think it went off too well last year (I wasn’t there so this is based on feedback).

    But u’d have to come to see why there is a need for this “conference/lowest-denominator” style as well (not sure if u attended past TDCs?). I think you could reconcile the multiple objectives question by in fact having separate sessions for different focus groups. I am not sure this could really become a point of “real knowledge” but there’s also a place for inspiration and environment.

    Also, TDC has become the best family vacation spot in America. Where kids actually have programs designed for them according to age-groups. One of the few events that kids are as excited about as their parents.

    Its complicated, but I think all fresh ideas need to be considered.

  7. darthvaider

    December 29, 2008 at 8:10 PM

    Siraaj- I think your suggestion would pretty much turn TDC into a glorified 1-weekend almaghrib seminar :)

  8. Siraaj

    December 29, 2008 at 8:55 PM

    I’ve been to TDC previously, and I’ve just come back from another conference that appears to be dying, if numbers are any gauge (ICNA-MAS in Chicago).

    We’ve been doing conferences forever for the last decade or so, and I haven’t often seen anything of lasting benefit come out of them except the one or two day eman pump and back to business. The conference I envision is one that actively promotes the change it wishes to bring after the conference is over to people who care primarily for the theme of the conference and secondarily for socializing and bazaars.

    Siraaj

  9. MM Associates

    December 29, 2008 at 10:46 PM

    bismillah. [abu abdAllah]
    MR’s interpretation of the article is not as far off as you might think.

    MR said:
    In other words, TDC needs a new group to take over or else it will die.

    note, he wrote “it will die” not “it should die.” but i would add to the words he quoted from my aside:

    No, TDC is not dead, but either it will submit to metamorphosis, or it may pass from the earth as assuredly as if we had witnessed the death of a great scholar from the lack of willing blood donors.

    perhaps those words were more on point than i had thought. you see what TDC has asked for is a transfusion — Shaykh Waleed, may Allah especially bless him and all those who work on and labor over over TDC all year long, went on to mention that the future of TDC would be determined by the participation of TDC’s attendees during the year.

    i think Shaykh Waleed asked for too little. the danger of his approach is that there are too many armchair quarterbacks ready to e-mail advice and orders without being ready to work on those ideas from day 1. just look at me — i’ve asked the current planners to implement my ideas, and the idea i came up with is one that excludes me somewhat based on my gender. :)

    seriously, though, what TDC needs is a real blood transfusion — an infusion of people with new ideas, new energy, and who will be there all year long just like the current planners and other personnel. maybe new people could be phased in gradually, but evolution really can take place in dramatic fashion, too.

    with the process i describe, the next TDC should not suffer from a lack of expertise, it should not be behind schedule (which might happen if past personnel left altogether), it should benefit from a whole new perspective, it should empower a segment of the community that represented 2/3 of TDC registrants and was woefully underrepresented in places like the education debate, and, last but not least, it should still resonate with the tradition of ahl-us-sunnah.

    is my process the only lifesaving procedure for TDC? hah! second opinions are good, and i really hope that TDC at least makes istikhara before adopting my advice.

    i think this may be my last comment for a while. i was supposed to be working on my Wills reading for tomorrow morning. :) if i were to promise myself and you not to comment at all until i am done with my RDR (recommended daily reading) as suggested by Bar/bri, then i can almost assure this will be my last comment till the end of the bar exam.

    just in case, as salamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuhu. :P

  10. MM Associates

    December 29, 2008 at 11:13 PM

    bismillah. [abu abdAllah …see how much i need to make that promise!!]

    i should point out something — the people who begin planning the next TDC almost as soon as the last one ends, and anyone who replaces them (of either gender) probably have to be residents of Greater Houston. i myself know of none of them who lives outside this community.

    so to make the evolutionary change described in this article a reality, the challenge will be to find enough qualified and willing sisters who live here and who can commit the necessary time. how successful the search is will directly impact how much change is possible.

  11. AnonyMouse

    December 29, 2008 at 11:42 PM

    I’m afraid I’m just another armchair critic/ advisor, but that’s due to my geographical location and not out of lack of volunteerism spirit, I assure you :)

    Here’s what I’ve always thought:
    Conferences are excellent, but shouldn’t they be complementary to ongoing community work? I’ve heard the “conferences only give you temporary eman boosts and no lasting results” criticism quite a bit, and I’ve wondered why conferences aren’t simply a larger extension of existing projects.
    For example, a conference focusing on family should be tied to existing programs in the community that focus on family; a conference on Islamic identity should be linked to other regular activities and events that aim to promote and strengthen Islamic identity.

    Should the goal of conferences not be to CAPTURE their audience and KEEP them, to hold onto them tightly and ensure their presence at the Masaajid and Islamic centres throughout the rest of the year? To keep that feeling of emaan rushes, of brother/sisterhood, of activism, alive outside of the conference itself?

    So there you have my 2 cents’ worth :)

  12. Ammar

    December 30, 2008 at 12:06 AM

    Hehe, I thought when I saw this on my RSS feed that this was a post on biological evolution. A little off topic, but can we have an article (or better yet, a series of articles) on Islam and evolution in the future?

  13. QasYM

    December 30, 2008 at 12:29 AM

    salaam alaikum,

    I hear a lot of “need for change” talk, but what is a successful conference to you. Is it numbers? If there were 10k people there would you still feel the same way? I’ve never been to TDC (unfortunately) but from what I hear it is very different when compared to other conferences with the different workshops and sessions, and meeting the Shuyookh etc. What would you take out and what would you leave?

    I also want to say that some (ALOT) of the stuff that you guys are mentioning takes place at ICNA Convention (the real one Siraaj) not “MAS-ICNA” in Chicago, get the order right, it’s important:) I may be a bit bias in stating this, because I’ve been involved in the planning for its parallel Youth Conference, and was Chair one year as well. I am well aware of the burnout factor which is taking place here, and it seems like the 20/80 rule is in effect here. 20% of the people are doing 80% of the work, and 80% of the people are doing 20% of the work.

    This is why the organizers are calling for this intervention from the general public. I’m afraid to say this too will fail. Sit down, discuss the objectives of the Conference, and execute. If it’s not bringing any benefit to the community…then can it. Just from what I’ve heard, TDC can be real big, you guys have some AMAZING minds, mashaAllah working over there, just not enough help. There is so much more to say on this topic but gotta run…

    Also, don’t hesitate to let us brothers from the Northeast know what we can do to help.

  14. MM Associates

    December 30, 2008 at 1:01 AM

    bismillah [abu abdAllah …okay, i’ll pray istikhara inshaAllah, before i even visit MM again, since visiting seems to lead me to posting comments :)]

    @AnonyMouse — i like the way you’re thinking. but i suggest that the inertia that has to be overcome to implement your ideas comes from the success of the current convention model. admittedly, the current model has had a degree of success, measured not by TDC attendance, but by the fact that so many other groups have started their own conventions in Houston, too — as they say, imitation is the best form of flattery. we, too, now have a MAS-ICNA convention (and sometimes, at least, an ICNA-MAS). we have an ISNA regional. and at least one more convention of that type. even tablighi jamat had a huge convention in Houston, last year, i believe.

    the trouble is that all these conventions — addressing QasYM‘s observations — have caused a resource drain. people get asked to volunteer at everything, and honestly, how many TDC type conventions does Houston need in one year? America, sure, could support two non-simultaneous conventions like TDC, maybe even three, providing they were in different cities, and with their own dedicated staffs (though many families might be hard-pressed to attend all of them).

    but Houston is not managing its volunteer and brainpower resources well.

    @Ammar — lol, about the title, i’d risk hubris if i suggested there was an intelligent design… :P

  15. Omar

    December 30, 2008 at 6:34 AM

    Assalamo alaykom

    So what happens to TDC now? will there be one next year or will it move or what? Why is it the final one if it is going well alhamdolela

    salam

  16. MR

    December 30, 2008 at 12:11 PM

    Man, I didn’t think my comment would cause all this discussion. I just tried to understand it in simple terms. It looks to complex for me to understand, so I’ll just wait till December 2009 and find out what happens.

    :-D

  17. anonysis

    December 30, 2008 at 7:22 PM

    May Allah ‘azza wajall reward all the volunteers and organizers of TDC and help it get even better, ameen.

    Tangent I agree with: A little off topic, but can we have an article (or better yet, a series of articles) on Islam and evolution in the future?

    I’m about to take an evolution class in college next semester and want to be properly armed before that… so blleeeze MuslimMatterz and shuyookh here, enlighten us on zis tobig!!!

  18. shahgul

    December 31, 2008 at 11:17 AM

    Anonymous said:
    “Conferences are excellent, but shouldn’t they be complementary to ongoing community work?”

    I totally agree. It was ironical to note that at least 50% of the speeches made at this conference stressed the importance of racial integration. Yet, I also noted that during the conference, a good Muslim brother’s proposal was rejected in marriage on the basis of his race (no he was not African American).

    This was not done by the parents of the would be bride. It was done by the wife of one of the sheikhs deeply involved in the conference. The brother’s mother had asked her to intercede at the behalf of her son. The sheikh’s wife’s answer was:”No this is not going to happen. Her father is adamant about his children marrying people only from his own country. He even rejected the proposal of an Egyptian because he was not from “…”.” Then she proceeded to justify the father’s action by explaining to the woman that the girl’s father thought marriage would be easier if people were from the same background. I would think two kids living in Houston have greater similarity of background than with some FOB imported as a mail order bride/groom.

    I mean, hello, where is the follow through. Why would the sheikhs not try to use their influence to end racism? What is the point of so much gas, if they will not even try to follow through?

  19. salafFollower

    December 31, 2008 at 12:22 PM

    AA,

    Please let’s all be realistic. Conferneces are primarily for halal entertainment and socialization (or for the aunties to look for that hijabi their son wants). Sure, ppl learn something too, but that is not the primary focus. Cut the bazar, the food, and the jokes, and see how many ppl show up.

  20. QasYM

    December 31, 2008 at 7:45 PM

    ^^wow cut the food? You want to starve people to death? That might take care of cutting the jokes down, and we can use the bazaar’s to sell coffins for all those that die from starvation.

  21. Algebra

    December 31, 2008 at 9:51 PM

    Aslamu-alaiikum:
    Even though a lot of DRAMA was going on in my life at the time of TDC, I still loved my trip there. Just talking to SHAYKH WALEED in person was the HIGLIGHT of my TRIP…………… it was all worth it.
    He said a few words but it taught me a lot.
    seriously. MashAllah. He has noor on his face. AND IT WAS SOOOOOOOOO SWEET THAT HE RESPECTS HIS MOTHER SO MUCH.
    salam

  22. Umm Reem

    January 2, 2009 at 5:42 PM

    He said a few words but it taught me a lot.

    that is shaikh waleed (hafidhullah)…his advice is short but very deep…i personally have benefited greatly from his valuable advice…

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