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ICNA SYMPOSIUM 2020 – Indeed I Am Near

It goes without saying that ICNA SYMPOSIUM 2020 was unprecedented in all ways. It came in a time of extreme uncertainty and anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

An issue that impacted not only the themes of the lectures, but their nature as well; becoming an online instead of an onsite symposium.

It was an excellent symposium with many great speakers and inspiring topics. Such as ICNA President Javaid Siddiqui, Ustadha Ieasha Prime, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Sh. Abdul Nasir Jangda, Sh. Omar Suleiman, Sh. Yaser Birjas, Sh. Yasir Qadhi, Linda Sarsour, etc.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. Like all other attendees I was so eager to be a part of it but as it was going to be my first time to attend, you can imagine how I was even more thrilled.

It would have been an even more memorable experience, I believe, attending in person but as hard as it was I had to accept the fact that, after all, it would not be possible this year.

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Indeed I am Near

Indeed I am Near” was the topic of this year’s symposium. A choice in its right place indeed. This is a verse highlighted from the Quran:

And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be guided. (Quran 2:186)

Now more than any other time, anxiety is at its highest and we need to be reminded that God is always there for us and will never abandon us no matter how hard it is. ICNA pinpointed how:

Social distancing now is in practice for a few weeks. Recommendation for staying home can be extended for more weeks or even months.

With every test and tribulation, Allah SWT provides us the opportunity of finding the alternatives. This testing time requires the sick to be alone under intense care and if he/she passes away, to be bathed, prayed over, and buried alone.

For some, this life and even the concept of dying alone has become a cause of severe depression. But for a true believer, this is a time to think through his/her whole life and repent over his major and minor sins.”

Healing Hearts Through Jesus & Muhammad

Why Islam ICNA, dedicated to educating and answering questions about Islam, as well as distributing free material about Islam organized an excellent interfaith moderated panel discussion by Imam Jawad Ahmed, lead of why Islam hotline  – “Brothers in Faith: Jesus & Muhammad.”

Reverend Thomas spoke on The Importance of Religious Pluralism. Professor Mostafa Hijazi spoke about “Sharing Commonalities”. Let’s come to a common ground to worship God alone. Prophet Muhammad coexisted with all faiths.

Dr. Sabeel Ahmad started off by highlighting that Jesus’ greeting was also that of “Peace be upon you” as is the greeting of Muslims. He spoke on how he is inspired by Jesus and his miracles. He had a miraculous birth. He mentioned how Mariam (Mary) is mentioned more than 32 times in the Quran. There are more commonalities between the Abrahamic faiths than differences.

Dr. Craig Considine spoke on how inspired he was by Prophet Muhammad. When we need to heal something it is broken or sick either on a holistic and/ or on a societal level. Prophet Muhammad came into such a world: A broken and sick society.

The way he responded not only shaped the society he grew up in but it changed the course of history itself. He helped to heal by being brave and he was brave because he loved humanity. Prophet Muhammad was teaching humanity how to heal through his perspective on racial equality.

A clear example was his relation to Bilal ibn Rabah. He actively defended him when he was offended by another companion who called him a son of a black woman. He was very disturbed and told him he was still holding traits of ignorance. It is not right to promote racism. He was all for racial equality. “I see Jesus and Muhammad linking here,” he says.

Another example is in his farewell speech on how no ethnic group has any superiority over the other except in piety and good action. Martin Luther King aligned Islamic and Christian values in his speech as well when he spoke about his dream of racial equality.

Maintaining Spirituality

How to get closer to Allah (SWT) in these times, in preparation for Ramadan? Ramadan is when most people get the iman boost that carries them through the rest of the year, how can we still achieve this at home? How to stay steadfast and motivated throughout this Ramadan, spiritually/emotionally?

Sh. Abdool Rahman Khan, Imam Asif Hirani and Sh. Mohamed Elshinawy gave tips on how we can still keep the spirit of Ramadan alive in these hard times despite the troubled souls questioning this issue because of the drastic difference of this upcoming Ramadan.

Young Muslims Session: Alone with Allah

This Ramadan is different, being away from those heavy community influences that we all look forward to. We are left with only the eyes and judgement of Allah (SWT).

Behind closed doors, we have a chance to test our iman in the comfort of our own home. With our family and ourselves, we are to witness a Ramadan alone. Let us take this chance to renew our iman for ourselves and not for the prying eyes of our community. For whoever Allah (SWT) tests, he intends good.

And let us be patient, for indeed, Allah is with the patient. There is always a silver lining and the silver lining is we can dedicate more and strengthen our time with Allah (SWT).

The youth had their share of amazing lectures as well. Dr. Suzy Ismail in her “Disconnect to Reconnect” tackled core issues pertaining to our well being and spirituality.

She spoke on how we are struggling through uncharted waters. We need to detach ourselves from the sense of normal that we were used to.

We are not used to stopping and breathing. Self-reflection is alien to us. But, we have inspiration from Prophet Muhammad. How he climbs up to the Mountain of Nour and enters The Cave of Hira to connect with Allah.

She draw another parallel from Prophet Muhammad’s life through The Year of Grief. Even he experienced grief and fear. But with hardship comes ease. This life is temporary. The hereafter is like an ocean and this life is merely like a dip in the ocean.

Lockdown Poetry Slam

The symposium ended with an entertaining session, The Lockdown Poetry Slam, organized by Strangers Feat ICNA for the young spoken word performers from all over the world to compete in an annual Open-Mic competition.

Poems on islamophobia, refugee crisis, good companionship, etc. were performed powerfully. Most remarkably was the realization on how Muslim youth are indeed wise beyond their years.

My daughter eagerly joined with a poem on COVID-19 and that in spite of its challenges we must remain strong and with hardship comes ease. It was remarkable to see her inner workings through that poem.

Parting Words

I hope we get to witness many more amazing ICNA symposiums. May Allah help us all through these hard times and bring an end to this turmoil. Ameen.

I have true conviction that Allah hears me. After all, the Almighty says:

Indeed, I am near.

About Suzana Nabil Saad, MA
Suzana Nabil Saad is the Ask About Islam Editor. She has many years of experience in dawah work.She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from the Faculty of Languages, Ain Shams University, Egypt. She obtained her Master’s Degree of Arts in English Literature from Gothenburg University, Sweden.She currently resides in Texas, USA with her husband, and three kids. When she is not editing or writing, she enjoys reading, ideally followed by nature excursions.