Part of the American Muslim experience, in my opinion, is to attend an Islamic conference. From state-wide ones to national gatherings, these annual conventions are a great way to learn, engage, and to immerse yourself in the vibrant Muslim ummah.
I remember the first time I attended an Islamic convention at the national level in the USA; about four years ago. It was in Houston, Texas and was attended by more than 20,000 people. It was exhilarating, inspiring and rejuvenating. Nothing quite like seeing American Muslims of diverse backgrounds gather with so much spirit and passion to learn, network, have (halal) fun and… shop!
This year, 550 exhibitors will be present selling and promoting a vast range of products and services.
Photo courtesy of MAS-ICNA Convention
Since then, I’ve attended another convention and this December, I will be spending time learning from the various scholars at the MAS-ICNA Convention in Chicago, Illinois. The MAS-ICNA Convention will be held at the McCormick Convention Center with more than 25,000 attendees expected. 550 exhibitors will be on site, and many esteemed scholars such as Dr Omar Suleiman, Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, and Shaikh Abdullah Oduro. These are truly incredible names that most in the community recognise and respect.
Ah, the thought of spending three days soaked in knowledge and community. The intensity of the programmes and the massive crowd can get overwhelming for any convention-goer, but it should not deter anyone from registering and getting their tickets now.
Here’s five ways to help make the best of any nationwide Islamic conference.
1. Plan your schedule
There’ll be several talks and workshops happening simultaneously, and it can be difficult to choose. The best is to prioritize- study the program booklet that you will get and circle the sessions you want to attend. Don’t forget to make time for meals, and spend time at the bazaar to support Muslim businesses. I know that I will be making time, inshaAllah, to attend the American Muslims Got Talent segment and Quran competition!
2. Map it out
It’s best to spend some time understanding the layout of the place as the center is massive. It’s critical that you know where the food hall and bathrooms are. The MAS-ICNA convention has an app with the map and program booklet accessible so that it is easier for you to navigate.
If you are coming with family and friends, choose a spot that will be your meeting point in case you get separated and do not have your mobile phone with you. For your little ones, attach your phone number or business card to your child’s lanyard in case of any emergency.
3. Snack Attack
While there is a food hall and access to food is abundant, lines may get long or you may require some snacks in between sessions to fuel up. Simple snacks like nuts and dried fruits can also be purchased from some bazaar vendors.
4. Pack light, dress comfortably
Wudu socks, clothing with pockets and walking shoes are my travel staples. My Muslim Pro app comes in very handy to check accurate prayer times and verify the Qibla when I travel. No need to bring a compass and prayer time print-outs since it’s all in the Muslim Pro app along with supplications to refer to, a digital tasbih counter, digital Quran to keep up with my recitations and Qalbox – the new streaming service that has Dua videos as well as Muslim-centric entertainment.
5. Be present
Even when you’ve narrowed down the sessions that you want to attend, it can still get overwhelming as there’s only so much you can take in. If you have kids, they may want to spend more time at the kids Funville instead of the Kids’ program and that’s OK. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to create memories with your family and immerse in the energy of the American Muslim ummah so just be present and have fun!
As you plan your travels, the Muslim Pro app will be a handy companion to help alert you of prayer times and find the Qibla. While waiting in line or for your flight, listen to the Quran recitations on the app or even watch Dua videos on Qalbox. Qalbox is the newest streaming service hosting diverse international content for Muslims, available to premium members of the Muslim Pro app.
Muslim Pro and Qalbox are proud to be Silver Sponsors of the MAS-ICNA Convention 2022, from 26th – 28th December 2022 at McCormick Place, Chicago. Get your tickets now and see you there, inshaAllah!
This article was written by Suryani Omar, the founder of Deen Hubb, a boutique Islamic bookstore in United States.