A Camping We Will Go!
Which kid doesn’t remember that grade 6 Albion Hills, Kearney or Sheldon camping trip? Perhaps all of us didn’t go to those camps, but nevertheless many still did. Along with the carefree and unsegregated environment that the camp is conducted in, there is usually nothing in those camps that enable our children to become better Muslims. Rather, it may even result in an experience for the individual that can leave imprints that are damaging in the long-run. So now the only camping trip that some of us might have ever gone to, turned out to be not that great either. Self-building is extremely important – no doubt, but why not do it in an Islamic environment which will enable us as Muslims to truly build ourselves?
This is why the importance of organizing and holding summer camps for the Muslim community in the West is not only critical, but also essential. There needs to be a platform which provides the Shi’a Muslim youth to engage and participate in camps and retreats – but how is that possible when there are virtually none being organized? That is exactly why for many years, the Al Mahdi Youth Society [AMYS] in Toronto has consistently organized camps targeted to the community at large and to the youth in particular.
In order to organize the camps successfully, AMYS utilizes the right individuals who have the relevant understanding. They are able to integrate fun, sports and self-building which creates a distinct experience for the youth – which in turn leaves them wanting to come back every year. When the President of AMYS, Br. Mohammad Mujahid was asked about what it takes to organize a successful camp, he responded with three key factors: “Leadership, Finance and Man-Power”. He says that although money can be a factor that can determine the overall quality of the camp, through the right leadership and strong volunteering efforts of brothers and sisters in the community, AMYS is able to pull off successful camping trips every year.
The camps provide an outlet for the youth who have just spent months in school to come out, enjoy and associate with others in an environment which is safe guarded by the rules of Shari’ah and the guidance of credible scholars. Over the years AMYS has organized and conducted camps at various different locations ranging from Frost to Kinark to Bark Lake. These locations all provide a balance of both social and academic activities and help nurture the individuals to become more aware of their faith; as well as build a closer bond with their peers.
Other such efforts have also been made by few organizations and have been highly successful. Last year the Thaqalayan Muslim Association [TMA] conducted a leadership retreat camp for TMA executives, which consisted of topics ranging from leadership to teamwork. The camps were blessed by the presence of notable scholars, namely Sheikh Rizwan Arastu and Sheikh Odeh Muhawesh who also lectured on the importance of self-building and leadership from an Islamic perspective.
Another such effort is also being made this year by NASIMCO. This is a three day retreat starting April 30th at an outdoor summer camp facility. It is based around the topics of leadership and empowering of the youth to become the leaders for tomorrow. Sheikh Abbas Ismail will be the scholar accompanying this retreat. Such camps and retreats are a necessity and are one of the primary ways through which the youth can acquire the essential set of skills in order to move the Shia community forward. Unfortunately, such events have been lacking on a wider scale within the Greater Toronto Area and have remained localized to a certain type of community or mosque. Sr. Zobia, a camper who has been attending the AMYS camps for the past few years states, “It is sad that most of the other communities within the GTA are not getting exposure to any Muslim camps that provide such inspirational, learning and life changing experiences. I feel very lucky to have attended the past AMYS camps and would encourage anyone to go to their next camp as well. They are doing it for us, so why not take the opportunity?”
It is high time that the communities within the GTA start utilizing the summers in a much more efficient manner. This is why the Al Mahdi Youth Society has taken the next step forward by organizing a kind of camp which has perhaps never been seen before in North America. The camp is open to international participants and AMYS has taken the responsibility to sort out accommodation for participants who are from out of town. This eleven-day camp (open to participants from anywhere around the world) will be a mixture of both social activities and as well as academic lectures. The camp is being held between July 23rd to August 2nd and the nature of the camp has been divided into two parts. Unlike previous camps where participants would spend all days at a camp site, the first part of this camp (first 6 days) will be held at the Al Mahdi Islamic Center. The latter 5 days will be held at a new location – The Pigeon Lake Training Center.
Keeping into consideration the importance of scholars accompanying and also guiding the organizers in every aspect, AMYS has made sufficient efforts to bring renowned scholars to the camp. The scholars namely Moulana Syed Zaki Baqri, Moulana Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi, Sheikh Husayn El-Mekki Abdullah-Aziz, Sheikh Usama Abdulghani and Brother Asad Jafri from Madrasah Imam Khomeini, Qum, will be lecturing on a wide range of topics ranging from Aqaid, Fiqh, Practical Irfan, Family Life, Akhlaq to Imam Mahdi (ajtf).
The ultimate goal of the camp is to bring about change within the participants and enable them to bring about this change in their respective communities. This change is further nourished with regular on-time prayers and recitations of duas such as Dua Sabah, Kumail and Tawassul in an environment where campers can much easily appreciate the blessings of Allah (swt). The AMYS prays that this year’s camp will be an even greater experience than their previous camps. Trough this camp we aim to provide the audience with life changing knowledge and experience through which they may replenish their own communities as well. As well as motivate and encourage other youth groups and communities within the GTA to take initiative and organize camps and retreats. Br. Mujahid reiterates the notion that “It would be a lot better if two or more youth organizations within the GTA were able to get together and organize such events which can encompass a lot more participants and produce life changing experiences for the Shi’as in Toronto”.
The AMYS camp event – titled Pursuit of Knowledge, has a Facebook page which can be accessed here. For further information and inquiries about the camp, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org