MYNA Winter Camps 2017

Written By: Alaa Abdeldaiem

He was the best of mankind.

A walking Qur’an, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was the best possible example for believers to follow. Following in his footsteps means living down a path that will lead towards ultimate success, in this life and the next.

And for seven days this past December, 423 youth in five different states tried to do exactly that.

Through a central theme, “Following in His Footsteps,” the Muslim Youth of North America challenged youth at its 2017 winter camps in Indiana, Illinois, Texas, Maryland (Dec. 24-30)  and California (Dec. 25-31) to reflect, explore and apply the teachings and lessons from the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Each retreat featured guest speakers, interactive workshops and fun recreation throughout the week, helping campers not only learn about the life of the Prophet (PBUH) but also form lifelong bonds.

Speakers such as Ustadh Ahmad Deeb at Indiana camp, Sr. Nancy Nasr and Br. Habeeb Quadri at Illinois camp, Mufti Hussain Kamani and Br. Ammar Qouqa  at Texas camp, Sr. Noura Shamma, Imam Magid, Br. Naeem Baig and Sr. Qurat Mir at Maryland camp, and Br. Fiyyaz and Dr. Jawad Shah at California camp engaged campers with lectures surrounding the sunnah that must be applied to every individual’s daily life. Ustadh Ahmad Deeb spoke about the prophetic mannerisms of dealing with your parents and the others around you while Br. Naeem Baig and Sr. Noura Shamma spoke about the Prophet’s ways of dealing with a diverse community, his mannerisms with people of different walks of life and how he overcame the endless challenges he faced throughout his Prophethood. Imam Magid and Sr. Qurat Mir focused on reminding campers to be self aware and to take the Prophetic examples of forgiveness, empathy and compassion as their own ideals. Youth also memorized a number of prophetic sayings (hadith) and recited them to counselors throughout the week, also applying them to short lectures (khatiras) after every prayer to teach their fellow campers about a different characteristic of the Prophet (PBUH).

In addition to spiritual lectures, the retreats also featured many team building games, zip lining, gaga ball, ice fishing, archery, field sports and scavenger hunts as recreation, all of which kept campers excited and energized throughout the day. At Indiana camp, campers even participated in a workshop at the start of camp that had them blindfolded and scrambled into different groups before discussing ice breaker questions. At the end of the workshop, campers were told to remove their blindfolds. Many were shocked to realize the individuals in their group, amazed at the fact that they shared many things in common with individuals they may not have spoken to throughout the first few days of the retreat. Some camps also had youth write letters to themselves that will be sent to them weeks later, a reflection that will serve as a reminder to continue to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet (PBUH).

Campers, including Indiana camper Mariam Soliman, left the retreats feeling as if they had “the best week of their lives.”

“This camp made me realize that it alright to be different and that it is important to have a support system,” Soliman said. “I have been to a lot of camps, but at this past winter camp, I realized that, at MYNA, I have a support system and a family that is there to support and accept me no matter what it is I am going through. MYNA creates an atmosphere that is uplifting, accepting and loving for anyone and everyone. That is the reason I will always come back to MYNA.”

Illinois camper Sarah Hussein, too, felt that the 2017 winter campers were especially memorable.

“I loved this past winter camp a lot because I got close with every single girl there,” Hussein said. “I also got closer to my deen. I see my life differently now than what I have been looking at before. I can say that this camp has been the best one I’ve went to so far.”

The 2017 winter camps aren’t the end, either. As the youth organization of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), MYNA has touched the lives of many American and Canadian Muslim youth for more than 30 years, offering the social support and national networks to mold “MYNA kids” into leaders in their local communities and the next generation of Muslim activists in America.

And as the organization prepares to launch its next season of camps this spring, President Sana Baban believes MYNA will expand on such reach and impact in 2018.

“Alhamdulilah, as we wrap up our most recent winter camp cycle with an overwhelming amount of success, campers and MYNA hype for ages, I am so excited to look towards upcoming activity within the organization,” Baban said. “The amount of activity and astounding growth and interest that we have seen in the past year is only growing and we are so excited to initiate our upcoming spring camp cycle with high hopes of creating a reach further than we ever have been capable of acquiring before.”