The wildly popular Reviving The Islamic Spirit convention went to Malaysia for the first time this year. Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil, like others in the region, jumped at the opportunity.
When I think of the RIS (Reviving The Islamic Spirit) Convention, I think of Canada – very far away. Imagine my surprise and delight when I heard that RIS was coming to Malaysia in March 2016. Tickets were sold out fast, and scholars like Dr Umar Faruq Abdullah, Shaykh Ninowy and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf graced our sunny shores.
Meeting fellow Australians was a wonderful bonus. Some of our family members flew in, and my husband and I met old friends we hadn’t seen in years. Some of them were now married, others had more children, and we met friends who had just returned from RIS Toronto.
The venue – Putrajaya International Convention Centre – was spectacular, the Grand Bazaar brimmed with all kinds of Islamic books, calligraphy, apparel, and the volunteers were warm and welcoming. The scene was set, and we were ready to be inspired.
My husband and I have a toddler, so with the help of my mother-in-law, we could take turns going up to the main auditorium. Alhamdulilah, I was able to attend the very first lecture, with Shaykh Ninowy. His beaming face greeted us, and marked the beginning of a a transformative weekend. During the first night, my husband listened to Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Imam Zaid Shakir, and Rashidah Ali. The following night, it was my turn. Our tag-team continued over the weekend, especially because we had two very long days: 10 am to 10 pm.
I couldn’t attend all of the lectures, but a few lines from the weekend resonated with me: “Your father is the scholarly tradition, and your mother is the beautiful cultural tradition.” Dr Umar Faruq Abdullah reminded us of the importance of both, in our journey of seeking and applying knowledge.
Imam Khalid Latif, a NYC chaplain, captured us with his oratory and sincerity. He challenged us to have weekly meals with someone different to us. Why? Because that’s how we learn how to have a heart as big as the Prophet’s (upon him be blessings and peace) – by embracing difference, and truly listening to one another.
Many of us were thrilled to hear from Dato’ Dr Afifi al-Akiti, a Malaysian scholar who lectures in Oxford University’s Faculty of Theology. With his trademark Nusantara adab, he made the point that it would be wiser to stick to the ‘pagoda’-style mosque roofing in this part of world, instead of copying the dome-like style. Pagoda roofing allows heavy tropical rain to run straight to the ground, whereas domes lead to water stagnating on the roof. SubhanAllah.
The RIS volunteers did a stellar job. They were so helpful, friendly, and unfailingly polite. I am especially grateful for the volunteers who helped at the Family Lounge. From offering balloons, smiles and opening doors so parents could balance babies and bags, they helped to provide much-needed ease.
The Family Lounge at RIS was very well-organised. It was spacious, comfortable, and the live feed was clear. There was plenty of space for the younger children to run around and play, while their parents watched the live feed. There was even a designated area for diaper changes and nursing. The children’s program in the next room was also fantastic, and divided between the younger kids and the older kids.
Next year, I forward to the inclusion of lady scholars to the line-up at RIS Malaysia. The voice of female scholarship is so needed in today’s world. Anse Tamara Gray, for example, combines 20 years of traditional Syrian scholarship with her down-to-earth American practicality. She speaks with the combined wisdom of a shaykha, daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother.
I pray that Allah reward the scholars who shared their knowledge and time, the organisations who helped make this happen, and the volunteers who helped so tirelessly. May Allah reunite us all in the Garden.