I meant to put this up earlier, but I have been so busy the past couple of days
The MANA conference ending in the most fantastic way, masha Allah. On Sunday morning at the end of the closing session, Imam Siraj spoke to a ballroom filled to capacity with Muslim attendants. Imam Siraj and I have been together at scores of conferences and as presenters often are on the stage or in the audience in the final hours of the event. Usually the people who remain at the end of the final session are dwindling; some members of the host organization, a few speakers from the morning session and very few of the faithful. Most participants are checking out of their room, on their way to the airport or getting on the highway for long drive home.
Why did the MANA conference end this way? I believe it is because for the first time in long time or maybe ever, the people were asked tell us what you want and then outline how you want it. The resolutions put forward by the masses were given to MANA but with the full expectation that the community would pick it up ball and run with it.
The Sunday session began by breaking the hundreds in the room into working groups. Each group had a facilitator: some men, some women. The facilitators focus on developing SMART goals from the groups [Strategic, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Based]. I was impressed to see the large and diverse groups (men, women and get right to work on the action plan in this very advanced way) I overheard in a working group, “how can we measure our success if we don’t do …..”.
Everyone at the conference routinely expressed that they were ready to work and had been looking for a opportunity to make a difference. People did not know where the initiatives [Share Centers, Re-Entry, Happy Marriage and Training] came from but their enthusiasm validated for the leadership vision of the MANA shura and Diwan (executive committee). If there is one person that we can thank for this approach is Dr. Ihsan Bagby. Under his leadership as secretary-general the MANA Diwan and shura has been meeting and strategically planning the development of the agenda outline.
The brilliance of the initiative approach came out in the discussion groups. Muslims from across the spectrum – whether from Imam Muhammad’s community, NOI sympathizers, independent Sunni groups (under various leaders) – engaged the issues of initiatives as their own. I must also mention the active role of women and young people was impressive.
Imam Siraj, Imam Talib, Amir Islam and I all commented privately that the community really expects a lot from the initiatives set forth by this conference. May Allah help us to help to work for these initiatives for the benefit of our society and this ummah.