When your dad asks you why you’re not updating your blog, you know it’s time. As he just got back yesterday from a trip to India (and, aaaah, he had been checking on CommonPlacer from over there), I thought I’d make him happy and blog. He is, after all, the one who ALWAYS – without fail – encouraged me in every creative idea I’ve ever had, tasted every recipe I ever tried growing up (and while chewing and chewing and chewing my first apple pie attempt [a.k.a. the shoe leather], the only one who declared it delicious) and read every story/poem I wrote to be workshopped at university and provided me with a comment, a smile or at least a nod.

So, warning: extremely long post ahead about ISNA (as requested by my dad)…(with Quotes, Titles, Subtitles and maybe even Footnotes!)

ISNA

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him with his friendship. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

To me, the ISNA convention is all about energy. I enjoy just taking in all the positive energy moving Islam along in (north) America. But it’s also about friendships – bumping into friends I haven’t seen or spoken to since I was sixteen (and still recognizing each other!), feeling a hug that hasn’t changed in its warmth even after 10 years of spatial distance (Ustadha Noura Shamma from SunniPath) and, just stretching out a tentative hand to new friends.

This year I was fortunate to meet people who just exude so much faith and passion in the things that they do. And yes, I was my regular self when I first met them (which is shy and tentative but which is almost always and has almost always been deciphered to be aloof/snobby, unfortunately) but with time, Emerson’s above thoughts usually prevail.

Lectures/Sessions

This was the one year I didn’t get to attend many sessions. I was really looking forward to the Darfur one – particularly since I spoke to one of the speakers when he came by the art exhibit – but changes in family plans altered that. So, essentially, I really caught only about 2 sessions. They were both memorable – especially when Mukhtar Maghraoui spoke about how the motion (or advancement) that is important is not the one going on the outside but the one inside – a movement (for the better) of the imprint of our hearts.

Bazaar

There was a different vibe to the bazaar this year. I usually avoid the bazaar until the last day – when I make a mad dash to pick up presents – but this year, I felt more drawn in as there seemed to be more innovative products. Here are some of the interesting booths/products:

Muslim Girl Magazine – the editor, Ausma Khan went to school with my older brother and she’s doing an awesome and professional job with the magazine. Public schools all the way here in Canada (where Ausma’s originally from) are already interested in carrying the glossy with excellent writers and photographers.

Emel Magazine (from the U.K.) – there was a point when I was one of the only 2 subscribers from Canada to this Muslim lifestyle magazine and I was glad to hear that that’s changed (a bit) now. Their market is the strongest in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Gulf but it’s steadily growing in North America. They’re really worth checking out (a bit expensive because of the exchange rate – but isn’t it up to all of us to support the Muslim Renaissance?)

Occupation 101 Documentary – the brothers at this booth were extremely great at marketing their documentary. I haven’t seen it yet (just purchased it – see, told you they were great marketers) but since I was already interested in it from before, I was a grateful customer. Review to come, insha’Allah.

Sweet Sunnah Products – these brothers were also extremely persuasive (and somehow always remembered the product you had lingered over last). And so somehow I ended up with an olive oil and black seed mixture in a pretty container.

nasheeds.com – the nasheeds.com booth was a great place to pick up all the latest stuff – neat and organized.

Kareem Salama – picked up lots of the newest CD for the small (but growing) Canadian fans I know. My sister and her husband had a chance to chat for a while with Kareem and found him to be “as nice as his music”. I love the new CD and will do a review of it insha’Allah but for now, I’ll just say that the song More Than about the Prophet touched me in an extra-ordinary way from the first time I heard it. I’ve cried each time I’ve heard it – who cannot help loving the Prophet this much? There’s so much diversity (in music genres, content etc) to this CD and yet I’m drawn to each of the songs – almost equally. How’s that possible? Hmm, perhaps I’ll figure it out when I write the review.

The Couple from Alabama – I don’t know what their booth was called but they were endearing and my sister and I enjoyed our time with them. They were tucked away at the very end of the bazaar but proved that with a good product (instant engraving), you can sell from anywhere. There was a traffic jam at their tiny booth. We look forward to helping them at their booth next year again :).

Other Bloggers – it was funny to meet other bloggers and say, “Assalamu Alaikum, I’m commonplacer, are you _____ ?” Sadly, I missed meeting Yasmine from Sweep the Sunshine. Did speak to Hijabman, American Muslim, Brother Dash and others.

Books – Books are usually my biggest spending spree at the bazaar but this year I only got three. The ones I came back for had already sold out (maybe because I kept telling everyone I met about them).

Art Exhibit

So there’s me below with two of my sort of different contributions to the ISNA art exhibit. I did debate taking 1 or 2 of my traditional Islamic calligraphy pieces but in the end, just took my colorful work. I kind of stood out like a…some sort of…thumb. (But my kind sister tried to reassure me that Picasso and Van Gogh stood out in the same way. I just smiled serenely at her.)

isnaart.jpg

I wasn’t there to sell my pieces and as I have no business acumen at all, I was perplexed as to how to deal with all the offers I got for the bottom two pieces (especially the Headliner):

[picture removed]

The Headliner (thanks to my friend Munazzah for the awesome title)

This piece really resounded with brothers – young and old – for some reason. So many came up to me to say that it conveyed to them the sense of wearing hijab. I got an astounding offer for it, alhamdulillah, that I’m still deciding about. I guess I have to get over the fact that I love doing art for my soul’s sake and start following my own advice about supporting the Muslim Renaissance.

dsc00808.jpg Plains of Abraham

This is the second one which got a lot of interest and offers. I made this one with my younger brother in mind – as his wife is from a Christian family.

The other pieces I showed already belonged to others (yes, I borrowed back gifts I painted for people).

It was nice to meet people who were interested in different forms of art. And I really enjoyed meeting a seventeen year old sister from Dallas who came up to my table to express her appreciation for “different” art and who I coaxed to show me her portfolio (which she had on her!) I told her I hoped to see her works exhibited next year. On hearing this, she appeared doubtful but in the end went away with a hopeful smile.

Oh, yes, I must mention Abdur Rashid Vega, the calligraphy artist who was next door to me. His work is meticulous and beautiful. He and his wife live in Jakarta, Indonesia and he gave me lots of great advice about the importance of valuing one’s art properly. I found him to be a sincere brother – one who wishes for others that which he wishes for himself. May Allah increase his success in this life and the next.

And thanks to the brother who send me the first photo of yours truly by the paintings. (Now I have a record of the moment to show to my life list friends).

Entertainment

The entertainment sessions were good as usual. The Friday MSA one had amazing spoken word poetry by Brother Dash – I was riveted throughout his performance. But the finale one on Sunday contained the best live singing performances I’ve seen. Dawud Wharnsby was exceptional (I had to sing along to Midnight of course) and strangely (in a good strange way), Kareem Salama sounded even better in live performance than on his CD – which already sounds amazing. And he did an impressive cover of Green Day’s Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) to end off.

So all in all, it was a great convention, dad. I missed you there – because I know you would have been as happy as I was by all the faith, energy, talent and passion fueling the “Muslim Renaissance”, insha’Allah.

Phew, no footnotes!

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