Camp Tazkiyyah 2012 – The Mission

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Assalamu-alaikum (peace be upon you) families, youth, and fellow readers,

We have been hunkered down the past few weeks in our planning room, carefully discussing and finalizing details for our second-ever youth camp (held at Camp Tecumseh in Brookston, IN). This year’s camp, conducted in conjunction with ICAN Youth, was entitled “Camp Tazkiyyah.”Before explaining the objective and plan for our youth camp, we wanted to first take a moment to thank Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, for granting us the ability to put together this camp. We would also like to say jazakum Allahu khairan to the following organizations and individuals for assisting with camp planning:

– ICAN Youth Counselors (Sr. Lama, Sr. Mariam, Sr. Meganh, and Sr. Silai)

– Cafe Royale (Br. Ghassan) for donating gift cards for the camp competition. We also greatly appreciate Br. Ghassan taking time out of his busy schedule to serve as a parent representative for our camp.

– Coldstone Creamery (Br. Sabir) for donating gift cards for the camp competition.

– Families who assisted with transportation to and from the campsite (Br. Belkacem, Br. Hossam, Br. Mohammed, Dr. Sabre, Sr. Rukhsana).

– Camp Tecumseh personnel for patiently answering questions, working with us to ensure our requests were met in a timely fashion, and helping with last-minute details during our stay.

May Allah, azza wa jal, accept our humble efforts, record this camp on our scale of good deeds, and forgive us for any mistakes we made during the planning or execution of the camp. Ameen.

Our theme this year for Camp Tazkiyyah was “iMuslim to weMuslim: Sparking an Internal Revolution.” In today’s society, all around us we get the message of “I” – being concerned with our own needs, goals, and desires while minimizing or not caring about the welfare or needs of others. We wanted to start the conversation with our youth regarding transforming their mentality from one where they were concerned only about themselves to showing a general care for the community. The basis of our theme evolved from the translation of the following beautiful verse from the Holy Qur’an:

Indeed Allah will not change the condition of a people/community/nation, until they change what is in themselves.” (Surah Ra’d (13), Verse 11)

For our youth to be the source of positive change in their community, they have to first inspect their own hearts and clean out any deficiencies or illnesses (such as arrogance or jealousy) which are present. After all, it is hard to sincerely lend a helping hand to somebody whom you feel you are better than. To help drive home the message and provide tools for our youth to return to their community and be a positive example, we held multiple mini-group discussions (on purifying our intention for why we were at Camp Tazkiyyah and identifying and understanding one disease of the heart – jealousy) and two workshops with our guest speaker, Br. Saad Omar (where he discussed dealing with arrogance/self-promotion and how our youth could start the journey of improving their hearts spiritually).

The camp was not all talk though as our youth had the opportunity to take part in multiple fun activities and a camp competition. Throughout the next few blog posts, we’ll provide insight (through photos) into the journey the young men of the ISGL Youth Group took through Camp Tazkiyyah. Buckle your (internet) seat belt and enjoy the ride!


Camp Tazkiyyah 2012 – Our Journey to Camp Tecumseh and The Scavenger Hunt

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Assalamu-alaikum (peace be upon you),

How do you transport 31 young men and women, 8 counselors, 1 parent representative, and a gargantuan number of sleeping bags, luggage, and a mini-grill 20 miles from the ISGL/masjid to Camp Tecumseh? Very, very carefully as you’ll see below.

Our youth release their excess energy with a game of indoor football. Seriously where does this energy come from at 7:30 AM on a Saturday morning? Meanwhile the stacks of suitcases start mounting higher and higher.

Loading up the caravan for our journey to Camp Tecumseh – Muhammad looks excited. Does anyone else dig Hamza’s hiking hat? We think it looks mighty lovely!

Muhammad and Mohamed shriek in glee as they locate their bunk beds in the cabins – “We’re roomies bud!”

Team “Hummus Punch” gets ready for camp orientation led by their unquestioned leaders – Salah Issa and Br. Ghassan.

Our first of many group photos before the opening ceremony for Camp Tazkiyyah. Ihsan appears bothered by the sunlight; Omar, well he appears to be channeling his inner monk.

Campers listen attentively to the first group discussion on “Operation Purification” – well except for Danyal and Murtaza who appear to be catching up on sleep.

The aptly named team “Honey Badger Shaykhs” discuss strategy as they meander to the Scavenger Hunt starting point.

Hamza inspects a leaf; it smells “leafy.”

Inspecting the bark of a tree – rough or smooth, you tell us.

Mujtaba scans the tree branches above for a bird’s nest, squirrel, or tree hole.

The “Honey Badger Shaykhs” have found the promised land – the famed Wabash River!

Team “Sour Skittles” displays their scavenged items – a bird’s nest, a leaf, and ummm…a tree branch?

The objective of the Scavenger Hunt and hiking activity was to give our youth a chance to reflect upon and take a moment to appreciate the beauty of Allah’s, azza wa jal, creation which surrounded us throughout our camp. Taking a few moments every day to appreciate your surroundings will give you a deeper connection and appreciation for the greatness of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala.

Camp Tazkiyyah 2012 – Mounting the Climbing Walls

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Assalamu-alaikum (peace be upon you),

Quick, name the youngest person to successfully climb Mount Everest?

Answer: 13-year-old Jordan Romero!

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), Mount Everest was not located at Camp Tecumseh for our youth to attempt to break the record. However, we did enjoy learning the proper technique to climb up a wall (Spider-Man style!) and race one another to find who could climb the wall from bottom to top the most quickly.This year’s winner from the brothers side – a whopping 46 seconds by Ali K!

We have arrived at our Mount Everest – the giant climbing walls!

A few guys take a moment to re-charge their batteries with items from their snack bags – yummy, Sun Chips for a sunny day!

Salah lends Mohamed a helping hand getting on his safety equipment. Remember, safety trumps fun every single time.

Mohamed reaches the top of the wall ma shaa Allah!

“That was so hard!”

Shujath expertly scales the wall one handhold at a time. Great work buddy!

Mustafa receives a lift from Ihsan.

Omar looks to the left for a foothold – “why does this always happen to me when I get close to the top!?!”

Omar meet foothold; foothold meet Omar – “wait, why is my left foot suspended in mid-air? HELP!!!”

Samir two feet from the top – “just…one…more…step.”

Our parent rep proving even adults can have fun climbing walls.

Wishing you peace mom and dad!
ISGL Youth

Camp Tazkiyyah 2012 – Lunch and Archery Highlights

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Assalamu-alaikum (peace be upon you),

What are Muslims encouraged to say before they eat? “Bismillah (in the name of Allah (God)!”

After several hours of thrilling activities, it was finally time for our youth to enjoy a sit-down meal together before proceeding to archery.A special thanks to the members of team “Honey Badger Shaykhs,” for set-up and clean-up of the tables for lunch.

Hamza, still wearing his hiking hat, graciously sets the tables for lunch.

“Ummm, how many chairs go around this table?” Mujtaba quickly places seats for our hungry guests before they arrive.

Omar makes sure everybody gets a cup; well everyone except for the cameraman. He gets a concussion instead.

A nice, refreshing post-meal workout – carpetball anyone?

Samir instructs the “Hummus Punch” lads on the art of tossing the ball down the carpet.

Arriving at the Archery Range – who would emerge as our version of Katniss Everdeen?

Our older youth take aim at the target. Ready, aim, fire!

Murtaza shoots left-handed while Mujtaba re-loads; oh the techniques galore!

Omar achieves the unthinkable – he literally shot down the target!

Our best archer, Ali, strikes a pose next to his arrows. Two bulls eyes in one go is pretty, pretty impressive!

Shujath, Amr, and Muhammad in various stages of preparation for archery.

Ahmed and Amr get ready for their turn.

Standing behind the eye of the arrow; quite the perspective isn’t it?

Samir seems pleased with his effort!

Salah shot his arrow so hard it went through the target and almost through the bale of hay! Yes Danyal, we see you.

Camp Tazkiyyah 2012 – Jealousy Discussion, Horseback Riding, and Br. Saad

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If you were to think of diseases of the heart, what illness would come to your mind first? Heart disease? High blood pressure? Congested heart failure?

On the road again – back to our homey cabins for wudu and Dhuhr prayer.

How many people would honestly think of the word “jealousy?” Oftentimes when we think of diseases of the heart, we think of physical health problems which can be fixed with medication, surgery, or exercise. However, few people think of spiritual illnesses – such as arrogance and jealousy – which are more difficult ailments to diagnose and treat. However, these illnesses can lead to the breakdown of relationships between family members (siblings get jealous over a special gift/toy/award given/earned by another sibling), between friends (speak badly about a friend’s qualities or characteristics), and between community members (backbite or spread false rumors about another person in the community which ruins that person’s reputation).

After Dhuhr prayer on Saturday, our youth took part in a discussion on the topic of a disease of the heart – jealousy. We defined the term to make sure everyone in the group was on the same page, provided relevant examples of jealousy experienced both at home and in school, diagnosed why jealousy is a big problem (famous hadeeth paraphrased – jealousy eats away at the good deeds just as fire eats away wood), and concluded with tips on dealing with jealousy when it arises (communicating our feelings to our parents, a trusted mentor, or the person whom we feel jealous of; not spreading false rumors to harm others; and ask Allah, azza wa jal, to bless us with good qualities which we envy in others).

“Hummus Punch” ready for some conversation. We love the excitement and smile on Hazim’s face!

“Sour Skittles” is ready too!

Omar appears shocked – “wait we actually have to learn something while at camp?” Let the discussion on jealousy begin!

Once our discussion was complete, we took part in our final planned outdoor activity of the day – horseback riding!

Look at all the pretty horsies!!!

Our young men get a quick lesson on how to ride a horse. Remember clicking sounds make the horse move; saying “whoa” and pulling back on the reins makes the horse stop.

Hamza mounts a horse named “Charm”…and away they go together.

Let the trail ride begin.

Our group enters the forest one horse rider at a time.

A minor traffic jam appears to be in place – food and bathroom break for the horsies.

After getting cleaned-up, eating dinner, giving our youth an hour to relax and search the campgrounds for interesting activities, we concluded the first day of camp with back-to-back workshops with our guest speaker, Br. Saad Omar. Among the beneficial pieces of advice he imparted to our youth included:

– Being a Muslim requires one to be an active participant in his/her faith. We can’t sit on the sidelines thinking that being born into a Muslim family or having a Muslim name will be enough to achieve the reward of Jannah (Paradise).

– The relationship between many Muslims and Allah, azza wa jal, forms a sort of triangle. In many instances, to get closer/motivated to become a stronger Muslim, we go through something (i.e. our parents, an inspirational lecture, a motivational speaker, a conference, youth camp, a CD, etc.). Once the lecture or camp is done, we are left with this inspirational “high” and motivation to do a hundred different things to improve. However, once the speaker goes away, your camp group breaks up, or the conference ends – and the impetus for change goes away – many Muslims go back to the stage (or worse regress) they were at before the camp/conference/lecture took place. To truly get to the stage where are hearts are truly connected with Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, we have to start communicating with him through our daily prayers, du’aa, and by impacting humanity.

– Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was both a pharmacist and a doctor. He diagnosed the problem each person who came to ask him a question had and then prescribed the appropriate medication and dose for that individual. Thus when we advise others, we must advise them based on their own circumstances and situation.

– To truly make a positive impact in our communities, we have to go through the three H’s:

1.) Heaven – establish the link between yourself (i.e. your heart, why you do the deeds you perform) and Allah, azza wa jal

2.) Heart – the link to Allah, azza wa jal, should cause a positive change in your heart (where you remove the spiritual diseases of the heart one-by-one)

3.) Humanity – your actions go from benefiting yourself alone to benefiting humanity at-large

Br. Saad imparts gems of knowledge upon our youth at night.

Our workshops conclude with the two keys to self-improvement – 3 minutes of Qur’an daily (1 minute recitation, 1 minute reading the translation, and 1 minute of writing your reflection of what you just read) and technology turn-off Friday (tune out your cell phone and Facebook and tune-in to your deen).

Camp Tazkiyyah 2012 – Sunday Packing and Slides

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Have you ever been at the airport and wished you could return to your childhood and hop on a slide? Did you realize you could fulfill your childhood dream by taking a ride in the world’s largest slide (in an airport) located in Singapore’s Changi Airport? This amazing four-story slide takes riders almost 40 feet down the chute to the bottom.

While our young men didn’t get the chance to experience the Singapore slide at Camp Tecumseh, they did enjoy a plunge down two famed slides – the “Arrow” and the “Bullet.” Before our youth could experience these wonderful delights, they had to first awake from their deep slumber, pray tahajjud and Fajr, enjoy a post-Fajr reflection (where we talked about a trick to get ourselves up for tahajjud and Fajr prayers), pack-up, and have breakfast.

Salah assists Muhammad in packing his sleeping bag.

Danyal finds himself encircled by piles of luggage before breakfast. “How do I get out of here?”

A few of our youth call home after breakfast.

Hop aboard the wagon ride to the slides and the lake!

A quick pit stop at the “Arrow” slide. They forgot to mention it was wet at the bottom of the slide (ugh, wet pants never feel good).

The “Arrow” slide unveiled.

The famed “Bullet” slide – our youth get some tips on how to make the most out of their journey down the chute.

Salah makes the long climb back up the steps. The adults realized the hard way that slides are only appropriate for use up to a certain age; beyond age 24, you can seriously hurt yourself.

Camp Tazkiyyah 2012 – Canoeing and Paddleboats

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Assalamu-alaikum (peace be upon you),

Our final fun camp activity for Camp Tazkiyyah was a wonderful trip across the Richard Marsh lake. From canoes to paddleboats, our young men had a chance to build stronger arm and leg muscles as they powerfully pushed across the gentle water of the lake. The morning was beautiful with the rays of sunshine casting an elegant light across the blue water of the lake behind the backdrop of the green forest in front of us. Though a seed of sadness formed upon realization the camp was rapidly coming to a close, our campers forged together once more for a last “bro-bonding” moment.

Hamza, Hazim, and Muhammad try their hand at a leisurely stroll around the lake with a paddleboat.

They ditched the paddleboat for a canoe and found more joy on the water.

The pirates of the Caribbean – Camp Tazkiyyah style!

Ihsan and his crew depart the shore excitedly.

And away they went…

Murtaza and Danyal, watch out – you’re about to hit the forest!

Br. Ghassan and Salah take Mustafa for a tour around the lake.

How many oars does it take to steer a canoe? Apparently three according to these jokers.

High above the lake, there stood this cool suspension bridge. Our young men decided as a conclusion to our boating excursion, we would walk across the bridge. It was a fitting end to the camp.