On August 9, the United Shia Youth of Chicago held its Second Annual Imam-e-Zamana (may Allah hasten his reappearance) conference. Attended by guests from Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Louisiana, and Illinois, the conference attempted to provide participants an opportunity to learn how to "Serve Our Imam".
"Although it was a hectic process, we learned a lot from last year's conference," said co-director Shereen Yousuf. "This year we were more organized and knew what to expect."
The theme of the event was particularly inspirational, since it reflected the organization's ample community service this year. Co-director Uzma Shamsi said she was pleased that "This conference, 'Serving our Imam', was a continuation of last year's endeavor of 'Knowing our Imam'. It has allowed us to continue our mission by learning about our goals and acting upon them."
The first speaker to address the conference was Syed Sulayman Hassan Abidi of Chicago, who discussed the concepts of philanthropy and analyzing our motives when carrying out acts of kindness. By reminding the attendees that honest services helps to ensure our ability to maintain sincerity in the cause of Truth, he made it clear that without awareness and service to our Imam, there is emptiness in our souls. Syed Abidi advised the audience to attain inner peace by continually praying for the hastening of the reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi and never putting our own goals ahead of that priority. Hope also played a major role in his talk, as he stated that it is only attained by belief in "the promise of salvation through Allah and the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them). In this way, we will not compromise our principles, and we will accomplish our goals."
Sayyid Abbas Ayleya, of Seattle emphatically explained the significance of Ma'rifat, in-depth and true recognition, as the core of service. He pulled examples from Ziyarat Aale Yasin to demonstrate that every aspect of every action of our Imam is significant. Sayyid Ayleya's presentation aptly supplemented the concepts and revealed that "this in-depth recognition makes us Muntazir, or obedient, fully aware, and positively involved, ready for action and hopeful." His passion and relentlessness were very empowering and helped drive home the importance of being "Akhirat-oriented people" in order to better serve Imam-e-Zamana (AS).
The significance of individual and social change was addressed by Syed Ali Raza Rizvi of London. His combination of humor and conviction helped the audience understand that "a true follower serves the Imam of the time by establishing what he wants done." This is done most importantly by standing up against oppression. Syed Rizvi elaborated that the ideal goal of establishing peace can not be accomplished without first establishing justice. Giving people what is their right is the only way to truly attain peace within society. Syed Rizvi also tactfully brought the message back to Kerbala by explaining that Imam Zaman will travel there to reveal the oppression done to his respected forefathers. This truly unified the concepts of social change, justice, and peace.
Based on the guests' reactions, the conference was very well-received in spite of some time delays in the schedule. Mariam Zaiat of Dearborn was delighted that the program was organized completely by the youth and said she felt that it was "professional and very dynamic." She said she particularly appreciated that the speakers were brought from different areas. Tuba Hasan, also of Dearborn, MI, stated that although the conference was "a step forward to unite the youth and hasten the return of our Imam", it would have provided for better results overall if the schedule was adhered to more strictly. The reaction was also positive by the adults in the community. Masuma Hussain of Chicago said she was very proud of the youth's dedication to the cause and felt the day was a "very thought-provoking, enlightening, and educational experience."
USYC plans to continue this tradition in coming years by incorporating topics which educate and inspire the community to be better prepared for the return of Imam Al-Asr.