This was our first year attending MSA West and while every one had a different reason for attending whether it was to gain a “spiritual high” or to “find the one”, our purpose was to learn how to have a better connection with our creator and learn anything that MSA West had to offer. We have never interacted with a Muslim community because growing up in West Hollywood, there were not many Muslims. We are not going to lie. We were a bit afraid of going because we did not want to be judged by the Muslim community, and did not know anyone there but our sister, Michelle. We knew she was a bit more comfortable going because she interacted with Muslims at UCLA. We were so glad that we did not let our hesitation stop us from going because we ended up meeting some of the nicest people that we have ever met before.
At the conference we heard many speakers, but the ones that stood out to us the most were Hanif J. Williams and Sheikh Alaeddin El-Bakri. Sheikh Alaeddin El-Bakri was very inspiring and he taught us about how we need to implement what we learned from the speakers into our daily lives rather than just going to the conference then forgetting everything we learned five minutes later. All of us, being the Muslim youth, should take actions that will benefit future generations. Another speaker we heard was Hanif J. Williams. He stood out to us because his prayers stood out to me and showed me that he had a close relationship with God. He inspired us to build a closer relationship with Allah. After coming home, I (Sunny) even felt the urge to email Hanif for advice on how to concentrate more during Salah.
Our sister Michelle is used to praying outside in public, but for us, it was something new. We have always prayed at home or in mosques, but during the conference, we experienced praying outside in public. At one point during the day, we were walking around the campus and it was prayer time, so we decided to pray at a corner just the three of us. To be honest, we felt sort of uncomfortable since we weren’t used to praying in public and we felt like people were staring at us. Then, when we headed back to the conference everyone prayed together outside, and that felt way more comfortable. Even though people were staring, we didn’t mind because it felt like we were a part of a community and we took pride in praying. We feel like we have gained more confidence in praying in public and it does not matter if people stare or judge us. Our only judge should always be Allah.
We enjoyed the conference overall and felt like we learned a lot. The only thing we regret is that we did not take enough notes, but we know to take more notes in the future. The scheduling of the conference was a bit overwhelming as well. The conference started in the morning and ended at around 11 pm or 12am and towards the end of the day, we were just exhausted. During the last main sessions and workshops we were so sleepy and could not concentrate as much, but other than that, we enjoyed everything else.
The ride to UC Davis was very interesting as well. We went with three other Muslim brothers from UCLA and all three of us had a pleasure meeting them. Our driver was Neyamatullah Akbar, who is the president of the MSA in UCLA. He was one of the nicest and humblest person we ever met. We also met Dr. Mahmoud, who was a neurosurgeon from Egypt, who was very inspiring and friendly. Lastly, we met Nivian, who was another UCLA student, who was funny and friendly as well. At first, we felt awkward driving with three strangers, but as soon as we left UCLA, we interacted and got along with everyone. On the way to MSA West, we played road games (which btw never got the right answer) and talked about what we were looking forward to at the conference. Overall everyone was nice and friendly.
All in all, the MSA West Conference was a very good experience for both of us. Overall, we felt very inspired and we want to strive to become better Muslims. After seeing how this conference turned out, we look forward to attending it in the future.