58 young Muslim women from around the tri-state area went on a journey in the woods this past weekend at Camp Bernie in Port Murray, NJ. There were two large cabin homes, two thought-provoking speakers, and a whole lot of sisterhood. The camp officially kicked off with an icebreaker, which was explained to some of the girls as an introduction session to get to know one another- because some were mistakenly under the impression that there was actual frozen ice that needed chopping! The introductory activity was followed by dinner and salatul Maghrib (prayer after sunset) outside on the grass. Here, the only sound that could be heard was the recitation of Qur'an and the chirping of crickets as a peaceful calm fell over the night. This peaceful atmosphere remained for the duration of the weekend.
Following salah (prayer) was a riveting talk with Sr. Afshan Khawaja which she directly related to this year's theme, "The Muslimah's Necklace: Pearls of Her Character Unstrung," She emphasized the need for every girl at camp to build strong character by picking up one good trait at a time; she warned us not to allow ourselves to go home empty handed with nothing but pictures of good times and memories of hiking and canoeing. Rather, we were told to "collect some pearls for our character and to create a necklace." With this thought in mind the girls headed over to the campfire site for some traditional camping rituals which included Islamic songs and the making of halal smores.
Saturday and Sunday were jam packed with activities. The girls were able to canoe, swim, practice archery, create their own candles, complete an obstacle course using only ropes connected to trees, plan and act in their own skits, and follow the female camp guides on a hike into the forest at night. The Saturday night hike was a huge hit amongst camp participants as it was pitch black and no flashlights were allowed- needless to say high-pitched screams could be heard all around. Dispersed between the activities were more talks with Sr. Afshan and Sr. Sumera Khan, that revolved around the characteristics of a Mumin (true believer) as emphasized in the Quran as well as lessons learned from great Muslim women of the past.
Low ropes Obstacle Course
With the will of Allah and the hard work of YM members around the tri-state area the weekend was a great success. The camp provided for young girls to forge their Muslim identities while in a natural and peaceful environment, away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. They engaged in talks and discussions which were healthy for the minds and hearts; and participated in activities, which were healthy for their bodies. And lastly, the late night pranks, after Fajr (prayer which begins from dawn) reflections, and hours of a game called Mafia will always be remembered as a means of creating bonds of sisterhood. We thank Allah for this opportunity and hope to see the same participants and more at the next Young Muslims sisters Retreat.
Article contributed by Sister Fatima Mian, Young Muslims, Teaneck NJ
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