Camp Sunnah is the greatest week-long experience I have ever had the opportunity to be a part of. I have never been for Hajj or Umrah and Insha’Allah I will get the chance to someday, but I expect to experience something similar to what I went through at CS. In terms of what you are a part of and what you go through physically, mentally and spiritually it is comparable to the best month of the year, Ramadan. Now you may wonder why does a camp get such high praise and how could you ever equate it to the most sacred journeys in Islam. The answer is very simple and it is part of the name too, “Sunnah”. That in essence is what we tap into and what we experience in this special journey.
Now if anyone knows an NYM member or has attended any of our events, you’ve probably heard the name before at least, if not been given an in-depth discussion or told numerous stories about it. Camp Sunnah in its simplest and maybe most described words is a week long leadership retreat, however that description is gross underestimate and is unable to capture what goes on there. It is a journey of understanding, growth, faith with difficulty, gratitude, enlightenment and so much more.
In the prophetic tradition we retreat into the mountains, to reflect, ponder and increase in our faith. We take ourselves away from the chaotic and messy environment that we live in everyday and join a group of individuals all seeking the same thing. To live for a brief moment in time as the Sahaba (ra) did, to be surrounded by goodness, Iman and a community who will support you to succeed. It’s truly amazing because throughout that week you uncover your capabilities and unlock your potential, it allows you to see what you can accomplish in a short period of time with a community upon the Haq and by being in service to the Creator.
There is something we commonly call ‘the detox period’ when attendees first arrive at Camp Sunnah. At the start you see individuals who are reliant on their phones, or on their access to media or that have a certain attitude and behaviour, who always take a little time (can be a day or two) to settle in. We get so caught up and used to living in an imperfect society that allows our nafs to dictate our actions and behaviour that being in an Islamic environment with a certain level of discipline and patience is a big adjustment.
The most apparent change is during meal times, at the start the attendees always rush to grab a bunch of food, sit down and begin eating, however as a CS rule we never eat until everyone has their meal and is ready to start. Following this can be challenging at first, especially with the amount of energy that we expend throughout the day. But you see a truly incredible transformation mid-way and especially at the end of the week. Brothers will refuse to even take food until others have first, they will compete with each other to serve the food or the drinks, they spend the time waiting by reading Qur’an, reflecting or making dua.
The amount of adab, respect and concern they have for one another reaches a whole new level. Over a very short period of time you see these individuals, many of whom are strangers with each other, grow to become brothers and sisters in Islam. They have a sincere level of care and want the best for one another, they are accepting of each other’s flaws, appreciative of their strengths and they forgive and support one another. The atmosphere and environment that is built around these people makes it easy to do good deeds and more difficult to follow your nafs. It becomes a vision of what an Ummah united upon the truth and working together for the sake of Allah (swt) would look like.
Being in those surroundings is a catalyst for transformation and growth, you remember what you have been doing for so long, and you see what you are capable of and the two start to look so different. It becomes a source of inspiration and enlightenment, you seek to become closer to this better version of yourself and crave to continue that improvement. It helps you to break down the barriers around you heart, that you put up to your deen and to your community. It becomes a way to take steps forward in your life, becomes a source of practical and implementable knowledge. It gives you Yaqeen and Taqwa and helps you to realize how strong we can be as Muslims and how we were able to accomplish so much throughout history.