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Do’s and Dont's for convention goers
A Sound Vision Etiquette Guide:

by Sound Vision Staff Writer

Ah, Labor Day weekend-the time of conventions galore. The Islamic Society of North America's (ISNA) and the Mosque Cares (Imam W. D. Mohammed)'s conventions are the largest annual Muslim conferences in America.

While these are great places to learn more about Islam, network and meet other Muslims, they also have their share of etiquette problems.

Observing the Do's and Don'ts of convention etiquette listed below can make the experience more positive for everyone attending.


Get there early
The early bird gets the worm is not just a cliche. It's the truth. Getting to the convention early means you can register immediately and avoid the last minute rush of attendees.

As well, you can mentally prepare yourself for the weekend by looking over the program. If you prepared in advance by noting sessions you want to attend, this will be a good time to find out if there are any changes in the schedule so you can make alternative plans.

In addition, by coming early, you can find out what arrangements are available on site for first aid, babysitting, etc.

Know and follow conference rules
These are made to make everyone's visit pleasant and comfortable, as well as to make the job of conference organizers easier.

Obeying the rules could mean keeping your name tag with you at all times during the conference or following a certain procedure to register on site. Whatever the case may be, remember the rules were made for your benefit.

Be patient.
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: "Whenever a Muslim is afflicted by any hardship, whether it be chronic sickness, anxiety, grief, harm, a disaster, or even a thorn-prick, Allah wipes out some of his minor sins" (Bukhari, Muslim).

Patience must be practiced because you will most probably be with hundreds, if not thousands of people from different places and different backgrounds. You will need this patience in the dining halls, getting to and fro in hallways, and with people who talk and disturb others during sessions, for example.

Use this as an opportunity to train for the patience you'll need at Hajj.

Come early to prayer.
Coming early will ensure you have a place to pray. Put your shoes where designated by organizers, or if there is no such arrangement, bring a plastic bag for them and keep them with you during prayers.

Be on time for sessions.
You will benefit by catching the full lecture, getting the handouts, if any, so you can follow along with the speaker, and you also get the best choice of seats. Not to mention that punctuality is part of good Muslim manners.

Take notes during sessions.
Save questions for after lectures unless the speaker indicates otherwise.

Leave as quietly as possible during lectures if necessary.

Avoid pushing back chairs, shuffling papers and slamming doors loudly so that others are not distracted or disturbed.

Assist those who need help.

The Prophet said: "A Muslim is a Muslim's brother: he should not wrong him, nor hand him over to his enemy. He who relieves the need of a Muslim will find that Allah relieves his own needs. And he who eases the trouble of a Muslim will find that Allah relieves his own needs. And he who eases the trouble of a Muslim will have one of his troubles eased by Allah on the Day of Arising" (Bukhari, Muslim).

Offering assistance can mean different things.
For example, help a brother or sister who is disabled get around if they are having difficulty; assist a mom bring her stroller-bound child down the stairs; offer seats to the elderly. And don't forget to give them priority in elevators and/or escalators.

In emergency situations, it could also mean contacting first aid on site.
Or it could simply mean holding doors for others or offering a seat to someone who needs it more than you.

Be considerate
Try to make things easier for others. For example, if you are staying in the same hotel where the convention is taking place, try to make Wudu in your hotel room instead of relying on bathrooms nearby. This way more people can have access to washrooms to make their Wudu on time for prayer.

Turn cell phones and pagers off during lectures
Say Salam
This applies to all Muslims, as the Prophet has said, "You should provide food, and greet both those you know and those you do not" (Bukhari, Muslim).

There are also specific manners for this, as the Prophet described in a Hadith narrated by Abu Huraira, "a young person should greet someone who is older, a pedestrian should greet someone who is sitting down, and a small group should greet a large one" (Bukhari, Muslim).

Observe Islamic male-female etiquette in hallways.
That means, for example, men should stick to one side of the hallway, while women move to the other, so neither sex feels uncomfortable.

One rule to follow is outlined in this Hadith in Masnad: "Graceful is that man who walks with dignity, keeps his eyes down, keeps his voice low, does not look here and there (as bad manner) all these are parts of gracefulness and respectability."

Observe general rules of modesty
"Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Lo! Allah is aware of what they do" (Quran 24:30).

"And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms..." (Quran 24:31).

With regards to looking at the opposite sex, the Prophet advised: "Do not look for a second time, for while you are not to blame for the first glance you have no right to the second" (Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud).

Dress comfortably
Dress for the occasion: comfortably, and taking into account your environment and the purpose of your attendance at the convention-to seek knowledge and network for the sake of Allah.

Thank speakers and organizers
The Prophet said: "Whoever fails to thank a person who does a favor to him, (actually) fails to thank Allah" (Ahmad, Tirmidhi).

Thanking speakers and organizers will provide them the encouragement and support, as well as assurance that their hard work was worth it. Too often, Muslims are busy cutting each other down instead of appreciating the good work being done by many brothers and sisters.

Make Dawa
In most cases, non-Muslims will also be staying in the hotels where Muslim conventions are taking place.

Use this opportunity to make Dawa. Bring some Dawa pamphlets from home. Or if that is not possible, on the first day (see, another advantage of coming early) check out the booths already set up. You can probably find free Islamic literature. Pass it on to others at the hotel.

Recognize and treat local Muslims well
In bigger cities, don't be surprised to see Muslim cab driver, bus boys, receptionists, etc. Greet these fellow Muslims appropriately, and spread the warmth.

Welcome non-Muslims
While most conference attendees will be Muslim, there will be some non-Muslims attending as well. Go out of your way to welcome them, treat them with the same courtesy and respect you'd treat fellow Muslims, and be available to answer questions if you are asked.

Be an ambassador for Muslim unity
When you meet a Muslim leader at the conference, go out of your way to say Salam, thank them for their hard work, and ask them what they are doing for the cause of Muslim unity. Also, make Dua for unity during the daily prayers, which you should try to attend in congregation at the conference.

Visit the bazaar
Muslim businesses spend thousands of dollars to display their wares and offer you a fantastic selection of books, videos, DVDs, CDs, gifts, clothes and much more.  Visit the bazaar to support these businesses and stock up on gifts for Eid, as well as new selections for your library.

And of course, don't forget to visit SoundVision's booths.


Don't talk during sessions
While socializing with other Muslims is definitely a part of a Muslim convention, it is not proper Adab (etiquette) to be doing this during lectures and sessions.
Remember, there are brothers and sisters who have traveled miles to not just meet others, but to learn about Islam. Don't ruin this opportunity for them.

Don't eat during sessions.
This is also a distraction and rude to speakers. Imagine sitting in a classroom and eating there. It would rarely be tolerated. Give the same respect to your Muslim brother or sister who may have traveled miles to give you this fantastic session/workshop.

A special note: food includes bubble gum. There are few things as annoying as someone popping bubbles or making loud chewing noises during a spiritually enlightening talk.

Don't be late to sessions and lectures.
While there are always unforeseen circumstances where coming on time may not be possible, don't let this become a habit.

Coming late only disturbs the speakers, as well as others trying to pay attention.

Don't bring very small children to sessions and workshops.
A crying child, no matter how cute, becomes annoying to those who are trying to concentrate and learn.

See if there are baby-sitting arrangements on site, or work out a schedule with your spouse or other family members such that you divide your time between watching the baby and attending sessions. Return the favor for them as well so everyone benefits from the convention.

Don't block traffic in hallways.
This is a MAJOR problem. Two people who haven't seen each other in years will suddenly meet each other and begin a long conversation in the middle of the main hallway being used by hundreds of others at the same time.

This is inconvenient and can be dangerous. Solution: greet the person and move to the side of the hallway to continue your conversation.

Don't leave any place a mess.
That goes for the lecture halls, workshop rooms, washrooms, your own hotel room and the cafeteria/dining area.

It also means not leaving candy bar wrappers on the floor or gum on the bottom of tables or chairs and soft drink cans everywhere.

As Muslims, we must maintain cleanliness on our person and in our environment as the Prophet has said, "Cleanliness is half of the religion" (Muslim).

As well, don't forget the non-Muslims also staying at the hotel are watching what Muslims are doing. Leaving the place a mess is not the way we want to leave a lasting impression.

Don't think "this is not my mess"
If you're confronted with a washroom strewn with toilet paper or a trail of soft drink cans in a conference room or hallway, there are two things you can do.

You can ignore it, do what you've got to do and get out of there as soon as possible.

Or you could be a good citizen and do the charitable thing: pick it up. In part of a Hadith in Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet said that removing a harmful thing from the road is a charity.

Don't waste Food
"Two persons' food is enough for three, and three person's food is enough for four," said the Prophet in a Hadith narrated in Bukhari and Muslim.

Before taking your food ensure you take only as much as you can consume. If you can't finish the food in one sitting, try to get a box or bag to pack it in. Avoid wasting at all costs. Consider this Hadith:

"When someone eats from a vessel and makes it wholly clean (so that no food is left in it), the vessel prays for his forgiveness" (Ahmad, Darimi, Ibn Majah, Tirmidhi).

Don't complain about the Food
It is sad but common to see Muslims attending events complaining about the food. In most cases, convention organizers do their best to provide sufficient and tasty meals.

If you haven't received the kind of meal you were expecting remember that the Prophet never said he disliked any kind of food.

Don't wear headphones while you're in a session.
or while you are walking in the hallways. During the sessions, this is an insult to your speaker.

In the hallways, this makes it virtually impossible to hear crowd traffic instructions that may be given to facilitate the movement of convention goers between sessions or to meals, for instance.

Don't push others to get to a lecture/dinner/ workshop/meeting with a friend faster. Pushing is rude and dangerous, and it will not get you where you want to go more quickly.

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Your Comments

saheer umar, Brooklyn - wrote on 8/29/2004 10:02:40 AM
Rating: Rating

Comment: Not only does this tackle the obvious hurdles of the conferecnce, but it reminds us of the less apparent obsticles that we wrestle with in our daily lives that should as well be watched while attending the conference. Thank you very much.

ak, - wrote on 8/25/2004 10:06:50 AM
Rating: Rating

Comment: We need more of this...as many people seem to forget the basics as soon as they get to the conf. Thanks for sharing this.

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