An Account of an Ahmadi Researcher to the Greatest Conference ever!
I sat there at the edge of the room, taking it all in, this was the calm before the storm.
It is 0930, on Saturday 2nd July, with a bright blue sky outside, promising uninterrupted sunshine induced with summer country air and all those “refreshing” aromas surrounding it… we are waiting.This was a perfect start to what we prayed would be a weekend to remember for all delegates, organisers and special guests alike.
At around 1030 the first set of cars, that had left from Baitul Futuh Mosque in London, arrived into Gradbach Youth Hostel located in the picturesque Peak District National Park. It was chosen after literally months of intense discussions between the organisers of the conference.
As the youth of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK entered into the youth hostel they were, after a slight delay, greeted with a breakfast table laid with a varying selection of food, served with a healthy dose of discussion! It was morning and already some had started intense conversations, I sometimes wonder where Ahmadi’s get their appetite for discussions.
After some delay, everyone settled into the small conference room housing 40 delegates and two eminent guests, Maulana Jahangeer Khan Sahib and Professor Albert Zijlstra (more on them shortly). The MKA Research Associations’ Annual Conference 2011 had now begun with the recitation of the Holy Qur’an.
“Allah – there is no god save Him, the Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. Slumber seizes Him not, nor sleep. To Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that dare intercede with Him save by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them; and they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases. His knowledge extends over the heavens and the earth and the care of them wearies Him not; and He is the High, the Great. There is no compulsion in religion. Surely, the right way has become distinct from error; so whosoever refuses to be led by those who transgress and believes in Allah, has surely grasped a strong handle which knows no breaking. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” [Al- Baqarah Chapter 2, verse 256-7]
Following this, the first quest speaker, Maulana Jahangeer Khan Sahib got up to talk on ‘Arabic – the mother of all Languages’. Maulana Jahangeer Sahib currently serves as the Head of the International French Desk for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
The talk was gripping. For an hour the delegates diligently listened to Jahangeer sahib, clarifying his own personal research on arabic and its true origins. He talked of links with languages common to both the west and the east, explaining the concepts and the various connections.
The second talk of the conference was to be given by Professor Albert Zijlstara, Director of the Jodrell Banks Centre for Astrophysics, and a professor at the University of Manchester, on the topic of ‘Birth and Death of Stars’. A passionate and energetic speaker, Professor Zijlstra mesmerised the youth with a tale of how stars are violently created and succumb to their inevitable faith. With various computer simulations modelling the possible life journeys of stars and their neighbours. It was a wonderful treat to know what possible majestic events had and were taking place beyond our humble star system.
After the intense start to the conference, it was time to feed the mind and soul again. Following lunch, afternoon prayers were done outside in the fields next to the YHA building under the afternoon summer sun, with a soothing gentle sound from the passing stream in the background.
After congregational prayers, the majority of the attendees headed, slowly into the conference room again, to a poster session with coffee and biscuits. These sessions, are an important part of any research conference, they provide for quick presentation of key information relating to a particular research, whilst the researcher is normally at hand to answer the questions of passers-by and judges, in our case.
A quick detour
Whilst all the above was going on during lunch, prayers and the poster sessions. The MTA UK (Muslim Television Ahmadiyya UK) camera crew and Naveed Malik Sahib (Chairman MKA Research Association) were filming and interviewing the two first session speakers, Maulana Jahangheer Sahib and Professor Zijlstra. (I won’t say too much but there is a documentary planned for the conference, hence the MTA UK crew). Also just before lunch we were joined by our second session quest speaker, Dr Mansoor Saqi Sahib, who also was one of the judges for the Poster Competition, alongside Professor Nadeem Malik Sahib (a constant guiding figure for the members of the Research Association and we were fortunate enough to have him with us for the whole duration of the weekend).
Back in the conference room, the talks had started with Dr Mansoor Saqi Sahib talking on his field of interest relating to mathematical and computational biology.
This was followed with two students talks by Dr Daniel Smart and Azhaar Ashraf. The day of talks and lectures finished with a very entertaining but a highly important talk by our very own Dr Tauseef Khan Sahib on “Skills for Research”. I have to be honest during the second session I was gallivanting here and there behind the scenes, (official conference business of course!!), so to my utter surprise, after good 3 hours of talks, I approached the conference room I start to hear laughter… then silence with Tauseef sahib speaking… then another eruption of laughter from the conference room. When I enter, all I see is an audience of youngsters, literally on the edge of their seats, all smiling after 3 hours of constant lectures and in a boiling hot room!! I really hope now the MTA guys captured Tauseef Sahib’s talk, I have been curious ever since to know what was so funny!
Its nearly over…Or is it? Behold, the Dragons!
At about 1830 all the talks had been wrapped up and the delegates were given a small 20 minutes break! Phew! But it was not over! Far from it, in fact!
The room was being prepped for the big finale of the day. It was time for The Dragons Den: The Way of the Researcher.
Okay, that was NOT the title but you get the idea. We had Professor Nadeem Malik Sahib, Dr Tauseef Khan Sahib and Naveed Malik Sahib as the ruthless Dragons.
The delegates were grouped into teams and asked to choose from a series of problems, for which they had to come up with a research proposal. To put this into prospective, each group had just 45 minutes to choose a scenario, discuss it, debate it and create a detailed group presentation on their research proposal, which would try to solve the problem picked by them.
Easy! I personally thought at that time, this would be a bit impossible for most graduate students let alone undergraduates, A-level and GCSE students combined. But boy was I wrong. The dragons were critical but the respective groups were impressive. For your information the problem scenarios were:
- A House of Mud: Mud Houses are prone to damage due to their environments such as rain.
- The Rubbish Dilemma: Too much rubbish is a world wide phenomena, specially in the developing countries.
- Education the End of Poverty: Three major issues are faced by the developing countries with regards to education, 1) Funding, 2) Access of Information, 3) Qualified Teachers.
This entire Dragons Den event was completed (if memory serves right) by 2130-2145! No-one, had dinner yet!!
The Greatest Feast Ever
Whilst the Dragons were dissecting each group and their proposals, in the background once again, it was the Chef (Qasid Safir Sahib, also the Chairman Research Conference 2011) and his team of Geniuses, that were preparing a feast fit for kings! Running off to the supermarkets and pretty much missing all of the days talks to provide food and nourishment’s to the delegates with a selection of food akin to a restaurant and astonishingly all under budget. Unfortunately, I can’t really describe it, but suffice it to say, one delegate was heard saying, “make sure Qasid Sahib is always responsible for food in all khuddam events”… on second thought, I think I was that delegate :-)
After the barbecue dinner, and a dessert comprised of chocolate syrup, whipped cream, ice cream and waffles it was finally time to sleep. But I couldn’t, mainly because I had three helpings of dessert (forcefully, believe it or not), so I decided to go for a walk outside and lo and behold I hear whispers (its bordering on midnight and we had other families in the YHA present, probably fast asleep). As I approach closer, I see some figures looking up into the night sky, which was bestrewed with twinkling stars, talking about quantum that, quantum this! With an occasional reference to the Qur’an, names of the Khulafas popping up here and there and with excitement that of children! I smile, shake my head and head off to sleep… finally… exhausted!
End of Day 1! To be Continued….