By Yasmeen Atta
Exactly one month ago today, I walked into this room without really knowing what to expect. There were three people inside, and I still remember where they were standing or sitting. They had already set up the area by placing a Purification of the Heart book – which each of the campers received and kept – on every bright orange seat. After greetings, updates, and getting directions to my next stop, I headed back outside to the car.
On the drive to the cabins, I marveled at how far away they were, and wondered how long the journey would take on foot. (Luckily, I never found out the answer to this question, thanks to the “chauffeurs” of our camp – a.k.a. those who were blessed with cars and passable driving abilities.) Upon arrival, I recall being quite confused as to which door I should go inside of, and my attempt at trying to open one of them proved to be futile.
Behind the cabins, I saw that there were girls within a room that I would later call the Roost. At night, we gathered here for deep discussions; before dawn, we gathered here for Fajr, with slippers on our feet and bags beneath our eyes.
Once I dropped off my truckload of belongings, I took a few minutes to explore the place I would be living in for the next seven days. I wondered how in the world so many girls – over 30 of us – would survive with a grand total of two bathroom stalls (not to mention showers with curtains that just barely closed). Of course, we did manage – somehow.
I finally walked to the Roost and stepped cautiously inside. My heart became filled with comfort and joy as I reunited with the old and connected with the new. These girls became my family, and the time we spent together – especially in such a small handful of days – was more than treasured. After praying my salah, I made duaa that the week would unfold as smoothly as possible.
Driving back to the main cabin, I inwardly calmed my nerves. I told myself that everything would be alright as long as I put my full trust in the plans of Allah (SWT). Despite this being my first time on a committee, I knew I was never alone. My fellow members would be there for assistance whenever necessary, and I for them.
Yet they did more than help me out whenever it was needed. They became my role models (and remain so today) as I observed the agility and confidence with which they handled various and often impromptu tasks. Even more admirable was the seriousness they upheld toward the constant strive of becoming closer to Allah (SWT). Most importantly, they eventually became the victims of my roast sessions.
The week passed by faster than I – or anyone else – thought possible. Camp was truly no more than a blur; even my own advice to take everything one day at a time was pointless from the speed at which time was racing. Before falling asleep each night, I reflected on the day’s events, thanking Allah (SWT) for the good and the “bad” He tested me with, and asking for guidance and forgiveness from my mistakes.
The picture above was taken on the last day of camp. I shot it before walking out of the door to the main cabin for the final time, unaware of the extent to which it would affect me later on. Nearly everyone had already begun the journey back to their homes, and the emptiness of the room was almost depressing. From the speakers we were privileged to be enlightened by, to our knowledge-filled circle discussions, to slapping the tables in perfect rhythmic beats during meals (the girls always won, of course), to the inside jokes that continue to be dragged – the memories that filled this room are endless.
Let the emptiness of this image serve as a visual snapshot for the precious memories of every camper to fill. Let it remind us of what we came to this camp for in the first place, and let it encourage us to fill the darkness of our own rooms with the radiance and light of Allah (SWT).