Shortly after the Good Friday Jumu’ah prayers at Jaffari Community Centre, twelve boys nervously boarded the bus waiting in the parking lot, unsure of what expect during the next couple of days. But there was no time to be shy after the hour-long bus ride took them to the Bayview Wildwood Resort, as their mentors quickly engaged them in several fast-paced, exciting ice-breaker activities. The volunteer kitchen crew prepared a wholesome dinner of homemade grilled chicken and mashed potatoes, which the boys devoured before getting ready for Salaat and their first Islamic discussion session. Led by brother Muhammad Mahdi Kassamali, the boys had a chance to learn about how Imam Ali (AS) managed to maintain Islamic principles in his years of administration of the caliphate, and the topic became relevant as the boys broke into groups to discuss ways to keep Islam alive in the world we live in today.
After a short break for dessert (hot apple pie with frozen yogurt), the boys and their mentors got together for several long and thrilling rounds of school-themed Mafia: a large group game about trust, investigation, and persuasion. Exhilarated and in high spirits, the boys finally went to sleep, looking forward to the events of the following day.
The boys got up bright and early for Fajr congregation prayer, followed by Qur’an recitation circles. They had the option to return to sleep for a few hours before breakfast, but the vast majority preferred to stay awake to talk, watch the sun rise over the lake, and play board games with their mentors. After a breakfast of eggs and cereal, there was a little time to play some outdoor games like shuffleboard and football before the group reassembled for a guided hike through the magnificent forest trails of the resort.
After a quick snack and break, the boys had their second Islamic discussion session, led by brother Mohammed Hassan Mohamedhussin, on the topic of Discovering the Truth. The boys were presented various narrations and were given a chance to discuss them with each other, learning the importance of seeking knowledge in the eyes of the Ahlul Bayt. Lunch was a delicious meal of burgers and fries (and lots of hearty soup!), followed by Salaat, and then one of the most anticipated activities of the retreat: swimming!
The afternoon brought with it an activity session led by brother Maysum Panju, on the topic of critical thinking and analyzing arguments for potential strengths and weaknesses, particularly in cases related to religious beliefs and behaviour. This was followed by a full group activity of Capture the Flag: with six boys and two mentors on each team, this intense game of speed, stamina, and scouting was well-loved by all and gave everyone lots to talk about over a satisfying dinner of spaghetti and garlic bread.
After Salaat, brother Muhammad Mahdi Kassamali led an Islamic discussion session outdoors over a live campfire, speaking about the importance of respecting parents, and also several points on the Islamic perspective of music. This was followed by fruit pudding dessert, along with a loud and enthusiastic game of Jeopardy, filled with unusual twists and exciting suspense. Too pumped to go to bed, the boys managed to get in another few rounds of Mafia as well, before finally getting ready to sleep. After a packed day of both physical activity and mental workouts, the room quickly filled with satisfied snores!
Still exhausted from the previous day’s exertion, almost every boy opted for a nap after the congregational Fajr prayer, only waking up once the fresh pancake breakfast was ready to eat. There was time set aside to pack up all belongings and get everything ready for loading onto the bus, which was followed by some closing activities and games led by brother Abbasali Walimohamed. The boys then had some free time to spend as they pleased, with options like biking, basketball, table tennis, and pool, before reconvening for a lunch of tuna sandwiches and then the final Salaat together.
As the rain of the morning came to an end, the boys and mentors got together for one final exciting round of Capture the Flag while waiting for the bus to arrive. Tired, wet, in some cases muddy, and in all cases happy, the boys boarded their bus with their new friends, filled with great memories and valuable lessons, as the first ever ALI boys retrea