Charlene Muhammad and Donna Muhammad
CHICAGO—Another International Training Conference hosted by Grandmaster Abdul Azziz (Anthony) Muhammad is in the history books, and this year’s was highly considered to be the best one yet.
Multiple-degreed masters in martial arts, their students, members of the Nation of Islam and guests from all across the globe traveled to the “Windy City,” under a national excessive heat wave, to attend and coordinate the event, held July 28-30 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk.
Themed S.A.F.E.T.Y. (Security, Awareness, Focus, Empowerment, Training & Your Survival), the highly charged event grew to elevated heights of energy levels each day, particularly on day two, when the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan blessed the conference with a special message. An added blessing permeated the ballroom-turned-martial arts academy when his lovely wife, Mother Khadijah Farrakhan, entered the space.
“Who he is to us and for us, it is so tremendous for me to have him to want to come here,” stated Grandmaster Abdul Azziz Muhammad, who is also the Assistant Supreme Captain of the Nation of Islam. This year marked the 28th annual conference. “The reason for this is because of him! He’s the reason, but his humbleness, the kind of man that he is, he’s just totally and truly a humble person.
And I’m in love with him because he is and has shown his love for us and there’s no way for anyone to say that he doesn’t care about us; no way for that to happen. And I want us to know that he loves us,” added Grandmaster Abdul Azziz Muhammad.
The three-day event was jam-packed with different activities, ranging from physical exercise, sparring, exhibitions and competitions to spiritual and interactive, practical application workshops. It culminated with an awards ceremony, concert, and The Scimitar Open – Martial Arts Skill Olympics.
“Why did we come to this National Training?” questioned Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad, National Assistant to Minister Farrakhan. He electrified participants during his welcoming address. “To gird up our loins, to become more disciplined. Make all men and boys, do what?” he asked the audience. Male, female, young and adults alike, responded enthusiastically: “Join the F.O.I.” The F.O.I. (Fruit of Islam) are the men of the Nation of Islam.
“Allah says in the Qur’an, ‘Keep your duty to Allah as it ought to be kept. And die not unless you are a Muslim.’ How many of us are brave enough, willing enough, to give your life right now in this moment for Allah’s sake and righteousness? How many of us are willing to die?” Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad continued as the packed Main Ballroom erupted into cheers and a standing ovation. “Because if you’re not willing to die for what you believe in, then you’re a coward!” he added.
The fighting is not in the physical, but to be brave is to have a mental or moral strength, he continued. “It’s not in the physical, not in the katas (choreographed patterns of martial arts techniques). He illustrated his point through the Bible story of David and Goliath, a fighter who went into the ring, onto the battlefield with a heart to be fierce. David went on the battlefield against a strong, warrior, bigger in muscle and taller in height, with an indestructible weapon, shared Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad.
Goliath went up against David with a sword, spear and javelin, but, challenged David, who went on the battlefield with faith, “I come against you in the name of the Lord …!” David subsequently slew Goliath.
The conference’s opening session moderator Brother Terence Muhammad introduced a non-stop panel of experts including Brother Randy X who presented on agriculture and farming for survival, Sister Sajdah Wendy Muhammad on applying the Supreme Wisdom in business, Student Minister Ilia Rashad Muhammad on defending Farrakhan, and Sister Dr. Patrice Muhammad on preparing for combat by controlling health challenges for battle.
Before Salat Al-Jumu’ah (Friday Islamic congregational prayer service) led by Student Imam Sultan Rahman Muhammad, experts also presented workshops focused on preparation for active shooters, disaster preparedness, and defensive and offensive driving, and a heavily attended and engaging women’s only self-defense session and a seminar on achieving balance.
“Being able to be in that women’s only portion has me super fired up! I get so much energy from my sisters, and it’s beautiful. We are the best in the world, and I love it! And it just looks like everyone is really enjoying themselves and that’s all I want to see,” stated Sister Azziza Muhammad, Grand Master Abdul Azziz’s wife who is also a black belt.
This year, the Youth Division of the Nation of Islam played a large part in the conference. It was on an entirely different level. Brother Abdul Qiyam Muhammad, the social media director for Minister Farrakhan, shared that he was inspired to be among the moderators and organizers for the youth portion of the conference.
“It was unlike any one I have ever seen, and I was blessed to share with the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan my experience in the Youth Division and it put a big smile on his face,” he stated.
The Youth Division had a wide array of workshops and panels, including: “Defending Farrakhan,” “Don’t Suffer in Silence,” and “Recognize & Combat Bullying.” The hard-working staff of Grandmaster Abdul Azziz Muhammad labored diligently and nonstop making this year’s gathering a success. Participants were well pleased and impressed.
Brother Jevon X, 22, of Mosque No. 47 in Tampa, Fla., returned for his second year of training after not knowing what to expect the first time. He told The Final Call that he was surprised to discover that the conference was not solely focused on martial arts.
“I was really just expecting that component but when they had the opening and really the spiritual component of national training and how it’s not just the physical, but it’s mainly focused on the spiritual to prepare you and equip you, strengthen the faith for the physical, is what made me come back,” he said.
“It’s that rejuvenation that we all need and it’s a critical time period that we’re in and I didn’t even know the Minister was going to be speaking last year. That was my first time seeing him speak live and in person so every chance I get, I will be at International Training Conference. I love being around the Believers. That’s what really made me come back.”
Twenty-three-year-old Najeem Muhammad of Charlotte, N.C., was excited to attend the training for the first time this year. “I knew I had to come. Something just told me I had to be here. I just wanted to be amongst the Believers to just gather up all the energy, to soak up all the atmosphere and learn how to secure our future, because it’s very important,” he said.
As he reflected on what resonated with him during the conference, one of the presentations that stood out for him was by Sister Sajdah Wendy Muhammad on “Supreme Wisdom in Business.” “One thing that stuck out to me, is she said it takes money to be a Muslim,” he said. “It made me think to myself how to be a Muslim, it takes whatever tools and resources that we need so that we don’t find ourselves deprived within our journey of life so that we can have the greatest acquisition of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding wherever we go and that we can be able to go on that journey in the furthest way possible. But, we can’t do that if we don’t have, in this capitalistic society, all the tools and resources that we need.”
Sister Alison X traveled from St. Louis to come to the conference also for the first time. She was pleased to receive more training in the Nation of Islam’s check procedure. “[I] came for the training portion of it so that I can help protect the Nation, be properly trained on how to protect the Nation,” she said. Sister Alison X also shared that she felt more prepared than when she arrived at the beginning of the training conference.
Ilyasah Muhammad, a 24-year-old teacher from Houston who holds a master’s degree in public health administration, returned to the conference for her second year. While she spent the majority of her time in the previous year focused solely on security training, she looked forward to participating in the various workshops this year. From the very start of the conference, she was deeply impacted by the opening words from Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad.
“I appreciate what Minister Ishmael said about letting go of our past grievances or things that impacted us and then we either try to pretend they didn’t impact us or we hold on to it. That was really good for me to hear.” A workshop she felt that she really benefited from was the agricultural workshop.
“I really loved the farming workshop, because I live where it’s really hot and so all of our garden is dying. So it was good to see different things like the hoop houses and the structures they have built so that we can see how we can have more shade and have more potential for our garden,” she said.
Memphis resident, Sister Laila X, a 19-year-old, newly registered M.G.T. Vanguard in the Nation of Islam attended the International Training Conference for the first time. She was encouraged to come by Muslim sisters and her fiancé who is also a newly registered member of the Nation of Islam. She said they told her she would learn a lot and she did.
“I took a lot away from it, especially yesterday (Friday sessions), but mostly today with the women’s empowerment workshop, which I wasn’t expecting. So, it’s very different than Saviours’ Day,” she said, referring to the Nation’s annual February convention.
“I can say I am very thankful for this,” added Sister Laila X. She shared what she received from the women’s empowerment workshop. “What stood out to me was that I am not in my struggles alone. I have a family of course, I’ve always had a family, but it’s bigger than Mosque No. 55.”
Brother Charles Muhammad traveled from Brooklyn. Though he experienced a six-hour flight delay and arrived in the wee hours of the morning, he expressed gratitude for attending. While his expectation was “a lot of survival training, camping,” in his words, he received what he felt was a lot of life-saving information along with counsel on how to treat believers with respect in his service to them in his role.”
Brother True Love Allah from Springfield, Mass., told The Final Call that he has been attending the training conference for six years because he continues to learn something new every time. One of the workshops that stood out to him was Conflict Resolution. “I had some familiarity with the training with the 10,000 Fearless with Student Minister Willie Muhammad out of New Orleans, so to find out what Baltimore has been doing in terms of conflict resolution and the progress they’re making there it was enlightening and educational.
And also being able to link up with them to find out how we can spread that—the 10,000 Fearless up in New England.” The 10,000 Fearless is Minister Farrakhan’s clarion call for God-fearing men and women to work to make their neighborhoods clean and decent places to live.
Mustapha Muhammad contributed to this report. Stay tuned for additional coverage and photos in an upcoming edition of The Final Call.