Muslim Students’ Associations (MSAs) are the best way to stay in touch with the Muslim community on college campuses. They have been a presence for almost 60 years, when the first MSA was established in 1963 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Today, they continue to build faith and community.
But not all MSAs are equal. Nor is every MSA excellent year after year. An MSA may provide great services and run efficiently. But the following year, not so much. This depends on who is running the organization, as MSA leaders are usually elected.
So what makes a good MSA? Here are five signs. This does not mean you should not join your campus organization if it does not have these things in place. Rather, it means you should join and help steer it in a direction that will benefit all.
1. Commitment To The Very Basics Of Islam Without Judgement On A Personal Level
This means, regardless of how much an individual Muslim student practices or does not practice Islam in their personal life, they feel comfortable attending events organized by the MSA, and more importantly, believe that the MSA represents their interests as a Muslim. If they have an issue relating to their faith on campus, they do not hesitate to contact the MSA for help.
2. There Are Regular Activities
Friday prayer is a basic minimum that an MSA should be organizing. This serves not only the students, but Muslim professors and other staff on campus.
Apart from that, depending on time, organization, and resources, weekly Islamic study circles (Halaqas), sports tournaments, book clubs, social outings, and events relating to the annual Islam Awareness Week are additional activities that help build faith and community.
3. Muslim Sisters Are Involved In The Executive
You cannot exclude half of the Ummah from decision-making and planning that involves the entire Ummah. A good MSA involves Muslim women not just as participants and volunteers, but at the executive level as well. That too, not just as a “Sisters’ Issues” coordinator, but in other positions as well.
4. There Is Racial And Ethnic Diversity In The Executive
The Ummah is diverse and the MSA should reflect that. A good MSA has, ideally, Muslims of various backgrounds serving, leading, volunteering, and participating in events.
5. There is Shura (consultation)
Shura or consultation is how Muslims are required to conduct their affairs both at home and with the rest of the community (Quran 42:38). The MSA is no exception. No executive member can dictate how the organization can and must be run. S/he is required to consult with his/her team, and as much as possible, other members of the MSA to make decisions.