Saturday, September 08, 2007

The New Face of MSA

So, alhamdulillah, another school year... another MSA. I actually attended MSA meetings regularly last year, found it an opportunity to at least start to recognize other Muslims on campus and socialize with them, looking for ways to improve the Muslim "presence" on campus. I opted to not be on shura, but I did want to participate with the da'wah activities--primarily da'wah table, but also I got to give a short talk about Islam at an OEO class (Office for Equal Opportunity?).

I have an incredibly busy load now, but I still want to keep up with MSA. They meet once a week, iftars in Ramadan. I'm not sure what all else is going on; some lectures from community members probably, community service, da'wah... You know, being a senior I also have the opportunity to (inshaaAllah) provide a good influence for younger students. I hope it's a good influence anyway.

But most of my thoughts about MSA circle around the wish that the people in it cared more. I can't help but think that the brothers and sisters I see at these meetings are immature, dunya-oriented, and off-handedly shallow about their faith. I was disappointed to see how few people signed up for da'wah, and disappointed that nobody made an effort to even try to recruit people for da'wah. I think it's a critical activity honestly that needs lots of volunteers, and it's also one of the most rewarding I think... calling to Islam? I mean Allah swt rewards for that so it is the best of rewards.

When I arrived at the last meeting, all I really noticed was a large number of mostly Arabs and a few Desis sitting on tables, talking loudly. It probably (unfortunately) goes without saying that most of the sisters weren't wearing hijab. Unless hair-gel and gaudy make-up is hijab (it's not.) Maybe I'm wrong for being so cruel, and I don't think I would ever berate an individual sister on the issue of hijab, and indeed that was hardly the problem at the meeting. There was, in my mind, a complete disregard for propriety, and worse, a lackadaisical approach to Islam!! The only thing which unites the people in the room, what should be the most important part of the meeting and the reason for being there in the first place! I hate to see MSA being a social group. Yes, this is coming from ex-sorority president, but I mean it; there are places to socialize but MSA should be more than that!!

There was a talk by one brother about Ramadan: reminding people what broke the fast, what fasting meant, why we fast and so on. A similar talk was given by another brother last year (who wasn't a student... and you know, the talk was better, much more respect given to the topic.) This brother was laughing and the group laughing along with him. Not that laughing is bad just... Ramadan isn't a joke. I won't elaborate on some of the answers given to the question "What invalidates the fast?"

But all is not, was not bad. I should mention that even though the event was more social than anything else, for the most part boys stayed on one side and girls on the other. Violations were usually crossing the room to get to the door, or brothers straying into the sisters' section to get more food.

The real highlight for me, though, and I think some others, was the salaat. Since a lot of the girls don't cover, and didn't bother to bring a cover with them, they didn't pray. But for everyone else who did pray... they were treated to a very nice recitation by a brother who (I think) someone said was a hafidh. But the real treat, right after the salaam at the end, was when he turned around and taught the entire jam'at what they should do after every salaat. Taught, being the operative word. Meaning he explained it, we translated the du'as into English to understand them, and repeated them to memorize. Mashallah... May Allah reward the brother for that.

Here's what he taught:

  • Istighfar 3 times: (Astaghfirullah, astaghfirullah, astaghfirullah)
  • Du'a: Allahumma Anta as-Salaam, wa minka as-Salaam, tabaarakta yaa dhal-Jalaali wa al-Ikraam.
  • Ayat-ul-Kursi
  • Du'a: Rabbi a3inee 3ala dhikrika, wa shukrika, wa 7usni 3ibaadatika. (x3)
  • Tasbeeh: Subhanallah (x33), wa Alhamdulillah (x33), wa Allahu Akbar (x34.)
  • Du'a: Laa ilaha illa Allah, wa7dahu laa sharika lah, lahul mulk wa lahul 7amd, wa huwa 3ala kulli shay'in Qadeer.
Uh, sorry for the progressively worsening transliteration, it's not my forte. But as the brother said, with Ramadan approaching we should hasten to do more good acts, and this is part of improving the prayer.

I mentioned this to another sister Friday night, and she said she wished someone had taught her that. She's a convert like me, and said she never learned that stuff until she went to Jordan. So may Allah reward all those brothers and sisters who make an effort to share knowledge, even when it seems some people don't want to hear it (I know some of those brothers were eager to get up and go eat, since eating was after the salaat).

But that salaat was a reflection of what I would like for MSA meetings to be more like, what I would like MSA to be like, rather than what preceded and followed it.

Oh Allah, help us to remember you, thank you, and perfectly worship you.

(edited to add: I fixed the error in the du'a above, the very important, missing "laa"!! Jazakallah khair to the one who noticed and brought it to my attention!)


brnaeem said...

AA- Amy,

I wouldn't be so harsh in judging your fellow MSA students. Most of them are going through that stage of deciding what type of Muslim they want to be (I recall my state of mind at that point).

And let's not knock the MSA meetings as being too much of a social event. Not sure what is so wrong with that? I assume the meetings aren't designed to fill-in for serious study circles, right?

I was lucky with my MSA at RPI. The majority of the brothers were foreign grad students who took their deen very seriously. The younger American-born brothers and sisters would feed off their energy.

But we needed an environment for halal socializing (even between the sexes - of course with the proper adab) and the MSA met those needs.

Otherwise, these youngsters will find another, less appropriate place to socialize (such as the PakSA events).

Manas Shaikh said...

Pass over their faults, sister. Most Muslims have no idea about Islam. Even many religious Muslims have a detailed knowledge of some small area- like the rituals. Not a general picture of all things.

One should be especially cautious about hijab. Wearing it requires good amount of courage (you know that!), having which is praiseworthy, but no doubt surmounting that fear is difficult.

Indeed the Qur'an told Muhammad(S) that they (sahaba) stick around him because he is soft and forgiving.

Indeed, the Example of examples, the Lord Himself is Most Forgiving.

I hope and pray that you succeed in this life and next. Ameen.

(Please remember me in you Du'a)

Amy said...

Jazakuma allahu khairan -

So maybe I was too harsh. (I thought I omitted the worst bits, but apparently I didn't omit enough.) What I might have neglected to say was that last year in particular I remember many of the members were seniors, and I'm sure most of the ones who have shown up for the last two meetings are mostly freshman.

And I don't mean to suggest hijab is a fix-all. It doesn't even really make a difference. Many sisters without it were more respectful than several of those with it.

But since so many of them were freshman, and even sophomores, I should really give them a break, huh? To start with, they are still trying to establish themselves in a new environment (i.e., college) and the pressure to "fit in" can be rough. And it's possible (maybe even likely in some cases) that they weren't taught much about Islam in their childhood, maybe nothing at all. And alhamdulillah that they showed up for MSA and not ArabSA or PakSA etc.

It's just that for my part, I would like to see it not turn into a version of that.

Perhaps I have a little professional stick up my behind when it comes to what a socializing environment looks like. I'm just accustomed to more etiquette. (Western-style etiquette, anyway...)

Manas, thanks for the advice about being soft and forgiving. I'll try to keep that close to my heart.

brnaeem said...

AA- Amy,

Not to belabor the point that I made and you acknowledged, but I thought of your post when I read these two posts: Here and here.