- My MSA has become guy dominated and they don't include women. What should I do?
- If the interaction between members of the opposite gender is too relaxed, what are some ways that an MSA can turn around that group dynamic?
- What should I do if my MSA, or any of our members, are contacted by the FBI?
- How do I motivate my MSA Board?
- How to deal with Sunni/Shia conflict in my MSA?
- How do you give advice and who can give advice? Basically, how does and how should naseeha work?
- Where can my MSA get resources and help for their dawah table?
Bismillah, walhamdulilLah, wa salatu salama `ala Rasulilah
1- Communicate to get to the root of the problem. Are the brothers of the opinion that sisters are fitna, and thus should not be involved at all? Do they feel that it would be haram for them to work with the opposite gender? Or are they down to have sisters, but don’t know how to outreach and are catering to their own gender?
a. Be wise about the way this is approached. If there are level-headed brothers of knowledge who are aware of the need for sisters’ involvement and who are respected by the other brothers, it may be best to first have them initiate this discussion.
b. If every brother in the MSA has this issue, bring in a respected community leader or Shaykh who can handle these issues with knowledge and provide concrete examples of the roles of Muslim women in da`wah and `ilm- and yes- while working with men!
c. Most likely, these brothers either are instituting cultural practices which leave women out or think they have knowledge- but really don’t- and need guidance in the matter. Or just think women are fitna and need to check their own selves before they wreck themselves. Providing a respectable community member as a person who can direct the dialogue with knowledge inshaAllah should help get towards the root of the issue.
2- Once dialogue has been initiated and the root of the issue is identified, steps should be taken from there.
a. It’s helpful to have older members of the MSA or community [older as in experienced MSA members who are now young professionals and have already been through the process of the MSA] guide the MSA through the process until some type of system is set up where sisters are also involved.
b. It perhaps may be a good idea, especially in the beginning stages, to focus on building up sisters’ committees which focus on halaqaat, social events, etc, which are particular for sisters. This way, sisters still have an outlet to be involved while the process is being put in place to have sisters involved on the wide-scale level of the MSA.
MSAs should look to develop a membership that is committed, not compliant.
MSAs develop their own mini-cultures on campus. They often times represent little "getaways" from the rest of the campus. This culture tends to have a fusion of American and Islamic values and is one of the healthiest components of the MSA. This allows MSA members to see how Islamic values can be manifested in an American context without contradiction.
Culture is set by the leadership and the older membership. Younger members that come into the MSA pick up and learn many things from the older members through simple observation. Generally, a poor culture reflects a poor example from the leadership or a lack of proper education. The values that a leadership espouse will be reflected in the organization.
New members will initially conform to current MSA standards out of respect and uncertainty for the club and culture, but as time develops there must be informal or formal explanation of why MSA members chose to carry themselves this way. When leading leaders should look to develop members who are self-committed and not compliant. Compliance leads to complacency and the system will eventually fall apart. Naturally, not all potential members will agree with the culture and standards of the MSA. The MSA should do its best to be as inclusive as possible within the acceptable Islamic guidelines (for more information see ______).
Two of the best ways to change any culture are:
1. Have the leadership invest time and effort into reforming their own methods and leading by example.
2. Come up with creative ways to educate the newer membership on Islamic culture in a non-judgmental, easy to digest format.
2a) "Do dramatic story-worthy things that represent the culture we want to create. Then let other people tell stories about it."
2b) "Find other people who do story-worthy things that represent the culture we want to create. Then tell stories about them."
(2a and b were sourced from: http://blogs.hbr.org/)
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) encourages constitutionally informed cooperation with law enforcement. This means it is absolutely essential that one be aware of their 4th Amendment right to remain silent and their 5th amendment right to an attorney before speaking with law enforcement.
Remember, any and all conversations or discussions with the FBI are voluntary. We recommend that those who are visited by the FBI, assert the above referenced 4th and 5th amendment rights, and contact CAIR or an attorney immediately. We must emphasize, do not have conversations with the FBI or other law enforcements without an attorney present.
Additional information about these rights is available at: http://www.cair.com/
To find your local CAIR chapter, visit: http://www.cair.com/
To find your local ACLU affiliate, visit: http://www.aclu.org/
1) Comfortable Atmosphere: People love to work in an environment that is comfortable and enjoyable. Major corporations have realized this and incorporate things such as ice breakers to get people to comfortably acclimate into their work setting. As such, at the beginning of the year, before MSA board members immediately jump into their programming, coordinating, scheduling etc, they should allocate some time toward ice-breakers or team building activities. Also, they should make sure the contents of which is not generic such as “where are you from and what is your major.” Also, having some spontaneity should be fun too (i.e. new venues for board meetings, bringing food, snacks etc to the meetings).
2) Reminders: This is perhaps the most important. The Quran notes in many places to remind because reminders benefit the believers (51:55). Irrespective of how Islamically grounded and enthusiastic board members may enter the school year, it is the nature of iman to fluctuate; therefore, reminders are necessary to reinvigorate the spirit/enthusiasm. Try to intersperse Islamic reminders in many MSA events: board meetings, general body meetings, after the daily prayers in jama’ah etc. For the MSA board meetings, have a different member give the reminder each week and try to diversify between the topics. By having the board members give the reminders, it subconsciously empowers and inspires themselves. One important reminder is recognizing how precious and yet also temporal the college years are and how that opportunity of activism (i.e. time and resources in that capacity) may never present itself again. It is said that the khaleefah Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz had a counsel of men that he would meet with every night to discuss death. This spurred his amazing impact as a khaleefah.
3) Ease their tasks and give them breaks: Sometimes as the school year progresses the board members pick up more commitments (jobs, internships, research projects etc.) The MSA President should meet individually with each board member throughout the year to find out about these things. When the president finds out that a board member is becoming overwhelmed, he/she should relinquish some of the tasks of the board member or have them delegate it to new up-and-coming MSA members. These brief hiatuses will allow the board members to refresh themselves and re-approach MSA with a stronger spirit insha’Allah.
4) Networking: Interactions with their MSA’s legacy (i.e. former MSA presidents and board members) should be quite fruitful. This allows the current board members to meet people who were formerly in their shoes (i.e. in that exact same board position). Through the interaction, the former board members can impart advice and share their experiences. Also, interacting with MSA board members from other campuses is a great experience too. This is where MSA-West is at your service.
The Sunni/Shia issue is one that brings about tremendous emotion in many communities. What is important to remember is that this issue is similar to many other issues Muslim leaders must address, and that by following the simplest of the Prophet’s (s) teachings it can be handled without being a huge fitna on the community. People often have difficulty balancing and focusing on the similarities between the two groups, while still understanding and respecting the differences. We must appreciate that we are all Muslims, we all believe in Allah and his Messenger (s). At the same time we cannot go to an extreme and deem the differences in belief as insignificant. The simplest way to strike this balance is to educate yourself from a teacher you trust. Any source on this subject is liable to be biased, but at least with a teacher (as opposed to articles, books, audio recordings, etc.) you can ask questions.
Whenever dealing with Sunni/Shia issues it is important to remember that unity is an obligation on our ummah, so anything that will result in fragmentation (e.g. splitting into two MSAs) is a worst case scenario. The most common problem that arises from the Sunni/Shia issue is that one group want to have more programs geared towards them. The best way that I have seen this handled is by making MSA focus solely on those aspects of Islam that are shared by all groups (e.g. Lessons from the prophets, lessons from the agreed upon sahaba, anything related to the Quran, political activism, prayer, and basically all of the other most important topics). This covers the most essential elements of Islam, and should be more than enough to keep your MSA busy. As a part of this, MSAs should make sure all of their programming is sensitive to the beliefs of all members. For this reason it may be wise to notify khateebs and other speakers that there are both Sunnis and Shias in the audience, so they should not spend much time glorifying figures who are not universally respected, or delving into disputed historical events. When an MSA focuses only on the similarities it removes the need of making difficult decisions about controversial events (like having an event memorializing Ashura). Events on the disputed history after the death of the Prophet (s), Ashura and sahaba who are not universally respected should be avoided. None of these topics are essential for the community to learn about to enter paradise, which is our end goal. Thus, it is important to keep a level head, and even though some of these topics may be dear to our hearts, it is best for the community to not have programs on them.
Overall it is often the small things that make a major difference. As with almost every MSA community problem, the biggest factor is how people interact with one another on a personal level, so we, as leaders need to set the standard for tolerance and acceptance. On a programming level a good way to start is by being understanding that Shias pray maghrib about 15-20 minutes after Sunnis, so by simply moving your MSA's prayer time back a few minutes we can guarantee all community members can participate.
How do you give advice and who can give advice? Basically, how does and how should naseeha work?
One of the most underrated issues in every Muslim community, whether MSA or not, must be the importance of Naseehah. Many questions regarding Naseehah can be answered by merely understanding the definition of the word and what role it plays in Islam, and this is how we will begin our inquiry.
What is Nasheeha?
It must first be understood that naseehah is an obligation and right that belongs to all Muslims not merely an extra credit deed to be done at your fancy, as narrated from the Prophet SAWS:
“The rights of a Muslim over another Muslim are six.” It was asked, “What are they, O Messenger of Allah (SAWS)?” He replied, “When he meets him, he greets him; when he invites him, he responds; if he seeks his sincere advice (naseeha), he advises him; if he sneezes and praises Allah, he asks Allah to have mercy on him; if he is ill, he visits him; and when he dies, he follows him [to his funeral procession] – Narrated by Muslim
In the above narration the word Naseehah is translated as sincere advice, which is only one of numerous meanings of the word Naseehah. More insight is required to appreciate the importance of this crucial topic. Another narration about naseeha provides us with what is required. It was related that the Prophet SAWS said:
“The religion is naseehah.” The people said, “To whom?” The Prophet SAWS replied, “To Allah and to His book and to His Messenger and to the leaders of the Muslims and to the common folk of the Muslims.”
(Narrated by Muslim, Abu Dawood, Ahmad, Nasaai and many others)
Some scholars of Islam stated that if thousands of hadith of the Prophet saws would be lost, the above hadith would be sufficient to guide the Muslims! Imam Al- Nawawai also included this hadith as part of his famous 40 hadith compilation in which only the most vital and comprehensive ahadeeth critical to ones understanding of Islam were included. Let us take a closer as to why this hadeeth is so pivotal.
Why do it?
Let us first look at the word the Prophet SAWS is defining and how it relates to our original question about the word naseehah. The Prophet SAWS equates the deen of Islam to naseehah. This is truly a profound statement. One scholarly interpretation is that ones religion cannot be complete unless he fulfills the naseehah to Allah, His book and the others mentioned in the hadith. So what is Naseehah?
The famous hadith commentator Al-Khattaabi stated that naseeha is a comprehensive word that embodies every type of virtue and the wanting or desire for all forms of goodness. Furthermore, he states, there is no other word in the Arabic language that is so comprehensive. The scholar Al-Raaghib al-Isfahaani has defined the word as, “Naseehah is the seeking of an action or statement that contains goodness and improvement for the other person.” Let us take one more step to further understand this word, let us go back to the roots.
The word naseehah has two basic linguistic meanings:
- To clean, purify or improve something of all unwanted elements, as in purifying honey from unwanted materials.
- To unite or join something together that is scattered or separated, as in sewing a garment.
From the meanings above we know the objectives of giving naseehah are at a minimum two; firstly, in purifying each other, including yourself, from all un-Islamic behavior, attitudes, and practices; and secondly, to strengthen our bonds not only between each other as Muslims, but also with Allah SWT by practicing Islam at the best of our abilities.
Now let us combine our understanding of the word Naseehah and put it in context with the above mentioned hadeeth. Due to space restrictions, we will focus our discussion on the last two categories which are the most applicable to the question we are answering.
Naseehah as a Leader
The last two categories mentioned; the leaders of the Muslims and the common folk of the Muslims or the Muslim masses, encompasses our social atmosphere and daily interactions with other Muslims, and even non Muslims. The leaders of the Muslims have a greater right in receiving naseehah than other Muslims, due to their position of responsibility and eventual accountability of their position as leaders.
It has been related by the Prophet SAWS, “There is no person whom Allah gives authority over others and he does not look after them in a sincere manner except that he will not even get the scent of Paradise.”
This narration alone is sufficient to render any future or current leader on the forefront of giving and receiving naseehah. Giving naseehah to the leaders of the Muslims includes but is not limited to: assisting and following them in what is right, reminding them if they should forget or make a mistake, being patient with them when they do things the individual on a personal level (not religious) does not like and teaching and or informing them about their religion and other things they may be ignorant about relevant to their leadership position.
Another key aspect is to also pray for the Muslim leader(s) guidance and piety, as this will benefit the Muslims as a whole. The scholar Al-Khairi said, “Sincerely advise the leaders and pray for them that they be righteous and guided in their statements and actions for if they are righteous, the affairs of the people under them will be good. And do not pray against them, thereby increasing their evil and increasing the trails for the Muslims.”
Now what if you are a leader? How would you give naseehah to those you are responsible for? Naseehah from the person in a leadership position towards the masses includes but is not limited to; appointing people on the basis of their ability and qualifications, being fair, just, caring, compassionate and sensitive to others sensitivities, commanding the good and forbidding the evil while maintaining a high level of character, being approachable and understanding, not overbearing people with unreasonable tasks and errands, and concealing their faults.
In relation to making naseehah to the Muslim masses, the standards don’t change, the only difference being you must not take on the position of leadership if you have not been appointed that position and there already exists a willing and capable leader. Doing so will only disrupt unity and increase dispute amongst the group.
Etiquette and Manners in Naseehah
It is absolutely crucial to remember that the objective of naseehah is not to shame or embarrass another person, but rather to sincerely advise and correct each others’ actions and statements, even if the person receiving the advice does not like to hear it, assuming it is relevant and correct. It is absolutely forbidden in Islam to mention another Muslim’s faults or sins simply to blame, ridicule or shame them. It is often best to advise others in private, because if done publicly it can be a case of belittling or insulting the other person, which may destroy the positive effects of receiving legitimate naseehah.
A sincere advisor must be kind, soft and well mannered in giving naseehah to others. Accepting naseehah is like opening a door, and the door will not open without the proper key. There is no better key to unlock the heart than kindness in giving advice, gentleness in exhortation, and softness in speech. The Prophet SAWS said,
“Kindness is not to be found in anything but that it adds to its beauty, and it is not withdrawn from anything but it makes it defective.” (Narrated by Muslim)
Allah SWT has shown us a great example in giving naseehah even to the worst of leaders; non other than Pharaoh. Allah SWT sent Moses and Aaron (AS) to Pharaoh, whose evil and harshness was infamous, yet even then, Allah SWT commanded them,
“And speak to him mildly, perhaps he may accept admonition or fear Allah” (Taha 44)
The question may arise, what if I know that a certain individual will not accept my naseehah even if it is correct? It is still your obligation to provide your Muslim brother/sister with naseehah. The famous scholar Ibn Hazm points out that a person should not make naseehah only on the condition that his advice is accepted. His responsibility is first and foremost to Allah SWT. Even if others do not accept his advice, he should still advise them (in the right manner). However, the advisor should be sincere of heart with the intention to make things better and remove some fault or evil, otherwise it will not have a positive reforming effect. The scholar al-Fudail ibn Iyaadh stated, “The believer conceals [the sin] and advises the person while the evildoer exposes the sin and disgraces the person.”
Another factor to consider is timing. A person may not always be in the best mood or mind state to receive naseehah. The individual giving naseehah must be aware of the advisee’s condition for the advice to be accepted, as Abdul Hamid Bilali writes, “Choosing the proper time and place is one of the greatest causes for the acceptance of naseehah and eradicating evil.” It is best to give the naseehah during a time of calm and attentiveness projected by the advisee, yet at the same time, it should not be so delayed that it loses its benefit or relevance.
Accept your shortcomings; it’s the human thing to do
On the receiving end, a Muslim should accept the sincere and sound advice that comes to him/her from any source. He/she should not allow any pride or personal agenda to interfere with him/her accepting what is best. Neither should the individual receiving the advice or correction begin to doubt the advisors intention for good and assume evil such as trying to ridicule or disgrace them. Always remember, the best nasheeha is the one given to yourself by encouraging yourself to do what is right and proper and to stay away from sins and disobedience of Allah SWT. We mentioned in the beginning of this response the hadeeth in which one of the rights of the Muslim is to respond if he is asked for sincere advice, this concept has even been applied in the corporate world, and a great article about asking for naseehah and bettering your character and etiquette as a Muslim can be found here:
We will end with a quotation from one of the famous scholars of Islam, Al-Fudhail ibn Iyaadh, who stated: “The one who attains the most in our sight [the scholars of his time] is not the one who has the most prayers or fasts. But the one who has attained the most in our sight is due to the generosity of the soul, the heart being free of [unjustified hatred and rancor] and the sincere conduct [naseehah] to the Muslim nation.”
THE OTHER PARTS EXPLAINED
To give Naseehah to Allah SWT requires the fulfilling of the obligatory duties in the best way possible (Ihsaan), abstaining from what He has forbidden and doing ones best to remember Him under all circumstances including but not limited to loving and hating for his sake, being friends and supporting those who support Him and who work for His cause.
The next category the Prophet SAWS mentioned was “to His book.” This statement refers to the whole class of revelation which includes all of the previously revealed scriptures as well as the Quran. This naseehah requires that one believe in the Quran as the word of Allah SWT and in addition reads and recites it properly, applies it, and studies it.
Naseehah to His Messenger, referring to the Prophet Muhammad SAWS, includes following, helping and defending him in speech and action. This also implies that one accepts the Prophet SAWS as the true leader and role model, as well as the only human final word with respect to religion.
A great resource to get dawah help is from Why Islam. They have created a great Dawah Kit along with a frequently asked questions (FAQs) page. Just go to http://resources.whyislam.