Event Planning for MSA, Youth Group, Isoc | Part One: The Spiritual Aspect


MSA events
After going through the MSA and being very active in planning events, I've noticed that there are certain things we should keep in mind when an MSA or Islamic organization is in the process of event planning.  The first part of this series focuses on the spiritual side of event-planning, which can commonly be overlooked or lost in the busy days and nights leading up to an event.  At times we find our events “succeeding,” but we as individuals and the MSA at large are not benefitting from the events or feeling good about them.  insha'Allah, minding the spiritual aspect of event-planning as Muslims will help us feel fulfilled in our MSA activism and have our efforts accepted by Allah.

Prerequisite: Shariah-Compliant Event

Any event that the MSA hosts should be something Islamically permissible first-and-foremost. It might not be as black and white as it seems though, especially when a group of (inevitably different) people are coming together to make a decision. Maybe there is just a small aspect of the event that is questionable or impermissible, and that's what should be avoided rather than scrapping the entire event.

Some questions to consider during the event-planning process should be:

  • Does this event follow basic Islamic guidelines and technical rulings?
  • Is there a difference of opinion on a certain matter which might complicate the decision-making process for hosting the event? How does your MSA deal with differences of opinion?

Differences of opinion are difficult to navigate for individuals, let alone groups! Seek out a religious mentor (a local shaykh or imam or someone knowledgeable) and have that person be your go-to when it comes to information about the permissibility of an event or action. It is highly recommended that the leadership of the organization come together to select a local mentor that you will seek advice from throughout the year. Having a person on stand-by means that you can get any questions regarding religious issues answered quickly and easily.

The Often-Forgotten Spiritual Side of Planning

So you are going along in your planning of an event and you've considered every detail and even planned ahead for any problems that may arise. It seems like everything is under control, but it feels like you're forgetting something or that there is something missing.

What you may be forgetting is the spiritual side of your event planning. This happens we are busy with worldly means, but are neglecting spiritual means.  These are some questions that you can ask yourself to make sure the MSA is preparing for the event holistically.

  • When you have planning meetings, do you start and close the meeting with a du'a?
  • Are you doing this for the wrong reasons, as an individual or as a group? Renew your intentions, as cliche as that sounds.
  • Did you neglect the spiritual means of planning the event? These can be making du'a for its success and all of your efforts being accepted, praying a voluntary prayer to put blessings into the event, doing a general act of charity or donation as an MSA to help purify your wealth and efforts, having tawakkul/relying on Allah and surrendering yourself and the success of your event to Allah, seeking forgiveness for your shortcomings, etc.
  • Did you make istikhaarah about important aspects of the event? Did you follow the Prophetic model of seeking counsel from others (istishaarah)?

Always remember that an event can seem like a complete failure (nobody came, you ran out of food, the speaker was late, the weather forced the event to be cancelled), but in the eyes of Allah it can still be a success. Your deeds being accepted makes the event a success.  If even one person comes to an event and leaves in a better state of iman or has his interest for Islam sparked, that one person's faith and actions can make the fuss of hosting an event worth it.

black MSA

On the flip side, an event can seem like a success (there were so many people that you ran out of chairs, the food was great and came on time, the speaker did an amazing job, you collected enough signatures for the university administration to take you seriously, etc.), but in the eyes of Allah your event can be a failure. The MSA is hosting this event to show off, the members planning the event engaged in impermissible actions (cheating a vendor or misusing university funding) or had questionable interactions with one another while working (flirting, etc.), you became arrogant and forgot to thank Allah for a successful and smooth event, and other things that sucked the blessings out of the event. Your deeds were not accepted and even though it seems like you made a positive impact, there is no share for you in reward from Allah.  These are the inexplicable moments when unhappiness and doubt creep into us even after a great event.

The most important thing to remember is that the event is a means to an end, not an end itself.  “Success” can be measured against different rulers, but what is truly successful is relative to Allah's definition of success.  As MSA members and community activists, we must remember that we are simply tools that Allah is using to support His deen, and although we should strive for excellence each time we host an event, the matter is ultimately in Allah's hands.  If the MSA can walk away from an event with full pages of their books of good deeds and with the pleasure of Allah, that is a successful event.

Up next in part two, I'll talk about the inevitably difficult social aspect of an MSSA or Islamic organization and how we should always favor people over programs when it comes to event-planning.

14 Responses

  1. Amt un Noor

    Good one!
    jazakhAllah khayr..
    One thing, I don’t like the pictures used. None of them. You may dismiss this comment as naïve but the men sitting together..do they resemble muslims ? The girl in the western outfit with a bright gleaming scarf and made-up face (Oh! and the shaped eyebrows which draw curse)…? And the young men with clean shaven faces? I’m an indian and we don’t have MSAs here. But, when such pictures are used to portray the common lot, it tends to instill thoughts which make you think its OK to look so/not much un-islamic. My thoughts though.. this site/this article isn’t the only one.

    • M.Mahmud

      “You may dismiss this comment as naïve but the men sitting together..do they resemble muslims”


    • Meena Malik

      Ws. I think the main point here is that Muslims need to make sure we have good stock photo options.

      Other than that, Allah does not say that a man with a clean-shaven face will not enter Jannah, or that a woman with a brightly-colored scarf will not enter Jannah. Allah does, however, say that a person with even the tiniest amount of arrogance in their heart will not enter Jannah. When we make these kinds of judgments on people, what is the point of it?

      Also, Muslims come in every shade and color in the West. I have friends who have converted to Islam who are Mexican, White Americans, African Americans, etc. That is the beauty of living here.

      • Amt Un Noor

        You got me wrong completely. No where did I mention about the “shades” of people, it was about the outward appearance. YEAH, u can go on and on to say.. men with clean shaven “might” enter Jannah.. women with bright scarves and made up faces “might” enter Jannah.. Even so, improperly planned MSAs “might” also benefit someone in the whole crowd. What’s the point of this article then??
        Its easy to dismiss a point when it is made saying one is being judgemental / why create an issue of nothing / its “normal” / no photos on the internet so I’m gonna use whatever pleases to me / we have a problem growing beards so don’t blame us..blah blah blah. Very few actually try to understand what is being said before becoming defensive.
        The WHOLE point of pointing out is to keep first things first! Yes, u might very well enter Jannah with a clean shaven beard, you may also sell alcohol your entire life but enter Jannah, so are u going to start selling alcohol today? NO! We are NOT perfect, accepted! But we are TRYING, we should be! We should be looking at people and thinking, this is how I want to be. Not looking at people with piety levels less than us and thinking, “Uhh… He might enter Jannah too, so why work hard?”. We’re all working towards becoming perfect, so lets see only those who were! (prophets for example). Yes, u should work towards having a beard, wearing proper hijab, being modest AS MUCH AS u should work towards being humble!. They are ALL commandments of Allah, there’s no pick and choose, Sorry!

        — When we make these kinds of judgments on people, what is the point of it? —
        The above is!
        May Allah grant us wisdom! Aameen

    • Eesa

      Genetics have a lot to with beards as well. I’m African, raised Muslim, and in my 25 years of life I’ve never managed to grow much more than a little “shrubbery” on my neck. I’ve never shaved either. I have many Muslim friends (of different ethnicities) who also can’t grow beards. Please don’t jump to conclusions on the spiritual state of a person based on their appearance.

      “the men sitting together..do they resemble muslims ?”
      I can’t even… Yes they do, but what do Muslims look like?

    • Cass

      The focus should be on being Muslim, not looking Muslim. And there are Muslims all over the world. They come from different races and depending on their culture wear different styles of clothes. One doesn’t have to dress in a black abaya to dress modestly and one doesn’t have to have a beard to be considered Muslim. As for wearing a bright scarf, Aisha (raliallah anhu) used to frequently wear red and so did one of the Mohamed’s (saw) daughters (can’t remember which one).

      • Amt Un Noor

        Cass, there no differentiation between looking muslim and being one! Allah asked you to Look muslim AS WELL AS be one. So you don’t have an option there. I haven’t mentioned any dress code to look modest, I just said whatever is worn is not modest, you know it yourself too. Lets accept it. I’m not sure about the red coloured scarf.. Aisha R.A for sure dint make up to get clicked or have her eyebrows shaped. The main point here is NOT to count for drawbacks in a picture (HELL NO!), it is to understand that so n so picture has flaws and I should try my best to make sure I don’t do this. End of matter.

        A girl with improper hijab might be more humble than you n me or a guy with clean shaven beard might be more pious than us.. It doesn’t negate their shortcomings though. If you are flawed, you are! Everyone’s trying to get better and we have our own pace. Everyone’s struggles are respected but what’s wrong has to be labeled wrong. That’s when you learn what is right.

      • Cass

        Couldn’t reply to Amt Un Noor so I’m just leaving my comment here. There is a difference between merely wanting to appear Muslim and actually being Muslim. For an example there are so many people who make their daughters wear hijab, not because it’s wajib but, because of what the neighbours might think. Or because they think no one will marry her. They don’t care if she doesn’t pray or drinks alcohol etc as long as she appears Muslim. See the difference?

        Of course we should be aiming to follow Islam as perfectly as possible but that doesn’t mean we should be saying hateful and hurtful things like “you don’t look like a Muslim”. If there is no difference between being Muslim and looking Muslim then you are essentially saying that “you are not Muslim”. So please choose your words carefully. The way you say something can make it seem like you are implying something else.

      • Meena Malik

        Cass, I love this, “The focus should be on being Muslim, not looking Muslim.” MSAs are the lifeline for many college students who move away from home to study. If they aren’t perfect Muslims, at least they are Muslim and following basic Islamic guidelines. I know too many kids that go off to school and start drinking and dating and give in to all of the vices around them.

  2. Mahamoud

    Good self-evaluation. We tend to think in terms of numbers and the quality side. And the intention side can be a killer assumption.

  3. Mahamoud

    Good self-evaluation. We tend to think in terms of numbers and the not the quality side. And the intention side can be a killer assumption.


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