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MSA National: We Can’t Let it Die!


This is posted on behalf of a friend of mine who is active in the MSA in my city:

As a concerned Muslim student and local MSA leader, I hear all this talk going on about the current state of MSA National here, here, and here , and I’m a bit worried. Worried enough to do something. You see, we can’t treat MSA National as just any other Islamic organization. It already has a niche in the market with the college students across North America. Practically any college you can name has a local MSA chapter to go along with it, but most of these local MSAs are completely isolated from their umbrella organization. Some may not even know such a thing as MSA National exists, and others may be vaguely familiar or affiliated with the organization, but only a handful of local MSAs actually do some real collaboration with them. The problem is: seemingly nobody knows what exactly MSA National is really there for.

As one of the oldest Muslim organizations in the country, MSA National has gone through many phases. It used to help facilitate easy access to da’wah materials for all the local chapters, but it seems like WhyIslam has the MSAs covered now. MSA National was really good about politically vocalizing the concerns of the Muslim students in key issues such as the Imam Jamil al-Amin case and the anti-war cause (building up to the invasion of Iraq), but CAIR and MAS, amongst others, seem to be doing a better job with those issues these days. Now with the rise of such innovative programs as Al-Maghrib and Bayyinah Academy, amongst many others, even MSA National’s annual conferences might become quite trite to the average student of knowledge. So is there anything left?

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Plenty. MSA National still has that niche in the market for Muslim students as we mentioned before, whereas all these other organizations serve the broader Muslim community. And I’m not mentioning “niche” in the limited sense in that only MSA National can help Muslim students figure out how they can get access to a peaceful place to pray on campus or petition for some kosher/halal food to be provided with their meal plans, no. What I really mean is that none of these other organizations really have the potential to reach every single member of this rising class of Muslim intellectuals, professionals, and business men who are soon to become the elite of the Muslim ummah. None of these other organizations can gather together the best amongst the headstrong, ambitious, and optimistic youth from all corners of North America, across all sorts of sectarian divides, together to sit around a single table and actually plan how we can practically reunite this ummah, and even come away from that table producing 1-year, 5-year, or even 50-year plans. It is primarily on the backs of the volunteers in MSA that the Muslim ummah in North America now stands, with projects like MIST and Project Downtown and Fast-a-Thon coming straight from the product of student ingenuity.

If indeed MSA National is the vehicle by which we can sort through the masses of students and identify our future leaders, then MSA National can be the force that gathers together every necessary resource in order to ensure that nothing hinders those students from receiving the best education and training that they can get, without having to worry about their own socio-economic status and the financial burden of their tuition. Honestly, MSA National should be setting up scholarships to help students study here and abroad for both secular and sacred knowledge. MSA National should help these up-and-coming professionals get connected with other Muslim professionals in their fields of study for jobs or internships. MSA National should be nurturing the minds of the promising youth to develop think-tanks ready to tackle the problems of the world. While many of these projects may already be handled locally, these local MSAs have limited life-spans–they usually only lasts as long as the motivated individuals in the MSA remain. However, on such a huge scope, as long as MSA National is receptive towards inviting all sorts of people with many varying backgrounds to the table, it is nearly impossible that such an organization should have a vacuum of leadership for even one semester.

The current election ballot may tell a different story about how the organization is running, but I’m talking about the potential of the organization here and leaving behind the grim reality. I believe that MSA National is drowning right now, and it is up to every able-bodied MSA student who hears this message to stand up and make a personal commitment to get involved. If there is no vision out there already, let outreach and service to each and every college student in North America be MSA National’s goal. Whether we like it or not, MSA National is a reflection of the sum of our efforts on a national scale for our college activism in North America, and we won’t get a cleaner image unless we’re willing to get in there and get our hands dirty in order to fix it. Honestly, I am disappointed with the image that MSA National has been presenting to its constituents and to the outside world, and I can’t say as a Muslim student in North America that I am not even partly to blame for it. Let’s all try our best to give MSA National this one more year to show us that it does have the real potential to live up to all our hopes and dreams by helping to move it in that direction. Who knows? Maybe this could be the first domino towards an ummah that gloriously stands back on it’s mighty feet once again after having fallen so hard…

-Concerned MSAer

Please check some related posts about our community direction in the West:

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters and Qalam Institute. He teaches Islamic seminars across the US including Khateeb Workshop and Fiqh of Social Media. He has served in varying administrative capacities for multiple national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow his work at



  1. jinnzaman

    June 21, 2007 at 10:31 AM

    Assalamu alaikum

    Excellent post. I’m glad a lot of people are giving constructive criticism of MSANAT, while also providing suggestions on how they can make the organization better.

    May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) assist us in the revival of Islam and the Ummah in the world. Ameen.


  2. Mujahideen Ryder

    June 21, 2007 at 10:50 AM

    JazakAllah khair

    I have started an “Independent Study on MSA National“. It’s basically a survey for all Muslim student asking them about MSA National, it’s relationship with there MSA and how MSA National can be improved.

    Ameen to Jinnz’s dua.

  3. Hamzah

    June 21, 2007 at 3:22 PM

    Solid post. I think posts like this will encourage other people to share their thoughts as well and hopefully get involved inshAllah.

  4. Zainab Khan

    June 21, 2007 at 9:03 PM

    Salaam alaykum,
    Can you please send me your email address? I was hoping to get in touch with you. Thanks

  5. muslimmatters

    June 21, 2007 at 9:08 PM

    whose email address?

  6. Zainab Khan

    June 21, 2007 at 9:50 PM

    whoever is in charge of this site. jazak Allah kheyr.


  7. muslimmatters

    June 21, 2007 at 10:06 PM

    sister please email info ||at|| muslimmatters DOT org

  8. abu ameerah

    June 23, 2007 at 7:47 PM

    As a former member and supporter of my local (college) MSA … I never really saw the importance of MSA-NATL.

    I am sure that the organization did good work, once-upon-a-time, however we seemed to get along fine without ’em.

  9. Abu Bakr

    June 24, 2007 at 2:30 PM

    Indeed, the MSA i was involved with had no relationship with MSA-Nat’l either, and it did just fine.

    However, in my view, it would be shortsighted to not try and salvage an organization that could help to coordinate the efforts of MSA’s around the nation in constructive ways.

  10. ibnabeeomar

    June 27, 2007 at 8:53 AM

  11. Zahra Billoo

    June 27, 2007 at 2:13 PM

    All of this discussion on the state of MSA National is great, Alhamdulillah. Despite their current state, there is hope.

    And there are a lot of folks interested in helping. But as a West Coast MSA alumna, I can say that a lot of MSAers on this side of the country are tired of trying. It’s been dead out here for more years than I can count now.

    Maybe we are asking too much from a grassroots attempt at national organizing.

    Maybe another problem is funding.

    Maybe enough of us are busy talking the talk, but never get around to walking it?

    (Excuse the randomness. I’m just excited that folks are finally discussing an issue that some of us on the West Coast have been aware of for quite some time.)

  12. mohamed

    July 7, 2007 at 7:48 PM

    MSA failed for the same reason CAIR failed and the same reason that will make Zaytuna and the others fail. They are Islamist, and Islamist ALWAYS fail.

    Didn’t you know? Well now you do.

  13. Amad

    July 7, 2007 at 9:40 PM

    So Mohamed, may Allah forgive your parents for giving you this beautiful name, which side are you on? You are so ludicrous that no one will take you seriously.

    Go drink some kabbani-feet-wash-soup for tabarruk…

    Keep giving us something to laugh about. People like you and people like Abu Qatadah/Osama– flip-sides of the same coin— both loony in your/their own ways! One is busy kissing the feet of crazy losers like kabbani, and the other is busy blowing up feet and everything above it. Thank you both for making the middle-way so clear!

  14. mohamed

    July 9, 2007 at 9:29 PM

    A lot of people take me serious. The people of Darfur take me serious. The people of Afghanistan who now support the US presence there thanks to the Islamist. The people of Iran probably would support US forces there, thanks to the Islamist. The people of Algeria also know what I am talking about. Now the people of Iraq know what I am talking about. Saudi Arabi is a bizarre wahhabi pro American puppet regime and a proof that Islamist just want power and money. But of course they got CAIR and ISNA in their donor list.

    Give me one success story.

    Everywhere Islamist reigned they wreak havoc. CAIR, ISNA,ICNA,MSA,MAS and the rest of the wahhabi lobby will never succeed. Islamist NEVER succeed. If you don’t want to live in a free and secular society then go the recently declared “The Islamic Emirate of Iraq” where people get executed for shaving their beards or listening to pop music. What are you doing in America?

    Oh, I remember to create an Islamist state in America they way Hooper and Muzammil Siddiqui predicted and replace the Abrahim Lincoln statue in Washington with one for Ibn Taymiya.

    But you keep dreaming.

  15. Amad

    July 10, 2007 at 9:38 AM

    People of Afghanistan support US presence??

    I think Mohamed, you need to get off whatever you are on before you start thinking that Bush saved Iraq as well.

  16. ibnabeeomar

    July 10, 2007 at 10:12 AM

    “Give me one success story.”

    obviously, whatever you’re smoking is one :)

  17. Mujahideen Ryder

    July 11, 2007 at 10:03 AM

    LOL @ ibnabeeomar

  18. mohamed

    July 21, 2007 at 6:11 AM

    And who do you think voted for Karzai and Noor Al Maliki, martians? But of course you are less concerned about them than fighting “kuffars” because some Ulema told you so. Well if you know about history the West was occupying Muslim lands for centuries and where were these Uleam who seem to have woken up ever since Maudoudi and Syed Qutb came to the scene. But you want to enjoy life in “secular kaffir” America and yet talk about Islamism. Go live there, go to the Taliban controlled areas and live there. Be a heroin smuggler and fight for Jihad. What are you doing in America?

    Hypocrysy, typical islamist, grow a beard, shorten your robe, use religious slogans then rob the country left and right.

    Taking advantage of people’s naivity, a real shame and a disgrace. Nobody probably told you but the Ulema were stooges for the Abbasid from the start. It was Al Mutawakkil who supported the Sunni Ulema from the Mu’tazilites probably because Imam Muslimcame with 43 hadiths about obeying the ruler. Quite a way to gain advantage from the Mu’tazilites, wouldn’t you agree.

    Sunnis, they will throw a hadith at you from a mile away.

  19. ibnabeeomar

    July 21, 2007 at 9:27 PM

    right… thanks for clearing that up

  20. Amad

    July 21, 2007 at 11:29 PM

    please keep guiding us, O Mohamed (may Allah forgive your parents for naming you that).

    May Kabbani’s Kabobs be with you.

  21. abu ameerah

    July 22, 2007 at 5:09 AM

    “The problem is: seemingly nobody knows what exactly MSA National is really there for.”

    I think I have an idea:

    -Getting brother so and so’s email…
    -Getting sister so and so’s digits (phone#)…
    -Finding out where to get the newest athletic shoe on the market.
    -Finding out where to see Outlandish in concert?
    -Is Lupe Fiasco a good Muslim or is he a wahaabi in disguise?
    -“Free, Free, Palestine” !!! (chanting)
    -“Hey Mohamed, are you on facebook?”
    -“Hey Amad, are you on facebook”?
    -“Hey ibnabeeomar, are you on facebook”?

    ….so ends another MSA east zone or west zone or North Atlantic regional conference…or whatever.

  22. Iman

    July 5, 2008 at 4:18 PM

    Superb post.

    constructive criticism should be welcomed in our community.

  23. L

    August 8, 2008 at 3:29 AM

    This article hit the nail on the head.

    From what I have seen and observed of the MSA’s and MSA National in North America, I would have to say that you guys aren’t doing a bad job. I was briefly involved with an MSA at a University here in Australia and I don’t think we are nearly as active as the MSA’s in the US. However there is always room to improve.

    If anybody is interested, I would suggest that people take a look at – the Australasian Union of Jewish Students – who happen to be a very organised, effective activist student body who have been very successful protecting the interests of Jewish students on Australian campuses. They also conduct successful events and secure political seminars for their members with Australian politicians and Government ministers.

    In the context of Australia (and perhaps in the US too to the extent applicable), an active National body should be the Federal representative of all Australian Muslim Students. Each Australian university with an MSA would have to be affiliated with the Federal body and all office bearers in both the State and Federal level should be elected. After each country accomplishes this level of organisation, then perhaps people can start planning an international organisations. The MSA in Australia should seek to protects the interests of its members on a policy level in the first instance, followed by theology related issues.

    Matters concerning Muslims (not only Muslims, but also other minority groups who have their rights infringed on – and yes I’m suggesting a Libertarian approach which includes advocating for homosexual rights) in the media should be effectively dealt with, and rebutted when necessary. There should be personnel in each MSA chapted who always keep an eye on Muslims in the media and publications and press releases and conferences should be held where necessary.

    MSA students should aim to make large donations to many philanthropic organisations (perhaps create one of their own?), hospitals and political parties. MSA’s should be active in voicing their concerns in all aspects affecting Australian life including foreign relations, finance, elections etc…

    I believe such conduct would lead to improving the Muslim image.

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