Shaykh Abdullah Hakim Quick visited my university in order to discuss the role that Muslim student organizations (MSAs) have in the West, specifically in the United States. Having observed and worked with communities from all over the world, Shaykh Quick shared insight regarding two major purposes of any Muslim student group – providing a space for Muslim students on campus and serving the larger community through dawah activities. Citing a major study, he identified the top 10 problems that youth face in most societies and how Muslim students can begin to address those issues. He challenged established notions that many have regarding dawah work and encouraged us to find more creative ways to address social issues. Below is a summary of his talk.
We live in a young people’s world. 48% of the people in the world are 24 or younger. This is important to keep in mind as Muslim students and Muslim youth.
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There are two basic roles of an MSA, the main role being survival for its own members and a secondary role being providing dawah services to the community at large.
It is no hidden fact that the social scene in college is a major fitna for all Muslim college students. Especially with a new found sense of independence and lack of supervision, a Muslim college student’s social life can easily go in the wrong direction. The MSA is a place of sanctuary for Muslim students, especially on a social level.
The MSA should serve as a way for Muslim students to be able to fulfill their mandatory religious obligations, as well as grow spiritually. Facilitating daily prayers for Muslim college students is one of the most important roles that an MSA can play.
The MSA also acts as an advocacy group for all Muslim college students on campus, effectively addressing and solving issues within the university that pertain to student life like academic issues in the classroom, campus wide problems, etc.
Since the main role that an MSA should play is to help Muslim college students survive the college environment, this should always be the goal that the MSA maintains at the highest priority in all of its activities. Any work or projects that the MSA pursues should be done in a way which fits with this primary goal.
An important question we must ask ourselves is, what does giving dawah mean? According to scholars, giving dawah can mean : encouraging people to goodness (khayr) and guidance (huda), calling them towards good and preventing them from that which is evil in order for people to succeed and attain happiness in this life and in the next.
Based off of this definition, we now need to ask the question, what are the problems that humanity is facing today?
Shaykh Abdullah Hakim Quick cited a study that identifies 5 crises points, mostly for young people, and 10 areas of solutions to the points.
The 5 crises points are:
- Violence. We are exposed to more violence now than ever before.
- Erosion of Traditional Values. For all people, globalization has diluted traditional and cultural values to a dangerous level. Specifically for Muslims, we are facing many trials about our religion and faith, especially concerning how to practice in a modern context.
- Poverty. There is a small elite which controls most of the wealth in the world.
- Disease. Diseases and epidemics threaten our health and lives.
- Drugs. There is a problematic categorization of drugs into “soft” drugs and “hard” drgus, along with the international and global pervasion of drug usage.
There are 10 priority areas which Muslim youth can explore with dawah efforts in order to find solutions to address the 5 crises points. He asked us to really think outside of the box and come up with creative ways to give dawah in areas that it is needed most. The areas bolded are ones in which Shaykh Quick thought that MSA’s are most equipped to work in.
The 10 priority areas are:
- EDUCATION. Use the education you have received in order to give back and educate others in the community. Set up a tutoring and mentoring program in a community that needs it.
- HUNGER & POVERTY. Utilize Islamic relief groups in order to be more efficient and make a bigger impact.
- HEALTH ISSUES.
- DRUG ABUSE. Put the many Muslim medical students to work in order to address issues of drug abuse in the community.
- JUVENILE DELINQUENCY.
- LEISURE TIME ACTIVITIES. Organize activities for Muslim youth in the community.
- ACTIVITIES FOR GIRLS AND YOUNG WOMEN. Organize activities specifically for girls and young women, give them a space where they can feel comfortable and have fun.
- CIVIC ENGAGEMENT. Have full and effective involvement in the decision making of your government.
Shaykh Abdullah Hakim Quick left us with a very profound quote in order to guide our understanding of how to balance our American culture and Islam.
Islam is a filter and culture is water. Filter your culture through Islam, and you’ll end up with an Islamic way of life.