Monday, December 31, 2007

Coming home from Can eh dia

I'm home!

I never thought I'd be so happy to see my family room couch. My 1.5 hour flight home turned into a 24 hour "adventure" complete with a canceled flight, three hours of waiting in line, stressing with trying to get to the airport and wishing I wasn't alone.

Alhamdulillah my MSA National sisters and the sisters I met at the RIS convention welcomed me with open arms and made me feel like one of their own.

Ordering pizza at 11pm and sitting around laughing with these amazing sisters, I began to miss home even more. That night my own crew of girls were meeting for dinner. For the first time in a long time everyone was in town and hanging out together - everyone except for me. Laughing with the Ottawa girls I felt so at home and so distant at the same time.

Arriving at Dulles and rushing home, I threw down my luggage and within an hour was surrounded by my girls. After a few very much deserved stern words we sat around laughing, remembering the time we were stranded in Tulsa, also due to "mechanical error" and planning our next trip. But we're definitely not going to Canada (at least not for a while).

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mali Trip Days 1-2-From Guest Blogger Randa Kuziez

Asalamu Alaikum! I am back from Mali Alhamdullilah, and I am so happy to be sharing my trip experiences with whoever reads this. I am sorry I have not updated at all yet, I’ve been asked about it and finally here is some of what I have been doing in Mali. Because this will be read by my friends and such, I made it a day to day account of my personal journal. But in reality, there is so much more to it, and many others have written much better blogs about this campaign.
Here is where you can find better information:
(and I will post some press releases towards the end of the blog)

Also, I want to thank Asma for allowing me to be her guest blogger, what an honor. J (Asma is wonderful Mashallah I hope you all regularly read her blog).

Saturday December 8th-Sunday December 9th, 2007

I left St. Louis with butterflies in my stomach. This was my first international trip alone, and my first trip to West Africa. MSA National was invited by Malaria No More to attend this first ever interfaith delegation during such a large campaign. The campaign was done by the Government of Mali and Malaria No More and over 22 NGO’s around the world to reach 95% of the people around Mali in an effort to halt Malaria and provide other necessary health intervention items including measles vaccine, Vitamin A, Polio vaccine, and a de-worming pill. I will include more of the facts on Monday’s journal.

I was driven to JFK from Laguardia, and the driver actually knew about Mali so he gave me some tips and exciting facts. I hurried over to Air France, got my boarding pass, did not check in any luggage, gave Sara Beg a “fun call,” and got on my plane. It’s hard for me to generally say this because I usually do not notice it, but I felt like everyone on the plane was looking at me. Maybe it is because I had two annoying handbags and I clumsily made it to my seat, or because I was wearing two hoodies over a long coat which looked a bit weird. To top it off, someone was sitting in my seat and she did not speak English. I kindly showed her my boarding pass and wondered if the airline made a mistake. The stewardess then looked at the woman, and turns out the woman’s seat was in 26 but she accidently sat in 28. No problem, I offered to sit in seat 26, and she said “Merci Merci,” and I did not mind if people were staring at me anymore.
At the Paris airport, I tried to find my way around, only to realize that my flight is in 10 hours. I took a shuttle to another section of the airport, and I tried to seek help from an African man, (secretly hoping he was also going to Bamako), only to realize he needed help finding his gate. I pointed him in the right direction and as he got off the shuttle, called out “Asalamu Alaikum.” I’ve heard the French do not like to speak English, so I tried to teach myself basic terms, but they have all been so friendly and have spoken with me in English, silly me walks off saying “Gracias” then quickly correcting myself to “Merci.”

I tried to sleep for a long time, but kept waking up from the cold. I walked around, bought myself Prince Cookies for lots of Euros (btw those are a lot stronger than the dollar now!), and saw all these Muslims lined up for some reason! HAJJ!!!!!!!!!! Oh I miss Hajj, and totally forgot it was Hajj season. It reminded me of my dad, Rhoda and I in Germany last year lined up for Hajj as well. Eventually I met a woman from Canada but I fell asleep, woke up and she was gone with no trace except for the snack she left in my lap.

I spotted sister Aisha Al Adawiya, and was united with the Malaria no More crew. I was talking to one of them saying, ‘I can’t wait to meet Malcom X’s daughter.’ She gave me a weird look, and I later realized I was talking to her. Rhoda told me to not do anything dumb, there was the first thing!

On the way to Bamako, I was fascinated by something I had never noticed before. I’d never noticed how many stars I could see from any window seat I had had before. Rather than looking up at the stars, I was looking right through them, almost sitting next to them in the sky. Subhanallah, it really is an amazing sight. I wish I could even capture it in a picture. There were hundreds of them, and the longer I stared, the more they became.

We got to Bamako, and sat through a special room waiting for the cars to take us to the hotel. Now that I think of it, I never saw the main terminal in Bamako airport. Oh well.

Inshallah this trip will be benificial and a great experience!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Muslim Student saves Jews on Subway

In darkness, sometimes we find light.

In another sad example of prejudice, three Jews were attacked on the New York subway. But in a beautiful example of Muslims standing up for the rights of people of all faiths, Hassan Askari, a Muslim Student at Berkeley College in Manhattan, came to their rescue. Yet, he was the only passenger who tried to stop the fight.

For more information visit the MSA National website:

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Guest Blogger: Randa Kuziez

Assalams All!

Instead of bringing you stories of my attempts to study for finals, my good friend and Treasurer of MSA National Randa Kuziez will be a guest blogger over the next week.

This week on behalf of MSA National Randa joins a delegation to Mali that includes Malcolm X's daughter Ms. Shabazz hosted by Malaria No More and partner organizations including the American Red Cross, UNICEF and the United Nations. The delegation aims to raise awareness about Malaria, a lethal disease. A $1 vaccine can save the life of a Malaria victim.

Randa I can't wait to hear about your trip and how we can save lives for about the cost of a soda!

US vs. Al- Arian

As I watched this award winning documentary, I felt as though I was watching a horror movie from the 1970's. This couldn't be our reality, could it? A man is imprisoned for years, kept from seeing the evidence against him, and when found not guilty by a jury is kept in jail?

Yet the move begins in 2003 and is a modern epic of one of the biggest civil rights violations of our time.

As citizens, its our duty to protect the Constitution and call America back to its better self.

Learn more:

Friday, November 30, 2007

Yasmin Elhady Represents

My dear friend and member of the MSA National Media and Communication Action Task Force Yasmin Elhady asked a question at this year's GOP Republican CNN-YouTube debate.

Way to represent Muslim Students exercise the power of the press to ask a serious question!

Remembering on World AIDS Day

When I was two-feet tall I shyly walked into a kindergarten classroom. As my big brother and sister let go of my hand, I looked around the room at 17 strangers. Within a few minutes Bernie and I had become the best of friends and vowed to be friends forever and ever.

Nine years later I stared at my friend, laying in her open casket.

Born prematurely, Bernie needed a blood transfusion when she was 2 days old. It was the 80's and no one knew about HIV or AIDS, including the Red Cross. Before she left the hospital Bernie had contracted HIV.

Bernie is one of millions of children who died of HIV and AIDS. These victims deserve the support of the entire world. From a simple prayer to donating to find a cure, be involved in one of the largest health crisis of our time.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Condolences I

As I edited a Press Release for the monthly MSA Eletter, I received an e-mail stating a sister from UCLA had passed away. My heart sank as I opened my e-mail to send an "Updated Condolences" section.

The one part of the Eletter you hope you never have to "update" is the condolences section. In one month three MSA students, to my knowledge, died. Active, religious, students like me. Yet all over the world thousands of people die each day of thirst, starvation, disease, and war.

Death is a reminder; a reminder that you, yes you, will one day no longer exist. Your life's worth won't be measured by how many people read your blog or the name on your diploma but by one entity alone; and that opinion is all that matters.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Little Rock, Big Impact

Less than 24 hours ago I hugged Zainab goodbye as I prepared to leave Little Rock, Arkansas.

In the less than 11 hours that I had known Zainab, we had bonded. She told me about how her brothers, lacking an MSA, had found a comfortable home at a Fraternity that respected their religion. We discussed everything from Muslim Country singer Kareem Salama to MSA and youth group. But for me the most amazing thing about our discussions was that Zainab was 11 years old. Despite the fact that she was half my age, as two American-born Muslim sisters we found a lot to talk about.

My time in Little Rock was a brief retreat from classes and e-mails. I had been invited by ISNA in my capacity as an advisor to MYNA and my role with MSA National to speak about Youth Development. The enthusiasm and excitement of these youth, parents and MSAers was contagious and yet eye opening. The presentations, practical advice, and resources were welcomed with hungry eyes by the community members so eager to take their organizations to the next level.

While I remain obsessed with organizational management, my e-mail, and have a cell phone practically sewed into my hijab, physically seeing the needs of our diverse, dispersed community and working directly with students will always be my passion. This is the stuff that drives activists: making a positive difference in the lives of others all in the service of God.

When I first got involved with MSA National as a zonal rep, my activism completely changed. From serving 20+ Muslim students on campus, I was now connected to hundreds. Starting an MSA in Maryland, holding a workshop in New Jersey, meeting with a council chair in DC to discuss how to address issues; this is the life of a zonal rep. And it is by far the biggest joy and Amana, trust, at the same time.

The goal of any institution, for or non-profit, is take what one person can do to the next level; to serve its users better on a larger scale. I have never believed more in the need for strong organizations that serve our community. Like Zainab said, we need people to do more.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Life Lessons From the Streets of Georgetown

Orignially I titled this post "Life Lessons From the Street" but I realized it might give off the wrong impression :) I admire people from all different backgrounds and experiences while realizing that I am a girl from suburbia and I'm proud of it; my experiences and upbringing have made me who I am.

My friend Khadijeh recently sent me the below list; commuters everywhere will definately appreciate her thoughts :)

Everything I Need to Know I Learned Parking on the Street at Georgetown

10. Take the first spot you come across; you might not have another chance.

9. Park in the sun, on a hill, or on the cable car tracks if you have to. Beggars can't be choosers.

8. Don't let a horn-happy driver rush you when parallel-parking, it usually results in a fender-bender.

7. Don't assume the other driver has seen your signal. Some things have to be made more obvious if you want someone to understand.

6. Everyone else on the road is going to be myopic and short-tempered- a little sense of humor goes a long way.

5. When you're walking to class, remember what it's like to be a driver on a street full of students who think they own the road.

4. Just because you're in a car doesn't mean people can't see you belting your heart out to Faith Hill (or Counting Crows). And you never know who's watching (like fellow MSA Board members)

3. You may think you're doing a charitable service to passersby by blasting your favorite music out your open windows, but 95% of them wouldn't agree.

2. A good conversation over a good cup of coffee is always worth the risk of a $50 ticket. You can't put a price on that kind of thing.

1. Keep spare change handy for the homeless people on Key Bridge. A grateful smile and a "God bless you" will make your morning. And you just may have made theirs.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rollercoaster Ramadan

Its incredible how much and how little things change from Ramadan to Ramadan.

For me Ramadan invokes the memories of last year, what I was doing and what life I was leading only one year before. Its a yearly reminder of how much I've changed and how much more I want to grow.

This Ramadan was a stark contrast from last year. One year ago I was a consultant eating cereal bars and instant oatmeal made with my coffee maker for sahur in my hotel room. This year I'm back to being a student and experiencing Ramadan on campus.

Every time I experience Ramadan on campus my admiration grows for the thousands of Muslim students and their MSAs. Holding regular iftars and programs while keeping up with school and doing extra worship is no easy task. Yet somehow our students manage to do all that while using this opportunity to reach out to students, hold Fast-A-Thons and get published in their school newspapers.

Personally, this was the busiest Ramadan of my life. I attended meeting after meeting, iftar after iftar hoping and praying my words will benefit the Muslim Community. From Congressional meetings to events at the State Department, my mantra was the same: we need to improve policy and show our government will not tolerate hate speech against Muslims.

Yes, I will continue to condemn terrorism; yes, I will show you our Muslim Students believe in reaching out to people of all faiths and backgrounds. We are doing our part; don't tolerate hate, and give our Muslim professors and students their freedom of speech.

My late nights got even later with the addition of Taraweeh and dozens of conference calls to help students deal with anti-Islamic sentiments on their campus.

Media experts, organizational leaders and speakers all told me the same things. These individuals will show how ridiculous their message is. Do your part - reach out to people, write editorials, respond immediately to hate crimes, talk to all the major organizations but let them show how untrue their message is.

So we will. While others attempt to spark controversy we will work to unify our campuses by dispelling stereotypes. While Muslim students continue to choose peace over prejudice, I will continue to meet with students, officials and organizational leaders to get the support and resources we as students need.

This year, like years past, Ramadan has given me a true sense of calmness and Peace. I believe in my fellow Muslim students, I believe in Allah and my faith, I believe in my fellow Americans and pluralism, and I believe that we can overcome the challenges we face.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


We often ignore the differences between different cultures, the speaker said. We interpret other people based on our own cultural reference, he noted.

He softly clicked the presentation remote and a question about American culture lit up the screen. He looked around the room of 120 MBA students and gently pointed to me.

"Why don't you answer this question dear. Where are you from?"

As I tilted my scarf-covered head, I said "Virginia" in an almost confused tone.

The entire auditorium errupted in laughter as the speaker's face dropped.

Pledge of Mutual Respect and Cooperation Between Sunni Muslim Scholars, Organizations, and Students of Sacred Knowledge

A few weeks ago after speaking at an evening session, I received a phone call. The scholars present at the ISNA and MSA Continental Conference were meeting and requesting my presence.

As I rushed over I was on my cell phone with MSA volunteers who were running around complying with the scholar's request to get a room and food for the meeting.

After a long day of meetings and speaking, Imam Zaid opened the gathering. Less than a few weeks ago, a few scholars were at an event and began talking. As often happens with individuals of amazing intellect, they decided it was time for Muslim educational organizations to come together, to stop disagreements between their students.

As Imam Zaid opened the floor for comments, I politely raised my hand. After Imam Magid spoke, the moderator called on Dr. Jackson. "Asma, go ahead" he said as he gestured towards me.

I looked around the conference table at all of our teachers. They slouched slightly as if the weight of the long day pulled their shoulders down. Their faces showed the lack of sleep from a long conference weekend. Yet, they were here. They met at well past 11pm because this Pledge, this sign of cooperation and respect is important, even crucial to our community.

I began slowly, first thanking Dr. Jackson and Imam Zaid. Then I turned to everyone in the room. May Allah bless you for this initiative. Our students, our campus communities will benefit so much from this sign of leadership from our teachers. Several MSAs have been hurt by ideological disagreements; they've let go of the principle of unity, of brother and sisterhood. If those who teach us our religion stand against this degradation, then insha'Allah, God willing, their students will follow. It is my honor for MSA National to help facilitate this meeting in the small way that we have.

Thus on that historic night, over twenty leaders of Muslim organizations signed the Pledge of Mutual Respect and Cooperation Between Sunni Muslim Scholars, Organizations, and Students of Sacred Knowledge.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


I know its been a long time since I posted, so forgive me my readers.

Its been hectic, crazy but exciting month that I hope to recap to everyone. But only one word can really capture it all: Wow.

Wow because I moved to Maryland and am experiencing life without Internet.

Wow because school has begun and I'm remembering what its like to be a full time student.

Wow because I have come face to face with some of the challenges of my position and with individuals whose words are hurting people more than they will ever know because they are threatening the very thing that makes America great.

Wow. Wow. Wow.

I hope this post signals that I am alive and well and look forward to continuing to blog!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Broken Bridges Part I

In corporate America, in interfaith work, in campus activism we often speak about building bridges. But what happens when those bridges break?

When physical bridges break we are faced with tragedies.

For three and a half years I drove over Key Bridge nearly every day as part of my commute to Georgetown. Rushing to an exam, class or iftar with a truck full of food and hungry MSAers calling every five minutes, the bridge was a sign of relief, a sign post saying "You're almost there!". Chatting on the phone or with Dania or Kiran, my carpool-mates, the bridge was the first step on our happy journey home. Its impossible for me to imagine one day this bridge that I rely on to simply give way, to fall out from underneath me.

The Minnesota families are in my thoughts and prayers.

But what about those intangible bridges that we also rely on and take for granted? The bridges we build with our friends, our co-workers, our classmates, our fellow MSA-ers. Invisible to the naked eye, these bridges facilitate far more than travel, they create the bonds that help us navigate through the test that is life.

When I need help at work, I know I can rely on my friend Deepthi, a fellow analyst, to help me out. Earlier this week, I spoke to a friend whose mother has breast cancer. It was difficult for her to describe her new relationship with her mother. Lean on me, I said, I've been where you are ten years ago with my grandmother. My grandmother had to realize that breast cancer changes what you can do; it limits you like nothing else. And I had to learn that she was not this invisible pillar of strength who much to my delight could overrule my mother, but a woman like any other and she needed my help.

I was so grateful that I had this connection to my friend that we could talk about her fears and feelings. That intangible bridge linked us together.

But what happens when we break the intangible bridges? When the tone of our e-mail, a conversation, our unyielding opinions break bridges with others?

Truthfully, its very difficult to judge the strength of a relationship. One person may think they are very close another; the other person may feel they are so distant.

Its so easy to let someone else's thoughts and actions plague your mind; to hold this feeling of dislike and distrust in your heart. I've woken up countless times in the middle of the night from the duress of a bad dream. How could the media say that about Muslims? How can Muslims say such things about other Muslims? Why would people make up lies about my father?

Perhaps its one of the beautiful aspects of Islam that Allah swt commands us to forgive others and to ask for forgiveness. To say "I forgive you" is simple, to mean it is something different alltogether.

Forgiveness is like a steal beam strengthening the buttress of a decaying bridge. When we forgive, when we allow ourselves to move on from the past we begin to rebuild and strengthen those crucial, intangible bridges.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Notes From All Over

A sister comes up to me, says "SALAMS!" and gives me a big hug. I smile and hug her back. As we pull away I look at her face.

"We've met before, haven't we?"
"Yes, at the Gainseville Conference, and East Zone! You're the very enthusiastic MSA sister! And now you're President!"
I laugh and say, "So, tell me about your MSA."


Walking with my friend at a banquet, a sister walks past me with a plate of food. She stops suddenly, turns around and says, "ALIM!!"
I turn slowly, grab her outstretched hand and say "ALIM!"
"Alim?" my friend says, "Your name is Asma."

But we are already deep in conversation, reminiscing about our summer at the American Learning Institute for Muslims in Michigan.


The automatic doors slide open to reveal a seven year old hijabi standing in the lobby with her backpack. As I walk towards the leasing office she says Salams and tells me her name.

"Do you live here?" I ask.
"Yes" she says quietly.
"Do you like it?"
"No, it costs too much money. We're moving."

As the realtor quoted me the price, she couldn't quite understand why I laughed. All I could picture was a father telling his seven year old they were moving because the apartment was too much money.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

My Fifth Extremity

Today I finally understood why despite the fading numbers and scratched cover I refuse to upgrade my 2 and a half year old cell phone: my Nokia is my 5th extremity.

Four years ago I didn't have a cell phone. Students simply contacted me via e-mail or called my home phone. Then, I became Georgetown MSA President and I got my first Nokia. No texting, no graphics, and only 100 minutes and I felt "wired", very connected to my fellow students.

Within a year I had upgraded to 600 minutes, 200 text messages and my brand new 1,000 contacts phone. As East Zone Rep USA, there was scarcely a moment I didn't have my cell phone. My phone was on 24/7, just in case there would be some catastrophic MSA emergency at 1am.

Last year my sister took a picture of the family and used it as her desktop picture. When I complained I wasn't in the picture she said, "Your phone is, that's good enough".

Last night I truly felt like my phone had become part of me. With countless conference calls and ad hoc conversations I finally put down my phone at midnight, realizing that since I left work my phone had been glued to my ear.

To be blunt, its sad that my phone has become my fifth extremity. But perhaps its representative of my need and desire to connect to my family, friends, and fellow MSAers. As a Zonal Rep, my job was to talk to students, hear what they have to say, and help them develop their MSA. That mandate only intensified the longer I've volunteered with the organization.

Today, with even more minutes and text messages, I struggle with the same question as every consultant: should I get a Blackberry? But whether its my attachment to my fifth extremity or my desire to have a few precious, uninterrupted moments away from my e-mail, I have not scummed to that norm. At least, for now.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Silent Islam

Last night I had a conference call with a Muslim student who is deaf to discuss ways to accomodate and help our deaf brothers and sisters. While it took me a minute to get used to the fact that the interpreter was speaking on the phone, it was perhaps one of the most beneficial and personally gratifying conference calls I've ever had.

MSA National's history of helping students who are deaf goes back a few years to when Br. Ahmed from Gallaudet University was murdered. Through the network of MSA National his parents had the opportunity to speak about his life and death, and what it meant to him to be a part of the Muslim community. I remember Br. Ahmed's father expressing in an e-mail how therapeutic the opportunities were for him and his wife.

But the MSA National East Zone Conference 2007 was the first time deaf students could truly participate as conference attendees. This was due to masha'Allah the hard work of several local volunteers.

It was an odd sensation, coming face to face with a segment of our community that has been marginalized. While I've been aware of the situation of the deaf community in North America, trying to improve the situation of a group requires a completely different level of understanding. More so, it requires the humbleness to admit ignorance.

Perhaps the hardest part of ignorance is that while you're ignorant, you don't know that you're ignorant. When individuals are oblivious to the situation of the poor, the needy, the disabled, the persecuted and the marginalized the sad reality is those individuals simply don't know. They don't think about the deaf Muslim that desperately wants to learn about their religion, to feel a part of the larger Ummah, but simply doesn't have access.

The sister's passion for the cause and other members of the deaf community was infectious. I truly hope we can expand upon the services that MSA National offers as well as give the students a platform to meet and feel empowered make their wonderful ideas a reality.

That is, after all, the history of MSA National, providing the platform for people to network, raise awareness, and act.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Jummah Attendance

My older brother recently asked why in my last post I included the number of Jummah Attendees as a commonly used metric for measuring an MSA's success.

From my experience MSAs commonly use three metrics when conveying the size of their MSA: Jummah attendance, event attendance, and active members. The conversation typically goes something like:

Jummah Attendance: 100
Events Attendance: 25
Active Members: 10

But what many MSAers may not know is that Jummah was/is the lifeblood of so many MSAs.

Before there were MSAs there was Jummah on campus. In the early 1940's, many immigrant Muslims came to the US and Canada to study and for the first time they were living without a masjid. There was no mosque let alone Muslims nearby. While not ideal, it only presented a real problem for Jummah prayer. The mere word indicates a group, a gathering of Muslims who come together to pray. And as most Muslims know, this congregation is manditory.

With no masjid to go to, Muslims began seeking out each other to create their ad hoc Jummah on campus. My dad used to tell me that there were only three brothers on his campus, and they'd take turns leading the prayer.

From this mandatory gathering grew relationships, a sense of community, MSAs and eventually the MSA of the US and Canada.

How beautiful, this mandatory congregation grew into the first sense of Muslim community many immigrant Muslims would know. For so many it truly became their home away from home.

How sad then that our active membership is so disparate from our Jummah numbers. The Muslims still come to pray; but do our MSAs do a good job encouraging their participation the other six days of the week? Perhaps its not a matter of passing our fliers or making announcements, but going back to basics, the individual relationships that created our MSAs in the first place.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Definition of Success

Last night I visited the MPSN house which provides housing for Muslim interns coupled with a interactive ciriculum featuring local and national speakers. For me it was the first time I was presenting as President of MSA National.

The students asked impressive questions to all the panelists. One question in particular stuck in my mind. A sister from Michigan asked me what is definition of a successful MSA.

To be frank this is a difficult question to answer. From an organizational perspective you can look at common metrics such as:

- Number of jummah attendees
- Number of events
- Number of activities by type (ie religious studies, interfaith, community service, etc.)
- Accomodations such as Muslim Housing, prayer space, chaplin, and alumni association

and others. But is this really the definition of a successful MSA?

To me an MSA has been about the intangible experience. At the end of the day most MSA chapters exist to provide support for Muslim Students during their college and university years. Since deen and religiousity manifests itself primarily internally, how do you measure the success of that mission? And how does one measure that sense of community?

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Original?

Salams from London!

My short visit here started out with a sleepless flight, getting lost on the streets of London then finally sleeping for a few hours. While its been an adventure I'm really starting to enjoy the trip.

Seeing London for the first time in so many years is...odd. The tube (or subway) reminds me so much of New York, the small streets are like those of modern Istanbul and the buildings are eerily similar to those of my Georgetown campus. But much of London came before these places. So the question then is everything else a macrocosm of one characteristic of London? Or is London simply one knot on the string of history, part of a long line of historic cities?

What, if anything, is the "original"?

In consulting we're taught to examine other models and adjust it according to the current situation. Artists often speak of the building, painting or being that inspired their work. Does the same speak true of human civilization? Are we inspired to duplicate that which we see around us as its the only paradigm we know?

But the streets of London don't remind me of the streets of Washington, DC; the building I'm in doesn't bear any resemblance to the small stores in my hometown. Perhaps each generation uses the past as its clay, molds it, and passes it on to the future generations to add their own creative twists.

So what does that say of the past? Is it simply mailable material we use to shape the future? Or is there much to be learned before daring to alter that which so many before you have worked to create?

From my own studies, Muslims swing back and forth between the two extremes: reverence for the past, full faith in the future. But no reverence for the past is dangerous; scholars before us did not write their opinions out of thin air. Their reasoning, thought process and knowledge base is well worth examining. Without a connection to the past we simply run into the future without a map to understand how we got there. But complete attachment to the past leaves no room for adopting as circumstances and preconditions change.

Sorry for the existential, "Catcher in the Rye" style writing; that's what little sleep will do :)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Thick Skin

Alhamduillah, praise be to God, its been an interesting couple of weeks. Between work, getting ready for school and MSA National things have been hectic. I always worry that the whirlwind of activity will hurt rather than help my faith. After all, as one Imam once said Islamic work should be selfish, you should be doing it only to get into jannah (heaven).

Usually I do feel the beauty of being active. Even today as I spoke to a brother in the West Zone USA he said, "Man, MSA National is great for networking. Through the conference I met so many amazing people."

I recently visited Imam Mohamed Magid, a very knowledgeable Imam and well-known speaker to get his advice.

He told me how an Imam once told a man who spread rumors that it wasn't worth his time to talk to him and that he'd see him on the Day of Judgement. He quoted the Qur'an about how there are people who want to create fitnah and those who listen to the people who want to create fitnah. The second group, he said, have good intentions but their actions have a negative affect. Thick skin, he said, you need to have thick skin.

But I want to reach them all, I said. I want to work with all groups. He humbled me by saying if the Prophet (s) couldn't get all of his naysayers then how could I. I can try but I must know I may not succeed.

Things take time. Islam didn't spread throughout Arabia and the world overnight. It took many years of work and struggle by some of the most dedicated and amazing humans that ever walked the earth. Knowing I probably only have a fraction of the dedication and Iman of those individuals humbles me, reminding me that I have to move forward with realistic but hopeful expectations.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Day 4

A little over 96 hours ago my transition into MSA National President began. With so much to do these last four days have been focused on one thing: how to reach our potential so we may best serve Allah swt.

With such diverse backgrounds (MSA Presidents, IAW coordinators, Fast-A-Thon Coordinators, Zonal Committee Members, State Council Rep, Regional and Zonal Conference Chairs, Task Force Chairs, Zonal Reps, etc) the new officers brought their vast experiences and the feedback of their fellow MSAers into the discussion.

We all knew Allah swt made us humans with limited abilities and we focused on the key things we could accomplish with Ihsan (perfection) during our terms. I'm eagarly awaiting the finalized action plans as I write my welcome letter and the outline of our ideas for the coming year.

Masha'Allah I'm excited to work with these amazing individuals. Their dedication to serving the students and this religion is inspiring.

I pray Allah swt makes us worthy of this Amana (trust) and that we are successful in our efforts to help our brothers and our sisters.

And now its time to go to bed and get more than 4 hours of sleep as I have to go to work tomorrow :)

Friday, June 29, 2007


Bismillah hir Rahmanir Rahim.

In the name of God Most Gracious Most Merciful.

Last night I became the President of MSA National.

To be honest I am terrified. This position is such an Amana or Trust. It is an honor and a huge responsibility; a blessing and a weight.

As I look to the future all I know is I want to help Muslim Students and serve Allah. I want to help lead the organization towards that goal.

While people will debate the methods I know so many people have the same goal. Thus while I'm nervous, I am so excited about the future. As a community we have the opportunity to move forward and come closer together. As an individual I have the opportunity to serve my fellow brothers and sisters.

Tonight I will meet with my fellow MSA National officers and start planning for the future. Alhamduillah during the 2007 Zonal conferences we completed a survey to get their feedback on how MSA National can help them. There are other online surveys that we will use to plan the future.

My fellow officers are masha'Allah amazing. Former MSA Presidents, a council chair, and conference chairs they have been so active at the local level. They bring their grassroots perspective and experiences to the National level.

Insha'Allah I will find time over the next few weeksto post what I can and share how the officers of MSA National are planning to help students.

May Allah bless our efforts and make us among those He guides.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I'll keep my hijab on, thanks.

Monday: My badge at my client site doesn't work.

The client deactivated my security clearance because I was wearing a "headpiece" in my security picture. I point out I'm Muslim and the State of Virginia has no problem letting me wear my scarf in my licence. The officer notes they have accepted pictures with baseball caps.

Since I won't remove my scarf security asks me to follow-up with my manager and send a "waiver" to the security desk and temporarily reactivates my badge.

Tuesday: My manager is still in all day meetings and has not responded to my e-mail.

Wednesday: My manager IMs me and asks for clarification as she can't believe what happened. Furious she makes a few phone calls. Within minutes I'm cleared and should have no future problems. If I do, my manager says "Call my blackberry IMMEDIATELY".

Some things never cease to amaze me.

Goodbye Time

Today. Today is the day I've been anticipating and dreading for weeks.

Almost two months ago I received an e-mail from the University of Maryland accepting me to their MBA program. Dozens of conversations and prayers later I decided to give up my wonderful job and return to school.

Today is the day I tell my manager and my "supporters" within the company. Some have been supportive, others sad; most have simply wished me well.

Its hard to make a life-altering decision. From Kindergarten through College our paths are paved for us by our parents, the government and other institutions. While in college we decide which classes to take, what we'll do with our summers, and if we should study abroad, for the first time I feel I am truly on my own.

My parents have taken a backseat and cheered me on. My siblings, friends, and peers have offered advice with the disclaimer, "Ultimately, its up to you. You should do what fits your goals and will make you happy." It can be frustrating to have such wise friends :)

I've enjoyed my time in the working world, but I'm excited to be a student again. I love volunteering with MSA National and helping dozens of MSAs at once but I miss being part of one MSA. And UMD's MSA is amazing.

Now I just have to talk to my team lead, figure out my last day at Accenture, complete my exit activities, give back my beloved laptop, pick classes, buy books, find an apartment, sign a lease, pack-up and move.

Its great to be a student again :)

Friday, June 22, 2007

6 Degrees of Seperation

My friend Nicole asked me how much it costs to attend Continental Conference (aka the MSA portion of the annual ISNA conference) and when I was going.

"You guys have such a sense of community. I think it has a lot to do with those conferences you're always attending. You see so many people from everywhere. You're right, in the Muslim Community its only one or two degrees of separation. I can't keep it all straight!"

Shout out to the Muslim community which showed so much support for the Georgetown MSA community during this hard time. May Allah swt bless you and protect you always.


Few things are scarier than driving home in a thunderstorm surrounded by trucks after leaving the grave of your friend and her father whose car skid in the rain and smashed into a truck.

My hands were red from holding the steering wheel so tight.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Reunion Part 2

A little over 24 hours ago I met my MSA sisters to grieve the passing of one of our own. Today I'm waiting for Fajr to come in Akron, Ohio with many of those same sisters.

Our reunion quickly turned into a road trip, a pilgrimage perhaps best summarized by the subject line of one of the organizer's e-mails: "To Fatema we ride".

A quick phone call, a dozen text messages and a few hours later I was in DC picking up some sisters and joining a caravan. Early Wednesday morning we got word that the hospital had released the bodies and the janaza was set for 6 hours later. While we knew we would never make it, we wanted to go. I needed to go. So much of our contact today is removed, conducted through electronic or telephonic methods. This simply couldn't be one of them. A 30 second phone call was too little for me to believe that my friend was really gone. It was the opportunity to see her family, to see her one last time.

Our journey lasted 9 hours through the hills of Pennsylvania and Ohio. The ride was often interrupted by text messages or phone calls from our families and friends making sure we were okay. All of our parents, sibilings and bosses had been so understanding of our need to go.

Our group included Dr. Porterfeild, an amazing Georgetown Professor who had somehow secured a 12 passenger van in less than an hour. Knowing we would miss the service he still volunteered to drop everything and drive; without his efforts many people would not have been able to come. All in all we were 21 students and alumni across all faiths and races; a testament to the life of Fatema.

In pure Fatema style, her family insisted we come to their home despite the late hour. As more alumni arrived the night quickly turned into a lively remembrance full of anecdotes and scrapbooks. We honored her memory while taking comfort in each other's presence.

I've been driving and driving, arranging hotel rooms and doing whatever I can do to make the situation any better. But I know tomorrow when I see her grave I will know that there are some things I cannot fix. There will always be a wall that will stop me in my tracks and remind me of the all powerful. And when that moment comes I am thankful that I will be with my Georgetown MSAers. To have them, a group of people who know exactly what this feels like, to create this caravan of travelers and to lean on is truly a blessing from Allah.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Last night I saw some of my Georgetown MSA Sisters for the first time since graduation. There were hugs and tears interspersed with, "I can't believe she's gone".

We sat in the stuffy bedroom and read Surah Yasin out loud. Our voices trailed off as we finished the last ayah. In the silence we started to recall stories of our beloved sister. How she had the funniest laugh, a flair for style and the biggest heart. She toiled through Ramadan working with her co-chair to ensure every iftar was perfect. She was the type of person who made you feel comfortable and interesting, as if you had something to offer to the world. She always tried to embody true sisterhood.

Two days ago she IMed me, stressing about her future. We talked for ten minutes while working on her cover letter for another position. Despite the uncertainty about her future, she really wanted to spend the summer with her family.

Last night brought on so many reflections, about life and death, about remembering our prayers and the afterlife, about pleasing my mom and picking up my stuff from the family room. Too many for a blog, but one related to MSA.

Sitting in that room I looked around at my sisters. This, right here, was the reason I became active in MSA in the first place: the feeling of brother and sisterhood, the creation of a mini family to support you. This was the reason I was so passionate about MSA National. Through my work with MSA National I had helped MSAs get stronger, meet other MSAs and helped them create this.

But like many MSAs drama ensued, and drama can be a distraction from the real work. And drama for what? I will, insha'Allah, always be dedicated to strengthening MSAs because last night I once again felt the power of my MSA community. In our time of need, we were there for one another. We supported one another like bricks and prayed for our fallen sister.

May Allah swt grant her and her father Jannah. May He ease the pain of her mother and younger sister.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Cab Driver in Raleigh

My chic bag in tow, I smiled at the cab driver as he lifted my standard business traveler suitcase (black, wheels, fits perfectly into the overhead bin) into the trunk. It was my second week on the project; my first project with my firm. As a young Muslim woman many people were surprised I worked for a large firm; my business field would forever tie me to all the issues that face a person of faith who is determined to learn and succeed in corporate America.

As I slid into the back seat I whipped out my phone and told the driver the address. Unexpectedly I heard a soft reply, "No problem sister".

We drove along 404 and I asked the Moroccan brother about the community, the MSA and how he came to Raleigh. He was a chef who came to America seeking a better life. An expert in French cuisine he quickly got a job at a trendy French restaurant off of DuPont Circle in Washington, DC. But, as he put it "There was no barakah (good / benefit / reward) sister, no barakah in the money."

One day he told his boss he couldn't do it anymore; he wouldn't cook with alcohol or serve pork. Shortly thereafter he moved to Raleigh to take a job as a cab driver his brother helped him find.

"There are days sister, days where I don't know how I will pay my bills. Sometimes the money I make isn't enough to cover the cost of gas." Somehow he stretched the money to pay his bills; he found money to send to his daughter at school and his family back home. "We are happy sister, I am happy. Now, now there is barakah".

As he took out my bag from the trunk, he handed me his card. If I ever needed anything, he said, simply let him know. I watched the French-Chef-turned-cab-driver drive off, remembering his words. No matter what the situation, your field, your challenges, you always have a choice.

Last month I celebrated my one year anniversary with my firm. Like many Muslims I've struggled to define and maintain my boundaries. But I've always remembered that cab driver and the power of his simple words: You always have a choice.

Reflections of an MSAer

"Reflections of an MSAer" is a personal blog of myself, Asma Mirza, as a quick way to share my thoughts and experiences with my friends.