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.