In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh / Peace, blessings and mercy be upon you,
At the end of the previous semester, the MSA asked the community for feedback on how our past semester went and how we could improve for the coming future. In this post, I’d like to share some of that feedback with you and provide insight on how we plan to address the issues that were brought up. Before beginning, I’d like to thank each and every one of you that took the time to fill out our feedback form and let us know what you think. We take feedback very seriously, and we went through each and every response to try and learn from it. Although we can’t address all of the responses individually, we hope this post offers a way for the community to see how we are doing and how we are thinking about the responsibilities that we have to serve.
The feedback we received, for the most part, was centered on three themes: getting closer to Allah, gender interaction, and administrative efficiencies.
Getting Closer to Allah
A large portion of respondents believed that most of the events provided by the MSA did not help them get closer to Allah. As the MSA, we believe that every event, even if it is social in nature or community in nature, should, in the ultimate sense, link back to Islam and to God and provide people with a sense of connection and purpose within the context of Islam. Unfortunately, it seems that we missed the mark in this past semester. We don’t believe that this issue is a result of the nature of events that we have – indeed every event that the MSA does goes through a formal process in which the intended purpose is explicitly stated. And if this purpose does not relate to our values, then it is rejected. So we decided that the best way to remedy this issue is to make the connection to spirituality explicit and provide our attendees with context for the events that we have. By providing attendees with a clear purpose, either in the form of a small talk or otherwise, people will come to enjoy the event while leaving with a higher spiritual state. Connecting various aspects of our programming, from social justice, to hanging out with your fellow brothers and sisters, with worship and a relationship with Allah will inshaAllah help us get closer to Him.
Another key theme that was prevalent amongst the responses was the issue of gender interaction. A lot of people were not comfortable with the level of gender interaction that occurs in and around the MSA, and thus were suggesting various solutions to remedy this issue. Although we recognize that Islam has set boundaries with regards to such things, the MSA does not play the role of enforcing these boundaries, and we believe the MSA’s role should be to encourage good and not to enforce it. The priority for the MSA is to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable and continues on their journey to get closer to Allah – while avoiding everything that is clearly outside of the bounds of Islam. We recognize that everyone is at a different point in their faith, and that there are many opinions on this issue, and thus we do not take a hard-and-fast stance on the matter. At the same time, we think it is necessary for our community to create dialogue around this issue and get the opinions of community leaders and scholars to help guide our opinion on this matter. Given these things, we came up with a few solutions to try to remedy this issue. The first is to ensure that the rooms we choose allow the genders to segregate naturally – that is to say, that they are ample in space for everyone to be comfortable. The second is to explicitly plan the layout of the rooms that we use such that we can create an environment which can accommodate the different comfort level of our attendees. In addition, we hope to provide more insight on this topic by arranging Friday khutbahs on the issue and engaging in more dialogue and study within our community. Finally, we hope to have more gender-specific events under the Brothers’ Events, as well as Sisters’ Events directorships respectively. We hope that this decision will take us closer to Allah, the sunnah and allow us to be open and inviting to all who wish to join us.
A large portion of respondents wanted us to expand our programming to include more traditional forms of Islamic knowledge such as Qur’an, Tajweed, etc. The MSA is committed to providing such programs for the benefit of the Muslim community; however practical considerations make it very difficult. Although in the past we have had some excellent instructors on such topics (e.g. the Hadith class), we do not have easy access to qualified instructors who are able to work around the U of T schedule and teach at the downtown campus. Nevertheless, we are working towards getting a Tajweed program started on campus and hope to grow that further into other branches as well, with the permission of Allah.
Another aspect of this was to guide the MSA direction through the form of feedback. It is the standard of the MSA to ask for feedback after each and every event through its Facebook page, and in some cases, in person as well. We are committed to hearing feedback at any time, after Jummah, or during our office hours, or for anyone to send us an email or contact us otherwise for any suggestions or concerns they may have. By the grace of Allah, we were able to get your feedback for the past semester and are committed to upholding the same standard of feedback in the future to best serve our members.
I hope the above gave all of you some insight as to how we plan to deal with the concerns that were brought up. We hope to make the actions and decisions of the MSA as beneficial and transparent as possible so that we can collectively come to the right decision for the future of this community.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post, and may Allah reward you and keep you and your family safe.
Note about the author: Zerzar Bukhari is a final year Engineering student and the current president of the U of T MSA. He’s also involved in the Muslim Chaplaincy as well as the Muslim Association of Canada.