An MSA Ideas Cheat Sheet!

If you’re on your MSA team (or other on-campus Muslim organization), it can be difficult to come up with ideas in between exams and papers.

So here is some inspiration for events and projects your MSA can execute! I also include tips to impact the culture of your MSA. These ideas come from my time on board of my undergraduate MSA.

Religious Education Events

While many MSAs lean towards one-time seminars or halaqat, I highly suggest a recurring series on an engaging subject happening weekly or biweekly. The aim should be to offer essential understandings of Islam, not just offer a wow-factor.

It’s important to remember that recurring topics should cater to a wider range of Muslims, especially as this may be the first time someone is regularly engaging with Islamic knowledge at any level.

So in addition to the content, make sure to call out any exclusionary practices during religious education events such as saying something in Arabic without translating whether it is a concept like tawbah (repentance) or a verse of the Quran.

Series examples

My MSA had resounding success with a series on the Sahaba (Companions of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him). It was enjoyed so much that it was brought back the following year by popular demand.

A series like this engages through stories, factual Islamic history and inspiring lessons on the character and sacrifices of the men and women around the Prophet SAW. There is an exhaustive list of content on the sahaba and it doesn’t require a scholar to take those resources and turn it into a halaqa.

Other ideas include using Youtube as a resource but please be mindful to choose information from scholars who are well-researched, credentialed, live and understand the context of the country you live in and are non-sectarian.

One series I loved was a series with Omar Suleiman inspired by Ibn Kathir’s book, “The Beginning and The End.” It touches on important elements of aqeedah and answers tough existential questions. The videos are short, allowing for a few to be watched at a time and a discussion or activity to be facilitated afterwards. 

The Forty Hadith of Imam Nawawi is also a wonderful series but requires someone well-versed in hadith literature unless you are selective of the hadith that don’t rely as much on context.

Social Events

MSA social events should always be local to campus, accessible to all students regardless of financial situation, and not selective in catering to one ethnicity/culture.

To be exclusive in our brotherhood and sisterhood is not prophetic. I remember a younger MSA brother sharing with me that in between long hours working to cover the costs of school, he found himself avoiding many brothers’ socials because they were typically at restaurants he couldn’t afford. This is not an isolated experience. So be mindful of those with that experience as you read these low-cost ideas.

MSA Movie Day

All it needs is a room with a screen, someone with a Netflix or DisneyPlus account and microwave popcorn and drinks. Needless to say, keep the movie appropriate.

Build Your Own Ice Cream Sundae

This was a wonderful end of the semester treat. It requires a lot more prep, planning and an ice cooler. Keep it super simple with the flavor and topping options and prepare for the messes!

Take advantage of any of the free social spots on campus if they exist. My campus had a billiards room and also a lounge with flat-screen TVs where students could hook up their gaming systems. Some areas could be rented out.

Service Events

One piece of advice I have is to plan your service events in advance. Many well-known volunteer organizations book out months in advance. Service events must be executed with empathy, compassion and dignity and without any savior complexes. The following ideas are no exception.

Domestic violence shelter

Respectfully contact a domestic violence shelter or women’s homeless shelter and ask how you could be of service. Please be extremely mindful that many shelters keep their locations private for the safety of the women so distribution of the address shouldn’t be on a flyer (unless permission from the shelter is retrieved).

From my experience, many shelters need help obtaining feminine hygiene products. Some shelters needed supplies for school for the young children of women. Some prefer volunteers to help with set-up of furniture or to entertain the young kids while their mothers are busy. Please refer to the shelter you contact for suggestions.

Activities for school students

Consider doing a play or story time for elementary aged students at a local Islamic school; or a panel on college life for high school students. Sometimes these services are neglected to our Muslim private schools.

Volunteer for Islamic events

What truly matters is what those you serve walk away with

Take advantage of opportunities to provide volunteers for local Islamic events. For example, are any organizations hosting a dinner and need ushers? Is the mosque hosting a back-to-school drive? Make connections with the outreach coordinators of these organizations and institutions and let them know you have however many volunteers available to help for one event.

These ideas can be modified to fit your specific MSAs resources and context. But, while ideas are important, what truly matters is what those you serve walk away with: a good experience, a stronger sense of brotherhood and sisterhood, and a renewed commitment to Allah (swt). Make that the priority. 

About Hana Alasry
Hana Alasry is a Yemeni American Muslim community organizer and activist working most heavily with MAS Youth. Her work focuses heavily on Muslim youth development, Islamic tarbiya and the Yemen crisis. She is currently in PA school studying medicine at the University of Detroit Mercy.