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The ISOC Delusion

Those of us who have been active in Muslim Networks and Islamic Societies, or any Muslim organisation, will be familiar with the following words: “we have to make it a really good event”. Unfortunately, in my humble experience from the university scene to the professional Muslim scene, I’ve witnessed, been a part of, and more recently opposed to this approach towards organising Islamic events.There is a real lack of understanding on what ultimately pleases Allah – often you will see invitations to Muslim events where there is casual free-mixing (nay positively encouraged free-mixing!) some pseudo-nasheed techno tabla artist which is all justified because there will be some obscure reference to raising awareness or some money for charity – some don’t even care about raising money for charity, and the event is what it is, a Muslim knees-up under the guise of networking. There will be many meetings before the said event to secure the best location, the best caterers and the best entertainment. Providing facilities for salaat is often an afterthought, and is probably only there because the “religious” ones asked for it.

The purpose of this article isn’t to criticise the genuine passion to do something good, or to demotivate anyone from Islamic activism, but rather to encourage myself and everyone else to get our priorities right. Many of us have lost sight of the goal and that these events are supposed to be only a means to THE end – Pleasing Allah (Jannah). We plan and host an event for the sake of the event itself instead of tying it to a more noble and everlasting aim, and soon one event becomes many, each one better than the previous, in better locations, with more celebs, and soon what we had initially aimed to achieve is completely lost, other than by lip service.

I remembered one charity event I attended, one of the brothers who had organised it said to me after a particularly flamboyant Muslim artist had sang a song about Pakistan whilst strumming on his guitar, “look I don’t care whether you think its right or wrong, at the end of the day, we are raising a lot of money for charity, and that’s what counts…” But it should matter whether it’s right or wrong, the pleasure of our Lord is fundamental to us earning any reward for our endeavours. If Allah is not considered in the reason for doing something, then our reward will only be the plaudits and temporary accolades we receive after the event, and truly we are losers if that is all we gain.

This is further exemplified by the statement of the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), “I will certainly recognize people who will come on the Day of Resurrection bringing good deeds as great as the white mountain of Tuhaamah, and Allah, may He be glorified, will make it like dust in the air.” Thawbaan said, “O Messenger of Allaah, describe them to us and explain this so that we will not unwittingly be among them.” He said, “They are your brothers and they look like you. They pray at night as you do, but if they had the opportunity to violate the limits set by Allaah, they would do so.”[1]

If I may be so bold as to say, I would suggest that the basic reason for a lot of the aforementioned scenarios is the lack of sound Islamic knowledge or righteous company. This is wonderfully exemplified by an account a brother told me of his first meeting at his firm to set up a Muslim Network. There was a mixed attendance, and one sister’s opening comment was, “let me just say from the outset, that this Muslim network has nothing to do with Islam!”For some, Muslim networks and suchlike are nothing but vehicles to promote themselves and network to further their own careers – such people are benefiting from Islam, rather than aiding it and when it suits them they will wear the “Muslim” hat. (this is none better exemplified than the Islamic Finance Industry – many people involved in the industry are far removed from practising Islam, but are active proponents of the industry since it is a cash cow for them.)

A correct understanding of Islam and our role in all the different facets of our lives should dictate how we interact in each sphere. Purifying our intention and constantly checking it needs to be a part of our nature, as well as ensuring we are within the boundaries ordained by our Creator. Being a part of a Muslim Network or Isoc is particularly hazardous because there are issues of ibadah and custom that need to be navigated. It is better we question ourselves now lest we come on the Day of Judgement as losers as per the verse,

“Say: Shall We tell you of the greatest losers in respect of (their) deeds? Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life while they thought that they were acquiring good deeds”.[2]



Islam21c requests all the readers of this article, and others, to share it on your facebook, twitter, and other platforms to further spread our efforts.

[1] (Reported by Ibn Maajah, no. 4245. He said in al-Zawaa’id: its isnaad is saheeh and its men are thiqaat. See also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 5028).
[2]  (al-Kahf, 103-104)


About Umer Suleman

Umer is Islam21c’s Finance Editor. He holds a PG Diploma in Governance Risk & Compliance from Manchester Business School, is one of the founding members of the National Waqf Fund and currently heads the Business and Economics Committee for the Islamic Council of Europe. Umer also serves as an External Consultant for Islamic Finance Council UK (UKIFC). Umer has advised several start-ups, as well as the UK government, on alternative finance schemes and actively serves as a non-executive advisor in the FinTech and Islamic Finance space, amongst whom is the UK’s first FCA authorised Shariah Compliant FinTech platform, Yielders.


  1. Poor lad, looks like you’ve stumbled around in some unfortunate gatherings.

  2. Salaam,

    Although I agree this problem exists, I don’t think it applies to the vast majority of ISocs. A more balanced article would have also addressed the situation with SOME ISocs who although they might have 1000s of Muslims on there campuses they still fail to reach out to the vast majority of them only keeping themselves to themselves and creating a clique of what is perceived by others as being a separate group of Muslims who are hard to approach, make very little effort to involve people who disagree with them on very minor aspects of the religion; who make sure that the next ISoc shura is one that follows the same scholar as them, and in some instances have been described by other Muslims on campuses as being ‘scary’ and unwelcoming.

    Yes there are problems of two extremes (and I don’t think either extreme is widespread, just to limited number of ISocs) and we should aim to work together to address them both.

    With regards to the networks which aim to aid career progression, I don’t think there is anything wrong with career progression, however of course our lives certainly should not revolve around that and I agree that this should never be the main focus of our Islamic organisations.

  3. Spot On
    MashaAllah. An excellent article and an important reminder for us all.

  4. Amin Astewani

    Be careful

    May allah bless you and guide you for a genuine attempt at giving your brothers and sisters in Islam some naseeha which we can benefit from

    However you really need to be very careful. You have painted a black and white picture, tossing aside very important subtleties. You have also tarnished Isocs with one brush, failing to give the bright side, like the 10’s of unbelievably successful Isocs who’s sole purpose is to please Allah swt and who transform the lives of Muslims on campus, with the result that you HAVE demotivated people from Islamic activism as the above comments show, regardless of your warning. This is a dangerous thing.

    Wrt to subtleties, i point you to one of your comments:

    “There will be many meetings before the said event to secure the best location, the best caterers and the best entertainment.”

    What exactly are you implying here? That Muslims should not live up to one of the fundamental principles of our religion-Ihsaan? Of course we should be getting the best location/caterers/entertainment. Yes I am absolutely with you, Prayer needs to be on the agenda without a shadow of a doubt, but as I said you are painting a black and white picture-the type which leads to Isocs who provide prayer facilities and not much else, who cast sisters out completely, who have talks only in arabic even thought no one understands them. The Quran asks us numerous times to use our Aql, intellect; we need to be balanced.

    I do not question your intention, for that is for Allah to judge, and I am not saying you have meaningfully done this, however I am warning you that this is how the article comes across..

    Barakallahu Feek


  5. Ms
    About time someone said this.
    Islam is now a money making excuse. Filth
    Is promoted, justified and encouraged.
    We don’t want to be reminded of what the
    Quran and Sunnah tell us, that we have
    become Deaf, dumb and blind.

  6. Keeping it simple
    Jzk for your article- Yes I think you hit the nail on the head when you mention ‘forgetting’ to allow space and time for salah!

    It is a tricky balance to strike running an isoc because you need to cater for all sizes, shapes and levels of Muslims each of whom have different opinions about how things should be run.

    Probably the best advice is to be as uncontroversial as possible and as welcoming as possible, with a focus on tauheed and facilitating the five pillars.

    That way at least the label ISOC is justified.

  7. Its not always the case….

    Its true to say that some ISOCs may be like this. However, I must say that from my experience at uni (5 years ago) was quite different. Alhamdulillah we had a very actice ISOC with brothers from various different backgrounds and at various different stages of thier islamic practice and knowledge. The brothers who were leading the ISOC always made shura before taking a decision and always asked the more knowledgeable brothers if they didnt know the answer to something. These brothers also referred to people of knowledge for guidance and support.

    It goes without saying that ISOCs should pick the one who is most knowledeable and God fearing to be thier Leader, Amir or President etc. This sometimes proves difficult because the best brothers for the job are sometimes reluctant to lead the ISOC.

    Perhaps a combination of picking the right leader and a willingness (no shying away please!) of pious brothers to take part and take lead of ISOCs might be one way to solve the problems mentioned by the author of the article.

    Allah knows best.

  8. ^^^^
    [quote]mashallah, great article, this is why I stopped going to MSA meetings[quote]

    So what did you do after that?
    I agree with the article above to some extent – and the author mentioned himself that
    [quote]isn’t to criticise the genuine passion to do something good, or to demotivate anyone from Islamic activism, but rather to encourage myself and everyone else to get our priorities right[/quote]
    so why are you discouraged about working for Islam in the University/campus. If you have – and this article has reinforced your idea that the decision was correct – then i believe you have misinterpreted this article. It would have been better to participate and rectify the errors in the ISOC than to let them continue. Or at least set up your own rival ISOC (I don’t advocate this). Lets take lesson, share this with ISOC members – but lets continue and improve the way we organise and manage events – and most importantly, lets do it with a sincere heart and according to what is right and halal in Islam. I don’t mean any offence so please forgive me if i sound offensive.

  9. 🙂
    mashallah, great article, this is why I stopped going to MSA meetings

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