Faculty welcomes new Muslim student group

The Muslim Law Students’ Association supports students balancing academic and religious commitments

Caitlin Crawshaw - 13 March 2023

Muslim students in the University of Alberta Faculty of Law now have an opportunity to engage with peers and the legal profession thanks to the launch of the Muslim Law Students Association (MLSA).

Launched at the start of the term, the MLSA was spearheaded by second-year students Sadia Masud and Hassan Ahmed, who realized that students like themselves needed support balancing their faith and academics.

“We wanted to create a space that caters to being a Muslim in the legal profession, really,” says Masud. Managing the academic demands of law school and the commitments of being Muslim — such as praying several times a day and fasting during Ramadan — is both tricky and essential. “The only way we can get a fulfilling law school experience is if we don’t have to compromise our religious beliefs,” she adds.

Michael Rajan, the Faculty's Student Wellness Coordinator, assisted the student group with getting established. "The Muslim Law Students' Association took some time to develop and blossom,” he says, “but by working together, we have already started highlighting key items and events for this student group's longevity and prosperity within the student body.”

Dean Barbara Billingsley is pleased to welcome the new group and says the MLSA’s goals are in close alignment with the Faculty’s own.

“This student group, like many others, fosters student relationships, celebrates diversity, and helps to build an inclusive environment at the Law Centre,” she says. “I look forward to doing what I can to support the MLSA in building connections within the Faculty and the legal community."

One of the group’s first orders of business was establishing a designated place to pray; in short order, the Faculty set aside space at the Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge and LC 165 in the Law Centre (both are available during regular business hours).

Members of MLSA also had conversations with the Faculty to ensure Muslim students receive academic accommodations when needed to fulfill religious commitments. “I’m really grateful to the Faculty,” says Masud. “They’ve been really receptive to our religious needs.”

Beyond advocacy, MLSA also offers students a place to support one another in their studies — particularly during their articling year — and to network. Masud says the association itself is connecting with the Muslim community in Edmonton and beyond, as well as other cultural groups, like the Indigenous community.

Being a Muslim and a law student can be challenging at times, but Masud points out that being a Muslim and practicing law are complementary. She says the profession’s code of conduct shares many ethical values with Islam, such as honesty and integrity (in Islam, the concept is called ikhlas, an Arabic word meaning sincerity in all things).

Law school is equal parts exciting and challenging, and all students need to take good care of themselves. “You need something to hold on to and, for myself as a Muslim, it's religion,” Masud says. “It really keeps us grounded and focused on the things that we need to be doing.”