Muslims students at U of M discuss faith

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At 12:30 p.m. on Fridays, 303 Coffman Union overflows with faithful people.

The room is filled with Muslim University students as they come together for their weekly Jumu`ah prayer.

Jumu`ah, which translates to Friday, is a mandatory prayer among Muslim men and is the second of the five prayers Muslims take part in each day.

Every day students file in and out of Al-Madinah Cultural Center to give their daily prayers to Allah, the Arabic word for God, and to share their faith with one another.

The Muslim study body is noticeable because of the events hosted by Al-Madinah Cultural Center and the Muslim Student Association.

Computer engineering senior Mus’ab Husaini is able to combine his faith in Islam and his life as a student by serving as president of the Muslim Student Association.

Husaini regularly spends time in Al-Madinah Cultural Center, welcoming students and answering the questions of those who inquire.

“Islam is not just a religion for many of the students who practice it at the University,” he said. “It is a way of life.”

There are two main facets Muslims believe people need to understand, he said. In Islam a person must achieve oneness and unity with God by emulating the actions of God’s messengers.

Some of the messengers Muslims believe in are Adam, Noah and Mohammed. Mohammed being the last of the messengers, he said.

The second is the belief that the Quran is the word of God, as the preserved state of God and as a portrayal of the underlying principles of the faith, Husaini said.

“Islam means submission and to submit willingly,” he said, “to follow God and to follow his orders.”

Husaini said one of the ongoing projects at Al-Madinah Cultural Center is the transformation of the room to appear more like a mosque.

Intricate wood designs help to round out the pillars and traditional Islamic art with Arabic writing tells about the teaching of God.

When entering the room, students are asked to remove their shoes because the rugs in the room are reserved for prayer, he said.

Among the rugs are several scriptures written in Arabic that tell some of the primary lessons of the Quran, Husaini said.

He said he has been pleasantly surprised by how willing students are to attend events about Islam.

The University student body seems very open to learning about the Islamic faith, Husaini said.

“We have a normal environment here,” he said. “I can pray when I want, and I have a place to come that is nice and open and easy.”

First-year student Ammina Khan said she visits Al-Madinah Cultural Center every day for her daily prayers.

“We have a basic five prayers a day,” she said. “And sometimes I will have to leave class to pray.”

Khan said some students and teachers might wonder why leaving class for prayer is necessary but there are certain times when she must pray throughout the day.

In Al-Madinah Cultural Center there is a small section reserved for women to pray alone, she said.

The prayers are done in Arabic but there are small differences between the sexes in the manner through which the prayer is done. For instance, women pray separated from men, Khan said.

One of the differences involves the different customary steps women take during their prayers, she said.

The women cover their heads with scarves called hijabs out of respect for the prayer, she said.

Khan said the hijab is a sign of modesty, and she wears it most of the time, even when she is not praying, but many women choose to wear the hijab only while they pray.

During the Jumu’ah prayer, Khan kneels among the women crowding together in Coffman Union to make room for one another.

Each week the students have a different speaker who delivers the khutbah, which is a speech given by any learned Islam scholar, during the worship prior to the prayer, she said.

It is important to realize there are differences in all religions, she said, and to understand, people must ask questions because the University is a campus of students with individual beliefs.

“Overall we are all here for the same reason,” Khan said.

First-year biological sciences student Sharmeen Mahmood said she has been practicing Islam since she was a child because she was born into a Muslim family.

Islam has been part of her daily practices her entire life, and is something not easily forgotten, she said.

Growing up as a Muslim, Mahmood said, she has found that many times when people don’t understand something regarding the Islam faith they shy away from it.

There are many misconceptions about Muslims, she said, and the only way to help clear those misconceptions is by asking questions.

“I know that religion can be a very touchy subject,” Mahmood said.

She said she thinks each person has a very different perspective on his or her individual faith. For example, she does not choose to wear a hijab as part of her daily lifestyle.

However, it is necessary that she wear it while praying, as a sign of respect and modesty to God, she said.

There are certain things that are required in Islam, such as women wearing the hijab, she said. But in her life, there are some things she thinks she needs to work on first.

Mahmood said most students are able to realize there are differences between all religions, but it is important to keep the similarities in mind.

“People should know that Islam relates to Christianity and Judaism,” she said. “It all traces back to the same person.”

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