Finding a balance

By Christine Won

There are about 700 Muslims who attend the local mosque on campus, including students, faculty and community members, said Irfan Ahmad, assistant director at the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology.

Ahmad said his faith shapes his life in every aspect of his role as a co-worker, a husband and a father. Even in his interaction with his colleagues he is conscious that whatever he does, he should seek the truth. What is forefront in Ahmad’s mind is that even if nobody is watching, God is, so he must be truthful and truth seeking.

“In Islam, religion is a part of every day life,” Ahmad said. “As a husband and father, there is the part of my religion that ordains for me to go out and work. I hold to the highest ethical and moral standards – the bottom line is it brings me closer to God.”

Islam is a monotheistic religion that believes in Allah, the Arabic word for “God,” and abides by the teachings of the Quran, believed to be the words of God revealed to Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel. Muslims believe in Judgment Day, and that an individual is held accountable for his or her actions, making good deeds a significant part of the faith.

“Every iota of good is awarded, and every iota of evil punished,” Ahmad said. “But God says his mercy is greater than his anger.”

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Followers of Islam, Muslims, are required to pray five times a day once they reach the adolescent stage.

Muslim students on campus shared how they juggle their prayer times with their daily schedules.

“Prayer is an opportunity to connect with Allah,” said Wasif Khan, junior in Business. “It’s easy to focus on daily life and not pay attention to the fact that we should be grateful for how we are living.”

The five prayer time windows are Fajr at 5:30 a.m., Dhuhr at 1:15 p.m., Asr at 5:15 p.m., Maghrib at 7:35 p.m., and Isha at 9:15 p.m. Times change according to the seasons, to coordinate the prayers with sunrise, when the sun is at its peak, and sunset.

Reem Rahman, junior in LAS and communications director of the University’s Council on American-Islamic Relations, recounted how she stepped out to pray during a hip-hop program she was enjoying.

“Prayer is just one facet of faith,” Rahman said. “It’s not to make your life a hardship, but to make life easier, actually.”

Khan agreed that being a Muslim does not conflict with his duties as a student.

“Prayer becomes that balance,” Khan said. “When you gotta pray, you gotta pray.”

Muslim students are also set apart by their abstinence from alcohol. Khan, emphasizing that he was not representative of the whole faith but only of himself, said he does what every other student on campus does for fun except drink and go to bars.

“I don’t feel left out by not drinking,” Rahman said. “I enjoy the cleanliness of body, mind and intention. I strive for purity of life and direction in my studies, family and friends, and I’m not distracted by alcohol, premarital sex and immodesty.”

Rahman also touched on the topic of Muslim women covering their head. She said she personally does not usually cover her head unless for specific reasons, such as during prayer time to strive for utmost purity.

“Head covering is a great fashion accessory, symbol of modesty and recognizable association with the faith,” Rahman said.

However, Ahmad said Islam is not merely ritualistic. He said many people think Islam is very stringent, but the guidelines provide a framework on how to interact with the environment. He gave an example of how he is nice to his neighbor because he is required to be nice.

The five pillars of Islam – declaration of faith, prayer, charitable giving, fasting and pilgrimage to Mecca- also shape Muslims’ lives.

Ahmad went to Mecca with his wife and two children in 1999.

“It was a life-changing event that cleanses your mind and gives you inner strength,” he said. “It was so emotionally appealing and soothing that one begins to question one’s daily routines and strives to put everything into perspective.”