Tag Archives: Muslims at College

The Perils of MSA-Life, anywhere/everywhere:

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Author’s note:

This is an anonymous-advice, that someone, whom is a Muslim, would like to give, to Muslims generally, and also, to Muslims involved in MSA (Muslim Students Association) work, whether you’re in High School, or at the College level. I think that this advice is very commendable, and even anonymously, I’m sure that it took a lot for this person to write this, which displays an immense amount of courage, on her part.

This is their story:

“The only reason I’m writing this is because today I was being “haram” and thinking about a guy back in middle school. He read books all the time and knew things that our teachers didn’t expect anyone to know, let alone a Black male who hung out with the wrong crew. To be honest, I really liked him, and I wasn’t even in love with his clothes or his personality; it was his brain.

Something that struck me about him was that he never did his homework, yet on tests he’d score higher than any of us, and he never bragged about it. I remember hearing people ask him how he knew these things, and I remembering asking him that myself. I never realized what I was doing to him; I never would’ve asked a non-Black guy because that’s something I would’ve just expected; but now I realize how wrong it was to question him just because I expected him to be like the others who looked like him. I never really knew that what I was doing was wrong, and the proof is that I liked him all throughout middle school.

When I thought about him earlier today and started thinking why I liked him so much, I saw a reflection of him in me. I wear tight jeans, and my hijab is a mess. My shirts are never long enough and my relationship with my family isn’t even Islamic. Although I can go on and on about my negatives, I can say one good thing about myself without lying, I read; sometimes I act stupid or do things just because I’m expected to, and I know that people will question me if I say things I’m “not supposed” to know, similar to that guy. I started reflecting back on every time I interacted with a Muslim who seemed to be more religious then me (they probably were, I’m just saying “seemed” because only Allah knows what’s truly in our hearts). Every time I though about these interactions, I felt like I was being treated like that guy, and I really was. And when I thought about it I got really angry. It hurts to know that your brothers and sisters can expect so little from you; I was really angry because know one even knew how much or how little I read at home, and they simply expected so little from me. Even though  I’m still really angry at them, I’m just a little less angry because I remember asking that guy why he knew so much and I remember expecting so little from him. I guess that’s how some people think of a girl who doesn’t look as Muslim as them. The same way it was unintentional for me, I guess it was unintentional for those people, and this is why I am writing this. The words you say to someone can really hurt them. Please, don’t question how someone knows something and don’t give a fake smile and tell them that you’re so proud that they  are taking notes at an Islamic event – an event that they made it to earlier than you probably even left your house.

I remember back in Arabic school (something that I quit because I had to much “work” to do), the teacher was explaining to us how it’s important to treat people of all religions nicely. I had to share the story of how the Prophet got up when men passed him with a dead Jewish body. The people around him asked him why he got up for this man if he was a Jewish man, and the Prophet simply responded, “Is he not human”. I remember the look of surprise and the smile that she gave me, and at the moment I smiled, yo. I couldn’t believe this woman was complimenting me, and when she asked me how I knew that, I proudly replied I read. Now, I look back, and I’m angry that she would ask me something like that. If it was one of the other girls, whose parents were Arab, she would only be happy, not surprised,  to hear it from them. And, yeah, I still realize that she could’ve only said that because she wanted to know how she can get her teenage sons to read , but that still hurt.

Then, a few months ago, I went to one of the first Islamic events I went to in a few months. I was mad hype, it was a brother I listened to a lot, I loved when he made videos criticizing things I did as a young Muslim. Anyway, I’m there about 20 minutes early or whatever, and this girl that I go with tells me that I should pray. I casually try to shrug it off, and then I tell her that prayer isn’t important right now. She gave me this huge speech about how it’s so important to pray, and I know I needed that, but it just wasn’t the time- and also , I don’t just accept advice from anyone. I know I should fix that, but also if you’re giving advice to someone, make sure they like you enough to be willing to receive it (not that I didn’t like her, she’s really nice, but her speeches are just tooooo long). Anyway, the reason I didn’t want to pray was because I knew there was some pee on my pants. I can’t blame her, I know she didn‘t know, but please try to consider why a person might be doing something before assuming something and giving them a whole lecture.

Anyway, I’m at this lecture, and another girl, a board member of our MSA, comes up to me and tells me that she’s so happy I’m here. I know that you probably think I’m overreacting for getting angry, but I still feel like I deserve to feel angry. This girl greeted the people around me with “Salams!” and when she saw me, sure she said Salam! in that stupid voice, but she also told me that she was so proud that I had my notebook. Me, being the retard I am, smiled and felt so happy to hear someone complimenting me; but now when I think back, the first girl that she said Salam to had a paper in her hand also, and she didn’t say anything about that, but when she saw me, it was just unexpected. She probably didn’t mean it the way she said it, but I still have a hard time forgiving her. If there’s a group of people, don’t make one seem less than the rest, not even religiously speaking but just in general. I’m not saying that everyone should just say Salam with the same expression to every person, but we need to remember that it’s not cool to talk down to someone. I don’t know why it’s so hard to forgive her, I really don’t, but maybe its because that comment was given at a time when my Islam was already shaky.

 

The only reason I wrote this is because I feel like this is something we do unintentionally, but the feelings that we hurt may stay hurt one, two, five years later. Please, if your giving dawah don’t question people’s intelligence. I know that I barely know anything, but you don’t need to tell me that and treat others different while in front of me, and don’t think you know why someone does someone does something because you really don’t.

 

Also, this is to every MSA board member anywhere, if you don’t ask people what they want to here and if you aren’t willing to take suggestions, the MSA isn’t what its supposed to be. If someone doesn’t even pray, why not take to them individually instead of having meetings about the Sahaba or about a Prophet (I’m not saying that’s not important. I’m just saying that you guys don’t even know what we’re going through and instead of trying to find out, you tell us things that we’d be happy to learn If our Islam was stronger). I think our MSA’s focus way too much about facts, than on trying to understand things and apply them to our daily lives. Also, one more thing, please give us the chance to ask questions. Cut the meetings short a little, hear what we have to say. And try to instill family. I don’t even smile at the board members who are sisters because we all don’t try hard enough to make it a big family. Let’s do that.”

Gareth Bryant/2013

Gareth Bryant’s Top-Ten advices for Muslim College-Students:

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1. Make sure that the reason that you’re going to College is not because your parents want you to go, or just because that’s what everyone expects you to do. Go to College to one, exclusively please Allah, by doing something positive & productive, which will give significant meaning to your life. Two, then, go to College, so that you’ll end up with practical tools, which will help you navigate throughout the rest of your life, and will help to yield benefit for others as well, not just for yourself.

2. Make sure that you are married, try to get married if possible, either before going to College, or definitely within your first year. College has a lot of challenges, particularly, when it comes to things like sex, dating, and all-things related to the opposite gender, or even the same gender, relative to our current society. Unfortunately, many of us who are Muslims, are not positively indoctrinated with the thoughts of being married at young ages by either our parents or communities, which become big problems for us, as we venture into the real-world-Trust me, I’ve been there…..not being married during my College years has had some very negative results, but that’s another article, for another time. So, it is of the utmost importance, for us as Muslims, to be able to shield ourselves from these types of temptations that exists at institutions of higher-learning. And, unfortunately, most of us have already been exposed to so many of these types of temptations, way before being College-bound. In short, protect yourself, from those types of negative forces, at all costs.

3. Study as hard as you can. Don’t go to College to just chillax!!! You’re there to learn something significant, which can bring benefit & meaning to your life. Don’t try to be the class-clown, or the cool dude, because one, that never pays off, and two, 9-10, you probably were never that cool or amusing while you were in High School. So, really, you’re merely just putting up a front, just because you may be in an environment where no one really knows you, so you can re-invent yourself. But, that’s they wrong way to do it, because that’s not who you really are. Just go to College to do what needs to be done, which is learn.

4. Pick a major in College that you’ll really want to do potentially for the rest of your life. Don’t let your parents, or your community choose your major for you, because they’re not the ones who are going to have to sit through these classes, struggle day & night, to get the very best grades…..you are!!! So, make sure that it’s something that you want to do & also something that is going to yield benefit for yourself in the real-world.

5. Don’t let four years go by, before picking a major. In fact, you should be so disciplined, that you already know exactly what you want to do, before you even get to College. The worst thing to do in College is waste time. And, let me tell you, I’ve seen it happen…..dozens of my very own class-men, who switch major, after major, after major, which did nothing, but get them stuck in a sucky major that they never really wanted in the first place, and it got them a degree that they can’t even use, because that’s not what they wanted to even do.

6. Make sure that you are always in good company. Make sure that your primary source of friendship/companionship in College are good Muslims. I can speak from my personal experiences-I went to a private, Jewish-sponsored College, Touro College to be exact, and when you go to private Colleges or Universities, especially ones that are religiously-based, they may not to privy, with students establishing religious-based students clubs, especially if those student clubs are Muslim student clubs. And, I started College in ‘02, on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, so political tension & disfavor towards Muslims were still pretty high. And, being that the College that I went to was a Jewish College, obviously, having an MSA (Muslim Student Association) there was not flying. So, it’s no surprise, that when I tried to establish an MSA, at Touro College, I got shot down, immediately.  And, to add insult-to-injury, most of the Muslims that I knew were even ashamed to admit that they were Muslims in public, which was very disheartening for myself, who made a specific intention to become more religious, once I got to College. So, it was like I was a Muslim by myself, the Muslims who publicly rep’d being Muslim were pathetically few in number. Because of not having that sense of Muslim community at school, it made things very difficult for me as an individual Muslim, to stay strong & hold on to my own Islam, which eventually led the way to a lot of negative College-style elements, that I ended up welcoming with open-arms. The point is: get to know as many good Muslims as possible, and be connected to an MSA. If your College or University doesn’t have an MSA, or won’t let you have an MSA, one make anyway, even if it has to be off-campus. When you need advice about how to navigate in the College environment, or if you’re at a low-point in your Islam, or even if you have some personal problems that you really need help with, let the Muslims be your strength-Just be together & united with the Muslims, because in College, the Muslims all we have really.

7. If your College or University offers religious-based student clubs, then, make an MSA, immediately, or if your College or University already has an MSA, then by all-means, join immediately (reasons why, see 6)!!!

8. Be a Muslim who represents Islam & Muslims properly. While you’re at school, take this grand opportunity to be someone whom Non-Muslims can always go to, for info. about Islam & Muslims. These people really want to know what Islam is & what Islam isn’t. They must not & should not get their info. about Islam & Muslims from people in the media, who are gonna purposely speak negatively about Islam & Muslims, just because they have the platform to do so. We are the ones who have the responsibility to properly represent our own way, in a pure, unadulterated context, free from all negative bias, supported by media mud-slinging. These people have a right for us to be the best examples of how Muslim truly are & we are obligated by Allah, to be the best examples for the people, at all times.

9. When you’re not busy studying all the time, go out & have some Halal fun!!! Just because we’re Muslims, doesn’t mean that our lives have to be full of boredom. After class, or on the weekends, enjoy some extra-curricular activities, like playing sports, going to play pool, bowling, etc. There’s most definitely wiggle-room for your College experience to be filled with great times & memories. But, just remember to be a Muslim, wherever you are. You’re at an age now, where you know full-well, what a Muslim is not supposed to be like & what a Muslim is not supposed to do. So, just truly try your best, to be the Muslim at all times & you’re straight.

10. Always make Du`a’, that Allah always guides your decision-making & allows you to make the most Islamically compliant, wisest & intelligent choices during your tenure at College.

Gareth Bryant/2011