Imagine choosing between completing a moral duty in public or ignoring the duty for the sake of security and safety. A choice that many non-Muslims may not understand. A choice that Muslim student Batoul Sadek faces when deciding whether to pray in a public space on Michigan State University’s campus or to ignore the number one commandment given by God.
God commands reciting from the Quran five times a day, and three of those prayers usually occur during work and class schedules for Sadek. Sadek’s favorite study spot is at the MSU library and chooses to pray within the rows of book shelves or privately next to her desk.
“Sometimes I feel that people are looking at me and I feel funny because I have to put my face on the floor and it is usually not carpeted,” Sadek said. “Sometimes during prayer when I am standing up people will walk up to me and start talking to me and I can’t answer.”
According to the Muslim Student Association approximately 4,000 muslims students attend Michigan State University, including international and graduate students. Besides classes and work that other students do, they must pray at specific times.
Why Muslims pray five times a day
Muslims all around the world turn toward Mecca during prayer. The Quran was written in a cave near or in Mecca by Prophet Muhammed. The Quran is believed to be the words of God who transferred his words to Muhammad by Angel Gabriel.
“We don’t worship Mecca, or the direction. We worship only the one God,” said Imam Sohail Chaudhry of East Lansing’s Islamic Center during an Islam 101 session.
During prayers, Muslims recite the Quran in three different positions—standing, bending and while sitting with their forehead touching the ground. Each position allows one to become humbler and more gracious to God.
“It’s about discipline and remembering to show God your gratefulness,” Syed said.
Chaudhry said Muslims pray in rows because it represents organization, order and structure.
“Structure is what makes us human beings and helps to keep us on the straight path,” Chaudhry said.
The first prayer begins at sunrise and the last prayer ends after sunset. Prayer times differ from day to day depending on daylight savings and the lunar cycle, which is what the Islamic calendar revolves around.
How Muslims and non-Muslims can help to integrate faith on campus
The Muslim Student Association created a Muslim awareness outreach on campus during the first week of April to explain the Quran and Islamic beliefs to non-Muslim students.
“MSA’s main purpose is to educate and inform,” Muslim Student Association board member Hauwa Abbas said. “The whole purpose of going to college and school is to gain a knowledge that you didn’t have before. This is the chance for us to grow and expand our minds.”
MSA serves non-Muslims by creating awareness on campus for students and seeks to break stereotypes and misconceptions.
“We will only have a successful ending if both parties understand the mutuality and the need of coexisting together,” MSU psychiatrist Farha Abbasi said.
At a panel during Muslim Awareness week Abbasi told the story of her journey from Pakistan to America shortly before 9/11. Abbasi spoke on behalf of the Muslim immigrants who struggle with integrating into America.
“How the host culture accepts you is either going to make you or break you. Immigration is not about paper work or screening. It’s about integration. And the host culture has to be welcoming initially. And it is a dual process,” Abbasi said.
A main concern for Abbasi are the limited spaces for students to pray and reflect on campus. There are only several designated spots for Muslims, including the law library and Wells hall.
Batoul Sadek, vice chairwomen of the executive board for the Muslim Student Association on campus is writing a proposal for more reflection rooms on campus, specifically in the main library.
The association is asking for a vacant room or office in the main library with all other expenses covered by MSA such as prayer mats, prayer rocks and beads.
The prayer room is also open to all religions. MSA and Abbasi advocate inclusion and respecting the various religions and diversity that make up MSU’s campus.
Once the bill for the MSU library is finalized this summer, MSA will present it to ASMSU. If ASMSU approves, then the university will decide.
“The only reason the bill would not pass is because people have preconceived notions, and they don’t understand how important prayer is to Muslims and how essential it is to our religion,” Sadek said.