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 Muslims and the University Culture

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PostSubject: Muslims and the University Culture   Sun Jul 10, 2011 1:15 am

Muslims and the University Culture




In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

A.B Khan


When a Muslim in a North American university or college for the first
time, he or she comes into contact with a community whose culture and
lifestyle are diametrically opposed to the Islamic way of life.

The culture of Western universities can only be described as hedonistic,
nihilistic and narcissistic. That is to say, many inhibitions are let
loose and individual whims and fancies run wild. The freshman year
itself begins with orientation, which while supposedly a process of
introduction and transition to the university for the first-year
student, is an opportunity for most participants to drown themselves
(sometimes literally) in alcohol and pursue sexual opportunities.

This sets the stage for the school year. On any given school day, a
student can choose to go to class, sleep in and skip the whole day,
drink, party, or study, all depending on how he or she feels at that
moment. Individual desires become the first priority and everything else
takes a back seat.

The uncontested reign of individualism is also reflected in the values
promoted by student councils and governments. All lifestyles, especially
those furthest from religion, are promoted. Illicit, unlimited sex is
seen as something to be sought and a basis for building a macho
reputation (as long you can avoid sexually transmitted diseases - for
which purpose condoms and condom machines proliferate around campus).
Homosexuality is something to be proud of and promoted as a viable
alternative. Student campaigns and marches are organized against those
who dare to speak out and challenge this value structure; these
challengers are regarded as reactionary, undemocratic and of course,
religious extremists and fundamentalists. In the university community
therefore, the self is god, and everyone loves this god and engages in
daily worship, and obeys the laws that this god creates, and everyone
adjusts as these laws change on a daily basis.
Into this atmosphere arrives the Muslim, who may or may not be
practicing Islam to the best of their ability. The practicing Muslim
(and even the not so observant Muslim) knows that Allah is the Creator
and that the Qur’an is His Word. And according to that Word, “He has
‘created death and life, that He may test you which of you is best in
deed.” [Al-Mulk 67:2], {الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُورُ }, Transliteration: Al-Ladhī Khalaqa Al-Mawta Wa Al-Ĥayāata Liyabluwakum 'Ayyukum 'Aĥsanu `Amalāan Wa Huwa Al-`Azīzu Al-Ghafūr
Also, He says, “And I created not the jinns and humans except to worship Me” 51:5[color=#000000]6], {وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ }, Transliteration: Wa Mā Khalaqtu Al-Jinna Wa Al-'Insa 'Illā Liya`budūni
So the purpose of the Muslim’s existence is clear.

The conscious Muslim makes every attempt to, while pursuing his or her
studies, increase their knowledge of Qur’an and Sunnah, so that they may
better understand and apply the faith. The structure of this Muslim’s
day is around salat, and this person juggles and adjusts their daily
schedule and makes every effort to insure that the five daily salat are
performed on time. Similarly, this individual understands the approach
of Ramadan and prepares for it, again making the necessary adjustments
in order to make sure that they are on top of their studies, that
assignments are being handed in, that the best marks are being achieved,
all while the requirements of the daily fasts are being met.

For the Muslim, Islam is never an excuse for slacking off, whether in
academics or with respect to other responsibilities. As well, the
observant Muslim may choose to participate in those clubs, activities
and aspects of university life that do not contradict the Qur’an and
Sunnah and do not place the Muslim in positions where he or she must
compromise the faith. Thus, the conscientious Muslim enters the
University atmosphere and struggles constantly to maintain a structured
set of priorities. He or she follows Allah’s order: “So strive as in a
race in good deeds.” [Al-Ma’idah 5: 48], {فَاسْتَبِقُوا الْخَيْرَاتِ}, Transliteration: Fāstabiqū Al-Khayrāti
On the other hand, there is also the borderline Muslim, who knows his or
her identity but whose consciousness of Islam, due to upbringing or
experience, is not terribly strong. This individual is on the
‘borderline’ because they are pulled one way by their understanding of
Islam and in the opposite direction by the powerful pressures of the
university culture. Is it at all surprising that many Muslims who are on
the borderline succumb to the pressures of the atmosphere around them
and become, at best, part-time Muslims?

At the end, the challenge is great. All Muslims in the university
community have to struggle in order to maintain their Islam. Those who
are practicing, committed and understand the objective of their
existence have further duties. They must invite the border liners with hikmah
(wisdom) and understanding but with firmness as well. And they must
inform the university community at large about Islam in the different
ways that are available. Yes, of course the challenge is great. But
insha’ Allah, the reward is much greater.
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