m u s l i m v o i c e s - The University of Texas at Austin

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m u s l i m v o i c e s - The University of Texas at Austin

m u s l i m v o i c e s

a l i t e r a r y m a g a z i n e

of the Muslim students at the University of Texas, Austin

a publication of the Society for Islamic Awareness (SIA) Issue 1 • April 2006


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We begin in the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful

a word from the editor

ike all projects that take precious time and sweet labor, this magazine was indeed a journey. A year ago, at the

L close of the spring semester in 2005, a few individuals introduced the idea of creating a magazine for the Muslim

students at UT. The idea was great, the task daunting. But a mix of enthusiasm, passion and sheer dedication from

the Muslim students on campus allowed a budding idea to develop into the magazine you now hold in your hands.

Our shared experiences bind us together in ways that go beyond religion, culture, nationality, or creed; our voices

are gifts endowed to us at birth by Our Creator, without which the world would be a silent place; our perspectives

shed light into unexplored frontiers. This magazine provides a platform for those who share in the UT tradition—

students, faculty and alumni—to relate their experiences as Muslims living in the West and offer their perspectives

on contemporary issues in Islam. The Muslims on this campus are dynamic individuals with unique experiences and

diverse voices. Through Muslim Voices, you will witness their diverse experiences, unique voices, and varied perspectives.

Just as the making of this magazine has been a journey, the articles, poems, and artwork within will also allow you

to take a journey across time and space with the authors themselves, as you learn their stories, experience their

struggles, and gain insight into their perspectives.

a word of thanks...

… to God, the First and Foremost. With the Almighty’s help, all things are possible

… to the contributors, writers, and artists of this magazine. The magazine would be silent without your voices

… to the UT community for giving us another opportunity to share our experiences and inspirations, for being the

best in what you do, the most real in who you are, and for being National Champions, ‘05. Hook ‘em!!

… to our fellow organizations on campus for all their help

… to all those who supported us, had confidence in us, encouraged us, and prayed for us, especially our families who stood by

us in our frantic attempts to meet deadlines

… to those students in the FAC labs who tolerated the MV team’s constant whisperings while working on layouts

… to those who came out to the photo shoot

… to the Austin Muslim Community, a family that is always there to support us in our endeavors

… to everyone who had a part to play in the creation of the magazine

… to Hasnain Jiwani, Askari Hussain, Farhad Dokhani, Amir Shiva, and Zain Mithani - the superb Publishing & Advertising Team

… to Azhar Sheraze, Anadil Bham and the rest of the Layout-Design Team

… to Almas Ali, Mohamad Fakhreddine, and Aun Ali for their diligent copy editing

… to Hammad Rizvi and Zahra Yusufali for the amazing photography for this magazine

… and finally to everyone out there who has been looking forward to this magazine...your enthusiasm pushed us forward. We

hope you enjoy it :).

Cover Main photo by Askari Hussain. Featured in photo: Kamran Mamdani. Collage of photos:

courtesy of Muslim students at UT. Row 1: (from left) Nahaleh Pourali & Aiman Janmohamed; Mohamed

Sheikh; Fifth Degree Burn & Imam Bashir. Row 2: Ali Syed; Zainab Abbas & Sarah Siddiqui; Huda Abdul-

Razzak; Ayesha Yoosufani; Turab Syed. Row 3: Jamal Mohamed, Kamran Mamdani, Turab Syed, Farhad

Dokhani, Mohamed Yusufali, Nader Islam, Hasnain Jiwani, & Azhar Sheraze; Ishan Chakrabarti, Naser

Ashour, Melissa Malmgren; Hammad Rizvi; Hamza Deyaf; Annia Raja.

With Peace,

Aiman Janmohamed

Editor-in-Chief

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this magazine are of their corresponding authors and artists and not necessarily of the Muslim Voices Team or the Society for Islamic

Awareness. This is not an official publication of the University of Texas at Austin and does not represent the views of the University or its officers.


Salvaged Gratitude

Confined to a Perpetual Masquerade

Finding New Meaning Through Islam

Half ‘n Half

Where I’m From

Reflections

God, Dios, Allah...

Saudi Arabia: Killing Stereotypes

The Role of Spirituality in Your Life

Muslims being Muslim, Longhorn Style

A Day as a Muslim

Awkward Moments, Odd Explanations

Muslims on the Forefront

Islam from the Inside

Salaamualaikum Bevo!

Teach Thy Tongue to Tell the Truth

Acknowledgements

3

4

5-6

7

8

10

11

12

13-14

15

16

17-18

19-20

21-22

23

24

Table of Contents

2

April 2006 ! Issue 1

9


Salvaged Gratitude

by meelad al-arashi

musalla 1 : prayer area

imam 2 : leader of the congressional prayer

iqamah 3 : prayer call

by meelad al-arashi

e parked. I paused and I glanced up only to see the mammoth arches of the structure before me like arms bent

W at just the right angle forming the most immaculate curves. I was somewhat intimidated. I modestly walked up

the stairs that led me to the doors that stood tall like impenetrable guards. The doors opened and I entered the

mosque.

This was like every other visit to the mosque on any other Friday with my family, but I had never been to this mosque

before. The moment I took one step into the musalla 1 I was immediately reduced in size in every aspect imaginable as I

stood beneath the colossal ceiling. What I noticed first was the intricate geometrical design of the ceiling. My eyes followed

the golden Arabic calligraphy that scrolled up and around it. There didn’t seem to be an end to the Byzantine

maze of words. I was amazed at the simplicity and purity of the architecture inside and out. The Persian rugs that

spread on every inch of the floor almost seemed to have rolled out to welcome me.

I was humbled at the sight of a mother praying with her son by her side and him trying to reflect the reverence she

expressed. There was an aroma of incense burning, but I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. As I inhaled it I was

immediately calmed and a strong feeling of composure trickled down my spine. The atmosphere was kindling and comforting.

At the mosque I usually attend, there is a titanic glass wall that stands about eight feet off of the ground that separates

the men from the women. But here, there was a thin wooden separator that was stenciled with definitive arabesque

patterns. I couldn’t help but stare at them in total admiration. I am very used to going to Friday prayer but this time felt

like a whole new experience—overwhelming, breath-taking.

The imam 2 proceeded to give the sermon. His words were those of wisdom and tolerance. An elderly man, he annunciated

every syllable in the most lucid way possible. The whispers slowly vanished as the iqamah 3 was made. Everyone

including myself, my mother and my sister formed a tightly woven line and we began to pray. Our movements were so

precisely timed, that it felt as if we were graceful ballerinas mastering the art of perfection before a silent audience.

After the prayer, we started to leave. Even though I was quite intimidated by such physical and spiritual beauty, I was

thunderstruck by pride and appreciation.

3

about the author

Meelad is a Government Junior at UT, Austin and plans to attend law school to

pursue a career in International Law. Her hometown is Houston, Texas and she is

Yemeni by descent. Meelad enjoys politics, foreign languages, and photography.

The masjid described in the article is the Islamic Dawah Center in Houston.

muslim voices

a literary magazine


C o n f i n e d to a P erp e tu a l M a s q u erad e

April 2006 ! Issue 1

about the artist

is a Freshman at UT and is currently studying in the

School of Liberal Arts. She is half American and half Libyan by descent. Aminah

describes the meaning behind her electronic media artwork (pictured above):

“ W hen we fear ostracism from the world around us, we sometimes mask ourselves in

seemingly acceptable forms for the comfort of others.”

4


Finding

through

Islam

meaning

new

I

was raised in a loving Catholic family and was taught good

Christian morals since birth. I attended Catholic school and

actively participated in church functions, including alter serving

at mass, and leading my church’s youth group in a city-wide

interfaith conference (which coincidentally is where I had my

first encounter with Islam at the age of 16). Even as a young

child, I felt a close connection with God, and I always sensed

God’s presence in the world around me. As I completed high

school, I never questioned my faith. I was surrounded by a great

Catholic family and friends, and was looking forward to continuing

my service to God through the church in the years to

come.

The start of college began the start of a whole new life for me. I

was now surrounded by a diverse group of people who opened

my eyes to new things. I found myself absorbing much from my

surroundings, and I began to realize and appreciate the countless

ideas and opinions that were different than mine. All the

5

by emily shafron

by emily shafrom

while, I was going to church every Sunday and leading my life as

I always had.

At the end of my freshmen year, I began to notice a change.

Slowly, I felt my life was distancing itself from God. I tried numerous

special prayers, attended more masses, and even talked

to a priest, but no matter what I did, I felt God’s presence in my

life diminishing. Something had to change. This was probably the

loneliest point in my life. I was helpless without a purpose or

direction. I had to regain God in my life, and I was willing to do

whatever it took.

I first started by getting advice from my friends; hoping something

they said would click and bring me back to Catholicism.

But when this approach failed, I knew I had to take more drastic

measures. I came up with the idea to start looking at other religions.

I mean, why not? I rationalized that by studying other

faiths, I would be able to find something to disagree with, and in

muslim voices

a literary magazine


turn, strengthen my own faith in Catholicism. At this point, I

started to realize that I was primarily Catholic because I was

raised that way, and I had to confirm what I really believed on

my own, aside from my parents. Thus, my search for my truth

began.

I knew I wanted to stay within the realms of monotheism, because

I was certain of at least one thing: there was only one

God. So, I began, with the well-known Christian denominations.

Attending many services and talking to pastors in these faiths

left me with less of an idea about who God was then what I

already had with Catholicism. I still was not satisfied and decided

to research deeper. Upon hearing of my search, a great

Muslim friend of mine informed me about the teachings of Islam

and how it included such prophets as Abraham and Jesus. I had

no idea that Islam shared a similar foundation to Judaism and

Christianity, and I was curious at the least to investigate further.

In March of 2004, I went to my neighbor’s apartment to visit.

As I was scanning his bookshelves, I noticed he had a translated

version of the Qur’an. I was immediately interested, and asked

him if I could borrow it. It was around midnight that night when

I first picked it up. I was talking to my friend on the phone, who

coincidentally was Muslim, when I read the first few pages.

Upon reading the verse “In trying to deceive God and those

who believe, they only deceive themselves without perceiving”

(2:9) on the second page of the Qur’an, I started to cry.

My friend asked me what was wrong, and I admitted that this

verse explained exactly what was going on in my life. Here I was

going to church every Sunday, “claiming” to be Catholic, and all

the while, I felt no relationship with God. I was only fooling

myself, because as I read, God knew what was in my head and

heart. Ironically, as unsettling as this conclusion was, I started to

feel this small trickle of comfort slowly enter my body. Confusion

set in. How could the Qur’an affect me? I picked up this

book to learn about Islam in general, not to be touched by it. I

was sure I did not want to bring Islam in my life (my identity

was Catholic) and yet I couldn’t seem to put it down. That

night, I read until I fell asleep.

Over the next month, I could not go a day without reading the

Qur'an. In the beginning, I was inserting small pieces of paper in

the places where I had questions about what I was reading,

planning on asking my friend for the answers later on. However,

the strangest thing started to happen. As I moved further into

the Book, I began answering the questions I had asked only a

few weeks prior! Not only that, but I was recognizing God

more and more in my daily life, and I started to see Him as a

part of me again.

My "light bulb moment" came at the end of March that year. I

was sitting in church on Sunday, as I had every Sunday even up

till this point, and it came to the point in mass where we said

the Nicene Creed. (The Nicene Creed is the declaration of

April 2006 ! Issue 1

faith for all Catholics outlining all the major points of the religion.)

The very first line goes: "We believe in one God, the father

almighty." It was at that very instant, I knew: I couldn't say

it. No matter how much I tried to force it out, words couldn't

come. I believed in one God and that's it! Not three parts, not

a father, son, and Holy Spirit as one; just One all alone. I knew

the TRUTH. I left mass right then. I was extremely shaken and

shocked at what just happened, unsure about what to do next.

The next month was the month where I faced all my fears. I

cried myself to sleep every single night trying to figure out my

plan of action. I was stuck at a crossroad. On one side was my

past: everything I had known to be true as a child was now

questioned, my foundations were shaken, and more than anything

else, my parents love and acceptance was questioned. On

the other side was the truth. I knew in both my head and my

heart that God, Allah, had revealed the Qur’an, and I also knew

that I didn't want to be an "unbeliever" anymore. All I could

think about was my parents' faces, and how disappointed they

would be if I told them I wanted to convert.

I finally gathered enough courage and went to Islamic Awareness

Week, sponsored by the MSA on campus. At the first

event, I was too scared to talk to anyone. I didn't want to share

what I felt, because I thought if they knew I was considering

converting, there would be no turning back. On the second day,

I gathered up all my courage, and talked to some sisters. Much

to my surprise, they not only welcomed me with open arms,

but I didn't feel any pressure.

Over the next few weeks, I met with the sisters on a couple of

occasions. I cried as I expressed my concerns about my family,

and they listened and encouraged me to do what I felt was

right. They even introduced me to other converts, so I could

hear their experiences and ask them any questions I had. At

that time, Allah, through the MSA, offered me the one thing

that I needed the most: unconditional support.

In the end, I felt God in my heart, I knew the TRUTH without

doubt, and I didn't want anything in this material world, not

even my own family, to stop me from surrendering myself to

God. On May 10, 2004, I became a Muslim.

Looking back, I was always a Muslim; I just didn't realize it. At

the city-wide interfaith conference that I attended back when I

was 16, I remember telling my Dad that if I wasn't Catholic, I

would be Muslim. Back then, only God knew this is where I

would be now. I know this was all a part of Allah's plan, and I

am so grateful for this gift of knowledge. Insha-Allah (Godwilling),

when I finally tell my parents that I am Muslim, and I

show them this story, they will realize that I never wanted to

hurt them; I converted for God. I want to thank them for

teaching me about God, and I now know, with Allah's help, everything

is how it should be. As the Qur'an says, "With hardship

comes ease," (94:5) and that is how I lead my life.

6


y parvaneh fakheri by parvaneh fakheri

“I’m half and half, me dad’s a Muggle, mum’s a witch, bit

of a nasty shock for him when he found out.”

First time I heard that line out of Harry Potter, I laughed. And I

remembered. It resonated within me. You see, I’m half and

half too. No, not the dairy product. Half “white” American,

half Persian. Half Christian heritage, half Muslim heritage.

Half inside the paradigm, half out.

I grew up around a missionary center. Growing up, a lot of my

friends were MKs. Missionary Kids. My first concert was DC

Talk. I bet the first house of worship I was ever taken into was

a church.

Certainly seems, I ought to have been raised a Christian,

doesn’t it?

But my father is from Iran. And somehow, I was raised with his

religion, though by the time I was eight, my mother had

converted to Islam. Funnily enough, I never really thought

about converting to Christianity.

I always followed Islam in my heart.

Half ‘nHalf n

Attempts? You name it, it’s probably happened.

People trying to convert me; attempting to enlighten me.

When I was five, a close family member told me my parents

were going to hell for leading me ‘‘away from Jesus Christ, our

Lord and Savior.” In the third grade, my classmates told me I

was going to hell. In high school there was the Fellowship of

Christian Athletes; in college, Christians on Campus.

I never felt the need to convert, nor did I resent their efforts.

Well. Not too much. Not if they didn’t follow me for thirty

minutes.

I, too, had grown up learning about Christianity. My mom’s

family, the one with which I grew up, was all Christian. We all

got together for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and each one

7

of those meals generally started with the whole family holding

hands around a table giving thanks to God; “In your Son’s name,

Amen.” Mentally, I always changed that part…

Growing up half and half has its advantages and disadvantages.

On the one hand, you learn intimately about both sides. About

the missionary aspect of Christianity. About the peace of Islam.

I always saw more in common between the two religions than

other people my age. I grew up discussing and explaining my

religion to my Christian family and friends. Nowadays, I find

myself explaining Christianity and its precepts to some of my

Muslim, even to some of my Christian friends. My parents

instilled in my brother and me a respect for all religions and

people of all races, all orientations. Even if I don’t agree with it,

I still respect someone’s freedom to believe what they will.

That’s what makes this country great. Freedom.

On the other hand, it seems every day I get questioned. You

look white. You’re what? From where? You’re Muslim? Why

don’t you wear the veil? So you don’t drink? What about

pork? Have you ever tried it?

The answers I have memorized.

Yeah, my mom’s “white”. He’s from Iran. Yeah, he’s brown.

Yeah, I know I look white. No, EEEEE-Rahn. Yeah, I’m Muslim.

Well my dad’s family is all Shiite, but I was raised nondenominational.

I don’t feel the need to. No, it’s a choice. No,

I don’t drink. No. Yes, I tasted it when I was little.

Perhaps the funniest and most frustrating time was when

someone told me that the “Christian God” was different from

the Muslim’s “Allah”. Somehow my arguments that Spanish

speakers say “Dios” and French speakers say “Dieu”

equivocates to Arabic speakers saying “Allah” didn’t penetrate.

I have to laugh when people say I don’t “look Muslim,” that I

don’t “act Muslim.” “Well,” I say smilingly, “How is a Muslim

supposed to look and act? How are Christians supposed to

look and act?”

Sure, sometimes, it all can get to be a bit frustrating.

But then again, I wasn’t born to be silent.

about the author

Parvaneh is a UT alumna. She graduated in 2005 with a dual major in Spanish

and Middle Eastern Studies. She currently works for a non-profit agency and intends

to pursue her Masters in Middle Eastern Studies in the near future.

muslim voices

a literary magazine


!"#$#!%&'!($)'!

middle east

austin, texas

united states

najaf, iraq

April 2006 ! Issue 1

by zahra yusufali by zahra yusufali

I am from the religion that guides my every step.

I am from the prayers in the early morning, noon, and evening when all Muslims

unite to pray at the same time

utter the same words,

in the same language,

with the same actions,

to the same God.

I am from the mornings of struggling to fix my scarf and the afternoons of

answering curious questions asking about my hijaab and why I wear it.

I am from the delight of answering those questions, pleased that someone

wants to learn.

I am from the strange looks people gave me during the September 11

tragedy, and from the reassuring looks of others who looked deeper.

I am from holding my head up high, and remembering why I believe in

what I believe.

I am from the thought that upholds truth, the action that speaks for

justice, and the state of mind which abhors intoxication.

I am from the religion which is color blind.

I am from strength in the face of adversity

From the thousands of thoughts and actions that challenged my values

And the temptations of the outside world

I am from learning from the little kids of our mosque, who have taught

me more in their unique little way than I could have taught them.

I am from the religion of Adam, Abraham, Jonah, Solomon, Isaac,

Ishmael, Jesus, Moses, Mohamed; peace be upon them all.

I am from the religion so beautiful and peaceful that it has shaken hearts

and inspired millions from the beginning of time, from the plains of Mecca

to the hills of Austin, TX.

I am from the religion of ‘surrender ’

I am from

Islam.

about the author

Zahra is a Freshman at UT and is pursuing a dual major in Education and Psychology.

She grew up in Dubai, U AE, and moved to Austin six years ago; her parents are from Tanzania.

Zahra hopes to combine her degrees in a career that serves to teach young children.

8


G i ve m e s abar,

ya R aab!

Give me sabar ya raab…God, please give me patience. Why

am I being tested in this way?

I'm tired of being tested…you push me and push me ya

Raab, what happens when I'm too weak to ght anymore? I

don't want to be tested! I don't think I can last much

longer…I wish there was an easier way…

But, then I remember Allah (swt) only tests those to their

abilities...and I feel ashamed.

My pain is no dierent from others pains, so why do my

problems seem so gigantic and overwhelming?

Think of how fortunate I am.

Have I been tested like the Rasool(s) and his companions?

Men and women who were brutally persecuted and tortured

for only pronouncing four words: la illaha illa Allah

(There is no God but Allah).

Suddenly, my troubles seem so insignicant when I remember

their stories, so give me patience, my Raab.

Please Allah, give me patience.

InnAllaha ma'as saabireen (God is with those who are patient).

T h e au th o r o f th i s p o e m wi s h e s to r e m a i n an o n y-

by azam farukhi by azam farukhi

Azam is a third year

marketing/premed student. It’s

no secret Azam enjoys drawing

comics and drinking lots of

milk. “There’s a lot of crazy

things in this world”, says

Azam, “one day they will all be

put in comic form.”

9

The New Car

T u n n e l Vi s i o n

“Why could one never do a natural thing without having

to screen it behind a structure of artifice?" This line from

Edith Wharton's novel, House of Mirth, exemplifies some

of the struggles I see in a world where the misunderstood

are characterized and defined by social stereotypes and

suffer from a loss of individuality. Through my paintings

and electronic media [above and on pg. 4], I attempt to

illustrate the disservice we do ourselves by allowing our

prejudices to get in the way of our learning experiences.

I also focus on the distress experienced by individuals

who are characterized by preconceived notions of their

definitive social group. Perhaps if we as a community

seek to understand the misunderstood, we can better

understand ourselves and define our relationship with

the world around us.

muslim voices

a literary magazine


y ricardo tores by ricardo tores

God, Dios, Allah

Knowledge, Self Determination

and maybe maybe maybe Me?

I learn through so many fountains especially those I love and those I know and inspire. Spiritually I’ve been

lost for lets say many, many years, months, days, minutes, and seconds without peace and harmony.

One thought inspired by the HIGHEST, cannot be defeated only by the Devil with physical pleasures, I

think?

Not Sure, not quoting any one, just me.

So how did I begin the search for this peace and harmony as the base of my life? I haven’t understood to

the fullest yet.

Why? I don’t know maybe you can help.

But what I have found in the last few years of my life is you have to put

God, Dios, Allah, as your FOUNDATION.

Do you know God has unlimited names as many as there are languages, as there are Positive

words, encouraging messages; from the Most High to the most encompassing. Isn’t His word, when spoken

the most BEAUTIFUL, most BENEVOLENT.

I ponder why? Believers and non-Believers wonder why?

You know what the answer is? I do not know, if you do please let me know.

It is one of the many wonders of Allah, Dios, God.

Why Believers and Non-believers, because that is how life is separated in my book, and I think in

Allah’s Book, which should hold more Significance than any of the personal books we live as human.

The most beautiful story is His. The most Encompassing is his.

So how do I answer why I am a Believer instead of a non-Believer?

How do I answer this important ‘Why’?

With a what, when, where, and what again and Who!

What? How did I Find GOD? I don’t know I only know I was lost.

When? I believe, but am not sure truly, it was in the last twenty-two plus years of my life. I am still not

strong in my path, word, sentence, or even paragraph He wrote about me. But that will take my whole

Book of my life to find out. I can only read what He already read to the past human beings, and wish that

my words bring a change for others.

Where? Again I am confounded. I believe in these new lands: Latin and North America.

I am Latino, but a MUSLIM first.

What again? A book. Not the Torah, not the Gospel, not the Quran. A book named “The Alchemist.”

If you get a chance read it, the author is Paolo Coehlo. Inspiring writer, spiritual at heart.

By Whom? Another story: a simple man, a man I admire, a man we as Muslims and Christians, Jews,

human beings should admire as much as Martin Luther King. It is in fact his opposite - Malcolm X.

(If you are interested please refer to his movie by Spike Lee, or the book,

The Autobiography of Malcolm X”, by Alex Haley.)

So why ISLAM?

Because of what it means for us humans to do. SURRENDER TO GOD. Not to someone I believe has

inspired me by Dioses (God’s) grace. Not Mohammed, not Jesus the son of Mary, not my own Dad, and

only, ONLY, by his WORD.

The Quran, the Gospel (Bible: New Testament), and the Torah (Old Testament).

about the author

Ricardo is a recent convert to Islam. Originally from Venezuela, he is studying History at UT. Currently

he is working and hopes to travel abroad to Latin America to help educate people in need and to

show others what Islam really is. In his free time, you’ll find him writing poetry or shooting hoops.

10

April 2006 ! Issue 1


Saudi Arabia Skyline

26 Dec. 2005

00:12:67 hours

I

love Saudi Arabia. I consider it my home.

Although I'm an American by birth, and

not technically from there, I always tell

everyone that I am. They have a term for

people like me back where I come from.

We’re called Aramco brats, kids who have lived

life comfortably living off the huge revenues

brought in by oil exports. Growing up in that

particular area of the world, I have had more

than my share of confrontations with antiwestern

Saudis. Unfortunately (and understandably

so), foreigners making a living off of

Saudi Arabian oil leads to occasional confrontations

and feelings of resentment between

native Saudis and expatriate workers.

These feelings of resentment, combined with

current events occurring across the Middle

East, combined further

with the right political

twist, unfortunately paint

a foggy, if not distorted

image of what an Arab really is. There are

bound to be a few hard-line conservatives in

such a country, but they are few and far between.

By seeing only what is portrayed on the

news, most people fail to see how the majority

of Saudis actually embrace western and American

culture and people...well, most of it anyways;

sexual promiscuity just doesn’t fly there.

Take a walk through any mall in downtown Al-

Khobar, and it becomes apparent that Western

influence has left its mark on Saudi culture,

one of the most traditional cultures in the Middle

East. McDonalds and Starbucks lay sprinkled

around each shopping district, mixed together

with traditional Arab marketplaces, or

Souqs.

There remain, however, several key differences

between Saudi and American culture

which separate the countries greatly. The

American lifestyle since the 1950s has

changed dramatically in the sense that society

seems to revolve less and less around family,

and place a greater emphasis on a moneydriven,

capitalistic way of life. Saudis remain

traditional in every sense of the word. Couples

are married and have children earlier,

families are larger, and living costs are lower.

Shops close for times of prayer, and women

are required to wear non-revealing clothing.

These differences take the form of a more laid

back style of living which, although may not be

as liberal and free as the American way of life,

seems to be more tranquil and stress free.

Saudi Arabia: Killing Stereotypes

11

by chris reyes by chris reyes

I’ll be the first to admit

that when I first

arrived back in the

United States for high

school after living in Saudi so long, I felt like a

newly arrived immigrant – aka FOB (fresh off

the boat). I was struck at how different the

fast-paced, money-driven society differed

from the more relaxed, family-oriented culture

I had been living in. As different as these

ways of life are, I’ve found in my 4 years since

being back in the U.S. that both cultures consist

of the same people. Regardless of how

people grow up, dress, or work, every culture

has its own blend of happy and angry, hardworking

and lazy, and conservative and liberal

people. As I continue to establish myself in

the US, I find it funny that it will take even me

some time before I get used to the differences

and call America my home again.

about the author

Chris is a second year Electrical Engineering student at UT. He was born in Dallas

and raised in Saudi Arabia. Chris plans to continue to travel and live abroad after

graduation.

muslim voices

a literary magazine


I t u s e d t o p l ay a big g e r r o l e. I am s t i l l

l o o kin g f o r w h a t I u s e d t o h a v e.

Spirituality for me is like strawberries on the cheesecake of religion, without which the

experience of enjoying the cheesecake would remain incomplete.

Spirituality keeps me grounded, tolerant, and kind. Define Spirituality.

Not really. Sad truth. It gives me the strength to live the best life I can.

Lik e a w oma n , E X C E P T y o u C A N l iv e wi t h i t , b u t

c a n ’ t l iv e wi t h o u t i t .

Spirituality shapes my morals and actions. I am studying developing world poverty, I am vegetarian, and I try to support fair trade.

Spirituality is my personal relationship with God

and it’s always in the back of my mind.

It currently feels like under current of life. I can swim against it, or side to side, but

feel most at peace and in harmony when I flow with it.

WHAT ROLE DOES SPIRITUALITY PLAY IN YOUR LIFE?

April 2006 ! Issue 1

L ooking for a reason to be more than miserable in this world.

I believe I should be truthful and kind and the spirit of the world will be kind back to me.

!"!#$%&'(!)*!#+,-!".!*+$"/0!%"!$*)%&1(!)*!.2!3/+"!!!2.$'*"4!

EVERYTHING!

It means every thing to me and it makes me more aware of m y relationship with m y Creator every day.

Spirituality is how we interact with the higher Being in our lives. It comes down to how you define your-

I am trying to be a WALKING SPIRIT on Earth.

A big o ne. My spirituality keeps me strong and courageous in times of struggle.

It helps me

keep things in

perspective.

The same role as Frosted Flakes® and Frito Lays® play in my life.

Determines the way I treat myself and others.

It keeps me sane, keeps my head straight

and my inside feelings warm.

Spirituality gives me unconditional hope.

Spirituality is my aura.

In January, we posted this question on the West Mall to capture the views of students, faculty, staff and passer-bys on the UT campus regarding

what role spirituality plays in their life. The responses we received were a diverse collection of thoughts, opinions, and epiphanies. Here’s a look...

I think a simple appreciation of all the ways life is beautiful

lends a greater spirituality to my outlook on things.

Spirituality cannot be defined. It’s what you do that makes you spiritual.

The guide but

not the answer.

M o r e t h a n I’ d l ik e.

The power of

irfan rules!

!"#$%&'#()*)+,&-+.'*&/+.)0)(1.&1,'&*/)$)021.&3#)4-05&

Spirituality is only reality in disguise.

(Reality is imagined)!

12


Muslims being Muslim

Longhorn style

They take the Forty Acres to class…

Eat at the Union, Live at the PCL and Bleed O range...

They pull the all-nighters, pass exams, fall asleep in class, write

papers, make deadlines, register late…

and still manage to wake up for prayer at dawn.

Muslims. Students. Longhorns.

AHMED DARRAT

Major: Civil Engineering

Country of O rigin: Libya

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y heather lefkof by heather lefkof

15

A Day as a Muslim

While visiting the Mosque for my ritual analysis paper, I became

increasingly curious about the actual daily experiences a

Muslim endures. During my second time at the Mosque, I

found myself being watched by another observer as though I

was a genuine Muslim. This unexpected incident caused me to

wonder what it would be like to have the entire world view me

with the same curious manner as this onlooker. An idea

sparked in me to experience a day dressed as a Muslim and to

withstand reactions from people around me just as Muslims do

on a daily basis.

I began my day as usual, hitting the snooze button too many

times to count and rolling out of bed into a hot shower. I had

looked up the technical times (waqt) for the five daily prayers

and intended to partake in them. I found it more difficult than I

thought it would be to pray at the appropriate times. When I

finally did get a chance to stop everything I was doing and completely

devote that time to God, I appreciated the feelings that

the Muslim I interviewed had been expressing. One of the Muslim

girls I met told me that her prayers throughout the day

helped her to reconnect with Allah (God) and energized her for

life’s demands. We lead incredibly busy and confusing lives and

in those few moments, I was able to appreciate life instead of

rushing through it. This quiet, introspective moment was very

refreshing and I realized that with practice, it would become

easier to devote the time to these practices. I even believe that

the prayers would become something I look forward to in order

to break up stressful days and contemplate life.

In addition to the five daily prayers, I further transformed

myself into a Muslim by donning the hijab, or a headscarf that

covered my hair. My first experience with people’s reactions

came from my own suitemate. I stepped out of my bedroom to

be faced with her stare and gaping mouth. After explaining my

project to her and my roommate and the reason behind the

veil, I bravely stepped out to the world with my new appearance.

The first reactions I observed were mostly from my

friends around the dorm. Strange expressions of confusion

stretched across their faces as they saw my new “style.” I

waved to some people like normal and most of them returned

the wave after recovering from their bewilderment. To others

I took the time to explain the project, if they seemed especially

puzzled. One of my friends jokingly asked why I was dressed

like a “babushka.” I responded by saying the Russian veil is not

quite the same as a Muslim hijab. This may have confused him

further since he knows that I’m Jewish.

As I walked to class, I noticed a few people look in my direction

and then quickly advert their eyes seemingly to not offend

or give me the wrong look. I walked into Mezes Hall and took

my normal route over to the computer lab. Once inside, I immediately

recognized one of my extremely devout Jewish

friends working vigorously on the corner computer. After walking

directly in front of his computer and waiting a few seconds, I

finally caught his attention since he obviously did not recognize

me. The look of complete bewilderment that overtook his face

was the most extreme reaction I received all day...

Through all of the day’s events and people’s reactions, I realized

one of the biggest factors influencing my experience was

my own mind set. I found myself wondering how people were

going to react or what they were thinking when they saw me.

Maybe their glances were completely normal, but since I

donned the hijab, I couldn’t help but think their looks were

strange. In one way, it was nice not to have to worry about

fixing my hair or making sure it looked good, but I also felt selfconscious

that I did not look very good with just my face peeking

through the veil. I overcame most of that insecurity, and

found the best benefit of all to wearing the hijab: all of my conversations

and interactions were based completely on my personality

and not on my physical attractiveness.

Obviously my experience differed greatly from that of a true

Muslim, but it did help me appreciate much of what they endure

on a daily basis. Never knowing if someone is staring at you

out of question or out of hate; in fact, purely just staring is

tough to undergo. With all of the negative stereotypes placed

on Muslims, especially in America, it’s difficult to discern who is

going to be friendly and who has preconceived animosity towards

Muslims. This experience not only allowed me to better

understand the hurdles in a Muslim’s life, but it made me want

to free all American’s from judgment based on ridiculous generalizations.

Note: This article is a condensed version of an essay that was written

for Dr. Lester Kurtz’s Intro to the Study of Religions course in fall 2005.

The piece was submitted by the author for publication in the Muslim

Voices Magazine.

about the author

Heather is a Freshman in the College of Liberal Arts at UT, and plans to pursue a

degree in Psychology. Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Heather enjoys traveling,

snowboarding, and watching the Food Network. She is still figuring out what to do with

her future and hopes to help others do the same one day.

muslim voices

a literary magazine


Awkward moments, Odd explanations

On embracing Muslim practices and customs

in a non non-Muslim non Muslim society

by musarrat yusufali yusufali

musarrat by

Scarf pulled down, standing at the bathroom sink with no

socks or shoes, splashing water on my arms and wiping my feet.

This was the scene my manager saw one of my very first days at

work! I was in the ladies bathroom performing ablution, the

rituals of washing before one goes to pray. However, in this

“caught red-handed” moment, I could only think to myself,

‘how exactly do I explain that wiping my feet is very symbolic

and very spiritual when all I'm thinking is - oh boy, why couldn't

they have made single stall bathrooms!’

Having seen me several times at various phases of the

ablution, my co-workers have now come to understand that

around mid-day that I will be in the bathroom performing

rituals of washing the face, hands, and feet, which is a form of

purifying oneself before a servant stands in front of his/her Lord

to pray. Wudhu, or ablution, is also a way to bring focus and

allows a servant of God to prepare for the daily prayer, which is

a form of conversation with your Creator.

Several Muslim customs and religious practices pose a

challenge as they are often not known and misunderstood in

western cultures. For example, have you ever extended your

hand when you meet a person of the opposite gender but they

have declined to shake hands with you? This is because

Muslims are not supposed to have any physical contact with

persons of the opposite sex. Going through several job

interview processes and working in the corporate world can be

very daunting for Muslims, as there are many occasions where a

handshake is expected. Muslims not wanting to hurt the

feelings of the interviewer or colleague and not wanting to

show disrespect, are sometimes hesitant to refuse to shake

hands with the opposite gender. I've had to face many such

awkward situations, where I've had to decline shaking hands of

the opposite gender and have had to explain myself. Physical

contact between opposite gender is shunned upon and is not

permitted as such things between non-married persons may

lead to extra-marital relationships. It is only through marriage

or blood relation that two persons of the opposite gender can

have any physical contact with each other.

Another awkward moment I have is when I’m standing in the

Musarrat is a UT alumna. She graduated in 2003 with a B.A. in Computer

Science. Musarrat currently works at IBM as a programmer, but will begin her graduate

studies in Social Work in Fall 2006. Musarrat enjoys reading to her nephew, traveling,

and getting to know people of different backgrounds.

16

April 2006 ! Issue 1

bathroom and I first dig in my purse to get my collapsible

bottle, which by the way has ‘Xtreme Faith’ printed on it, and

fill it up with water and walk into the restroom stall! I’m sure

there are a lot of heads turning at this point. This is not

experienced in places such as United Arab Emirates or India

because the culture is accustomed to using water as a means to

purify themselves after having used the restroom, in fact they

already have water available in the stalls, so don’t be surprised

to see a water cup if you ever travel to the east! As a Muslim,

taking the bottle with me is not only a cultural habit, but is also

a religious requirement and obligation upon me to cleanse

myself with water at all times.

With all these intricacies involved in the daily life of a Muslim,

one may ask in this modern day and age, is it really necessary to

avoid shaking hands with the opposite gender or to be

meticulous in the choice of food at restaurants? Muslims are

not generally vegetarians, but rather they are “certified meat

eaters. By that I mean the meat must be slaughtered with

saying “In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful” and

also Muslims cannot eat pork, reptiles and certain types of

seafood, including catfish. But in today’s world where we are

inundated with responsibilities and worries about getting an

education, finding a job, participating in communities, is it really

necessary to worry about minute details as what foods to eat?

A simple answer to all these questions is submission. When I

choose to refuse to shake hands with a male it’s not because I

fear it may lead to an ‘extra marital’ affair, but because I choose

to submit to my Lord completely. And by the way, I’m very

proud of my ‘Xtreme Faith’ bottle. Taking a bottle to the

bathroom, abstaining from certain foods, standing for prayer

may all seem like minute burdens on our changing lives, but in

actuality, it’s a sense of freedom: freedom from the reigns of

this material world, and a realization that no one but God

deserves our complete submission.

about the author


Muslims on the Forefront

T

his summer I was awoken; awoken to a world where I

am a key participant, where my voice is not only heard

but demanded. This transformation in the notion of my

own existence and role in the American government took place

in the Muslim Public Service Network (MPSN) summer

program called Muslim Student Network (MSN). As a group of

students and young professionals, we took control of our own

identity by uniting together to learn about the American

political process and what issues are facing the Muslim

American diaspora. Joined together we discovered the

problems facing our community and how we can affect change

by involving ourselves, in order to make sure there are people

in the US government who hold our interests.

This summer I forced myself to live in a house in Silver

Spring, Maryland with Muslim students from a wide spectrum of

ethnic, educational, occupational and religious backgrounds.

From now on I can no longer deny the scope and

reach of the Muslim American diaspora. Looking at America’s

future through the visionary rims I have taken away from my

summer experience, I see an unprecedented hope, desire,

wealth of resources and, above all, potential in Muslim

American youth.

Specifically, we were interns working in the DC area and

living together in a house. I interned at the State Department’s

Office of Science & Technology Cooperation. I was confronted

with a world of policy focused on promoting the image of the

US abroad through grants and proposals supporting projects

aimed at helping foreign nations build a culture of democracy.

I actually found it quite interesting that out of all the other

interns, in the MSN program and in the office at the State

17

Department, I was the only natural sciences major. Having

meetings with NASA and other scientists, I came to realize it is

becoming more important for people in the natural sciences to

get involved in policy issues to becoming an interface that is

able to communicate both in scientific and policy terminology.

As for the MSN program, it was quite different being around

Mona Abdel-Halim is a Biochemistry Senior at UT. She is also

gaining certification in Public Policy and Social Inequality.

Photos courtesy of Mona Abdel-Halim

muslim voices

a literary magazine


Muslims wanting to go into fields related to the public sector.

For most first generation Americans and immigrants, the norm

is to pursue prestigious and profitable fields such as medicine,

engineering and pharmacy. But the mere fact that it was the

first year never to have anyone in the program pursuing medical

school was a strong indicator that times are changing – there is

a growing integration and progression of Muslims into American

society.

Founded in 1994 by the late Maghroob Qureishi, the Muslim

Student Network was a hope for integrating Muslim American

youth into American policy-making by supporting and

encouraging us to intern at various government agencies while

providing supplemental education on issues facing Muslim

Americans, such as the compatibility of Islamic and American

banking and laws, immigration trends, and the integration of

Muslims in American media and politics.

During the span of eight weeks I attended classes on these

issues with scholars from America’s Muslim community. We

also had the privilege to visit public service outlets for Muslim

Americans at the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the

Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Combining the

lectures with actually witnessing Muslim Americans taking part

in the American democratic process was a way of instilling us

with the notion that people are already out there working for

us and representing us. The largest purpose and aspect of the

MSN summer program is, indeed, creating a network of Muslim

Americans to help younger generations feel a sense of

empowerment and enfranchisement.

The MSN program inspired me to involve myself and others

in DC and UT in political and social activism. During the last

couple of weeks of my stay in DC, the horrific London

bombings occurred. This was something that disturbed all of

us, as we were shocked that British-born citizens could do

something so outrageously cruel to their fellow countrymen

under the adulterated banner of Islam. This fostered many

discussions on how and why Muslim youth were following

radical fundamentalists leading them to commit suicide

bombings. Instead of getting bogged down in figuring out how

these events happened, we realized the responsibility was now

on us to prevent future attacks from happening.

April 2006 ! Issue 1

!"#$%&$'(&')!*+$!$,$%)$'($!-.!/012&,!!

3,$%&(4'!#-2&*&(42!4(*&5&1,!&'!641+&')*-'!7898!

by mona abdel–halim by mona adbel-halim

As Muslim youth we are the ones who are looked to as the

future of our communities, and it is our duty to make sure we

possess and represent the moderate majority views of Muslim

Americans. Without efforts towards this we are allowing for

people who do not represent or know us to control the

rhetoric of the media for us. This has especially become

something I feel passionately about, as an American Muslim with

liberal views strongly contrasting from suicide bombers’ views

who claim to be Muslim, and who I and many others refuse to

identify as associated with Islam.

This was done by interacting with people who had

participated in the program in past years and are now successful

in various fields such as the Foreign Service, lawyers, workers in

non-profit, and lobbyists. For example, interning in the State

Department, I hardly ever saw anyone who was not Caucasian

in any post working for the Foreign Service, which was very

disheartening. But then I became good friends with a former

MSN participant who is now a Foreign Service officer. She was

able to share her experiences with me and let me know of

difficulties as well as successes she has faced. This, coupled

with lectures about diversity in the State Department by

Foreign Service officers, has now encouraged me to take the

Foreign Service’s exam next year and pursue a career in Foreign

Service.

I have also gotten to know a great group of self-motivated

Muslim American youth leaders; and with myself, we have

founded an organization called the Muslim American Project

(MAP). We seek to mobilize and motivate Muslim American

youth to become civically involved in their communities, to

analyze and solidify their identity, and to promote religious

moderation.

Although this organization is concerned with efforts at the

national level, it has also given me ideas and resources to start

an organization at the local, UT level. This new sense of how

easy it is to start a new organization or movement pushed me

to open up a chapter of the Islamic Alliance for Justice at UT in

this past fall (2005). There are only two other chapters: at

George Washington University and Cornell University; both

were started by a colleague of mine from MAP.

I just hope that with my coursework and preparations for

graduate studies I have the drive and time to follow through

with the visions set forth in DC this summer.

Note: In this article the author uses the word 'diaspora' in reference to the

dispersion of Muslims who are American citizens living throughout the

United States. Thus, it does not allude to Muslims as constitutively originating

from a country or region outside of the United States of America.

18


ISLAM from the INSIDE

19

by aun ali by aun ali

I

slam is often understood by its observers through its

practice in different regions of the world. The particular

form of this practice, however, varies with cultural

and historical experiences of each region. These variations

are visible in the expressions of religious devotion,

the emphasis of certain Islamic teachings over others, and

the role of religion in different societies, which at times

present strikingly contradictory perceptions of Islam.

A useful approach to understand Islam without the attached

cultural and historical baggage is to examine it

from its original sources. I would like to share some thematic

points from the Quran here on human beings’ relationship

with God, their role in this world, and their interaction

with their fellows, with the hope that it will help

us appreciate Islam in its true light. To illuminate these

points, I have primarily used the text from within the

Quran, which is the most original and authentic source of

Islamic teachings agreed upon by all Muslims.

In the beginning

Let’s begin with the story of creation in the Quran, which

is rich with insightful metaphors and profound meanings.

Before the creation of Adam and Eve, God addresses all

the angles, “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” The angels

said, “Do you want to create a vindictive and mischievous

creature to commit crime and bloodshed on earth,

while we pray and glorify you?” But God said, “I know

something you know not” (Quran 02:30). Note the trust

endowed on humankind in Islam. From their very creation,

Human beings were meant to go to earth, not as

condemned sinners, but as God’s chosen representatives!

The Quran further tells us that humans are made of

earth’s basest materials “clay” and “water”. But, at the

same time they are possessors of “His Spirit” (32:7-9;

06:02; 21:30; 15:29; 38:72). The subtle reference to the

material and spiritual composition is insightful in understanding

human inclinations and desires.

Perhaps it was the material aspect that concerned the

angels when they showed their apprehension about possible

human conduct on earth. But humans were not meant

to be merely material beings. They were to be the pos-

sessors and representatives of Divine attributes on earth

including His knowledge, His creativity, His wisdom, His

compassion, and His justice. Furthermore, material energies

and desires in human beings have the potential to be

channeled towards constructive ends.

With these talents and potentials, humankind has composed

complex languages, built social relationships, and

advanced rich cultures over the course of history. What

more could add to human nobility, when the Quran describes

the accomplishments of God’s vicegerent as signs

of His Creativity and Magnificence!

“And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and

the earth, and the variations in your languages and your

colors: verily in that are Signs for those who

know” (30:22).

“O mankind! We created you from a male and a female,

and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know

each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of

Allah is the most righteous of you. Surely, Allah is Knowing,

Aware” (49:13, also see 25:54).

The world is the book of God Almighty

Like human intellectual capacity and creative work, the

work of nature is also an expression of His sagacity and

wisdom. While referring to the laws governing the nature

and universe, the Quran tells us that God created the

universe with measure and balance (54:49; 35:13; 06:73),

and the sun, the moon, the mountains, the trees are all

“His Signs” that by following their natural course “bow

down in worship” to God (55:03-08; 41:39; 22:18; 41:11;

84:01-05). In Verse 22:05, the Quran uses technical terminology

to illuminate the development of an embryo with

terms like “sperm”, “clot”, and “morsel of flesh.” Also

mentioned in the same verse is the natural effect of rain in

stirring life from barren earth. However, the verse ultimately

ties the scientific explanation of both formations of

life to Divine Purpose and Creation.

In the realistic outlook that the Quran presents, the natural

laws, their sustenance, and the gradual developments

in the universe are all Signs of God, as seen in verse

02:164:

“Most surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth

and the alternation of the night and the day, and the ships

that run in the sea with that which profits men, and the

muslim voices

a literary magazine


water that God sends down from the cloud, then gives

life with it to the earth after its death and spreads in it all

(kinds of) animals, and the changing of the winds and the

clouds made subservient between the heaven and the

earth, there are signs for those who understand.”

Science, thus, complements faith in Islam. The universe is

governed by a system of causes and laws and human free

will lies in the utilization of these laws. Indeed, it is with

the exercise of this free will that humankind has developed

new technologies and advanced civilizations.

Islam proactively encourages its followers to advance in

knowledge and science. The Prophet Mohammad (peace

be upon him) has said, “The search of knowledge is a duty

on every Muslim, male or female.”

The idea of human free will is further supported by the

Islamic belief in the Day of Judgment (Qayamat). Human

beings come to this world without any burden of original

sin or predestination. Their choices in this world shape

their fate in the hereafter (76:1-3; 91:1-10).

On that day, they will be rewarded or punished on the

basis of choices they made in the world (02:286; 76:03).

Without such choice of action, an individual’s accountability

on the Day of Judgment would be against God’s justice.

But the Quran explicitly declares that “Allah does

not do injustice to the weight of an atom” (04:40; also see

03:108; 16:90; 16:111).

“If any do deeds of righteousness,- be they male or female

- and have faith, they will enter Heaven, and not the least

injustice will be done to them” (04:124).

Society and history

With the same realistic logic and affirmation of human

free will, the Quran explains injustice and corruption in

the world as a consequence of individual and collective

choices and actions of people in the present and the past

(10:44; 03:117; 03:137; 09:70). The Quran makes the followers

responsible for the betterment of their society,

which is part of their test in this world; after all, “God

does not change the conditions of a people until they

change themselves” (13:11 and 08:53; also see 06:34;

17:77; 33:62 where similar decrees for social change and

trends of history are described as “His Words” and “His

Sunnat” and are fundamentally tied to human actions and

their consequences).

April 2006 ! Issue 1

Thus, rather than presenting a fatalistic and unconcerned

attitude toward this world and its miseries, Islam exhorts

its followers to actively strive toward eradicating the social

ills and injustices in society (09:71; 02:148; 04:135).

The Islamic society in the Quran is based on respect, harmony,

justice, and responsibility. The Quran abhors disrespect

and injustice in all social relationships, be they

among family members, between opposite genders, or

among different ethnic and national groups (04:135; 09:71;

30:21; 02:148; 49:09). According to the Quran, killing one

innocent life is like killing the whole of humanity, and saving

one human life is like saving the whole of humanity

(05:32).

The Quran recognizes the diversity among human languages

and cultures; however, it is against the use of such

an identity for the assertion of false superiority by one

group over another. In the Quranic outlook, human nobility

lies is one’s piety, knowledge, and struggle in God’s

way (30:22; 49:13; 2:31-34; 39:09; 16:110; 61:11).

In the end

From the above discussion, we see that Islam encompasses

the ideals of human freedom and nobility. It points

to the realities of His Signs, His Words, and His Sunnat in

nature and history. It sets noble values and goals for humanity.

And, it carries the ultimate Truth about the Creator

of everything (03:83; 30:30).

The word “Islam” means submission, and the first condition

of being a Muslim is to submit to these ideals and

truths. Such is the realization expressed in the words of

Imam Ali when he said, “My Lord! I did not worship you

for fear of Hell nor for a desire of Paradise. Rather I

found you worthy of worship.”

The ultimate drive behind all human struggles in this

world is to gain God’s Favor and to connect with Him,

the Eternal (02:285; 84:06; 02:46: 29:2-5; 76:2-3; 35:18).

After that connection, there is no end!

“Surely, to Allah we belong, and to Him is our return”

(02:156).

Many works were consulted in the preparation of this article, most notably

Murtaza Mutahhari’s “Fundamentals of Islamic Thought: God, Man, and the

Universe.” (Berkeley: Mizan Press, 1985). This article has been adopted

from a larger working paper. Aun Ali, the author of this article, is a graduate

student studying Sociology at UT, Austin. He can be reached at

aunali@gmail.com.

20


&'('')*'('+,*)-.

!"#$%

Fast-a-thon 2005

Hungry fasters get in line for food

Human Rights Film & Art Festival

Along with several other campus organizations IAJ &

MSA co-sponsored the Film Festival to raise awareness

about human rights globally and domestically. The event

comprised of film screenings followed by discussion

with a panel of speakers.

21

Walking along West Mall on a typical school day, you find yourself bombarded by students and tables

promoting their campaigns, organizations, and causes. What is intriguing about all this, however, is the

growing presence of Muslims behind these tables. With numerous active Muslim student organizations at

UT, Muslims are making a significant contribution to the University’s diversity. A look into these organizations

reveals that Muslim students are not just representing Islam and providing a sense of community,

but also benefiting the University at large. The following is a short introduction about each of the Islamic

students organization and some of their activities this past year. Photos (above right) courtesy of paksa.org & SIA

IAJ

UT-MSA in a nationwide campaign to raise

awareness about hunger and poverty invited all

students to fast for one day during the holy month

of Ramadhan. For each person that fasts, local

businesses donated money to the Capital Area

MSA

MSA

Food Bank. The event also sough to display

Ramadhan’s universal values. This past December,

more than 2,200 members of the UT community

participated in the event.

UT students learn more about Fast-a-thon

Third Annual Interfaith

Fast Breaking Dinner

Austin’s mayor, Will Wynn, presented

IDSA with a Proclamation celebrating

Ramadan

IDSA

during the third annual interfaith

fast breaking dinner. IDSA also holds an

image courtesy of http://studentorgs.utexas.edu/amnesty

annual Tolerance Week, a week long series

of conferences, concerts, and art displays

focused on exhibiting Muslim diversity.

image courtesy of http://studentorgs.utexas.edu/idsa

‘67 Muslim Students’

Association (MSA) ‘01

Islamic Dialogue Student

‘03

Islamic Dawah

Association (IDSA) Foundation (IDF)

MSA, the largest Muslim organization on IDSA focuses on improving relations be- IDF was founded to promote Islamic

campus, comprises of many students from tween Muslims and followers of other teachings and values, deliver the mono-

all backgrounds. The goal for the organiza- faiths. By bridging the dialogue gap, IDSA theistic message of Islam based upon the

tion is to provide a sense of community, hopes to promote the true values of Islam Qur'an and Sunnah of Prophet Muham-

friendship, and knowledge in an environ- including love, tolerance, and mercy. The mad as understood by the companions of

ment based on Islamic values. The organi- organization hosts numerous outreach the Prophet, and clarify misconceptions

zation provides avenues for students to events, speeches, and art performances to about Islam. IDF was awarded the 2003

get involved in various ways, educational promote the necessary dialogue between Forty Acres Fest award for the best new

and social. the university’s different religions. organization.

muslim voices

a literary magazine


A Call for Muslim Solidarity

Following the bombing of the Askariya Mosque in Samaraa, Iraq, and the eruption of

violence that followed the attack, several Muslim-based student organizations held a sitin

on

MSA

March 3, 2006 to denounce the loss

SIA

of human lives and the sacrilege

PSA

of holy sites

across Iraq and other countries. The Muslim community at the University of Texas and

from all around Austin came together to send a resounding message of unity and peace

to the Iraqi people and the world. The event was organized by the Society for Islamic

Awareness, the Muslim Student’s Association, and the Pakistani Students’ Association.

The program began with prayers, led by Sheikh Mohammed-Umer Esmail.

The Danish Cartoons &

Freedom of Speech in Islam

SIA held a lecture-talk on the Danish

cartoon controversy in March. Led by

Molana Sulayman Hassan, the discussion

focused on the caricatures that

had depicted Islam and its personali-

SIA

ties in a demeaning manner, the con-

text behind the angry protests seen

around the world, Islam’s take on

freedom of speech, and the place

spirituality should have in our society.!

Anam Azeem signs

an oath of solidarity

‘05

Society for Islamic

Awareness (SIA) ‘05

Islamic Alliance For

Justice (IAJ)

SIA was formed to promote a better UT-Austin IAJ encourages American

awareness of Islam through the combined Muslim students to participate in the

teachings of the Quran and the Ahlul community through active involvement at

Bayt (the Household of the Prophet). the local and national levels in order to

Through academic and social activities build a strong Muslim–American identity.

and events, SIA facilitates the exchange of Since its founding in Fall 2005, IAJ has

ideas and promotes dialogue on social, raised over $900 for the Islamic Relief’s

political, and historical issues surrounding Orphan Sponsorship Drive. IAJ also held

Islam and Muslims today.

a donation drive for hurricane victims.

April 2006 ! Issue 1

SETTING UP: Before the event, student organizers

were busy setting up the prayer mats and

projectors for the evening’s sit-in.

Understanding Muslim Creed

IDF holds classes every Tuesday

on the fundamental beliefs of Islam,

covering the six articles of faith.

The classes are specifically de-

IDF

signed for non-Muslim interested

in learning about Islam. In March,

IDF held a lecture on “The Living

Miracle: the Holy Quran.”

image courtesy of http://studentorgs.utexas.edu/islam/

by hammad rizvi rizvi

hammad by

Hammad is a student of

International Business at UT.

He enjoys filming, photography,

random adverntures and the great

outdoors. Many of Hammad’s

photographs are featured in this

magazine.

22


Teach thy tongue to tell the Truth

by fatima kazmi by fatima kazmi

The path of truth is long and difficult. Searching for it may

perhaps come to the price of a pearl, but it is divine bliss for

the one who seeks it. Truth accords with reality, and its discovery

serves the rationale. The significance of truth can be understood

from the Holy Quran, where Allah (SWT) says, “And do

not mix up the truth with the falsehood, nor hide the truth

while you know it” (2:42). This verse indicates that one should

adhere to veracity, and be with those who align themselves

with truth. Truth is the essence of Islam and fortifies the values

emphasized in the Holy Quran. The quest for truth is a timeless

journey, traveled by the ancients before us in unknown lands

and untold times. Today, it is as much a quest as it was before.

As we seek to find for ourselves the ‘true path’ and the just

course of action, there are those before us from whom we gain

an example of what struggles lie in the quest for truth and how

these struggles serve to develop us as ethical human beings. The

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was sent to this world as the perfect

example of all that Allah (SWT) has found noble in a human

being. He was a man of truth and fidelity; his scrupulous speech

and beliefs conformed to his deeds. He declared the true concept

of God despite all the opposition he encountered from the

people of Mecca. He stood up for this truth with very few supporters

by his side and withstood harsh conditions at every

turn. As a recipient of the Divine Word, the Prophet (SAW)

expressed the truth of the reality and intensity of the individual

human relationship with Allah (SWT). He never turned away

from the truth. He proved by his living example that he was the

most truthful and honest person of his age. Through him,

“truth has come and falsehood perished: verily falsehood is

bound to vanish” (17:81).

Approximately 48 years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad

(SAW), his beloved grandson Hussain (AS) carried

forward the Prophet’s (SAW) message of truth and justice

through his revolt against the tyrannical regime of Yazid. Yazid,

who had demanded allegiance from Hussain (AS), was well

known for his impiety and denial of the very essence Islam. He

exploited many Islamic rulings, called Islam a “play” staged by

the Prophet’s (SAW) tribe,! and persecuted those who dared

to speak against him. He restricted freedom to such an extent

that a mere whisper against his false actions meant a permanent

silence. Hussain (AS) clearly stated his purpose of opposition

against Yazid when he proclaimed “Yazid is a sinful person, a

drunkard, the killer of innocent people and one who openly

23

Defining the human struggle for truth through

the ultimate sacrifices of two historical figures in Islam

indulges in sinful acts. A person like me can never pledge allegiance

to a person like him.” Thus Hussain’s statement was not

based on a personal issue, but rather stood as a universal lesson

of truth for every era and every place. It is a direction for

every truth-seeker and informs the wrongdoer that a truth

seeker will never yield to falsehood. 2 While Yazid tried forcing

Hussain (AS) to accept his monarchy, the grandson of the

Prophet (SAW) sacrificed his totality but did not bow down

against a vicious ruler. He, along with his children, relatives and

friends devoted themselves to the highest principle of veracity,

staying hungry and thirsty for some days and ultimately sacrificing

all they had, but never once did they give up on their mission.

One is left with no choice, but to salute the personality of

Imam Hussain (AS) for standing up, despite being in minority

and knowing what he was to expect from the Yazid’s army. In

his quest for the truth against falsehood, Hussain was martyred

by Yazid and the legions of people who followed is despotic

rule.

In assessing Hussain (AS)’s struggle for truth and justice,

Thomas Carlyle, a renowned Scottish writer says, “The best

lesson which we get from the tragedy of Karbala is that Husain

and his companions were rigid believers in God. They illustrated

that the numerical superiority does not count when it

comes to the truth and the falsehood. The victory of Husain,

despite his minority, marvels me!”

Fourteen centuries since Hussain’s (AS) historical sacrifice in

Karbala, we find that his cause and message is still alive today in

the constant struggles of individuals who choose the difficult

and often thorny path of truth verses falsehood and injustice. It

is through the struggles of the Prophet (SAW) and his grandson

Hussain (AS) that we come to realize the deeply human struggle

for truth that has spanned centuries. Some see in the Prophet

(SAW) and his grandson Hussain (AS) the true exemplars of

Islam’s message while others recognize them for their historical

roles as seekers of universal truth and justice. Regardless of

which view one holds, the legacies of these two individuals provides

for each seeker of truth unrivaled wisdom, resolute

strength and at its centermost, a goal suitable for humanity in

each and every era.

Notes:

(SWT) stands for a phrase in Arabic used only for God that means “praised and

exalted is He”

(SAW) stands for a phrase in Arabic that means “peace and blessings be upon

him (Mohammad) and his household”

(AS) stands for a phrase in Arabic that means “peace be upon him”

Sources:

1. Ibn Jarir: Tarikhu'l Umam wa'l Muluk, vol.13, p.2174.

2. Ab! Mu"ammad Zaynu’l

about the author

Fatima is pursuing a dual major in Engineering and Applied Mathematics. Raised in Saudi Arabia, she

moved to the United States five years ago and hopes to attend graduate school to study Engineering

Mathematics and Statistics in the near future.

muslim voices

a literary magazine


pg. 2

pg. 8

pg. 11

pgs.

21-22

Photo of Sheikh Umer Esmail leading prayers (2nd

row on top, 2nd photo from the left): courtesy of

Daily Texan.

Flag Image: courtesy of www.pbs.org. Map Image:

courtesy of www.lib.utexas.edu.

Saudi Skyline photo: courtesy of Hammad Rizvi.

All other images on page: courtesy of Chris Reyes.

pgs. 2, 5-6, & 19-20

pgs. 3 & 8

muslim voices

Photo credits

Photo of Women in Middle East & masjid in Najaf,

Iraq: courtesy of www. Islamfrominside.com.

Special thanks to Irshaad Hussain for allowing us

to use these images. Photo of girls praying:

courtesy of www.studentorgs.utexas.edu/msa

Photos of Fast-a-Thon: courtesy of Zahra Yusufali.

Photos of Solidarity Event: courtesy of Musarrat

Yusufali & Samaneh Pourali. Photo of Molana

Sulayman Hassan: courtesy of Samaneh Pourali.

Background Images

Background photos by

Hammad Rizvi

Background photos of Masjid (3) and Sunset

(8): courtesy of Sabrina & Farhana Kassamali

pgs. 10 & 27 Background photos by Azhar Sheraze

T outounchian’s A ntique O riental Rugs

Mahmoud Toutounchian (Owner)

Business: 713-526-4300

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Houston Texas 77098

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April 2006 ! Issue 1

Inspire others.

thoughts

Share your experiences.

articles

Express your views.

Contribute to the

Muslim Voices Magazine

Reminder:

Share

your Voice

artwork

viewpoints

All UT students, faculty and

alumni may submit their work

for publication in the next issue

of Muslim Voices.

For more information on

guidelines and how and where

to submit your work, visit us at

www.siawareness.org

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