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.
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.
Confined to a Perpetual Masquerade
Finding New Meaning Through Islam
Half ‘n Half
Where I’m From
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
Teach Thy Tongue to Tell the Truth
Table of Contents
April 2006 ! Issue 1
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
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.
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.
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.”
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Certainly seems, I ought to have been raised a Christian,
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
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
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.
a literary magazine
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
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
April 2006 ! Issue 1
Saudi Arabia Skyline
26 Dec. 2005
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Spirituality is only reality in disguise.
(Reality is imagined)!
Muslims being Muslim
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.
Major: Civil Engineering
Country of O rigin: Libya
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y heather lefkof by heather lefkof
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
ISLAM from the INSIDE
by aun ali by aun ali
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
“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
“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
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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
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
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”
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
March 3, 2006 to denounce the loss
of human lives and the sacrilege
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-
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
Society for Islamic
Awareness (SIA) ‘05
Islamic Alliance For
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-
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 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
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
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
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.
(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”
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.
a literary magazine
Photo of Sheikh Umer Esmail leading prayers (2nd
row on top, 2nd photo from the left): courtesy of
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
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 photos by
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
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April 2006 ! Issue 1
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