by Sara Fadlalla
I know a lot of you are getting ready for college, which is a very exciting time! I know when I was getting ready for college just 3.5 short years ago I was worried. Let me give you some background: I was coming from a predominantly white high school with maybe 5 Muslims and by the time I was a senior there were maybe 2 other Hijabis in a school of about 1000 students. We never had a Muslim Club or youth group, and I hadn’t heard much about MSA’s either, so I didn’t know what to expect or if I’d (as I had to in high school) have to fend for myself and be that token Muslim in practically all situations. I was worried. I had a decision to make before heading out into the world of college: grow stronger in my faith, or let my surroundings define who I was or weaken my resolve in my religion. That was a decision I had to reflect on before getting to school—having that conviction from the get-go to stick to Islam and our religious moral values is what I challenge all of you to have when heading to college—consciously make the decision to use college as that challenge that will strengthen your faith inshaAllah, not weaken it. How to do that? Well, I’m glad you asked because here is a little guide of learned experiences I have gone through in college that could help all of you put the (I)slam dunk on college.
Own your differences.
- I’m a hijabi, so by default I already looked differently than the rest of the population at school, but rather than shy away from the looks or questions, I found that confidently owning my different experiences, characteristics, physical representations of faith (that Sunnah beard for the brothas), gained me a lot of respect. I never donned the hijab as a statement, but an act of worship for Allah (Swt), and in that way I have been able to utilize the hijab as a form of da’wah and constructive discussion with many who had never met a Muslim. Main takeaway, BE CONFIDENT IN YOUR DEEN, and iA Allah (swt) will give us all ease in our lives and decisions (…and classes).
Get your prayer on.
- Even though college can get very hectic remembering to pray on time will benefit you a million times over. Something I always like to keep in mind when selecting classes is when the prayers are and whether I’ll be able to pray in between classes or will have to pray during a class. I think, even with myself sometimes, we start to feel nervous about disrupting class to get up for 5 minutes to pray, or thinking it will be too much of a hassle to make Wudu and pray between classes, so we lump prayers together later in the evening. However, one of the best pieces of advice I can give you for college is to always set aside time to pray. Not only do professors completely understand and appreciate being in the loop on their students’ needs, salah is like a set study break. Using the prayers as a study break is the best motivation because seeing an end of studying in sight helps me get through any assignment I need to do. Main takeaway, PRAY ON TIME and notice the happiness it brings you in this dunya and iA reap those benefits in the afterlife as well!
Battle of the Classes.
- When choosing classes I only have a few words of advice. I already mentioned this above, but keep in mind when salah is, especially Jumah, because there are always class options that can make praying and catching Jumah each week more feasible. The next point I want to hammer in about class selection is never ever be afraid to try something new and that you may think you hate. I have taken several random courses, one of them being Introduction to Painting, and found it to be something I have grown to sincerely love (when in high school that was the class I abhorred more than all classes combined).
- Another point that took me a long time to really internalize is everyone does things at different rates and paces, and learns in entirely individual ways as well. College should be a time of self-reflection, not comparing oneself to those around you; so the more time you focus on how your neighbor may be studying will only be time lost on learning how to handle the new, vast, and oftentimes challenging information presented for yourself. Only when you start really focusing on how you learn best and seeking help to work to meet your needs will you truly find out the secret of how to succeed. :)
- Furthermore, the Prophet (S) has said, “Verily, Allah (swt) has prescribed perfection in all things…” meaning, whatever you do decide to study or whichever classes you decide to take, always put in all of your effort. Always strive for perfection in all that you do in college and in life. Lastly, ALWAYS ask questions! You can never go wrong, and maybe at the time you may feel silly or like everyone else in the class understands everything, when in reality, you are in class to learn and making sure you understand everything is exactly what you should always strive for in class. Main takeaway, put yourself in classes that challenge you to grow, that you may not know anything about, do your best, and always always always ask questions!
Keep that good character on lock.
- Having the best of character is not only the duty for each of us as Muslims and human beings, but can get you a long way in classes and college. Remembering that the Prophet (S) has praised smiling as an act of charity and he is known to have smiled almost all the time, live your life like the Prophet (S), smile always. Kindness is often overlooked in the academic sphere, but I’m going to take this opportunity to let you all know, being kind to those who drive the shuttles, teach you advanced economics, take out your dorm’s trash, and run your whole university always leads to happiness for all parties. I can definitely think of several examples where my ideal of being kind to those around me has led to benefitting me in a subtle and often surprising way, from having a special Halal entree made in the dining hall for all Muslim students, to some extra credit in class, being kind is always the simplest way to grow into an upstanding Muslim, but also to spread the happiness–you feel better when those around you likewise feel better; it works! Oh, and lastly, GO TO CLASS! Being present is legitimately 50% of the battle. Main takeaway, SMILE IT’S SUNNAH, be kind to all those around you, and GO TO CLASS.
Most of all, remember Allah (Swt) for He has promised us that if we remember Him He will remember us. And what could be better than that? :) Good luck on applications and the newest (impending) chapter of your lives! :D
Jazakum Allahu Khair,
Over and Out.