A time for peace

Leah Mitchell

Islam, which comes from an Arabic root word meaning “peace” and “submission,” teaches that one can only find peace in life by submitting to God (Allah) in heart, soul and deed.

The evening of Nov. 14 marked the Islamic New Year as well as the first day of Muharram, a time during which the Muslim people refrain from fighting and reflect on the good that is within their culture and everyday lives.

Considering the prevalent misconception in the U.S. of Islam as a violent religion, Grand Valley State University freshman and Sunni Muslim Yousra Hamed said the holy celebration testifies to the peacefulness of the faith.

“Our religion, regardless of what the media says, is a religion of peace,” Hamed said. “Our calendar has months dedicated to peace, so how could it not be peaceful?”

Zeana Khodor, president of the GVSU Muslim Student Association, said that for both Shi’ites and Sunnis, the tenth day of Muharram, also known as the Day of Ashura, is the celebratory day on which Moses led the Israelites and escaped from Pharaoh’s wrath in Egypt. From that historical day forward, the Jewish tribes in Madina, Saudi Arabia, as well as some Christians have fasted on the tenth day to honor this exodus.

The Sunni sect keeps a prophetic tradition where followers are encouraged but not required to fast for two days, making sure one day is the Day of Ashura. Each day before, during and after are the three days on which Sunni Muslims can fast during Muharram. Some choose to fast 10 days, but whether two or 10, the act is looked upon as honorable.

Hamed said she appreciates the fasting aspect of the celebration.

“Fasting is meant to teach patience and it’s a way to think of the people that are less fortunate than you,” she said. “It’s also a time to do a little extra worshiping than you would in other times of the year. It is not all about refraining from food and water; you have to refrain from talking about people, back biting, swearing and negative actions. Even though you shouldn’t be doing this throughout the year, there is a special awareness in order to act peaceful.”

The Shi’ite sect has a perspective that concentrates on mourning for Al-Husain, the grandson of Mohammed, who was murdered on the tenth day of Muharram. The Shi’ite people have a strong connection and much sympathy for this family, which is the root of this deep mourning.

Hamed said there are different variations of how families of different countries celebrate Muharram and other Islamic holidays.

“There are a lot of misconceptions around the holiday; it just depends on what your family does,” she said. “It depends on the tradition and culture of your family and where they have come from.”
Hamed said her professors have been very accommodating to her traditions throughout her time at GVSU.

Junior Mohammed Khudhur added that the college community has always been accepting of his faith.

“Yes, it is very welcome here compared to the high school I was in,” Khudhur said. “I was the only Muslim in high school and they were not so welcoming. People tend to grow up and realize there are different cultures out there. Grand Valley is accepting as a whole, maybe because it’s a liberal campus, but being Muslim isn’t as big of a deal to people as it was before.”

To find out more about the Islamic religion, the Muslim Student Association meets every Thursday in room 1104 in the Kirkhof Center at 6 p.m. and every Friday at 3 p.m. in the basement of the Kirkhof Center for Jummah (Friday prayer).
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