Muslims are probably one of the easiest groups of people to identify from the way we dress, girls being more obvious than guys. As Muslims we find that there’s a lot of confusion about why we do certain things and people speculate because they’re too scared to ask in case we get offended. Contrary to what the media might tell you, 1 in 5 of us don’t sympathise with a certain group of people. In fact we’d be more than happy to tell you why we don’t eat all Haribos or why I didn’t join the Pub Crawl at the start of the year. For those too shy to question us directly, here’s a selection of questions Muslims on campus have been asked in the past.
Where do you go to pray at Imperial?
We pray five times a day wherever we can and nip out whenever we find an opportunity during labs. If there’s only ten minutes before the lecture starts it’s unlikely I’m going to trek it to the Prayer Room (in Prince’s Gardens) and make it back in time. We pretty much disappear to anywhere we can find a small, peaceful space on campus.
It also has to be clean, so along with that portable charger, a travel prayer mat can also be quite handy. This includes lecture theatres, empty rooms, secret corridors and between bookshelves. Basically anywhere that won’t cause an inconvenience to anybody else. One Islamic Society member made it her aim to pray in every building atleast once before she graduates. On Fridays (holiest day of the week), we pray in congregation in Beit wherewe even have speakers set up to deliver the sermon.
Do you shower with your scarf on?
Unfortunately we don’t have “aesthetically pleasing” waterproof hijabs yet (swimming caps don’t count) and it’s harder to shampoo with a scarf covering your hair. In all seriousness though, our hijabs are only worn in front of unrelated men. We can take them off when it’s a girls only setting or the men are close relations.
Did I just see you washing yourself in the toilets?
Before prayer we have to wash our hands, face, ears, arms and feet. So yes, you probably did see me awkwardly massaging my foot.
Mate, what is that alarm?
That would be the call to prayer. It’s the same as the one you might get woken up by on a trip to Turkey or Egypt.
Do you all speak Arabic?
Many of us learn to read and recite Qur’anic Arabic and sometimes accidentally drop phrases such as “insha Allah”, “masha Allah” and “Alhamdulillah” into standard English conversations. Force of habit. They mean “God-willing”, “God has willed it” and “Praise be to God”. We also greet other muslims with “Salaam” or “Assalaamu alaikum” or if you’ve got that extra bit of breath, “Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh”. They all mean peace be unto you and the last means “peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you”.
But no, other than that not all of us are native Arabic speakers and so for many of us, this is the most we speak. However, many non-Arabic speaking muslims learn the language to enhance their understanding of the Qur’an. Not all Arabic words have an English equivalent so it’s better to try and understand things in context.
Can you hear properly with that scarf on your head?
Sorry, could you repeat the question please?
Religion can be a sensitive topic which is why many tend to avoid asking questions. As part of our annual “Discover Islam Week”, the Islamic Society will be hosting a range of events from exhibitions, to a talk on Islam’s role in the world, to spoken word by British ex-hip hop artist, Tommy Evans. Next Wednesday (24th of February) there will also be a free, informal lunch on the ISoc and the opportunity to ask more questions that may have been at the back of your mind. Looking forward to seeing some fresh, inquisitive faces!
For more info search ‘Discover Islam Week 2016’ on Facebook.