An intro to Islam

Dave Yochum

Three Muslim students explain importance of their religion

Junior biology major Ayat Shendy mixes traditonal and modern attire by wearing the hijab, a religious head covering, and jeans. Shendy said she believes there is a sterotypical belief that Muslium women are stay-at-home mothers, yet in actuality, they pri

Credit: Jason Hall

Muslims believe drinking, smoking and pre-marital sex can be big mistakes when it comes to living religiously, but as Wael Al-Matar joked, “God is a big forgiver, right?”

Al-Matar, sophomore pre-dentistry major, is one of many practicing Muslims on campus who lives the life of a typical Islamic student.

Al-Matar prays multiple times throughout the day, is a firm believer in fasting and donates to the needy every year. To some students, his lifestyle could be considered substantially different from theirs. It’s also possible they could be encountering a Muslim student for the first time on campus, since less than 2 percent of Ohio’s population is comprised of Muslims.

Three Muslim students at Kent State explained how religion shapes their lives: Al-Matar, junior biology major Ayat Shendy and senior integrated life sciences major Nader Kasim.

To begin, if some are confused by the different terms “Islam” and “Muslim,” don’t be. Muslims are those who follow Islam and the prophet Muhammad. Islam originated in the city of Mecca (in present day Saudi Arabia), where Muhammad received the spoken word of God through the Angel Gabriel. Muhammad memorized God’s word, and then dictated it to scribes, who wrote the holiest book of Islam, the Quran.

“Where the Bible and Torah are used in Christianity and Judaism, we follow the Quran,” Kasim explained. “The Bible is more of a story, like a narrative, whereas the Quran tells you how to live.”

“Everything that you ever have a question about in life is in the Quran somewhere,” Shendy said. “The Quran tells you things like how to treat your parents, how to raise your kids, how to manage your money, those types of things.”

Besides living by the Quran, the framework of Muslim life is dictated by the “Five Pillars of Islam.” These include belief in the following: Fasting, daily prayer, concern for the needy, a necessary pilgrimmage to Mecca (if one can travel there) and that there is no god worthy of worship except God and that Muhammad is his messenger.

“You have to fulfill the Five Pillars, like fasting in Ramadan,” Kasim said. “Ramadan, which is going on right now, is the holiest month out of the year because the Quran was revealed to Muhammad this month.”

Accordingly, Kasim and other Muslims connect with their faith during Ramadan and fast from sunrise to sunset.

“Fasting during Ramadan teaches you how to control yourself,” Al-Matar continued. “At the end of the month you have to give a percentage of your savings to the needy. You can also give food or clothes, but you don’t let people know how much or what you give.”

Al-Matar used an excerpt of advice from the Quran to further explain the importance of charitable donations.

“Your right hand is not supposed to know about how much money you’ve given in your left,” Al-Matar said.

Although Islam is different than Christianity and Judaism, Shendy and Kasim are quick to point out that giving time or donations to charity and other Islam traditions have ties to other religions. In fact, Islam comes from the same beginnings as both Christianity and Judaism.

“Like how Christianity builds on Judaism, Islam builds on Christianity,” said Shendy. “You have all these prophets who preached the word of God and then there was this deviation from it,” the three explained together. “The Bible and Torah are legitimate and taken into consideration by Muslims; they’re all words of God. We believe in Jesus and that he is coming back to speak the word of Islam, but we don’t believe he is the son of God. The prophets are all on the same level, but Muhammad came after Jesus and was the last prophet who preached the final word. Basically everything stems from that.”

Just as Muhammad made worshipping God the most important thing in his life, Muslims tend to hold religion in high regards when it comes to everyday life.

“Religion is the number one thing in our lives; it’s what gives life its purpose,” Kasim said.

Shendy laughed when asked where religion ranks in terms of importance to her life.

“You grow up with the religion – you can’t avoid it,” she said.

Family is also important in Islam. Shendy is one of many Muslims who lives with her parents, something that is customary in Muslim cultures.

“A lot of the girls, and guys too, end up living with their parents until they get married,” both Shendy and Al-Matar said. “If you see a Muslim around here who is not living with their parents it’s usually because they live too far away from home.”

Plenty of Muslim men live at home as well, although some are not without their faults.

“Muslim guys usually all mess up before they’re married – drinking, smoking, having sex before marriage. They’re all pretty big mess-ups in Islam,” Al-Matar said.

Partying mistakes aside, Al-Matar, Shendy and Kasim just want those who don’t know a whole lot about Islam to at least get one thing clear when it comes to remembering their faith.

“We’re the religion of peace,” Al-Matar said. “In Arabic, the word Islam translates to peace.”

Contact features reporter Dave Yochum at [email protected].