SF State Muslim Association Hopes to Educate Students
MFA influences people around campus by not being just a religious organization
April 13, 2005 5:04 PM
At the end of a hall, in a corner inside of the Cesar Chavez Student Center, is a small room, barely big enough to hold a classroom of students. It is shared by two SF State organizations - the Christian Fellowship and the Muslim Student Association.
For the past 15 years, the MSA has occupied the back portion of room T-139. On this particular Wednesday two SF State students pray as they try to tune out the live music playing inside of the center on the same floor.
To Zainab Sharif, one of the students praying in the room, the music is distracting. Ideally, while praying, music should be turned off and silence is needed because according to the Islamic religion, one’s concentration should be on God. In this case, there is nothing that can be done, and Sharif said she is thankful to have a space to pray.
Most of its members agree that having the MSA on campus is greatly appreciated.
“MSA is a community on campus to unite Muslims and non-Muslims, and to educate and erase misconceptions about Islam,” said MSA President Abdul-Rahman Taleb-Agha. “The main issue is educating ourselves because some Muslims lack Islamic education.
“Our job as Muslims is to propagate and educate the people and teach the people about the absolute purity of God, the oneness of God.”
According to its members, the MSA was formed around the 1970s and has eight board members.
“We chose him for his level of knowledge of the religion, and because he is a trustful character,” said Abdolcader.
Although the organization does not have an exact number of members, it sends out informational e-mails on events, meeting schedules, and other special events to over 200 students.
“The MSA has become my family,” said Sharif.
Sharif said the MSA is an organization that is there to help the student population and the community.
“The Malcolm X event was very successful because it reached out to a larger audience,” said Taleb-Agha.
Many club members said they look forward to their annual Fast-A-Thon event during the month of Ramadan. Clubs like the MSA work with businesses to donate money for those students who are willing to fast for a day.
“People who fast with us get a chance to experience Ramadan,” said Sharif. “Ramadan is a reminder to appreciate what we have.”
Other workshops the MSA has coordinated include talks about such issues as the status of women in Islam, and a workshop titled Islamic Influence on Latin American Culture.
The MSA also offers weekly Halaqas, which translates to mean a "circle of study." Although the women can attend the men's Halaqa, a women-only Halaqa focusing on women’s issues is offered in the student center in room C-112 Tuesdays from 2-3 p.m. Once a week women get together to talk about outreach opportunities, such as helping the homeless with food drives or donating clothing.
The MSA is a nonprofit organization which primarily runs on food sales and donations.
“We try to help with a lot of needs (because) Islam is not just about helping Muslims, it’s about helping mankind,” said Sharif. “Our resources are limited because we are a student organization. Our intention is to do community service and help the community.”
Club members said they have a positive relationship with a lot of the organizations on campus such as La Raza, the General Union of Palestinian Students, the Black Student Union, and the Christian Fellowship.
“We feel the Christians are the people of the book, and respect them,” said Abdolcader. “We do sit down and exchange conversation at times, but they don’t come in the office a lot.”
“At times we may differ on issues but our goals are primarily the same - to educate the students,” said Taleb-Agha. “People who tend to dislike us are acting out of ignorance. We have to be steadfast in what we believe in.”
The MSA provides a space for Muslim students to stay in touch with their religion. Juma’ah, a special Friday prayer, is offered from 2-3 p.m. in Rosa Parks rooms A, B, and C in the student center. About 20 to 80 students can be expected to attend the prayer each Friday.
“Having a MSA is essential because it functions to facilitate Muslims, and provides a nice place for prayer,” said Mikael Santini, a 26-year-old graduate student.
“The reason why we pray is because it is a testimony of faith,” said Abdolcader. “We live such a busy lifestyle, and praying helps us to be conscious of God at all times.”
The five pillars of Islam are to pray five times a day according to the sun, to fast during the month of Ramadan from sunrise to sundown, to believe in all of Islam’s holy books, to give charity, and Haaj, which is to make a pilgrimage to Mecca.
“As a religious point of view, Islam wants the best for everybody,” said Taleb-Agha. “It is one of the largest growing religions in the country. People are accepting Islam because they are looking for a good way of life.”
In the future the MSA would like to work with other groups on campus to sponsor events. The organization would also like to have a connection with a local mosque.
“I want a firm permanent connection with a mosque, where we can use its library as a learning facility,” said Taleb-Agha. “Having a scholar to work with on a regular basis; these are the things I plan to work on as president.”
For more information about the MSA, e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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