Interfaith profile on president of Muslim Students Association, Sarah Hafiz

By Julia Ramsey || Contributing Writer

This semester, Interfaith Student Council is focusing on a different religion each week, with the goal of increasing religious literacy and highlighting the role faith plays in students’ lives. Through this project, the ISC hopes to expand students’ understanding of the religious diversity at Franklin & Marshall and provide an opportunity for students to learn about the backgrounds and practices of their fellow peers.

This week, the ISC is focusing on Islam and will be distributing flyers around campus with interesting facts about the religion! My student profile is Sarah Hafiz, president of the Muslim Students Association.

JR: How would you describe Islam to someone who’s never heard of it before?

SH: Islam describes a spiritual state of a believer. ‘Islam’ means “submission and surrender to the will of God.” Islam’s adherents are called Muslims. ‘Muslim’ means “the one who submits to God.” While Islam is not a monolith, what unites all Muslims is the belief “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.”

JR: What do you think is commonly misunderstood about your religion?

SH: That Allah is a “Muslim/Islamic god,” when, in fact, ‘Allah’ is simply the Arabic word for God–the same God Jews and Christians believe in. Case in point: Christian Arabs use the exact same word for God as Muslims do.

JR: What does being Muslim mean to you?

SH: Being Muslim to me is a central part of my identity. Since Islam is a lifestyle, it influences everything I do as a Muslim. These include my interactions with others and the way in which I view and appreciate the world around me, where I aim to uphold the legacy of the Prophets and other(s) heroes. To me, being Muslim means I always have direct access to God, such as through the five daily prayers. As a Muslim, I am relieved by knowing that God does not burden one with more than one can bear. Despite taking precautions and putting in effort from my end towards accomplishing a goal, ultimately, I place my trust in God. In the end, as a Muslim, I believe that God does what is best, even if I don’t see how in the moment.

JR: When have you experienced no one sharing your same beliefs?

SH: Growing up in East Hempfield here in Lancaster, I was always the only Muslim in school. While I was somewhat embarrassed to be different, and kind of dreaded doing my yearly Ramadan (month when Muslims fast) and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) presentations to the class, I realized over the years that a lot of people genuinely liked learning about my religion. I recognized that in order to teach others about my religion, I had to know about it myself. I definitely questioned aspects of my religion growing up–which I think is healthy and is encouraged in Islam in order to grow and develop as a Muslim. In the process of understanding my religion more, I actually became more in love with Islam. I was blessed to have parents who took my sisters and I to national and regional Islamic programs since I was a wee toddler and who sent me to Muslim youth camps, where I got to meet and form relationships with really inspiring kids from across North America. These kids were not only strong in their understanding and practice of Islam, but were high-achieving students, athletes, and community leaders–they were do-ers. I realized that I wasn’t supposed to be “Muslim” in a vacuum–only at home, once a week, or just on holidays–but rather, everyday, everywhere. My Islam needed to be integrated into my everyday life as a Muslim, and doing so wasn’t holding me back from pursuing anything in my life.

Want to get involved? Please join the Muslim Students Association (MSA) in the Steinman College Center anytime from 10a.m. to 5p.m. on Friday, February 10, for hot chocolate and cookies. During this time, the MSA will have small activities and tidbits regarding some concepts in Islam. Friday, February 10 marks the two year anniversary of when Deah Barakat, 23, Yusor, 21, and Razan Abu-Salha, 19, were murdered in their home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for being Muslim. The trio, or Our Three Winners, were community leaders and activists who embodied what it meant to be both Muslim and American. The Franklin & Marshall Muslim Students Association is hosting a Day of Light to reflect upon and honor Our Three Winners’ lives and their legacy.

Junior Julia Ramsey is a contributing writer. Her email is jramsey@fandm.edu.

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