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As-salam alaykum: Bay Path’s Muslim Student Association Hopes to Inform the Community About their Faith

The phrase at the title of this article translates to “peace be upon you,” and is the traditional greeting of Muslims around the world. In English, this most commonly might be spoken as “hello” or “good day.”

This is just one of the facts that the Diem Dispatch recently learned about the Muslim faith from Asmaa Kamara ‘16. This year she pioneered the Bay Path College branch of the Muslim Student Association, a nationwide organization which started in 1963 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Kamara said that she started the local chapter with the hopes of establishing a connection between herself and the Muslim students on the Bay Path campus. 

“I felt that there wasn’t any awareness of Islam at all,” she explained. “Even with the Muslims that were on campus, we were scattered around. We didn’t really know each other, because not everyone covers (referring to the head covering she wears known as a hijab), or does not openly talk about their faith—it was hard for us to connect. Even though there are only five of us, we can now find out what we want to do here at Bay Path and what we want to show to our community.”

Your first exposure to the MSA may have come in mid-October, when Kamara and the MSA presented a halal lunch at Blake to correspond with the religious holiday Eid al-Adha, or the Holiday of Sacrifice. This day is one of two religious holidays celebrated by Muslims around the world, the other being Eid Al-Fitr at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Students sampled delicious, traditionally Muslim foods joined with videography displaying images of Mecca and the many millions who make the hajj, or pilgrimage to the Al-Masjid Al-Haram, the Sacred Mosque. 

Inside the vast courtyard of the Mosque is the black granite structure known as the Kaaba, the most sacred spot in Islam. Wherever they are around the world, Muslims face this structure during prayers. It is stated in the Qur’an—their holy book—to be the very first structure built for the worship of Allah, the name of God in Islam. 

The word Islam can be translated to mean any of the following: surrender, acceptance, submission, or commitment. Adherents of the faith are known as Muslims. November 4, 2013 is the first day of the Islamic calendar, the first month is Muharram, and the new year is called Al-Hijra, to honor the prophet Muhammad as he traveled from Mecca to Medina in the year 622 CE. Islamic years are calculated after this event, and rather than “CE” for Common Era, the Islamic calendar uses “AH” referring to After Hijira. 

On the first day of Muharram, Kamara set up a table in the Blake foyer with information for anyone who wished to know more about her religion. A poster board was set up for people to write down their “Islamic New Year Resolutions,” which means questions about the faith that Kamara and the others in the MSA will respond to in the coming days and months. This has been a small bit of information that is just the beginning of what she hopes will be a much larger exploration of Islam for the Bay Path community. 

For Kamara, her hope is to further discuss the misconceptions that surround the faith. “Once people on campus know about it,” she explained of her experience, “they are open to knowing more. Perhaps they have never met someone who is a practicing Muslim—and they never had someone who is practicing explain some concepts to them.” She also would like to focus on the issues of women in the faith, and women’s roles in health and medicine. We can be sure to see much more of her own and the MSA’s thoughtful insights on Islam in the coming months. 

And how to respond to the greeting, As-salam alaykum? By responding, Wa ‘alaykum al-salaam: and unto you, peace.