With the end of this academic year I am very happy to have spent a second year with the students at UCR and to have met and bonded with new students at UCI. At both campuses office hours were held in the morning hours with a sisters’ study circle held close to the time of the afternoon prayer once a week. The office hours and study circles that I lead are specifically and only for female students, creating a comfortable environment where personal issues and sometimes uncomfortable questions can be brought up and discussed.
At UCR, in the beginning of the year, the students chose some specific topics that they wanted to learn about at times, and at times left it up to me to surprise them with interesting and beneficial topics at random. We discussed stories of companions of the Messenger, God’s blessings and protection be upon him, the concept of seeking forgiveness for sins, the importance of having good character, the true meaning of confidence, and more. Towards the middle of the year the members of study circle got very comfortable with each other and our study circle often became a discussion of sensitive topics and questions that the students may have felt uncomfortable to ask in other environments. We discussed what one should be looking for in a future spouse, how to manage balancing cultural expectations within families with the actual teachings of Islam, the struggles of living away from home, and how to stay connected to Islam after graduating from university when entering the work force without MSA to help keep them grounded. Some study circles were more serious in nature, and we discussed topics like preparing for death, while others were very informal Q & A sessions complete with microwavable macaroni and cheese or donuts. Two special events which were highlights of the year for me were a speech on blindness given by one of the blind students and a sisters’ potluck iftar (breaking of the fast) at the end of their Spring Quarter.
At UCI we started the year discussing topics specifically related to women. We discussed the topic of Feminism and then took the rest of the quarter to study the stories of the women mentioned in the Quran and took time to identify some of their amazing character traits. Throughout the rest of the year we covered a variety of different topics. Some of these topics were as follows: how do we know Islam is the correct religion?, sins of the tongue, menstruation, how menstruating women who are not fasting can strive to maintain a good level of spirituality during Ramadan, and more. I was able to join one of the MSA Qiyams and discussed the topic of repentance in a sisters’ only session.
This year students from both campuses expressed difficulty balancing their worship and school work as Ramadan fell during Spring Quarter and final exams. We discussed ways of balancing worship and schoolwork, especially during the last 10 nights of Ramadan. Some general topics discussed during office hours at both campuses included: the decision to start wearing the headscarf, dealing with a variety of family struggles, balancing school, family, and religion, marriage, what to do when interested in someone for marriage, choosing good company, gender relations in Islam, feminism, umrah tips, advice on studying Islam, sects in Islam, and more.
It is a blessing from Allah to have been given the opportunity to have been able to spend time with such a wonderful group of students and I have learned and benefited a lot from them. For the future of our Muslim community in Southern California and the world at large, it is crucial that we pay special attention to Muslim university students and college-aged youth who are often in a stage of life where they are truly exploring who they are, who they want to be, and what they believe. They deserve our special care and loving guidance, easily accessible sources of Islamic knowledge, and that we pray for their guidance and success in this life and the next.