Islam students at LUC

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This week in class we finished up the movie Malcolm X. What I found most interesting was not the movie itself, but the discussion that we had after class. In particular, it was really interesting to discuss the Nation of Islam alongside what Islam really means to the majority of Muslims. At the beginning of the movie, it seemed as though the Nation of Islam was liberating, and was simply seeking ways for the black population of America to find peace and empowerment. However, towards the end of the movie, it was interesting to note how the ways the Nation of Islam was going about instilling black power was essentially against some of the values that Islam teaches. Instead of pushing for unity, the Nation of Islam pushed for complete segregation of blacks and whites. For Malcolm, this view became more prominent after he went onto his second pilgrimage, realizing that true Muslims are united, regardless of their races.

Lastly, I just wanted to take a minute and agree with the comments that expressed how enlightening this class was. As a Muslim, I feel that I have learned many things that I was unaware of before. Furthermore, I really liked how Professor M gave us a lot of opportunities to reflect on our lives and truly make us feel like agents of change. I felt that every lesson we learned about Islam could be related to all of the students of class, regardless of which religion they identified with. To me, this was the best part of class as I always felt that I was not learning simply about the Islamic culture, but also about myself and my true values and beliefs, along new ideologies that I will surely integrate into life from hereon out. Nonetheless, thank you for a great semester, Professor M.!

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This week, we did not meet for class. However, I started to take a look at the final to get a head start. Over the course of looking over the prompts, I paid particular attention to all of the movies that we had watched in class. In particular, I really enjoyed how all of the themes in all of the movies, ranging from individual family dynamics to societal dynamics played huge roles in every plot. It was interesting to take a step back and realize that all of the movies had religion play huge roles, influencing the morality, ethics, and conduct of all individuals. In some movies we saw individuals abide strictly by their religious values and used it guide all of their actions (Malcolm X) compared to those who challenged them (Wajdja). Furthermore, observing the societal dynamics also showed some movies where some were far stricter (Wajdja) compared to others (A Separation).  All of the movies we watched showed various facets of life, societal expectations, and religious values.

Furthermore, I wanted to respond to freshlikezamzam. I also watched “What a Billion Muslims Really Think,” and too found the movie empowering to watch. A lot of time, I feel as though Islam is being portrayed poorly in Western media, further perpetuating negative views that continue to drive the wedge between non-Muslims and Muslims. Though I understand that a small group of Muslims have been responsible for a multitude of heinous crimes, it still makes no sense why it becomes the actions of all Muslims. Perhaps one day it will be more common to realize that the religion itself not to blame, the individuals themselves.

This week in class we spoke about justice. I really enjoyed this lecture, as we learned about about the variety of aspects in which Islam speaks about justice, touching all aspects of life. For me, the most important part of the lecture was learning about how justice is what is society owes – how it is the responsibility of each person to make sure that the society they live in is just and fair. Most notably, I really liked how it was mentioned that it is the responsibility of each Muslims to push for justice and fulfill this tenant to what is in their capacity. This could range from simply calling out an injustice, or pushing for what is right – basically, forbidding what is wrong. These Islamic notions put me at ease, as it is easy to get caught up in the negative implications that the media portrays regarding Islam during times of violence and terrorism in the name of the religion. This lecture helped me realize that no matter how Islam is being portrayed in the media, and how hurtful it may be to read/hear those negative comments, that at its core, Islam is a religion of peace and justice.

Furthermore, I wanted to respond to hashir1211 regarding the movie, Malcolm X. I too enjoyed the movie, especially the power rhetoric and vigor that Malcolm X encapsulated in every speech. I however was also taken aback when I found no real Quran’ic verses being used to justify the actions and push for social justice. It seemed that there was no homage to Allah, but rather Malcolm kept paying homage to “The great Elijah Muhammad” instead. This seemed strange to me as Islam is a religion of submission, in which Muslims pay homage to Allah directly, and not necessarily another figure. Though this was interesting to note, the words of Malcolm X and his mission were powerful nonetheless.

This week in class we continued to learn about the Sufi Way, which consists of a spiritual understanding and way of living in Islam, ultimately leading Muslims closer to God. In class, we touched upon a various of vices and virtues. My favorite discussion was about understanding that the heart is is home to one’s purest intentions. For example, most of our actual thoughts and feelings are nestled into our hearts. However, how we respond to these internals and instinctive intuitions depends solely on our actions. For example, the discussion of the tongue was of most interest to me. The tongue is the easiest of all actions to control. I really liked how Professor M. said, “Be vigilant – if you cannot control your tongue, what does this say about yourself?” This statement really stuck with me. Our tongue is the easiest temptation for us to control, yet it is the easiest avenue for one to spread negative thoughts and ideals. Moving forward, I will try to have more control over my tongue, bearing witness that having no control over what we express many times leads to negative and hurtful consequences not for the speaker, but for whom the negative thoughts were about.

Furthermore, I wanted to respond to mba2k16 regarding their thoughts on the tongue. I too agree that there is a connection between what one says and one does, realizing that often times our intentions are clearly highlighted even though we may not think that they are. Furthermore, the discussion of the Sufi Way, highlighting on Islamic values and beliefs, not only taught me more about Islam, but myself. I really enjoyed these discussions in class because they gave me the opportunity to take time from my days to sit down and reflect on myself, my actions, and my life. I hope to continue these exercise more frequently, as I feel that they have allowed me to recalibrate my genuine goals and feelings about my surroundings.

This week in class we touched upon a variety of problems in everyday that the way of the Sufi tries to heal and fix. My favorite part about this lecture was particularly the notion, that we must never give up, for God is merciful and that everything always has a solution. I really liked this discussion because it made me realize that no matter how hard and difficult the situations in our lives get, if we believe in something greater than us, there is always a way out. Nonetheless, it was interesting that Professor M pointed out how life itself was created in a way that is not perfect – it is normal to have adversities thrown at us. Nonetheless, if we believe that God is merciful and always has a greater purpose for us in mind, it will be easier to get by, allowing us to never reach a sense of despair, which is essentially a loss of hope.

Furthermore, I wanted to response to blackhawks2015. Being a Shia Muslim, I have been very aware of my status as a minority. It is something that I have always kept in the back of my head, as I have often been told that what me and my family believe is not the right way. However, my parents have always taught me that every Muslim, to the core, believes in one God and that the Prophet was His messenger – to simplify, my parents have never tried to impose the idea that Shia Muslims are superior or the latter. Ever since I was young, I have always been taught about the Battle of Karbala, however, it was always interesting to note how my Sunni Muslims friends had either never heard about it, or disregarded its validity. Granted it further reiterates my awareness that I belong to a minority sect, there are still a plethora of Sunni Muslims who do recognize the differences but do not let them come in the way between the two sects, often pushing for unity and cohesiveness.

This week in class, we discussed the three levels of faith, being Iman, Ihsan, and Islam. These various levels of faith were essentially a pathway for one to go from simply following the religion to actually immersing themselves into it – by becoming an individual for God and only God. For example, the primary level, Islam, was simply submission. The second level, Iman, was seeing God in all things, demonstrating a relationship and awareness for God that was not necessarily present in the Islam level. Finally, Ihsan, is the last level of faith. This level not only establishes a stronger relationship with God than what was seen in Iman, but allows for such an intense devotion to God. This level embodies perfection, excellence, and ultimately communication with God. My favorite part about this lecture was trying to take a step back and analyzing which role or level I had reached.

Furthermore, I wanted to respond to tsharma1 regarding the perception of Muslims in today’s society. Regarding the movie, Four Lions, I found one scene particularly interesting. When the cops were breaking into the home of the terrorists, it was interesting to note they had broken into the home of Omar’s brother, simply based on his religious attire and external devotion to Islam with his “topi” (hat) and beard. Omar, on the other hand, carried himself just as an American, or “moderate” Muslim would. This scene was interesting to me because I often times find it upsetting that many Muslims nowadays have to justify themselves being Muslim by adapting to the Western culture or expressing that they are “moderate”. As a Muslim, there is no level of being a moderate or devoted Muslim. Granted, in class we learned about the three levels of faith, but these levels of one’s devotion to Islam does not make one individual a moderate Muslim. If one practices their religion wholeheartedly and wants to express their devotion their Islam, that does that mean they hold extremist values. If one practices Islam, it simply means that they are Muslim. Watching the movie, I found the scene mentioned particularly compelling for this very reason, illustrating that there are those who are Muslim, who follow the religion and are guided by the fact that the religion is peaceful. These individuals are not “moderate,” rather, they are simply Muslims. On the other hand, are those who accept violence, hatred, and bigotry, often termed “extremists.” However, I would not consider these individuals extremist Muslims at all. To me, they would not even be considered a part of the Islamic religion as their actions are nothing less than contradictory to the religion.

This past week, I attended the extra credit movie “Unveiled.” This discussion was to enlighten the audience regarding the hijab. During the course of the video, we were exposed to the ideology of the hijab in Dubai, a modern and currently developing nation. Nonetheless, the movie did show various viewpoints on the hijab, from the one extreme denying the importance of the hijab, to the other speaking about the legitimacy of the hijab. For me, however, this movie was conflicting. Though it represented extreme views about the importance of the hijab, I felt that it did not accurately portray the Muslims who take a moderate stance on the issue. I felt conflicted because the movie depicted the movie who was wearing the hijab as angry and violent. This view is not true, to say the least. The hijab is still a complicated issue for many Muslims to come to a singular conclusion towards for Muslims till this day. Is importance is not black and white.

Furthermore, in response to , I found the lecture on the sectarian divides of Islam very interesting. It was interesting to me that this was being taught in class, because as a Shia Muslim, I feel that the history behind Karbala is not often touched upon for many Muslims. I often find myself describing the battle of Karbala and its significance to many of my peers, as the Shia sect is very much a minority to this day. Nonetheless, I feel that this issue and occurrence should not divide the sects, but should encourage learning and further understanding and discourse. This past weekend recognized Ashura, and I was very happy that Professor Mozzaffar explained its significance to the class. Perhaps, with future discussions and discourse, Muslims can come to understand that not matter what sectarian divisions may teach us, ultimately we are all Muslims under the same divine.