Last Friday at the Student Union Building of the University of New Mexico, the first ever gathering of the Muslim Students Association on the university campus for the 2021/2022 academic year took place. It was a well-attended programme that belied the earlier fear amongst membership. A great section of the members of this community feared the programme will not be well patronized because the announcement did not come out early and never went far. But the filled-room, the illumination on the faces of interested participants saturated by the nuggets of wisdom shared by members of the high table gave assurance that a great community that will remain noble and valuable has been established and will be sustained.
The gathering which began a little late after its scheduled time, began with the Chairman accepting to chauffeur it from a humble start to a successful end. The chairman was Dr. Mohammad Yousuf, an Assistant Professor at the Department of Communication and Journalism who has great interest in big data, online media engagement, strategic management of online media, journalistic use of social media and media ethics. A researcher of repute, he re-assured the gathering on the lofty height of being a Muslim and the need to maintain that standard in all our dealings. He believes that as a community, we must work assiduously to build a strong organization that will provide anchorage to Muslim students on campus who find themselves in any giddy precipice of life and even provide maximum support to the Muslim freshers that will join the university in the future. He highlighted his very incisive speech with a verse from the Quranic chapter which takes its name from its third verse, Quran Chapter 41 (Fussilat), “and whose words are better than someone who calls ‘others’ to Allah, does good, and says, “I am truly one of those who submit.”
The next speaker, Dr. Yahuza Siba (who is a gastroenterologist with the Presbyterian Medical Group in Albuquerque) emphasized the fact that the life of a typical student is characterized by time spent studying, catching up with classes and socializing with peers. But he reminded the gathering of undergraduate and graduate students that they should prioritize their academic activities here more than anything else. He basically reiterated the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that “things that matter most should not be at the mercy of things that matter least.”
The keynote speech was delivered by the Dr. Mahmoud Eldanawi, the imam of the Islamic Community of New Mexico (built in 1986 and is one of the earliest mosques that hand-built by community members in the United States of America). Just as Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas, the companion of the Prophet that travelled as far as China to spread the pristine message of Islam, Dr. Mahmoud crossed seas, valleys and mountains all the way from the land of the pharaohs to America to continue the propagation of Islam. A hafiz at the age of 10, an alumnus of Azhar University, a doctorate degree holder from United Kingdom and author of several books, he delivered a speech that was laced with glorious verses of the Quran and Prophetic wisdom. He underscored the fact that we need a strong Muslim front wherever we find ourselves and buttressed it with the hadith that the strong believer is better and most loved by Allah than a weak one. He exhorted students to as must as possible move away from inferiority complex and move towards overwhelming confidence in your skin as a Muslim. He reminded students to have the fear of Allah deeply embedded in their hearts and deeds and surely Allah is going to grant them divine knowledge which is immaculately clean and unadulterated. As he was interacting with a youthful audience, he touched on the advice the Prophet gave Ibn Abbas (ra) “young man, I will teach you some words. Be mindful of Allah and he will take care of you…….” He exhorted the Muslim community to dedicate its life to the most eternal and absolute, the Lord whose reign transcends that of men, our Cherisher and Sustainer since the days of yore till today and tomorrow, and that the youth should put their ultimate faith in Allah. He cemented that point with verse 103 of chapter 3 of the Quran (The Family of Imran), “And hold firmly to the rope of Allah and do not be divided………. So that you may be rightly guided.” He ended his session by calling on everyone to make prayer a cardinal part of his or her plan. He reiterated the fact that there is immeasurable power in prayer.
The President of the Association, Leena Aggad ended the entire session by taking members through how to make their membership official, discussed the various inroads she and her executive body made in securing funds for the organization, updated membership on the proposed and secured prayer room in the Student union building, highlighted the next gatherings we are going to hold and called on everyone to make this a tremendous success. She did this with an indescribable level of gusto and passion.
After a very successful programme, all prayed to Allah and fraternized in the light of Islam and humanity. Item-13 was very well served.
The writer is a Graduate Student at the Communication and Journalism Department of University of New Mexico.