Announcements

February 14, 2016

Assalamu Alaykum Dear Students,

I hope you receive this letter with the best of health and Iman.

I have been thinking about Art lately. As an art school graduate, who sometimes seems to live, eat and breathe art, I see religion as the highest expression of art. The smallest expressions might be a thought that is never shared, some doodle on a page, a turn of phrase in a conversation, or a choice in attire. Greater expressions would include those of the eye (paintings), the ear (music), the body (performance), the interaction (theater), the institution (architecture). Even greater would be film and recent television. Higher would be the development of society. The highest, in span, depth, complexity, and ambition, is religion. Coming from the Divine, seeking the Divine. We say, “Indeed we are from God, and indeed to Him is the return.” A statement for some of loss, and for others, a statement of longing.

Mixed with art, however, are other elements. One is commodity. Another is commentary. Another is the appetite.

Everything above gets commodified through a profit motive. In Chicago, not only do we have a version Van Gogh’s “Bedroom in Arles” on display, but there is now a life sized re-creation of this painting that is available for rent in case you would want to spend a night sleeping in it.

The music that college students listen to seems to be a mixtape of corporate product and social protest. In my generation of college students, rap music spoke “truths” about life, power, and dissent. Then rap evolved to gangsta rap, which evolved to corporate hip hop. Then, Chuck D rhymed about fighting power; now, Jay Z pontificates about the struggles of having billions. Rock’n roll followed a similar trajectory from rebellion to cash cow. I don’t know that college students listen to art for inspiration more than consumption, though so many ask about its Islamic legality.

In contrast, within the umbrella of “art” we find what is an expression of vanity. Artists and architects design houses of worship whose function is to provide space for the believers to approach the Divine. But, patrons sometimes sponsor them as acts of competition against each other, in the same way they do with race horses. Sometimes competition is pious. But sometimes it is vain.

I frequently call upon students to figure out their priorities in life. Sometimes, the process is to find clarity in intentions and choices. Sometimes, an intervention to steer someone away from detrimental behaviors.

In Islamic law, we find a tiered system of priorities. Establish the most important, first. Some acts of worship are obligatory (Fard), some highly recommended (Sunnah), and some supererogatory (Nafl). The list of Fard acts is small. In other behaviors (usually related to social interaction and commerce), some are prohibited (Haram), some are discouraged (Makruh), and all else are allowed. The list of Haram acts is small. Thus, the most important matters would be those that are Fard and those that are Haram.

But, collectively, within Islamic law, we have another tier system. There are (first) those practices that are of utmost urgency (darurah), (second) those methods of helping to fulfill the urgencies (hajjah), and (third) those methods of enhancing the experience (tahseen). Urgencies would include, for example, shelter and sustenance. It is our obligation to make sure every person in our society has reasonable access to healthy shelter and sustenance. To help fulfill this urgency, we develop institutions and methods of distribution, including the farm, the market, the food pantry. Then, we develop ways to perfect the whole process, to make it dignified and beautiful. The word for perfecting and beautifying is the same -- tahseen -- which relates to “ihsan,” the highest level of faith.

Sometimes art expresses commentary, sometimes it challenges boundaries and categories. Last week we watched the Super Bowl and its halftime show. The show began with the swirling red, white, and blue of its sponsor, Pepsi, as Coldplay performed among a pageant of colors recalling Olympic Opening Ceremonies. Following him were Bruno Mars and -- the most talked about performer -- Beyoncé.

At first glance, Beyoncé seems to be flaunting self-exploiting sexuality in a matter we expect from popular music, calling on males to lower their gaze. [On that note, remember, men: the responsibility is on your to police your eyes, not on you to police her clothing, nor on her to hide from sight.] Then, considering those costumes -- invoking the Black Panthers -- and the lyrics of her song, “Formation,” we see something very sharp, very deliberate.

She is using this moment, perhaps the world’s largest stage, to do something that seems so non-commercial: a performance of dissent. Her lyrics -- not any more suitable for a Friday khutba (sermon) than the music, dance, attire, Pepsi sponsorship -- appropriate a list of stereotypes and caricatures about Blackness, Black femininity, the South, sexuality, the mundane, and professional ambition. To the undiscerning, her performance seems so militant that some took it as a statement against the police; again, it is a stereotype, fulfilling what may have been her point: among those who oppose the #BlackLivesMatter movement are voices who delegitimize the experiences (specifically institutional subjugation) of American Blackness.

Art -- even when projected across the globe -- starts from within a private space, perhaps an idea, a sentiment hidden in a bedroom, a moment in a cave or a cloister. It might remain concealed until the world finds it. Like most Van Gogh’s paintings, the poems of Emily Dickinson and Mirza Ghalib were posthumous discoveries. The more complex forms require collaboration. Some art aspires to beautify our experiences. Some seeks to draw attention to our uglinesses.

In the end, it gets us to talk, to ourselves, to each other, and perhaps to the Divine. So, all in all, I ask you to consider the art in your life. Make it meaningful. Make your experience, in thought, in disposition, in attire, in ambition: considered and beautiful, and make the choices your own.

Let’s talk more about it.

And Allah knows best,

Omer M
... See MoreSee Less

7 hours ago  ·  

View on Facebook

Salaam everyone! Next week Northwestern's McSA will be holding it's annual Discover Islam Week! This year they'll be hosting activist Linda Sarsour, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, and CNN correspondent Reza Aslan! More information is available on the event page or you can contact rimshaganatra2017@u.northwestern.edu if you have any questions!
Support our fellow MSA neighbors and go to some of their events if you can!
... See MoreSee Less

McSA Presents: Discover Islam Week 2016

February 15, 2016, 10:00am - February 19, 2016, 4:00pm

7 hours ago  ·  

View on Facebook

Service meeting right now in Mundelein 204!! :) ... See MoreSee Less

2 days ago  ·  

View on Facebook

Greetings Dear Students,

Please take a moment to pray for the mother of one of our graduates. The mother has gone into Cardiac Arrest after surgery and is not conscious. This situations is especially difficult because the graduate's father returned to his Creator less than a year ago.

Omer M
... See MoreSee Less

2 days ago  ·  

View on Facebook

Salaam!
Our friends at LUC Amnesty International are having a spoken-word event tomorrow night in The Coffee Shop at 7 pm! The program will highlight Chicago's premier spoken word artists, including our peers, and LUC Amnesty Int has volunteered to contribute all donations from the event towards our ongoing Orphan Sponsorship Drive!
So take a coffee break tomorrow evening at 7 pm and enjoy!
... See MoreSee Less

Slamnesty ! 2016 !

February 9, 2016, 7:00pm

6 days ago  ·  

View on Facebook

February 07, 2016

Assalamu Alaykum Dear Students,

I hope you receive this letter with the best of health and Iman. Just sending some reflections.

We are discovering cracks in the System.

We have been hearing about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Because a presidential candidate mentioned it in a debate, the crisis is getting much attention. As is to be expected, because a presidential candidate mentioned it in a debate, the crisis has been politicized. Some pass the blame on to others, while some argue that there is no crisis.

I have a colleague from Chicago who taught some courses in Flint and told me that the water coming from taps was brownish and smelled. Having said that, I should mention that the rules for ritual purity and the rules for potability are different from each other. Meaning, what constitutes cleanliness for our ablutions (wudu’) is different than what constitutes cleanliness for the water we drink and bathe with. He felt that the Flint water failed both. You cannot purify yourself with it, nor would you want to drink or bathe in it.

To understand this point, let us understand that when we speak of ritual cleanliness, as a prerequisite for prayers and other practices, we look at observable qualities of the water, focused on its apparent color, smell, taste, and viscosity. In other words, if the water is observably clean water, then it is clean enough for ritual acts. Because most of us in urban America are used to using the same water for ablutions that we use for drinking and bathing, we usually need not concern ourselves with the details.

The point of the above exercise is to illustrate that when we address a problem, we have to figure out the appropriate lens through which to evaluate it. So, when considering the cleanliness of water, we might look to see if it is ritually clean or we might look to see if it is scientifically clean. The two are two different lenses, that intersect. If the water is ritually filthy, then it is definitely not potable.

The problem in most of our conversations, however, is that the lens we commonly use for investigation has been a very microscopic view within Islamic law. In other words, I receive plenty of inquiries from students about the Islamic legality of certain practices: listening to music, eating certain foods, investing in stocks, social interaction, among other topics. I receive very few inquiries about a different lens -- social justice -- except as justice pertains to the issues that get attention, including #blacklivesmatter, Palestine, and Oil.

The water crisis in Flint seems to fail in just about every lens. The water is too polluted to drink. The water is too polluted to use for ritual. The water is so polluted that politicians invest time to pass blame or to claim concern. But, not far from campus, close to where I grew up, and close to where many of you live -- Crestwood, Illinois -- the water has been cancerous, with a scandal that traces back nearly a decade. The Colorado River has had a major water crisis since the beginning of the century, affecting numerous States, with California getting the most attention.

Many of the major global conflicts of my generation have related in some way to Oil and energy resources. If you influence energy resources, you influence entire nations. The Gulf War, from just before most of your births, despite the then US President’s claim to liberate the newly occupied Kuwait. Even the Iranian revolution of 1978-1979 was an overthrow of a tyrannical Shah, who was placed into power, as part of a coup by the US and UK to overthrow a democratically elected leader who nationalized the Oil industry.

While the global battles for control over energy resources will continue, your generation will see battles related to control of water resources. If you influence water access, you influence survival. Some trace crises in Iraq and Syria to droughts from a decade ago. Water is a major factor in the Occupation of the Palestinian territories. Indian activist Arundhati Roy has written many essays about the water crises caused by dam construction. Somalia and Ethiopia, despite being at the edge of the sea, have been suffering through their own drought.

In our modern era, we have witnessed the rise of Systems thinking. In Catholicism, we find this in Liberation Theology as well as its non-Catholic offshoots (like Black Liberation Theology and Progressive Islam), arguing that systemic obstacles impose poverty upon masses, and the pious practice of feeding the poor door-to-door will not solve these institutionalized subjugations. In some Evangelical Protestant traditions as well as Middle Eastern branches of the Salafi movements (though less articulated), we find a connection with Capitalism, arguing that the keys to personal and social fulfillment come through a deregulated free market, with evidence given through decreased mortality rates in such environments. Among some Muslim legal thinkers, we find a push toward Systems thinking through the Maqasid, which is a major component of Islamic law focused not on the interpretation of individual passages, but interpretations of consistencies across the entire body of scripture. Maqasid often speaks of “the higher aims” of Islamic law.

Returning to Flint, the problem is clear. It does not require any lens or analysis beyond simple observation: the water is polluted. The challenge then, is to figure out how to improve the water, and how to fix what is broken. The goal of these various lenses is to figure out where the problem rests, and hopefully to figure out where to focus in fixing things. The strange thing that Flint and other communities illustrates, is that when the problem is water, we have a clue that the whole thing is broken no matter what lens we use. In other words, the Flint water might not be the problem, but the symptom of something much larger happening here.

So, the burden is on you and I to figure things out. The first step, however, is to expand our selections of lenses. In the meantime, consider the fresh taste of the water you use, and be grateful that it is a privilege.

And Allah knows best.

Omer M
... See MoreSee Less

6 days ago  ·  

View on Facebook

Loyola University Chicago has a long standing tradition that a senior give a reflection following communion at the Baccalaureate Mass. The department of Campus Ministry is inviting graduating seniors to apply to give the reflection. To apply, students should submit a resume that highlights their campus ministry activities and a 750 word essay that addresses how their Loyola education has helped them to grow in their faith tradition. Applications may be submitted to ministry@luc.edu by March 15. ... See MoreSee Less

1 week ago  ·  

View on Facebook

Salaam everyone!!!!! OPEN SHURA/ IAW MEETING STARTS AT 5:30PM IN MUNDELEIN 514 INSHA'ALLAH!!! Donuts and more will be provided!!! COME!! ... See MoreSee Less

1 week ago  ·  

View on Facebook

Salaam everyone!
The first of our halaqa series is tonight at 7pm! We are very blessed to be hosting brother Yousef Azher this evening! He will be talking about the Shama'il of the prophet pbuh.

I'll see you all tonight inshAallah!

m.facebook.com/events/650559205087375?acontext=%7B%22ref%22%3A3%2C%22action_history%22%3A%22null%...
... See MoreSee Less

2 weeks ago  ·  

View on Facebook

Salaam hungry students! YOU HAVE ABOUT 20 MINUTES LEFT FOR YOUR SAMOSA FIX OF THE WEEK!! COME QUICKLY!!! 😋😋 ... See MoreSee Less

2 weeks ago  ·  

View on Facebook

Lyba Zia created an event for Loyola MSA. ... See MoreSee Less

Halaqah with Br. Yusuf

February 3, 2016, 7:00pm

2 weeks ago  ·  

View on Facebook

January 31, 2016

Dear Students,

I hope this letter reaches you with the best of health and Iman. Just sending a short letter.

I had the privilege of representing Loyola with a few colleagues at a conference in Washington DC, sponsored by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and the Interfaith Youth Core. I wanted to share a few observations for your consideration. It was an educational, eye-opening experience.

The first is that Loyola seems to be way ahead of almost every other institution in serving the non-Catholic populations, including us, competing mainly with DePaul and Georgetown. Consider the beautiful prayer space, the Muslim members of faculty, the chaplain, and the IWS minor with its plethora of excellent courses. We have so many offerings here that it is easy to take them for granted, and then miss them -- or regret ignoring them -- once we’re in our post-Loyola lives.

Second, there seemed to be unanimity, starting all the way from the President of the ACCU, that there is a need to serve the non-Catholic populations, especially the Muslims, especially in light of national and international events. I have not attended a conference of non-Muslims in which Muslims were mentioned (positively and sympathetically) as many times as they were in this 24 hour period.

Third, the consensus was that this responsibility to serve is because of their Catholicism, not despite it. The Church in Vatican II produced some revolutionary documents (considering where the rest of the world was at the time in the 1960s) about relationships with other faith communities, especially the Jews and the Muslims. These are Dignitatis humanae and Nostra aetate, which -- for our purposes -- called for mutual respect between Muslims and Christians. The Western World was stuck in the Cold War, elsewhere secular nation states were just formed across the globe in this new post-WW2, post-Colonial era, and American Catholicism was not only asserting itself on the international stage, but had just elected (and lost) a US President. Talk of religion -- focused on building bridges, rather than laying borders -- was something unheard of. Vatican II does not necessarily represent a shift, or something new; in sessions during the conference, scholars argued that this inter-faith work is textbook Catholicism. For the head of our Campus Ministry, Lisa Reiter, none of this was anything new for her.

The fourth point to consider is that the convener of our conference was Eboo Patel and the IFYC. Eboo and I have some history together. My wife used to work for him. Our kids go to the same Islamic school. Now, our former Interfaith Chaplain Brian Anderson -- who had an outstanding relationship with the Muslim students -- works with him. Watching Eboo in action makes me wonder who is the bigger character, him or me.

My point, however, is that it is still something new -- even for me -- to see a Muslim at the head of such a non-Muslim event. He is a bit younger than me and I find him very inspiring. It seems that most of the attendees, of higher pay grades and skill sets than myself, felt the same way.

And that leads me to the main point of my letter. While most of the letter should give you comfort that there are so many people looking out for you, I am not giving you the privilege of resting on their efforts. You and I know that, as bad as Islamophobia may be (and I have expressed many times all the experiences my own family has had), there are many other types of phobias, hate crimes, institutional suppression and neglect far worse than what most of us are facing. Eboo formed and grew IFYC in that environment.

A repeated point during the entire conference was that the Catholics of America are the best of the crop when compared against their competitors, but they have a lot more work and improvement to do. Thus, I am not trying to paint a picture indicating that the Catholic world today is a work of perfection. But, of the various religious communities, it seems as though they are in the lead. In the past few centuries, while facing hate akin to what we face, the Catholics formed what are now nearly 250 universities across the country. Including high schools, there are currently a million students in Catholic institutions. All of that started somewhere, with something small.

I feel sometimes that getting us Muslims to focus on something other than marriage and med school -- like education beyond the core sciences and service of local non-Muslims aside from Muslims overseas -- is like asking for something impossible. I also wonder if my presence on campus has not inspired improvement among the Muslim students, as much as it has given many an excuse not to work.

But, take the time you need to get what you need done. But do not delay; I expect you to hit the ground running. As he tells us in his book, Eboo started his organization with an idea, not knowing where to go. Now it and he are forces to be reckoned with. He is one of the most influential of all the Muslims in America. Every time we sit down, whether at a birthday party or something else, we engage with full attention wrestling and wrangling over big questions, pausing conversations when our kids start yelling at us for attention. Over the weekend, we had a chat about the importance of studying the Humanities. And, a question that neither of us had an answer to -- with full respect for the skills required for the Health Sciences -- was how to get Muslims more active and engaged.

The ball is in your court. Find a cause and make it yours. Mine is to educate you. Let’s talk.

And Allah knows best.

Omer M
... See MoreSee Less

2 weeks ago  ·  

View on Facebook

Assalaamu alaikum everyone!! I've come bearing news that might excite you almost as much as my announcement of next week's IAW meeting at the GBM yesterday! Nouman Ali Khan (😱) is having a story night in Chicago in which he will discuss the painful episode of the Prophet's (pbuh) life where the dignity of our mother (RA) was brought into question and the verse from Surat al Noor that brought him peace. For all details and registration info, check out the event page below!
Happy weekend!!
Story Night: Accused by Nouman Ali Khan
... See MoreSee Less

Story Night: Accused by Nouman Ali Khan

February 26, 2016, 6:00pm - February 26, 2016, 10:00pm

2 weeks ago  ·  

View on Facebook

Assalamu Alaikum everyone!
InshAllah we will be hosting a ping pong tournament in the upcoming weeks. 30% of proceeds will be going towards prizes for the winners and the rest will be donated to our year long orphan sponsorship drive. If you are interested in playing please fill out this form: goo.gl/forms/hD3XWb2C8s

We will be holding separate tournaments for guys and girls and everyone is welcome to play no matter what your experience level is!

Check out this video from last years ping pong tournament: youtu.be/H5hJQQoYITg

May the odds be ever in your favor.
... See MoreSee Less

2 weeks ago  ·  

View on Facebook

Salaam all! GBM STARTING NOW IN CUNEO 210! :) ... See MoreSee Less

2 weeks ago  ·  

View on Facebook

January 26, 2016

Dear Students,

Assalamu Alaykum.

I pray you receive this letter with the best of health and Iman.

In recent letters I started speaking about marriage. Here, I feel compelled to make one key point about married life that seems lost on undergrads: life is complex, thus, people are complex.

We are taught that people find attraction to potential spouses and motivations for marriage through a host of reasons: beauty, lineage, wealth. We are also taught that the best reason for marriage is your potential spouse’s religious outlook and practices.

Our local Muslim cultures tend to imagine themselves as conservative, though that cautious behavior tends to be inconsistent and sometimes absurd. I am thankful that my office has giant windows on both sides, and that there is no stigma for students to visit me, so that students of all liberal and conservative outlooks feel comfortable in visiting me. But, in contrast, I once had a colleague who was very rigid in keeping genders segregated, yet had a female physician. If that is not enough, he blamed her gender for her inability to cure his illness.

As a result of this mass conservatism, however, a dominant reason that many contemporary young Muslims seek marriage is for the chance at interaction, emotional and physical, escaping the strictures they lived through. While too many young male Muslims have made it forbidden upon themselves to speak with their female co-religionists, and vice versa, I find it fascinating that this ad hoc ruling seems less applied when either speaks with non-Muslims. I find it more fascinating that even those Muslims who are so strict on such rules are not able to speak with courtesy with others. It recalls the student who for years would never respond to my greetings (“Salam”) except with a short split-second grin, yet she sent me repeated extended emails asking to help her find a loan for med school. Perhaps in person, she was shy.

The point in all this is that even though I am pointing out what seem to be inconsistencies, I am speaking to the complexity and complications of human behavior.

There is a parallel we can draw from pre-Islamic Arabia. I suspect some causation in the following behavior. As we know, Makkah (Mecca) was about as fiercely patriarchal as any society has ever been, including the practice of female infanticide. It is fascinating, however, that in this same land at this same time, in this environment that was missing so many women, poets recited verses of idyllic female lovers. Further, at this same time, soothsayers and oracles were often female, as were the goddesses that the men worshipped. These practices were so contradictory and horrendous that even God Himself calls them out on it.

Likewise, when I listen to young people search for potential spouses, or when I listen to them consider specific people, I find a comparable set of extremes. On the one hand there is an idealizing of what their spouses should be like. One of the ideals is of a type of misogynized piety. Once a young man came to me after a Friday Khutba (Sermon) and asked me to help him find a wife. His preference: a widow of an Islamic scholar, who was herself a zahida (an ascetic). Another common line, “I want to marry someone who is better than me so that I will improve as a Muslim.” That is idealist language, and it is not the job of the spouse to be your teacher. Often, that well-intentioned statement is code language for: I want someone who will be easy to deal with.

There are a few other major problems, related to visual media. The first is the fashion/airbrush industry. While in line with my daughters, at miscellaneous stores like Aeropostale, as we stand next to photos of frowning models in overpriced clothing, I get into conversations with them about airbrushing and what it does to our understanding of beauty. The second is the film industry -- especially Bollywood -- which has corrupted not only our ideas of weddings, but our notions of love, replacing devotion with infatuation. The third is pornography, which requires its own conversations. Here, however, I will mention that pornography is corrupting all aspects of intimacy and beauty. The recurring theme in all of these examples is that our imaginations overtake our reality, leading us to seek a spouse who does not exist, considering especially that those models do not look like their airbrushed photographs, those Bollywood romances are just stupid, and pornography is performance.

The next problem relates to our behaviors prior to our weddings: in a nutshell, a common question I receive from your peers, asking for advice as they think about marriage is, “What am I supposed to share about my past?” The answer is: if you have repented and it does not affect your spouse-to-be’s life, it is none of his/her business. If, however, it will affect him/her perhaps because of the people involved, then you may have to have conversations about this. On the flip side, too many young men and women are way too immature to conceive that their spouse has had experiences that may not have been wholesome. More importantly, many hold double standards in this behavior, having their own vices while not allowing their potential spouses to have the same.

The most important point, however, is some much simpler. When you meet people through the years and get to know them, you discover many of the struggles that people carry. Every person you meet is probably carrying more than even they realize. For example, when you reach my age, you might be startled to find out how many people have had children who died. But, I have had college students who have themselves had children who returned to their Creator. This does not include all those students who have lost siblings. If you have not experienced this, then imagine the pain associated with it: it is immobilizing.

The person you marry will be someone who is carrying burdens in his/heart. Some of these burdens are identifiable. Some are buried deep within the most tender spaces in their being. The result, however, of those traumas, experiences, challenges, will be complex human behavior that seems to be contradictory and inconsistent.

This does not justify the horrendous behavior of the pre-Islamic Arabs, nor does it justify some of the other behaviors above. But, the point is that every one of us, despite our abilities to smile and live, carries something. As life goes on, we will each be carrying more. And more.

Thus, the first challenge in looking for a spouse is in looking for someone made of a soul, flesh and bones, and memories. Too many of us are looking for someone made of cardboard.

And Allah knows best.

Omer M
... See MoreSee Less

3 weeks ago  ·  

View on Facebook

Lyba Zia created an event for Loyola MSA. ... See MoreSee Less

1st General Body Meeting!!!

January 28, 2016, 6:00pm

3 weeks ago  ·  

View on Facebook

Both 12:40 and 1:40 Jummah's will be held in CFSU main hall (Mertz first floor) today. ... See MoreSee Less

3 weeks ago  ·  

View on Facebook