Updated: Jun 18, 2020
By Usman Nasir
"You are an aggregate of the five people you spend the most time with, so make sure you choose your company wisely"
This is one of the most important pieces of advice I have ever received during my time at university and it has always stayed with me. It’s so easy to get drawn into the university life, especially during fresher’s week, and there are always moments where the strength of your religious beliefs are challenged. From being constantly surrounded by course mates/flat mates attending parties or night clubs to fitting in times to pray between lectures, it can be difficult to navigate university life as a Muslim.
I cannot understate the value of engaging with the Islamic society. Whenever I’d walk into the Islamic society there would always be a friendly face or someone to talk to when you need it the most. I have met the most genuine people through the many events they organise, and they have always been there to give advice or just chill. Attend as many events as you can and meet as many people as you can. There’s always a place for everyone at the Islamic society no matter who you are or how religious you think you are. Every time I attended an event, I was always struck by the diversity, how everyone would come together, how no one was left out. Being surrounded by people who understood the constant challenges between faith and university provided a real comfort for me during university, reassurance that I wasn’t alone. That is why the most useful piece of advice I could give is to maintain a connection to the Islamic society, no matter how small. This could be by attending a talk, going for food, or organising 5-a-side. It gives you a family to fall back on, people that will help guide you.
I understand that university schedules are packed so it may seem like a struggle at first to find a way to fit in prayers between classes, especially during the winter months. The best way I tackled this was to build an easy to follow and flexible routine around my prayers. This could be a simple thing, like setting aside specific topics to revise either side of a prayer or even organising when to pray between lectures. This will help you build a pattern. The value of maintaining your daily prayers cannot be underestimated as it always brings a sense of calm to your day. You will be surprised by the positive knock-on effects it has upon other aspects of your life. Use your prayers as a time to take a break or a step back from work and any other worries you may have. Having said that, there are always going to be times when you feel low and praying seems like too much of a struggle. When this is the case, pray with your friends. It will not only increase your reward but walking to the prayer space gives you time to relax. This could be the boost of encouragement that we all need sometimes to complete all your prayers.
Another helpful tip is to become familiar with the prayer facilities available at university. Fortunately, many universities have numerous faith spaces dotted around campus, making it easier to fit your studies around prayer times. However, I know this can be difficult for some students as not all universities have faith spaces available to students. I remember praying in cleaning closets, in the middle of libraries or in empty seminar rooms. Any space can be turned into a prayer space, so be creative. You could even challenge yourself to find the most bizarre place to pray! At my previous university, we campaigned for the right to improve our prayer spaces and the student’s union delivered upon this promise. So, always remember you can deliver change for your own community and that it is never impossible.
Best of luck with your university journey.