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Religious Life: Self-Discovery and Self-Exploration

An Interview with Saira Huq '12

To which organization do you belong? How long have you been involved?

I'm the Co-President of Al-Iman, the Muslim Student Association on campus. I've been involved since my freshman year.

What motivated you to join?

I knew I wanted to play a large role in Muslim life at my university well before I got here. I was looking for a safety net; a group of people I could maintain my core values and ideals with during my college years. It was also important for me to take part in educating others about the true beliefs and practices of Islam; not the ones that are inferred from news stories and hearsay. When you see a divide between what you practice and what others say about your religion, you know that something is wrong and that something needs to be done about it.

What distinguishes Smith from other spiritual communities you have belonged to or observed?

It is such a beautiful and vibrant community. I can always find people with whom to explore questions of spirituality with; what is really said in the Quran and how can it be used to enhance life and make it more worthwhile? I've explored these topics with Muslims, Christians, and atheists alike and it is so reassuring to know that you live in a community of so many open-minded, intellectual individuals. Side note: I despise the word "spirituality" and am so sorry I used it here; it makes religion sound so mystical when it is in fact so sound and practical.

Have you had any funny, bizarre, or amazing experiences with your organization?

Amazingly, many. Funny, I guess you could say the runner up to the Annual Community Eid Dinner this year. The Annual Community Eid dinner is our campus wide event that brings a lot of students and faculty together and when you have such a large audience, you want to feed them as much information and entertainment as possible. So we adopted an ambitious agenda, an agenda that was very different from past years, and in executing it, had a few crisis, oh-my-god-are-we-doing-the-right-thing! moments.

What have you learned about yourself and your spirituality at Smith?

A lot. A common misconception is that "Muslims" know all there is to know about Islam. In fact, many of us ascribe to this label without really studying the religion rigorously and seeing for ourself what is truth and what is fiction. I've progressed a lot in terms of studying the religious texts while at Smith since I have had friends to study and discuss them with. You learn so much more about your religion when you have peers your age to explore it with.

If you had to sum up your spiritual experience here in 5 words or less, what would they be?

A lot of self-discovery and self-exploration.