Prayer ceremony educates students

On Friday, Sept. 15, as students filter from morning classes, making their way to TDR or back to the dorms to sleep off the previous evening's festivities, the sweet sounds of construction will not be the only thing heard on the Main Quad. An open Friday Prayers, sponsored by the Muslim Student Association (MSA), will be held in front of Kay Spiritual Life Center from 1:15 - 2 p.m.

The service is open to all AU students and community members and will feature guest speaker Mohammed Al-Shareef.

"The purpose of holding open Friday prayers is to educate people about Islam and to inform some of the non-Muslims," said MSA president Yasmin Said, a Ph.D student in statistics. "For a lot of Muslims, they don't know that a Muslim Student Association exists. They don't know we have a prayer room on campus and this will help them understand that we have those facilities available."

The event marks the second outdoor open prayer service sponsored by MSA. The first service, held last April, attracted approximately 500 students. Said said the atmosphere is relaxed - a time to see friends and learn about a different culture.

"Basically a regular Friday prayers, which is mandatory upon the Muslims, will consist of a sermon for the first 35-40 minutes discussing the issues that are important to the community," Said said. "In this case, the speaker will talk about the history of God and the oneness of God."

Speaker Al-Shareef is a graduate of Medina University in Saudi Arabia and is an Imam, or leader, in the Muslim religion.

"We like to call him multi-cultural," Said said. "He's Canadian and Egyptian, is married to a Pakistani and is fluent in English and Arabic."

Friday's service will end with a three to five minute congregational prayer. This portion of Friday prayers is usually led by someone who is not an Islamic scholar, but simply knowledgable in that area.

"Last time we had a 15 year-old leading the prayer because he had memorized almost the whole Koran," Said said.

The MSA has held Friday prayers for the past 25-30 years, but have only recently ventured outdoors for a larger celebration. The organization now boasts 150 regular members.

"When I was talking to some of the alumni, they were saying that they used to used to pray up in the chapel and that they didn't have that many people," Said said. "If you come to regular Friday prayers [now], the room is packed. Last time we had an overflow, so some people were spilling out of the doors and praying."

Said is planning an MSA event once a month, having invited guest speakers from overseas and around the community. Muslim Awareness Week, the second week in November, will be a more comprehensive look into the culture.

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