On Monday, Nov. 5, members of the Hopkins Muslim Association (JHUMA) hosted a celebration of Eid al-Adha in the Glass Pavilion.
Although the calendar date of the Muslim holiday is Oct. 26, the JHUMA belatedly celebrated the religious holiday with a speech from President Daniels, student presentations regarding the history and significance of the date and a feast.
Both Muslim and Non-Muslim students gathered in the Glass Pavilion to celebrate Eid al-Adha and while food was plentiful, seating proved insufficient, requiring many participants to stand along the pavilion walls.
“I had no idea it was going to be this big. I thought it was going to be like twelve people or something. I was a little unprepared for this. So I’m personally very pleased,” graduate student Aamir Ali said.
Ali, a second-year graduate student studying physics, kicked off the celebration with a retelling of the origins of Eid al-Adha. Eid al-Adha celebrates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his first-born son, Ishmael, as a demonstration of his faithfulness in Allah. Confronted by a divine vision that commanded the sacrifice of Ishmael in veneration of God, Abraham submitted to God’s will.
However, due to Abraham’s willingness to obey God’s command, Ishmael’s body was replaced with that of a ram, which was then sacrificed in his stead. Although the story of Eid al-Adha is ageless and unchanging, Ali recounted the traditional story in such a way to appeal to all members of the audience.
“I was really impressed with the speech he gave. I know the story of why people celebrate Eid but he described it in a way so that people who are not Muslim, or those outside of the culture, would know exactly what’s going on,” senior Jay Kane said.
The dinner, while primarily a celebration of Eid al-Adha, also brought together students who make up Hopkins’ small Muslim population.
While JHUMA events allow students with similar cultural and religious backgrounds to come together, acclimating to an academic environment where many colleagues are unfamiliar with Islam can be difficult.
However, many Muslim students view this cultural disconnect as a means to share their beliefs.
“There aren’t that many Muslims here, so that fact that I am a Muslim seems to interest a lot of people. Especially in the freshman class, there aren’t many, so being a Muslim has really allowed me to show people another aspect of our culture,” freshman Saman Baban said.
This propensity to share cultural and religious beliefs has given rise to a Muslim population that strengthens togetherness through piety.
“We have a prayer space and we get to do Jummah prayers every Friday. It’s an obligation and it’s nice that people come together and do it together,” freshman Metasem Aldmour said.
And yet, finding a balance between academic life and religious requirements can be difficult for some.
“Integrating [into the community] is fine. We have difficulties arranging our prayer times for the day because the break times and the lectures do not accommodate for prayers,” graduate student Fatma Madouh said.
Although the Muslim population at Hopkins remains relatively small, Hopkins has moved to acknowledge the growing influence of Islamic cultures worldwide.
As President Daniels stated in his opening address, citing a Pew Research Center study, the world’s Muslim population could increase by 35 percent by 2030 and could more than double in the United States during the same period of time.
Understanding this demographic shift, President Daniels underscored the need for Hopkins to develop an interdisciplinary recognition of Islam that reflects Islam’s importance in today’s world.
“Such a program would deepen our understanding of the history of Islamicate societies and institutions and their rich cultural legacies in areas including art and poetry, law, philosophy and architecture,” President Daniels said.
This would require dramatic expansions of the Arabic language program, the Arabic library collection, as well as joint efforts among departments such as anthropology, economics, history and philosophy.
“The Krieger School has already recruited faculty working in various areas of Islamic Studies. In fact, there are more scholars today working on Islam than on East Asia,” Daniels said.
While the development of programs that highlight the cultural importance of Islam may strengthen students’ understanding of Muslim communities worldwide, some believe that student familiarity with the Hopkins Muslim population should come first and foremost.
“What I do hope in the future is that there is still more project-based integration between not just Muslim communities, but faith-based communities as a whole. Just being out and about, doing projects in a general body and being more visible. I think that there’s not much awareness that these communities really even exist or are doing things,” Ali said.