BETHLEHEM, Pennsylvania – Muslim students at Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University are grateful to their Christian colleagues after they were able to move their Friday congregational prayer to the campus memorial church, allowing more Muslim students to join the service.
“The basement of the Dialogue Center isn’t that big, so the space is congested,” Ibrahim Hashmi, a senior at LeHigh, told The Brown and White.
“But now, in Packer Chapel, the great thing is it’s a much larger area. If we need more room, we can always add more mats and move the chairs back. We aren’t confined to a restricted space.”
For the first time, Muslim students moved their congregational prayer from the Dialogue Center’s Prayer Room into the traditionally Christian chapel.
Waleed Mosaad, the director of Muslim Student Life, said the decision was taken to accommodate for the growing number of students interested in participating in the Muslim service.
Anas Kamal, a senior at LeHigh and the vice president of the Muslim Student Association, said until recently, students would rotate giving the Friday sermons.
Now, Mosaad gives every sermon, followed by a discussion of the topics discussed in it with attendants.
“We have a saying from the prophet which translates to, ‘Tell people to do good and prevent people from doing evil,’” Kamal said.
“That goes for both Muslims and non-Muslims. My duty is to inform people about who we are and what we stand for. In our community, if you see someone doing something out of line, you should tell them, but nothing is forced.”
All faiths are welcomed to attend the weekly prayer and the sermon, usually given in English.
With the new setting in the Packer Chapel, Mosaad hopes members of the Bethlehem community will begin to come as well.
“Men are supposed to pray in congregation,” Ibrahim said.
“Women can too, but they can also pray alone. In the Dialogue Center, the whole space would be filled by men, so women would prefer not to go so that they don’t take up the space for men. Now, since there’s more space, women can join the prayer, so that’s great.”
Welcoming the new changes, attendees are grateful to have a place to come together and pray.
“It felt great to know that there’s a (Muslim Student Association) and there’s a prayer space,” Hashmi said.
“The whole week, we are busy with our courses, and it’s hard to find time to get away from homework and grades. (The prayer service) is my escape.”