A group of students can be found in the Humanities Tuesday nights learning, sitting in a circle, sipping tea, and discussing the Islamic faith. The Muslim Student Association has started a Quran study where students of all backgrounds gather to talk about the Quran, the sacred book of Islam.
Sophomore Najma Siyad, a Muslim student from Eagan, Minn., created the study group through the Muslim Student Association alongside her friend, freshman Faiza Ahsan, as a way to provide a space for Muslim students to discuss their faith.
“We talk about the message of God and what it means to be a person who is aware of God, who believes in God,” said Siyad. “Whether you’re Christian or Muslim, we just talk about God.”
Siyad and Ahsan formed the Quran study because Augustana students were asking them questions about Islam and the Islamic sacred book. They decided to invite the whole campus to an open discussion about Islam.
Siyad said participants have included Muslim, Christian, agnostic and atheists.
Senior Austin Krohnke, a Christian pre-seminary student, attends the Quran study to learn more about the Quran and how it relates to the Christian faith.
“For anybody that is genuinely curious about truth, [they] can learn about something through the Quran and decide whether it’s true or not,” Krohnke said. “Everyone has their own capability to do that. It’s kind of what we do together.”
Sophomore Muslim student Manaal Ali said that mainstream society views Christianity and Islam as incompatible, but she has found more similarities between the two religions than differences.
“The teachings that are present are very similar,” said Ali of the Quran study. “They are based off of peace, and when you sit in that circle [of people] you get a feeling of peace.”
While peaceful, the Quran study pushes students beyond their comfort zone. Siyad, Krohnke and Ali all noted the importance of asking questions and embracing the risk of learning about Islam.
“I think that it could challenge things, challenge me to understand why I believe in the things that I do,” Krohnke said. “Or it very well could challenge my belief in Jesus as the son of God because Islam does not view Jesus as that. It could also show me where I need to understand my faith better and how to defend my faith better.”
The Rev. Ann Rosendale, a campus pastor at Augustana, is involved with interfaith work on campus and encourages students to participate in the Quran study. She said students can learn more about their own faith through studying the traditions of other religions.
“It promotes literacy, that is, understanding about another faith tradition, and I think that’s really important,” said Rosendale. “We live in a world where we don’t always seek understanding from one another and this is an opportunity to do that.”
Ali said she wants people who are uncomfortable or who hold stereotypes about the Islamic religion to attend the study.
“I really want Quran study to be a [way] of saying ‘you can ask questions, you can be skeptical, and this will just make you stronger in your belief’—and I feel that,” Ali said.
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