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Muslim Diaries: Five Days, Five Prayers: The Muslim Experience

JOURDAN DUNCANSpecial to The Southern News
Day 2 of my Muslim Journey
Feb. 7, 2012
I’m starting my prayers today, and I am feeling a bit anxious because it is something new and un­familiar that I have never done before. My Muslim roommate Harley prepared me prior to today by providing me with a prayer book with English trans­lations and a prayer book; she showed me how to wash up before each prayer as well as how to pray.
I will wake up early every morning at the same time before the sun comes up and wash myself while stating a specific prayer which symbol­izes cleansing my sins. Then, I will say the same prayer five times throughout my day with a set schedule. Depending on the time, I will repeat the prayer either three, four or five times in a row.
At 5:26 a.m. my first prayer of the day felt great! I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to embrace it the way I wanted to because I am not a morn­ing person, but it surprisingly was a nice refreshing way to wake up. Some parts I focused on more than others because I wanted to understand the meaning behind the prayer and have knowledge of what I was saying, rather than just reading it. The more repetition there was, the more I caught on to it. After reading it through all at once I wanted to memorize it.
At 7:00 a.m. I started my second prayer. I tried to feel as connected to Allah as possible through ev­ery word as I began to say “Allah Akbar,” meaning “Allah is the most great.” Then, at 12:07 p.m. I be­gan my third prayer. It went well, and I’ve realized how much I enjoy the movement because it feels more engaging while I’m praying.
My roommate walked into our bedroom while I was praying and remained silent out of respect for me. When I am praying, there is a wall up from the outside world and it’s just me and Allah present in that moment. Lastly, I finished my daily prayers at 5:13 p.m. and then 6:42 p.m. before I began to cook dinner for the night.
“Are you Arab?” a girl asked. That was the first reference someone made to me wearing the hijab today. I found it interesting how uneducated some people are on the topic of religion because the race or ethnicity of a person does not always relate to their religion. In addition, not every person wearing the hijab is considered an “Arab” or should be called such term. A girl from my class asked, “Where are you from?” I explained to her that I am from the United States and I am temporarily practicing as a Muslim because I am interested in the religion. “Oh OK, I have friends that are Muslim and I’ve stud­ied the Quran. It is a very beautiful book and the people are so peaceful. It does not fit the stereotype,” she responded.
I ran into an old friend for the first time this semester and he did not recognize me until I stopped him to make con­versation. “What is this?” he asked, while drawing a circle around his face. “This is me on my Muslim Journey,” I said, with a smile painted across my face.
I never thought covering my hair would make my face seem unfamiliar to people until I starting receiving confused facial expressions and second looks. While thinking of all the comments I’ve heard in regards to my hijab, it reminded me of a song that I love called “I am not my hair,” by artist India Arie. “If it’s not what’s on your head it’s what’s under­neath,” is the one line that comes to mind. I think India Arie really touches on the beauty held within every person through her song, and it connects with how I feel wearing my headscarf. It does not change the way I laugh, the character in my smile, or the defiance in any of my facial features. At the end of the day, I am still “me,” and that matters more than my outer appearance, with or without the hijab.
If anything, wearing it has made me wiser because I have been blessed by the experience of embracing the life of a whole other population of women. It is only my second day wearing my headscarf, and I feel like I am already getting the hang of putting it on by myself ,which makes me feel more comfortable and in tune with the reli­gion. In relation, wearing the hijab does not define the Muslim religion in itself, and the focus should not be on the physical commitment, but more so the mental devotion to Allah (God) through such actions.
Tomorrow will be another day to look forward to on this Muslim journey, and we will see what is in store for me.

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