Henna Night offers cultural appreciation


Tamonda Griffiths Editor-in-Chief

The Muslim Student Association hosted Henna Night to raise funds to support the prayer room in the Adanti Student Center, according to the President of MSA Asma Rahimyar.

“We have the space available on campus and we’ve all been utilizing it,” said Rahimyar. “We wanted to make that space feel more welcoming and have more resources than it does right now.”

In the Islamic faith, Muslims are required to pray five times a day facing in the direction of their holy city, Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Rahimyar said those prayers sometimes occur between and during their classes.

“You have to navigate all of that,” said Rahimyar.

Henna, Rahimyar said, can have a different meaning depending on when it is done and who does it.

“If you’re going to do [henna] I’d rather it be done by somebody who is from that culture,” said Rahimyar. “That’s cultural appreciation to me, it’s not cultural appropriation. I think that when we’re the ones sharing and administering that from our culture, I think that it has a different significance than it would if it were to just be an event that the school was hosting not through the Muslim Student Association.”

Born and raised in Pakistan until about three years ago, secretary of MSA, Minahil Gilani said she learned to do henna designs from her mother and grandmother. “It was not a special day that I learned it, it was not like you have to,” said Gilani.

“You just see it from your elders, everybody does it in weddings if it’s an occasion, parties, so you just kind of, — you kind of get the hang of it.”

According to Gilani, the traditional henna design patterns incorporate symmetrical lines, squiggly lines, flowers and the mandala symbol that are replicated from the Persian culture.

“These patterns are seen, even in the tiles in the mosques and even on carpets,” said Gilani. In an article titled, “A Brief History of Henna” in The Express Tribune, author Iram Moazzam said, “The earliest use of this plant dates back to the Pharaohs in Egypt, some 9,000 years ago.”

While Gilani was creating the designs on Tuesday, Oct. 9, other students were getting designs done on their hands.

“We can use [henna] for celebration, holidays, stuff like that. It’s kind of like a fun thing girls do to get together and do our henna for fun,” said public health major Muna Mah, a junior and member of MSA.

“Henna and chill, if you will.” Mah, who is of Somalian decent, said henna is used as a “cultural design” since permanent tattoos are not allowed in Islam. “Henna is shared in all of our cultures,” said Mah, “so I feel like collectively it would be nice to showcase it to the students at Southern who are unaware of henna and share it with them.”

Psychology major, Zahnyah Scott, a sophomore, said she came to the event after receiving a notification from a group message. “I just wanted something traditional,” said Scott. “[I] think it’s cool.”

Photo credit: Tamonda Griffiths

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