The Muslim Students Association (MSA) of the University of Richmond hosted Islam Awareness Week (IAW) the week of March 25. The purpose of this week was to provide the UR community an opportunity to get to know more about Islam and the Muslim community on campus.

IAW kicked off in the Tyler Haynes Commons on Monday, March 25. MSA passed out “healing flowers,” carnations that had verses in the Qur’an (words from God), to serve as a healing reminder that God is close to each and every one of us: God hears us, blesses us, and protects us. 

On Monday, the MSA met for dinner with Imaam Ammar Amonette, the Imaam of the Islamic Center of Virginia. The students discussed what life on campus is like as a Muslim, shared about the activities and events the MSA held this year, and learned from the Imaam about Muslim life in the “real world” after graduation.

The MSA planned to co-host the weekly Multifaith Dinner and Discussion on the topic of ‘Can Religion Survive in the Modern World?’ with the Multifaith Student Council on Tuesday, March 26. However, MSA changed plans following the terrorist attack on the two New Zealand mosques on Friday, March 22. The MSA quickly began working to create space to honor the victims, reflect as a community, and heal the shattered Muslim community.

In place of the Multifaith Dinner and Discussion the MSA, along with the Office of the Chaplaincy, hosted a service on campus to honor the victims of the attack. Waleed Ilyas, Muslim Chaplain, Craig Kocher, University Chaplain, and Josh Jeffreys, Director of Religious Life and Jewish Chaplain, offered words of understanding, hope, and unity.  MSA student leaders read the names of the fifty victims and fifty red roses were displayed to symbolize each of the lives lost. Following the service, many in attendance gathered with the MSA and the Multifaith Student Council to discuss the rise of hate in our world. The Richmond NBC affiliate produced this story about the gathering.

The MSA resumed its scheduled programming on Thursday evening with an Open Mic Night. The purpose of this event was to give Muslim students an opportunity to have the podium and be heard. Students shared on a variety of topics: their experiences as Muslims on campus, reflections on verses in the Qur’an, how Islam has shaped their student life, what having an MSA on campus means to them, and reflections on the attacks in New Zealand. 

On Friday, the MSA opened up the weekly Friday (Do we want to say Jummah?) Prayer to the entire UR community. The weekly Friday Prayer is a congregational prayer that Muslims attend every Friday afternoon, replacing the daily noon prayer (dhuhr). It consists of a sermon in which the khateeb (one who delivers the sermon) reminds worshippers of the message and teachings of Islam followed by prayer.

Islam Awareness Week concluded on Saturday with an MSA group sunrise hike to Humpback Rocks near Charlottesville.