by Sister Huma Ahmad
1. Carpe Islam! – Work for Islam while you have the opportunity.
Ever hear of that Latin phrase ‘Carpe Diem!’ (Seize the Day)? Well as a Muslim college student your slogan should be ‘Carpe Islam!’ College is the best time to do Dawah in your life. It is the biggest opportunity for Muslims in this country to spread the truth about Islam. The college age comprises the largest chunk of the American population. This year’s freshman class was the largest incoming class in history. Remember all of your fellow students on campus will be future journalists, teachers, policy makers, voters, etc. This is the time to teach people about real Islam and dispel misconceptions. You have the freedom to publicize whatever you want, use the technology at your disposal and the ability to make your own programs and ideas come to life.
Even if you are late for class in order to pray, skip a class for IAW, stay up late planning for MSA, put up fliers in the freezing cold, you’ll never regret it! Years after, you’ll regret not doing these things when you can’t even remember that 5-point difference on that Bio test you were so worried about. Also, believe me when I tell you GPA is just one of a ton of things employers look at.
After college, your Islamic activities become very restricted and limited. There are corporate restrictions, time restrictions, Masjid board restrictions. You may be married or have other obligations. You may be too tired or can’t reach the people you want to. Mark Twain once said ‘Youth is wasted on the young’ but in Islam youth is a time to really work for Islam. Our history is rich with 16 year old Generals, 18 year old women Hadith narrators, 20 year old Sahabah who taught and spread Islam to the ends of the known world.
2. Study SMART – It’s not about the length of time, It’s how you do it.
You can maximize your studying if you go about it the right way. They say that for every hour you spend in class, you will probably need to study two hours outside class. Study includes more than just doing your homework. You will need to go over your notes from class, labeling, editing, and making sure you understand them. Review your notes. Read ahead. Always take a lot of notes in class, I mean a lot of copious notes, writing down as much as you can of what the professor says. These are invaluable when it comes time to study. Sometimes professors tend to give a lot of reading as well. Don’t read everything word for word. Take notes from your reading and use these to study from.
Go to every class! Do not skip unnecessarily – grades often have an inverse relationship to missed classes. Establish a good time and place to study. A quiet place where there are no distractions like a corner of a library is a good place. Study your syllabus daily to see where you are going and where you have been. Be sure to do reading assignments. Find out about and use labs, tutors, videos, computer programs, and alternate texts. Sign up for an orientation session in the campus library and computer facilities so you know how to use them.
Eat some good food! Studying on four hours of sleep and an empty stomach or junk-food diet is a waste of time. Avoid food and drink containing caffeine just before or just after studying. Before an exam try to get at least some sleep, studies show those who have 1 hour of sleep do better than those on 0!
Don’t study with other people until you’ve studied on your own then are getting together to discuss and review what’s important or quiz each other.
3. Bling Blingin’ with the right crowd – The influence of friends Psych 101.
A general rule of thumb is to hang out with friends you want to be like. The Prophet (saw) said that in paradise ‘everyone will be with those whom he or she loves’. So ask yourself who your friends are. Are they people you want to be like? Do you want to be where they are in the Hereafter? Are they people who remind you of Allah, help you to be a better Muslim? Or do you find you tend to miss prayer when you are with them and neglect your Islam?
Make sure to find Muslim roommates. This makes a huge difference in college life.
One thing to remember is that the only reason you are in school in the first place is for the sake of Allah, to educate yourself, become a better person, provide for your families, help the Muslim community and eventually build a good Islamic life. How is Allah going to help and support you if you don’t keep up in your Islam? What’s the point to everything then if school is what is stopping you from being a good Muslim — so how then can we expect Allah to bless us in it. How can there be Barakah in something where you neglect Allah?
One thing we can use to remind ourselves of how short this life is, is by thinking about how when a baby is born, the Athan is given in his/her ear, and then when a person dies Iqama is given and the prayer begins without any Athan. The time between that Athan and Iqama is the person’s life. Then just think about any regular prayer and the time between it’s Athan and Iqama. It goes by so fast we don’t even realize it!
Sometimes people get so caught up in school, they neglect their regular prayers and Salat-ul-Jumuah. They don’t have a true understanding of success. Even friends seem so scared to be late for class or skip Jumah, but you should turn around and say, “BROTHER!!! What are you going to say on the Day of Judgement?”
4. Stay in contact with your professors and other students in your classes.
Always go to your professor when you need help. Office hours are usually empty time for professors. Visit professors twice a month. They always remember your name when grading. They’ll always give you a break and help you out. But it’s also important for the professors to remember you so that they can write a letter of recommendation for you when you go look for a job or graduate school.
Other students can help you out with notes if you miss class, homework, and in comparing notes and ideas. All of the above is also good for Dawah. It shows Muslim students want to be successful.
5. Don’t compromise your Deen.
Don’t go to that bar, party or event or hang out with certain people, when you know those people don’t pray, will be drinking, doing unislamic things, where there is temptation. Don’t say to yourself it’s OK I’m not going to drink. Allah promises to send tests for you and they’re never easy tests.
I really believe they’re 50% vs 50% tests. Meaning you have the chance of going a certain way…otherwise it’s not really a test right. If you’re someone who always prays every prayer you may be tested with how much you mix with the opposite sex. If you’re someone who tries to keep their Haya’ you may be someone who will be tested with cheating on a test, etc. How scary is that…
So it’s best just to stay away from things that may lead you to compromise your Deen. Drinking, committing Zina, lying to cover up the things you do are all major sins, which are not forgiveable unless you repent. Be straight up from the beginning with people and your roommates with the things you can and can’t do.
6. Early bird gets the best worms! – Start early for everything.
By now you’ve realized that your university is one huge bureaucracy. Those who get ahead are the ones that do everything early.
Register early to get in classes you want. Get the schedule you want so you don’t miss Jumah or the weekly meetings! Get passcodes to enter closed classes early.
Buy books early to get the used books
99% of people do everything last minute. You can be part of the 1% that get ahead by doing things early!
7. Make fun Islamic alternatives for yourself.
Ever hear those people who say ‘Oh sister I don’t have time for MSA, you know I just come to school go to classes and go home and study’… and then later that semester you see them heading up some cultural club? (President no less? )
It happens because it’s not normal for someone to say I’m just going to study and that’s it. We’re all human and we need a balance between being serious and having fun.
You’ll end up falling into the wrong things if you don’t channel yourself now. Going to a party just to let off steam etc.
Try to do fun activities with other Muslims…sports. Sisters parties..
As an MSA you should have social activities and do fun important things like poetry readings, cultural foods, etc
8. Keep your Imaan up continuously.
We all know the Hadith that says that Iman goes up and down based upon our actions. If you aren’t doing anything to increase your iman then it is GUARANTEED that it will go down.
Examine your life right now. What are you doing every day to be a better Muslim? Are you reading books, going to Islamic classes, learning Arabic, reading Quran, listening to tapes?
If you’re not your Iman is going down because Iman must be maintained to stay at a level or increase.
9. Don’t take classes in something you have no interest in.
Trust me, if you plan on going to grad/post-grad school, the specific courses you take as an under-grad matter a lot less than how well you did in classes you enjoyed and got something out of. And in most cases, you can major in just about anything and still pursue something completely different after you graduate (re: grad school, work, etc).
Undergrad is a great time for building a stronger foundation (Islamically, socially), but grad school is more interesting in terms of coursework, since by its very nature, you’re concentrating on your interest.
Don’t take more than 3 technical courses at one time. Be balanced in your course selections. You know that the right part of your brain is specialized for creative-related stuff, whereas the left side is specialized for the more hard sciences. Keep a well balanced schedule so that both parts are your brain are doing an equal amount of work during the semester. That helps.
Make sure every semester you register early to get into at least 1 class that you will really like/enjoy like world religions or art or social psychology whatever you would find cool and interesting.
10. Balance learning in college with learning deen.
And just because you’re overloaded with classes and exams, etc doesn’t mean you can’t put time into furthering your Deen. Some excellent advice I remember receiving was to put aside set time to learn more Quran, Ahadith, etc. Balance is key; think of how many hours ur studying secular knowledge?
Arabic classes – in two months we’ve learned what people learn in 2 years, we can read the Quran and understand simple sentences ourselves.. how wild is that.
Islam classes- every time we go to conferences people are so envious that we are learning truly high level things.
Islam has a quality of being an ocean, the more small things you learn about it the more you realize how vast and huge it is.
Remember studying at college is Fard Kifayah meaning it’s an obligation on the community, but studying knowledge of the Deen what’s right and wrong is a Fard Ayn, obligatory on you. You are still responsible for things, you can’t plead ignorance because you didn’t know. It’s your duty to know. Just like when a police officer stops you for turning at a stop sign, are you going to say”Gee officer I didn’t know.” He’ll say, “You’re supposed to know!!.. too bad.. and here’s your ticket. Have a nice day! ”
The whole purpose of MSA is at LEAST to maintain the level of Islam you are at, if not increase it while you are here.
All of my Ummah will enter Paradise except those that refuse.
Those who were with him (the Sahaabah) said, “And who will refuse?”
He (SAW) said: Whoever obeys me will enter Paradise and whoever disobeys me will have refused.
I pray Allah keeps you all steadfast on the Siratul Mustaqeem and one day steadfast on another Sirat. Ameen.
source: The Madina