The door closes behind me and I feel immediate peace. It’s no surprise the DCC houses no more than a handful of people cramming for a late-night study. Certainly no Muslim would be caught in the prayer room, ten PM on a Friday night. I set my backpack down by the far wall. Walking slowly, reverently, I retrieve the Qur’an from the shelf above the prayer mats. Time to read Surah Kahf.

It’s been a while, admittedly, since I’ve read from right to left. Trying to catch up to the graceful arcs and valleys of the Arabic script my eyes can hardly keep up with the soundless rhythm reverberating in my mind. The letters are like a friend that I haven’t met in so long, so they forgive me when I stumble across the slopes of the brush. I may not be as comfortable in their presence as before, but there’s no mistaking the way they exit into the air in whispered breaths. I struggle to pronounce elusive eins. I refocus, try again. When I’m finished I feel accomplished, like I’ve run my first successful marathon in a long time. On a whim I flip to a closer friend to finish the session: Surah Yasin, one of my favorite surahs (first comes Lahab, followed by Ikhlaas).

I close the book, feeling centered. I raise henna-covered hands to talk to Allah. Then I stand for prayer. I breathe in deep, declare my niyaah for Isha.

Allahu Akbar.

I’m outside Loree Hall, squinting into the sun. It’s definitely Asr, and I have class soon. I could walk back inside, to shelter, to hide myself in solitude praying inside a selection of squat buildings. But it’s so alluring out here; the flat expanse of green is covered in the shade of a graceful tree. So I lay my sweatshirt that I had no need of in seventy degree weather (and Allah provides us with His foresight) onto the sweet, bright grass and I smell the tang of life filling my stale lungs that have gathered far too much dust. And for a long moment I’m taken away, far away from Earth, and I’m closer to God than I will ever be. Clinging to that feeling I raise my hands in prayer.

Allahu Akbar.

There’s no place I’d rather be.

Allahu Akbar.

 

By Hira Shahbaz

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