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The Tip Jar

I’ve made it to my senior year of my undergraduate career, alhumdulillah, which *totally* makes me qualified enough to give out some advice on how to get through your time here. But I’m as open to advice as I am eager to give it, so be sure to leave a tip in the jar (aka the comments below) from which we can all benefit, Insha’Allah!

We Need to Celebrate Black History Month Too

Oh ummah, do I have a bone to pick with you. (Don’t I always?)

February is coming to a close and with it, Black History Month is, too. What better time of the year to honor Black Muslims than now? Yet besides the Malcolm X event the Graduate MSA, a brand new initiative under the Rutgers MSA, is hosting tomorrow, our own MSA has not done anything. We need to do better. We need to do a whole heck of a lot better to treat and honor our Black brothers and sisters. The way they are treated in our communities goes against the teachings of Islam and is not the way of the Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wa salam. The Malcolm X event is not even being held in the context of Black History Month. It is completely focused on his identity as a Muslim, which brings up another problematic issue.

The 50th anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination was this past Saturday, February 21. I was heartened to see nonblack Muslims on Facebook and Twitter post tributes honoring Malcolm X and his accomplishments. However, something struck out to me: again, it was only the Muslim aspects of his identity being lauded. His acceptance of Islam and completing Hajj leads nonBlack Muslims to believe that the ummah is the haven Malcolm was seeking refuge from white supremacy in the United States. While yes, Islam is the perfect religion and gives equality to all races as Malcolm described it to, the ummah is filled with antiblackness.

We are so proud of Malcolm because look, such a prominent activist during the Civil Rights Movement was a Muslim! In doing so, we ignore his Black identity. Along with his quotes about Islam, let us celebrate his quotes about the Black struggle, especially the ones we know would be deemed as too radical by American Muslim organizations and councils if he lived today. Despite what you may have been taught, Malcolm post-Hajj embraced his Black identity as much as he did pre-Hajj. And he rightfully did so as well. Allah created nations and tribes so that we may know each other, not so that we may become homogenized into one culture. Let us honor his work towards equality, the words he spoke. Let us honor his humanity and who he was as a person. Let us honor the multiple aspects of his identity and the roles he played: Muslim. Freedom fighter. Husband. Father. Friend. Brother.

Let us learn to dismantle the antiblackness within our own communities to make them more welcoming to our Black brothers and sisters. Learn when to step back and when to listen and amplify the voices of Black Muslims. Acknowledge the Black identities of important figures in our religion’s history. Invite Black Muslims to the table when talking about combating Islamophobia. Islamophobia did not start on September 11, 2001. Islam did not first appear in the United States 20-30 years ago when your parents immigrated here. Muslims first came here hundreds of years ago when abducted Africans were brought to North America as slaves. It is all too important that we work with Black people in solidarity to take action against antiblackness in our society. Our ummah tends to expect Black people’s solidarity in causes close to us without offering solidarity to issues that directly affect the Black community, which is completely unacceptable. Solidarity is not a one-way street. it must be given to be reciprocated.

Black History Month is almost over but I hope that this is only just the beginning for all of us in acting like true Muslims to our Black brothers and sisters.

Your Life on Campus During Winter… As Told by GIFS

1. When the temperature is in the 30s and you know it’s gonna get colder

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2. Daylight savings is in full effect and it’s getting dark around 5 PM

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3. Getting an email about Rutgers’ operating status and it only says that all campuses are open and operating

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4. Walking to class is such a struggle.

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5. You regularly make du’a to Allah for this

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6. Waiting at the bus stop like

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7. But at least you get to wear all your cozy sweaters?

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8. Nah, it’s too cold to enjoy this.

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9. And all you really want to ask for is…

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10. Instead, you’ll just be over here wishing for spring in the dead of winter.

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What’s your winter du’a, folks? Making up those missed fasts, at least?

10 Ways to Avoid a Handshake

We’ve all been there. We’ve all anticipated it and tried to prevent any awkwardness. You’ve just met someone of the opposite sex. And you see it, they’re extending their hand and oH GOD WHAT DO YOU DO? Here are some tips on how to approach this situation in a COMPLETELY smooth fashion. (Disclaimer: Results may vary). Continue reading “10 Ways to Avoid a Handshake”

Getting Your Creative Juices Flowing

Submissions is holding a project during the month of November in honor of National Novel Writing Month. During this month, writers try to write 50,000 words in the entire month of November, which ends up being about 1,667 words per day. We’re trying to collectively reach the goal together and publish our writings as an anthology about the Muslims of Rutgers, by the Muslims of Rutgers. We each have something to share with the world, so let’s SAY it. Let’s get our voices out there, because we all know the world isn’t leaning in to listen. You may not think that you’re a writer, but EVERYONE has something important to say and we want to hear it. (Click here to sign up, the deadline’s approaching soon!)

Creativity doesn’t come naturally to many people (me being one of them), so I wanted to pass along some tips that I came across to help you get those creative juices flowing for your submission to the anthology (and in general of course!).

1. Freewrite.
When you use glue or a fountain pen or a henna cone after a while, you have to clear off the gunk at the top before it flows properly. Writing is the same! Before you get started on an actual composition, clear your mind by setting an alarm for ten minutes, plugging in your headphones, and writing every thought you have without stopping until that alarm goes off. Write every mundane thought, even when one cuts another off. You’re not allowed to worry about mistakes or clarity until it’s over. When you’re finished, you’ll have a plethora of thoughts to sort through, and you’ll be surprised with what you can come up with.

2. Read. A lot.
Reading lets you take in different kinds of ideas and styles, and it helps you learn about the creative techniques of others so you can figure out your own. We’re all busy people, so we probably don’t have the time to reread the entirety of Harry Potter, but maybe pick up a short story or even revisit a favorite from your childhood or a younger sibling.

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3. Outline.
This is a really effective way of figuring out where you want to go and what your idea could develop into. It also helps you stay organized and is useful not only in creative pieces, but when you’re writing more academic essays, too! You don’t have to stick to solid, neat, step-by-step outlining, either; consider webbing or using different colors to make this process exciting.

4. Look at prompts.
Examples and prompts are there to get the gears in your brain turning. Sometimes you’ll start with one and go in a totally different, more exciting direction — how many times have you been struck with something in the middle of an essay at 2AM, grinned, groaned, and had to change your thesis? For Project: #MuslimsOfRutgers, the style guide has a huge list of prompts you can look at. The internet in general can lead you to great resources too.

5. Reflect upon yourself and your experiences.
Find out what kind of lessons and conclusions you can draw from your experiences. Ask yourself what matters to you. What’s something other people don’t know about you, or you wish they did? What do you have to say to the world?

6. Have something small you can write in to record important ideas.
Keep a small journal or even have something on your phone to record random inspiration, quotes, etc., that you don’t want to forget. It’s a total life-saver because inspiration can go as easily as it comes, and things like these are great to go through when you’re in a sour mood. Plus, it’s interesting to look back and see what stuck with you.

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7. Brainstorm with others.
It’s hard to come up with ideas on your own, so brainstorm with someone else, or even just talk. Shooting even the vaguest idea at an outsider lets it evolve in ways that would not have been possible on your own!

8. Take a walk or a drive.
You never know where or how inspiration might strike you.

9. Put yourself in a new environment.
Get out of your comfort zone and make yourself open to new experiences, ideas, and perspectives. Try something new. Try something you think you’d be bad at. It’s just important to be open to new possibilities.

Or on a more local level, get a new spot. If you’re always sitting on the couch with your laptop on the coffee table, sit on the coffee table with your laptop on the couch (note: don’t actually do that, but hopefully you catch my drift). If you usually type things right away, try writing by hand for a change of pace.

10. “Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy, you will find your self.”–Yohji Yamamoto
This quote isn’t condoning plagiarizing; it’s just a reminder that basing your work off other people’s styles and ideas isn’t completely horrible or taboo. After all, what we consider our classics–Chaucer, Shakespeare, and almost the entirety of Disney–are based off of the work of the people that came before them. As you write more, you’ll find what sticks with you and what doesn’t, and you’ll discover new ways to make your writing uniquely yours. But everyone has to start somewhere.

It’s okay to get frustrated. Be open to your own flaws. That’s why revising exists. But get your story written down before you start to criticize it. Tell it to yourself first so you can figure out how to tell it to others, or test it on your family and friends. Writing is a difficult process for everyone, so don’t let any slumps discourage you. After all, we need your voice. And we need to try to get our stories out there.

As always, if you have any tips you’d like to share, leave them in the comments below!

Making the Most out of Your College Experience

As I looked through the classes offered next semester, at one point I realized I was preparing the schedule for my very last semester as a Rutgers undergraduate. It goes by really fast so here are a couple of tips on making the most of it!

1. Unless you’re absolutely sure of what you want to study, take a bunch of different classes that sound interesting to you.
You never know what might capture your attention! Actually, even if you think you know what you want to study, try taking a few different classes anyway. Why would you trust the high school version of yourself to know what you want for the rest of your life?

2. Don’t isolate yourself.
College is a great breeding ground for making lifelong friendships. What would college be without a few fantastic friends by your side?

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3. Don’t expect Career Services to be anything more than mostly unhelpful.
Don’t waste your time and look to other places for resources. Departments for each major have advisers and they can usually provide more specific resources and advice. Your fellow classmates and upperclassmen are full of great information too!

4. Get. Involved.
This really helps with making your experience more fulfilling. College isn’t all about academics, so leave room in your schedule for your interests.

5. Expose yourself to a variety of viewpoints.
Become a more well-rounded person and get out of the tiny bubble you were in when you came here. Take a class on a topic you know absolutely nothing about. Go to events so you can learn something new. Join organizations just to find out what the people there are all about. Rutgers is a super diverse community, so don’t miss out on that.

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6. Find out what opportunities and programs Rutgers has to offer.
There are TONS. Seriously do your research. You don’t want to miss out on applying to a program because the deadline passed or it’s only available to sophomores and you’re a junior now. Here are just a few to get you started.

7. Find what you’re really passionate about.
This doesn’t necessarily have to be directly tied into your studies (it would be great if it could), but it could be something along the lines of a hobby, a cause, or an area of interest. Now take that thing, and make something of it at Rutgers.

What are your suggestions for making the most out of your time as an undergrad? Leave your tips in the comments below!

Covertly Doing Wudu in a Public Restroom

Public restrooms are just in general the worst. You know what’s even worse? Having to do your wudu in public restrooms. No one wants to get caught with their foot in the sink. No one wants to be that Muslim that makes other non-Muslims think we’re such weirdos (though the mainstream media does a good job of that on its own).

1. Unisex single use restrooms are your best friend.
You have your privacy, the door locks so you know you can take your time doing wudu properly without any fears of being interrupted. Find these gems on campus and take advantage of the comfort they provide. I know on College Ave, there’s one in the Student Activities Center, one in the Satellite Computer Lab, and one in the MPR of the College Ave Student Center. I’m not too familiar with the bathroom situations on other campuses, so if you know of any other restrooms like these around Rutgers, let us know in the comments!

2. Make your wudu in bathrooms that aren’t as commonly used.
This is the next best thing to unisex single use restrooms because it minimizes your chance of someone walking in while you’re doing wudu. Less traffic means more privacy!

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3. Bring a friend with you.
There is strength in numbers and you won’t feel (as) flustered if a non-Muslim walks in.

4. Be mindful of when the bathrooms are often used.
This tends to be in between classes when people are rushing to places. But if it’s in the middle of the class period, there tends to not be as many people just hanging around. Take advantage of these time slots to do your wudu!

5. Have a bunch of paper towels ready.
This way, you can wipe down any water that was splashed around the sink and on the floor. Don’t leave any signs of having done wudu in the bathroom, mostly to give the custodians any sort of break, which they definitely deserve.

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6. Don’t actually put your feet in the sink when washing them.
Instead raise them to knee level and wipe them. This is a much less awkward position to be caught in and if done properly, it decreases the amount of water that gets splashed on the floor.

7. JUST OWN IT.
You are purifying yourself to obey Allah and a random stranger thinking you’re weird is absolutely nothing compared to fulfilling your obligations as a Muslim.

Leave your own tips in the comments below!

Managing Your Time

Is it humanly possible to get enough sleep, have a social life, and do well in your classes? Well, you can at least try with the following tips:

1. Keep a calendar of when all of your assignments are due and when your exams are.
Being able to visually see when important dates are coming up is helpful, especially if you have multiple assignments due around the same couple of days. It’s much easier to see when you should start something.

2. Prioritize the things you have to get through.
A great way to do this is to make to-do lists and order the items on your list depending on their importance. You can prioritize in a lot of different ways, like by deadline or level of difficulty, so choose what is best for you.

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3. Do the work that doesn’t require a laptop first.
We all get distracted by the internet so if you do those readings that you printed first, you’ll be more in the zone when you do have to open your laptop. Or if opening your laptop alone makes you less focused, at least you’ll have a lighter workload by the time you realize you’ve wasted an hour or two on the internet.

4. Give yourself rewards as you complete items on your list.
This could be anything from eating a piece of candy to a quick YouTube video.

5. Take breaks as needed.
You don’t want your brain to get fried, so take a break if you feel you need one. You’ll work much more efficiently if you feel refreshed than if you pushed on through studying nonstop. The key here is to not prolong your breaks.

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6. Study with someone so they can keep your focus in check.
It’s much easier to convince yourself that you can spare some time to check Facebook, but not as easy if someone else is there who can see if you’re focused or not. This tip may not be good for you if you’re someone who is distracted by others while studying, so figure out what your needs are.

7. Figure out when you are most productive during the day.
When can you concentrate the best? Are you the type to get a lot of things done in the morning? Or will you be able to get more done during the afternoon or night? Do your most intense work then and leave the easier stuff for other times in the day. This can also apply to the days of the week.

Be sure to leave your own tips in the comments below!

Preparing for the New Semester

Welcome back everyone to the new school year! It’s exciting to return and start new classes, but it’s also terrifying and overwhelming because you haven’t really developed a groove yet. So, what do you do?

1. Get yourself a planner.
College can be overwhelming, so it’s an absolute must to stay organized.

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2. Actually USE your planner.
Write when all your readings, exams, papers, and other assignments are due for all of your classes in one calendar. This is the time to do it, because you’re (somewhat) not swamped with a ton of work. It may take some time to get everything in your calendar, BUT IT IS SO WORTH IT.

3. Figure out when you can pray with your schedule and where.
There are designated areas on each campus (minus Livingston), but even figuring out where the sorta empty hallways and areas are can be helpful if (when) you’re busy and won’t be able to make it to the student center and back to your lecture hall in time for your exam.

4. Make friends in your classes!
Not only do you get to meet new people but now you have automatic study buddies.

5. Your academics are definitely important, but give yourself time to relax.
Because hey you’re human and too much stress is bad for your health. Set aside a designated time each week where you can focus on making sure you’re mentally okay.

6. Like our Facebook page and follow @rutgersmsa on Twitter.
You definitely want to stay updated with where the cool events are, and you can find out how to get more involved with the MSA’s different initiatives. (Hint: check out this week’s event.)

7. When you’re feeling the stress, make du’a.
When you’re not feeling stressed, make du’a. Also remembering your fellow brothers and sisters in your du’as is nice, too. We know we could all use it.

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8. Find yourself a reliable study space.
Whether it’s that one table in the library, a certain area in the student center, or your kitchen table, it’ll be much easier to focus when you’re in the habit of studying in the same spot.

9. Remember it’s okay to be stressed out.
It doesn’t mean you’re adapting horribly to the new semester, it just means you’re a college student. Be sure to seek out the proper resources if you need them and turn to Allah for guidance.

If you have any helpful tips, be sure to leave them in the comments below! Otherwise…GO CONQUER THIS SEMESTER!!

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