An ongoing war began on Oct. 7 between the Israeli Defense Forces and the terrorist organization Hamas, which has been the de facto leadership of the Palestinian territory of Gaza for decades now, as well as having a presence in the occupied West Bank. The violence has only escalated since, with civilians getting caught in the middle and hospitals being bombed.
Due to the brutality being widely spread through news programs and social media, it has been a major topic of discussion across the world, including on the Rowan’s campus.
President Ali Houshmand put out a statement acknowledging the attacks in Israel and expressing remorse for the victims.
The Muslim Students Association (MSA) held a Friday Jumu’ah prayer service for the victims in Gaza on Oct. 13, in Savitz Hall’s interfaith prayer and meditation room.
Due to Gaza’s high Muslim population, with 99% of the people being Sunni Muslims, this is of particular concern to the MSA.
“That’s something that I feel like really lacked from the university… Our voices aren’t shown and it’s, it was completely one sided and it really affected the community… just the idea of just unity and coming together and supporting one another and putting our voice out there, when there was a lack of it in the first place,” said a source who wished to remain anonymous.
The service focused on leading those in attendance to not be paralyzed by their own emotions and to take action to help those in need rather than just making social media posts or feeling negatively without doing anything. The sermon also made reference to difficult times being a test from god and encouraged followers to ask for guidance from a higher power on how to navigate through difficult and challenging times.
Zain Abidin, a hospital chaplain at Cooper Hospital, gave the sermon as those in attendance listened and prayed.
“It necessitates that we look inward and see where we stand. You can make all the Facebook posts… you can be as upset as you want. It’s not going to do much. It’s not going to do much. Being angry at other people, it’s not going to do much,” said Abidin.
The point of being born into tumult was raised. The worshippers were also told to think back on times throughout history, when their parents or grandparents were young, and asked them to reflect on what their elders had done in those times. As they prayed, the students were told to take the opportunities provided to them by those who came before to do more than their elders had the ability to do.
The faith that refugees and those who have experienced war hold was spoken about, pointing to how the different experiences change a person’s perception of faith.
“They’re being tested with difficulty and we are being tested with ease. We’re being tested with how we respond to these situations. We are being tested with how we live our daily life,” said Abidin.
The memorization of the Qaran and the use of the religious book for guidance in life was also heavily emphasized to the group.
Prayers for all innocents who are suffering, including those in both Gaza and Israel, were held at the end of the sermon.
“Unity is such a big thing. And within the Muslim community that’s also something that we really value… It’s called umma when people come together… pray or advocate for one another, support one another that says something that we are kind of pushing for in these times, uniting together and just showing that, ‘Hey, we’re here for one another despite like our differences…’” said the anonymous source.
Abidin added after the sermon that in these times, it is difficult to know how to process feelings and use them to guide action.
“Right now we’re going through a very tough time where emotions are so high on every side, that people are not able to see and discern what exactly is right and what is wrong. And that’s the worst time to be when you can’t tell what is right and what is wrong… my goal for today’s sermon was to try and unite us under the banner of God with the goal of servicing all humanity, all oppressed people, all innocent people, no matter… where they’re from, what they believe in, or what they look like,” said Abidin.