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  • Maisara

To my friends in IAS/MS; I hope we are friends in every universe

Growing up, I spent my secondary school years in a Christian, all-girls school. My best friendships were forged in this precious period of my life - growing together in this awkward, yet unapologetically happy phase of life as teenagers. Naturally, I did not have many close friends that were of the same religion as me, so I was used to being the only muslim in the group.

But as I got older, the feeling of loneliness started to grow. Being part of a religion that is deemed ‘stricter’ than others, there is no denying that you would sometimes feel like a burden when you have to tell your friends, “I can’t meet at this time, I have to pray” or “This place isn’t halal”.

Thankfully, my secondary school best friends never made me feel like a burden and always accommodated my needs, which I am immensely grateful for. But entering university is a different story.

Being one of the few muslim people in my undergraduate course, I often felt disconnected from the peers in my batch. Our lifestyles are very different, and it made it hard for me to forge meaningful friendships.

Majority of my first and second year in university was spent in solitude. I did make a few meaningful friendships along the way, but I lacked a community that I feel like I belonged to. Good company is an important part of religion - being alone is better than being with bad company, but having righteous friends is even better than being alone.

What certainly did not help my cause was the fact that I built the walls around me so high. To put it simply, 2021-2022 was a rough patch in my life. In attempt to heal, I put in a lot of effort to protect my peace, but it came at a price as well; I found it hard to be truly comfortable with new people.

Deciding to join NUS Muslim Society

In my second year of university (AY22/23), I decided to join NUS Muslim Society (MS), in hopes of finding companionship. However, I was still trying to pull myself out of my own misery (healing is not linear, they say). Long story short, my attempt at breaking down my own walls failed. I found it hard to be friends with people beyond a certain point, and ultimately I still spent most of my second year in solitude.

In my third year of university, I decided to give MS a second chance. What’s the worst that could happen, am I right?

I joined the same adhoc under MS as I did in my second year, Islam Awareness Series (IAS). For me, it is probably the most meaningful adhoc under MS - not only are we helping to spread islamic knowledge, but we also learn a lot along the way. You don’t have to be the most knowledgeable, you just have to be interested.

My members and I, after our second event of AY23/24

What encouraged me even more was the fact that some previous members had decided to join IAS again. I like familiarity, so it made me feel even more comfortable, even if I did not talk to them that much previously.

Now that I am writing this at the end of the academic year, I can say that I’ve definitely changed a lot, compared to how I was last year. I am thankful for my IAS members, for allowing me to break down the walls I’ve built over the years.

If you know me, I can’t stand the weather in Singapore. I’d try to go to an air conditioned place to study. Hence, I always wondered why people - specifically MS students - would study at the forum near Central Library. It’s so hot, and there’s no fans. Why do you guys enjoy socialising there?

But one day, I decided to muster up the courage to ask my IAS members if anyone is at the forum to hang out. This was a huge step for me, as I’m typically too shy to even ask such things. I did end up spending time with one of my members at the forum.

Slowly, I started to see my friends at the forum, and we would hang out under the premise of ‘studying’ - but I’m quite sure I’m not the only one who secretly just wanted to spend time together. These study sessions would stretch into the night, and naturally our conversations about school and IAS would turn into heart-to-heart talks.

I guess that the forum isn’t really that bad after all.

One of our dinners at the forum!

I’d say it’s fate that God allowed me to meet a group of people that is so easy to click with. I was very blessed to work with people who are responsible, enthusiastic, and inspiring. This made it even easier to become friends, beyond our adhoc’s responsibilities. Perhaps it’s also due to the fact that some of us knew each other before joining IAS this year, making it easier to bond with one another.

It makes me happy to meet people who share the same interests, same sense of humour, and more importantly, people who are also working on their spiritual journey to God. Joining IAS again this year gave me the opportunity to meet inspiring people, who make me want to be a better muslim.

I’ve even picked up simple habits from these people, whether it’s to pray earlier, or to complain a little less and instead be more grateful. These small habits make me feel like I’ve improved as a muslim, though I still have ways to go.

What I really like about Islam & MS is that it’s easy to form friendships. An act as simple as ‘giving salam’ to the people you see as you walk around school can be the start of a new friendship. Personally, I’ve formed bonds with people just by ‘giving salam’ and having a small chat at the forum, and I’m grateful for them as well.

  • ‘Giving salam’: greeting fellow muslims by saying ‘Assalamualaikum (Peace be upon you)’, oftentimes shaking hands at the same time too (but only with people of the same gender!)

Of course, all good things come to an end. IAS has ended its activities for the academic year, after three successful events in Semester Two. I’m in my third year of university, and some of my IAS members / MS friends are graduating in a couple of weeks. Time truly flies, and I never expected to form such a bond with my precious members, but I’m so glad that God allowed us to cross paths.

Although not all friendships are meant to last our entire lives, one thing I’m sure of is that our bond does not end here. We’ve all left our marks in each other’s lives - be it the way we pose in photos, our lingo, our religious habits.

Truthfully, I wish this didn’t have to end. But I will always be thankful for the memories made in this special third year of university, and I hope that my friends can say the same.

I hope that we are friends in every universe.

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