By: Emily Schroder
The lovely Adah Shair, UNF Interfaith Center student assistant, Muslim Student Association Treasurer and Better Together @ UNF Service Coordinator, shared her story of religion and spirituality with us on Thursday, October 17th during her Coffee & Conversation at the Interfaith Center. Adah is a wonderful and soft-spoken woman who I have the joy of working with at the Interfaith Center. On Thursday I got to see a new side of her. Adah identifies as Muslim, but I had yet to have shared an in-depth conversation with her about her spirituality and religious background. Adah lit up when she spoke about her faith on Thursday and had a passion in her voice that I had not heard before. It was absolutely delightful!
Adah is from Kashmir- a city In Northern India that is predominantly Muslim- and moved to the United States at the age of 18. However, Adah explained that being born Muslim and accepting Islam as your faith are two very different things. When she moved to the U.S., people began to ask her questions about her faith. This caused her to think about the meanings behind her beliefs; it brought her religiosity to her consciousness and allowing her to intentionally choose Islam. I found this explanation beautiful, and I could certainly relate.
Adah went on to explain the religious traditions she partakes in, namely fasting and prayer. She explained that the process of fasting is humbling- that when she is fasting, nothing bothers her (other than the hunger, of course!). She said that she has come to feel very positive about the 5 daily prayers and that she must do them in order to “feel normal” and spiritually saturated. She also eloquently shared the concept of jihad- a term that can either be explained as a struggle against other people or a struggle within oneself. Much negative connotation lies in this word due to misconceptions and the very one-sided media portrayal of Muslim culture in America. Adah explained to us that Jihad, contrary to popular American belief, does NOT entail violence or aggression towards other people- it is a term that encapsulates the internal struggles related to spirituality and sometimes the external struggles that may be unavoidable. She emphasized that the only kind of violence the Qur’an allows is the unavoidable defense of oneself or one’s people, namely during the time of religious persecution and war when Muslims had to defend themselves against their aggressors.
Adah has an inspiring vision of her spirituality- one that is positive, loving, and introspective. Grounded with the idea that each human must answer for his or her actions in this life, Adah shared her belief that each person is capable of a direct connection between themselves and God- a relationship that will be unique to each individual. How one does religion and how one does prayer is not universal- it is a personal experience and personal choice with its own inherent worth.
To me, Adah has a gentle and loving vibe about her that transcends all aspects of her life, including her spirituality. One can’t help but respond positively to her, and I believe that everyone who had the opportunity to share in her Coffee & Conversation went away feeling a little more peaceful than before.