A student’s push for prayer on campus
A sit-down interview with Shazia Sarwar
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 22, 2012 22:10
Shazia Sarwar is focused on her studies - and her faith. She prays often, adheres to Islam’s core principles, and is always willing to do good works to better the world she lives in.
For example, she’s worked with Roosevelt University’s administration to establish prayer rooms on both campuses. She observed other institutions with prayer rooms and wanted the same for people at Roosevelt; for students, staff and faculty of all beliefs and doctrines to have a safe and clean environment to practice their meditations.
As a result, AUD 703 is a sanctioned area of prayer.
Torch caught up with Sarwar to talk about her passion for medicine, studies and prayer.
Majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry, Sarwar plans to use her expertise to become a clinical pharmacist. She has always been interested in science but did not want to bide her time with administrative work.
“I just have a really big interest in helping the community,” she said. “The only reason why I didn’t go into medical school is because I can’t deal with all the blood…my motto is ‘passion for medicine.’”
On Sunday mornings Sarwar volunteers at a Schaumburg mosque, Masjid al Huda where she teaches Islamic principles to preschoolers. She has also taught 8th and 9th graders, showing them the fundamentals and history of Islam and Quranic studies.
When teaching the older children, Sarwar makes sure they understand her teachings enough to apply them to life’s issues.
On starting a prayer room
Born in Chicago and raised in Hanover Park with her two brothers, Sarwar grew up with a well-rounded knowledge of religion.
“My upbringing wasn’t really that strict….our values and morals come from what our parents taught us,” she said, “You show love for your religion and I think what it’s taught me is to love all, Muslims and non-Muslims alike...I can never say I am the perfect Muslim, all I can do is strive to be a better Muslim. That’s all I can say.”
Sarwar said she deals with the stresses of life through God and is especially passionate about helping those in need with whatever resources and knowledge she has.
“It’s just me doing my part as a good Muslim and making things easier for other people to pray by having a place to pray.”
Helping those in need
“When I see it [poverty] here in America, I don’t think it should exist.”
If they have the means, all Muslims are encouraged to embarck on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, a city located in western Saudi Arabia. Sarwar has been to several places all over the world, including India. Yet her favorite trip by far has been to Mecca.
“Once you go there, you forget all your worldly problems,” she said. “You’re so into praying on time, going to mosque...you forget everything else, all your worldy affairs. You’re just so prone to your spiritual aspect.”
On International Tensions Involving Islam
About a month ago, there was a global outcry from the Islamic world when an American filmmaker produced an offensive film released on the internet, directly attacking the prophet Muhammad. Locations in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East became hot zones because of violent protests aimed at U.S. embassies and their allies. This resulted in tens of casualties and injuries directly related to the riots.
“If you go online and type up any religion on the Internet,” said Sarwar, “...you’ll find tons of articles and tons of books against Islam, those aren’t banned from Google...if a person is creating a movie they’re creating their own thesis.”
She used “The Passion of the Christ” as an example of one opinion on the history of a religion versus another.
“He was doing his own thing,” she commented about the filmmaker, “there’s a way of going about it. Violence isn’t the answer - war is not the answer. The answer is you need to know your facts and you need to be peaceful. Islam is a peaceful religion.”
Sarwar has a deep appreciation for one’s character and motivation and feels her own strong identity is due to family and faith.
“I always give them credit,” she said. “People like me! People like my behavior.”
Sarwar told of a horrific accident last year, when she was struck and knocked unconscious by a car. She suffered pelvic injuries and temporary paralysis, but had a full recovery with no broken bones and no damaged organs. She attributes her faith to her survival.
“Alhumdulilah (Arabic for “thanks to God”) that I’m here! I’m here, I’m healthy and going to school.”