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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, December 11, 2023

New prayer space for Muslim students opens in Curtis Hall

A new prayer room has opened in Curtis Hall this fall to provide a space for ritual Muslim prayers during weekdays.

The space's proximity to other academic buildings makes it easily accessible, allowing support for student practices and rituals, according to Muslim Chaplain Celene Ibrahim.

“It is a very accessible space so that people can stop by between their classes or in between whatever other extracurricular events they have in the day,” Ibrahim said. “The ritual prayers are very short; they usually don’t take more than 20 minutes, so it is really a place of rest and reconnection.”

Ibrahim, who became part of the chaplaincy in July 2014, led the creation of the new space. When she arrived, many Muslim students were concerned about the accessibility of prayer spaces, which presented an obstacle to their rituals, Ibrahim said.

“The most crucial part of Islam is our daily prayers, and they are set at intervals throughout the day,” she said. “The times change because the times are based on the daylight and the sun … They are ritual and required for a Muslim, so students were having to rent out classrooms and scramble to find places that were appropriate."

President of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) Obaid Farooqui explained that it had been difficult for students to find a consistent space for prayer.

“To facilitate [prayer] during the school day, the Muslim Student Association had been booking a room for a few hours in the middle of the day on weekdays in the [Mayer] Campus Center,” Farooqui, a senior, told the Daily in an email.

However, Farooqui said it was tough to reserve a room every day and to find a central place for prayers in the evenings or on the weekends.

The new Curtis prayer room is a small and open space with large windows, specifically designed as a space for Muslim prayer, according to Farooqui.

The pattern in the carpet is oriented such that the lines are perpendicular to the Qibla, the direction of Mecca toward which Muslims pray, and the room has a small, built-in foot basin to perform the Wudu, the ablution before prayer, he explained.

Space Management Planner Heidi Sokol said the design features of the finished prayer room, which include walls that are painted a color often used in mosques, were largely influenced by Ibrahim, and that the location and set-up were designed based on input from Ibrahim and students.

“The Chaplaincy approached [Tufts] Operations to help respond to a large number of student requests for a convenient prayer space on campus," Sokol told the Daily in an email.“The design criteria for this kind of space made for an interesting project with a unique set of requirements."

For now, the walls of the prayer room are bare, but MSA's Vice President of Social Affairs Zaroug Jaleel, a junior, said the group plans to incorporate some of its own decorations.

Farooqui said he felt that the project successfully filled many students' needs.

“The university was very thoughtful in designing the space,” Farooqui said.

The space will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., allowing students to use the space for four out of their five ritual prayers, Jaleel explained.

“The only one we wouldn’t be able to do is called Fajr, which is in the morning when the sunlight just rises, so it’s way before 8 [a.m.],” he said.

According to Ibrahim, the space is open to students of any denomination who want an on-campus location for prayer during the day.

“It is a space of prayer and reflection,” Ibrahim said. “It serves primarily the needs of the Muslim community because of the ritual practice that we have, but of course, if people of any faith would like to come in and say their prayers…the Muslim community is very happy to serve as host of the space.”

While the new prayer room meets an important need for Muslim students, Ibrahim and Jaleel said they would also both like to see an expansion of halal meat in the dining halls.

“The main dietary restriction of Muslims is the fact that our meat has to be halal certified," Jaleel said. "Dining services has done an amazing job of making it more accessible, but for a lot of students on campus, it still is not fully accessible.”

Jaleel added that overall, the Tufts community has been very receptive to improving conditions for Muslim students.

“The good thing is that we have seen incredible movement so far from campus,” Jaleel said. "They have been really receptive to our ideas.”