I was raised in a practicing Egyptian Muslim family, one that consults religious teachings on regular basis and use it as a ruler for their decision-making. This had a tremendous positive effect on my value system and the way I view the world. It helps guide me, especially when I am faced with life struggles.
Despite having this, making sense of the world remains to be a human struggle. During high school and my first years of college, I continuously questioned conventional cultural understandings of topics that affected me on a daily basis such as social justice, privilege, and women’s rights. I was frustrated by the sedative and heedless states of people who shared my religion, but constantly regarded their understanding of it to be absolute. I found their perspective very limiting to the various pathways that Allah (God), the Most Merciful and the Most Gracious, has created for us to arrive to Him.
This has set me on a sincere quest for truth of my being and others guided by reason, a quest which includes exploring other faiths. This quest has indeed led to very fruitful intellectual conclusions, but also the strong emphasis of Islam on matters of the heart. This spiritual realization was very alluring and eye opening to me. It transformed my view from one that exclusively honors reason, in a world that privileges reason, to one that found a peaceful niche in continuously trying to find the balance between disciplining the self and loving the soul.
As I realized that belief and the path to salvation are ultimately “what lies in one’s heart and how one chooses to act upon it,” as Imam Hassan Albasri says, a whole new world opened up to me. I realized that my existence is a blessing. With all my human weaknesses, I am still chosen to take up space on this earth every day. This was very empowering to me, and it led me to further extend love and compassion to others, realizing that each one of us has a purpose. I realized that the power to change the world lies within me by simply engaging in a life journey of self-refinement of the heart, giving love, and serving others.
With this, I am very excited for the opportunity to learn, engage, and build bridges with students of other faiths during the fellowship program.