Mohamed Ghilan encourages students, offers advice on integrating Islam into their lives


Graphic by Carly Schulman

Mohamed Ghilan. He offered advice on how students could holistically integrate Islam into their lives and studies.

Shreya Pugalia, Reporter

Scholar Mohamed Ghilan discussed how secularism has caused many believers to “compartmentalize” their religion at a Friday event hosted by Northwestern’s Muslim-cultural Student Association.

Ghilan offered advice to the 40 attendees on how students could holistically integrate Islam into their lives and studies.

Organizers began the event by reciting a prayer and welcoming all those in attendance. Ghilan then highlighted a central question posed to him by the organizers: How can one progress in their spiritual development?

Early in the event, Ghilan explained how many people compartmentalize their religious practice — by limiting their practice of Islam to just prayers. He said he advocates for the practice of religion to be a guiding force for all parts of life.

“(There’s this) idea of compartmentalizing religion, looking at Islam as a kind of thing that you do on the side but then you have the rest of your day-to-day activity and the rest of your studies that are done somewhere else,” Ghilan said. “Islam just happens to be this kind of garnish at the top of it.”

Ghilan discouraged this compartmentalization of religion and instead urged students to make religion a central part of their everyday lives.

Students should attempt to find spirituality from the inside, part of which is making religion a part of your entire life, Ghilan said. He shared his own experiences as a busy college student, rearranging his class schedule to be able to pray five times a day, a tradition essential to practicing Muslims.

“As an undergrad, when I had courses, I organized my schedule around prayer times so I never actually missed (prayer) during my entire four year degree,” Ghilan said.

On screen, attendees nodded along enthusiastically in agreement.

Fardeem Munir, executive vice president of McSA and a McCormick sophomore, said Ghilan’s talk on practicing spirituality resonated with him.

“The need to do work on yourself and not expect results in a day or a week — that real spiritual growth takes years,” Munir said.

Munir has been a long time follower of Ghilan’s work on Islamic studies. He said he invited Ghilan to speak at the event because of the strong relevance between Ghilan’s background and the values of the McSA community.

At the conclusion of the event, students took time to thank Ghilan and ask questions about incorporating religion into their daily lives.

McSA president Jihad Esmail said the event was an opportunity for the Muslim community on campus to hear about a topic important to their faith and for the greater NU community to stay engaged on these topics.

The Weinberg senior said his favorite part of the event was Ghilan’s point about incorporating religion and personal value systems into the way one sees the world.

“I loved his point about the lenses through which we view information,” Esmail said. “Regardless of your faith or personal philosophy, having the conviction to view things through a lens you’ve chosen, rather than one chosen for you, is extremely powerful.”

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