Every religion has different daily struggles. Sometimes, those struggles increase with time and become struggles for the religion as one group of people. Albeit, without these struggles what would the differences between religions be? Christians have their own set of struggles, as do Muslims. And, as a voice for the Muslim community, my jihad—my struggle—is to acknowledge these difficulties.
Within the Muslim world, there is a word that specifically means struggle, jihad, but is often misused to mean “holy war.” The term “jihad” today translates to “daily struggle” the way it has for centuries, since the beginning of the Muslim Hijri calendar 1,435 years ago. The Hijri calendar follows the moon’s cycles, and it is how Muslims track time. The timeline that Muslims follow has expanded with events, similar to the Christian calendar. Between the two religions, there are more similarities than differences. Today in America, that is the struggle, the jihad: to find similarities rather than focusing on the differences.
Muslims have been notoriously connected to the tragedy of September 11. At that moment, Americans began to associate Muslims with negative connotations. Ever since then, when a Muslim is reported on a news broadcast, the term “terrorist” is often used to label the individual. Over time, the Muslim people and terrorism began to be viewed as synonymous.
As a Muslim, I assumed I might encounter trouble when I first came to La Sierra University. Since I have grown in a country where my wrongly defined religion defines who I am as an individual and I have been pre-judged, I came to this university with pre-existing judgments. I was worried that people would try to convert me, so I avoided talking to as many people as possible. I was worried that I would be judged and that I wouldn’t be accepted here. Every day I lived in my own personal jihad.
The main reason that I chose La Sierra is because I had false dreams, to enter the medical field, and that a step towards that would be attending Loma Linda University’s sister school. The moment I began taking science classes I hated my life. Nothing felt right, and my grades were severely dropping—which now still affects my grade point average. However, all my pre-existing judgments about La Sierra were false. There were a few minor bumps in the road, where I felt unwelcome here, but those moments are miniscule in the context of everything else.
I remember the moment I met my first real friend, ironically in the science class I hated. My friend, Brenda Delfino, is a Seventh-day Adventist, and as we became closer friends we kept comparing and contrasting our religions. In the end we found more similarities than differences. What makes this friendship vital in my attendance at La Sierra University is that my struggle of meeting new people began to slowly deteriorate in a positive way. Brenda never tried to convert me; she just accepted me the way I am, which essentially led to a positive impact on the way I began to open up to the people around me.
It really doesn’t matter that I am a Muslim attending a Christian university, because my relationship with God has been strengthened by the people around me. Their love for God and my love for God are similar. Putting aside the other struggles of religion, it makes everything that much easier. Jihad lives within everyone. Waking up in the morning, attending school, stepping outside of our boundaries and our everyday routines are struggles. More importantly, our relationship with God is an equal struggle universally shared. The person reading this, the person that will never read this, and the person writing this—we are all equal and united with daily struggles to build humanity worldwide.
Amar Kiswani was born and raised in California. In her free time, Amar enjoys writing, painting, and reading.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6319