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The following is an informational letter from the Co-Presidents of the Muslim Students Association from Spring 2014 regarding Muslim prayer times.
Faculty and students alike are guided by the Academic Accommodations for Religious Obligations policy to find a mutually agreeable solution to conflicts between class requirements and religious obligations. It is up to each faculty member to decide what accommodations, if any, are reasonable and acceptable for their course(s). This letter is only meant to give faculty more information with which to make their own decisions.
To: Our Esteemed Faculty & Staff
Re: Muslim Prayers
Prayer is one of the fundamental requirements of the Islamic faith. Followers of the faith believe in maintaining a direct connection with God through these acts of daily worship. For this reason, many Muslim students may request to leave class for a short period of time in order to fulfill this obligation. Though Benedictine is known to have an amazingly understanding and accepting faculty, certain rules and regulations shall be established to ensure that Muslim students do not take advantage of this. Thus, we hope the following few facts about the Islamic tradition of prayer may be of use for our dear professors:
There are five daily prayers in the Muslim faith. While the basic requirement is that all Muslims should pray five times a day, the reality is that faith is practiced at the discretion of the follower. Some Muslims are stricter than others, while some cannot pray at certain times (i.e. menstruating women). Thus, professors may encounter some Muslim students requesting to be excused to pray while other Muslims may not.
The five daily prayers include: Fajr (sunrise prayer), Dhuhr (noon prayer), Asr (afternoon prayer), Maghrib (sunset prayer), and Isha (night prayer). Each prayer has a specific window of time in which it must be completed. These timings are based upon the sun. For this reason, the timings of each prayer window change (marginally and gradually) each day and are different at various times of the year. The end timings of each prayer (except for the sunrise prayer) is marked by the beginning of the next prayer. Prayers may not be combined or skipped, thus proving to occasionally be a conflict among students with classes or labs that cover this entire prayer window. However, the only two prayers that typically may prove to come in conflict with class scheduling are Asr and Maghrib. Thus, students tend to request to leave class/leave class as though on a bathroom break for 5-10 minutes to complete either of these prayers. Typically it should not take much longer! Some prayers are said out loud, resulting in leaving the room being a necessity in order to not further disrupt the class.
To ensure clarity, we would like to offer an example. The Asr prayer these days starts at 3:40 and ends at 5:20 (give or take a few minutes). This means Maghrib starts at 5:20. If students have a lab that runs from 3pm to 6pm, Asr starts and ends within the time period of the lab; this necessitates a student to respectfully ask to leave to perform prayer. We understand the inconvenience this may cause, but perhaps if the faculty were to know all that is relevant to Muslim prayer practices, things may run more smoothly. On the flip side, however, if a prayer starts during a class but ends after class, it is only fair and proper that the student performs his or her prayer after class.
On behalf of the Muslim student population of Benedictine University, we would like to express our sincerest gratitude for the religious accommodations and high level of religious acceptance extended from the Benedictine administration. For any questions, comments, and concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us. As presidents of the Muslim Student Association, we consider it our obligation not only to serve our student population but of course answer to the concerns of our esteemed faculty and staff.
Mariam Sayeedi Salman Abdul Majeed
MSA Co-President MSA Co-President