By Tendayi Moyo
Co-ordinating space for students in a university with over 30,000 students is no easy task. Space for prayer is no exception.
The Faith and Spirituality Centre manages three rooms designated for students to practice their faith. However, with over 1,700 students using the spaces every week, some are finding that these multi-faith spaces are over capacity.
Muslim Students’ Association senior advisor Ilyas Gora spoke about the role environment plays in prayer.
“It’s huge. In terms of the space you are in and the people you are around,” said Gora. “[The current space] is not ideal. But we make do with what we have.”
With the number of Muslim students on campus growing, a lack of space has caused prayer to take place under sub par conditions.
Currently, some male Muslim students pray in the hallway outside of the Faith and Spirituality Centre, next to the bathrooms. These students have adopted this space for prayer out of necessity.
Daily prayer is one of the five pillars of Islam. On campus, many Muslim students praying up to five times daily.
“There are three prayers that generally fall during the school day,” Gora said. “The purpose is to stay connected to your religion. It’s also a way to be at ease. You are with yourself, talking to your Lord, whatever that means to you.”
Faith and Spirituality Centre co-ordinator Adriana Tulissi acknowledged that there is an issue with space, but said the university is aware of the problem.
“Is it ideal right now for daily prayers? I know it’s not,” Tulissi said. “[But] the university has been very receptive. The need for more prayer space is definitely on the radar of university leadership. They know it’s important and they are there to support students.”
Tulissi said she is working with the director of the Wellness Centre, the vice-provost and campus planning to assess what spaces are available. But she stressed that this takes time.
“It’s not a question of if, but when,” Tulissi said.
Tulissi talked about the importance of managing growth on campus in the future.
“With [the university’s] academic plan and international strategy, they are wanting to attract a more diverse group of students and faculty to be on campus,” Tulissi said. “With that comes a variety of different cultures and religious beliefs. Personally, I see it continuing to increase and I think those we talk to at the university agree.”