Passion in Practice: Muslims of the Carolinas

by Aisha Anwar

There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”

– Rumi

Rumi’s quote was more than a roadmap this year as it continued to stand at the heart of our project. Last fall, we were curious to see how different individuals personified Islam and embodied it in their daily lives. We wanted to prove that Islam allows for conversation with a higher power in various forms. So, I grabbed my canon and Layla Quran picked up her mic, tripod, and video camera and we started pulling people People look at photographs displayed brightly illuminated on the gallery wall.aside and asking questions. These were our humble beginnings. We interviewed twenty students about their passions and interests and they felt those practices in creativity were a performance or expression of their faith. And it turned out beautifully. We found that one doesn’t necessarily have to sift through volumes of scholarship or sit in a classroom to learn about the different things Islam is in conversation with. There is a way to absorb the narratives of Muslims by observing and engaging the author of those narratives. We can view about the practices of Islam exhibited by Muslims in their daily lives.

This year was a little different, though. Layla and I wanted to shed a light on the people in the community. We wanted to get pictures of the action behind the scenes as much as possible. So we picked up a real road map to find the Muslims of the Carolinas. We met people who work with their hands in a variety of ways. Some bake while others write and bridge the synapse between language and yearning in translation. They tell stories and hold hands of your loved ones offering words of advice and kindness. They are innovators familiar with the art of recycling. They hold chalk to board and paint brush to canvas.

Photographs of Muslims in the community are displayed on a wall and accompanied by a quote by Yusor Abu-Salha that reads "There's so many different people from so many different places, of different backgrounds and religions - but here we're all one, one culture. And it's beautiful to see people of different areas interacting, and being family. Being, you know, one community."In the middle of our journey we were hit with a great loss. Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that the people that best represented who we were in search of for this exhibit, are no longer with us. Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu Salha and Razan Abu Salha were beautiful selfless individuals who dedicated their lives to others. Deah spread smiles with his dentistry work and volunteered in downtown Raleigh many times a year to feed the homeless and the hungry. Yusor went on a volunteer mission to help at a dentistry clinic for Syrian refugees in Turkey and Razan spread hope. She was a talented artist and created an inspirational video called Optimism Is A Lost Sunnah. They cared so much not only for their North Carolina community but for humanity all over the world.

Muslim and non-Muslim gallery-goers snap pictures of the pictures on the wall.This project lead us to meet the people who inspired us so much. Krista shared her life story with us and Shane basically gave us a tour of the entire hospital while offering words of wisdom and comfort after the shooting. Seema and Emily invited us into the warmth of their homes. Emily shared her passion of baking and environmentalism. Seema shared stories of the heart-wrenching work she does as a translator with domestic abuse victims and children in the states without their guardians. In our talks about Charlotte city development and the civil rights movement, Nasif made the vest and always bustling Queen City seem just a bit smaller. The circular motion of brush on canvas created the small circles in Saba’s latest painting as she spoke of her paintings’ themes. Linda gave us peek of her newest illustrated children’s book and D.I. gave us a tour of his master creation the eco-box, an off the grid self-contained living space made from a converted shipping container.

Passion in Practice: Muslims of the CarolinasWe consider ourselves very fortunate to have been able to peek into the lives of these beautiful, generous, inspirational individuals. From laboratories and patient’s bedside to book stores and bakeries. From coffee shops to go Eco-boxes and arts studios to muddy abandoned parking lots, we met people who work with their hands in a myriad of ways: Writers, architects, chaplains, scientists, bakers, teachers, and more. These are the people that help make North Carolina a beautiful place. It meant a lot to be able to sit down with these individuals and hear about their work and their vision for our community. We hope that this is one way of continuing the legacy of #OurThreeWinners.

The exhibit will be on display in the Union Art Gallery at UNC for the rest of the semester. We invite you to stop by and leave comments in the guest book or tweet at #PassionInPractice. Also, visit our website to learn about the students who were featured in last year’s exhibit.

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