Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Sign up for our twice-weekly newsletter!

Prayer room renovations generate high hopes from religious students

Jennifer Igbonoba | Staff Photographer
Prayer mats carpet the floors of the University Student Center’s prayer room, inviting students to utilize the space.

Officials are renovating a prayer room in the University Student Center in collaboration with the Muslim Students’ Association, updates that students say are long overdue and indicate the University’s increased support of religious accessibility at GW. 

Officials started renovations of the musalla, or place of prayer, on the fourth floor of the student center before winter break, which will include new flooring and ceiling tiles, painted walls and upgraded lighting. Students who use the space said they are glad to see the University modernize the musalla — one of four prayer spaces on the Foggy Bottom Campus after noticing a decline in its quality from years of wear.

University spokesperson Julia Metjian said Facilities, the Multicultural Student Services Center and the Division for Student Affairs worked collaboratively to develop renovation plans before winter break after the MSA “expressed a desire.” The room currently has several prayer mats and floor seats on top of large carpet rugs, a few empty boxes and chairs and additional prayer mats and supplies including abayas toward the back of the room.

“MSA Leadership and GW staff are working together to finalize the organization and decoration of the room,” Metjian said in an email. “Feedback from students, including MSA leadership, has been overwhelmingly positive, with students commending the room’s design.” 

Metjian said MSA leaders played a “pivotal” role in selecting the final decorations for the space and received progression photos throughout the renovation. She added that students actively use the space while renovations continue.

Senior Raheel Abubakar, the president of MSA, said the MSSC has been accommodating in providing items for the renovated musalla including water absorbent mats for the wudu stations — the cleansing performed before prayer — as well as new room dividers; thobes, or a traditional Middle Eastern garment worn by some during prayer; prayer mats; art; and more translations of the Quran in languages like English and Spanish.

“We have asked them for so many different things, and they have been happy to provide,” Abubakar said. 

Abubakar said he would have liked a bigger space to accommodate more members, especially during Jummah prayer on Fridays.

“We’re always looking to see if we can get another space but thankfully the MSSC has also been supportive of all our endeavors to search for a bigger space, but that’s obviously not something they can grant us so easily,” Abubakar said.

The renovations are set to finish Feb. 5, according to a note on the board outside the musalla entrances, but Abubakar said the date is a “ballpark” estimate that issues with buyers and ordering problems like incorrect rug sizes may delay. 

“I’m comfortable waiting a month or more than a month if that means we have a good space for the next several years,” Abubakar said. “I really want to focus on the long-term impact of a really nice musalla.”

Abubakar said he has heard positive and negative feedback from community members who use the space and stressed that the present state of the musalla is not the final product.

“For those that are upset with how it looks, I cannot emphasize enough that it’s still being renovated, that is why it looks like that,” Abubakar said. “It’s still in the process of renovation and I would want them to wait until after it’s done to give their final thoughts.”

Abubakar said people’s feet throughout the years contributed to an unpleasant smell of the now-replaced carpet, which led to “lots” of complaints. He added that the new space will have soft carpet tiling on top of the hardwood flooring to make future cleanings or renovations less difficult.

First-year Ahmed Babaeer said in addition to carpet complaints, some people eat while sitting along the walls of the room, which he said can be distracting. He added that people use the musalla for other reasons beyond prayer, including having a moment to rest, but thinks students should not eat full meals in the room.

“I’m going there to talk to my Lord,” Babaeer said. “I don’t want to be smelling Chaat House while I’m talking to my Lord.”

Babaeer said he understands the current hardwood floors may be a little more difficult on people’s ankles and knees during prayer. He added that bringing in more carpets to cover the area or placing them on top of the existing ones to make them thicker would be a “simple” solution.

“Part of being Muslim is to always be grateful for what you have no matter what it is,” Babaeer said. “In Islam, when something happens to you, you might think it’s something bad, but it could actually be good for you.”

Babaeer said he felt awkward in elementary school when he prayed in the corner of the classroom because his school had no prayer space and that having a prayer room is a necessity for Muslim students so they can pray without feeling distracted.

“With a prayer room, we can actually concentrate on the prayer,” Babaeer said. “It’s part of our religion to concentrate in our prayers.”

Senior Aleena Fayaz, the community outreach chair for MSA, said she doesn’t use the musalla and prays at home, but that having the prayer room in the student center provides a space for Muslim students to practice their religion and connect with other members of their community. Fayaz said the renovations show support from the University in a “new way.”

“It’s an example of the University showing support towards Muslim students and students of religion, or religious students,” Fayaz said. “It shows that they’re always welcome on campus.”

Salah, or the five prayers, takes place throughout the day: Fajr before dawn; Dhuhr around noon; Asr in the midafternoon; Maghrib after sunset; and Isha in the night. Fayaz said the midday times often conflict with students’ classes and that the accessibility of the musalla allows users to pray in between classes instead of going back home.

“Hopefully the first of many like opportunities for not only just — and I want to emphasize — to not just Muslim students, but any religious students be able to have that kind of accessibility and support on campus,” Fayaz said.

Fayaz said the University is allowing MSA to put their own “taste” into the space to make it feel like home.

“We haven’t had that kind of input in a long time so it’s nice that our e-board or community can ask for the needs they’ve been wanting for a while, and now the musalla can show those,” Fayaz said.

More to Discover
Donate to The GW Hatchet