This is part four in a series profiling the identity centers at Duke, highlighting the work they do and their roles on campus. Part three, which focuses on the Women's Center at Duke, can be found here. Check back for more articles in coming weeks.
If you walked into the first floor of Few Quad GG last year, you may not have given the area a second thought. Now, the space is the home of the Center for Muslim Life, with intricate calligraphy paintings lining the bright walls, students chatting on sofas and people performing their daily prayers.
This past summer, the CML officially moved to Few Quad from its home of 13 years on Swift Avenue, allowing for more expansion on West Campus as the Muslim community at Duke grows.
Currently, Duke has around 600 Muslim students, according to Hadeel Hamoud, student development coordinator at the CML. Hamoud graduated from Duke this year and now works alongside Imam Abdul Hafeez Waheed, the first Muslim Chaplain at Duke, and CML Director and Chaplain Joshua Salaam. Salaam, who is affectionally referred to by students as “Brother Joshua” or “Bro Jo” joined the University in 2018, making Duke one of the few universities with a Muslim chaplain.
In a letter welcoming first-year Muslim students, Salaam wrote that the CML “wants every Muslim student at Duke to flourish and thrive academically, socially and spiritually,” and “its vision is to have the best Muslim life experience in higher education.”
It’s a goal that Hamoud said she is working hard to achieve. According to her, there are multiple overarching initiatives that the CML has for this year and beyond.
The CML is working to allow a student-led committee to decide what speakers to invite and how many shifts of the Jumu’ah prayer, Muslims’ Friday congregation and sermon, should be held each week.
Attendance at the Jumu’ah prayer is another area where the CML hopes to increase student engagement. The CML’s move to West Campus has already caused attendance at the Friday prayers to increase by 50% due to its more convenient location for undergraduate students, according to Hamoud.
The CML also aims to increase more one-on-one communication between students and the Center’s leaders to provide support and guidance. Both personal and professional relationship development are focuses, too, and the CML is exploring future collaborations with the Women’s Center and the Wellness Center.
Students new to Duke find the CML to be easing their transition into college life. First-years Husna Khan and Sarah Ouda credit the center with enriching their college experience.
Khan says she’s found a lot of friends through CML, and Ouda added that the talks held by the CML “are very insightful." Both said that Salaam was a key reason they enjoyed the CML so much.
The CML organizes multiple recurring events for students. Every morning at 6:30 a.m., the organization hosts the Fajr breakfast club, where students gather to eat and perform the prayer before sunrise.
KitabConnect, a meeting to discuss passages from the Qur’an, is held on Tuesday evenings. The CML also connects with other student organizations, including the Duke Muslim Students Association, the Duke Pakistani Students Association and the Duke Arab Students Association.
The CML has been a source of strength for Muslim students in the past. After the 2015 murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, the CML and its leadership were able to “support the community at such a low point,” according to Hamoud.
“Having a chaplain has helped us through a lot,” she added.
While the recent transition from the familiar Swift Avenue house to Few Quad was bittersweet, Hamoud said that the new space presents an opportunity for the Center for Muslim Life to catalyze growth and create a sense of belonging for Duke’s Muslim community.
“We’re super grateful to be supported by the University … The students feel like they have a home on campus,” she said.
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