A Day in the Life
On an average Monday, it's really boring.
I'll wake up for morning prayer, which is around 6:30 AM.
I'll get up, take a shower, and pray.
Maybe I'll go back to sleep for a little bit,
then rush out to get to the clinic or the hospital.
I'll get there probably around 7 or 8 am depending on the day.
I'll finish from the hospital, maybe 5 or 6 pm.
Afterwards, I'll be studying again for my exams
Throughout the day, I'm still fitting in all those prayers.
While I'm in the hospital, around 2:00 PM, I'll go to the chapel to pray.
I'll come home and do the third prayer.
Probably relax a little bit,
maybe watch some YouTube or some TV
Grimm, sci-fi, talk shows like Colbert, CNN, Fox News, MSNCB.
I like to see how each news network is different.
I try to go to the mosque for either the sunset or nighttime prayer.
I'll hang out with family.
I'll have dinner with them obviously.
We just sit around the TV in the family room and talk, just about life,
what my next plans are and that sort of thing.
That's a casual day.
The Adil Project
I was listening to a YouTube lecture by Mindy Kaling, a comedian who writes The Mindy Project. I was talking with another Indian classmate about Southeast Asians and how we are in mainstream American primetime, and they sent me this video in a Facebook message. I don’t watch the show, but she sent this video to me and was like, “Look at how she grew up.”
Mindy Kaling is not really a role model for me, but one thing that stuck with me was when she said, “When I was younger, I was more of an observer. I was innately very social, but I think being more observer and in the back seat for a little bit, and observing a little more, gave me more wisdom as I got older, because I was more intuitive." She was saying that in school, sometimes they encourage students to push their opinions and make their voices heard, which is great. But so is having that skill of being able to sit back and think of things more, and be more intuitive with people and things that are happening in culture. Being intuitive and having that perspective is maybe more valuable than being really outgoing. In a sense, being an observer. That way, when you are an adult, you actually may have gained more wisdom than you would have by just pushing your opinion the whole time.
When she said that, I was like, "That's exactly how it was." When I was younger, I was very passionate about things, but I wasn't really getting involved in a lot yet. I just wanted to see the psychology of the kids in my grade. I was always a part of a different circle of friends, at school, with soccer, with track, with the mosque. I was always spread out. Because I was a little quieter, I would observe these different circle of friends. I feel like now I'm like, "Okay, I know why they're acting like that. I know what insecurities they had that led them to act like that." I feel like I can operate from a place of more wisdom when it comes to dealing with people.
One thing that I really strive for is having wisdom. I love being able to pick up on peoples' personalities by a very quick conversation. Even if it's a minute or two, I feel like I can understand them and the magnitude of things that this person has been through or not. I think that's really important for young people to have. I'm a really big proponent of that. So when Mindy Kaling said that, I thought, "Yes, Mindy, I agree." Just because of my experience.
My name is Adil. I'm currently finishing my third year in medical school. I grew up here, in West Lafayette. I've been here since I was five months old. My father is a professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering. I went to the West Lafayette schools and I went to Purdue for undergrad. Now I am with IU School of Medicine. It’s nice to be close to my parents. I value staying close to family, but, I also think it's good to get out. I've been here for enough time, and I think I should get out, experience different other healthcare systems outside of the state.
My family is originally from Pakistan. My father did his PhD from Columbia University. He got married around that time as well. My parents lived in Manhattan and my siblings were born in Manhattan. I have two older siblings. They're older than me by a lot. My sister is about nine, almost ten years older than me. my brother is around eight years older than me. My sister did computer engineering and my brother did the life sciences here at Purdue. My sister currently lives in upstate New York with her family. She has three little girls who are quite a handful and my brother-in-law works for GE, so they live in upstate New York. What else? My mom is a homemaker. She's awesome at it. She's amazing. She really is the center of our family.
Since I was one and a half or two, I lived in a neighborhood called University Farms. There are a lot of permanent resident families that live there. A lot of them are associated with Purdue, some are physicians, some are in local companies.
I had a lot of diverse friends growing up, in terms of different nationalities - people from East Asia, South Asia, Europe, Latin America. I think the reputation of West Lafayette schools was a more elite school, although it was a public school. I was really happy to grow up there. Extremely fortunate. I know some of my other Muslim friends who grew up in other school districts, they didn't have the same experience as I did. I felt more comfortable I guess, and more accepted, I was able to probably thrive more. Who would think that a Muslim person would be class president of their graduating class at one point in high school?
Growing up Muslim
The few Muslims that went to the same school as me, we were very close. We were like siblings. We weren't all the same age. I still felt the same connection with my other Muslim friends who to other high schools, just because our families were close. I think the experience that I had as a Muslim probably varies a lot from maybe people who went to other schools, because the culture of the school was very welcoming. I didn't have too many situations that made me nervous. I was pretty proud of my faith growing up. Everyone knew it. I was very outspoken. I was class president in high school and I ran track and I played soccer. I was very involved in a lot of extracurricular activities, like debate. I was accepted. It was me, and then I was Muslim.
In fifth grade, my teacher, Mrs. Mugg, at Happy Hollow, was very protective of me, because not everyone knew that I was Muslim. Some of my closest friends, they're kind of funny but really dumb sometimes, would make inappropriate jokes. My teacher wanted to make sure I wasn't being harassed by anyone. She was awesome. I give her a lot of credit, because she didn't have to do that. She probably didn't know much about my religion, but she knew my family. She knew who I was. She knew who we were as people. It wouldn't even be the first thought across her mind to question me or my family. Having someone who's not part of the faith hold that position is very, very powerful in the long run.
Even when I was in middle school and high school, I had a desire to show people the truth about Islam and also to be religiously literate. No one outwardly said, "You're a terrorist," but you can sense that people want to distance themselves. I knew they were wrong, just because of how I grew up, and I knew what the religion taught. Obviously, there are some social etiquettes that are different, but you can still be Muslim and live in America.
Don't get me wrong. Everyone had questions, but I think I had the biggest spiritual growth when was in high school. I think that was really important for me to have, because those are kind of your formative years. I think how that growth came about was all the questions after the terrorist attacks, and it that was being linked to my religion. That kind of forces you to make sure you really know your religion well, and make sure when people ask you questions, you can respond to them intelligently, and accurately, based on what the religion truly says. It made me very religiously literate. I think having to go through that from the age of 15 to 18, there’s this sense that you have to grow up faster than other people, just because you have more explaining to do. Everyone turned to me for leadership in the Muslim community, as well as my non-Muslim friends. I felt like I had to mature much faster than my friends.
In high school and undergrad, people would ask me to give presentations about Islam to different church groups and high school and middle school social studies classes. I would do them because I was really passionate about people understanding the religion accurately. I was always involved in creating study groups for people my own age. It's not just non-Muslims that you're trying to teach the religion to; it's also your own. I knew, just from going through my own difficulties in life at a very young age, and because I had to grow up faster, how beneficial being in touch with your spirituality is.
I felt like I was 30 at the age of 15, because I felt like I had to grow up so quickly. I had to be a leader in terms of helping my own friends who were Muslim, encouraging them as well as myself about learning about the religion more. I never wanted to come off as being holier than anyone. That gives you perspective.
I really wanted to explore my religion without cultural bias. At that time, I had a couple friends that were really motivated as well. We're in the same boat. We would go to the AlMaghrib Institute, which was led by people who studied from Medina University, which is one of the top Sunni Islam institutions in Saudi Arabia, where the Holy Grand Mosque is located. The American born Muslim scholars there are who really saved me and my spirituality. They are who I look up to nowadays for spiritual advice. These are people who are Muslim, they're American born. They went to undergrad here and then to the universities in the Middle East that teach classical interpretation of the religion. They came back here and were like, "This is how we can implement our religion as Americans." It’s knowledge straight from the text, without culture. Having that is really, really important. You have to have clerics that understand their audience. When I was very young, a lot of our spirituality came from older men and women who were born and raised overseas. Being in America is truly a blessing, because there's so much culture. From a religious standpoint, you have to start filtering out the cultural things that have nothing to do with religious teaching or literature or scripture. I hope a lot of people in my faith-based community understand that. Being in America, you have Muslims from Africa, you have Muslims from the Middle East, you have Muslims from Indonesia, Malaysia, even China, Mongolia, Latin America. We all came here to this small community in West Lafayette. We have to figure out how we're going to be spiritual together. A lot of the people come from different cultural backgrounds, and their culture really influenced their understanding of the religion. When you have such different cultural interpretations of the religion, how do you even come to middle ground?
The way you come to middle ground is by sifting through all the cultural stuff that is unnecessary and wrongfully preached.
People have become very passionate about it. There are conflicts because people have been raised overseas and have been practicing religion relative to their culture for such a long time. To come here and to encounter people that are same religion, same morals, same basic tenets that we have to do, like praying five times a day, but things are slightly different, people can get a little off the wall. They get thrown off a little bit. "Are you sure you're doing it right, because I did it this way growing up?" Everybody feels like they were doing right, wherever they were growing up. Seeing it done differently is not as comfortable, and then coming to a resolution, is another step to take.
If there are any issues or conflicts because of the diversity of interpretation, it’s resolved by looking to the scholars or going to anyone who is certified to teach the religion. It's called ijazah, which literally means a license to interpret. This has been open to males and females equally. Depending on who their teacher was, they may have learned from more traditional, or more cultural clerics overseas. But, they have another duty to see how everything can fit with the Muslim population where they live. So, the rules only bend when there are different forms of interpretation that are appropriate and can fit society and culture. When you go through that much training, there's a lot of knowledge you attain from different fields of the religion, whether it's the prophet's life, scripture like the Qur’an, or other revelations. It's like a combination of all those, where they can make the judgment call. So when there are issues within the Muslim community that are very culturally based, like those conflicts that happened because of culture, I go to the American Muslim scholars who have this ijazah, and they can give us an accurate interpretation of what is most important, the principles that are most important in resolving an issue or a conflict.
Then, there's another layer because any Muslim can pick any scholar to follow. You can only imagine the diversity of interpretation that can happen. Because the person that is interpreting has the license to interpret, it is valid. You can pick that interpretation or you can pick another interpretation, just as the long as the person who's interpreting has a license to do so. That's one of the biggest beauties about the religion. There's so much valid interpretation of the religion.
So when there is an issue, like what time to start Friday prayer or how long the sermon should be, the leaders go with what opinion that the majority of the scholars has picked. At the mosque here, we usually start Friday prayers at 1:45 PM, and the sermon can last about twenty minutes, although it honestly depends on who's giving the sermon. Overseas, sometimes it's an hour long. Sometimes even more. Over here, because we're on a college campus, we want to make sure we get done before 2:30 pm so people can go to their classes. That also played a role in figuring out what ruling is best for us to follow.
In my own family, one issue that came up has to do with what being spiritual means. My parents came from great families. Religion and maybe following each tenet and the obligation wasn’t the priority. It wasn’t until my parents came to America that being a practicing Muslim was their priority. For them, coming to America was specifically to have a better life, and have great opportunities through working hard and earning them. They encountered great human beings when they were in New York that were Muslim and a part of the same faith, and that is when they really decided to become practicing. From them, my aunts and uncles started picking up and slowly wanted to become more spiritual. I view my parents the leaders of their respective families in terms of spirituality.
For some, being more spiritual probably means you're spending more time at the mosque. Not just for the five daily prayers, but being there and reading the Qur’an while you're there, the whole time. Almost enclosing yourself a little bit in the mosque. However, through learning the religion on my own from American-born scholars, they tell us, "No, that's not the only way to be religious. Being religious is like your whole life encompassing.” You can be doing, obviously, charity work. Even going to school can be an act of worship, because you're going to school to better the community and society, and also providing for your family. Living your life, and all the aspects of it that are appropriate and that are done for the sake of God, those are all acts of worship.
That stigma of being enclosed and really closing yourself in was completely debunked when I actually learned the accurate, classical interpretation of the Qur’an and the prophetic teachings. My parents were inspired when they wanted to become practicing, but that doesn't mean they got a cleric level of training. To them, being spiritually probably meant being really devoted to the mosque, and it is important. Everyone should be going to the mosque as often as they can, for as many prayers as they can. But, that's not end all, be all.
If my parent and I disagreed about something, I would bring the facts. I'd be like, "Well I went to this cleric. According to this prophetic narration that's interpreted by this huge name scholar, this is what it means. For you to say otherwise, based on your own interpretation, it doesn't make sense. First of all, you can't be doing that, because you're not licensed to teach, or licensed to interpret." Again, it's that same theme where I had to equip myself with the most accurate information and interpretations to answer questions from everyone, including my parents.
So I was juggling a lot in my head. "Okay, I have to prove to people that Muslims are approachable. I also need to help my own spirituality, even though I'm only 15. I have to work on myself. I'm still trying to figure out who I am as a Muslim, but I'm working on that. I'm also wanting my friends to be with me on that spiritual journey, which a lot of them were. Also, show not only my friends, but my friends' parents." I was balancing trying to get rid of the cultural and religious expectations from my parents, helping myself, helping my Muslim friends, and trying to make my non-Muslim friends feel a little more comfortable with my faith and who I was, and balancing high school and sports and student council and all that at the same time.