Beginners guide to Surviving University
Source: As-Sabiqoon Monthly Magazine Issue 9 Sept 2006
Before you is a concise step-by-step guide about surviving at Uni! All I write is based upon my very own experience which has advice in dealing with it life at Uni. It’s worth noting that (as I write) I am a first year and in no way have I experienced all the problems, and due to the nature of the problems mentioned, my advice is not the only advice available. I recommend you to stick to the advice of the scholars and students of knowledge; in other words, it’s just an introduction into surviving the first year! It’s split into two main sections: general advice (which includes advice on handling the workload itself) and Islamic advice, which highlights the main problems faced by every Muslim what to do should in these positions.
Step1: know your role!
The first step is to actually understand why you are at Uni and what you want to get out of it. Whether you want to go to Uni or you’re being forced to go, make sure you have aims and objectives and actually work towards it. Have an idea of what field (roughly) you wish to go into. Carefully study the course description and individual module description so that you know what to expect and what you should achieve at the end. If you don’t like it, it’s not too late to switch courses or individual modules. Many students switch within the first semester (term) and the Universities expect this.
Step two: your surroundings!
As soon as you start Uni, it’s important that you have a good circle of pious Muslim friends- also maybe non-Muslim friends whom you can give Da’wah to. SubhanAllah, this is so important as you’ll find within a few weeks the majority of non-muslim students heading to the pubs and clubs drinking a few pints and then heading off to the library to do some work. Alhamdulillah many Unis have an ISOC and a dedicated prayer room where you’re more then welcome! In fact, ISOCs have a dedicated group to bring people to the prayer rooms and also start off their talks and Jumua’h Khutbah with short and sweet Naseeha (advice) regarding surviving Uni. The prayer room should be your refuge without distracting you from your purpose to work; so make sure you have good friends, be a regular prayer room user and have a separate place to study.
Step three: do your work!
It’s really easy to be distracted from doing your work. Many students suffer from the whole Uni-cliche lifestyle of going out, partying, having ‘fun’ and plenty of brothers and sisters organise events or invite you to eat with them at restaurants. It’s very easy to just give up and leave your work for later and join them, though quite frankly, if you don’t do your work, you will fail! Uni is very independent and it’s up to YOU to commit yourself. I found that dedicating the day for work and evening for maybe extra/remaining work and going out worked best; make a schedule try stick to it!
Step four: Do your best
Be sincere in what you do; do it to help Muslims climb the society ladder so that we can have an impact on the world again. Be the best (or one of the best thereafter) in your class so that you have good prospects and also so that you can use your position to give Da’wah. And it’s not that hard! A few words here and a few there, people will automatically flock to you to ask for help. Just do your best and remember the results is with Allah (swt):
‘Be mindful of Allah, you will find Him before you. Get to know Allah in prosperity and He will know you in adversity. Know that what has passed you by was not going to befall you, and that what has befallen you was not going to pass you by. And know that victory comes with patience, relief with affliction, and ease with hardship.’
(Imam Tirmizi, Imam An Nawawi’s 40 Ahadith)
Step 5: make the most of it
If you have any problems with your work, go to your lecturers and ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask during or after the lectures and don’t pretend to understand! If something is explained to you and you still don’t get it, tell them – pound them till you finally get it. If it’s the lecturer you can’t understand then find a PhD student or someone in the same or year above and ask- there’s plenty of them in the Prayer Room.
Use the library, Internet, lab sessions, revision classes, etc. Find a few brothers and sisters who have been through the course who can help and sell you their books for proper discount prices. I bought a 40 pounds book off a brother for just 10 pounds…bargain!
Uni is literally buzzing with Fitnah, from the people who go there to some of the buildings and books in the library. It’s used as an excuse to propagate false ideas and brainwash the masses…so there must be a few things to beware of:
1. The prayer room
Although (generally) the ISOC is not the problem, the prayer room is always buzzing with people with twisted views and next ideologies. You meet Muslims from many different countries and backgrounds which have influenced the way they think and many of these sects and named-groups operate in the prayer room. Some even call to their beliefs and love to argue and will spark the argument with everyone and anyone. Despite this, you meet the most amazing and sincere people you’ll ever meet who really help you in everyway possible. Not everyone who has a slight difference in mentality to yourself is your enemy and Uni is a good platform to verify all the slander you hear about these groups. If you really want to know what they’re upon… just ask them!
2. The debates
Just as we’ve mentioned, there are those who really love debating, whether it’s about Islam or worldly things. Some named-groups and sects even debate over things that are not only out of their own capabilities of understanding as a layman, but also in matters that a Muslim must not go into whether a layman or the greatest scholar. Therefore, it becomes necessary for you to learn your Deen from trusted sources and be sincere in gaining that knowledge. Learn with evidences from the Qur’an and Sunnah as this not only increases your general understanding of Islam but also creates certainty and it certainly eradicates doubt.
Also, beware of speaking without knowledge. It’s easy to fall into Shaytan’s trap of disagreeing with someone based upon the fact that they belong to one of these groups or sects and not because you yourself know that. You might be arguing on an issue in which they are correct about and you are wrong.
Seeing as everyone in Uni (especially Muslims, sociology, history and philosophy students) begin to act like philosophers they will be more open to ideas. Alhamdulillah this is a great platform to give Da’wah especially collectively, like writing for the student magazines or entering writing competitions and relating it to Islam, its merits and Muslims and their positive impact upon the world. Many Muslims do this and win essay competitions and have their articles publicised; it really does work!
3. The Pubs, etc
Don’t be fooled by the fact that some Muslims hang-out in the pubs staying away from drinking alcohol only playing pool, snooker, table-football and other such activities. Stay away from the pubs and clubs otherwise there’s no doubt that eventually you will either start to ‘loosen up’ in established matters of Islam or maybe even reject it and commit Kufr (disbelief).
4. The library
The more philosophical the subjects are at your Uni are, the more ‘random’ the library materials are. Recently I found the whole set of Salman Rushdie’s books including ‘Satanic Whispers’ and even more recently I found a shockingly western-biased account on Islamic Spain. Much of the books and History are anti-Islamic although we are now seeing a slow emergence of Muslim writers being recognized in the west and having their works published and put into the bookshelves of Universities. Know your religion with certainty; make sure you are grounded in Islam if you bother with such books.
I hope that this advice helps but again I recommend you to the advice of the people of knowledge and the Islamic Societies. They know how to help and go out of their way to do so. You can also go Uni for the lectures and do your work at home. Make the most of all that’s available to you and enjoy your time there. It really does open up your mind and isn’t as bad as some people say.
May Allah (swt) raise your rank and bless you in this world and the next and may He (swt) change our condition for the better and allow us to be the forerunners in this blissful task, Ameen!