Muslim Student Association partners with Foster to open prayer room in Founders Hall

Arsh Vahora (left) and Mubasheer Joban.

UW Foster School of Business students needing a quiet place to pray, meditate or reflect have a new resource available in Founders Hall thanks to a campaign by Foster students active in the UW Muslim Students Association.

While the room is available to students of any denomination, it is primarily used by the school’s Muslim community. Islamic students’ faith requires them to pray five times a day. For Muslim students juggling a demanding course schedule, having a conveniently located place to pray is an imperative.

“A lot of people were struggling with being able to fit in their prayer times and run to class,” says former MSA president Safa Aynoor (BA 2023). She says “You’d see students praying in the hallways and getting stared at.”

Other students would rush to a space available in the HUB but would struggle to make it back in time to the start of classes held in the Foster school locations.

The opening of Founders Hall presented an opportunity to rectify the situation. MSA member Arsh Vahora, Aynoor and MSA former Da’wah coordinator (now vice president) Mubasheer Joban approached the administration about reserving a room in the new building for a dedicated prayer space.

While the college was respectful and responsive, getting the room established was a process. The students were initially working with facilities, but the department was not able to provide a space. So the RSO leaders turned to the Diversity services, working first with Dean Christina Fong and later with current Associate Dean for Inclusion and Diversity Michelle Purnell-Hepburn.

Purnell-Hepburn and her team met with the students to determine the requirements for the space. “They asked us about the needs of the room,” says Joban. “There’s a process in how we pray that includes bowing down and putting our head to the floor (in the direction of Mecca). And there’s a big emphasis on praying in congregation. So it needed to be a space large enough to accommodate multiple people praying at the same time.”

Fortunately, there was a room on the fourth floor of Founders that met all the criteria. Students of all faiths are now welcome to pray in room 459, located on the east side of the building.

The room is outfitted with prayer mats and a sign to indicate whether it is in use. It is not available to be reserved, which Joban explains is by design. Instead, the room is intended to be open and available to students who need to be able to pray according to their schedules.

Today, the MSA leaders say the room is being utilized by dozens of students a day during busy times on campus. “It’s great to have a room dedicated for prayer and meditation that allow students of all faiths and backgrounds to pray or meditate,” says Vahora. “The room is often in use, and that really goes to show that it’s a benefit to not just the Muslim community, but the entire UW to have this.”

“This is the step in the right direction for the university in terms of being more open to understanding the needs of all types of students on its campus.” says Aynoor. “The MSA is working towards making sure that students are feeling supported. And this was really helpful with that.”

The students next project is the founding of a new RSO at Fosters, Muslim of Fosters, originally proposed by Ibrahim Maqsood. This RSO will help Muslim student build community, build network, build resume, and land jobs. For more information, contact Zynab Hafid at [email protected] or get in touch via the RSO’s interest form.