Meeting Mohammad Ahmed
Even in the predawn hours of a cold Tuesday morning, there is a warmth about Mohammad Hammad Ahmed that you can’t escape. He’s humble, intelligent and easy-going. Ahmed is also a devout Muslim, but while his religion plays a defining role in his life, it’s not the only thing that defines him. There are many titles you can assign to him. UW Senior. Biology Major. Pre-Med student. Muslim Student Association President. All of these represent who he his and help to define his character. Yet, too often, unfair media stereotypes define the Muslim community, leading to misunderstanding and anger towards them.
Ahmed is a leader who works hard to learn more about his faith and to guide the Muslim Student Association (M.S.A.) at the University of Washington. He attends classes on the weekends to study his religion. As President of the M.S.A., he helped to organize the Muslim Student Association’s 11th annual Fast-a-thon. As a student, he has mid-terms and frequents the UW’s Intramural Activities Center (IMA). Mohammad Ahmed allowed me into his personal life for a week to see what role his religion played in his life and what it is like to be a Muslim at the UW.
Mohammad Hammad Ahmed (center) talks about his religion as his father (back left) completes his morning prayers on Feb. 25, 2014 at his home in Bothell, Wash. The sun won’t be up for another hour – at 6:57 A.M. But Ahmed has been up for at least a half-hour already. As a Muslim, Ahmed regularly rises before the sun for his morning prayer, even on days when his classes won’t start for several hours. He and his father will each complete an individual prayer before doing their Fard – an obligatory prayer – together. “Faith in my opinion actually goes with family,” Ahmed said, “since you learn and grow together in faith, and this growth is faith leads to sincere love for each other.”
Mohammad Ahmed (first row, first from left) joins his fellow members of the Muslim Student Association as well as members of his community for “Jumu’ah” – Friday Prayers on Feb. 28, 2014 at the M.S.A.’s Islamic House. The congregational leader – called an “Imam” – delivers a sermon before leading the group in prayer.
Members of the Islamic House rest their hands on their knees during a prayer on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Muslims’ prayers are set to happen a minimum of five times throughout the day and have series of set movements. Completing one set of movements is called a a “rak‘ah.” During prayer, a Muslim will rest on his or her knees then lean forward to press his or her head onto the floor. This act, which represents humility before God, is done twice in a single rak‘ah, with members placing kneeling and placing their hands on their knees in between the two.
Ahmed and his friends cast shadows in the noontime sun as they walk to the Islamic House for Jumu’ah prayers on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. The Islamic House – located on 22nd Avenue behind the UW’s Greek Row – has been owned and maintained by the Muslim Student Association since the 1970’s. The group bought the then derelict property and rebuilt it into a house of prayer for the UW community.
Mohammad Ahmed and his classmate and fellow biology major, Meva Beganovic study for a midterm in Advanced Mammalian Physiology on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014 in the UW’s Allen Library. Unlike Ahmed, who was born in the United States, Beganovic immigrated to the U.S. when she was seven years old. Though she knew of Ahmed informally, Beganovic only recently started studying with him. Biology intrigues Ahmed because of the relation between it and his faith. “Biology is so fascinating,” Ahmed said, “and learning all the complexities that go into the smallest aspects of life actually strengthen my faith in God [as the Creator] and his greatness.”
Mohammad Ahmed and Meva Beganovic study together at a white board in the UW’s Allen Library after attending Friday Prayers on Feb. 28, 2014.
Mohammad Ahmed works his shoulders during a visit to the UW’s Intramural Activities Center (IMA) on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. Ahmed says that he tries to go to gym about three to five times a week. His routine focuses on squats and dead lifts. “I go with my bro Zaib,” he said, “and that is exactly why squats is in my routine so much, [that] guy is a beast.” Ahmed’s personal squat record is 185 lbs.
Ahmed supervises as members of the Muslim Student Association prepare for a banquet marking the end of the organization’s 11th Annual Fast-a-thon on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. The event was part outreach and part charity with the goal of showing that charity and fasting go together in the Islamic faith. Participants were asked to fast for a day and then donate the money they would have spent on lunch to Share Our Strength – an organization working to fight child hunger. The banquet, held in the UW’s Husky Union Building, marked the end of a day fasting that began before dawn for some participants. Over 250 people participated and donated a total of $800.
Ahmed gives instructions to a volunteer as the Muslim Student Association prepares for a banquet marking the end of the 11th Annual Fast-a-thon on Feb. 25, 2014. Ahmed described fasting as a means of self-improvement. “Fasting in Islam is not only about fasting from food and drink,” he said, “but at the same time abstaining from other desires as well, thus hopefully building a stronger connection with God and an individual’s character as well.”
Mohammad Ahmed demonstrates how to use prayer beads. The beads are used during a recital of short prayers to help a person keep track of how many times it has been said.
Ahmed leads three friends in evening prayers before the Fast-a-thon banquet on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 in the UW’s Husky Union Building.
Mohammad Ahmed performs a “sujud” during his evening prayers on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 in the UW’s Husky Union Building. This movement of the prayer represents an act of humility for Muslims before God. The act of bowing is especially significant, Ahmed said, because Arab culture at the time of Islam’s founding placed a heavy emphasis on dignity.