Unity, Balance and Intention: Celebrating Muslim Heritage Through Art

Students who attended the Jan. 31 art fair had the opportunity to create their own art through calligraphy, pottery (pictured above), water marbling and more.

Galloway, N.J. — What better way to conclude New Jersey’s new Muslim Heritage Month in January than with learning about Islamic art and the impact it has in preserving religious and cultural heritage?  

The Muslim Student Association (MSA) held a fair centering on Islamic art and artists on Jan. 31 in the Campus Center Event Room. Participants explored artwork that included calligraphy, vegetal/biomorphic patterns and geometry, bought from and supported local student businesses and even joined in on the fun with interactive art stations.  

Students like Melissa Zou and Ayish Medical explored art forms they were previously unfamiliar with.  

Zou, a graduate student in the Master of Occupational Therapy program and president of the Eastern Brush Painting Club, was pleasantly surprised to have been invited to table for the fair and lead the station on calligraphy. Researching and learning more about Arabic calligraphy has sparked an interest in continuing learning, and the club hopes to collaborate with MSA for more events like the fair.  

“We wanted to broaden our knowledge because, in our club, we currently don’t have anyone who knows the Arabic language, so this was a learning process for us. We hope to widen our club as well as incorporate different ethnicities so that we can try out new things,” the Mays Landing native said.  

Medical, an Economics major from Nepal, was invited to attend the fair after her class was canceled. She was eager to check out the art that adorned the room and was delighted when she was able to try to make her own art at the Turkish water marbling station.

“When my friend invited me, I was so excited because I am familiar with the religion, but I wanted to experience it here at Stockton. I just love experiencing new cultures and meeting people from other places. Plus, I love art,” Medical said.  

Guest speaker Asma Waheed played a double role: before speaking, she led a station on pottery and taught attendees how to make pinch pots

Students holding up their finished pinch pots

Asma's beautiful pottery

Student Jahdai Muhammad with her jewelry and phone charms

A student learning calligraphy with the Eastern Brush Painting Club

A station on Turkish water marbling

Tote bag with prints

President and VP of MSA, Zikra Naz and Huda Waheed

In addition, participants learned more about the significance of Islamic art by American-Pakistani artist Asma Waheed. Waheed, who is an MFA Resident Artist at the Maryland Institute College of Art, explained that Islamic art requires the artist to be present and intentional while in the act of creating it, saying it is based on “unity, balance and intention.”  

Waheed presented on the sacredness of calligraphy and explained how geometry represents the “oneness of God” and how biomorphic patterns are inspired by nature. 

“(Islamic artwork) offers a window into what is truly important: how we perceive the world and our place within it. As we contemplate these patterns, these become more than just a view — they become an integral part of the unity that they represent,” Waheed said.  

According to Huda Waheed, vice president of MSA and lead organizer for the fair, the club wanted to bring awareness of Islamic art to campus through a fun and engaging event. What started as a late-night brainstorming session ended up as a collaborative effort.  

“Me and my roommates wanted to incorporate what makes Stockton unique — being a liberal arts school — and making an event for Muslim Heritage Month. I knew that if we did an art event, Asma Waheed would be the most qualified person for it. I remembered being in a print class with Mariana Smith, where we designed tote bags, and that was how I got the idea of doing different stations. My roommate’s mom was able to host the water marbling station. The event just really came together, and we were able to celebrate Islamic art,” Huda Waheed said.  

Student Iman Ahmed, the secretary for the MSA and reporter for the Argo, said the event was a “huge success.”  

“Being able to see the behind-the-scenes of everyone working so hard and seeing the success of the event was such a blessing,” the double major in Psychology and Literature said. The vendors, the food, the stations — everything turned out to be amazing. It was a great experience to be able to celebrate Muslim Heritage Month on campus and be part of the Islamic Art Fair.”   

Meditation Room Moved Next to the Multicultural Center

September 13, 2023

Zikra Naz and Huda Waheed of the Muslim Student Association welcomed students to the new space on Tuesday, Sept. 12.
Zikra Naz and Huda Waheed of the Muslim Student Association welcomed students to the new space on Tuesday, Sept. 12. Photo by Lizzie Nealis. 

Galloway, N.J. – In addition to hanging out at the Multicultural Center, perusing for books and supplies in the bookstore and picking up mail in the Mail Room, students will now have the option to enjoy a quiet moment to themselves in the new Meditation Room in F-012.

The Meditation Room was previously neighbors with the Food Hall at the Nest in N-Wing, where it provided a quiet space for students to meditate, pray and silently reflect on their days on campus. The room change will now make the space more accessible and easier to find on the Galloway campus.

The Muslim Student Association (MSA), which utilizes the space for their five daily prayers (Salah), celebrated the opening of the new space on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

Hamza Mourad, a Biology major and religious chair for the MSA, began the celebration by introducing the crowd to the concept and importance of saying “Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim” or “In the name of God, the merciful and compassionate.”

“Anything we do (as Muslim students) begins with ‘Bismillah,’” Mourad explained. “Everything with value begins with it: when we’re about to eat food, drive our cars, or enter rooms like this one. This is a very exciting day, and we look forward to what will happen in the future.” 

– Story by Loukaia Taylor 

– Story by Loukaia Taylor  

– Photos by Lizzie Nealis