By Sarah Albani & Risham Tariq, Broadside Correspondents

Last week, the walls of the Johnson Center Gallery 123 were adorned with Arabic calligraphy, Islamic architecture and embroidered verses from the Qur’an to mark the start of Islam Awareness Week (IAW).

As the largest event held by the Muslim Student Association nationally, IAW aims to “introduce Islam on a unified platform to all university and college campuses,” according to the MSA National website.

“People have a lot of misunderstandings but are interested in learning more about Islam,” said Muhammad Elsayed, a senior administration of justice major.

It was with the chief aim of enlightening the non-Muslim community that last week’s events took place.

However, despite the non-Muslim target audience, IAW works to educate Muslims as well.

“The best way to learn is to teach,” said Hamna Riaz, junior chemistry major and active MSA member. “One of the ways I’ve learned more about my faith and developed . . . spiritually, has been through telling people about my faith.”

The MSA commenced the week of events on Monday, March 29 with a screening of the documentary Islam: An American Faith.

This was followed by a question-and-answer panel session, during which time three American Muslims from different backgrounds spoke about their experiences with their faith in the United States.

The panel was comprised of Ron D’Agostino, Maryam Elsayed and Matthew Brooks, all of whom are George Mason University alumni.

Co-sponsored by the Afghan Student Union, a March 30 event, “Life Within the Light,” explored the purpose of life, a topic MSA president Zuhair Shaath, a senior and Islamic Studies major, felt would be germane to a diverse group of people.

“The purpose of life is brought up all the time,” Shaath said. “In any religion class you go to, ‘what is God’s will . . . how do you [fulfill] God’s will?’ [is deliberated].”

The event featured Imam Magid, an Islamic leader and the executive director of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, who explored the purpose of human existence and shared some keys to happiness with audience members.

Even as a non-Muslim student, Stefani E. Truyol Sanabria, a junior art and visual technology major, appreciated the series of events.

“Many people have general misconceptions about Islam,” Truyol said. “By coming to these events, I hoped to gain a better understanding about this faith. I am learning about Islam right now and I believe that Islam offers universal advice for human beings on how to live their life . . . I wanted to gain some more knowledge that I could apply to my daily life.”

Dr. Zainab Alwani was the guest speaker at the March 31 event entitled “The Most Influential Man: a Model for Social Change.”

A prominent figure in the Muslim community of the D.C. Metropolitan area, Alwani spoke about the life of the prophet Mohammed.

Alwani emphasized Mohammed’s role in bringing positive social change to his society during the time periodin which he lived.

In addition to the subject matter of the lecture, senior biology major and MSA Vice President Fatuma Yasin believes that the speaker herself served an educational purpose, as an exemplary model of the potential Muslim women have to excel within their own communities.

“Islam is a religion that not only exemplifies women and brings them up in status, it encourages them to be educated, to be people who are changing lives,” Yasin said.

IAW came to a close with “Night of Light” on Thursday, April 1, an event co-sponsored by the Saudi Student Association, which aimed to “[show] the beauty of the Qur’an,” according to Shaath.

Amidst candle-lit table center pieces, renowned Qur’an scholars from the area recited verses from the holy book, and elaborated on the meaning of the Arabic verses they read.

Zainab Hassan, a senior art and visual technology major and MSA public relations officer said, “There’s a science behind different types of reading,” and he explained that the event aimed to showcase different types of Qur’an recitation.

“We’re taught to recite [the Qur’an] eloquently and to listen when it’s being recited,” said Hassan. “It is not just read as a book; you feel what you read and it touches you on a different level.”