In Western Oregon University’s Maaske Hall is a quiet room for prayer and meditation. It is open to anyone on campus seeking a peaceful place to pray or reflect. During most of the week, only a few people use it each day, but the international club occasionally reserves it for meetings, and Muslim students gather there every Friday to pray and listen to a sermon.
The prayer and meditation area – room number 114 in Maaske Hall – might be a bit out-of-the-way, but its location makes it ideal for students, staff, and faculty in search of peace and solitude. It used to be in Abby’s House in the Werner University Center, but it was considered too inaccessible there. In Maaske Hall, it is somewhat remote but simple to find.
The prayer room is not operated by any particular organization, religious or otherwise. It exists independently for the entire campus community. Some groups, however, reserve the prayer room for their own meetings.
Muslim students gather at the prayer room every Friday afternoon to observe the Islamic holy day. Their prayer services are a time to “slow down and get yourself together again,” said Mohammad Naseeb, a student who regularly attends the meetings. They are also “a reminder that God’s up there.” The Imam, or prayer leader, gives a weekly sermon on applying the Islamic faith to everyday life.
During the prayers, worshipers alternately stand, bow, and rest their heads on the floor. Naseeb explained that negative energy is thought to be released into the ground and positive energy absorbed through the forehead. Prayer is a form of stress relief – not only because it is a calming ritual but also because it allows worshippers to draw near to God and ask for help with their challenges, small or large. Naseeb believes it is God’s daily care for people that makes them significant. “We get our important existence from His existence,” he said. Communication with God through prayer is a reminder that He is in control and that He is concerned for their welfare.
Although the Muslim prayer group meets only once a week, some of those who attend go to the prayer room at other times as well. They might be alone there, since it is rarely a highly-populated place, or they might meet someone of an entirely different spiritual persuasion. Some people go to the prayer room to meet God, and others go to reflect on themselves in a peaceful, quiet place.