Muslim Students Guide

Full credit to be given to ISoc and all other student volunteers that helped put it together.

Disclaimer: This guide has been complied by current Oxford Students and to the best of their knowledge, is accurate. However there may have been changes since publication. If you would like current advice about the information here or any welfare issue, please contact advice@oxfordsu.ox.ac.uk

 

Before Arriving in Oxford

Scholarships and Bursaries

  • There are various scholarships and bursaries available for Muslim students in Oxford. These are definitely worth taking up if you are eligible, and you may need to apply before you are in Oxford.
  • You can find a full list here, and see if you are eligible for any of them: https://ouisoc.org/scholarships-and-bursaries

Research your college:

  • En-suite availability and halal food provision at the different colleges can be found here: https://ouisoc.org/college-accommodation
  • Accommodation and halal food provision is quite variable between colleges, but even if en-suites or halal food is not available you can ask your college for adjustments. For example, you could ask for your room to be close to a washroom or to be put on female-only/male-only corridors if there is no en-suite, or you could ask for a fridge in your room or to have access to a kitchen if there is no halal food. It is best to ask as early as possible so they have time to accommodate.
  • If you have any questions, feel free to get in contact with one of the ISoc college reps. Email addresses can be found at: https://ouisoc.org/college-reps If you can’t see a college rep for your college, feel free to email the ISoc student affair chair, Iman Awan (iman.awan@wadham.ox.ac.uk) or any of the other committee members and they can try get your questions answered.

Things to bring:

  • Prayer Mat
  • Prayer scarf (if relevant)
  • Qur’an
  • If you want, you can bring Islamic posters and décor. Students have found this as a good way to remind them of God and the greater world, which may help if you ever get very stressed over work.
  • Traditional/formal clothes. ISoc and cultural societies are often holding events where you get to pull out your fancy wear.

It may also be nice to look through some of the Oxford Muslim Social Media, as this can be a reassurance before you turn up:

  • Muslims of Oxford Instagram (shows lots of stories of different Oxford University Muslim Students, and is just a nice page to follow): https://www.instagram.com/muslimsofoxford/ , and there is also the exact same thing but on Facebook if you don’t have Instagram: https://www.facebook.com/MuslimsofOxford
  • The OUISOC also has a YouTube channel with a lot of different type of content on, including FAQs, so is a great resource for learning more about what being a Muslim in Oxford is like: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcIO9KMqOuPune4dkmY209g
  • Join the ISoc facebook group for freshers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/780227312732269

Arriving in Oxford

It can sometimes feel like a difficult task balancing your faith and a new social life when you arrive in Oxford, but here is some advice from Muslim students that should help with the transition:

  • Your faith is not a barrier to having a vibrant social life. There are plenty of opportunities for you to get to know your peers in college and on your course, and to meet fellow Muslims. If you are worried about university drinking culture, remember that lots of colleges host non-drinking freshers events and welfare events throughout the year. The ISoc also hosts their own freshers’ fortnight and plenty of events throughout the year.
  • Stick to your values. You do not need to be embarrassed of your boundaries or try to be something you are not. The people you are meant to be friends with will accept you for who you are and respect what you believe.
  • Join ISOC, the Islamic society. This is probably the best way to meet other Muslims in Oxford, and this can help build up a support network of people who specifically understand your faith. You can find information on Fresher’s week events here: https://ouisoc.org/freshers-week. See the section on the ISoc to find out how to keep up to date with what the ISoc is doing.
  • If you are BAME, there are also lots of societies for different ethnic groups (such as PakSoc and ACS), and you are also likely to find people from a similar background in these places.
  • Most people in Oxford, according to students’ experience, have been welcoming and genuinely interested in learning about new cultures. Do not stress about being a Muslim in Oxford too much - you will find that there are a lot of kind, accepting people in the Oxford community.
  • You also don’t have to feel pressured about getting involved in ISoc etc. If it is not for you, plenty of students make non-Muslim and Muslim friends across Oxford just fine. It will happen.
  • If you are not very religious, that’s ok. Be genuine to yourself and being in the middle doesn’t mean you are excluded from either the Muslim or non-Muslim communities!

Keeping up Religious Traditions

  • Make your college aware of them. They will usually try their best to cater for them e.g. Eid Dinners etc
  • It’s nice to find a few Muslim friends so you’re not alone in Ramadan/Eid with the different timetable.
  • There’s free Iftar every day in Ramadan through ISoc and going to ISoc events late doesn’t mean you’ll make no friends because everyone already knows each other. You could honestly walk up to anyone and they would be happy to speak with you. You can find more information on Ramadan at the ISoc here (including ways to donate to the free Iftar): https://ouisoc.org/ramadan

Staying Connected to Islam

  • Planning your day around your Salah can help you prioritise it, and not forget to do it.
  • Reciting the Qur’an every day is another way to stay close to your beliefs.
  • Little memorabilia around your room – it can act as unconscious reminders of your faith.
  • Also just taking a minute or two out of your day to make Dua and being appreciative for what you have achieved can be so useful (and great for mental health too).
  • Talking to family back home can also be so useful and remind you of your faith prior to moving to Oxford.
  • Most likely, University will be in an environment that will test you. If you slip up, always remember that God is the most merciful and you can always ask for forgiveness.

ISoc (Islamic Society)

The OUISoc is the focal point for Muslims in Oxford. We have an open and diverse membership, and a reputation for being amongst the University’s most vibrant and active societies. Not only does the ISoc take care of the necessities like Friday Jumu’ah, but we also hold a huge range of events – religious education, relaxed socials, politics talks and more – so there should be something for everyone. This all starts off with our much-loved Freshers’ Fortnight – filled with socials which are a great way to meet new people and just have a fun time! We also run events that engage with our local communities and offer opportunities for non-Muslims to discover more about our religion. Most importantly, the ISoc is a space where Muslims in Oxford can feel at home, make lasting friendships, learn and grow.

Don’t feel like you have to be an expert on Islam to come to the ISoc. Most find the ISoc to be a welcoming, non-judgemental and supportive environment - and when it comes to religious education events, we’re all learning about faith together.

Their website has many resources, including the resources linked on this document. If you have a question related to being a Muslim in Oxford, most likely this website has some information for you: https://ouisoc.org/

Their Facebook (which is definitely worth a follow to keep up to date on their upcoming events): https://www.facebook.com/ouisoc

Their Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/oxforduni_isoc/?hl=en

Muslims of Oxford (read about Muslims' personal experiences of living and studying at Oxford) https://www.instagram.com/muslimsofoxford/

Their Alternative Prospectus (which introduces you to the committee and how you can use the society to improve your experience as a Muslim in Oxford): https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5f1785d503fde41d65255b49/t/5f20ab4a5594c97a71da61fb/1595976547114/OUISOC%2BProspectus%2B2020_compressed%2B%281%29.pdf

Join the mailing list to keep up to date with events: https://ouisoc.org/ (scroll to the bottom of the page)

OUISOC Freshers' Facebook Group (a space to meet other Muslim freshers, keep up to date with the ISoc’s fresher events and ask older students questions): https://www.facebook.com/groups/780227312732269

The ISoc will still be running its wide range of events next term - watch out for the release of their term card at the start of Michaelmas. There will be social distancing, hygiene, and contact tracing measures in place to keep members safe - join their mailing list or follow their social media to keep up to date with the details.

Places to go for Worship

  • The Muslim Prayer Room is found at the Robert Hooke Building and should be open for socially distanced prayer very soon. Sign up to our mailing list or follow us on social media to keep up to date on how to use the prayer room safely.

  • Jummah will hopefully run at the prayer room with a strictly limited capacity to enable social distancing. There will be a sign-up form each week.

  • Several other Mosques in Oxford are open and hosting Jummah.
  • The Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies is beautiful - definitely worth visiting even if you are not religious (you can take your non-Muslim friends with you.) It also has a library!
  • Details on the prayer room location and a list of Oxford Mosques can be found here: https://ouisoc.org/prayer-room

Buying Halal Food

Cowley Road has an insane amount of halal places and so do a few places in central oxford. Most students have not found eating halal to be too much of a problem, even if their colleges do not provide halal meat. Also worth noting that most kebab shops in Oxford are halal as well!

ISoc also have this guide with a non-exhaustive list of restaurants, cafes, and takeaways that offer halal food in Oxford: https://ouisoc.org/halal-food-in-oxford

Final Pieces of Advice

Dealing with people’s questions about Islam

  • Sometimes people will ask you questions about Islam. If you can and want to answer, then go ahead. But remember it’s ok to not know the answer or prefer to stay silent: you’re not a walking encyclopedia on Islam! It can be helpful to have a contact who is religiously aware and studied Islam in depth. This could be a local imam, moulana, teacher from mosque, etc. That way, if someone asks a question and you are unsure of an answer, you can ask your point of contact. It can be important to educate people when they are willing to learn.
  • There are some people who ask questions or want to start a debate with you for the wrong reasons - they ask to ask, rather than ask to listen. If someone’s style of questioning makes you uncomfortable, then they probably have their own agenda and are not trying to educate themselves. Recognise that this is not ok. There is no need for you to engage in a fruitless argument with them - direct them to reliable sources of information if you can.