Opinion | Drinking is not essential for student social life

Muslim students find alternatives forms of social life on campus.


Isabella Cervantes

Photo Illustration by Isabella Cervantes (Isabella Cervantes/The Daily Iowan)

Shahab Khan, Opinions Columnist

At the University of Iowa, there is a sense that party culture dominates the lifestyle scene. Going out with your friends and having a drink or two while dancing the night away is a common weekend ritual for many students.

However, boozing out is not the only way for people to get a fulfilling college experience. Especially for the UI’s Muslim students. 

The Holy Islamic text, the Quran, mandates that Muslims refrain from drinking alcohol. While this norm is easy to follow in Muslim countries where alcohol is either banned or very expensive, the pervasiveness of alcohol consumption in American college culture makes it difficult for students that identify as Muslim.

Mushroor Kamal and Omar Mustafa are two devout Muslim students at the UI who initially struggled with fitting in the party scene before they found their niche interests. They are also two of my closest friends and some of the smartest, and hardworking individuals that I know. 

The National College Health Assessment reported in spring 2021 that 68.5 percent of undergraduates used alcohol in the last 30 days and 77.3 percent of students used alcohol in the last 3 months. 

Both cite their religion as the reason why they were able to succeed and have fulfilling college experiences. 

“I have never been really into the party lifestyle and coming to a school that has a reputation for partying had made it initially very difficult to make friends.” Kamal said, as the three of us dined out together for the first time in a few weeks.

“Nah, let’s be honest Mush, it was because of the pandemic,” Mustafa chimed in response.

“Anyway, because of Islam’s no drinking rule, I had to find an alternative to going out and getting sloshed with other people,” Kamal said. “That is when I consulted my imam back in Dubuque and he suggested that I find an activity or club to participate in.”

An imam is a religious leader in an Islamic community who guides fellow Muslims both spiritually while also providing them with general life advice. It was this advice which led Kamal to participate in intramural soccer where he found some friends. 

Meanwhile, Mustafa elaborated on his experience at the UI, explaining how his Islamic faith pushed him to become a resident assistant. 

“For me, the Quran has taught me that public service is incredibly important because it helps people have better lives,” Mustafa said. “I remember when I was also a clueless freshman trying to navigate the campus. Being an RA allows me to help freshmen have the best experience they can on campus.” 

Both Mustafa and Kamal paid respects to their faith when they talked about their academic success. 

“Being a pre-med student is very demanding, you have to do a lot of research and balance a heavy course load.” Kamal replied when asked about how his faith pushed him to study medicine. 

“At the same time, God says in the Quran that it is important for humans to expand our knowledge and understand the world that he has created,” Kamal said. “I feel like the research that Omar and I do makes it so that we are doing what God wants us to do.”

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.