It’s been almost 10 years since I’ve graduated from Ithaca College and Asma is still one of the most profound teachers I’ve ever had. From behind a desk, I learned to read history and politics as a personal encounter as much as a cultural and historical one. To this day, I still reference notes from her classes and reflect on many remarkable discussions of classes that felt as if they ended too soon.
Like in the course “Understanding Islam,” every student entered that class with a personal intention disguised as a “genuine curiosity” about Islam. As children of terrorizing wars in the Middle East, none of us were just simply curious. We all had personal investments we were afraid of. It wasn’t until the last day of class that any of us were able to discuss our real personal relationships with Islam and honestly answer the question, “Why are you here?” In retrospect, I still daydream about the possibilities if we started the course that way, the discussions that could have been.
However, what I am more and more awestruck by is Asma’s grace as a teacher to help guide a room of privileged students to be boldly honesty with themselves, their culture, and their history. As an avid note-taker, I find it extremely telling that on the last day of that course, my only note was to “Live with humility.” To say the least, the challenges Asma presents her students with—through thoughtful selections of readings and high expectations of honest participation—change her students for the better and I am forever grateful to have had so many opportunities to study with her.