With the new academic year fast approaching and term time routines in the process of being perfected, for some students a new chapter is going to begin in their lives. The application process was lengthy and tiresome but now is the time to prepare yourself for a world filled with unfamiliar experiences and unexplored territories that may initiate those forgotten feelings of insecurity you haven’t felt since your early teenage years. University is a word many people fall in awe of, thinking that this is the jackpot in allowing you to make a name for yourself. However, like everything in life, if it is not tackled with the correct mind-set and intention, university can be a place of great sorrow, trials, and regret.
University will be your home away from home for the coming years. This is your first step into full adulthood, and hopefully some of those youthful looks will remain with you until the end. This article will not give you a comprehensive guide, but aims to provide the advice which I received when I started. I want to focus on five keywords that you need to adhere to to create a winning recipe at university, and if you are to uphold these during your time as a student you will pass your exam in the eyes of Allāh with a top grade, inshā’Allah.
“Actions are according to their intentions”
The first ḥadīth in Sahīh al-Bukhārī should be your first thought before you undergo any task. The principle of intention allows us to realise why we do what we do and if it isn’t intended for the sake of Allāh, then we can pause to adapt it. Our time is limited in this world, yet the consequences of every moment that passes is eternal. We cannot afford to let time pass us by without forming multiple intentions. Why are you going to university?
The Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) said:
“The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.”
Allāh mentions that for those who do good in this world, Allāh gives them ‘a continuous reward’ because He gives to those who give to others. Do you want to be consumers or contributors? Before moving day, be smart and make a list of as many intentions you can for your studies to maximise your output on the day of accountability. To earn a halāl income, to support your family, give part of your salary to charity to help the destitute, to find the cure for a disease, to please your parents; these are just a few of the many examples you can brainstorm. Set a vision for the years you are at university and use it as motivation to persevere when things will inevitably get tough.
The famous proverb says ‘Show me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are’. No birth certificate is required, nor a glance at your appearance or a voice note of your speech is needed, simply show the people who you acquaint yourself with and this is enough to deduce the type of person you are. Why is there such a great emphasis on the people we surround ourselves with? It is because they are the people who can make or break you, propel you forward or hold you back, guide you to good or divert you to bad. Choose your companions at university more carefully than you choose the food that you put in your body, especially now that you have the intellect and can differentiate from the right and wrong crowd. You are the product of your friendships and if you do not see the influence of that today, then you will surely see it on the Day of Judgement.
A student once asked his teacher for advice before he started university to which he replied ‘Surround yourself with people who are better than you in dīn’. Sticking with the most dignified can accelerate your development simply by their presence. Good habits can be picked up by merit of the upright individuals you associate yourself with and while the student scene is immersed with pub socials and club nights for those who find enjoyment in these intoxicated events, the halāl alternative is provided by the Islamic Societies (“ISOC”) which are often run by these upright individuals who amplify good values.
Though the name itself is enough to put people off in the current climate that we live in, they are the most active and relevant student-led societies on campus that cater for your holistic needs. Some of their unkempt beards and ‘uber’ religious personalities may seem intimidating, but the brothers and sisters enjoy the same things as you and will most likely go on to become your lifelong friends that will support you in your personal progression. Unlike any other organisation that you’ll find at university, the ISOC is far deeper, where you all share the same spiritual goals and moral principles, and that only makes the brotherhood and sisterhood much deeper. Where others bond over their sins, you bond over that shared connection of lā ilāha illa Allāh. Contact your respective ISOC now via their website or Facebook page just to introduce yourself. They hold events in the first weeks of the semester for new students, so it would definitely be worth a visit.
But take heed as, although you are a Muslim, there is no doubt that you will meet others who are also Muslim but do things differently. Your job is to exercise tolerance and not to be excessive. University is not a battleground for you to refute and condemn others. All ideas are investigated, practiced and displayed but stay true to your principles, be open to find the truth and take from reliable sources and scholars. Instead of getting involved in useless debates, do something of benefit and aspire to make a difference by working together with others to perform common goals. Initiatives such as Islamic Societies should occupy us with things of substance rather than a platform to pick at each other.
The first task the Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) did when he arrived at the city of Quba on his way to Madīnah was to build a Masjid. One of the first tasks the Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) did when he arrived in Madīnah was to build a Masjid. Is this a random occurrence or is this a key message the Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) is putting down in the life of every Muslim? The Masjid is not all about the obvious spiritual benefits we expect. They act as our home and comfort, hosting a wide range of activities from youth nights to free food! Do not simply think the Masjid is about information you can access elsewhere, the Masjid and your house are the same. No other location, irrespective of its sentimentality, can compete with the house of Allāh.
Create a strong bond with the house of Allāh. One of the seven types of people who will be shaded on a day when everyone will be desperately seeking shade is “A person whose heart is attached to the Masjid”, in reference to an individual who harbours intense love for the Mosque, to a level where when he leaves it, his heart is still in this invaluable sanctuary. At every opportunity whether it is for prayer, service or knowledge, make the Masjid indispensable to your life.
Aim to attend at least one spiritually boosting gathering every week in which your īmān is boosted and one that is specifically targeted to bring people closer to Allāh and reminds you of the hereafter. If your Islamic society does not hold these gatherings, I’m sure the local Mosque will.
4. Watchfulness (Taqwa)
“And whoever fears Allāh – He will make for him a way out. And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allāh – then He is sufficient for him.” 
What does it mean to be watchful of Allāh? When you feel a desire becoming stronger and gaining momentum in your body, or an invitation comes to you or a request is made, you imprison those thoughts from manifesting into actions that you will later regret. The key to stopping sins developing is to remember Allāh is watching you so guard yourself as we do not sin except that a blessing from Allāh is withheld from descending upon us as a result. Your private and social lives may affect your studies so be watchful of Allāh so you can complete your studies with excellence.
Sins inevitably weigh us down but by seeking forgiveness (istighfār) 100 times daily each morning and each evening, you will be cleansed of the sins of the past several hours, thereby remaining closer to Allāh. The best time for this dhikr is after Fajr and ‘Asr, and can be made by simply saying:
Astaghfirullāh (I seek forgiveness from Allāh).
You may have heard from casual conversations that university is a social place, but that does not mean that every form of socialisation is purposeful. Stay away from social gatherings that steal from your precious hours and minutes, because your resolve breaks over time until that environment becomes a part of you.
The social environment at university is a slippery slope. Too often people go to events which go against the values they have been bought up with, justifying this with the fact that they’re interacting with others or integrating. Now those very people are in clubs, drinking among other things. May Allāh protect us all.
The Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) said:
“Glad tidings to the strangers.”
Muslims are different, and we are proud of it. Never feel you are inferior to anyone and do not be shy to express your Islām. Do not compromise your morals to fit in with the crowd, even temporarily. Whether it’s going to pray or declining an invitation to a gathering that would not please Allāh, you will be surprised how much people respect and accept those who stand up for their principles from the offset, and not just find creative ways of making excuses, let alone abandoning their principles.
Allāh said in the Qur’ān:
“You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allāh.” 
Don’t use university as an excuse to neglect your families! You can’t divorce the people who raised you even if it’s momentarily. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so if you are far away from your parents this should only increase the love for them, because staying apart from your loved ones is therapeutic, allowing you to truly value them. When you are too close you only fixate on the negatives. Your parents have raised you from birth and now trust you by sending you away so the least you can do is continue to have that contact with them on a daily basis. This experience will not only be a new found independence for you but for them too; not seeing their child every day as they have been accustomed to is a lonely thought for parents.
Do not let them feel like you have forgotten them or are not in need of them anymore, and if you feel as if they are asking unnecessary questions about your day, then have patience with them and tell them to their hearts’ content, for this gives them tranquillity. You won’t realize how much of your Islām is dependent on the opinions of your family especially your parents until they disappear from your rear-view mirror. Avoid falling into the trap of letting your first taste of freedom get to your head and instead honour your parents by doing what would please them and asking for their du’ās.
Your time and money invested in this educational endeavour is formative. Most of you will only go through university once so let not your time be lazily whittled away. Make the most of this time for it will shape your future. Your personality and Islamic identity will be moulded in these years so use advice such as this to prepare you for the near future. Know that this is one of the most pivotal points in your life; a transitionary period with crossroads that could take you in vastly different directions. On one hand you can choose to engage in that which pleases Allāh and on the other you can spend these years in sin and transgression that will ultimately affect you for the rest of your life. It is up to you to navigate which path you will take.
Based on advice given by Ustadh Ali Hammuda
 Agreed Upon
 Narrated by Al-Bukhārī and Muslim, on the authority of Abū Huraira
 Al-Qur’ān, 65:2-3
 Narrated by Muslim from Abū Hurairah
 Al-Qur’an, 3:110