Finding Belonging in Spiritual Spaces


How these hidden nooks helped Sana Siddiqui '13 settle into life on two campuses.

During my fours years at Cornell, one of my favorite and oft-visited places on campus was Anabel Taylor Hall which houses the Cornell United Religious Works. Anabel Taylor Hall is the site of nearly all the religious congregational spaces on campus and it was also the site of MECA’s prayer rooms. In the solace of room 218, I could quietly finish my afternoon prayer without the fear of having someone confusedly walk in on me or having to deal with the absence of prayer mats. I believed at that time that this was a special accommodation that I would not find at most other institutions.

So imagine my surprise when, after wandering around SUNY Upstate University’s library halls, I finally entered a room called the ‘Meditation Room’ and found that it came fully equipped with prayer mats, scarves and even a little shoe rack. It was late afternoon after my classes and I was hunting for an empty space to pray in—something hard to find in a library that is often brimming with students.  I was struck with relief and excitedly texted my old Cornell friends to announce to them that I had found a space to pray, just like the one at Cornell.

Finding the ‘Meditation Room’ that day made all the difference. It has helped me in my journey to feel at home in a new environment, comforted me with the knowledge that there is a community of like-minded people around me and helped me realize that the institution I am now a part is invested in accommodating both my academic and spiritual needs. It plays much the same role that Anabel Taylor did at Cornell and that has made me feel at home.

Religious spaces such as the ‘Meditation Room’ or the MECA prayer room at Anabel Taylor Hall are fundamentally important to the experience of the students and employees. They acknowledge the diverse spiritual needs of the people working at these places and provide a safe space for their expression. They bring together people of similar communities, backgrounds and interests, forming important connections between members of the institution. The presence of these spaces greatly enhances the atmosphere at any building, public space or institution as they provide alternatives to the normally noisy or crowded world and a chance to find solitude, even if just for a few minutes. It has certainly made my transition from Cornell to Upstate that much easier.

I would highly encourage readers to organize their own spiritual spaces wherever they are. It empowers and comforts me personally to know that there are Muslims at Cornell and at my new school who have brought about the creation of these spaces for the community. And so I urge everyone to find these spaces for themselves in their surroundings—finding one can be a source of empowerment and and the beginning of closer integration into that society.


Sana Siddiqui '13 graduated with a Biology and Government degree from Cornell University in 2013. She is currently a first year medical student at SUNY Upstate, and in the little spare time that she has enjoys sleeping and discussions about spirituality.

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