Faith Fuels Devout Student

His name means slave or servant of Allah. Nineteen-old Abdullah Islami, a second-year pharmacy student from Daytona Beach, Fla., is a devout generational Muslim and follows the Surahs (chapters) of the Qur’an.

For Islami, the importance of religion and education began before he entered college, a lesson taught to him from his Albanian parents. Islami graduated from Spruce Creek High School, the number five school in the nation for public education. He also graduated with an International Baccalaureate (IB) degree, a program which he says prepared him for Pharmacy’s rigorous curriculum.

“My dad worked very hard to get us a comfortable life,” Islami said. “He didn’t want me to work labor intensive; he wanted me to get a college education.”

His father thought FAMU was the best choice for school and favored the idea of a smaller school. Islami, however, had four universities in mind, and wrestled with his choices. He eliminated the University of Connecticut, his dream school, Temple University and the University of Florida.

“I liked FAMU because it was smaller, in Florida and had a great pharmacy school,” Islami said.

His life outside of schoolwork is a simple one, spent watching his favorite team, the Orlando Magic, on one of his five basic cable channels. Islami also creates non-interpretational abstract art in his free time. He peruses his dark green Quran laced with a gold geometric border from back to front, memorizing the moral codes of his religion, and prays five times throughout each day to Allah.

“We read from right to left in our religion,” Islami said. “Al-ala, ‘The Most High,’ is my favorite surah to recite in Arabic, and favorite to read.”

Islami said his religion goes beyond simple recitation and memorization, and requires discipline.

“My religion is a lifestyle, and I enjoy living it,” said Islami. “My morning prayer is at 6:50 a.m., so I wake up at 6 a.m. to recite it.”

He is allowed to pray anywhere, except for the bathroom, because the Muslim faith deems the bathroom an unholy place.

Learning to pray five times was one of the five pillars of the Islam faith that the prophet Muhammad (SWT) issued. Islami also participates in Ramadan, which is the Islamic month of fasting where Muslims offer more prayer to Allah and abstain from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse.

A huge source of Islami’s inspiration comes from his mother, Gonxhe Islami, who was raised a Muslim in Albania.

“In my country, there are eight years of high school,” said Mrs. Islami. “With me coming from Macedonia, I didn’t know English.”

While receiving an education, Islami and his three sisters helped their mother learn the language.

“I mostly learned English from my children, and they corrected me when I didn’t say it right,” said Mrs. Islami. “He has always put education first, and I’m very happy and proud of him.”

Islami said he studies an average of 17 hours per week. Also, his friends and community within the Scholarship Office help him push through FAMU’s rigorous pharmacy program.

“You’re going to need people to help you balance,” said Islami.

Dedra O’Neal, director of the university scholarship office, has gotten to know him within two years.

“At first he would sit and look at people, so he was very shy,” said O’Neal. “The students must come to the office weekly, so this required him to engage in conversation.”

Once Islami started talking, he didn’t stop.

“He would tell me, ‘I speak Arabic, I’m Muslim, a basketball fan and a soccer fan,’ so he could connect on many levels,” O’Neal said. “He is what makes FAMU what it is.”

Elliott Treadwell, a physics professor at FAMU, has seen how Islami values education.

“In terms of academic performance, he gets excellent grades,” said Treadwell. “He participates in class, and his religion motivates him in his pursuit of excellence.”

With four more years left of the six-year pharmacy program, Islami works strenuously to obtain his desired Pharm. D degree.

“You have your goals, and you have your priorities,” said Islami. “Try to always accomplish the goals you set for yourself.”