Life as a Muslim Student in Houston

By Fariha Ahmad. Life as a Muslim student away from family and home can feel lonely. Here are some ways to connect with the Muslim community in Houston.

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Community is an important aspect of life, allowing us to nourish ourselves with familiar comforts regardless of where we are or who we are with. For Muslim students moving away from their families and communities to study in Houston, it may seem like you're losing connections to your faith, community, and the traditions you love. Below, I’ll share a few ways I’ve found to stay connected with my faith, make a new community for myself, and otherwise feel “at home.” 

Note: I’ve compiled a short glossary of terms at the bottom of this blog for anyone needing definitions of the italicized Arabic words. 

Visiting masaajid helps maintain connections to faith 

When I moved to Rice to start my Ph.D., one of the biggest things I left behind was the masjid and Muslim community I had grown up with. Moving from a place where most Muslims knew each other by name to Houston, where there were more Muslims than I could count, was really difficult for me because it felt like I had lost all the connections I had to the masjid I had grown up in. However, because Houston has such a robust Muslim population, I found multiple masaajid in my vicinity. I live close to the Medical Center, so these included the New Almeda Masjid and the River Oaks Islamic Center (ROIC). The masjid and community I grew up with will always have a special place in my heart, but visiting different masaajid in Houston has allowed me to make new connections with the Muslim community here, helping assuage the pain I felt when I moved away from the Muslim community I had grown up with, and allowing me to complete prayers in spaces that felt familiar and comforting. 

Finding Muslim colleagues/peers makes living the Muslim experience a shared one

In addition to exploring the masaajid around Houston, I also tried to build myself a group of Muslim friends. Connecting with the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) was one of the first steps I took to make new Muslim friends and get involved in activities catered towards Muslim students. The MSA at Rice planned many events during the first two years that I have been here, and while the organization can feel centered around Rice undergraduates, graduate participation is encouraged and has definitely increased. Moreover, I have also found Muslim students within my own department. Finding people who work in my building/department who share similar beliefs has been instrumental in decreasing the feeling of being “alone”, especially as the lone Muslim person in my lab. Making plans for Jumu’ah trips, telling stories about Eid activities, and laughing over post-Ramadan coffee runs have helped remind me that even though I left friends behind, it is possible to find people with similar experiences who make great friends.

Exploring Houston for spaces catered toward Muslims

One last way I’ve found a sense of community is by visiting various “halal” grocery stores and restaurants around Houston. Several people from across the United States have told me that Houston is the best place to find all types of halal food, and I have yet to find a reason to disagree. Grocery stores on Hillcroft carry authentic ingredients, ranging from Indian to Middle Eastern in their stocks. In terms of restaurants, there are classic desi stops like Aga’s and Mezban, delicious Middle Eastern dishes at Kasra and Pasha, and authentic renditions of specialty foods: for example, you can find Texas brisket at Pinkerton’s, try roast beef sandwiches at Busy Boy, or enjoy hot pot at Xiao Longkan. Besides trying all of these delicious foods, it’s always heartening to find other Muslim people at these spots, sharing smiles with strangers who, like you, seek out halal spots so that you can observe religious guidelines while enjoying something delicious. 

To conclude, moving to a big city like Houston can feel incredibly lonely, especially if you’re already part of a minority group. For Muslim students seeking out community, I have found that visiting masaajid, bonding with Muslim colleagues, and seeking out spaces serving the Muslim population can make life as a Muslim minority feel less lonely. If you’re still looking for Muslim friends, you can always start with me! And Allah knows best. 


  • masjid (pl. masaajid) - house of worship in which Muslim people conduct prayers
  • Jumu’ah - congregational prayer conducted on Friday
  • Eid - festival occurring after periods of religious significance  
  • Ramadan - the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims fast, observe additional prayers, and engage in excess religious reflections
  • halal - permissible, as per Islamic law 

Read more:

Know your well-being resources

Getting involved in grad school

Religious diversity at Rice