Hi. My name is Eilaf and I am your summer intern.
I am a first year Master’s of Theological Studies student at Harvard Divinity School and I feel so honored to be a student, for the opportunity to read and write and learn.
When people ask me where I am from, I have to ask myself a few questions: How well do I know this person? How much time do I have? Do I have my handy foldable map? If I am particularly chatty, I will indulge the curious. If I am not, I say Colorado.
Open Spirit feels, well, open so I want to be open too. I was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, right by the sea, a port city known as the gateway to Mecca that has welcomed millions of pilgrims for over thousands of years. My parents are from Sudan, but from very different parts and very different tribes. My father is sub-Saharan African, a proud Black man whose grandfather fought the Anglo-Egyptian colonization of Sudan. My mother is of North African Arab descent, and as of late, increasingly Egyptian. Despite being from different tribes, that drank from different branches of the Nile, the fact that they fell in love, married and had me despite obvious oppositions, is a testament to the healing power of love.
We moved to America when I was young and I spent my childhood between the Middle East and North America, between Jeddah and JFK, between Khartoum and Kentucky Fried Chicken, between East and West, between Hello and Hala. I am bilingual, bicultural and depending on the issue at hand, my worldview has become increasingly bilateral. Every time the plane landed, I had to reorganize and reorient myself to my surroundings and my teen years were punctuated with growing pains I could only describe in words members of either community could not identify. I grew up Arab and Black, American and African and I treasure and fiercely subscribe to both communities.
The diversity of my background inspires the diversity of my concentration. Because I am Muslim, people often assume that I am studying Islamic Studies at the Divinity School. That is not the case. I strongly believe that all religions are different doors to the same house: inner peace. I strongly believe that no religion holds the monopoly on truth and that what was wisely said in Arabic, was also said in Aramaic, in Hebrew and in Hindi. My focus is on Religion, Culture and Literature and I just love how I can find the parallels in all the faiths versus just focusing on one. Open Spirit does that well and that’s why I am excited to be intern for the summer.
It’s disappointing that you have to meet me virtually, but I am honored to have met you at all.
Looking forward to making a splash,
P.S: This picture was taken at the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque in Sarajevo, Bosni and Herzegovina at the 2017 Muslim Jewish Conference. I was honored to have been invited and to have attended. I was stunned by the Ottoman architecture, completely in love with how on this little stretch of land right by the Balkans, there was a time, for a few hundred years, when Muslims were Europeans, when Jews held Cabinet positions, when Christians monks rang worship bells; when all of Abraham’s grandchildren coexisted.