ASU Adds Interfaith, Ablution Rooms To Memorial Union To Accommodate Religious Practices

By Blakely McHugh

TEMPE – Arizona State University recently added an interfaith reflection room and ablution rooms to its Memorial Union to accommodate students who want to practice their religious beliefs.

Muslim students had asked for a place to cleanse themselves before prayer.

“What the students desire is really the driver for this project and so it’s paid for by the students, for the students,” said Bruce Nevel, chief facilities officer at ASU. “It’s a very diverse student body that we have, and so there is a requirement or desire for these ablution rooms.”

Ablution room
Arizona State University student, Mahleej Zara, cleanses in one of the new ablution rooms at the university’s Memorial Union in Tempe. (Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)

People use ablution rooms for ritual purification, also known as Wudu. It involves cleansing the head, face, arms, hands and feet.

Many religions practice some form of ablution. Baptism and foot washing are considered forms of ablution in Christianity. However, Muslims wash themselves each time before formal prayer.

“It’s important to have a place like that. It keeps you more clean. There’s no water spilling anywhere,” said Mahleej Zara, a member of the Muslim student association at ASU. “It’s important and as well to acknowledge the fact that students need a place like that.”

Mahleej Zara, a member of the Muslim student association at Arizona State University, said the fact that ASU recognizes Muslims on campus makes her feel valued. (Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
Arizona State University is undergoing a $10 million upgrade to its Memorial Union in Tempe. Other renovations include new pool tables, dining areas and better accessibility. (Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)

The additions were part of a $10 million upgrade to the facilities. Other renovations included new pool tables, dining areas and better accessibility.

“ASU is a very inclusive university, and so we’ve got a lot of faiths represented across the student body,” Nevel said. “It’s important to recognize that and to be sensitive to that and appreciate their desires.”

The private rooms include a place to sit, running water, a hand-washing station and paper towels.

Before ASU installed the rooms, Zara said she would have to clean herself in the bathroom, sometimes creating an awkward situation.

“You have to wash your feet and stuff like that so you can’t just be doing that in a general bathroom,” Zara said. “That’s what we mostly do or what we had to do before these rooms, and people will give you weird looks if you have your bare foot in the sink.”

Muslims makes up about 1 percent of Arizona’s population, according to a Pew Research Center study.

Mahleej Zara adjusts her scarf in the Interfaith Reflection Room at Arizona State University’s Memorial Union in Tempe. (Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)

Zara said the fact that ASU recognizes Muslims on campus makes her feel valued.

“ASU is recognizing that there’s Muslim students on campus, and they need a place like this, and that makes you feel important. That makes you feel like, ‘Oh, they care,’” Zara said. “They actually notice that we need a place to pray and a place to make Wudu.”

The University of Miami, Oregon State University and Ohio State University have also added these rooms.


  1. sometime soon a united religion – with one that says he is God – that all religions are to him – that all are praying to the same God and he is that God – this will outlaw Christianity who’s belief is the only salvation is through acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ, all must come trough me ; setting off the persecution of Christians.. sometime soon.

  2. When does ASU install the mikveh pools for the Jewish students, prayer wheels for Buddhist students to spin, Shiva, Ganesh, and other statues at which Hindu students may worship. Just out of curiosity, is there a chapel in which Christian students can silently meditate and pray on the ASU campus? No? I didn’t think so.

  3. Why can`t these students wash at home or in the privacy of their own rooms. To my knowledge, there is no religious requirement that Muslims or any other students pray at school. As for who is paying for these special rooms, it is unclear who is payong for them. The university official says the rooms are payed for by the students (which students?) because they desire the rooms. Huh?

  4. Seems the posters above can’t understand the concept of religious liberty. I find their intolerance quite disgusting.

  5. Gee, no mention of safe space rooms for the poor millennials. Those are next aren’t they. The rooms are paid for by student fees just like everything else.

  6. In many ways this story parallels the recent “reintroduction” of the grey wolf.
    What this truly comes down to is the normalisation of the Muslim faith into everyday life.
    Once the toe is in the door,it’s followed by the foot then the leg which is followed by the whole body.
    Kinda strange that 1% of the population is the recipient of such accommodating measures.
    Even more strange is that it’s just a little unnoticed encroachment, one toe at a time as to not alarm anyone paying attention.
    I truly wonder but doubt if in a 100 yrs from now when the peacefull Muslims are running the show that such diverse preferences will be made for accommodating Christians who’ll instead be praying in private in their closets out of fear of discovery….

    The Oracle

    • Oracle – your 100 year question is an interesting one – there won’t be a 100 years from now as we know it – we are living in the last generation – many alive today will never die death as mankind has known it for all man’s time – Maranatha!

  7. Where are the freedom from religion groups, the separation of church and state groups, funny they are strangely silent on this matter. I think The Oracle is on to something, it’s called the frog in the pot on the stove.

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