Mspiration Interview

Saeed Saeed, an Australian writer and journalist, interviewed me recently for his unique blog: Mspiration. I was honored to be featured on his site alongside individuals who inspire me. I also appreciated Saeed’s relaxed and professional interview style and overall dedication to his site and its goals. May Allah reward him generously.

Those interested in reading excerpts derived from the interview, may click the picture below.

Mspiration

Why a Muslim Chaplain at Cornell University?

The Muslim students and alumni at Cornell University have been diligently working on establishing the first Muslim chaplaincy position on their campus. Together they have organized an official association, the Diwan Foundation, aimed at providing programming and services to support the well-being of Muslims on campus. As part of this wonderful and ambitious initiative, they have also recently begun publishing a newsletter addressing issues of relevance to Muslims on campus. It was my honor to have been asked in their latest issue to provide them with a brief introduction to Islamic chaplaincy: Why a Muslim Chaplain?

Diwan

Muslims Present and Active at National Chaplaincy Conference

Check out this latest article by Amira Elghawaby, a human rights coordinator for CAIR.CAN and a freelance journalist.

Elghawaby’s article speaks to the active engagement of Muslim presenters and attendees (including myself =) ) at the annual conference for the Canadian Association for Spiritual Care (CASC).

Ottawa Conference
Click here to be directed to article.

Guidelines for the Khateeb (Muslim Preacher)

My aim in this article is to provide some guidelines for giving a khutbah (Islamic sermon). Being a khateeb (also spelled khatib) is perhaps the most honorable position that a Muslim can hold, it’s a fulfillment of part of the mission of the Prophet ﷺ. As Ibn Hilal said “the scholars and imams are the messengers of the Prophet ﷺ.” Therefore, a khatib has an extremely challenging task, and this can easily be proven by examining the experience of some of the Companions on the minbar. When Abu Bakr stood on the minbar he immediately realized who stood there before him decided to move up one step, knowing that the Prophet stood on the very same spot; he felt the heaviness of his weight. The same thing happened with Umar– realizing the status of the two people who stood in the same spot, he decided to move up one more step so he would not be standing where the Prophet ﷺ or Abu Bakr stood. When the third caliph Uthman ibn Affan stood on the minbar he became speechless, weeping for a while, and than he stood up and said, “You  are in need of a just caliph more than a long-winded one, and if I stay in this position you will receive khutbah after khutbah. After hardship Allah will make ease.” Then he sought refuge in Allah and descended. Each of these three unique scenarios illustrates a challenge that every khatib experiences.

Continue reading “Guidelines for the Khateeb (Muslim Preacher)”

Reflections on Islamic Chaplaincy

Choate Muslim Students’ Association 2009/10

For most imams, their primary concern is to care for the congregants of an Islamic center, who, for the most part, share a common vision of Islam.  However, the chaplain must be able to work with a diverse array of believers in a secular environment.  This means a chaplain must be able to assist those whom they might otherwise disagree with in other matters, such as Islamic law, and theology.  For example, it is not uncommon for Sunni chaplains to assist Shi’i Muslims within their institution; a chaplain must see beyond differences of faith and opinion and try their best to care for all members of their faith community.  The institution within which a chaplain works may also require certain professional and procedural guidelines to be followed.  These guidelines, which differ from institution to institution, may include: the obligation to help whoever asks (no matter what their faith is); keeping a record of all professional visits with patients, inmates, students, and personnel; having scheduled meetings with a supervisor who oversees your work; and, working with other chaplains of different faiths to better the institutions interfaith relations.

While a chaplain is officially tied to an institution, be it a hospital, military unit, prison, or university, his or her training and education can make them a unique resource for their institution’s surrounding community.  University chaplains such as Yahya Hendi (Georgetown) and Abdullah Antepli (Duke) are often more visible than other chaplains, but a chaplain in any institution should be seen as an asset to the wider community.  Although a Muslim chaplain may be trained in Islamic law, the purpose of their position is not to act simply as a jurist, nor does their pastoral training mean they are solely counselors.  Rather, Muslim chaplains are religious leaders whose experience and training uniquely equips them to provide both religious and pastoral services.  Chaplains should generally be open and available to address the social and mental health concerns of members outside of their faith as well, which is sometimes required by institutions, especially in the realm of hospital chaplaincy.

Continue reading “Reflections on Islamic Chaplaincy”

Caring for Ahmad and Other Muslim Youth

To continue the conversation about youth at risk, and how imams and Muslim chaplains can respond, I asked my dear friend Sh. Jamaal Diwan to offer a reflection on the points raised in my article “What Happened to Ahmad: Responding to Muslim Youth at Risk.” The following is his insightful response:

Since I was asked to write about this topic from the perspective of a student of Shari’a, I would like to begin my comments with some reflections on the role of the imam in America and then work from there towards my thoughts on the relationship between chaplains and imams.

Generally, the imam is looked to as the leader of his community and the source of guidance for his congregation. In America this is no different and requires the presence of certain traits in the ideal imam. From these traits are things such as the following: having a strong training in and knowledge of the traditional Islamic sciences; understanding the people and culture that he is serving; speaking English fluently; knowing how to deal with people, empowering and motivating them; being aware of the major trends in society and cultivating the ability to address them from the perspective of Islam; having a spirit of humility, self-sacrifice, and servitude; and so on.

I recognize that it is very rare to find all of these traits in one imam, but it does represent an ideal that we as a community should strive towards. It is of note here that from the previous description, it is necessarily a part of the imam’s role in the community for him to engage in pastoral services at some level. However, that does not mean that this is what the imam is usually primarily trained in nor does it mean that it is the best place for the imam to spend large quantities of his time. In many of our communities we find that imams are busy in a never-ending flow of counseling sessions that wear them out spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. This has the devastating effect of taking them away from the crucial roles of religious instruction, guidance, and their own personal studies. We face many challenges and imams that do not have the chance to even review things that they learned in their studies, let alone increase their knowledge, will find themselves incapable of addressing these challenges and come up short in providing thought and guidance for the people.

Continue reading “Caring for Ahmad and Other Muslim Youth”