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.

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Of Love and Knowledge: The Story of Fatimah al-Samarqandi

My dear sisters imagine what if you were receiving proposals from all over the world, but your father denied all except those who were seekers of knowledge? And brothers, what if you were seeking a wife and her dowry, which she asked of you, did not include dollars or cents but rather that you contribute some way to the community? Sisters, imagine what it would be like to be so well known for your knowledge that the leader of the Muslim community asks for you- by name– to sit on his advisory board? Brothers, have you ever asked a shaykh a question and, him not knowing, referred you ask to his daughter? Would you believe that all of this has occurred?

What I am about to share with you is not about just one amazing life, but an amazing perspective on life shared in common by the most righteous of people.

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