The winter semester started at the end of January, and Tuesday was the assigned day for Shaykh Ahmad to visit campus weekly. On the first week, Shaykh Ahmad was granted a parking pass for the duration of the semester from the campus police station. Study Circle on the 4th of February included a discussion of Kobe Bryant’s death the previous weekend and how Muslims react to such events. The next week’s Study Circle was a continuation of the topic of Death and the Afterlife and what happens when a person dies. Funeral prayers for those who commit suicide was discussed. The next Study Circle was focused on meanings of words in Salah with the starting statements of Takbir, God is The Greatest. Several Study Circle sessions were focused on Q & A opportunities as students opened up about their concerns. Hijab and Islamic attire, music, and entertainment were some of the topics discussed.
On Tuesday, February 18,th Shaykh Ahmad was asked to present on the topic of Addictions to the MSA at CPP. Resources were shared during a lively discussion, including the TED talk by Johann Hari, along with his books on the topic of addictions. In preparing for the presentation, Shaykh Ahmad solicited the advice of several mental health professionals and divided the talk into the topics of behavioral addictions and substance dependency. Students really enjoyed the program and gave positive feedback.
During office hours, the topic of intoxicants and addictions was inquired about, as well as the effects of porn on religious lives of young Americans. A student asked for resources in the Arabic language to address agnosticism and doubts that some international students have. The topic of dietary restrictions and regulations of meat consumption also came up. Other students discussed depression, refusal to get treatment or a referral to counseling, OCD struggles, chronic depression, pain, family trauma, and underachievement in job and studies.
On March 3rd IOK Chaplaincy Retreat was announced during Study Circle (unfortunately it would later be canceled due to Stay at Home Orders). A student shared her experience with a family wedding overseas. It was a learning opportunity to discuss this important topic and its regulations in Islam.
On March 10th Corona Virus was the topic of discussion during Study Circle
On Tuesday March 31st Shaykh Ahmad attended a training regarding Mental Health of Muslims, where a variety of topics were discussed. This was a part of our chaplains continuing to pursue opportunities for professional development.
During Spring Break, Shaykh Ahmad wanted to stay connected to the students and was sharing material with them starting with 10 Pieces of Advice on Protecting Yourself From Disease, Preparing For Ramadan Like the Sahabah, The Prophet’s Ramadan.
As Shaykh Ahmad was holding two separate series via IOK Media on dealing with the pandemic (Spiritual Protection Against Pandemics) and extracting lessons from the Life of the Messenger (Prophetic Stories, Illustrations of Life 2), and since the Study Circle on campus was off for some time, these series were shared with the chaplaincy students.
In April, as school resumed after a week of break, COVID 19 Stay at Home orders kicked in. Chaplaincy moved and adapted from an on-campus service to a virtual service through TeleHealth for office hours and Zoom meetings for Study Circle and lectures. Our focus was to continue to provide spiritual care, guidance, and support to Muslim students during this difficult time.
Topics of following passion for career and ritual purity regulations were discussed. Shaykh Hashim Ahmed’s audio on guidance regarding the epidemic was shared. A documentary on Reintegrative Therapy was shared with interested students on the topic of SSA. Step Inside the Circle, which is a documentary regarding childhood trauma, was also shared. The book Boys Adrift was shared with brothers as they struggled with finding motivation in life. In addition, Quran and Scientific Miracles, and Islam and Evolution, were discussed.
Other topics that came up during office hours were marriage regulations and courting process, premarital counseling, post-marriage updates for a young couple, break-up counseling for a couple who was engaged and separated, and family conflicts. The final session was with the future leadership of MSA board as they were hesitant in accepting the role due to uncertainty regarding how the school year would be. Shaykh Ahmad assured the students that there are always opportunities to serve, in spite of the challenges that the current conditions pose, and that chaplaincy will be available to support and help when needed.
In April, and until the end of the semester, Study Circle saw an increase in attendance, as it was a virtual meeting and was more convenient for the students to attend.
On April 7th COVID 19 changes were discussed
On April 14th NMA Ebook Coping with COVID 19 was read
On April 21st we read NMA Ebook Receiving Ramadan
On April 27th the article How to Break Your Fast… was read and discussed
On May 5th was the last Study Circle of the semester. Feedback and lessons from the year were shared, as well as the video Ramadan in Conclusion.
The students insisted on continuing Study Circle after their finals and sent an official request to IOK CHESS. As this report is being published we are finalizing the summer schedule to meet our students’ demands.
We pray for the students’ success and continued growth.