The Fall semester continued online via Zoom, which proved to be a much more convenient alternative for Chaplaincy meetings. Study circles were held every Thursday from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM where Shaykh Ahmad met with students on Zoom. Office hour appointments were held through TeleHealth. There, students could meet personally with Shaykh Ahmad to discuss any personal questions, issues, concerns, or just to check in. On September 10th, Shaykh Ahmad met with students in an introductory meeting where he got to know members new and old, introducing them to IOK and it’s services. Full Chaplaincy services then resumed the following week.
The study circles went over a great variety of topics, from heavy to simple Q&A formats. On September 17th, Shaykh Ahmad discussed the topic of death and losing a loved one after a student shared that they had recently lost a close member of their family. Following the meeting, he shared some resources on the subject, including webinars, books, videos, and a Friday sermon that he had delivered. The students were grateful to get a chance to talk about the topic and follow up. Students also had a chance throughout the semester to submit any questions that had anonymously. On October 8th, a question was asked about the hijab, and so the study circle got to reading an article on the Muslim dress-code, for both women and men.
October 29th was a day packed full of good content. Students first met with Shaykh Ahamd for the regular study circles at 3:00 pm. With Halloween around the corner, the group discussed it’s permissibility and referenced videos and articles for Muslim parents. Only an hour later, Shaykh Ahmad met with the entire club during the general meetings at 5 pm to talk about marriage. The meeting was introduced with a short presentation by the CSULB Arabic professor, Iman Hashem, who talked about the Arabic classes students could take at CSULB depending on their level of proficiency. After that, Shaykh Ahmad got into the marriage talk and went over some basics, the rights of both parties, and shared other resources on gender interactions. It was a very popular meeting and many members benefitted.
Despite the challenges of the outside world, there were many highlights to having chaplaincy online. Not only did Shaykh Ahmad get to connect with current students, but also alumni, community members, and even members who had studied abroad at CSULB. The Long Beach community was like a wholesome family not easily separated. This was also a great benefit for the students present, who could connect with friends they may have otherwise not met. Members joined in from places like Germany, Jordan, and even Texas!
There were also other great highlights of the year online. It proved to be a much more accessible alternative, especially for Shaykh Ahmad, who would have had to commute for long distances in person while also balancing chaplaincy for other schools. Some members would even listen into the study circles while driving. Another point of accessibility was including ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters into some of the meetings, so that deaf club members could better engage with the content.
Shaykh Ahmad also liked checking in with members personally. One student updated the Shaykh on his grad school application acceptances. Two other members even got married within the year (not to each other), and Shaykh Ahmad was happy to hear the news.
Spring semester came along with new topics. On March 5th, the study group discussed the permissibility of nail polish and then death and funerals. On April 8th, the group went over the topic of reflecting, seeking forgiveness, and getting close to Allah. Shaykh Ahmad shared many great resources with the club. Following, many meetings were casual and Q&A focused as the semester got busier.
Ramadan was approaching, finals were coming up, and the school year was coming to a close. Material on duas to make during Ramadan was shared with club members. On May 6th, the final study circle of the semester, the group went over istikhara. In the last few meetings and at the end of the final meeting of the semester, rather than discussing specific topics, Shaykh Ahmad would recite Quran while those attending could follow along with the translation. Being in the last 10 nights of Ramadan, this was a wonderful benefit. All those who attended commented their appreciation for the time beautifully spent.
MSA CSULB would like to thank Shaykh Ahmad for all the resources, support, time, and knowledge he has provided them. We pray for the success of all the students at The Beach and for goodness in this life and the next for everyone involved in chaplaincy.