The Winter Semester started with Shaykh Ahmad receiving an official volunteer ID, which included staff parking privileges on campus. Thursday was the weekly visit to CSULB Campus, which included the weekly Study Circle upon arrival, followed by chaplaincy office hours. The Study Circle for this semester took on a different theme as students requested to have an open Q & A session instead of the previous book reading. Many different topics were covered, such as repentance and its conditions, keeping snakes as pets, Quran learning for younger siblings, not disclosing one’s sins to others even in the case potential suitors, abortion, body alterations, body and facial hair removal, tattoos and body piercings, performing salah while traveling, haircuts and fades, praying for deceased non-Muslims, and Islam’s superiority to other philosophies, ideologies, and the modern world view.
Some highlights from office hours were a non-Muslim student who had left his Pentecostal faith tradition and had become skeptical and agnostic for a variety of reasons. He visited Shaykh Ahmad on a few occasions and had a fruitful discussion inquiring about Islam, which was followed up with reading material. While in office hours, students typically would congregate in the outdoor area where Shaykh Ahmad is answering questions, and sometimes the session becomes a group gathering. On one occasion, a graduate studies student stopped by and recognized Shaykh Ahmad from his Valley community in North Hollywood, where he would teach and preach over 15 years ago. This student decided to utilize chaplaincy services, although he had not previously been aware of the offering. Another graduate studies student specializing in philosophy was a regular in office hours and Study Circle, discussing his passion for philosophy and running his ideas by Shaykh Ahmad for feedback. A very touching consultation by another student involved family conflict, afflictions, repentance, and redemption.
On February 20th as part of Palestine Awareness Week, Shaykh Ahmad was requested to address the topic of Palestine in Islam. His focus was on the Pure Holy Land mentioned in the Quran and the Distant Mosque (Al Aqsa) known as the Temple and House of Worship in Jerusalem. Many Messengers of God were sent there, and it was the original direction for ritual devotion in Islam until the command came to face the Kaba. It was the land destination of the Night Journey (Isra) in the life of the Messenger Muhammad and where his Ascension (Miraj) to Heaven was commenced. It is a land that belongs to God and people there should have godly actions and deeds to keep it sanctified. In conclusion, a reminder that good actions and righteousness is what sanctifies people, and not simply the land they are in.
On March 7th Shaykh Furhan’s article on medical marijuana was referenced, and students asked about the Anti-Christ or Deceiving Messiah (Dajjal) and other signs of the Las Days. Reading materials and references on these topics were shared.
Thursday was the longest and most challenging day of the week for Shaykh Ahmad, as he started the day off with seminary instruction at IOK from 7:30-11:30, followed by office hours until 1 pm. He then headed to the CSULB Campus during afternoon traffic for chaplaincy which was followed by a weekly post-Isha engagement at the Islamic Center of Yorba Linda to finish off the day. Due to the intense nature of his schedule, he was not able to make it to the Beach for a few weeks during the semester. However, this was resolved with the arrival of COVID-19 ordinances, as he was able to meet with the students virtually, eliminating the issues of traffic and time constraints.
During Spring Break, Shaykh Ahmad wanted to stay connected to the students, and shared material with them, starting with 10 Pieces of Advice on Protecting Yourself From Disease, Preparing For Ramadan Like the Sahabah, and finally, 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.
On April 16th NMA Ebook Coping with COVID 19 Pandemic was read and discussed, and the difference between epidemic and pandemic was explained by reading an article on the topic.
On April 23rd NMA Ebook Receiving Ramadan was read and discussed
On May 13th Statements said at the End of Salah were discussed along with NMA article on Night of Special Status. This was the last Study Circle of the semester and was titled Lessons and Prayers.
The highlight of the semester was IOK CHESS banquet on the last day of February. MSA President at CSULB, Leen Almahdi, was nominated by Shaykh Ahmad to give her testimony to the community about the impact of chaplaincy for her personally and her campus community. A student leader on her campus, serving as the VP for Associated Students Inc and the MSA president, she was the best choice to represent our chaplaincy students. We are very proud of her and the work she does and look forward to her continued success. Through chaplaincy, Shaykh Ahmad came to learn that he knew Leen’s father and uncle from the Valley community where he was raised and had started teaching.
We pray for the success of the students at the Beach and to continue serving them and providing them with education, guidance and spiritual support.