This was the first full year of IOK Chaplaincy at CSUN. Many more students were made aware of the Muslim Chaplain on campus, which led to an increased number of student interactions. More students felt comfortable sharing their personal struggles, which allowed me to have a greater impact on their lives. I was able to develop stronger bonds with MSA leadership on campus, in part, due to spending time with them hanging out in social settings.
This year I was also able to develop stronger ties with various tiers of leadership within the CSUN community. I met with the Director of University Counseling Services at CSUN to discuss ways we could benefit from each other’s services and how we can best serve Muslim students on campus. I also met with the Vice President of Student Affairs to discuss similar matters. In addition, I met with University Student Union leadership, including the Executive Director and Associate Directors on a couple of occasions. All meetings were set up by and attended by MSA leadership upon my request. The outcome of these meetings has led to an increased awareness of Muslim student needs on campus amongst those that have the ability to bring about that change. Additionally, those Muslim students that participated in these meetings learned how to access leadership and advocate for their needs and rights as students.
Study Circles were held on a weekly basis. We discussed topics that related to students’ lives on many levels. I was asked to speak at the End of the Year Banquet that fell in the middle of Ramadan. It was an uplifting and well-attended event. Finally, my chaplaincy work ended this year with an iftar (breaking of the fast) that I hosted at my home. It was, indeed, a very befitting end to a blessed year.
The UCLA Muslim Student Community is, indeed, a special “place.” There is so much love, connection and activism that takes place in that space. And I feel blessed to be a part of that.
This year, my work was primarily focused on meeting with students on an individual basis. Students came to discuss and get counsel related to the many different challenges and struggles they face. Difficulties with parents and friends, sexual identity struggles, trying to get married, not knowing what field of study or profession to pursue, confusion relating to religious concepts, struggling with pornography and substance abuse – just to name a few. In addition, MSA leadership frequently came to me seeking advice related to their projects and activism, to mediate between personalities and to understand the Islamic perspective of certain concepts that intersected with the community engagement they were involved in.
One big development this year was the fact that IOK’s UCLA Chaplaincy program was fully funded by the University Religious Conference – the oldest interfaith organization in Los Angeles. As a contributing member of the Council of Chaplains for the last few years, we were eligible for this funding opportunity and we are very grateful for their contribution. They truly understand the value of chaplaincy and the importance of providing spiritual care and guidance to students.
Some special educational events that I conducted this year included a Sunni-Shia dialogue between myself and a Shia scholar, a presentation on mental health, and monthly Friday sermons. This was in addition to our standard weekly study circles, which were well attended on a regular basis. Some other activities that I participated in this year included the End of the Year Banquet, an Iftar (fast-breaking) dinner hosted at my home and an off-campus hike attended by UCLA students and alumni.
After serving the UCLA Muslim student community for two years, I truly feel that the IOK Chaplaincy is an indispensable part of the UCLA Muslim experience.