As IOK CHESS completes its inaugural year, here are some highlights of events and accomplishments at the campuses served.
The IOK CHESS Chaplaincy Program 2019-20 began in the summer with two trainings – a premarital training with “Prepare and Enrich,” on June 29th (Premarital counseling is a service that we plan to roll out to the community in the near future. Shaykh Ahmad completed the training and became a certified “Prepare and Enrich” facilitator). And on August 29th, a Grief Training was held at IOK for all the IOK Chaplains, which included theories of grief and basics of grief work. These trainings are a part of the constant improvements and services IOK CHESS provides IOK Chaplains as part of the ongoing growth and development of the program.
Chaplaincy Coordinator Shaykh Ahmad added another campus to the Universities he already serves with the addition of California State University Long Beach. CSULB had been served by Shaykh Jameel Besada for the previous two years, but due to his other engagements and responsibilities, he was not able to continue.
Shaykh Ahmad’s chaplaincy schedule was divided according to the following breakdown:
Mondays at UCR from 2-9 pm with office hours, Brothers’ Study Circle, and Q & A
Tuesdays at CPP from 1-5 pm with office hours, Study Circle, and Q & A
Wednesdays at CSUSB from 2-7 pm with the Study Circle, Q & A, and office hours
Thursdays at CSULB from 2-7 pm with the Study Circle and office hours
Following are the major highlights of the semester/quarter in each campus:
IOK CHESS Director of Development Meher Mohsin and IOK Founder Shaykh Nomaan Baig started an initiative of visiting each of the eight university campuses that we serve along with the individual chaplain of each respective campus to bring awareness to the different services our program offers the student population and to encourage students to utilize the educational opportunities we have. Special attention was given to the counseling center and the referral system, the IOK ILMSpiration conference and the part time and full-time seminary program.
On Tuesday Sep 5th CHESS Admin Team visited CPP.
On Thursday Sep 12th IOK CHESS Team visited CSULB, which was the first meeting with the MSA and introducing Shaykh Ahmad as their new chaplain.
On Wednesday Sep 25th Shaykh Ahmad and IOK CHESS Admin Team visited CSUSB.
On Tuesday Oct 8th IOK CHESS and Shaykh Ahmad visited UCR.
During study circles on the three campuses – UCR, CPP and CSUSB, the focus has been on the Stories of the Messengers of God, with readings from content produced by New Muslim Academy.
The following NMA eBooks and info-graphs were covered at CPP Study Circle:
God’s Divine Scriptures, Adam First Man and Prophet, The Angels of God, The Story of Satan, Jinn, Angels vis-a-vis Devils, Satan in Quranic Terminology, Protection Against Satan, Tawbah/Istighfar and conditions for a sound repentance.
At CSUSB, Shaykh Ahmad also lead the biweekly Stories of the Prophets Study Circle and covered God’s Divine Scriptures, Adam First Man and Prophet, The Angels of God, The Story of Satan.
At UCR, Shaykh Ahmad lead the brothers’ Study Circle and covered God’s Divine Scriptures and opened the discussion to comparative religions and a closer look at the Bible, The Angels of God and an open Q&A for the duration of the quarter.
At CSULB, the weekly study circle has been utilized to cover the book “Toward Sacred Activism,” with commentary and discussion. There has always been lively discussions on topics ranging from the Abortion Wall, to removal of facial hair and other alterations to the human body, our God-given form.
During office hours appointments, an array of topics were discussed, including addictions, self esteem, dietary restrictions, Thabiha/Halal consumption, Why Dua is Not Answered? Rules of Financial Transactions, Islamic Dress Code, Birth Control and Abortion, Why Men and Women Can’t be Friends? Gender Interactions, How to Study Debt Free, Emotional First Aid, Dua: Prayer, and Gratitude.
Some students utilized office hours to prepare their sermons which they volunteered to deliver in their respective campuses. At other times, office hours were utilized to provide support to a New Muslim and his mentor. Two different non-Muslim Christian students – one at CPP and one at UCR – utilized office hours to come and engage with Shaykh Ahmad on religion and to have their questions on Islam answered by a trained seminarian. Other office hours consultations were on interfaith marriages and marriage questions in general.
At times, issues beyond the scope of chaplaincy came up, and this year, utilizing our “Wrap-Around” Services, we’ve been referring students who are in need to our IOK CHESS Counselor, Sr. Maryam Ashraf, who has taken clients from each of our campuses.
At CPP on October 31st Shaykh Ahmad was the guest speaker in the General Body Meeting where a discussion on “Halloween, Death and Spirits” took place and it was a follow up on topics discussed during the study circle the week before. Later that same day, Shaykh Ahmad was the guest speaker in the General Body Meeting at CSULB where he presented on the topic of “Importance of What We Say in Prayer.”
Shaykh Ahmad officially became a volunteer at CSUSB with a Coyote ID and free parking privileges through the efforts of the MSA and Dr Dany’s help.
The highlight of the quarter was being invited to lead the Mosque Field Trip for “The World of Islam” class taught by Dr Dany of CSUSB. The program took place on Tuesday the 19th of November at Darul Uloom Al Islamiya in San Bernardino, the largest Mosque in the region. From 6 – 7:30 p.m., 200 students attended and Shaykh Ahmad covered many topics, such as the role of the mosque in Islam, prescribed ritual devotion, and beliefs and practices of Muslims. Dr. Dany has invited Shaykh Ahmad to lead the discussion and give the presentation multiple times over the last five years in different local Inland Empire mosques and Islamic Centers. Students learned about the role of the Mosque in Islam and got to witness the call to prayer and observe the night congregational ritual. There was also a translation of the words heard in the call to prayer, the statements in the congregational prayer and the recited passages from the Quran. The students were very engaging with their candid questions and several indicated their desire to conduct an interview with the Chaplain for their class assignment. Shaykh Ahmad shared the IOK CHESS website with them and three students came to office hours the next day at the CSUSB campus to conduct their interviews.
On November 20 at CSUSB, Shaykh Ahmad attended the General Body Meeting where the topic discussed was Emotional First Aid and all watched and discussed a TED Talk by Guy Winch.
Also in November, IOK Videographer Nael Hafeez shot footage and conducted interviews at the CPP Campus, with production of the 2019-20 IOK Chaplaincy Video in process.
During Winter break Shaykh Ahmad lead the IOK Umrah group as a guide to several SoCal and Bay Area families along with Nevada and UK folks.
Upon his return from the Blessed Cities, he participated in the IOK Seminary Retreat in the Angelus Oaks area of the San Bernardino Mountains, Jan. 3 – 5, 2020. This was a great opportunity for all to step away from the hustle and bustle of life and spend a weekend with classmates and teachers. The theme was ”In the Traces of God’s Greatest Creation,” focusing on the perfect internal qualities of our Beloved Messenger, looking at how he interacted with people, how he spoke with them and how he made them feel, with the goal of putting this all into action.
IOK CHESS is currently organizing Chaplaincy retreat, scheduled in March 2020, to give our University students an opportunity to experience what our seminary students did.
May Allah bless the efforts of IOK CHESS and may He guide the chaplains and staff to serve the SoCal student demographic in a way that pleases Him.