The UCR Winter Quarter started in the first week of January, 2020. Shaykh Ahmad had set Monday as the UCR weekly visit to campus, and this day was divided between office hours, Dawah Committee, and the Brothers’ Study Circle.
Early on, there were rumors of a case of a Muslim student who had a crisis of faith, and multiple students shared their concern about the student’s wellbeing and the impact of this person’s loss of faith on others. Shaykh Ahmad welcomed seeing this student to provide him with support and extended himself to supporting anyone else dealing with similar issues.
The first study circle was a recap of topics covered during the MSA West Conference. Many of the attendees were confused by certain topics and required further elaboration and answers to their questions. The study circle affords the attendees the opportunity to ask questions and take their time expressing themselves in an intimate, safe, and casual setting, which is not usually the case in a formal conference setting with big crowds. Questions were asked regarding some advanced topics in spirituality and explanations of Arabic technical terms that had been used throughout the weekend. Students also had the opportunity to share their feedback regarding the program at the conference, as some of the organizers and volunteers did not get a chance to attend, being heavily involved with logistics.
Some of the topics that were discussed during the quarter in chaplaincy:
- Roommates with dogs and how that effects regulations of purity and devotion in the apartment
- Complaints about interpersonal relationships
- Concubines and Slaves
- Rules and regulations of Salah
- Keeping dogs and regulations of having domestic animals and pets
- Atheism and family members leaving Islam
- Rape and Trauma
- IntraFaith and InterFaith Marriages and compatibility
- Sects and Heresies
Islam Awareness Week took place the last week of February. Shaykh Ahmad was consulted by the program head regarding topics and how to best utilize the opportunity to actually share Islam instead of focusing on Muslim identity which has been the trend in recent years. This year’s IAW Program had the best preparation in comparison to previous years, as several of the steering committee members were active members in the Dawah Committee. They had already been meeting weekly with Shaykh Ahmad and covering different topics on the subject of sharing Islam. On February 24,th Shaykh Ahmad was invited to present on the topic
of Divine Revelation and Prophethood. There was a debrief session with the volunteers and the program head where constructive criticism was shared regarding the execution of the program. The MSA expressed their gratitude by gifting Shaykh Ahmad after the event.
The Study Circle that evening was a Q & A and a recap of the earlier event.
Students utilized office hours to consult about studying Arabic formally and joining IOK Seminary Full-Time Program. Others discussed their struggle with anxiety. The interest in marriage and dealing with being attracted to colleagues was also a common topic.
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.
As the month of March ended, Spring Quarter started with the COVID 19 Stay at Home orders. 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.
The Dawah Committee requested a formal course to be covered for the courter and we started the Dawah Training Course. Topics covered included “Introduction to Dawah,” “The Characteristics of the Call,” “Characteristics of the Caller,” “Characteristics of the Called,” and “The True Religion of God.” The meetings were composed of a collective reading of the assigned chapter followed by commentary by Shaykh Ahmad and an open discussion with Q&A. Topics discussed also include some of the misconceptions and attacks regarding Islam that students face – like polygyny, and other doubts about the laws and regulations of Islam.
In the Brothers’ Study Circle, and due to feedback from the previous quarter, we started reading the book on Islamic Manners with commentary by Shaykh Ahmad. As Ramadan was approaching, we switched things up a bit and had a different topic of discussion every week. Students asked about the meanings of the statements said in Salah, as well as the rights of Muslims who die from the pandemic and the development of the outbreak and its impact on communal services in mosques.
To help the students make the most out of their Ramadan study of the Quran, the IOK Media series by Shaykh Ahmad, Daily Dose of Quranic Guidance was shared.
On April 13th the students wanted to learn more about prayer (Dua), so everyone watched and discussed an episode of Spiritual Protection Against Pandemics, #9: Quality not Quantity in Prayer.”
On April 27th we read and discussed How to Break Your Fast
On May 11th we read the article One God Many Names: The Journey Begins
On May 18th we read the article One God Many Names: Principles of Understanding and IOK’s article How to Spend Eid in Quarantine was shared
During the month of Ramadan and for four consecutive Monday’s, Shaykh Ahmad substituted for Shaykh Furhan in leading the UC Irvine MSU Study Circle from 5-6 pm. Topics covered were April 27th NMA Ebook Coping with COVID 19 Pandemic, on May 5th and 11,th Meaningful Prayers where Prayer of Beginnings, Prayer of Endings and other common statements of glorification were thoroughly explained. On May 18,th NMA articles The Night of Special Virtue and How to Make the Most Out of the Last Ten Nights of Ramadan were covered.
As Ramadan came to a close, the video “Ramadan in Conclusion” was shared with students. The issue of sectarian divides in the Muslim community came up during the last week of office hours on several occasions by different students due to some events and social media exposure.
As the school year comes to an end we pray for the incoming board of MSA and the rest of the students to successfully fulfil their responsibility in light of the new adjustments to learning.