This year at UCR has been a great experience for me working in chaplaincy for the first time. The more time I spend on campus, the more I recognize the necessity of this kind of work. Students utilized chaplaincy office hours for a variety of different purposes, ranging from advice on dealing with parents and friends, general life advice and help discovering what direction to take in their studies, help learning to read the Quran, general technical questions related to prayer and purification etc., questions about faith, and help with dealing with major issues like abuse, traumatic events, and seeking psychological help.
Through my time spent on campus I found myself frequently reflecting on my own college experience and realizing how helpful a service like this would have been for me and my peers. College for me was a time of self-discovery, developing my Islamic identity and faith, and to put it simply, deciding what type of person I wanted to be. To have had someone available and accessible during that time for me to ask questions, and go to for guidance I know would have been invaluable.
Another amazing aspect of chaplaincy is that I’ve found that students who don’t feel “Muslim enough” to join the MSA or who may feel intimidated by anything perceived to be “too religious” are often comfortable to come utilize chaplaincy services. This is beautiful because chaplaincy often serves as a means to help those members of our community who, for whatever reason, are not active in the Muslim community on or off campus.
Spending time on campus means that chaplains will inevitably end up speaking to non-Muslim students as well, and I have had multiple experiences where non-Muslim students begin talking to me and upon finding out that I am a chaplain, start asking for advice regarding their own lives and studies.
Through the sisters’ study circle I have been able to develop a closer bond with some of the UCR sisters and we have been able to cover some crucial topics and discuss issues which are very pertinent to the challenges Muslim students are currently facing. We started by discussing questions like “how do we know Islam is the correct religion,” and currently are finishing up an entire quarter of discussing “women in Islam.” A sister’s picnic and rafting trip at the beginning of this quarter was also a great way for the students to relax and for me to get to know many of them in a fun and laid-back environment. My hope is that this will be a project which continues to grow and that one day soon we can offer this service to every major university in Southern California and beyond.
We ask God for acceptance and success for the students, the initiative and all involved. We also ask that you pray for us and support this important project.