Alhamdulillah, in the last month we have been blessed to begin a journey of trying to build a project to support Muslim college students with the challenges they face during their years of study on campus. Towards this end we have begun by focusing on one campus, UCLA, and hope to expand into others in the future. We chose UCLA as a starting point because of its strategic importance as the premier university in the region, the large number of Muslim students on campus, the long-standing contributions of its MSA, and its geographical location which has historically made it difficult for the students to have access to resources in the greater Muslim community.
Our first efforts on campus have been directly with the students themselves. We intended to reach out to the students, through the MSA, to introduce ourselves and offer our services. We wanted to simultaneously get people excited about the program while at the same time making clear to them that we do not want to interfere in their own internal affairs as a student organization. To that end we met with the board of the MSA on multiple occasions, as well as with the students in general. Through this relationship building we have been able to successfully meet many of the students and begin to offer some support to them. For the last five weeks we have had office hours for the students. These are 30 minute slots that are booked in advance where the students can sit with the chaplains directly and discuss any issue they like with them. Discussions have ranged from school, to religious practice, to time management, to marriage and courtship. Alhamdulillah, in these meetings we have been able to get to know the students more deeply while at the same time offering a service to them that is often difficult to find; namely, direct, personal access to traditionally trained religious figures.
In the last few weeks we have also started to work on developing a weekly educational offering for the students through halaqas. These started with separate sisters and brothers social gatherings so that the students would have the opportunity to get to know the chaplains more closely and are now progressing into weekly study sessions for learning, conversation, and fellowship.
We are excited for the future and pray that this program will grow into a unique and beneficial offering for many campuses in the region.
Jamaal and Muslema
IOK University Chaplains