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UCR : YEAR-END IOK Chaplaincy Initiative Updates

Asalamu ‘Alkaykum,

Since our last update, we are happy to report much growth and development in the chaplaincy initiative at UCR. The MSA provided the chaplain with a parking pass for the duration of the quarter in order to streamline and facilitate more regular campus visits. The MSA also organized a successful end of the year banquette which attracted numerous attendees from various segments of the local community, including families, students, alumni and other MSAs, The goal of the banquet was to celebrate the achievements of the MSA along with recognizing the current graduating class.

One of the recurring efforts on campus has been the chaplain’s involvement in leading discussions at the brothers’ weekly Halaqa. The topic currently being discussed is the Biography of the Messenger. The primary focus of the Halaqa has been to extract lessons from reading the text “In the Footsteps of the Messenger”. The MSA arranged for the last brothers’ Halaqa of the year to be conducted outdoors at Sycamore Highland. After praying Maghrib at the Islamic Center of Riverside, the organizers set up carpools to drive to the location. While en route, the chaplain discussed plans for next year’s Halaqa topics along with ways of engaging the students better with the brothers’ chair.

Upon arrival to our destination (Sycamore Highland), a local attraction for students which overlooks the whole city with beautiful landscape of mountains, hills, trees, and wide open skies, we sat down and began reflecting over nature following the prophet’s model. A reference from the Quran that was related to reflecting over the creation was read, translated and commented on. It was the last passage of Chapter 3 in the Quran, the Family of Jesus’ Maternal Grandfather I’mran 3:190-195. It was a lively discussion on the concepts of Thikr (remembrance/mention of God, prayer and litany), Tawbah (seeking forgiveness, concealment, protection, expiation) along with other gems from the scripture and the prophetic model. This was followed by an open question and answer session.

The chaplain was also invited to attend the sisters’ Halaqa in order to further introduce the initiative and how such a program can address their various concerns and needs. The discussion which ensued was fruitful and received positive feedback from the attendees. It was then requested of the chaplain to participate more regularly in the sisters’ Halaqa during the upcoming school year.

Office hours continue to be held regularly and are focused on addressing the personal issues that students are facing. Discussions included career planning along with maintaining Islamic education and activism. Other topics covered spiritual growth, marriage challenges for young couples, feelings of homesickness for out of town students with a lack of a welcoming attitude and environment, miscommunication and conflict resolution between roommates as well as academic struggles.

The highlight of the conducted office hours was the very last appointment of the year. It was set up by a student from Cal State San Bernardino who was informed of the chaplaincy initiative at UCR by her Muslim friends. The student has been researching Islam and had some questions and concerns. It was a great conversation about the importance of respecting one’s family while differing with their choices of religion along with many other relevant subjects.

The chaplain also visited the meditation room in the center of the campus and proceeded to meet several students in a central location outside of typical scheduled appointments. Students were asked to share creative ways for utilizing the chaplaincy initiative moving forward and the solicited information was shared with current MSA members, and former MSA West officers.

Unfortunately, the last day of chaplaincy corresponded with the tragic event at UCLA where a homicide / suicide led to a lock-down at the biggest UC campus for several hours. This is a sad reminder that our students are always facing challenges and can use all the support that they can get for healing, recovery and overall well being.

During finals week at UCR on the second day of Ramadan, the chaplain was invited to present and address the “World of Islam” class of over 200 students from CSUSB on their quarterly local mosque visit to the Islamic Community Center of Redlands. During the presentation attendees were interested to learn about the role of a Muslim chaplain. Over the last year, the chaplain has conducted several similar presentations at ICCR with different batches of students. Based on students’ popular demand and feedback the chaplain was invited by the professor to be a guest speaker to the class at the CSUSB campus.

Now that the Spring Quarter has concluded at UC Riverside, so did the chaplaincy activities for the school year. The chaplain however continues to be available to meet with the students individually throughout the summer. We wish the students success in their studies and lives and look forward to serving their needs and offering support and guidance through the IOK chaplaincy initiative for years to come.

Yours in service,

Ahmad Alkurdy

IOK University Chaplain serving UCR

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