The following is an excerpt from an article published on Islamic Horizons. To read the article in its entirety, please visit: https://islamichorizons.net/chaplains-can-help-change-lives/.
“We live in a mostly secular world that may have lost its connection to the divine,” said Tahira Wellman, a chaplain at New Jersey’s Hackensack University Medical Center. She’s the only Muslim chaplain in its pastoral care department.
Yahya Hendi, the first full-time Muslim chaplain at an American university, was hired in 1999 by Georgetown University. Due to its small Muslim student population, Hendi, who was chosen to enlighten non-Muslims about Islam, has focused on the interfaith community.
Muslim chaplains work in hospitals, universities, prisons, and many other settings. Mutahhir Sabree (administrator, the Distance Learning Prison Initiative) works to provide free courses in Islamic Studies to inmates nationwide. Interacting with more than 3,000 male and female inmates, he teaches and prays with them, as well as encourages them to identify with the prophets of Islam and the multitude of spiritual stories in the Quran, such as the lives of prophets Yusuf and Ayyub.
Muslim chaplains enter the profession from a variety of routes. Some pursue a seminary degree; others travel to the Middle East and North Africa for a deep dive into Arabic studies and to obtain authentic traditional knowledge of the Quran and Sunna. Some begin as volunteers, while others are trained in pastoral care. Whatever the route, these individuals can play a vital role in the lives of knowledge seekers — both beginners and advanced.
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)’s active chaplaincy program is dedicated to offering services to Muslim chaplains through endorsement, education and training, and leadership development. This program endorses chaplains serving in the Army, Air Force, Navy, prisons, hospitals, universities and other institutions. ISNA honors them by qualifying them to offer care, spiritual guidance, support families in times of grief and loss, ensure religious freedom and offer similar services.
One of this profession’s foremost benefits is the privilege of representing Islam in mainstream American society. As an ambassador for Islam and a professional chaplain, you’ll have the opportunity to share and exchange your Islamic life experiences with colleagues from multiple faith or even non-faith backgrounds in a very collegial and non-threatening manner. If you’re interested in becoming a chaplain, complete the application process on ISNA’s website: https://isna.net/chaplaincy-services/.
Yerusalem Work, a creative writer and the membership director of the Congregational Library Association, has a heart for interfaith dialogue and is a passionate community builder. A holder of a master’s degree in library science and prolific author, she regularly blogs and self-publishes her writing. Her short stories and poetry have been published in Muslim Matters and Tysons Interfaith. She considers it an honor and a pleasure to write on Islamic themes.
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members.