The Muslim chaplain is a core member of the Family Matters Committee at the Islamic Center of Boston in Wayland. Since the chaplain’s services are offered in our community, this essay is an effort to explain more about the benefits of having this valuable resource.
Today, any Muslim entering a college, hospital, prison, or the military has the right to ask for a Muslim chaplain, who will most likely be serving on staff. Muslim chaplains, both men and women, are the forerunners of a new profession for Muslims in America, and they are especially trained to serve in these various venues.
They study a unique curriculum that blends religion and psychology called, “Pastoral care,” a term drawn from the Christian tradition. The Islamization of pastoral care is currently underway, with a growing lexicon of terminology from Hadith, Qur’an, and Islamic literature. At the vanguard are prominent organizations that provide rigorous certification programs in Islamic chaplaincy. These programs, which are also recommended for Imams, are designed to meet the ever-changing needs of Muslims throughout their entire life span.
Changes in life have a profound effect on us, particularly on the health of our spirit. Concerns about waning faith, grief due to loss of any kind, affect our spiritual health. Loss can come in all forms, including death of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce, or even loss of health. In coping with these changes, we seek strength from the practice of our religion. Yet, some of us have a propensity to simply “bury” concerns, and this takes its toll on the health of the spirit.
Have you ever found yourself telling a complete stranger more about how you feel than you really intended to? This is an outburst of your spirit, whose well-being cannot be ignored indefinitely. Caring for the spirit is the chaplain’s domain. Caring is manifest by assessing the spirit’s condition, offering a shoulder to cry on, a lap to sit on, or simply by being a good listener.
Some experts who study society have found that many people have no one to talk to about the normal challenges of life, conflict, loss, failure or indecision. Having no one you trust to talk to, leads to feelings of alienation, shame and self-deprecation. Paradoxically, a woman’s non-Muslim neighbor may know more about her struggle with cancer than her Muslim sister who is a part of her own loving community.
Who can we trust to talk about the darker dimensions of life? Incongruously, our spouse, friends, co-workers, doctors, imams, and mentors are not necessarily the people we turn to. The reason is because we know in advance that these important people have a set agenda for us. It’s based on their role in our lives. They’ve invested in who we are. So, maybe they want us to stay the same; or maybe they want us to become something we’re not, or want to be. Being silent is a way to maintain our role. Admitting change or failure is not an option.
The chaplain has no set agenda for you. Rather, listening and respecting your confidence is the central role. Talking to the chaplain can help you make difficult transitions, set new goals, and make meaning out of failure or tragedy.
As 21st Century Muslims, we are fortunate to have access to professionals who respect confidentiality, know our religion, and can help us move forward in life. Contact the chaplain by email: http://www.icbwayland.org>Services>Family Matters> “Confidential Inquiries.” Please feel free to contact the chaplain to learn more about how to become a professional chaplain.