Loyola University Chicago

Campus Ministry

Division of Student Development

Muslim Chaplain's Corner

  • August 25, 2019

    Regarding this new school year

    The most hopeful and painful experience for me as a chaplain is in watching a student find a cohort of friends, and they become mutual fuel for each other or mutual destruction for each other. In most cases, your cohort of friends will be a stabilizing force of mutual moderation. I am hoping you place yourself in a circle of gunners seeking not merely to get A’s in your classes, but to get A+.
  • August 18, 2019

    Can a non-Muslim go to paradise, conclusion

    In the past few letters, we have been exploring the question about whether or not a non-Muslim adult of sound mind in 2019 can go to paradise. Much of the exploration has been a summary of the major stances, with critiques of each stance. What we have left out of the discussion is what is almost always left out of theological wrangling: the practical consequences of theological stances.
  • August 11, 2019

    Can a non-Muslim go to paradise, part 3

    In any case, back to the question of non-Muslim salvation. We find in history two dominant schools of interpretation. We will call the first school the “fitra school” and the second school the “messenger school.”
  • August 04, 2019

    Can a non-Muslim go to paradise, part 2

    We are continuing our exploration over whether or not a non-Muslim can go to paradise. In the previous letter, we addressed not only the seriousness of the question, but we also critiqued the most popular argument against Muslims going to paradise.
  • July 28, 2019

    Can a non-Muslim go to paradise

    Now, the correct answer about salvation. The Day of Judgment is inevitable. On that Day, God will judge each person fairly, with complete justice. God will not wrong anyone, though many people will have wronged themselves. Likewise, there are two groups of people who will be of those who wronged themselves (which we will define in more detail at a later date, Insha Allah): those who reject and those who are hypocrites. Those who are sentenced to hell will recognize that they have earned it. Some people will be in hell temporarily; they will go to heaven after paying off their wrongs in hell. Those who are sent to paradise -- whether directly, or after hell -- may have earned it or may have been favored with God’s mercy. They will be in paradise permanently. Scholars were cautious about speculating on such matters, so some of you will want something more than what I share in this paragraph.
  • July 21, 2019

    Narcissism that is pious

    In past letters, I described certain narcissisms as the complete opposites of Islam. The formula is simple. The essence of Islam is submission to the Divine. The primary motivation for resisting submission to the Divine is the fulfillment of selfish intentions and appetites. Increased submission to the Divine correlates with increased selflessness with creation and increased self-less-ness with the Creator.
  • July 17, 2019

    Regarding the public comments of hate

    In light of the rhetoric of the President of the United States in the past 48 hours, including a series of tweets, the overall silence of the Republican party on his comments, and the chanting he has inspired against Rep. Ilhan Omar at a rally this evening in North Carolina, I am sending a friendly request to everyone to exercise a few small steps of caution when in public. Likewise, if you are in a public place, keep an eye open for other Muslims as well as members of any marginalized group in the event they need help.
  • July 14, 2019

    Benefits and Detriments to Narratives

    What is the benefit of a narrative? They provide us stability in our personal consciousness. By default, stability is a pathway to health.
  • July 07, 2019

    Narratives of Islam and Muslims

    What is the narrative of Islam that we teach? Often, it is the life of the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, followed by a few moments in history.
  • June 30, 2019

    Personal and Communal Narratives

    Every community and every person has a narrative that illustrates the central elements of its worldview. Your “narrative” is not your history, yet it is your story. If I ask you to identify 20 pivotal moments that have defined you, I would be asking you about your self-perception more than your biography. Your self-perception is your mythology.
  • June 23, 2019

    Secularization of Religion

    Continuing our discussion on secularization, I recall the common statement, that religions are all the same. The sympathetic says that religions all promote the Golden Rule of doing to others what you wish for them to do to you. The polemic says that religions breed tribalism that leads to violence. To say that all religions are the same is to say that all novels tell the same story, which is to say that all people are the same. It is a process of distancing ourselves that so many believers have fallen into.
  • June 16, 2019

    Internal Secularization of the Sacred

    When we think of secularization, being in one sense the desacralization of the world, the shift that Europeans saw was -- among the intellectual elite -- a departure from theology into philosophy in the period we now call the Enlightenment. In governance, Europe exhibited a shift in legitimacy: rulers no longer sought the Pope to endorse them, as much as they claimed legitimacy through might itself and eventually votes. Moreover, Europeans witnessed a shift -- institutional differentiation -- from Church-sponsored charities to State-sponsored welfare. In thought production, it was the dominance of the academy over the seminary.
  • June 09, 2019

    A Brief Survey of Muslim Movements - Part 2

    Continuing our exploration of Muslim movements for social change, we must go a step deeper.
  • June 02, 2019

    A Brief Survey of Muslim Movements - Part 1

    Every religious tradition has extensive discourse on helping those in need. You and are I commanded by the Prophet -p- to be giving in charity all day long with every joint; a way to interpret this instruction is that we choose careers that are of service. The voices of the modern Liberation Theology and Khilafah movements argue, however, that the real obligation is to fix systemic problems that are keeping people poor.
  • May 26, 2019

    Morehouse loans and structural oppression

    There has been a lot of discussion about a billionaire who announced in his Morehouse Commencement address that he would be paying off the loans of the entire 2019 graduating class. Many have praised the move, hoping that others would follow along. Some, however, have suggested that the systemic injustices that caused the huge tuition hikes remain in place, necessitating numerous philanthropists to copy Robert F. Smith in perpetuity.
  • May 19, 2019

    Fundamentals of Islamic Reform

    It is the responsibility of every generation of Muslims to understand or reconstruct Islam in a manner that is wholly “Islamic” and entirely “indigenous.” After receiving particular passages, the Prophet -p- went back to the Angel Gabriel, asking for variants in the wordings of the specific verses, to make the Divine revelations 100% natural to the tongues of his companions when they would recite and reflect on the text. In response, his request was answered, yielding the various “ahruf.” Though it is not as possible to make the Qur’an that natural to the modern non-Arab tongue, except to train the tongue to be that native to the Qur’an, the goal is to make Islam that natural to a believer’s experience.
  • May 12, 2019

    Reaching goals

    What are your goals? I ask students, “What have you done today to reach your goal?” While this question applies most to those with big personal professional dreams, it is relevant for everyone. If your goal is admission into Medical School or Law school, what have you done today to reach your goal? Likewise, if your goal is success in show business as a comedian, singer, or filmmaker: what have you done today for it? Further, if your goal is equal pay for men and women in the workforce, or the elimination of racism and racist structures, or the liberation of the Palestinians from the Occupation: same question.
  • May 05, 2019

    Parting Advice

    We have now completed another school year, with some of you waiting for your chance to walk the stage on graduation. I am very proud of each of you for your efforts and accomplishments. It has been my privilege to serve you through these years. It has been my privilege to share a few moments of your precious lives with you.
  • April 28, 2019

    Most Common Issues from this School Year

    The most common issues over the past school year have been as follows. You will notice that I am not giving treatments. A previous draft of this letter gave detailed treatments. I decided to remove them; if you want them, come to the office.
  • April 21, 2019

    The Killings in Sri Lanka

    The Prophet, may peace be upon him, spoke of End Times as being a period of “harj.” The companions asked him what “harj” is. Killing. The killer will not know why they are killing. The killed will not know why they are killed. Whether or not we are in End Times, only God knows. Looking at what has been happening across the globe, it is frightening knowing that things have been worse -- the 20th century has been far bloodier than this century, thus far -- and that things can get worse.
  • April 21, 2019

    The Problems of the Sacred

    Further, none of the sacred structures in the world *combined* are as valuable as one human life, be it the Ka’ba, the Mosque of the Prophet (may peace be upon him) in Medina, the Dome of the Rock, al-Aqsa, the Taj Mahal, the Shah Mosque of Isfahan, the Djinguereber Mosque of Timbuktu, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, and the Jamia Masjid in Delhi. All the mosques combined do not hold the value of one human life.
  • April 14, 2019

    Forgiveness and its struggles

    There is a video floating in our community featuring an interview with the husband of a victim of the New Zealand shooter. Her story is special: she save numerous people, but when she went back to save her wheelchair-bound husband, the shooter caught her. Insha Allah, Allah will accept her as a martyr, allowing her to bypass the Day of Judgment among other wonderful things.
  • April 07, 2019

    Forgiveness and Redemption

    There is a video circulating featuring a military veteran who once opposed Muslims, but “saw the light” and is now a Muslim. Such redemptions stories are almost as old as religion itself. Nearly two thousand years ago, Paul of Tarsus persecuted Christians until seeing a vision of Jesus. Afterward, he became a most influential figure in the history of Christendom. Among the many similar stories in our traditions, the person I am named after was on his way to kill the Prophet, may peace be upon him, until he was sidetracked to his sister’s house, read passages of the Qur’an, and decided to become Muslim.
  • March 24, 2019

    Action after New Zealand

    I cannot express how touched I am by the outpouring of support we have received from Loyola community members as well as leaders and friends across the country. It is a wonderful statement about how things have changed in the past twenty years. After 9/11 many people did reach out, while many others were afraid. As our nation began to pay attention to ISIS a decade ago, many had the impression that these “problems” are inherent among Muslims, and we began losing some support among those who once stood by our side. When we saw how many people from across the university attended our Vigil and Prayer last week, however, I was taken aback. I’m very grateful, and I know you are as well. Having said that, you and I know that even with the global sentiments focused on unity and compassion this past week, a few things remain the same. First, the milieu of institutions, websites, and ideas that formed the New Zealand shooter has not changed a bit. Second, considering that White Supremacy might be the most pressing concern for you and I, powerbrokers and lone wolves across ideologies continue to massacre Muslims and non-Muslims across the globe. We have watched militancy rise in every major religious community. Literally all of them. Third, human nature remains unchanged as well.
  • March 17, 2019

    Reflections on the Shooting

    I hope you receive this letter with the best of health, Iman, and integrity. In light of the New Zealand shootings, I don’t assume that I have the words your hearts need for you to read, but I hope they will be of some benefit. In short, you are not less safe today than you were a week ago. Considering the outpouring of support we have received, it is fair to say you might be more safe.
  • March 14, 2019

    Shooting in New Zealand

    Most of you have by now received reports of the shooting in New Zealand. A gunman walked into Friday Juma prayers and opened fire. I saw a bit of the footage, as he seemed to arm himself not only with a gun but also with a live stream. I suppose that is all part of the modern theater of violence. There are reports of a shooting at another center in the same town. As is always the case with mass shootings, we have to wade through the period of troubling rumors before finding out facts.
  • February 24, 2019

    Cleaning House

    There is an even bigger truth. We will hate people when they seek to “clean house” by ridding our corrupt behaviors when we know we are wrong. We have a teaching in our tradition that when we face a truth that our inner self (our nafs) does not want to face, we deny its truth. If that is not enough, then we accuse the messenger of lying. If that is not enough, we justify violence. All with the goal of remaining unchanged.
  • February 17, 2019

    Theological Chauvinism and Divine Bounty

    For the last few letters, I have been addressing matters related to bigotry, as well as our responses to real and perceived prejudice. All of that exploration of racial, ethnic, political chauvinism was intended to set a foundation for a core issue: theological chauvinism. It is in theological chauvinism that we find one of the roots for other societal problems. In the past, I have drawn attention to the love of the world as another root. Of course, narcissism is the root of both of these.
  • February 10, 2019

    The seeds of tunnel vision

    Let us go deeper. The following may look like armchair therapy. Rather, I am laying out some of the roots that guide your spiritual formation: your parenting, your friends, your life experiences, trauma, and how you respond to them. Therapy and spiritual formation overlap though they rely on different models with the common goal being health; I have directed many of you to the Wellness Center. The Wellness Center has directed many of you to me.
  • February 03, 2019

    The Narcissism of Hats and Flags

    In the last letter, speaking about the rabbit holes in perceiving bigotry, I mentioned that there are times when intention and reception do not match on symbols: we might receive something as bigotry, though the intentions of the alleged perpetrator are not malicious. A most recent example is the MAGA hat. It is in the clash of symbols that we find the fuel and possible problem: tribalism and anger. Meaning, a way out of the tunnel vision is in tempering both.
  • January 27, 2019

    When bigotry is not bigotry

    In the previous letter, speaking of bigotry and the signs of its presence, I commented that some people dress well and smile to be granted status as an equal among their colleagues. Still, some people dress well and make themselves up because they like to do so. Some people smile because that is their default expression, or they are modeling themselves after the Prophet, may peace be upon him. Meaning, there are plenty of criticisms of particular Muslims that are not Islamophobia. Likewise, there are actions that parallel the form of white supremacy, anti-black racism, androcentrism and patriarchy, anti-semitism, etc. that are not these.
  • January 20, 2019

    Bigotry and Chauvinism

    I tell students that a way to get a sense of the bigotry and chauvinism in a professional environment is to look at how people dress. If you notice members of minority groups dressing better than their counterparts, it is a sign of inequities. Meaning, there is a common notion that if you are part of an underrepresented group, you have to prove your *equality* with double the effort, double the standard of conduct, double the excellence in disposition.
  • January 13, 2019

    The complexities of complexity

    In reflecting on the past years in general and the past year in particular, I have figured out one specific aspect of life to focus on with you. There are others, like trying to figure out how to inspire some of you to improve on your Islam, to inspire you to shift from being man-babies and disney-princesses to upstanding, outstanding adults. At the top of the list, however, I want you to embrace “complexity.”
  • January 06, 2019

    Favorite books from 2018

    I wanted to look back at my favorite books from the past year. As you will see, some of the books were published earlier. I hope they inspire you to go through them. Perhaps you can suggest your favorite reads and listens from your year.
  • December 30, 2018

    Looking back on 2018

    Looking back on the year. I have mentioned to many of you that I wish there was a way to keep confidentiality, yet share with all of you all of the different issues students have brought to the office. Overall, the issues may get categorized into theological/spiritual, personal/social, and academic matters.
  • December 23, 2018

    Regarding the misconduct of preachers

    By now, you have heard that the Illinois Attorney General is accusing the Archdiocese of Chicago of underreporting cases involving allegations of clergy sex abuse. In addition, the USA Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus released a list of names of clergy with established allegations of sex abuse of minors.
  • December 16, 2018

    Pursuing temperance toward excellence

    We have numerous narrations of companions of the Prophet, may peace be upon him, who would go so far in their piety, that he would reprimand them. In one case, some companions decided to fast all day every day and pray all night every night. The Prophet, may peace be upon him, told them not to do it for their bodies have rights over them, their families have rights over them, and on.
  • December 09, 2018

    Political Criticism and Diplomacy

    First, consider this. If comments are made by individuals rather than institutions, then Power will control the discourse. If comments come from institutions, then the more powerful will hold more sway. Meaning, everyone pays attention to the smallest foibles and the largest atrocities by our head of state but nobody listens to orphans, including most of the people advocating for or sponsoring orphans. In the war for justice, Power will win most of the battles of public discourse.
  • December 02, 2018

    The Pure Self

    So many students come to my office seeking to find themselves. A common complaint from students is, “I don’t know who I am.” Sometimes, however, they position themselves in a quest for self-determination, not realizing that it is obvious to anyone that theirs is an internal battle against perceived tyranny, usually the tyranny of their parents.
  • November 21, 2018

    Entering and Leaving Belief

    In recent weeks, one popular singer became Muslim while another left Islam. The singer who became Muslim was famous for some beautiful songs, yet infamous for criticisms of power, especially power in the Catholic Church. The singer who is said to have left Islam was raised in a Muslim household, was popular in a recent “boy band” and was popular for a public romantic relationship with a Muslim fashion model. We pray that Allah guides everyone--especially us--to paths that lead toward Him.
  • November 11, 2018

    Political Activism and Representation

    With the recent Midterm elections, we have been celebrating the election of two Muslim women -- Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib -- into Congress. Omar (5th, Minnesota) and Tlaib (13th, Michigan) are the third and fourth Muslims elected to Congress, following Keith Ellison, who is now Attorney General of Minnesota, and Andre Carson, who represents the Seventh District of Indiana. I do not have time to list all of the Muslims who were elected or almost elected across the country on Tuesday: that number is in the dozens.
  • November 08, 2018

    Political Activism

    Consider what you will be responsible for before Allah on the Day of Judgment. First, you will be responsible for your own soul. Along with that, you will be responsible for what you owe to Allah and what you owe to those around you. You owe Allah the acts of worship (as found among the “rights of Allah” or “huquq Allah”). You owe certain responsibilities to those around you whether Muslim or not, like security and sustenance, (as found in the “rights of the servants” or “huquq al-ibad”).
  • October 28, 2018

    Trainwrecks

    The common element in each of these cases seems to be the ongoing violent last gasps of White Supremacy. As you well know, you and I are also in the crosshairs. Members of other minority and marginalized groups are as well.
  • August 26, 2018

    Advice on Student Life

    Classes start this week. I hope you are ready; I am sure you are ready iA. I wanted to share a few reminders as things on which to focus. Very simple. College can be the best time of your life...or not. I want it to be the best. Consider the following.
  • June 10, 2018

    On suicide

    Two very popular celebrities--designer Kate Spade and chef and social commentator Anthony Bourdain--have taken their lives. While reading about them, I discovered articles about skyrocketing suicide statistics among cab drivers, young Pakistanis, Black Americans, Middle Aged White Males as well. One of the most difficult-to-read books I own is called "Suicide in Palestine: Narratives of Despair." I have multiple students whose middle-aged Arab brothers have taken their lives. While I was typing this letter, a student (not affiliated with Loyola) informed me that her uncle just took his life. In Spring 2017, we had a surge of suicide ideation among our students. Last year, we connected it with the release of the Netflix show, “13 Reasons Why.” Even though the second season of that show was just released, I don’t suspect such causal relationships.
  • May 13, 2018

    Departing from you. Believing in you.

    When we look at the various interactions the Angel Gabriel (Jibril) had with the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, we see different elements of the relationship of the mentor with the mentee. We know that Jibril delivered the revelations from Allah to him. We know that he taught him the salah (the formal prayer). We know through the many wondrous narrations about the Night Journey that Jibril guided the Prophet, may peace be upon them, on a tour through the heavens and hell.
  • May 06, 2018

    Facing Inevitables

    For some of you, the stress over grades is because you want to get into graduate or professional (i.e. med) school. For many of you, however, you are terrified of your parents' wrath. I do not understand this approach of default-anger, having been someone with decades of default-anger within me that I had to wash out of me. Speaking as a parent, I can tell you that even when they tell you that you are the spawn of the devil, that 100% of the things your parents say to you translate as, "I want you to have the best life you can, and I do not know how to express it in your language." But, those reflections will not help you this week. For many of you, the goal of this week is to survive with minimal injuries to your soul.
  • April 22, 2018

    Heartbreak

    The most common issue from the past week has been heartbreak. It is fitting that the previous week was about loneliness, and now we discuss that pain that each of you will experience if you have not already.
  • March 18, 2018

    Cohorts and Fathers and Transformation

    The most common issue of this past week relates to cohorts. We are watching the Basketball team reach heights in the NCAA tournament. I love the press conferences after the game because Coach Porter Moser begins each interview with an appreciation of the Divine. Further, the team seems to be a very tight squad without any single players getting all of the attention. Such is often the case with NCAA teams, in contrast to NBA teams which rely on superstars for both on-court victories and off-court profits. For example, all of you have heard of Lebron James, but how many of his teammates can you name?
  • February 18, 2018

    Searching for Authenticity

    We emphasize personal authenticity in our society, enough that we admire people who seem to be “authentic” when they present themselves in public. I suspect that this desire will rise in response to something far more significant in our society: personal branding. Because a camera is always feet or inches away from you, there is pressure ever to be performing, even if the performance is a bright smile on a terrible day. Likewise, I expect that there will be the thirst for people who seem authentic, whose emotions and comments seem genuine; of course, they might also be performing.
  • January 28, 2018

    Denomination Nation

    In our campus community, we have students who self-identify as "Muslim" from across a whole span of theologies, including mainstream Sunnis and Shias, Ismailis, Ahmadis, Nation of Islam, Druze, as well as students from mix parentage, meaning one parent is Sunni and the other is Shia. A large percentage of students on campus, however, self-identify as, "My parents are _____ but I don't know what I am. I am spiritual, not religious." As you know, I position myself as a Sunni, following Hanafi law on most matters, and I am the Muslim Chaplain for all of you, even if you do not self-identify as Muslim.
  • January 21, 2018

    Gas Station Procrastination

    I thought that I had rid myself of much of my procrastination by making extensive use of task lists. Meaning, I schedule To Do List items to do my projects, splitting them into very small doses. I have four separate To Do Lists: Loyola matters (Todoist), Personal Maintenance (Toodledo), Study (Wunderlist), and Complex Projects (Asana). After multiple attempts at multiple methods, that is a system that -- for now -- works for me. Over the past year, I was more productive than I had been in the prior five years combined. I expect more for this coming year.
  • January 14, 2018

    Dr. King and Us

    You and I are children of the dreams of MLK. In his final years, he was hated more than you are hated now. I often speak about Islamophobia, including attacks on Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus or attacks on Islamic centers or anti-Sharia legislation across the nation or the Muslim Ban under the current White House. But, if your biggest struggle in life is in making your parents happy -- which is indeed impossible with many parents -- your struggles are not insignificant, but you do have to acknowledge all the different places in life where you are privileged.
  • January 07, 2018

    New Year Resolutions

    As we begin this new calendar year, we begin with hope for the future. We have a good practice in making the New Year a moment of celebration of hope, filled with New Year's resolutions.
  • December 31, 2017

    Marriage

    As we finish this calendar year, I hope to discuss one of the two topics that are the most discussed among undergraduates. Muslim Junior High School students love talking about Hell. And Jinns. Muslim High School students love talking about the end of the world. And Jinns. Muslim College students love talking about marriage. And Jinns. Now, we can talk about marriage.
  • December 24, 2017

    2017 Favorite Books on Islam and Muslims

    In the last letter, we spoke about some good books about general topics. Here, I am giving my book recommendations on the best books about Muslims and or Islam from my readings of the past year. It may be important to read the explanation because my suggestion to read a book does not mean that I thought it was a good book.
  • December 17, 2017

    2017 Favorite books not about Islam or Muslims

    As we finish this calendar year, I am looking back that the books that affected me most. If you have time during this break between semesters, I urge you to go through at least one. Not all of these books are from the past year, but all of these are books I discovered in the past year.
  • December 10, 2017

    The Personal, the Pious, the Political

    The modern sentiment toward religion limits its role to private human practice with limited public affectation. The idea is that secularism -- a non-religion that has a value system as much as many religions -- dominates public space, with the backing of a bureaucratic structure. Part of the success of the American experiment is that its form of secularism allows for and protects -- through Free Speech -- the extensive personal expression of religion. Still, in Islam, we speak of Islam informing every aspect of life from the private to the public, from the individual to the social, political, and economic. We have obligations of justice toward everyone, regardless of their beliefs.
  • November 26, 2017

    2017 Longings

    I look back at the events of this past calendar year, even though we have a whole month left. We began in January, full of anxiety. Despite having passed a year since the last presidential election, he has not been impeached. Regardless of your politics, the tenuous experience that we have had under the previous two presidents has gotten even more nebulous in the past year. We began the school year in better shape than we were in in January. As we end this semester, I feel that we are doing even better.
  • November 19, 2017

    Reflections on Muslim Reform

    There are many calls for a “reform” of Islam. Some from within our global community, many from elsewhere. Often, the calls are for Muslims to experience a reform akin to the reform of Christianity from 500 years ago. We do not find as many calls by non-Christians for reforms of Christianity, non-Jews for reforms of Judaism, non-Hindus for reforms of Hinduism, or non-Buddhists for reforms of Buddhism. Within each of those communities, however, there are liberal and conservative voices providing internal critiques of their communities.
  • November 12, 2017

    Mental Health and Spirituality

    It used to be that when a little girl became weak, had a runny nose, and hot forehead, that her family assumed that she was sinful or was possessed by the devil. As the medical sciences developed, the diagnosis shifted from evil possession to a “fever” that was treated with simple medications.
  • November 05, 2017

    Christianity, the Reformation, and Muslims

    A few days ago, we witnessed the 500th anniversary of one of the biggest moments in Christian history. Martin Luther is said to have nailed a document on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany listing nearly 100 criticisms of doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church. Through this critique, he was seeking a reform or repair of Christianity. From the outside, it seems that he is using the same approach that is later taken up by Abraham Geiger and other architects of Reform Judaism, as well as similar burgeoning movements in American Islam: understanding, explaining, and living religion through the methods of the secular academy rather in addition to the religious seminary.
  • October 22, 2017

    The Perils of Misconduct

    There are many reasons I keep repeating the importance of integrity in your work. You know the obvious reasons. It is an Islamic obligation. It is a normal human obligation. You would want people to conduct themselves with integrity with you. It is easy to speak in honesty; it is difficult to sustain a lie without telling other lies. If you commit a crime and you do not take ownership of your choices, you will tell lies to sustain your supposed innocence. The more lies you tell, the deeper you bury yourself, the harder and more humiliating the fall will be when you get exposed. Even worse: you may misuse the trust and loyalty of others to protect you from getting exposed.
  • October 15, 2017

    Why Me?

    Can you bring yourself to have the attitude that, “we will figure out how to get through this,” whenever you are hit with struggle? You have already heard me claim many times that you are guaranteed to be hit with struggle and that you are guaranteed to be hit with struggles that you can handle. So, embrace the sentiment that you will get through whatever hits you. You can scare yourself with examples of horrible experiences that have happened to others, but I am speaking to you about you: you have to be militant with yourself in the belief that you can get through anything that life throws at you because you have already gotten through so much.
  • May 20, 2017

    Erasing God

    We have to distinguish between someone turning against Allah (a’udhubillah) versus someone losing faith in Allah’s existence (a’udhubillah). The former is more like atheism or anti-theism, and the latter is a type of atheism that is more like an agnosticism. Keep in mind that the second point is that someone is losing faith in Allah’s *existence,* which is different than losing faith in Allah taking care of them. Many, many more people struggle with faith in Allah taking care of them.
  • May 01, 2017

    Reflecting on the 2016-2017 school year

    I have to conduct my final calculations, but I estimate that scheduled office visits increased by 100% while unscheduled office visits increased by 350%. Communications from alumni increased by 500%. Visits by non-Muslims have also increased to the point that as much as 20% of the visits to my office are by non-Muslims. The student needs beyond (or through) spiritual formation have ranged from help for anxiety, fear (about the political situation), personal problems, family troubles, relationship problems, academic issues, faith issues, marital troubles, and — sadly — suicide ideation. I would help students in my capacity, while referring so many students to the Wellness Center that I wondered if I was singlehandedly keeping them in business.
  • May 01, 2017

    Tough year

    It has been quite a year. For me, each of the previous years has been more intense than its predecessors, with the past twelve months being the most intense of them all. I had many things planned this year in terms of programming and had to scrap most of them, except for pastoral care and the extra-curricular classes, in order to have maximum time for students.
  • March 05, 2017

    Language and Power

    In Washington state, the body of a young Muslim man was found hanging from a tree after he had been missing for a month. First, his death was ruled a suicide. Now, as the FBI investigates, it is “undetermined.” Such stories pepper my social media feed. Whether he died by suicide or homicide, his death is tragic, and I ask you to make a prayer for him and his family. But, if he died by homicide, then we should clear about terminology. In our era of White Supremacy, the homicide of a Black man by hanging is a lynching.
  • March 01, 2017

    Responding to Pharaohs

    We have been speaking about pharaohs. Sometimes I get pulled into divorce cases, where one spouse seeks to get out of the marriage as quickly as possible. The spouse may present three hundred sixty reasons for the divorce. The goal is to convince you a divorce is not only the best solution, but urgent. When putting all of the reasons together, they present their case like lawyers. But, when looking at the reasons, you see that they are not just lies, but are nonsense. It is nothing but performance.
  • February 19, 2017

    Savagery and Gentleness

    It is most fascinating because today is Remembrance Day in Japanese American communities. It is the 75th Anniversary of the passing of Order 9066, signed by…FDR. It is this Executive Order that paved the way for the incarceration of Japanese Americans. Such language like “internment” and “evacuation” were used, but it was nothing less than a sudden, indefinite imprisonment. To put things into perspective, many of those imprisoned were your age.
  • February 12, 2017

    Activist Hypocrisy

    We have been speaking about the internal and external Pharaohs. Let us a take a step further in our approaches to facing the external Pharaohs. We find two common strategies in our activist community: agitation and engagement. Both are correct, and both can be found in the Prophet Muhammad’s revolution, may peace be upon him. But, as we will see, both are also wrong if we part from his method.
  • February 02, 2017

    Fixing the Internal Pharaoh and the External Pharaoh

    Our society’s political upheaval continues, though many bright spots — related to push back from within the masses, media, and judiciary — give us hope. I should also comment that I have received calls, emails and visits from members of nearly every division in the university, and nearly every department offering their support to all of you, asking me what else they can do to support us. And, for that, we should be grateful to them, and grateful to the Divine. Further, we must be ready to extend our support to the other minority and marginalized communities soon, uniting as one. I’m also eager to listen to any of your ideas on any of these matters.
  • January 29, 2017

    The Pharaoh, his personality, his methods

    In Qur’anic study, we find that commentators use the Pharaoh as the archetype of a tyrant. Perhaps the first such usage in our traditions is by the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, in reference to one of the fiercest oppressors of his generation, Abu Jahl. One of the most common uses is in reference to Yazid, whose forces slaughtered the grandson of the Prophet, Husayn. In the modern era, Pharaoh has been a designation -- of all places -- in Egypt by critics of its dictators for the last few decades.
  • January 18, 2017

    Fear, Despair, and the Inauguration

    Welcome back to a new calendar year and a new semester. I hope that you return to class with eagerness, curiosity and optimism. Today, we celebrate the life of one of our society’s great activists who never gave up on hope in this nation. On Friday, we inaugurate a head of state who was elected with the support of many and whose statements have frightened many. Many of us wonder what the future holds.
  • September 25, 2016

    Remorse and Arrogance

    In the Islamic narrative of Adam and Eve, peace be upon them, Allah invites them to eat of whatever they wanted in the Garden. They were free to go wherever, except for one tree. The devil made them both slip, and they both went to the tree. They both felt remorse, were taught how to seek forgiveness, were granted forgiveness, and were then sent to earth.
  • September 14, 2016

    Eid and 9/11

    As you and I know, we (Muslims, as well as those confused for being Muslims, like Sikhs) were doubly attacked on that day. Our home was hit. Then, a wave of hostility against us was unleashed. To be fair, the hostility began long before 9/11/01. We can trace it at least back to the first Gulf War at the beginning of the 1990s. Nevertheless, things became amplified on that day 15 years ago. I dream of a day when I no longer have to regard 9/11 as a shadow looming over me or us. It has altered the course of my life in multiple ways, including career direction.
  • September 04, 2016

    The Rahma Ethos

    The key point I would like you to ponder over is that when you attend such a convention, with so many people, what you see will be as much an observation of what is before you as it is a reflection of what is within you. Imagine you are looking at a crowd of a thousand people. Think about what you notice in those thousand people. Some of what you notice might be the anomalies in the crowd. Some of what you notice might relate to what you expect to see (and then you see it).
  • August 22, 2016

    Dear First Years, Welcome to Loyola

    On behalf of Campus Ministry, I would like to welcome you to Loyola. I am your Muslim Chaplain, here to serve you in your spiritual and personal needs and ambitions.
  • August 22, 2016

    Welcome Back Students

    A short welcome with an invite to develop community.
  • August 08, 2016

    The Journey of Faith and the Challenges We Experience

    There is a constricting pain that each of us experience from time to time. If you've experienced the death of a loved one or the death of a cherished relationship, then you know this feeling. You are getting squeezed, while your innards get shoveled out of you.
    READ MORE
  • July 29, 2016

    Basic Politics and Platfor

    The Democratic National Convention has just ended and we are entering the home stretch of this presidential election cycle. If you have not caught the speeches, I suggest watching at least the Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates.  Related to Muslim matters, I would suggest watching Newt Gingrich and Sajid Tarar at the Republican National Convention, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Khizr Khan at the Democratic National Convention. I will not hesitate to editorialize in saying that one of these four sounds like a lunatic.
  • January 31, 2016

    Muslims in Catholic Academia

    Third, the consensus was that this responsibility to serve is because of their Catholicism, not despite it. The Church in Vatican II produced some revolutionary documents (considering where the rest of the world was at the time in the 1960s) about relationships with other faith communities, especially the Jews and the Muslims. These are Dignitatis humanae and Nostra aetate, which -- for our purposes -- called for mutual respect between Muslims and Christians. The Western World was stuck in the Cold War, elsewhere secular nation states were just formed across the globe in this new post-WW2, post-Colonial era, and American Catholicism was not only asserting itself on the international stage, but had just elected (and lost) a US President. Talk of religion -- focused on building bridges, rather than laying borders -- was something unheard of. Vatican II does not necessarily represent a shift, or something new; in sessions during the conference, scholars argued that this inter-faith work is textbook Catholicism. For the head of our Campus Ministry, Lisa Reiter, none of this was anything new for her.
  • January 26, 2016

    Complex spouses

    Thus, the first challenge in looking for a spouse is in looking for someone made of a soul, flesh and bones, and memories. Too many of us are looking for someone made of cardboard
  • January 13, 2016

    Removing Harm

    From the perspective of Islamic Law, the first priority is to remove the harms, which in our individual conduct means that we should seek to remove Haram (forbidden) practices. We should not confuse “Haram” (forbidden) practices with “Makruh” (discouraged) practices. There are many behaviors which are categorized as Makruh, yet for some reason we seek to label them as Haram.
  • January 16, 2016

    Dr. King's Letter from the Birmingham Jail

    The first thing to note in the letter is that he addresses the letter to clergy. You will see that it is a response to critics, in our language, sometimes calling them out for criticizing him but not criticizing the situation that his demonstrations were addressing. It used to be that preachers were among the lead voices in the Civil Rights movement. Preachers had and have the responsibility of providing a social conscience for society. Often, they are co-opted by power structures to enforce power.
  • January 04, 2016

    Resolutions for Sleep and the Tongue

    As we begin our new year, we get into the annual conversation on New Year Resolutions. Some like to resolve not to have any resolutions, but I like to have New Year Resolutions, at least as a way to restart, reinvigorate, retry. Last year I lost some 20 pounds; this year I hope to accomplish at least that, along with some other personal goals related to character and practice. The New Year Resolution is a plan for self improvement, which is a plan to change behavior, which is a plan to change a habit. Habits give us stability, yet they also resist growth. We say that we are creatures of habit. In the digital age, we are creatures of algorithms, with the idea being that our behaviors are so habitual, that marketing teams can figure out what we plan to consume and when, with increasing precision.
  • December 28, 2015

    Muslims and Christmas

    A question I receive every year is “Can we Muslims celebrate Christmas?” And, every year, I wait until after Christmas to address it. The question is never, “Can we go to Midnight Mass?” Rather, “Can we get a tree and exchange gifts?” I never get asked, “Can we Muslims celebrate Hannukah?” Likewise, no questions about Ash Wednesday, Lent, or Easter. The answer, as always, depends on who you are and what you seek.
  • December 22, 2015

    The Same Divine?

    Do Muslims and Christians believe in the same Divine? A local Christian college place a professor on leave because of theological stances she has taken along with her covering her hair in support of Muslims. We are at a Catholic university; this question is relevant for us.
  • December 13, 2015

    Violence and Respite

    I want to congratulate you on another semester completion. I hope you earned the grades you hoped to earn. If not, I hope you refine what needs to be refined so you may earn the grades you seek next semester. And, in the interim between semesters, I hope and pray that you are able to get some relaxation, at least by getting away from the intense routine of the past 16 weeks. I am right now beginning my process of decompression from the struggles of the semester, seeking to be fully recharged and refreshed when the next semester begins, mid-January.
  • December 02, 2015

    Violence and Sorrow

    One of my favorite books is Saadi’s “Gulistan” (“The Rose Garden”). It reads at first like advice for Kings on running a society. As we get deeper into the text, we see it is something more like a thousand year old set of Blues or “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”
  • November 28, 2015

    Opinions on having opinions

    There is a deeper point I hope to raise. As we can see, ours is an era in which we feel compelled to have opinions. I wonder if, in the entire history of Facebook, anyone jumped into a hot debate and actually changed their opinions on something big. We also see that more often than not, when religion is invoked for discussions on a divisive matter it is often invoked by people who do not know what they are talking about. Likewise, when getting into discussions about religion, capitalism, police brutality, or Race, we fall into talking points. The point here is that when we get into debates, we are not looking for “truth” or “the right answer” or even “insights.” We are not looking to learn. Rather, we are often looking to win the debate.
  • November 21, 2015

    Paris Terror and Media

    Many have commented that we care about the French but do not care as much about the Lebanese and Iraqis who were killed the day before, or the Nigerians who were killed a few days later. To make this point further, many mentioned that the attacks in Kenya half a year earlier were not given much attention.
  • August 24, 2015

    Welcome or Welcome Back

    First, I would like to welcome you to or welcome you back to Loyola. As your Muslim Chaplain, it is my goal and responsibility to help facilitate your Muslim experience here in this Jesuit institution, in this cosmopolitan city. I do hope to meet and get to know each and every one of you, developing a friendship that will hopefully last long after your or my Loyola years. Please stop by in my office and let’s talk about life, religion, movies, whatever. I am often at my desk in the Campus Ministry Suite in Damen 217.
  • February 11, 2015

    Three Murders in Chapel Hill

    While those challenges are still ongoing, it is unfortunate that of all the events that have motivated the final re-launching of these letters, it is another murder. This time, the murder of three Muslim kids -- kids, as far as I am concerned -- in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I am not one for symbols (in contrast to substance), but is in their memory I’m wearing my UNC sweater today, incidentally given to me by a student who knew them really well. May God’s forgiveness and mercy be upon them and their family. I did not know them personally, though I know some of you were connected to them. I do know many people from UNC and Duke who did know them, and as is to be expected, they are devastated. As always, my prayers are also with you. Please stop by my office to chat whenever you’d like.
  • December 08, 2014

    Where life takes us

    One thing I learned through my various episodes is that people are hurting. There is a lot of pain in our world, in our society, in our community. It is fair to assume that anyone you meet has some struggle, concern, torment that is weighing on them. Not everyone you meet will be in luxury, but everyone you meet will be in struggle. That hurt relates at one level to our distance from or proximity to the Divine.
  • November 30, 2014

    Ideal personalities

    Our society tells us that the “ideal” religious persons are Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama, and perhaps Pope Francis. In the case of the first, we admired her for giving up her life to serve the impoverished. In the case of the second, we admire his simplicity, perhaps his mastery of the self, as well as his efforts against state occupation. In the case of the current Pope, he embodies service to the poor against systemic obstructions.
  • November 28, 2014

    America, Race, Muslims

    Again, this is the legacy you are inheriting. It is up to you to decide which side of the line of justice we stand on. It is up to you to decide whether or not to embrace your responsibilities in this society, as an American. The other option is that we look down on ourselves or others because of things as shallow as skin color.
  • November 17, 2014

    What is religious?

    Often in our community, we associate religiosity with costumes. If a woman covers her hair, we regard her as more pious than a woman who does not. We often associate a man’s level of piety with the length of his facial hair: somehow, if the beard is longer we take it to mean that the man is more pious. Further, we also seem to have a measuring stick of piety according to the foreign-ness of the clothing: the more non-Western the clothing, the more it gives the illusion of piety. The more Arab the clothing, the more we tend to associate the bearer with piety, especially if s/he is non-Arab. This particular point is especially interesting because the attire of the Companions of the Prophet -p- seemed to resemble South Asian Shalvar-Kameez more than the modern Arab Thobe.
  • November 03, 2014

    Divine Will, Sunnis and Shias

    A fundamental difference between the two groups stems from the sources of guidance. Beyond the Prophet -p- and the Quran, Sunnis look to the Sahaba (the companions of the Prophet -p) with emphasis on specific Sahaba. Shias look to the Ahl al-Bayt (“the people of the house”, aka the family of the Prophet -p) with emphasis on specific members of the Ahl al-Bayt: the Imams, may Allah be pleased with them. From there, both schools look to their scholarly traditions that have developed over the centuries.
  • October 27, 2014

    Social Change within and Without

    Consider his crime: he was preaching. He was not preaching an overthrow of the current system, yet his preaching had consequences that were social, economic, political. In the Christian story of Jesus, may peace be upon him, we have something similar: his message was not political, yet it had political consequences. Those who were invested in the status quo found these messages threatening, and moved to have the callers removed, by execution. In both Traditions, the attempted killing was a failure: according to Islam Muhammad escaped to Yathrib, and according to Christianity Jesus was resurrected, may peace be upon them. Further, the attempted executions were processes that led to the Callers becoming something much greater in influence. Today, more than half of the world is either Muslim or Christian.
  • October 20, 2014

    Sacred Spaces: The Moment

    Time is your most valuable of all assets, far above Money. One person might be given exorbitant material wealth, and another, very little. Another person might be given 20,000 days of life, while another is given thirty thousand. The person given the most time (rather than money) has been given the most.
  • October 20, 2014

    Time as Currency

    We have been exploring sacred spaces in the recent letters. We looked at the Heart and the Mosque. Today, let us look at the Moment.
  • October 13, 2014

    Sectarianism and Imam Ali

    About a week after completing his one and only Hajj (as a pilgrim), the Prophet (may be upon him) headed home. He reached a valley, known as Wadi Rabigh. Within that valley, he reached the pond, Ghadir Khumm. In this event, which is authenticated in sources of both the major sectarian groups, the Prophet -p- is reported to have told us that whoever takes him (the Prophet -p) as his mawla, that Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) is his Mawla. In some narrations, instead of “mawla,” we have a variant, “wali.” We will come back to this in a moment.
  • October 06, 2014

    Pilgrimage and Procrastination

    I was privileged to go on the pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca) some 14 years ago. My then-wife and I considered that Hajj was Fard (obligatory) while having children was Sunnah (an obligation less in obligation than a Fard). So, we decided that one of our first trips together would be the Pilgrimage. My advice to you is to have a sense of urgency regarding your pilgrimage. Meaning, do it as soon as you are able, whether that is in your twenties, thirties, or older. Because the deadline to fulfill it is theoretically decades away, we tend to procrastinate and wait until we finally decide to go on the pilgrimage. Most of the people on my flight to the Middle East were 15+ years older than me.
  • September 29, 2014

    Sacred Spaces: Houses of Worship

    In the last letter, we spoke about one of the sacred spaces: the human heart. This time, we speak about another sacred space, the House of remembrance of God. If the spiritual heart is the center of the human being, the house of worship is the center of the community and its own spiritual heart.
  • September 22, 2014

    Sacred Spaces: The Heart

    The first of the sacred spaces is the human heart itself. It is a space through which Divine Light, reaches us, and beams through us as Light upon Light.
  • September 15, 2014

    Mortality

    We’ve had a few deaths in the MSA family recently. One student -- a recent graduate -- just suffered through the loss of her father. That blessed man, may God’s mercy be upon him, is also the uncle of one of our current students.
  • September 08, 2014

    Salam and Rahma

    One of the central threads in our Tradition is the thread of connection and interaction. Meaning, we each are wired with an innate need for connection, for interaction. When we are disconnected from others, the experience is often a type of suffering. Some of us can conduct ourselves in solitude; many of us, however, experience loneliness.
  • September 01, 2014

    Introductions

    Over the years, I’ve had jobs as a Paperboy, Vacuum Cleaner salesman, Gas Station attendant, Customer Service Rep, Information Technology specialist, and most recently as a teacher. I’ve been teaching Qur’an classes throughout Chicago for twenty years. I’ve given talks or sermons or full courses at nearly all the mosques in Chicago at some point or other.