1. What is the difference between an imam and a chaplain?

Chaplaincy training is focused in 3 areas: pastoral care, religious leadership, and the presentation of an interfaith and intrafaith “face of the community.” College students can display a spectrum of religiosity—from very religious to not at all—which must be accommodated, understood and addressed, with wisdom and maturity. Chaplains are specifically trained to do this. Pastoral care also encompasses psychological and mental health issues, for which an imam has no training. A chaplain offers a professional voice both to and for students, while serving as a resource for all. Both men and women can be chaplains.

An imam typically has training in the area of religious practice. He usually represents one theological perspective within Islam, specific to him.

2. How will having a Muslim chaplain on campus be different from what the students have now? 

Students currently receive guidance from current and retired Muslim faculty and Ithaca community members. These folks, to whom we are indebted, have graciously contributed to campus student life for many, many years.

Yet, they are not responsible for campus Muslim life. They do not have professional training in broadly inclusive religious leadership, faith-based counseling and mental health support that comprises pastoral care and faith representation. They do not get paid to specifically address the spiritual needs of students broadly and individually. They do not emerge from a Muslim-American experience.

A Muslim chaplain will serve students full-time, not on the side. A Muslim chaplain will be there to reach out and touch all self-identifying Muslims, especially those in greatest need. A Muslim chaplain will consider the needs of students proactively, not reactively.

3. Why can Cornell University not subsidize a Muslim chaplaincy?

It is Cornell University policy not to fund any faith groups. Support comes from the respective faith communities. There is an umbrella group called Cornell United Religious Work (CURW), which is comprised of approximately 30 chaplains who are privately funded; none are Muslim. As such, the Muslim chaplaincy established by Cornell’s alumni will represent the first of its kind at an academic institution in the United States.

4. Does Cornell University support the creation of a Muslim chaplaincy?

YES. The University Administration, as well as Reverend Clarke (Director of Cornell United Religious Work) all recognize the critical need for a Muslim chaplaincy at Cornell and have expressed their support publicly. Please see our endorsement from former-President Skorton.

Cornell has created a sub-account for the Diwan Foundation’s Chaplaincy Initiative. In other words, your giving for this cause goes through the University. 

5. Why should I support a Muslim chaplaincy at Cornell when people in the world and in my local community have more pressing needs?

The reality is that we all develop ‘charity portfolios’ for ourselves. Some causes have immediacy, such as a failing school or a natural disaster. Others represent investments. 

A Muslim chaplaincy at Cornell represents a worthy investment in students who are in the most formative years of their lives. They have very real struggles with self-identity, family, peers, and social decision-making. Yet, they also represent the most talented minds in the country who will occupy leadership positions throughout the world. Whether they are Muslim or not, their Islamic experience they have is likely to influence the development of their souls and those of many more.

There are causes other than the Muslim Chaplaincy at Cornell that are absolutely worthy of your support. You should engage with them whole-heartedly. You can also support a Muslim chaplaincy at Cornell with comfortable, regular giving, in a way that does not detract from the other worthy causes in your portfolio.

If your Islamic experience at Cornell was wonderful, you have good cause to support a Muslim chaplaincy. If your experience was sub-optimal, you have it all-the-more.

6. What does the training of a Muslim chaplain entail? 

At the conclusion of training, a chaplain typically earns a Master of Divinity. A typical program spans 3 years and involves 72-95 credit hours of coursework. A third of this is spent in clinical pastoral education, or “fieldwork,” which amounts to approximately 400 hours. As such, a chaplain learns to represent and cater to the needs of an entire community. Hartford Seminary offers a Muslim chaplaincy program which combines a Master of Arts in Islamic Studies and Muslim-Christian Relations together with a Graduate Certificate in Islamic Chaplaincy.

7. Which other colleges have Muslims chaplains?

Georgetown University

Yahya Hendi

Johns Hopkins University

Hassan Amin

American University

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad

Duke University

Dr. Abdullah Antepli

Wesleyan University

Adeel Zeb

Quinnipiac University

Shamshad Sheikh

Princeton University

Sohaib Nazeer Sultan

Northwestern University

Tahera Ahmad

New York University

Khalid Latif

SUNY Stonybrook

Sanaa Nadim

Harvard University

Taymullah Abdur-Rahman

Connecticut College

Ayesha Siddique Chaudhry

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