I did my undergrad at University of Toronto Mississauga as an international student – I graduated in November 2013.
In my final year of university, I spent a lot of my time with the Muslim Chaplaincy at the University of Toronto. I attended as many of its programs as I could, up to the point of my graduation and my return back to my country.
What is most attractive to me about the chaplaincy program is the atmosphere that it created – an atmosphere of support, of compassion, and of genuine brotherhood and sisterhood. It honestly feels like a family, like a community.
Among my many experiences being in Muslim gatherings, I think the Muslim Chaplaincy is exceptional because of the diversity of people who join the chaplain programs. Usually I will be in Muslim gatherings where the people are mostly on the same page and roughly in the same phase in their Islam. For instance, I would see the sisters all with their hijabs and the brothers all with their kufis and beards.
I’m not saying that’s bad thing – it’s actually a wonderful thing. But I sometimes wonder where do all the other Muslims go? I want to interact with them more because they are my brothers and sisters too. I don’t think there should be a black sheep in this family we call Islam.
I believe that the chaplaincy has successfully created a safe space where all people, no matter who you are, can come in and be welcomed. Because they feel safe and welcomed, they feel comfortable opening up to others and share a part of themselves that we wouldn’t know just by looking at the exterior.
Among its many programs, the one that hit me the most is Soul Food, specifically the “If You Really Knew Me” session where people voluntarily open up to others. That session opened my eyes to a part of the Muslim community that I haven’t experienced and encountered before in my life.
Using the analogy of the iceberg, which I think is a wonderful analogy, I come to understand that what we see on the outside is nothing but a tip of the iceberg – which makes up only 10% of the whole ice. But unfortunately, we rely so much on that 10%. We judge people by it, even though 10% is not even half of the whole story.
So I learn to look beyond what I see, provide a safe atmosphere, and give people a chance to tell me their story. That changes how I see people. It doesn’t justify the wrong things that they do, but it does allow me to understand why they do what they do and motivate me to support and elevate, as opposed to condemn and isolate.
It is inspiring to know that there are people like the Muslim Chaplaincy out there trying to build a community of healers. Considering the time we live in today that is rife with illnesses, both physical and spiritual, that is what we need more of.
We need more healers.
The Muslim Chaplaincy at the University of Toronto is fully funded by the community. If you would like to contribute, please click here.