What is a Chaplain?A chaplain is a professional who offers spiritual advice and care in a specific institutional context, such as a military unit or a college campus, hospital or prison. Although chaplains often provide religious services for members of their own faith communities, the main role of a chaplain is to facilitate or accommodate the religious needs of all individuals in the institution in which he or she is working.
Chaplains often serve as experts on ethics to their colleagues and employers, providing insight to such diverse issues as organ transplantation, just-warfare, and public policy. Professional chaplains do not displace local religious leaders, but fill the special requirements involved in intense institutional environments.
Thus, a Muslim chaplain is not necessarily an "Imam," although an Imam may work as a chaplain. There is a need for both male and female Muslim chaplains. For example, female Muslim students on college campuses or hospitalized Muslim women may feel more comfortable with a Muslim woman chaplain.
Where is a good place to train in Islamic Chaplaincy? The Islamic Chaplaincy Program at Hartford Seminary is the best place to train for Islamic Chaplaincy based on the following reasons:
a) The strong academic curriculum available through the Master of Arts degree program with a concentration in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations; b) The interfaith orientation, work and scholarship of the Duncan Black Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations; and c) The expertise of the Seminary's Hartford Institute for Religion Research in working with active faith communities
The Macdonald Center is the country's oldest center for the study of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations. It embodies the Seminary's long-term commitment – begun in 1893 – to the study of Islam and Christianity and the complex relationship between the two religions throughout history and in the modern world.
Hartford Seminary and the Macdonald Center believe deeply that mutual respect and cooperation among faith groups can and must develop. The Islamic Chaplaincy Program is a natural result of that belief.
What is the course schedule? During the academic year the course schedule is designed to accommodate persons whose work schedules prohibit daytime courses. Most classes meet late afternoons and evenings. Courses are generally offered on a two-year cycle. Hartford Seminary also offers excellent opportunities to take courses on an intensive schedule in January and June. For January Intersession a limited number of five day intensive courses are offered during a designated week in January. These courses require students to complete reading and writing assignments throughout the winter/spring semester and to submit final course assignments by the end of the semester. The Summer Session offers a number of intensive courses in the month of June. Most summer courses are full-day sessions one week in length. These courses require students to complete reading and writing assignments over the summer and to submit final course assignments prior to the fall semester. Please consult the course catalogue for a full listing of courses.
Are online courses available? Online courses may be taken for credit or audited just like the on-site courses at the Seminary. Hartford Seminary's accrediting agency, the Association of Theological Schools, has limited the number of courses that may be taken toward a graduate degree to two courses. However, this limit is currently under review so please check with the Registrar for further information. In the winter/spring semester of 2006 the Seminary is offered the course "Introduction to Islamic Law" with Dr. Ingrid Mattson in an online format.
Can credits be transferred? Students who have taken graduate level courses in religion from an accredited institution that have not been applied toward a previous degree may ask for these courses to be applied toward their Master of Arts degree. Students may receive up to 18 credits of transfer credit. Students who have completed at least one semester as a matriculated student may apply to receive up to six credits toward their degree for relevant life experiences. Application for advanced standing credit are reviewed by the Academic Affairs Committee and granted where appropriate. The total credit awarded for advanced standing and transfer credit combined may not exceed 18 credits.
Is financial aid available?Limited financial aid is available to matriculated students enrolled in Hartford Seminary degree programs. Eligible students may receive tuition aid up to one half of annual course tuition. However, please note that the amount of financial aid available for distribution varies each year. Financial aid applications are available at the time of application to the program. Students are required to reapply for financial aid each year.
Why is a Muslim Chaplains Association needed? Islam is the fastest growing major religion among American military personnel. According to the military, there are at least 4,100 Muslims serving in the U.S. Armed Forces; Muslim organizations estimate the number to be over 10,000. However, as of the spring of 2001, there were only ten Muslim chaplains in the entire military.
At the same time, the findings of a major study of Muslims in the United States released in April 2001 show that the number of mosques in America has grown by 25 percent in the last seven years. In addition, the study supports estimates of a total American Muslim population of 7 million. The study, entitled "The Mosque in America: A National Portrait," is part of a larger study on American congregations called Faith Communities Today, which has been coordinated by Hartford Seminary's Hartford Institute for Religion Research.
Additionally, a March 2001 gathering of Islamic scholars, military personnel, prison and hospital chaplains and Muslim members of the Board of Trustees at Hartford Seminary confirmed the acute need for competent and trained Muslim chaplains to serve the needs of Muslims in prison, college and hospital settings as well as the military.
Despite this obvious need, currently there are no accredited chaplaincy programs for Muslims in the United States.
The United States Armed Forces, the American Muslim Council, the Islamic Society of North America, and the Islamic Council of New England all have expressed support for Hartford Seminary's Islamic Chaplaincy Program.