This year marks the appointment of U of T’s first full-time Muslim chaplain. The position has been filled by Amjad Tarsin, a 28-year-old hailing from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Tarsin plans to offer students emotional and faith-based support.
“There are a growing number of Muslim students who could benefit from a Muslim chaplain,” said Tarsin. “This includes providing students support in a way that is full-time—a consistent presence. As the Muslim chaplain, I will provide services to all students while uniquely relying on my own faith tradition, which is Islam.”
Apart from directing various religious and counselling programs, he looks forward to giving time to students from all walks of life. “In another way, it will be delivered through educational and social programs also, to provide counselling and spiritual care. If a student has problems, I am willing to listen and support them,” Tarsin said.
His chaplaincy began on October 1, and is intended to expand to the UTM campus next semester. His main goals are to help students academically and to facilitate their growth as individuals.
“It’s open to anyone just looking for someone to talk to, and I would be more than happy to assist them. The goal is to bring out the best and inspire the good for everyone,” Tarsin said.
The chaplaincy project was spearheaded by Rameez Mahmood, the former president of the U of T Muslim Students’ Association. The idea of a full-time chaplain was brought up at an MSA meeting, and the team behind the project began collecting resources and feedback from the community. A fundraising campaign called “#70 in 70” was launched to raise awareness and support.
“Inspired by chaplaincy, we wanted to see whether it would be possible at our university, and the possibility of spreading to other campuses,” said Ruqayyah Ahdab, the managing director and chair of the chaplaincy.
Full-time Muslim chaplaincies are common in American universities and educational institutions, but U of T’s
Muslim chaplaincy is the first of its kind in Canada.
“We were looking to build a model that could be replicated in Canada, something accessible to the Canadian community and something tailored to students’ needs,” said Ahdab. “The Muslim community is developing itself in North America. It’s growing and starting to contribute more to society. [The chaplaincy] is definitely needed now.”
Tarsin has lived in several countries and has a long travel history. He holds bachelor’s degrees in English literature and Islamic studies, and even spent time in law school before deciding to pursue a different path.