Mapping Muslim Chaplaincy

The Association of Muslim Chaplains and the Boston University School of Medicine are pleased to share the published report of our first collaborative research project “Mapping Muslim Chaplaincy” in the United States. Eighty-five chaplains completed the project’s survey resulting in the most complete profile of Muslim chaplaincy in the country to date, exploring demographics, education, populations served, and professional development needs among other things. We are grateful to Chaplains Samsiah Abdul Majid and Shareda Hosein for taking the institutional lead and to Dr. Lance Laird from Boston University for his undertaking and leading of this project. Below you can read the Executive Summary, and you can click here to download the full report.


Executive Summary

We conducted a survey of Muslims who are currently serving or have served as chaplains in the United States. The survey aimed to “map” the growing field of Muslim chaplaincy across sectors; assess the educational and support needs of Muslim chaplains; and contribute Muslim voices to a larger innovation project on the broader chaplaincy profession. In this report, we present the results of this survey, based on 85 completed responses.

  • A diverse, mostly Sunni workforce
    Among Muslim chaplains, males outnumber females 2:1, and most are in their thirties, forties, and fifties. They are racially diverse, with approximately 31% Black, 22% White, and 20% Asian, with a variety of multiracial and ethnic identities. Only one identified as Shi`i, however. They work in 23 states and Washington, DC, with larger numbers in NY, MA, and CA. The top three sectors where chaplains serve are healthcare (27% of 117 responses), corrections (24%) and college/university (19%).
  • A highly educated workforce
    Muslim chaplains are a highly educated group overall (almost 80% with graduate degrees), though the range of official educational attainment is wide. Many have certificates in traditional Islamic sciences. Only six, however, are board certified chaplains.
  • Volunteering but mostly employed
    72% of survey participants are currently working, a few in multiple positions or in multiple sectors. About 70% of positions held are paid, full- or part-time. The majority of Muslim chaplains have less than 10 years’ experience, while many older chaplains have volunteered for years before getting a paid position. Half of all Muslim chaplains are staff chaplains, with about one-fifth being volunteers. Only two are CPE educators, and one educator in training. Half of all Muslim chaplains also serve in other religious leadership positions, often as imams or Qur’an teachers.
  • Interfaith clientele
    Three quarters of Muslim chaplains serve both Muslims and non-Muslims; healthcare chaplains tend to serve a higher percentage of non- Muslim clients than corrections or campus chaplains, but most seek interfaith training.
  • Key challenges
    Key challenges include upholding quality standards and the need for specialization; the need for strong Muslim institutions; financial support; personal support and mentorship; role legitimacy and recognition; gendered expectations; certain sector specific issues; and social climate.
  • Demanding continuing education
    Approximately a quarter of participants had received over 40 hours of continuing education in the past year, while another quarter of participants had not taken any. Participants not only expressed a strong desire for both sharing experiences with other chaplains and more training in “skills and techniques,” but also deeper grounding in Islamic spirituality and theology. Only 41% would seek board certification, while 26% would not, for reasons of finance, time, or perception that it is unnecessary for employment. Participants prefer a smorgasbord of education venues, from webinars to multiple day conferences, from basic training for volunteers to advanced training for experienced chaplains.
  • Organizations
    Approximately one-third are members of Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), while two-thirds are members of the Association of Muslim Chaplains (AMC). Many of the rest are members of a variety of other Muslim and professional chaplaincy organizations. Many identify potential improvements in how these organizations serve chaplains’ needs.

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