Mission of the Muslim Life Fund

This video, produced by undergraduates at Harvard, showcases the personality of the vibrant community and some of the unmet needs of Muslim students on campus.

Launched in 2014, the Harvard Muslim Life Fund (HMLF) is a joint project by HUMA and the Harvard Islamic Society (HIS), dedicated to increasing the resources available to Muslim students on campus. The Muslim community at Harvard is a growing, active community with multiple organizations across the university. The size of the Harvard Muslim population is continually increasing, and includes over 300 members across the 12 schools and over 100 attendees at Jummah. Through the fund, there is a stable, formal support structure to guide, encourage and promote that growth.

Preceding the official launch of the fund, HIS and HUMA conducted a university-wide survey of Muslim life at Harvard. This survey asked students about Muslim experiences on campus, both social and religious life, response to programming, and need for a qualified Muslim chaplain and other resources. Based on the results of the survey, the initial goal of the fund was to provide for a paid chaplaincy to support students across all of Harvard’s 12 schools and advocate on behalf of the Islamic community with the university administration. The first year of the fund proved very successful, with sufficient money raised to hire the first paid Muslim chaplain at Harvard in the spring of 2015 to begin his duties in the Fall of that year.

"The HMLF seeks to empower the on-campus Harvard Muslim community to foster communal fellowship and create positive social change by creating and supporting institutions that enable the personal, spiritual, and professional growth of its members."

Frequently Asked Questions

How are the funds being used?

Currently, the funds are targeted for maintaining and supporting the fledgling chaplaincy position at Harvard. In future years, as the resources of the fund grow, possible projects include scholarships and a Muslim student space.

How is the fund being managed?

The fund is overseen by the HUMA board in cooperation with the chaplaincy committee.

How was the chaplain selected?

A selection committee, including representatives from the HUMA Board, the Harvard Islamic Society, and other community members, represented the community to choose the best candidates from the many qualified applications received after a call for applications went out. Several top candidates spent time with the Harvard Muslim community on campus meeting different groups of students. Feedback from the community meetings, along with the strength of the physical applications, was used to inform the final decision of the selection committee.

How will the fund stay sustainable?

Our current fundraising campaign is to raise enough funds yearly for that year of the chaplaincy. We are exploring additional ways to secure funding, including conferences and other revenue sources. We welcome any suggestions.

Does Harvard provide some of the salary for a chaplain?

The University does not provide for any portion of the salary. At Harvard, unlike some other Ivy league schools, there is no school financial support for chaplain/ministers other than the few positions associated with Memorial Church. All other faith groups find outside funding for their chaplains as well.

The Role of the Chaplain

The Harvard community has a diverse set of students and thus a broad spectrum of needs for what the chaplain should do to support Harvard's Muslim population. Based on student feedback and surveys, the chaplain has 4 main roles:

  • Community-building: Creates unity among Muslims on campus by bringing together students from the various Harvard schools and creating an inclusive space that is welcoming to Muslims of all backgrounds. Fosters relationships with other faith and non-faith communities on-campus.
  • Counseling: Holds regular office hours for academic, religious, and personal counseling to support students in navigating the challenges that life at Harvard presents.
  • Teaching: Facilitates programming for the HIS community that includes regular religious classes, devotional services, and community conversations.
  • Advocacy: Promotes the interests of Muslim students on campus by engaging with administrators and key stakeholders at Harvard.

For a break-down of the mission of the chaplaincy project and the original goals created when initializing the fund, please see the Muslim Life Fund overview document.