Muhammad Xhemali, Brandeis’ new Muslim chaplain, was officially welcomed to the Brandeis community in an email by Rabbi Elisabeth Stern, the director of Religious and Spiritual Life. Xhemali came to Brandeis at the end of the Fall 2017 semester and has been getting to know his new community. He is taking over a role previously held by Maryam Sharrieff, interim Muslim chaplain, and Imam Dr. Talal Eid.
Xhemali, a pharmacist and a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science (MCPHS), has been active in the Muslim community since he was young. He became the president of MCPHS’ Muslim Student Association (MSA), and has since taken on many leadership roles. On top of his full-time job and role at Brandeis, Xhemali provides spiritual counseling as a prison chaplain in Worcester.
The new chaplain’s office is tucked in the back of the MSA suite in lower Usdan. It’s a quiet space, decorated with verses from the Qur’an.
Since Rabbi Stern’s email, sent by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion around 12 p.m. on Jan. 25, faculty and students have reached out to Xhemali and welcome him to Brandeis. Stern, appointed in 2017 after serving as a part-time chaplain, has been working to increase awareness and visibility of the multi-faith chaplaincy. During finals last September, the chaplaincy hosted a “study break” event to provide stress relief and comfort during an often tense time of year.
Xhemali told The Brandeis Hoot that he hopes the chaplaincy can make a positive impact in students’ lives regardless of their faith. Chaplains can serve as a source of comfort for the community, an additional resource to add to the services provided by a place like the Brandeis Counseling Center (BCC) and student run groups like Brandeis 6TALK and the Queer Resource Center.
Every Friday at 1 p.m., Xhemali leads Juma’a prayers in the MSA suite and delivers a sermon. His sermons, Xhemali said, are inspired by the events of the week, the challenges students share with him. He invited interested students to join the services and the community in reflection. Serving as a chaplain allows Xhemali the opportunity to “demystify” his faith, he said, and he encourages students to learn from those around them with different backgrounds and experiences.
Xhemali’s door is always open, he said, whether to talk about religion, school work or Lebron James. He hopes the MSA suite and the chaplaincy can be a source of peace and joy to members of the Brandeis community. Anyone who wants to talk with Xhemali can email him at email@example.com, visit him in his office or attend Friday prayers in the MSA suite.