Building bridges across faiths: Saleha Jabeen
CTU student, pursuing M.A. in Theology
In the midst of a sometimes polarizing political climate that can divide people based on religious beliefs, CTU student Saleha Jabeen works for unity and proudly says, “I am Muslim, plain and simple.”
Saleha is more aware of the delicacy of interfaith relations studying in the U.S. today than she was growing up in Hyderabad, India, but uniting people has always been important to her. During a difficult childhood, Saleha learned the power of faith by watching her mother.
Saleha’s father lived and worked overseas for decades, and her mother battled persistent health problems while raising two kids.
“No matter what happened, Mom’s attitude was always: ‘No problem. There is Allah; he will never leave us alone,’” Saleha said. “She had little formal education, but she knew what was most important in life, and found strength in the spiritual education she received from God.”
After getting an undergraduate degree in accounting, Saleha moved to Chicago to live with her father and pursue a second B.A. in business economics at North Park University.
While walking on campus with a friend, Saleha was asked if she was a practicing Muslim, or if her faith was just a namesake. Saleha had never considered the difference, but said she knew she didn’t want her faith to be a formality.
Saleha became close to the director of Middle Eastern Studies at North Park while developing her personal faith and becoming more involved in activist organizations on campus. Something was shifting, and although her original plan was to pursue an MBA, on the day the application was due, Saleha couldn’t bring herself to put it in the mail.
She began to pray, and asked God to illuminate her next step. “Islamic Studies” passed through her mind, though she had never heard of the discipline. “I went to the computer, and a whole world of theological education opened up to me,” she said. “I just knew that was my path.”
Saleha is now in the second year of her M.A. in Theology at CTU, with a focus on interreligious dialogue. She feels refreshed by CTU’s interfaith community, and said she is gratified that as much as she is learning from her classmates, they want to learn from her, too.
“I value the interreligious dialogue program at CTU for the exposure it has given me to the faiths of my Christian and Jewish sisters and brothers, while coming to understand my own faith better, as well,” Saleha said. “CTU has enriched me intellectually, and given me a platform to practice what I’m learning; building bridges across faiths.”
Saleha spent a semester as a public affairs and civic engagement intern with Muslim American Society, Chicago, and looks forward to a full life of interfaith outreach, advocacy and activism.
Saleha said she’s keeping her options open, but wants to help Muslims who may feel lost trying to navigate the contradictions between traditional Islamic faith and contemporary culture. She wants to accompany people as they embrace their transformation into peacemakers.
“Because of CTU, I’m doing so many things I could have never dreamed before,” she said. "I'm shaping my own path to serve God and my fellow human beings."