First female Muslim Chaplain in U.S. Military history

On December 19, 2019, the first woman Muslim chaplain candidate in the United States Air Force and the Department of Defense was commissioned in a ceremony that took place at CTU. Current student Second Lieutenant Saleha Jabeen, MA ’14, MDiv ’20, was joined on this historic occasion by a large crowd of her family, friends, faculty and fellow students Chaplain Major General Steven A. Schaick, Chief of Chaplains, of the US Air Force, administered the oath and conducted the pinning ceremony.  MG Schaick who, in addition to his responsibility for providing guidance on all matters pertaining to the religious and moral welfare of Air Force personnel, also advises the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff on religious, ethical, and quality-of-life concerns.

Saleha’s academic mentor, Dr. Scott Alexander, director of the Catholic-Muslim Studies Program at CTU, offered a welcome and introduced as emcee for the occasion, Ms. Dilnaz Waraich, trustee of the Waraich Family Foundation.  She noted, “I had the honor of knowing Saleha for the past few years as a community organizer in my role at the Muslim Community Center.  Her passion, meticulous attention for details, and drive to create more equity in this world are clearly obvious. I’m not just proud of Saleha alone. I’m proud of America. I’m proud of how we each can make a difference in America.”

Reflecting CTU’s strong commitment to interreligious dialogue and understanding, the opening prayer was offered by Rabbi Rachel Mikva of Chicago Theological Seminary; Alia Bilal of Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), and Mary Ellen Knuth, director of the CTU lay formation program.

An impassioned endorsement of Saleha for Chaplain Candidacy came from Safaa Zarzour, Vice President, of the Islamic Society of North America and Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad, Chaplain, Islamic Society of North America. Citing the historic nature of the day, Zarzour commented, “I have witnessed instances and places where the presence of a Muslim chaplain played a role in creating bridges and perhaps even erasing some stereotypes and misconceptions.  We were proud to be the first endorsing agency of the very first Muslim chaplain in the US Army, and today we are a hundred million times more proud to be the first agency to endorse the very first female Muslim chaplain in the Air Force!”

Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad thanked CTU for having the “moral courage to have an inter religious program second to none.” He continued, “We need more CTUs in this world to bring hearts and minds together.”  “As a chaplain myself for nearly 30 years I can give open testimony that being a chaplain is actually the work of the prophets because we don’t just represent our own faith group but we represent humanity itself.  And as a representative of humanity, a chaplain must be prepared to deal with sometimes the most difficult and challenging human circumstances, and we have to be able and willing to make many sacrifices.”

The program concluded with a joyful feast of Middle Eastern foods enjoyed by all present. The commissioning of one of our own students, Lieutenant Saleha Jabeen, demonstrates a remarkable story of hope, in stark contrast to the division and strife on display across the globe.  CTU is humbled to be a part of this important milestone, an expression of the Catholic Church’s own strong commitment to promoting respect and harmony among the world’s religions. 

To view a video of the event go to