“The Spotlight” brings to light the stories of Muslim women of the past and present. In this instalment, we explore the rising tide of female scholarship through the success story of the Ribaat Academic Institute.
Bringing Women to the Surface of Scholarship
In commitment to improving our communities by fighting for leadership that is more representative of the people it serves, a new wave of women scholarship is rising. This throws new light on traditional roles for women within the Islamic scholastic tradition, suggesting new ways to think about gender, leadership and community in contemporary Islamic societies. Founded by Shaykha Dr Tamara Gray in 2013, the Ribaat Academic Institute is one such training ground for diverse Muslim women from all over the world to learn Islamic Sciences, Arabic and Tajwid from women scholars. After eight years of operation, the institute has finally produced its first set of graduands.
Shaykha Dr Tamara Gray: Building a Legacy
Shaykha Dr Tamara Gray is the founder of the Ribaat Academic Institute, which operates under the umbrella of Rabata, an organization dedicated to promoting positive cultural change through creative educational experiences for Muslim women. Based in Minnesota where she enjoys coffee, the seasons, and her grandchildren, she holds a doctorate in leadership from the University of St. Thomas, a master’s degree in Curriculum Theory and Instruction from Temple University, and spent twenty years studying traditional and classical Islamic sciences, Quran, and Arabic in Damascus, Syria. She is the Executive Director and Chief Spirituality Officer of Rabata where her work includes the daily nitty-gritty of project design as well as the support and mentorship of thousands of women around the world. She teaches a variety of courses in the Islamic Sciences at the Ribaat Academic Institute since its inception in 2013
Shaykha Dr Tamara Gray worked in the field of education for twenty-five years before moving into the non-profit world. She is an author, translator, and public speaker. Her most recent book, Project Lina: Bringing our Whole Selves to Islam is a manual for converts at every stage of the path. She is a co-translator of Mukhtasir al-Jami’ fi al-Sīra al-Nabawiyya by Samīra Zayid [Compendium of the Collection of Sources on al-Sīra al-Nabawiyya], and her book, Joy Jots: Exercises for a Happy Heart, is in its second print. Shaykha Dr Tamara Gray is often engaged to speak about issues of gender, leadership, Islam, and spirituality; locally, nationally and globally. Some of her platforms have included, the International Leadership Association, the World Parliament of Religions, the Islamic Society of North America and several universities, including Princeton, Virginia Tech and Oxford University.
She is a member of the Fiqh Council of North America, academic council of The Islamic Seminary of America, and board member of the Collegeville Institute’s Inter-religious Fellows Program, which works to develop educational programming for faith leaders around social justice issues.
By Women, For Women – The Ribaat Academic Institute
The Ribaat Academic Institute is an academic program that offers a comprehensive curriculum of courses in traditional Islamic Sciences, the Arabic language, and the Tajwid of the Holy Quran to women around the world. The program is designed to provide Muslim women with a solid foundation in the Islamic Sciences, partly as a response to the lack of available programs that cater to women in particular and which provide a comprehensive curriculum covering the full range of Islamic Sciences. The aim of the program is to graduate scholars and da’iyas prepared to educate others, as well as to provide independent classes for those not seeking certification.
The Institute is blessed with a dedicated and illuminated array of female scholars who are qualified in various Islamic sciences and secular studies. These scholars include Shaykha Marah Dahman from Syria, Shaykha Rydanah Dahman from Syria, Shaykha Maha Hamoui from the Middle East, Shaykha Raghad Bushnaq from Syria, Shaykha Randa Mardini, Shaykha Zainab Ansari from the Middle East and Damascus, Shaykha Dahlia Kaswani from Syria, Shaykha Sana Mohiuddin from Canada, Shaykha Shehnaz Karim from Syria, Shaykha Safiyyah Salaam from New York, Shaykha Maryam Sharrieff from the United States, Shaykha Najiyah Maxfield from Canada, Shaykha Rukayat Yaqub, a British-American from Nigeria, Shaykha Hadia Zarzour from the United States, Shaykha ‘Alimatunnisa Abdul Ghani from Singapore, Shaykha Ola Habbab from Syria, Shaykha Saadia Mian from the United States, Shaykha Maryam Salman from Damascus, Shaykha Nisreen Al Jallad from Damascus, Shaykha Diala Lababidi from the United Arab Emirates, Shaykha Lina Jammal from the United States, Shaykha Anna Maria-Ramzy from the United Kingdom, Shaykha Raghad Al-Sayyid from Damascus, Shaykha Nishat Aisha Lal from Wales, Shaykha Salmah Asghar from London, Shaykha Liana Reading, Shaykha Abeer Aborshaed from Madinah, Shaykha Nadia Salma from Pakistan, Shaykha Asma Alam from Canada, Shaykha Aisha Maarrawi from the United Arab Emirates and Shaykha Nazish Mithaiwala from the United States.
The Ribaat Academic Institute: Class of 2020
Having fulfilled all the requirements for the Ribaat Teacher Certification, sixteen women from diverse parts of the world graduated from the Ribaat Academic Institute. These women include Hafsa Abdul-Hakeem from New Jersey, United States, Zaina Abukhdeir from Texas, United States, Dr Sana Shireen Ahmed from Illinois, United States, Tina Ismail Amir from Selangor, Malaysia, Jennifer Leigh Crooker from Michigan, United States, Maha Gaafar from Texas, United States, May Gaafar from Texas, United States, Dr Amena Hakim from London, United Kingdom, Dr Linda Mahairi Hamadeh from Illinois, United States, Afshan Mehboob Malik from Texas, United States and Fadiyah Rafiq Mian from New Jersey, United States.
TMWT is an online media platform spotlighting the stories of Muslim women of the past and present. We aim to be one of the most authoritative and informative guides to what is happening in the world of Muslim women. We hope to cover key issues, spark debates, progressive ideas and provocative topics to get the Muslim world talking. We want to set agendas and explore ideas to improve the lives and wellbeing of Muslim Women.