After becoming a mother, Zaina Abukhdeir felt she would not be able to seek knowledge as easily anymore. She tried attending different Islamic seminars and classes, but it was hard for her to focus with a baby. In the summer of 2018, she attended the Ribaat Growing Hope Tour in Dallas, Texas, and was inspired by the women she met. Zaina learned that Ribaat’s program is catered to women of all walks of life and is feasible at any stage. She then decided to enroll as a student along with her mother and has taken seven classes thus far plus attended various seminars. Zaina feels blessed to have found an online learning platform with female scholars, and it has even helped her connect more with her mother despite their distance.
“I wanted the experience of studying under a teacher without sacrificing the time I have with my little ones,” shares Zaina, who is a mother of two now. “I had considered other online programs, but I didn’t think it was doable while my kids are still young. After attending the tour in Dallas and meeting personally with Anse Tamara Gray and some Ribaat students, I felt like they understood. They even had a skit where they acted out different scenarios of women being too busy to continue Islamic education. At that moment, I knew I could be part of something bigger.”
Seeking traditional knowledge has always been a priority for Zaina, who originally grew up in Colorado Springs and studied math, secondary education, and Arabic. Community is also important to her, so Zaina would volunteer as a youth leader as well as lead halaqas for the women in her small town. This is what drew her to Dallas: the large community aspect and the ability to continue studying Arabic formally.
“I have always wanted to learn, but my knowledge has been so limited,” Zaina says. “I thought Islam was listening to online lectures and searching for answers on the Internet. The Prophet Muhammad (s) spread Islam as people came in his presence. His light spread from the Companions to our pious predecessors all the way down to our Ribaat teachers. Listening to them and seeing them on my computer gives me access to that same light. My current teachers and admins give me hope and remind me why I am who I am. They are mothers, daughters, wives, professionals and contributing members of their communities. They embody the true essence of Islam.”
Zaina states that she is working towards an Alima certificate through Ribaat, no matter how long it takes her. She also hopes to become a volunteer for Rabata and be part of potentially starting a future chapter in Dallas. She has even appreciated the virtual community she has found through Ribaat.
“I love communicating, learning, and rooting for all these other women in class with me,” tells Zaina. “I just wish I can meet all these inspiring ladies one day. It reminds me of a saying in Arabic that Anse Marah Dahman mentioned to us: the distance is the distance of the hearts, not the distance of the lands.”