June 2021 Ribaat Student of the Month – Sadaf Syed
Originally born in Chicago, Sadaf Syed grew up in Saudi Arabia and California, and returned to Chicago after marriage. She is a mom of two teens, a boy and a girl, and works as a professional photographer. As a child, Sadaf travelled with her family across the world exploring different cultures and religions. Having lived in such diverse communities throughout her adolescence, Sadaf developed an appreciation for the similarities and differences in people’s upbringings and traditions. She describes using her camera as her ‘pen’ and a responsibility she does not take lightly: shattering stereotypes by documenting people’s individuality, beliefs, and rituals in order to educate others.
In 2012 Sadaf was introduced to Ribaat by her sister-in-law Tayyaba Syed. Since then, Sadaf has taken one class every year that focuses on the Sīra.
“It has helped increase my love for Prophet Muhammad (S),” shares Sadaf. “I am gaining so much beneficial knowledge from Ribaat, as it makes us dive deep into our religion and come out knowing and loving Allah and His Beloved Messenger (S) with so much more appreciation.”
Sadaf hopes to eventually complete the Ribaat Teacher Certification and is now enrolled as a full-time student. She feels grateful for the resources and female scholarship that Ribaat provides.
“The teachers and virtual suhba (companionship) is amazing,” Sadaf says. “I am learning my faith from the inside out as well as its laws and [proper] practice through reading and memorizing and learning our history and relating it to current events. Throughout this learning process, there are also weekly reflections on personal growth.”
Sadaf is a recipient of the Daybreak Book Award for her photo documentary book on hijab called iCover: a Day in the Life of a Muslim-American Covered Girl. She is now working on her second book, creatively using the knowledge she has gained from Ribaat.
“Once I complete my Ribaat certification insha’Allah, my goal is to continue to merge both my love of Islam and art for Allah’s sake,” Sadaf plans. “We all learn differently. I personally am a visual learner, and that is the way I hope to impact people’s hearts with this knowledge. Maybe one day I can introduce creativity and the spiritual path as a class at Ribaat and teach that to teens and adults alike. I found my voice through photography and art and would love to share the same platform to elevate the voices of [others]. Thank you again for this nomination. May Allah continue to bless Ribaat, their faculty, and students with aafiya and barakah. Ameen.”