Anse Dr. Tamara Gray is the founder of Rabata, an organization dedicated to promoting positive cultural change through creative educational experiences. 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.
Dr. Gray worked in the field of education for twenty-five years before moving into the non-profit world. She is now both the Executive Director of Rabata and its Chief Spirituality Officer. Her work includes the daily nitty gritty of project design as well as the support and mentorship of hundreds of women around the world.
Dr. Gray is also an author, translator, and public speaker. Her publications range from several culturally appropriate English language curriculum programs to translations of sacred texts. Dr. Tamara’s most recent work is the translation of Mukhtasir al-Jami’ fi al-Sīra al-Nabawiyya by Samīra Zayid [Compendium of the Collection of Sources on al-Sīra al-Nabawiyya] (Co-translator). Her book, Joy Jots: Exercises for a Happy Heart, is in its second print. Dr. 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 sits on the board of the Collegeville Institute’s Inter-religious Fellows Program, working to develop educational programming for faith leaders around social justice issues and on the academic council of The Islamic Seminary of America where she is also a faculty member. She serves as a council member at the Fiqh Council of North America and Senior Fellow at the Yaqeen Institute.
Dr. Gray lives in Minnesota where she enjoys coffee, the seasons, and her grandchildren.
Leila Anwar Pačariz was born and raised in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she still lives and works today.
She graduated from First Bosniak High school, first semi private religious gymnasium in Bosnia, and currently studies at the Faculty of Islamic Sciences in Sarajevo.
After more than 15 years of work in the humanitarian field, she now serves as the Operations Manager at Rabata. She enjoys making colorful spreadsheets and reading reports! 🙂
Leila also runs Rabata’s affiliate in Bosnia, a women’s association called Halka – which means a circle or the traditional Bosnian door opener. The name itself signifies the goals and priorities of Halka: Bringing people together and opening the door for everyone with good intention.
Since 2004, Leila has run Quran classes and has students that she is extremely proud of. They are not native Arabic speakers, but have a will of gold and strength of iron, successfully learning and studying the Book of God.
Leila is a single mother of two girls. Her eldest is studying to become an agricultural engineer and planning to help build back the economy of Bosnia. Her younger daughter is in school, working hard and dreaming of becoming a doctor of Sharia, to stand strong with Muslim women on the path of knowledge and independence.
Leila was introduced to Rabata during the Pilgrims at Home competition many years ago. Together with her friends and fellow Rabata and Ribaat enthusiasts from Bosnia, she hosted Anse Tamara Gray and a few of her students in Sarajevo in April 2018 – that’s when dreams started to come true.
Hanan Amaira is a native of Southern California who enjoys reading, hiking, and traveling. She holds a BA in Mass Communication and a Master of Science in Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations. She works in the field of communication and is passionate about sharing her knowledge through education and community work. She is currently the Youth Program Coordinator at Rabata, and is a strong advocate of promoting positive cultural change to Muslim teens and kids.
Aside from her work, Hanan enjoys cooking with her husband and three kids, and spending time with her family and friends. She also volunteers at local non-profits and spiritual groups and focuses on maintaining a balanced lifestyle through healthy eating and exercise.
Michelle Sekusky is an Ohio native who came to Islam nine years ago when a World Religions class led her to seek deeper knowledge. Soon after, facing some difficult life trials, she found peace in Islam and eventually embraced the faith. Michelle has been a student of Islamic knowledge under the tutelage of Anse Tamara Gray since 2013 with the Ribaat Academic Institute.
Michelle is also an accomplished songwriter and vocalist. Growing up in Akron, OH, she attended performing arts middle and high schools. From there she continued her studies in Virginia, where she toured the east coast performing classical repertoires. She not only loves to perform, but is an advocate and consumer of the arts. She enjoys traveling, spending time outdoors, reading, writing, and just spending time with people that she loves. Currently she serves as the Editorial Assistant for Daybreak Press Publishing, while also studying Arabic and Quran in Egypt.
Raghad al-Sayyid moved to Canada in 2012, hailing from Damascus, where she spent 15 years teaching ESL and Islamic courses such as the sīra and companions of the Prophet (s). When she arrived in North America, she put her language skills to good use tutoring Arabic. Raghad comes from a family that placed a high priority on learning about Arabic and developing beautiful character, and both of these traits make her the perfect fit for teaching Arabic.
Meeting Western Muslims in Canada and the US, and seeing their thirst for knowledge has inspired Raghad. “I get inspired every time I begin a relationship with a new student,” she says, “and I can’t wait to meet women from all over the world through Ribaat!”
Raghad built the Ribaat Arabic Conversation Program and continues to oversee this department. She has been teaching with Ribaat since its inception in 2013 and also serves as a full-time Settlement Worker in the Seven Oaks School Division in Winnipeg, Canada helping refugee and newcomer students and families.
Afshan Malik is a Chicago native turned southern belle who loves Dr. Pepper, afternoon naps, and historical novels. She holds a BA in English Language and Literature and an MA in Nonprofit Management. Afshan is excited to bring her interest in uplifting Muslim women to the work at the global nonprofit Rabata. She is currently the Director of Development at Rabata, working to amplify its mission of positive cultural change.
She is also in the first graduating class from the Ribaat Academic Program and continues to pursue additional Islamic studies certifications under the tutelage of Dr. Tamara Gray. Afshan is the calm eye of the storm in much of what life tosses her way and enjoys soaking up the Texas sun with her husband and five children. She is the author of Pieces, a story of a close-knit family dealing with the struggles of adolescence, mental illness, and change.
Najiyah Maxfield is the author of many articles, poems and short stories. Her young adult novel, Sophia’s Journal, is an award-winning time travel adventure. Anse Najiyah has taught English and history in the US and the Middle East.
She spent three years as the Managing Editor of Discover: The Magazine for Curious Muslim Kids, and is now head of publishing at Daybreak Press, Rabata’s non-profit publishing company. She lives in Hutchinson, Kansas where she kayaks in the summer, crochets in the winter, and plays “The Floor is Lava” with her four granddaughters year-round. Najiyah teaches two courses with Ribaat: “Public Speaking and Community Outreach” and “Creative Writing: Raising Muslim Women’s Voices”, in addition to leading Project Lina workshops and periodic webinars on the writing craft.
Eamaan Rabbat was raised in the United States and in Syria, where she benefited from renowned female teachers of the Islamic sciences, including tajwid, sirah, hadith, fiqh, and aqīdah. After moving to the United Arab Emirates, she earned her Bachelor’s in Mass Communications with concentrations in Advertising and Journalism and later earned a Master’s in Educational Leadership and Administration.
Since graduating university, she has dedicated her time to the education and upbringing of children and adults. She has held various positions in educational institutions and schools, and volunteered at various educational centers. She has been honored to serve as director of the Ribaat Academic Institute since its inception in Fall 2013 and presently serves as Rabata’s Education Director.
Maha Gaafar was born in Egypt and grew up in Canada. She is a graduate of Concordia University with a Political Science degree. Maha studied for 7 years under the teaching and guidance of Anse Hazar Mahayni, quenching her thirst for Islamic knowledge and spiritual upbringing, while enthusiastically dedicating herself to the needs of her local community. Maha has regularly taught at weekend Islamic schools and conducts youth halaqas for pre-teen and teenage girls. She also co-leads a local Girl Scouts of America troop.
In 2012, Maha began her journey with Rabata and continued her Islamic studies education at the Ribaat Academic Institute under the tutelage of Dr. Tamara Gray. She has the pleasure of being the Assistant Director at the Ribaat Academic Institute and is also the Rabata Project Manager, leading programs and supporting the growing list of Rabata chapters across the globe.
Maha currently resides in Houston, Texas with her husband and children. She is honored to bring Rabata’s mission of positive cultural change wherever she goes and hopes to uplift Muslim women and children to live with joy and faith.
Umeda Islamova was born in Khujand, Tajikistan and immigrated to Lincoln, Nebraska with her family in 1997. She received her Bachelor’s in Finance and Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Umeda grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and has extensive experience in business ranging from university commercialization and tech startup to retail and business consulting.
Umeda founded The Dua Journal, a global Islamic stationery brand as well as an Instagram community, in 2017, and this led her to the discovery of female scholarship and Anse Tamara Gray. Umeda joined the Ribaat Academic Institute in 2018 and became a Rabata volunteer in 2019. In Ramadan of 2021, she joined Rabata full-time as a Communications Manager.
Umeda and her husband have twin daughters and a son. She enjoys hot drinks, reading, deep conversations, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.