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 has worked in the field for over 15 years 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 close 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.
Mary Schmidt is the Store Manager for Daybreak Bookstore in Minneapolis, MN. She brings to her work a life-long love of literature as well as a background in English, rhetoric, and writing. She can often be found pondering the nuances of life, petting cute critters, and munching on interesting snacks.
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.