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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Emmannuelle (Eman) was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. She is a proud child of Haitian immigrants. Eman is the Convert Care Coordinator at Rabata and a graduate of Rabata’s Ribaat Academic Institute where she obtained her Ribaat Islamic Studies Teacher Certification in 2022 under the mentorship of Shayka Dr. Tamara Gray.
In addition to being a Ribaat graduation, she is the Chapter Lead for the Rabata Toronto Chapter where she strives to bring Rabata’s ethos of positive cultural change to her local community. Eman also serves in the steering committee for Black Canadian Muslims, a non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance the lives of Black Canadian Muslims of the African diaspora by reviving a sense of community based on Islamic principles, education, art, and support.
Eman resides in Toronto with her two beloved children and husband. She is currently working on completing her masters degree in Pastoral Studies with a Certification in Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy at the University of Toronto.
Asma Alam was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. She graduated at the top of her class with a Bachelors of Science in Biology from York University while concurrently completing a 2.5 year Arabic language curriculum at the Shariah Program. After moving to the US, Asma continued her pursuit of sacred knowledge at the Institute of Islamic Education in Elgin, Illinois, where she received merit awards in both Arabic and Hadith memorization.
Asma combined her interests in Science and Linguistics by recently completing a second Bachelors in Communication Disorders & Deaf Education with the intent to complete a Masters in Speech & Language Pathology.
Asma has been studying under the tutelage of Anse Dr. Tamara Gray since 2012, while continuing her Islamic Studies coursework at the Ribaat Academic Institute. The work and mission of Rabata is very close to Asma’s heart. She has been a dedicated volunteer and Arabic language instructor, and is grateful to contribute in this role as Arabic Program Coordinator.
May Gaafar was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt. Her family immigrated to Canada while in her early teens. She holds a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Biochemistry. Her studies of the intricacies of nature sparked a deeper love for Allah and His creation. She began to deepen her Islamic knowledge and studied under Anse Hazar Mahayni and Anse Maissa Malki while in Canada.
Since 2013, May has been pursuing her Islamic studies education at the Ribaat Academic Institute under the tutelage of Dr. Tamara Gray. She is now the Registrar and Coordinator at Ribaat.
May now lives in Houston, TX with her husband and 4 children. She is an avid volunteer in her community, at her kid’s elementary school and her local masjid. She leads a local halaqa for middle school girls and Girl Scouts of America troop. She enjoys putting things together from lego sets, to 1000+ piece puzzles, to Ikea furniture.
Fara Rasiman was born and raised in beautiful Malaysia. Her past works include working in startups, biotech, sustainable energy, e-commerce, nonprofit, creatives, and more, but her passion lies in volunteering or working on community projects. She has been volunteering for the past 15 years and started her journey with Rabata as a volunteer. She also currently serves as the Social Media Coordinator at Rabata. Outside of Rabata, she also co-founded and runs a community project at Sisters’ Halaqah, a sisterhood group for Muslim women to gather and have weekly halaqa sessions together and more. All whilst pursuing lifelong-learning of beneficial knowledge or ‘ilm under the guidance of many amazing and supportive teachers including those at Ribaat Academic Institute. She believes that when it comes to Islamic knowledge, everyone has the potential and should strive to be both student and teacher, which is why Rabata stood out to her, with the women of Rabata not only pursuing scholarly Islamic studies but also working on educating the next generation Muslims at the same time. To be a part of this beautiful team and organization, and to contribute to the work that is being done here is an honor and a blessing that she is very grateful to Allah SWT for.
Anse ‘Alimatunnisa Abdul Ghani was born and raised in Singapore. She studied Arabic and Islamic sciences at Madrasah Wak Tanjong Al-Islamiah for 12 years. Afterwards, she traveled to Damascus, Syria once completing her GCE A-Level to pursue her bachelor’s degree from Abu Al Nour University in the Faculty of Islamic Da’wa. Anse ‘Alimah spent four years in Damascus, Syria and one year in Beirut, Lebanon learning from various scholars, both male and female. She considers Damascus her hometown; a place where she found profound spirituality and amazing upbringing. She is now back in her home country Singapore and enjoys sharing the gems she has gained from her teachers with her community. She has experience in teaching Islam to students of various ages and backgrounds, including students with learning differences such as Autism, Down Syndrome and ADHD. She enjoys working with youth and adults alike – those who are new to Islam or learning more about the sacred sciences. Anse Alimah is one of the beloved instructors and tajwid teachers at Ribaat.
Maryam Chahine is a Wisconsin native who has lived in Florida and Oregon during her youth and around the world as an adult, including South Africa, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates. She hails from an African-American and Palestinian background. She graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Arts and Science and studied some introductory level Islamic science courses online through Ribaat, SeekersGuidance and Qibla, and on the ground in Amman, Jordan where she lived for over 10 years.
Maryam has joined Rabata as a Publishing Assistant and feels blessed to be a part of a beautiful global community of uplifting and inspiring women from diverse backgrounds and experiences.
Besides a passion for traveling, nature, animals and her favorite Turkish historical series Ertugrul, Maryam loves words and has published some of her poems and a flash fiction short story through online literary journals. She currently resides in a lovely small town in Bursa, Turkey with her husband and many plants.
Walaa Abas was born in Damascus Syria, where she earned her degree in chemistry from the university of Damascus. She later moved to Istanbul with her husband and two children where she started a career in teaching English and science. She enjoys learning languages, coffee, and spending time with her friends and family .
Hagar was born in Alexandria, Egypt and immigrated to Columbus, Ohio with her family in 2000. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Design with a major in Industrial Design from The Ohio State University, a Teaching Certification from Ohio Department of Education, as well as TESOL/TESL/TEFL Certification from Oxford Seminars. In 2011, she had the opportunity to study in Hong Kong, China for two months for IDO (International Design Opportunity) with The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. In addition, she has nine years of professional design experience and has been volunteering and teaching (primarily Islamic Studies) for about 13 years. She had the honor to work with students from early elementary to high school age in formal and non-formal teaching settings.
Hagar has launched her own Graphic Design business to help business owners and organizations bring their visions to life. She is extremely passionate about serving the greater Muslim community with the skills she possess.
Besides her passion for teaching and graphic design, she also pursues freelance photography whenever she gets a chance. Hagar enjoys hiking, trying out diverse dishes, reading self help books, and spending quality time with family and friends.
Taouba is an Algerian-born, Saskatchewan-raised community activist, documentary photographer, and filmmaker, of Berber Indigenous descent. Through her camera lens, she has had the opportunity of witnessing human struggle, strength, and spirit. Her interest lies in using storytelling to enrich communities and engage citizens. She currently lives in Canada, but her heart lives around the world.
Salma was born and raised in Minnesota, and is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota where she studied African American & African Studies. After graduating in 2020, she enrolled at Qalam and is now in the Ālamiyyah program. She also serves on the board of Strive Sisterhood as the Executive Assistant. In her free time, Salma enjoys reading, exploring nature, and scrapbooking.
Dr. Anna-Maria Ramezanzadeh is a language researcher and curriculum developer with a wealth of experience and expertise in the field of Arabic language studies. She received her doctorate in Education, specializing in Arabic Applied Linguistics, from the University of Oxford, along with her MSc in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition, and a Bachelor’s degree in Arabic and Persian. She is currently working at the University of Oxford’s Department of Education, conducting a review of existing research on the teaching and learning of the Arabic language, having also produced research for the British Council and the AHRC Creative Multilingualism project.
She has taught Arabic at undergraduate and graduate levels at the University of Oxford, as well as the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and the Department for Continuing Education. Dr. Ramezanzadeh is currently working with Rabata to develop the Ribaat Arabic Language Program with the aim of producing an engaging, effective, and accessible curriculum for those wishing to use the language to access sacred sources.