Student of the Month – July

Heather Elsayed is currently living in Houston, Texas, and was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is an entrepreneur, a certified fitness instructor, and spiritual life coach with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing and minor in Women’s Studies. Heather volunteers to teach fitness and nutrition to senior women as well as provide a variety of personal growth workshops for teen girls and women. She also offers interfaith workshops for a safe space of learning and asking questions.

After moving to Houston in 2015, Heather looked for ways to meet other local Muslim sisters. She attended the Daybreak Press Literary Conference and later became a student with Ribaat in 2019. 

“I wanted to invest in my Islamic education but was not sure where to begin as I had a newborn and two young children that needed me,” shares Heather. “I waited on the sidelines until I finally took the first step with a writing course with Anse Najiyah Maxfield. It was everything I had hoped it would be as I reignited my passion to write. A fire was lit from within and keeps burning brighter with each new class I take.”

Despite being a fairly recent student, Heather feels that she has been with Ribaat much longer. She attributes that to the inclusive community of women from around the world and all phases of life. She also believes the education she is receiving has enlightened her to become deeply rooted and empowered in her faith and has given her a sense of belonging.   

“As a convert to Islam, I compare my first years [as a Muslim] to that of the developmental years of infancy,” Heather recalls. “I could barely crawl, but I felt the expectations of those around me and the expectations I put on myself were to run at an accelerated speed, as I was an adult woman. I felt isolated and incredibly misunderstood, struggling to find a space of learning that would be gracious in my shortcomings as I navigated who ‘Heather the Muslim’ was.”

Then Heather read the book Project Lina: Bringing Our Whole Selves to Islam by Dr. Tamara Gray and Anse Najiyah Maxfield and found it to be extremely relatable and life-changing. She also found perspective and insight through Ribaat’s Companions of the Prophet (s) course, as she learned of the companions who embraced Islam and faced their own struggles as they formed a community of support for one another.

“These were stories I had never heard before but was now able to share with others, especially amongst my convert friends.” says Heather. “It is my passion to bring awareness to those who may not otherwise have an opportunity to learn or not sure who to turn to for guidance. Ribaat provides a space for Muslim women to come and learn from one another while uplifting, supporting and motivating each other. As I advance in my studies, I am continuously challenged by new concepts and learning outside my scope of knowledge. I am humbled by how much there is still to learn.”

In her free time, Heather likes to bake, exercise, travel, and write poetry. She can be found drinking coffee in coffee shops, shopping at the farmer’s market, or going on adventures with her four children.

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