Student of the Month – May

Shannon Zapata went from knocking on doors as a Jehovah’s Witness to accepting Islam in 2015. A Puerto Rican single mom to a 12-year-old son, Shannon resides in Teaneck, New Jersey, and works as a school nurse for the New York City Department of Education.

At the start of the pandemic, Shannon was looking for a safe online space to continue learning about her faith and began taking classes with Ribaat in 2020. She had originally heard Dr. Tamara Gray speak at a convert conference and liked her ‘real-world application of Islam’ and how down-to-earth she seemed. 

“What truly drew me to Rabata/Ribaat is the emphasis on empowering women through educating them in sacred knowledge,” shares Shannon, who originally felt frustrated not having any female scholars as role models in her life. “It’s not easy to take advantage of a woman who is educated in her religious rights. She knows what is her true worth in the eyes of Allah.”

In Shannon’s experience thus far, she has found Ribaat’s online institution to be very professional. She appreciates the responsiveness of the volunteers and staff and especially admires the strength, confidence and grace of her teachers. 

“These teachers have become spiritual examples for me,” Shannon says. “I am not just impressed with their vast knowledge but with how each teacher brings her own unique personality and specialty to her students. They are all my favorites! The classes are challenging yet immensely rewarding.”

Shannon recalls being at a very low point emotionally and spiritually when she first began taking Ribaat courses. At the time, she was facing self-doubt in what it means to be ‘a true Muslimah’ but decided to immerse herself in knowledge and strengthen her relationship with her Creator.

“Each class has corrected any incorrect thinking I had about my religion and improved my character,” notes Shannon. “After every class I complete, I feel I am integrating Islam fully into my life without compromising my personality.”  

Going forward, Shannon hopes to continue on her Arabic journey and attributes her recent progress to Anse Nishat Lal. In the fall, she plans to work on improving her Quranic tajwid and Arabic grammar. Shannon states that she wants to eventually help other convert women avoid the struggles she has faced over the years and become a volunteer for Rabata’s Convert Care program.

Aside from working and studying, Shannon likes to perform hijama for women, read and write poetry, and take walks in nature with her son. She enjoys karaoke and Shakespeare and wants to own a little beachside café when she retires.

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