we are aminah assilmi
Every year, Rabata honors the legacy of a Muslim woman who has worked to create positive cultural change in our communities. This year, we are celebrating Aminah Assilmi (1945 – 2010).
Aminah Assilmi was a creative educator, community leader, positive cultural change agent, protector of women and children, and upholder of family ties, whose projects spanned the United States and Europe. She pioneered the Muslim American identity by successfully lobbying for the unprecedented United States Eid postage stamp, commemorating the Muslim holiday. Aminah Assilmi was someone who called others to Islam and elevated the Muslim woman. She was the embodiment of bringing your whole self to Islam, and this year Rabata commemorates her legacy with this award series.
We will recognize one nominee in each of five categories for his or her contributions to their community that demonstrate what it means to live like Aminah Assilmi today.
Protector of Women and Children
Aminah Assilmi was committed to helping women and children in vulnerable situations. She worked with numerous international organizations to expose and prosecute war crimes committed during the Bosnian War.
Mrs. Dorria Fahmy was a volunteer for the Passaic County Women’s Center in Paterson and a Domestic Violence Response Team (DVRT) member for her local police precinct. While working full-time at a local hospital, she realized that victims of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent felt reluctant to leave their abusers in fear of being re-victimized by going to a place where they would not be able to acclimate.
She is the founder of Wafa House which works to preserve and strengthen the family through intervention and education. Wafa House is a Muslim-led organization serving women & children who have been survivors of domestic violence. For 19 years, the organization has provided emergency financial assistance, counseling, temporary housing and hope for a better day to come to many families.
Mrs. Dorria Fahmy is a pillar in her community. She is a beloved mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, mentor, and friend to many.
She has dedicated her life to the most disenfranchised and marginalized people in her community. Her time, energy, and passion have been invested in Wafa House, and through this, Mrs. Dorria Fahmy served and saved many lives.
As a public speaker and journalist, Aminah Assilimi used her talents to connect with other Muslims, bring our Ummah closer together, and share information about Islam on mainstream platforms in a positive way.
Sister Okolo Rashid was born in Mississippi, the daughter of sharecroppers, and grew up in America’s turbulent era of overt racism and segregation. She has, thus, been a life-long advocate of human dignity, social and economic justice, and racial harmony.
After graduating from Hinds Junior College (now Hinds Community College) in 1970, among the handful of African Americans who integrated it, and earning degrees in economics and public policy at Tougaloo College and Jackson State University, respectively, Sister Okolo has had a varied career.
A community activist, organizer, and historic preservation advocate, she has worked primarily with inner-city communities and grassroots organizations, for much of her life. Sister Okolo is currently President and Co-founder of the International Museum of Muslim Cultures (IMMC). She is also the founder and director of IMMC’s Islamic Thought Institute. IMMC is American’s first Muslim Museum, which opened in Jackson, Mississippi, April 2001. It was through Sister Okolo’s vision that IMMC was born—a vision that comprises activism and an inclusive world view where human dignity, individual worth, and freedom are core values.
In January 2004, Sister Okolo and her husband, Sababu, traveled to the Republic of Mali, West Africa, where they negotiated a partnership with the Mamma Haidara Memorial Library of Timbuktu. Through this partnership, they were successful in bringing back ancient manuscripts from Timbuktu for the groundbreaking international, one-of-a-kind Legacy of Timbuktu Exhibition, to Jackson, Mississippi, and America.
Sister Okolo and Sababu are very active in the Metro Jackson Islamic and interfaith communities. Sister Okolo was featured in two books: The Face Behind the Veil: The Extraordinary Lives of Muslim Women in America, by Donna Gekrke-White in 2006; and Liberating Minds Liberating Society: Black Women in the Development of American Culture and Society, edited by Lopez D. Matthews, Jr. and Kenvi C. Phillips in 2014.
Living through Mississippi’s turbulent ‘60s, it was in 1976 that Sister Okolo and Sababu embraced Islam and have sought to live out their faith among family, friends, and neighbors, embracing many faith traditions. They have four children: a son, Ismail; three daughters: Khadijah, Maryam, and Aseelah; ten grandchildren, and a great-grandson and daughter.
Positive Cultural Change Agent
Aminah Assilmi stood bravely, lived courageously, and upheld her values proudly as she brought her whole self to Islam. She was someone who embodied the Quran and Sunnah as she engaged with her community and the people around her.
Dr. Shariq A. Siddiqui is an Assistant Professor of Philanthropic Studies and Director of the Muslim Philanthropy Initiative at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Shariq has a Ph.D. and M.A. in Philanthropic Studies from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. He also has a JD from the McKinney School of Law at Indiana University and holds a B.A. in History from the University of Indianapolis.
Shariq authors research on Muslim philanthropy and the Muslim nonprofit sector. He has co-authored two books: Islamic Education in the United States and the Evolution of Muslim Nonprofit Institutions which received the ARNOVA Book Prize, and Philanthropy in the Muslim World. He also has three additional books that are under contract. Shariq also serves as the co-editor of the Journal of Muslim Philanthropy and Civil Society and as the Series Editor of the Muslim Philanthropy and Civil Society Book Series.
Previously, Shariq served as the Executive Director of Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA). ARNOVA is a leading international association that connects scholars, teachers, and practice leaders in research on nonprofit organizations, voluntary action, philanthropy and civil society.
Upholder of Family Ties & Relationships
When Aminah Assilmi converted to Islam, her family made her life very difficult. She worked to change child custody laws in Colorado so that she could maintain joint custody of her child despite following a different religion. By keeping her faith strong, she was able to change both her family’s hearts and state custody laws. Nominate someone you know who works diligently to keep family ties and relationships!
Chaplain Zamir Hussain is a UK-based Muslim Healthcare Chaplain since 2007 and a qualified teacher. She holds an Honours degree in Islamic studies and PGCE in Religious Education as well as a Certificate of Muslim Chaplaincy. She is also a qualified hijama therapist, and life coach. She has several publications, including a palliative care booklet and books for bereaved Muslim parents and siblings.
Chaplain Zamir has led multi-faith resources and books for Healthcare Chaplaincy, as well as developed spiritual care activities for sick children and their families. She created the first UK blended learning resource, which includes, virtual rooms online training programme, care plans and pathways for Islamic daily, palliative, end-of-life and bereavement care for paediatric staff.
Chaplain Zamir has worked as a Muslim Chaplain for both the Heart of England NHS Trust and Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital where she has run training courses for staff on caring for Muslim patients and their families. Chaplain Zamir has spoken at end-of-life and bereavement conferences and delivered training workshops and lectures on care for Muslim patients to organisations across the country.
Aminah Assilimi was a devoted and creative educator who spread awareness of Islam in mainstream America by leading the campaign to introduce the first ever Eid Stamp to the United States Postal Service.
Ms. Sophia Ahmad is a third-grade homeroom teacher, and a seasoned educator with a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction, a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, and a K-12 grade Reading Endorsement from Ashland University, along with a California teaching credential.
For nearly a decade, Sophia has been dedicated to teaching in an Islamic School in California and has found this to be a fulfilling journey. Her teaching approach revolves around creating a student-centered environment, fostering a sense of community in the classroom, and igniting a curiosity that fuels continuous learning.
With 5 years of experience specifically in third grade, she has developed a deep appreciation for the unique challenges and rewards that come with this age group. Sophia finds their enthusiasm and growth a source of meaningful experience in the classroom.
In addition to her professional career, she is the proud parent to 14-year-old twins and the caretaker of Kobe – her lion-head bunny, whom she often calls her “fur-child.” Beyond the classroom, Sophia finds joy in hiking, singing, gardening, cooking, appreciating sunsets, indulging in sushi, exploring photography, and relishing moments by the ocean.