Al-Muslimat Celebrated 30 Years at Very Wellesley Weekend
In 1988, Farhana Khera ’91 and some of her fellow students founded Al-Muslimat (“the Muslim women”) at Wellesley to share their faith and foster a sense of community. At the time, there were barely a few dozen Muslim students on campus.
Over the years, Al-Muslimat (ALM) has grown from a few friends gathering to break Ramadan fasts to encompass a diverse membership representing a wide variety of countries and cultures, an elected executive board of 15 members, and robust programming including lectures, discussions, and social events. Open to women from all backgrounds and all religious and spiritual traditions, the student-led organization advocates for the needs of a diverse Muslim community as well as for multifaith understanding.
For many students and alumnae, Al-Muslimat events provided their first encounter with Muslim women from such a wide range of backgrounds. “Coming from a small Islamic [K-12] school, ALM gave me the space I needed to see a bit of myself reflected on campus,” said Ikhlas Saleem ’11, co-creator with Makkah Ali ’10 of the podcast Identity Politics. “For many of us, it was the first time we had encountered the diversity of the Muslim experience, while also learning how to navigate and present Muslim identity in a predominantly white institution. Over the years, ALM has worked to create a more welcoming community for each new class of Muslim students to come just as they are and contemplate where they would like to be.”
Saleem spoke at ALM’s 30th anniversary event on October 14, where current students and alumnae came together to celebrate the contributions of Al-Muslimat to Muslim life on campus. Featured speakers also included Ali and Khera, who is the founder of Muslim Advocates, a legal advocacy and educational organization.
While Al-Muslimat has come a long way in the last 30 years, it’s not resting on its laurels. “As co-president of ALM, I am excited to make my own impact on Muslim life at Wellesley,” said Lyba Khan ’20. “[Thanks to] the achievements of alums, we now have a [prayer] space, a community, a chaplain, and more of a voice.”
As ALM continues to advocate for a social and cultural space on campus and more halal dining options, especially during the month of Ramadan, which this year falls during finals, senior week, and commencement, it also hopes to promote a more inclusive environment for all Wellesley students.
“This group created for and by students has become a central part of the Wellesley experience, providing a community for students to explore not only their faith, but who they are and want to become,” said Tiffany Steinwert, dean of religious and spiritual life. “Nurtured over the years by hundreds of women, it has become a place for women to grow in faith and in leadership.”
"I helped coordinate this event with ORSL because I believe knowing the history of institutions like Al-Muslimat, and the stories of the people who founded and sustain them, are important," said Amira Quraishi, Wellesley's Muslim chaplain and advisor to ALM. "This is a big part of feeling a sense of belonging and appreciation for the values of Wellesley College—to minister unto—which empower women to serve others with their insights and unique backgrounds. In this case, it is the Muslim students in particular, and the College in general, who continue to benefit from the establishment of Al-Muslimat."
Quraishi is one of a handful of women Muslim chaplains in the country.
To learn more about Al-Muslimat’s current programs and events, please see the group’s Facebook page.
Photo: Wellesley students and alumnae celebrate the 30th anniversary of Al-Muslimat at Wellesley. [From left to right] Sarah Moinuddeen '19, Sidikha Ashraf '19, Nusrat Jahan ’16, Faiza Aslam '19, Misbah Aslam ’13, Tahani Chaudhry ’16, and Zainab Jafiq '20