Philadelphia may be known as the City of Brotherly Love but on a rainy night last week, it also became a place of female empowerment from what some may deem the most unlikely of places, a Masjid nestled in a small corner of the city.
Philadelphia native Rahmah A. Abdulaleem Esq. is looking to educate people about Muslim females who serve as role models. As executive director of Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, she has made it her life’s goal to empower women, especially the women of her faith.
The organization’s name Karamah comes from an Arabic term meaning dignity. Karamah’s vision and mission are influenced by the view that a just society values the informed participation of its members through the pursuit of knowledge, access to opportunities, and equity among all “children of Adam”, regardless of gender or other differences. One of the ways they are working to advance that goal is through an annual Law and Leadership Summer Program.
Each year, Karamah’s summer program brings together a select group of women from across the globe to study and learn from each other as well as top professors from a variety of fields.
The three-week-long program focuses on three core areas of expertise — Islamic law, conflict resolution and leadership. The program is headquartered in Washington, D.C. but this year’s program included a very important stop here in Philadelphia. The Masjidullah Mosque, in West Oak Lane, embodies many of the ideas explored throughout the summer program.
“It’s really important for women to see communities where women have a place in the Masjid. That’s something that we stress and we wanted to give them a real-life example. Seeing a Masjid where women are on the board is huge,” Abdulaleem said.
Karamah’s summer program included participants from Philadelphia and from around the world. They hailed from Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Kenya, France, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Texas, Georgia, Virginia and Ohio.
East Falls resident Salima Suswell learned a lot about herself and her city through the program.
“I appreciate being a Philadelphian more. We have people from different parts of the world here and they are very excited to experience the rich history that comes with this city,” she said.
The day of sightseeing and learning ended with a bit of community. The West Oak Lane Masjid hosted the group for an evening of dinner and conversation. Masjidullah’s Imam Muhammad Abdul-Aleem beamed with pride as he spoke of the projects and accomplishments of women in his community, including his own daughter Rahmah A. Abdulaleem Esq., the leader of the delegation. He wanted the women to leave Philadelphia knowing that the Muslim faith is one of inclusion and stands with them in their endeavors.
He said, “How can anyone build anything based on denying their mother, sister or daughter their rights? Too often the image is seen that Muslim women are not empowered by Islam,” he said. “I want you to know that you are the future. You can and should have a leadership role in Islam.”