KHALIL ISMAIL is a creative director and award-winning independent artist and producer. He is the founder and manager of KI Creative Studios, which recently launched its new film directing component. Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Khalil was inspired from childhood to use creativity and grassroots initiatives to address the often harsh realities of life. This solution-driven vision continues to inspire his conscious music and community service work. A world-renowned musician and lyricist, Khalil Ismail has released six studio albums and is currently producing two additional albums. His music is enjoyed in more than 40 countries and has been licensed to major companies including Discovery Channel, PBS, the NBA (National Basketball Association), CBS Sports, Fox dramas, and Red Bull. His single “Knocking” charted number 3 on indie radio, and he won the Best Solo Artist award from Music Aid. He has also written jingles for advertisements and podcast theme songs. Khalil Ismail is a soul-stirring performer whose commitment to social responsibility and emotional honesty is reflected both on and off stage. “When I perform, I let go and let it flow from the heart,” he says. “I definitely do a lot of preparation before a show, but I also love the spontaneity that I get from the energy of the crowd and the symbiosis with my band.” Khalil Ismail has performed worldwide with audiences spanning from Germany, Australia, and Amsterdam to the United Kingdom as well as West and South Africa. He has performed at the Apollo Theatre and the New York Met’s Stadium, as well as the Global Peace and Unity Conferences in the UK. He has shared the stage with prominent artists such as Yuna, Rakim, Brother Ali, Freeway, Vic Mensa, and Mos Def, as well as international nasheed artists such as Zain Bhikha, Maher Zain, and Native Deen. As a performing artist, Khalil has a unique penchant for connecting authentically to a wide variety of audiences, cultures, and nationalities. As a producer, Khalil loves to tell a soulful, moving story with instruments. He achieves this by fusing simplicity with dynamic attention to detail. As a filmmaker, Khalil Ismail has recently directed two short films and is currently planning his first feature length film. Already an experienced storyteller with songs and music production, his evolution into filmmaking has been natural and seamless. “I’ve been editing videos for ten years now, so I already engineer and mix audio,” he says. “When I started making films, I was able to draw on what I learned from all the song production, music videos, and short script writing I’ve done over the years. I also love working with actors and seeing others’ work come to fruition, so the transition to filmmaking has been exciting and rewarding.” Khalil Ismail has directed films for internationally acclaimed author Umm Zakiyyah and former NFL player Hamza Abdullah via KI Creative Studios. Khalil has an ever-expanding résumé of groundbreaking, award winning art and music, but his strongest passion lies in uplifting underserved communities. He worked for seven years at the Maryland Food Bank and an additional seven years as Operations Manager at a women’s shelter. Khalil has traveled throughout the United States and the world offering workshops for youth and faith communities. In 2015, he founded Finding Peace Project, a non-profit community outreach organization aimed at serving disadvantaged populations. Khalil Ismail now hosts events and programs that combine entertainment with educational workshops, social upliftment forums, and spiritual consciousness, with a focus on topics that impact humanity on personal and community levels. His mission to empower others through art, humanitarian work, and engaging discussions
OMER BAJWA is the Director of Muslim Life in the Chaplain’s Office at Yale. He earned his Graduate Certificate in Islamic Chaplaincy from Hartford Seminary, and he has been engaged in religious service, social activism, and educational outreach since 2000. He received his MA in Near Eastern Studies, with a specialization in Islamic Studies, from Cornell University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies. He also earned an MS in Communication from Cornell, and a BA in English Literature and Rhetoric from Binghamton University. His interests include Islam in the United States, inter-religious engagement, and Islam and the global media. He regularly lectures about these topics and others at campuses, congregations, and in communities across the country.
ADAM LOFTI Before leaving New Jersey to study on the opposite coast, Adam Lotfi was studying biology and playing in a band until a change of heart spurred him to to study sacred knowledge. He is now a first-year student at Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, where he explores his love of literature, language, and mysticism.Adam also works on an organic farm, where he plans to keep bees and cultivate medicinal plants for those concerned with a natural, holistic approach to health.
TAREK EL MESSIDI: is a Muslim-American speaker and social entrepreneur who was raised in Knoxville, Tennessee. In 2012, The Muslim 500 listed him as one of the world's 500 most influential Muslims. Between 1998 and 2006, he pursued Islamic studies at programs in the United States and abroad. In 2001, Tarek co-founded the Ramadan Fast-a-thon: an interfaith event that raises money to feed the poor by asking non-Muslims to try fasting for a day with their Muslim peers. The Fast-a-thon's slogan is "Go Hungry for a Day so Someone Else Won't Have to." Within a few years, the Fast-a-thon went viral, spreading to 300 college campuses and corporations like Google and Facebook. It has raised over $2 million to feed the hungry worldwide. In 2010, a few years after earning an MBA and beginning work as a manager at Procter & Gamble, Tarek founded CelebrateMercy: a 501(c)(3) non-profit that teaches about the Prophet Muhammad's life and character through webinars, films, events, and social media. CelebrateMercy has nearly 700,000 social media followers and has reached millions through its films, programs, and media coverage. Through CelebrateMercy, Tarek has led multiple campaigns that "respond to evil with good". In 2012, after U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in Libya, Tarek mobilized Muslims in 115 countries to write 7,700 condolence letters to Stevens' family. In 2015, to honor 3 Muslim students killed in a North Carolina hate crime, he directed FeedTheirLegacy - a campaign that collected 200,000 meals for the hungry in 30 states. In 2015, he raised over $200,000 for the San Bernardino shooting victims - an effort that President Obama praised in his Baltimore Mosque Speech. And earlier this year, Tarek co-organized the campaign that raised $162,000 to repair vandalized Jewish cemeteries; it was even tweeted by celebrities like Ellen Degeneres and J.K. Rowling. As a result of his innovative, narrative-shifting work, Tarek has been invited to the White House four times over the past two years for various events and roundtable discussions. He currently resides in Philadelphia.
KAMEELAH RASHAD: Kameelah is the Founder and President of Muslim Wellness Foundation (MWF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing stigma associated with mental illness, addiction and trauma in the American Muslim community through dialogue, education and training. Muslim Wellness Foundation envisions a future in which faith communities are at the forefront of mental health advocacy and committed to developing an inclusive culture of compassion, understanding and holistic health.
Kameelah also serves as the Fellow for Spirituality, Wellness and Social Justice at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) and advisor for Penn Sapelo, the first Black Muslim Student organization on campus. In this capacity, Kameelah supports students in their exploration of faith-based activism, spirituality, emotional well-being and healing. Working in conjunction with the Chaplain’s Office, she collaborates with other cultural centers on campus to facilitate intersectional conversations on race, religion, identity, belonging and advocacy. Kameelah served three years as the Muslim Chaplain at UPenn and continues to facilitate discussions on religious identity development and challenges faced by American Muslim youth. She is also a resource to the wider Penn community and administration on Islam and Muslims.
In addition to Kameelah’s involvement in mental health advocacy and religious life, she is a proud social justice activist and founding member of Muslims Make It Plain, a coalition of concerned Muslims working to inspire, empower and support grass roots mobilization and direct action to address police brutality, racial & religious profiling, unlawful surveillance and the overpolicing of America’s Black & Brown communities. In December 2014, Muslims Make It Plain organized the first Muslim led rally and march in the country in support of BlackLivesMatter. Kameelah serves as a member of the Advisory Council of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths. Further, Kameelah is an advisory board member of Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC), Stony Point Center, Social Health & Medical Services (SHAMS) Clinic and the Husayn Center for Social Justice, a Muslim-run social services and advocacy center that promotes health and wellness for the residents of Trenton, NJ.
Kameelah is a 2014 Ariane deRothschild Fellow and a recipient of the 2014 Student Multiculturalism and Salter Family Memorial Education Awards and recipient of the 2017 Matthew Smith Education Award from the Pennsylvania Psychological Association (PPA). Since 2015 Kameelah has served as the Diversity Focus Chair for PPA's Graduate Student Board. National Council for Behavioral Health selected Kameelah for the prestigious 2015 Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Community Impact Award and honored her as a "passionate, committed, and outstanding behavioral health leader".
In February of 2015, Kameelah was one of 14 American Muslim Leaders invited to attend a Roundtable discussion with President Obama at the White House. At that meeting, Kameelah shared her concerns regarding the psychological impact of anti-Muslim bigotry on the Muslim community, particularly as it effects youth and African Americans. Kameelah has since been invited to a subsequent roundtable discussion with President Obama before his historic visit to a U.S. Mosque in Feb 2016 and listening sessions with senior White House officials on mental health in the American Muslim community. Kameelah’s insights and perspectives have been featured in The Huffington Post, The Atlantic, BuzzFeed, Patheos-Muslim, MuslimMatters, The Pennsylvania Gazette, and NPR’s Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane
Kameelah graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Psychology and MEd in Psychological Services. She has pursued further graduate education, completing a second Masters in Restorative Practices & Youth Counseling (MRP) from the International Institute for Restorative Practices and obtaining a post-Masters certificate in Family Therapy from the Philadelphia Child & Family Therapy Training Center. Kameelah is a certified instructor in Adult, Higher Education & Youth Mental Health First Aid. She is pursuing her doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, PA.
YASIN AHMED serves as Cornell University's first Muslim chaplain. He has worked with young people of many backgrounds with the intention of pleasing Allah by being a positive, consistent, and accessible role model. He admired these characteristics in his mentors most notably Moulana Abdurahman Ahmad and Chaplain Greg Bezilla. He has spent the past couple years teaching Islamic Studies at Madina Academy in Connecticut. He has also served as Muslim Chaplain at Trinity College and Choate-Rosemary Hall. Witnessing the sincerity of young people, trying to know God and live their faith, despite their Real and challenging obstacles, inspired him to think deeply about long term community building. How do we develop a generation of Muslims who repair a society that is suffering? Yasin believes the answer lies in focusing locally and challenging institutional structures. Inshallah, he wishes to weave together a traditional community by empowering individuals. He focuses on cultivating beliefs in the heart, instilling the value of self discipline, and then supporting members in their understanding of Islam. He understands his own poverty in regard to these values and asks for your prayer. Yasin is also the Head of Development for Common Ground Services, an Islamic Consulting firm, which builds interfaith coalitions and educates people on Islam. They have presented Islam to thousands of people and broken many stereotypes. They need your support to continue to grow! To learn more please visit: https://www.commongroun
KAISER ASLAM serves as the first full time Muslim chaplain at Rutgers University. He has worked as a Muslim Chaplain in the hospital and university setting for a few years now. Kaiser has studied various classical Islamic sciences including Arabic, tafseer, hadith, fiqh in his studies within the United States, as well abroad at Markaz Fajr in Cairo, Egypt and Al Amana Center in Oman. Kaiser holds a Masters degree in Islamic Studies and Muslim-Christian Relations from Hartford Seminary. Kaiser has worked with over a dozen educational and service-based organizations in the Muslim American community over the last decade. Most notable, he served as the National Coordinator of Young Muslims, the largest Muslim youth group in North America. Kaiser is a lecturer on Muslim culture, Muslim youth, interfaith work, and various other topics. Kaiser's thesis at the Hartford Seminary focused on building a realistic definition and path to Islamic Literacy for Undergraduate Muslim Americans.
ALYA BUKHARI was born and grew up in New Jersey and this is the seventh year that she has attended Mizaan. She is an incoming sophmore at Rutgers University, School of Arts and Sciences and plans to major in math and eventually obtain her masters in education. Alya enjoys crocheting and knitting and started an organization, Blankets for Babies (http://bl4babies.wixsite.com/blankets4babies), to donate homemade blankets for babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. Alya enjoys teaching and is excited to once again be a teacher at Mizaan. She was a assistant teacher for a fifth/sixth grade class during her first year in college and also tutors high school math. Alya loves chocolate, travelling and baking.
HASEENA SAHIB received a double bachelors degree in Religious Studies and Health Sciences in 2010 from Stony Brook University, New York, where she had the opportunity to learn from Drs. William Chittick and Sachiko Murata. She later received an MPH (Masters in Public Health) from Columbia University in Environmental Health.
Haseena is a lover and student of spirituality, comparative religion, and classical Islamic poetry. She is the co-founder of Melodies for the Divine -a platform by which Muslims can unleash their creativity in poetry/music - the reality of which is for intellectual and spiritual elevation. Haseena is also passionate about environmentalism and holistic health.
HAROON K. ULLAH is a scholar, diplomat, and field researcher specializing in South Asia and the Middle East. Haroon serves on Secretary Kerry’s Policy Planning Staff at the US State Department, focusing on public diplomacy and countering violent extremism. Haroon grew up in a farming community in Washington State and was trained at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he served as a senior fellow and completed his MPA. Haroon has a PhD in Political Science and Public Policy from the University of Michigan and was a William J. Fulbright fellow, a Harvard University presidential scholar, a National Security Education Program fellow, and a Woodrow Wilson Public Service fellow. He is also the author of Vying for Allah’s Vote (Georgetown University Press, 2013). His recent book, The Bargain From the Bazaar: A Family’s Day of Reckoning, published in March 2014 by PublicAffairs, has received widespread praise and acclaim, including from the New York Review of Books, the Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones, Seattle Times, NPR and Publisher’s Weekly.
AMIN VENJARA: is a graduate student at Princeton University. His research focuses on Islamic intellectual history with a particular focus on Islamic law. He holds a BSE and BAS summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was awarded the Albert E. Berg Prize for academic excellence and an MA in Religion from Princeton University. In 2006, Venjara was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study Arabic in Syria. He has also been the recipient of grants and fellowships from a variety of institutions including the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) and the Department of Education’s Foreign Language Area Studies Program (FLAS).
MARTIN NGUYEN is an Associate Professor of Islamic Studies and serves as the Faculty Chair for Diversity at Fairfield University. His areas of research include the Qur’an, Muslim theology, Sufism, and Islamic history. Martin received his B.A. from the University of Virginia and then a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. Following this, he completed a joint-program Ph.D. in Middle Eastern Studies and History at Harvard University. His book Sufi Master and Qur’an Scholar (Oxford University Press, 2012) explores the confluence of Qur’anic exegesis, theology, and Sufism in the life of al-Qushayri, a prominent medieval Muslim mystic and theologian. He is presently working on a book that examines the meaning of Muslim theology today. He blogs at www.islamicana.com.
YUSRA SYED graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies. She also holds a diploma from the Qur'anic Arabic Intensive Dream Program at Bayyinah Institute. She has recently completed the M.A. program in Islamic Studies at SOAS, the University of London. Under the guidance of professor M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, Yusra focused her dissertation research on how to develop an educational methodology based on the ethics of the Qur'an.
AMIRA QURAISHI A California girl, born of a Pakistani father and White Caucasian mother, Amira grew up inquisitive of Islamic values that transcend cultures. She considers her experiences as a young person at the Muslim Youth Camp of California to have shaped her love for a deeply spiritual and intellectual expression of Islam. She gave back to this camp by serving on the Board as Head Counselor and brings to her chaplaincy twenty years of counseling Muslim youth. She also brings to her chaplaincy her research interests in Islamic law, Sufism, and understanding Islam for Muslim women in the 21st century.Before coming to Wellesley College, Amira earned an MA in Religious Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, where she focused on the intersection of Islamic jurisprudence and Sufism. She also holds an MA in Middle East Studies from New York University, where her thesis was “An Analysis of the Legal Methodology for Hijab (Modest Dress.)” She has taught courses on Islam at the University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore College and served as the Advisor to the Johns Hopkins University Muslim Association and on the Johns Hopkins University Interfaith board of chaplains from 2005-2007.
MAHASSIN MUHSIN received her B.A. in Islamic Law and Theology from Zaytuna College in Berkeley, CA. A lover of languages, she has studied Arabic, Urdu, and Turkish as well as various Islamic sciences with teachers around the globe. Currently, she resides in Trenton, NJ and is pursuing an ijaza in the science of Qur’anic Recitation, tajweed.
AREEJ SABZWARI is an Architect, City Planner, and Artist. She received her Bachelor of Architecture from NJIT, a Master of City and Regional Planning from Rutgers University, and is a LEED Accredited Professional with the U.S. Green Building Council. A design enthusiast, her approach is rooted in concept and is a fusion of her experiences and travels. In her work, she places emphasis on creating an emotional connection and reflects a message of mahabbah (love), ikhlaas (sincerity), faaliyah (performance), and shukr (gratitude). She designs through a modern lens with functional elements and simplicity at the heart of it. Areej currently works at Flad Architects New York office and runs her art studio with a focus on Islamic art, calligraphy, and geometrical design. She enjoys teaching kids and holding art workshops over the weekends.
WASIM SHILIWALA After a year-long absence, Wasim Shiliwala is ready to make his triumphant return to Mizaan. He’s a 5th year PhD student in Princeton’s Near Eastern Studies Department, where he studies modern Islamic Legal thought. If you want him to bore you, you can ask him about his research – or just mention the words “fatwa” or “phonograph” and he’ll magically appear. He also went to Princeton for undergraduate, after which he studied Arabic and Islamic studies in Jordan. In addition to teaching, he will also spend his time at Mizaan wandering around the campsite and Snapchatting pretty much everything that happens for his 13 or so followers – most of whom will also be at Mizaan. Oh yeah, and he’s still pretty cool.
SUMIYA KHAN Sumiya Khan is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Nutritionist with over 15 years of experience. Originally from California, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in Community Nutrition from the University of California at Davis. She earned a Master’s degree in Clinical and Counseling Nutrition from Bastyr University, which places a whole foods, holistic approach on nutrition therapy. Sumiya has worked in various settings, including hospitals, public health programs and private facilities. Currently, she works for the UCONN Health Center for Public Health & Health Policy where she implements Community Based Nutrition Education Programs in the state of Connecticut. Sumiya serves as a consultant, author and presenter on all aspects of nutrition, including, but not limited to, natural health, weight management, chronic disease management, food allergy and sensitivity, maternal and child health, and school nutrition. In addition to her passion for food and nutrition, Sumiya enjoys baking, reading, travelling and photography. She currently lives in Hamden, CT with her husband and two children.
JIHAD TURK is the founding president of Bayan Claremont, an Islamic graduate school in Southern California, and a well-respected leader and public speaker with a national profile. Prior to founding Bayan, Jihad served for many years as the Religious Director of the Islamic Center of Southern California, the oldest and largest mosque in the Los Angeles area. Having been born to a Palestinian Muslim father and an American Christian mother, Jihad spent his college years traveling the Muslim world and exploring his roots in the Islamic tradition. He spent time in both the Islamic University of Medina where he studied Arabic and Islamic Studies and in Iran where he studied Farsi at the University of Tehran and in Qum. He completed his undergraduate study at the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his bachelor’s degree in History and Arabic. Jihad went on to complete his Master’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in Arabic and Islamic law and jurisprudence.
His field of research focuses on Islamic Law with an emphasis on usul al-fiqh, or jurisprudence, as well as theology. His current interests also include identity formation in the American Muslim community, interfaith relations, Islamic reform movements, and community leadership and development with a focus on youth.