The Teachers – 2016

kaiser aslamKAISER 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 three 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.

20160818_144641ADAM 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.

mahassin muhsinMAHASSIN 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.

Amira QuraishiAMIRA 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.

Haseena SahibHASEENA 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 for 3 years. She later received an MPH 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.

yusra syedYUSRA 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.

Haroon UllahHAROON 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.

unnamedALYA BUKHARI was born and grew up in New Jersey and this is the sixth year that she has attended Mizaan.  She is an incoming freshman 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 (, to donate homemade blankets for babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.  Alya enjoys teaching and is excited to be a teacher at Mizaan.  She was a student teacher for a fifth grade class during her senior year in high school and also tutored high school math.  Alya loves chocolate, travelling and baking. 

IMG_0003SUMIYA 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.

Martin NguyenMARTIN 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

Areej SabzwariAREEJ 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.

E5131FC4-FE30-4E6A-9A4B-CAF01D3C6E61WASIM 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.

Jihad TurkJIHAD 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.

Amin VenjaraAMIN 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).