Muslim Educator and Rainier Valley Native Heads South Seattle’s Islamic School

by Danish Mehboob

Born on the South Side of Seattle and raised around Islam, Aishah Bomani and the Makkah Islamic School fulfill a need of providing an Islamic upbringing with a supportive educational system in the Seattle community.

Bomani received a Masters in Education from University of Massachusetts, Boston and started as a teacher at the Makkah Islamic School shortly after. Rising quickly, she became principal of the Islamic school in 2014 after teaching there for just over a year.

Aishah Bomani standing in front of Makkah Islamic School entrance, Nov. 9. (Photo by Danish Mehboob)
Aishah Bomani standing in front of Makkah Islamic School entrance (Photo by Danish Mehboob)

As a Seattleite, Bomani noticed that community need which the Makkah Islamic School provided. Arsalan Bukhari, Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive-Director, mentions it is difficult for Muslims to be accepted in society, especially with a growing negative stereotypical image of Islam. The Islamic school helps like-minded students connect and grow with one another in a safe environment.

Bomani, and the school founders Farid Sulayman, Tahir Abdul Malik, and Shaykh Bary Yahya saw the Makkah Islamic School as a way to curb negative influences including gangs and youth violence. The school helps students learn about the cross context between religion and secular studies.

“Creating a center would be a way of bringing the Muslim youth together and creating a safe place for them to seek knowledge, counsel, and brotherhood instead of getting caught between the violence across the city,” said Bomani.

Her interest in the school sprang from an Islamic upbringing and passion towards teaching. Growing up in Rainier beach and seeing the school grow within the last four years drew a fondness towards it. Abduhr-Rahman, the principal before Bomani, emphasizes that the main purpose of the Islamic school is to instill values and respect for a belief.

There was no Islamic school in Bomani’s time growing up in Rainier Beach. And after former-principal Abduhr-Rahman stepped down as principal an opportunity for her to show commitment to the school arose.

Bomani is conscious about her role as a female in the South Side, since she is one of few women to head a religious school. Many in South Seattle, especially within the Muslim community, do not see women in leadership positions at schools according to her.. Other Islamic schools across the country all have women in higher roles within education. However, Seattle has few women in leadership roles within the Muslim community.

“[It’s] not a challenge of respect, but being on the forefront alone,” said Bomani.

When she’s not working, she turns to gardening. She also turns to counseling young girls and encouraging them that they have the ability to take on leadership roles as well.

“This school has potential. If there was something I could do to keep this place afloat then it is my responsibility,” said Bomani.

The Islamic school at the heart of Rainier Valley caters to students from the immediate community and the greater Seattle area. Its curriculum focuses on establishing values from teachings of the Quran and Sunnah, prophetic example, early on while developing proficiency with standard subjects like Mathematics and English.

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Students work being presented on outer wall of hallway. (Photo by Danish Mehboob)

Bomani exemplifies her approach with Social Studies and World History where the school teaches students about Islamic history and compares it to Western history. It gives students a broader perspective of the world, according to Bomani.

“We don’t live in a world where everything is separated, so you kind of have to have that broader perspective of how things came about. It gives students a better understanding of their identity as Muslims,” said Bomani.

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Students begin gathering for Asr (late afternoon) prayers in hall at Makkah Islamic School. (Photo by Danish Mehboob)

The school caters to over a hundred students from kindergarten and through middle school. It is also the only school in the area to offer Arabic courses from the first grade. Bukhari explains that the school is an environment for students to see the importance for education and religion. A combination that both Bomani and Bukhari think Muslim parents emphasize early.

One of the proudest moments Bomani feels with the school is when it brings the South Seattle community together. The school is located in one of the most diverse zip codes in America, 98118, according to the Seattle Times and has four mosques within a half-mile radius.

Bomani shares her pride for the school. “[It’s] a beautiful experience to see everyone come together and put aside their differences.”

 

 

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