Mar 5, 2010 - islam op-eds    12 Comments

In Remembrance of Sr. Aminah Assilmi


Sr. Aminah Assilmi died today in a sudden car accident. Inna lillah wa inna ilaihi rajeoon. She was 65 and had been ill a few years ago but had been doing much better recently. She died instantly I read. SubhanAllah, indeed it is true we do not know when or how any of us will be called back Home. I heard the news this evening and my mind immediately flashed back to all my memories of her.

I was a teenager in a MYNA camp when I first heard her speak. She walked up mature and elegant, wearing a long skirt outfit and fully wrapped Hijab. A convert to Islam she always told us funny anecdotes and stories about being Muslim. She would then pause while we laughed and go on to give us the teaching point. When I was in MSA we invited her a few times to the Northeast to speak. Usually the topic was something like ‘Behind the Veil’ or ‘Myths of Women in Islam’. She always spoke well and was very equal to answering any obnoxious questions or debating any ‘feminists’ in the audience who felt they knew better. I never knew her to turn anyone away from speaking to her. She had the same quality of the Prophet (saw) where if she was speaking to you, you felt like you were her most prized best friend in the world. She always took the time out to talk to ‘us girls’ and remembered us whenever we met.

In years since MSA, I would see her less and less often at ISNAs and ICNAs and other events. She had been ill for a long time I believe and I’d seen her in a wheelchair for a number of years. About two years ago I received an email that asked for help for Sister Aminah. She had lost her home and income and needed help. She’d been living on campgrounds because she had nowhere else to go. I remember even posting this to others, and I really thought I had sent her some money to help. But I’ve since checked and in the hurry of everyday life I did not.

This past 4th of July ISNA I met Sister Aminah again and we reminsced a little and she talked about organizing a retreat for Muslim women. I told her a little about our retreat in upstate New York and she gave me her card. I asked if we could take a picture together and she happily smiled and put her arms around me wearing the biggest, pinkest sunhat I’d ever seen.


In the 90s we were a generation that was raised in Islamic camps, conferences and university lecture halls. Our parents were Imam Siraj Wahaj, Sh. Hamza Yusuf, Imam Zaid Shakir, Jamal Badawi, Abdullah Idris, Ahmad Sakr, Sheema Khan, Haroon Sellars, Saffet Catovic, Abdullah Adhami, Aminah Assilimi… so many well known names that we heard from over and over again. Teaching us, inspiring us, motivating us. Trying so hard to give us an identity. Today, I can’t even remember all the long-forgotten names. But they made us the strong Muslims we are today. In fact, I can’t even imagine where we would be without them.

Yet when their time of need came and comes, we are not there for them. How many people received the email forward asking for help for Sister Aminah and did nothing (myself included). :( How many people have received the calls for help for Imam Siraj’s cancer treatment and have donated anything to help. We would be lost and astray without them, yet we are not willing to give back.

I’m reminded of another great man who died on the steps of a nursing home; alone and penniless. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, from whom millions of English speaking Muslims have benefited. Yet he too died alone with no help from the Muslim Community.

I was unable to help Sister Aminah in life, but I am determined to help her in death and also promise to help my ‘other parents’ when they are in need inshaAllah.

May Allah have mercy on sister Aminah, give Shifaa to her son and patience to her family. May Allah reward her for all her Dawah work for the benefit of the Ummah (she was truly a da’iah for Allah) and enter her into Jannah.




  • Inna lillahi wa inna illahi raji’un.

    AMEEN!. Jazak’Allahu Khairan for sharing your memories Sis Jannah. Aww, what a lovely and sweet picture!! – I’m sure you will cherish that even more now. You’re so right, we don’t help those who have given us so much. :-( :-( :-(
    I was never fortunate enough to be a part of an MSA or go to ISNA or other such gatherings though I’ve lived in the US all my life, but I think regardless, I know that the words of Sr. Aminah and those Imams you mentioned have benefited me in recent years, through videos and articles.
    Well, nicely written dear. If anything good comes out of losing Sr. Aminah, maybe it will be this – that it will motivate us to help those that are in need that are still with us. Again, may Allah (swt) Grant her a high place in Jannah for all her efforts, Grant her children and family Rahma, Barakah and Sabr in the coming days, weeks and months. Ameen.


    CAIR Offers Condolences on Passing of Aminah Assilmi

    (WASHINGTON, D.C., 3/5/10) – The board and staff of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today offered their sincere condolences to the family of Aminah Assilmi, a national Muslim community activist, scholar and leader who died earlier today in a car accident outside of Newport, Tenn. She was returning with her son from a speaking engagement in New York. Her son, who was injured in the accident, was taken to a hospital in Knoxville.

    “To God we belong and to Him we return,” said CAIR National Board Chairman State Senator Larry Shaw (NC). “We ask God to shower His mercy on Sister Aminah and to grant her loved ones strength and patience in this time of sorrow.”

    Sister Aminah, who was 65, served as the Director of the International Union of Muslim Women. She was an internationally-respected author, an advocate for womens rights and a renowned speaker on Islam.

    Despite health issues, Sister Aminah maintained a rigorous schedule of speaking engagements around the nation and the world. She was instrumental in the U.S. Postal Service’s 2001 issuing of the “Eid” stamp, which marks the two main Muslim holidays. Her current project included a Center for Muslim Womens Studies that would serve as a resource center for new Muslims and as a summer camp for Muslim children.

    Funeral arrangements are being made through:

    Click Funeral Home
    109 Walnut Street
    Lenoir City, TN 37771
    Tel: (865) 986-8013

    She is survived by her daughter Amber, and sons, Whitney and Mohammad, as well as by several grandchildren.

    Donations are being accepted to offset burial expenses. For more information, visit the web site of the International Union of Muslim Women, Any surplus donations will go to continue her work. The International Union of Muslim Women is a nonprofit, 501 c(3) organization.

    Remembrances can be sent to Some of these may be published on the web site.

  • so beautiful, jazaki Allahu khayran for sharing that. May Allah have mercy on her and accept from her.

    Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.

  • ‘Congrats’ Jannah, this was posted on Imam Suhaib Webb’s site. Again, well written and heart-felt ma’sha’allah.

  • Jazakillahu khairan Jannah, for posting this.
    What you have stated, about how we do not give back to these spiritual parents of our ummah, when their time of need comes, is so very true….and also very appalling.
    I realize that these teachers inspire us to become better Muslims, to reconnect with Allah, and to live a life that is so much better; yet, we forget about them once we have entered the folds of Islam completely and become du’aat ourselves.
    O Allah, grant Sister Aminah the status of a martyr and the highest place in Al-Fridaus; one that is very near You. Ameen!

  • Memorial for Aminah Assilmi . Feel free to express your thoughts

  • Mashallah really well written. The most succing part, I felt, was the paragraph where you said “In the 90s we were a generation that was raised in Islamic camps, conferences and university lecture halls…” – that part is so true. Thats exactly what life was like in the 90s. I miss thoe days, and now very often I find myself remembering the riwayah where it is said to take advantage of five before the other five, and one of them is to take advantage of your free time before your busy time.

    The demands of time on our daily busy lives sometimes feel like this persistent, greasy stain or smell that we just can’t wash ourselves of, no matter how hard we try to free ourselves.

  • Eventhough i do not know sister aminah, but her story touches me. To be born as a muslim, sometimes we take things for granted. We sometimes forget how blessed and lucky we are. I am truely sad with her passing. I pray that muslims will unite and help each other.

  • May Allah Bless her and Brother Ali jannatul firdos

  • Salaam,

    Inna lillahi warrajioon.May Allah grant her Jannah.

    This has made me cry although i know quite a few about Sister aminah.It is very sad that we as a muslim take such bad care of our speakers and people stand to defend our religion. Shame on us. :(

  • Inaa Lillahi waini Elehi raajiuun. MAY ALLAH Reward Her with janatul fardowsa. And give patience to her family and give them iman ameen

  • Assalamu alaykum

    I really got inspired from her Life Story.
    My beard became wet.
    My heart melted and Inshaallah I want to continue in the same state.

    But i have one doubt: How come she was penniless when most of her family members became muslims and she was living with them ?

    You are right in saying that we are not united and we need to come together and help our Scholars and Teachers.