Last week, KARAMAH hosted its annual iftaar. Elected officials, lawyers, and esteemed members of our community came together to embrace the tranquility and spirituality of this blessed month of Ramadan.
KARAMAH was privileged to host the honorable Zakia Mahasa as our keynote speaker. Judge Mahasa serves the Juvenile Division of the Circuit Court in Baltimore, witnessing over 30 cases a day. She specializes in family law, with a particular emphasis on justice for children. Judge Mahasa is an active member of the National Association of Women Judges. In 2010, Judge Mahasa was honored with the Leadership in Law award. Despite the difficult areas of law that she adjudicates, Judge Mahasa’s remarks were light hearted and humorous — educating us all on crucial aspects of her profession.
Amidst the blessings of good food and good company, KARAMAH’s Chair Raheemah Abdulaleem acknowledged the support of KARAMAH’s founder, Dr. Azizah al-Hibri, its staff, board of directors, and the El Hibri Foundation. Ms. Abdualeem introduced Judge Mahasa and welcomed her to the podium. In keeping with essence of KARAMAH, Judge Mahasa began her remarks by emphasizing the importance of having knowledge of Islamic law. Unabashed about her commitment to her faith, Judge Mahasa stressed the importance of knowing Islamic family law in particular, as that is her area of focus. For too many years, she said, Muslim women particularly have felt the denial of their rights whether due to patriarchy or financial disadvantage. Judge Mahasa acknowledged that to truly advocate for justice, we must address these inequities. She continued by encouraging family law attorneys, imams, and community members to learn conflict resolution from an Islamic perspective. She focused specifically on mediation, acknowledging that parties can accommodate their religious preferences by mutual agreement. In litigation, this acknowledgement of religious considerations becomes increasingly difficult. Finally, Judge Mahasa encouraged KARAMAH’s guests to work with one another to address this unfortunate rise in divorce in the Muslim community. Judges, lawyers, imams, and community leaders all have a role to play and must work together to address various issues in family law matters. Each field has its own expertise, and if they work in concert with one another, the Muslim community will be better equipped to address these unfortunate cases.
Judge Mahasa concluded her remarks with an emphasis on the negative impact that domestic violence has on children. While she acknowledged the difficult that survivors face in access justice, she focused on the disparate impact violence has on children and encouraged the group to remember this key issue.
During this blessed month of Ramadan, we were grateful to receive such an important message from Judge Zakia Mahasa. Her dedication to the inherent karamah (dignity) of all people, particularly women and children, was simultaneously enlightening and empowering.