Meet the Founders of KARAMAH

Dr. Azizah Y. al-Hibri is the Founder of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights. She is Professor Emerita at the University of Richmond School of Law, and the first American Muslim woman to become a law professor. She is also a former Professor of Philosophy, and founding editor of Hypatia: a Journal of Feminist Philosophy.

Dr. al-Hibri incorporated KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights in 1993 in Virginia. She wanted KARAMAH to be the leading organization that educates Muslim women about Islamic law and jurisprudence from a critical gender-equitable perspective rooted in traditional sources. Dr. al-Hibri was KARAMAH’s first president and chair. Over the following 27 years, she remained actively engaged in various leadership roles. She also taught annually at KARAMAH’s Law and Leadership Summer Program. In January of 2021, at the expiration of her term as president, she announced her retirement at KARAMAH’s annual meeting.


Sarah was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1956, to an American mother and a Saudi father who met while they were studying at UC Berkeley. She was educated at the German Evangelical High School in Cairo, from kindergarten through 10 from the American Community School in Beirut in 1974. By age 16 she was fluent in English, Arabic, German and French. She studied history (BA) and anthropology (MA at Stanford University, and Law at the University of Pennsylvania (JD, 1985). She was a classmate of Azizah al-Hibri there.

Sarah became a member of the PA bar in 1987, but is now in inactive status in preparation for retirement. Sarah got married in 1986 and had two children in quick succession, so she decided to choose a branch of law that she could combine with being a parent. She became a solo practitioner through the end of 2012, doing mostly immigration work. However, she continued to be engaged with non-profits in her city. In 1989, she joined the board of the YWCA in Philadelphia and remained on it until her resignation in1993. The YWCA was having financial problems at that time, so Sarah volunteered for the unpaid position of Executive Director for about 18 months to help shepherd the organization through reorganization.

Ex-Officio Director/Founder

Ms. Shahilla Shariff has been a corporate lawyer for over twenty years - most recently as a Senior Legal Adviser to the Jardine Matheson Group, the Asian-based conglomerate. A member of the New York Bar, Ms. Shariff has had extensive international legal experience and is a founding member of Karamah. She has been based in Hong Kong for many years but was previously in the US and the Middle East.

Ms. Shariff has been a Governor of the Maggie Keswick Jencks Cancer Caring Centre Foundation in Hong Kong since its inception in 2006. Patterned on a highly successful UK model, the Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres are a unique concept in cancer support, integrating iconic architecture, art and landscape to create transformative healing spaces. Life Lines, her award-winning first collection of poetry, was published by Proverse Hong Kong in November 2012. Her poetry has been featured in various anthologies and journals.

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EST. 1993

KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights

The first episode of our 2020 Lunch & Learn Series features a conversation with Dr. Azizah al-Hibri where she shares her journey and reasons behind the founding of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights.


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