Allah has given each of us unique talents and abilities. Oftentimes mothers set their passions to the side because their daily responsibilities seem so all-consuming. However, as these four Muslim women demonstrate, it is possible for busy mothers to carve out time for activities that invigorate them and benefit their community. These moms have discovered what brings extra joy and meaning to their lives and have found ways to explore their interests while enhancing others’ lives at the same time.
Tara Olhoft – Swim Instructor
Tara is an avid swimmer and certified lifeguard and swim instructor who used to dream of competing in the Olympics. She coached and swam competitively for several years, but then her life took an unexpected turn.
“While working as a lifeguard, I would study the Qur’an during my breaks,” explains Tara. “Within months, I took my shahada. After I started wearing hijab, I could not swim laps anymore. This was pre-burkini, and no Muslim ladies that I knew did that.”
Tara did not give up her passion indefinitely, though. “Fast forward 5 children and 15 years later, I again have the opportunity to teach swimming lessons,” she says. “The burkini is available, and I have confidence and access to a pool. I started with my own children alhamdulillah. It became clear to me that there is no one formula for teaching swimming. Now, when I have a new student, I pay close attention to their individual needs and tailor the lesson for them. I teach them how to use the water for their benefit.”
Tara uses her love of aquatics and her keen understanding of different personalities and learning styles to customize her lessons, even for those who are fearful of the water. “Last summer I was traveling from pool to pool teaching children and ladies from all walks of life how to swim,” she says. “There are so many people who don’t believe they could ever swim, but when they begin lessons, they fall in love with the water.”
For Tara, sharing her talents has been fulfilling for her and beneficial to countless others. “Alhamdulillah,” she says, “Allah has put me in a position to help my community members learn how to swim and grow in confidence in their abilities.”
Maryam Yousaf – Writer and Blogger
“My passion is to serve the ummah both online and offline,” says Maryam Yousaf, a writer and mother of four from Scotland. “I am a blogger on Instagram where I share faith-based posts and also help my followers with any questions or help they need.”
In addition to blogging, Maryam has published several books. “I was inspired to write books after the positive response I received from writing inspirational faith-based content on Instagram and on my website. I decided to help more people by writing books about self-love, relationships, women’s empowerment via Islam, and fiction and non-fiction children’s books.”
Maryam was driven not only by her interest in writing, but also by the lack of quality Islamic literature for an audience hungry for it. She says, “I realized that there was a need for this service therefore decided to take action instead of waiting and hoping that someone else would.”
Maryam’s latest non-fiction book, Remarkable Muslim Women, will insha’Allah be published on Amazon in July. It is aimed at readers aged 10 and older and highlights positive Islamic role models. Maryam Yousaf, author and blogger, can be found on Instagram @Muslimatoday, on TikTok @Muslimatoday1, and via her website.
Nina Obeid – Runner and Trainer
For Nina Obeid, a mother of three in California, what started as a means of physical and mental self-care and losing postpartum weight has become a way to empower other Muslim women.
“I am a runner and novice triathlete,” she says. “Having run 2 marathons, 13 half-marathons, 3 short course triathlons, plus obstacle course racing, trail running, and relay racing over the 10 years, I learned a few things along the way. I shared my passion and process via social media and was approached one day to coach a few ladies from the Muslim community in Orange County, California.”
With the same energy and determination that she puts into her grueling workouts, Nina founded two clubs: OTG Runners and Off the Grid Sisters Social Hike Club. Currently over forty Muslim women participate in her popular programs.
“I was really trying to convey that self-care, engaging in sports, health, and fitness, while being a hijabi Muslim female were not limiting factors, nor counter to Islam,” explains Nina. “Rather it’s in support of our worship of Allah SWT. We are encouraged to get out in nature. We are told our bodies have rights over us and are an amana to take care of. We have been prescribed to enjoin good and bring others to worship for His sake and build a community. Running and hiking was my way of doing it.”
Nina Obeid — MSW; RRCA (Road Runners Club of America); USATF 1 (USA Track & Field) — can be followed on Instagram.
Jennessa Durrani – Empowerment Coach and Islamic Center Council Member
Jennessa Durrani, a mother of two, has harnessed her unique talents to give a voice to Muslim women in her community. “The two passions that I have that I use within my community and my business are therapeutic arts like zentangling, art journaling, and mandalas and gathering women together to make meaningful connections,” says Jennessa.
“All throughout my life I have been the glue that brought people together,” she explains. “I am the type of person that hates small talk, but I can sit down and talk to anyone about their story for hours and hours. So, bringing women together to connect with themselves and each other through meaningful dialogue and art is the perfect marriage and definitely my passion.”
As an empowerment coach, Jennessa helps women of all faiths and backgrounds, but as a Muslim she directs much of her expertise to her local masjid. “I have found through the years that our Muslim community has limited programming for women to gather for the sake of support, camaraderie, and connection,” she says. “It can also be difficult for the women in our community to provide their input into the programming and support that they need as a Muslimah, mother, wife, and daughter. As a result, when I was given the opportunity to be a founding member of the Shura Council at my local mosque, I jumped at the opportunity.”
Her efforts on the Shura Council, while focused primarily on the needs of women and adolescents, enhance the community as a whole. “Over the past two years I have been able to create a sisters’ programming committee that is giving a voice to the women to find activities they can connect with. I’ve also created a youth development committee led by sisters that is doing monthly programming for teens to help strengthen their imaan.” Jennessa Durrani can be followed at on her website where she empowers mothers to see what’s possible for themselves without sacrificing their role as an amazing mom.
Mothers who have latent talents or unexplored passions can look to Tara, Nina, Maryam, and Jennessa as role models. These women saw a need in their community and generously dedicated their time, energy, and God-given abilities to fulfill it. Along the way, they get to be the best version of themselves, honoring their strengths and using them to please their Creator.