- Can you give our readers an insight on who Aisha Khaja is, according to Aisha Khaja?:
My name is Aisha Khaja. I am a day time bureaucrat in the provincial government, and by night time and the weekends, I’m the National Director for Charity Week Canada and TV host for Let the Quran Speak.
- We were fascinated while reading your academic accolades online, can you give us a little context on your academic career, and why you chose to pursue a postgraduate degree?:
I decided to pursue my Masters mainly because I saw my older sister do it. As I navigated through my undergraduate degree with a double major in French and English, and having been very active in the student government, I thought at the time that my future would be in university administration. Living in the competitive economic times we're in, I knew that in order to set myself apart, and also learn more about a field that I’m very passionate about, a Masters of Arts in Education would be the right path for me – and here I am today, completed with my MA, alhamdulillah.
- We read online that you founded Canada's chapter of Charity Week which is an initiative dedicated to raising funds for orphans and needy children. Can you explain the cause, your role and what initially motivated you to start this amazing work?
After I completed my graduate degree and I was working full time, I felt a void in my life. I went to work, came back, socialized – and such was the routine. Having been always involved – whether it be in high school or university – it just seemed weird to me to just work. I was itching to give back to the community and be a part of something big but I just didn’t know how. At the time too, as I was searching organizations and initiatives that I could potentially pursue, no matter where I went, an element of unity was always missing and I thought to myself, the Muslims need to get back to being united. Alhamdullilah, I just happened to stumble upon an article about Charity Week UK, and their mission was just this – unity. They worked with colleges and universities all across UK to raise funds for orphans and needy children, but with an emphasis on unity. The idea that during one week, everyone is dedicated to this cause – raising awareness of the plight of those less fortunate than us, while raising funds – and then of course, using that as a form of dawah to shed light on true Islam – filled with smiling, kind and caring brothers and sisters. I was in awe when I read the article and after doing more research, I knew we had to start it in Canada.
I reached out to Charity Week UK who at the time, had been around for 9 years and I told them I wanted to start in Canada. Alhamdullilah, they provided amazing advice and support – I called up a couple of friends – 4 to be exact – and I told them I wanted them on board to work on this initiative and that’s how it all started. None of us knew what we were getting ourselves into, but we all believed the gap of unity needed to be addressed in our community. And what kept and keeps me going to this day is the verse in the Quran where God tells us that if you put your faith in Him and truly do something sincerely for the sake of Allah, he’ll find ways from that which you couldn’t have even imagined (Paraphrased – Surah Talaq, Verses 2-3).
I currently serve as the National Director for Charity Week Canada, providing oversight to our finance, marketing, institutions, admin and events team. We Alhamdullilah are in our third year this year, with 17 institutions participating, across 4 provinces.
- We recently saw you speak on TEDXOPS about being a Young Canadian Muslim woman and you were on the Toronto Star speaking about being a visible woman of faith. Can you give some context to these two experiences and what you hoped to achieve through these platforms?
We are living in a time where the Islam I grew up with – peace, love, care, respect for your neighbours, giving charity – is not portrayed this way anymore. Instead, it portrays men with beards as terrorists and women who wear headscarves, like myself as oppressed. It upsets and frustrates me that this is the Islam we see on television, and it’s even more upsetting that people actually believe that this is what Islam really is. So when these two opportunities came up for me, I knew that it was God’s way of providing me with a forum to speak out and share the true beauty of Islam and shatter the stereotypes, especially those associated with Muslim women. And so, it was with this mind-set that I approached these two projects. I strongly believe that God has given each of us certain skills and aptitudes – it is up to us to find them and use it for His and only His cause.
With anything and everything that I do, this was, is and has been my goal – to use the platforms I have to share the beauty and message of Islam – in hopes that I can do at least a tiny bit for all that God has blessed me with
- What is let the Quran Speak? Why is this project so important to you? What are your long term goals through this wonderful Weekly Islamic TV show?:
Let the Quran Speak is a weekly show that promotes understanding and appreciation of Islam and Muslims in Canada, with a focus on Canadians of other and/or no faith backgrounds as our target audience.
This project is extremely important to me because although I work for the government, I was missing that direct connection to the community. The TV show, alhamdulilah, gives me just this – an opportunity to work with and meet inspirational people day in and day out, while still raising awareness about the true message of Islam.
The TV show has been going on since 2001 and mashAllah, Dr. Shabir (Resident Scholar) and the team are really the reason the show is where it is today, with respect to Television and it’s prominence in the community. With my little time thus far (will be a year in October), I truly hope to work with the team to raise the profile of the TV show not only at a local but also an international level so the true message of Islam can reach the world. I also hope to establish partnerships with organizations so that we can together, continue to once again, bring to light, how beautiful Islam really is.
- Why are quality and thought out ideas/visions so important to you?:
It all comes from teachings of the faith. Two that come to mind:
(1)The Prophet said tie your camel, then put your trust in God.
(2)The Prophet didn't receive revelation till he was 40 years of age. Ustadh Amjad Tarsin (UofT) told me that there’s also wisdom and something to be said about the fact that the Prophet didn’t get revelation till he was 40 years of age in his life.
I think both of these are symbolic to the fact that quality and visioning are both very important aspects that we should think about. Only when you have well thought-out ideas and a vision guiding you, can you achieve results – everything that I’ve done and likely will ever do, have never been on the fly – I’ve always taken some time to do analysis, sort myself out and then take the jump. This approach, and of course, having faith in the All-mighty, is what helps me accomplish my goals and things I want to do in life.
- Who is one of your day to day inspirations, the classical unknown hero in your life that everyone needs to know?:
My family. My parents encourage, support and motivate me with all the work I do. Even when I feel like I’m going to fail or I say I can’t do it, my parents, especially my mom, tells me to say Bismillah and do it. This has never failed me, thanks to my beyond amazing parents. My siblings are my cheerleaders. From Florida to Toronto. No matter where they are or what they’re doing, they’ve always been there to support me – and keep my ego in check, Alhamdullilah for family.
- Usually wearing a head scarf (or hijab) is a sign that a woman is trying to project modesty. Why do you wear the hijab, what does it mean to you and why do you dress the way you do?:
Hijab to me is a way of life. One that God has set out for me – I do it to worship Him and Him alone. It’s about carrying myself, as a woman, in a respectable and modest manner; for society to judge me based on my intellect rather than my looks, and for the world to know that I am a proud, Muslim woman.
Aisha K. is exclusively wearing Mode-ste.