Connection is fundamental to us as spiritual beings. When we are connected, we operate at our full capacity, and love and generosity permeates in everything we do.
Some scholars have the gift of communication, able to share what they learn easily with those around them. Other scholars have a penchant for the written word, giving them the ability to read and translate it easily. Nadia has the rare combination of both gifts. As a scholar who is highly intellectual, especially in the field of medicine, Nadia uses her gifts at Good Tree Institute to teach, translate and inspire. Growing up in Syria with a deep Muslim faith, Nadia was always as much drawn to her religious studies as she was to her academic studies, receiving multiple certifications by renowned scholars in Damascus, Syria. Her training in the Islamic Sciences included The Biography of The Prophet Mohammad, Quranic Sciences and Interpretation, Islamic History, Islamic Jurisprudence and the Sciences of Hadith (the legacy and tradition of the prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him). Dr. Katrangi also received a certification of memorization and “tajweed” recitation (Ijaza) in Quran from the esteemed scholar, Sheikh Hasan Al-Kurdi. As she studied medicine, and eventually moved into pathology as a career path, she found her academics and her faith continued to be intertwined. “Our body, mind and soul as humans are very connected,” she said. “To live to your highest potential, you must use all three.” At Good Tree, Nadia created a place that felt like home to her, and felt like home to the other original founders. Today, she prides herself on finding beauty in the Quran, provoking thoughtful and nurturing conversations and encouraging an open space for all who attend Good Tree retreats, classes or camps. The most rewarding thing she sees time and again? When someone connects to themselves, those around them and to their Creator. “One of the biggest things you can do is recognizing who God is for you,” Nadia says. “There is so much love in the Divine. When you live your life from that place, you have that on your side.”
Years ago, Sameena found herself longing for a good teacher in the Muslim faith. She prayed. When she embarked on her Hajj, this prayer continued. Shortly after she returned, she found her teacher in Nadia. At the time, Good Tree hadn’t been formed yet but the practices, discussions and community building had already begun. Sameena immersed herself with Nadia and the other women and finally got what she prayed for. “I’m a starter. I love to start things,” Sameena says. Much of what Good Tree has become today was started by Sameena and the other founders. She continues to start other projects that led to greater things. Today, Sameena lives in Detroit but remains active in Good Tree as a board member, still flying in for workshops and other special activities. Sameena is an attorney, working mostly with nonprofits on issues related to corporate governance & cultivating resources. She’s also personally dedicated to revitalizing neighborhoods in her community, investing money into fixing up a home for someone in need to live in.
When Shatha moved to Phoenix nearly a decade ago, she found herself in the same shoes as many new Good Tree members today: longing for a sense of community and to deeper explore her faith. Good Tree didn’t exist back then but she did met a friend, Ayesha, who introduced her to the other ladies that would eventually form Good Tree. “I remember being completely blown away,” Shatha said of the first time she said when she first saw the early seedlings of Good Tree being formed. She had never seen so many female leaders discuss the Muslim faith in such a progressive way. It was a spirit they wanted to bring to their children, Shatha recalled. Born in Syria, Shatha was lucky to have a father who pushed her academically and spiritually to become the best woman she could be. Family dinners were filled with thoughtful dialogue. She spent her young adulthood traveling often and married a Venezuelan man – two factors that solidified her love of opening her heart and mind to all different types of people. Shatha earned a healthcare degree before she became an entrepreneur. Her appreciation of women leaders extended beyond Good Tree. Today, Shatha is the founder of Hera Hub in Phoenix, a modern co-working space dedicated to bringing female entrepreneurs together under one roof. She continues to be dedicated to Good Tree as a board member and loves seeing the organization grow. In her spare time, she enjoys trying new types of workouts and hiking Arizona’s scenic mountains.
Ayesha has never met a problem she didn’t want to solve or a challenge she didn’t want to conquer. This mindset has served her well as an IT consultant who thrives in helping organizations solve technical programs, bring people together and set best practices. She also is dedicated in the gym; practicing Crossfit, she can now deadlift 210 pounds. Not to mention, she is raising three daughters. Yes, Ayesha loves a good challenge. Growing up in a Muslim household without access to Islamic education, Ayesha was particularly inspired when she met the women of Good Tree before the nonprofit was officially established. She loved the rich discussions. She loved the introspections. And most of all, she loved the challenge of better understanding her faith and values while also honoring the language of the Quran. “We, as human beings, tend to focus on the mechanics of religion, and not the true source,” she said. “Focusing on the true source has helped me grow as a human, and to understand wholeheartedly our purpose as human beings.” Ayesha continues to serve as a board member of Good Tree, guiding strategy and fundraising as the organization grows.
Adeyinka Muhammad Mendes is the Resident Scholar and Imam at the Muslim Center of Greater Princeton. He is a native Ohioan of Yoruba, Brazilian, and African-American ancestry who also spent some of his formative years in Nigeria and Houston, Texas. He has a background of working with interfaith, Muslim, academic, permacultural, and peace-building institutions. Adeyinka's studies and work have taken him to countries around the world including Syria, Mauritania, Morocco, Singapore, Turkey, Senegal, Malaysia, and back to Nigeria. He is fluent in Arabic, received a degree in Arabic Language and Cultural Studies from the Ohio State University, and has been trained for over two decades in the spiritual, scholastic, and aesthetic traditions of Muslim civilization by teachers from around the world. Adeyinka is particularly passionate about uplifting youth, empowering women, and inspiring African-Americans with knowledge of their spiritual and intellectual legacy in order to build that more compassionate and sacred world for which our hearts yearn. He currently resides in New Jersey with his wife and children..
Creators are special. They move through life infusing beauty and new life into everything they touch. They not only see the possibility in the mundane, but they do something about it. For as long as she can remember, Marci Hadley-Mairel has been a creator, the kind who channels it into a business model. She loved baking so at age 12, she created a cake decorating business. Marci had a knack for creating baby quilts for friends, and turned that into a business as well. She even took her teenage sport of choice, karate, and made a career out of that for a period of time. “When I’m creating, I enjoy taking the raw ingredients and using it to make something better, one that can benefits others,” she said. “My favorite part is seeing someone enjoy it.” Marci’s creative energy is a part of everything she does, and she has brought that spirit into the Good Tree community as program director. However, at first, Marci came to Good Tree not feeling very creative or connected. As the daughter of converts to the Muslim faith, Marci was used to feeling like an outsider. When she found Good Tree, that all changed. She began to feel accepted, valued and most importantly, connected with herself, others and her Creator. She started off as a volunteer, quickly immersing herself in the classrooms and finding opportunities to fill in and support the leaders. In less than a year, Good Tree saw her hard work and dedication and invited her to step into the role of program director. Once again, Marci’s creativity has blossomed, allowing her to take on her biggest creativity initiative yet: “I want to create a space where people belong,” she says.