Safiyyah Abdul-Qawiyy: Prioritizing the Needs of My Community

Safiyyah Abdul-Qawiyy is the Founder and CEO of Muslim Sisters of Staten Island, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering Muslim women and children in Staten Island by providing resources, services and hosting programs for civic engagement. She is also a mother of three, grandmother of one, registered Nurse and Professor.

My name is Safiyyah Abdul-Qawiyy. I came to the United States at the age of eleven from Jamaica and settled in Staten Island, New York. Life was very interesting for me being in a new country. I experienced immigrant culture shock for a few years before adapting to life in the U.S. Before moving to Staten Island, I was living in New Jersey with my aunt seeking to pursue a career as a registered nurse. At the age of 30, I became a registered nurse. I received my BSN at the age of 42 and my MSN degree at the age of 44. My nursing experience includes critical care, emergency, and urgent care.

I converted to Islam at the age of sixteen, after being introduced to a sense of spirituality that I had never had before. I married the man that introduced me to Islam when I was twenty years old. I had my struggles and my triumphs, but through it all, Allah kept me in his beautiful faith.

A few sisters and I in the Staten Island community, initially started MSSI in 2014 at a local mosque as a women’s discussion group (halaqa) for Muslim women. After seeing that many services and programs were lacking, and were not being acknowledged or provided to the most vulnerable members of our community (women and children), I decided to change this discussion forum into something that will have a bigger impact on our community. I realized that there were cultural and religious barriers, as well as ignorance of how to effectively communicate and service this population. The community needed a space to adequately explain their needs and trust people who would know how to effectively address and prioritize their requests.

I believe that the needs of the women and children of the community is our priority. Together we can work as a true community to maintain a close-knit family unit. My dream is to establish a family resource and youth education center on Staten Island. The center will be geared towards the needs of the Muslim and non-Muslim women and children from the Staten Island community.