Karen Keyworth cared deeply about Islamic schools and Muslim educators. She devoted much of her time and energy to the growth and development of our schools, leaders, and teachers. The seeds for ISLA as an organization arose out of this very concern. And while Karen is no longer with us, her legacy lives on. Leave a testimonial to help commemorate Karen’s great impact on Islamic schools in North America.

Karen Keyworth was a pillar of the Muslim educational community in the United States. She was a pioneer in Islamic education for nearly 30 years, founding an Islamic school in East Lansing, MI, and co-founding the Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA). One of the pinnacles of her educational efforts occurred in 2015, when she was awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement in Islamic Education Award by ISNA.

Feeling the lack of options for Islamic schooling in her hometown of East Lansing, MI, Keyworth founded the Greater Lansing Islamic School (1996), which today has 163 K-8 students. In addition to being the founding principal, she taught English as a Second Language and Language Arts (1-3), implemented the writing process (K-8), integrated reading and writing across the curriculum and was responsible for assessment. Her administrative duties included curriculum design and supervision, teacher and staff hiring, serving on the school board, budgeting, fundraising, student recruitment and community and parent/school liaison.

In 1998, she partnered with Judi Amri of Fairfax, VA to found this organization, the Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA), in order to strengthen Islamic schools by facilitating networking amongst North America’s K-12 private Islamic Schools and educators. The ISLA remains the only organization dedicated solely to supporting Islamic education in the U.S. She managed one of the ISLA’s main contributions: the Islamic Educators Communication Network (IECN) email list, which comprises over 450 educators across North America.

Keyworth handled ISLA’s networking, public relations, and fundraising, as well as created policy and identified trends. In addition, she conducted research, and provided interviews and support to those seeking to better understand Islamic education. She authored approximately 80% of the site’s current web content and was the main writer for its webpages. As an ISLA representative, she made presentations at numerous community conferences and worked with educators to establish standards and best practices.

She researched Islamic schools in the US via designing and analyzing data collection and written results for a 2007 publication by Georgetown Universe and the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. Her research was also published in “Educating the Muslims of America” (ed. Yvonne Haddad and Farid Senzai). In addition, she published eight articles for Islamic Horizons, nearly half of which were anchor articles for its annual education issues.

She held a Bachelors (linguistics, 1980) and a Master’s degree (English and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (1982), both from Michigan State University. She spent almost 25 years as an adjunct professor at Jackson Community College and at Lansing Community College. At the latter, she taught ESL courses and developmental writing. During her eight-year ensure, she held the position of Portfolio Coordinator.

She frequently liaised between the community and the media, spoke about Islam at schools and churches and served as the chair for the American Muslim Council’s Lansing chapter.

Karen Keyworth is survived by her husband Fuad M. Al-Kabour; son Mohammed; daughters Sarah, Maryam and Hannah; and grandson, Khalid.

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I remember Sr. Karen very fondly. She was a tender soul who cared deeply about Islamic Education. I recall serving with her on ISLA's board of advisors nearly two decades ago. I remember the conferences she helped organize and managed in Illinois, Virginia, and Washington, DC. She was always making herself available, especially regarding our independent schools and those working in them. She, along with Sr. Judi Amri and Br. Ahmed Al-Wazir, were pioneers in our educational effort. There are others worthy of being mentioned, but Sr. Karen was at the forefront of all being planned and executed. May she rest in eternal peace and comfort. And may Allah, Ar-Rahman, Ar-Rahim, shower her with His love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. Our dear sister is missed. Our dear sister will always be remembered and admired for all she did for others.

Salahuddeen Abdul Kareem

Sister Karen was both a friend and a confidant since 1994. Her zest as a life-long learner was infectious! During the days that ISLA was being formed, we often discussed the state of Islamic schools in North America in a national and global context. Karen's views were vast because they were based on salient research, along with personal experience as a parent, teacher, and administrator. She was a great listener, so this enabled her to process the experiences of others. All combined she envisioned the framework for ISLA. From that point, she unselfishly put in many hours to collaborate with others throughout the USA and the world to develop an organization that we hope will be a testament for her when she goes before Allah on the Day of Accounting, beithnillah. She will be missed but not forgotten.

A. Moona Fain

May Allah reward Karen for her untiring efforts on behalf of Islamic education even during the most difficult of times and through all the challenges she had to go through and they were many, her health being only one of them. We are all indebted to sister Karen and her determination in how far we have come with Islamic education thanks in no small measure to her.
I still remember the joy on her face when we honored her at the ISNA Education Forum with her family surrounding her. I felt that she had everything and everyone she loved around her in one place maybe for the first and only time ever. Her face was beaming with happiness and an amazing smile that told the whole story. That will always be the image I have in my head of my dearest sister Karen and that is always how I will remember her.
Till we meet her in heaven InshaAllah.

Safaa Zarzour

Superintendent, Universal School
To Allah we belong and to Him we all return. May Allah grant her forgiveness and the highest place in Jannah for her pioneering and tireless work on behalf of the education of Muslims, both students and educators. Her dedication and professionalism stood out to me--any time I contacted her she responded quickly and thoroughly, demonstrating a passion for this work for the sake of Allah SWT.   And her smile and cheerful nature was so uplifting to all who met her in person. May Allah ease the sorrow of her family and close friends.

Jelena Naim

Principal, Al-Falah Academy
Karen was a visionary. She foresaw the need for the growing number of Islamic schools to connect and share resources and experience. Whenever I think of Karen, it is her heartfelt genuineness that I remember.

Dr. Fawzia Tung

ISLA Board Member
Karen was a supporter of Islamic schools and school leaders. Her research and the IECN are magnificent sources that she produced to promote and support Islamic education and Islamic schools. These will continue to serve educators, insha Allah. She leaves behind teachers and principals who have benefited from her insight and wisdom. She was a kind soul who was firm in her Islamic belief. There were no problems too big for Karen to handle, a testament to her faith. Educators  presented their problems frequently and she made a great effort to find solutions for them. She was supportive and encouraging and we will miss that. I will miss her presence at the Ed Forum and her light and serious comments via conference calls at board meeting. And definitely, I will miss her sharp and precise edits of anything that was to be published in ISLA's name. Whether it was retreat descriptions or ISLA advertisements, she was sharp with a critical eye for detail.  Most of all she was a friend with whom I could share my thoughts and concerns. As any good Muslim, she would offer advice base on Qur'an and Sunnah and make du'a for me.  Although we live on opposite ends of the United States and I saw her only occasionally, her presence will be missed as if I saw her every day.

Dr. Patricia Salahuddin

ISLA Board Member
For me, Karen's name came to be synonymous with 'HELP' for Islamic schools. Her contributions even reached the Eastern most part of the United States where our school is located in the US Virgin Islands. Oh ya Allah, one of your kindest servants is returned to you and we beseech you to shower her with your mercy and kindness, Ameen!

Hatim Yusuf

Chairman of Board of Trustees, Iqra' Academy
I was finding myself noticing that Karen was not at the table during our banquets at the ISNA Ed Forum. For years we had unspoken plans to show up at meals and sit in groups to catch up with one another. I missed Karen's ideas throughout the Forum. I recall many of her mannerisms and patterns of thinking. This year, 2017 I had the pleasure of sitting with her daughters at one of the dinners. I was pleased with the Tribute that ISNA Ed Forum paid to Karen's efforts toward Islamic Education. She was a pioneer and a role model for building and for perseverance. I know words really don't do her contribution justice, but I value her long friendship and professional collegiality. May Allah (S) grant her the highest station of the garden. Ameen.

Dr. Seema Imam

Professor of Elementary and Middle Level Teacher Education at National Louis University and Board Member of the ISLA

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