Our previous cover story focused on how a number of well known and influential Australian Muslims would be spending a very “different” Ramadan this year, as the world does its best to cope with the COVID-19 crisis.
Providing a feminine perspective in that article was a female who is a much admired member of the Muslim community and who has proven to be a real ‘trail blazer’ in her field of expertise: well known and respected Sydney lawyer Ramia Abdo Sultan.
This week Ramia was kind enough to give us some of her valuable time, and even after a relatively short chat with her, it is easy to understand why she is held in such high esteem throughout our community.
“I describe myself as a wife, mother and a lawyer as that is how my life seems to have has unfolded,” Ramia (who was born and raised in Australia and is of Palestinian/Lebanese heritage) said on Thursday.
“After completing my Higher School Certificate, I married my husband Forat when I was eighteen. He was also a university student, studying Pharmacy, so the student life worked really well for us!”
“I completed my law degree at UTS by 2005 and Forat and I decided to travel while we were still young and had obtained our qualifications.
“Of course, Makkah and Medina are the most beautiful places to visit, but Jerusalem, Palestine is something else! It will always have a special place in my heart.
“We completed The Hajj (which gave us a great focus on life) and upon returning to Sydney, I took up a position with a law firm in the suburbs.
“After giving birth to my first child, I returned to work and similarly after my second.
“I didn’t want to lose touch with work so I was doing a lot of legal work from home and after my youngest child was born in 2011, I began to work for myself.”
Despite juggling work and with the responsibilities of being a mum of three young children, Ramia nonetheless completed her Masters degree with a distinction in Islamic Studies through Charles Sturt University, where her thesis focused on the differences between Australian Inheritance Law and Islamic Inheritance Law.
It was around this time that Ramia began to do a lot of community work to reconcile her career, running workshops and seminars to help the public and raise awareness, particularly for Australian Muslims, to understand the intricacies of Wills and (family) succession laws.
In 2017 when her youngest daughter began school, Ramia partnered up with two other lawyers and they set up Hills Legal Group, putting her vast experience in Wills, Probate and Estate planning, Property law, general Family law and Civil law matters to great use.
It was during her time at Hills Legal that Ramia was appointed Community Relations Advisor to the Australian National Imams Council (ANIC), a peak Islamic body that holds key representation from Australian-based Muslim Clerics, comprising over 200 Muslim Imams, Clerics and Scholars.
As the first female appointed to the ANIC, Ramia is definitely a trail blazer, doing some fantastic work behind the scenes.
And although it is a voluntary position, Ramia puts her heart and soul into the role, providing assisting with submissions to government, media statements, drafting of letters and providing advice to the Imams, among many duties for the Council.
There has been quite a shift at ANIC over recent years, where the Council now has a designated media spokesman in Bilal Rauf and a director of public relations in Imam Ibrahim Dadoun, in addition to Ramia as community relations adviser.
This structure has proven to be a masterstroke by the Council, as gone are the days when the media misrepresented ANIC (and how often have we seen this) by grabbing a short, random quote from an Imam and sensationalising it, when the quote may have been taken completely out of context, if quoted correctly, at all.
Ramia is also a member of the executive committee of the Gaza Childrens’ Fund, a non-profit humanitarian organisation which seeks to help and empower women and children in Gaza, Palestine.
She also sits on other committees seeking to impart positive change including an advisory committee with the Australian Human Rights Commission for the project: “Sharing the stories of Australian Muslims: National Consultations on Hate, Racism, Islamophobia and Social Cohesion.”
Ramia’s tireless work ethic and the amount of time she spends giving back to the community made her a very worthy recipient of the 2019 “Mission Of Hope” Australian Muslim Achievement Awards’ Role Model of the Year, an honour that she is justly proud of.
“It’s a day I will never forget as the Awards ceremony was held on the same date as my sister’s wedding,” Ramia recalled.
“Hanan Dover did a great job at making sure I was there to receive the award in person and I didn’t want to let her down by not attending, as Hanan does such a great job co-ordinating the Awards each and every year.
“Even though I had to head off to the wedding not long after receiving the award, it is an achievement I will always cherish as there were so many worthy people nominated for all the various categories.”
(See our report on the 2019 Australian Muslim Achievement Awards: also among the Stories on this website under the headline “Great Achievers, One And All”).
With her commitment to her many worthwhile, voluntary causes continuing to increase, Ramia began to consider a worthwhile venture similar to the one she had going with Hills Legal Group.
She recently partnered up with three other lawyers in a new law firm called Lawbridge Lawyers and Consultants, where the team of lawyers offers a very unique skill set when compared with any other law firm.
Some of the team are senior lawyers and others hold much needed Islamic qualifications – including Sheikh Abu Adnan, also known as Mohamad Kammoun.
“Each partner has a unique skill which they can utilise in the legal sphere, and I believe we are able to offer a distinctive legal service since we can reconcile the legal and Islamic issues in matters that require this to occur…. particularly for Australian Muslims caught up in legal issues.”
Ramia also revealed her drive for encouraging Australian Muslims to pursue an education and career which will make a change and contribute positively to the world.
“I am blessed that education has been an extremely important factor in my family, and I attribute this drive to my late grandmother, who would go out of her way to ensure that nobody was deprived of an education, no matter what.
“She would assist families even by picking up and dropping their children off to school – free of charge – to ensure that no child was disadvantaged from embarking on a path of education.
“An important point that I remind my own children about is that you must be a person of dunya (worldly life) and akhira (the hereafter), and we shouldn’t limit ourselves to either, because this wasn’t the teachings of our beloved Prophet (pbuh).
“You need to be spiritually grounded AND educated equally, in order to navigate through this life smoothly.
One of many initiatives that Ramia is extremely proud of is the running of weekly study circles (“halaqat”) for young Islamic women at two different venues, alongside a dear friend of hers, with a similar drive, namely sister Hanan Hamza.
“For the past nine years now, I have blocked Wednesdays from my work and social diary due to my commitment of running a study circle primarily aimed at stay at home mums, or women who have the day off and wish to gain a spiritual boost, where we discuss social issues and Islamic knowledge is imparted.
“I also run a study circle on Saturdays aimed at sisters who are university students or working professionals (such as doctors, lawyers, social workers, nurses and teachers) and again, a wide range of issues are discussed.
“Obviously, owing to the social distancing restrictions associated with COVID-19, these forums are currently being conducted online.
“I enjoy these study circles thoroughly and the way the circle goes, these fine young women will hopefully be mentoring my own daughters one day.”
When Ramia isn’t “lawyering” or volunteering in the community, she enjoys her time camping with the family, cycling and going for the occasional swim.
She is certainly a remarkable role model in every sense!!