Twin Cities Somali community lost a giant

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Mama Abia Ali is an Ancestor Now.

She is someone who will inspire us throughout our lives, Insha’Allah. A feeling of panic set in as I realized that the Twin Cities Somali community lost a giant yesterday. Mama Abia (may Allah be pleased with her) returned to her Creator and left many of us remembering and mourning her beautiful life.

Then I realized Mama Abia’s reach was global. It was multi-generational. It was timely. It transcended social and gender norms. From Minneapolis to Mogadishu – she was available to hear, support, and love Somalis everywhere. She had the courage to take a stand when needed, and worked through wrought relationships with compassion. She was the best circle-keeper. She was our biggest philanthropist and our fiercest advocate.

She championed young people. She organized opportunities for youth and found ways to sustain youth programs, both financially and other non tangible support. She did everything she could to prevent young people from harm – even when it made her unpopular or put her at risk.

She spoke with ingenuity, was honest and expressed emotional vulnerability. She was the real deal.

Mama Abia was a pioneer. She paved the way for women in our community to take leadership positions. She built us up. She gave us wisdom and love, and then told us to get it [to use our agency and be heard]! She reflected Islam and inspired us to become better Muslims. She occupied spaces in the mosque, allowing inclusion for women, young and old.

We lost a giant. But Mama Abia’s passion and her work must live on. The best way we can honor her legacy is to take on the causes she cared about:

● To invest in girls and young women.

● To promote health equity and provide resources to the parts of the republic and the diaspora with the fewest resources – one child at a time.

● To promote education and ensure that all our children have access to a bright future.

● To support the civil rights of Somalis in Minnesota.

● To ensure that women are at all decision-making tables and are heard.

There’s not much I can say about someone who gave their time and resources to so many people without ever asking for titles, wealth, or attention. Except this: May Allah be pleased with her and grant her the highest level of paradise. Ameen.

Mama Abia passed away Saturday in Mogadishu.

Ramla Bile is a Minneapolis-based writer.

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