Arabic Vocab. for Thul Hijjah

Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him and his father) also reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “There is no deed more precious in the sight of Allaah, nor greater in reward, than a good deed done during the ten days of Sacrifice.”, ..

عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنه عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال ( مَا مِنْ أَيَّامٍ الْعَمَلُ الصَّالِحُ فِيهِنَّ أَحَبُّ إِلَى اللَّهِ مِنْ هَذِهِ الأَيَّامِ الْعَشْرِ

فَقَالُوا : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَلاَ الْجِهَادُ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ؟ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ( صلى الله عليه وسلم ) : وَلاَ الْجـِهَادُ فِي سَبِيلِ الله…  (صحيح البخاري وصحيح سنن الترمذي)

He was asked, “Oh Messenger of Allah, Not even jihaad for the sake of Allaah?” He said, “Not even jihaad for the sake of Allaah…”


Ihraam: إحرام

When the pilgrim reaches a certain distance closer to Mekka, he/she must assume the Ihramstate of ihram. It is a state in which certain things become ‘haraam’or forbidden. The Muslim cleans his body, clips body hair, nails, etc. After going into the state if i’hram removing body hair or nails, wearing perfume are forbidden. Other forbidden things are conducting a contract of marriage or having any intimate relation with one’s spouse.

The men wear 2 large white towels. Women are not restricted to any colors but must be pure and stay away from what is forbidden.

الطواف –  الطواف حول الكعبة      aTawwaf – aTawwaf hawlal Kaaba.

h=300The pilgrims or Hujjaaj go around the Ka’aba  7 times in a counterclockwise direction. Wearing no shoes, they walk making du’aa, remembering Allah and showing patience to those around them.


السعي بين الصفا والمورة      as-Sa’ee bayna Safa wal Marwah

“Running’ between the 2 mountains of aSafaa and al-Marwah, as Hajar, the wife of Ibrahim did (peace be upon them both).

images              سشبش

Prayer at Ibrahim’s station and drinking Zamzam

مقام.gif            zamzam


 And now, the absolute easiest way to memorize the Islamic months; for children and adults too!

These are the months in Islaam…

To Learn Quran, Fight Yourself

Shaytaan will whisper, “Reading the Quran is too difficult, leave it on the shelf.”

Our brain will try to keep us in a comfort zone and if we are not careful weeks, months, and years can go by and we have not progressed or worse, we have gone backwards. We think we are “doing ok” because we listen to lectures and don’t engage in any major sins but we are not reciting, memorizing or even pondering the Book of Allah. Beware that Shaytaan wants to reduce our rewards by keeping us from this noble struggle of learning Quran.

Climbing the Hill

The first stage of reading Quran in Arabic is like climbing a hill.  Know that learning the Quran is a skill to be developed over time, and this development has stages. So you learned alif-baa, can connect the letters, have mastered the shedda, tanween, and other rules of reading, now you must connect yourself to the mus-haf (Quran in Arabic).

You sit with the mus-haf to read. You feel the stress of coming out of the comfort zone and pushing against yourself. Letter for letter, vowel for vowel your mind is working to apply all the rules you learned. If you are in front of a teacher, or sitting in a group, you will feel yourself becoming nervous maybe even hear your voice shaking, feel your hands sweating.  You can’t find a flow. Your reading is choppy and very slow and may sound like: fa-le-ma jaa-aa-hum…, trying to recognize and pronounce Arabic letters correctly while applying the kesra and damma in the right place. As you read, you notice markings and symbols in the Quran that signal new rules you have not yet learned. At the end of your reading you let out a “Whew!” It is mental gymnastics.

This is a critical stage

I want you to realize that this is a critical stage in your learning. If you continue, keeping your promise to push yourself and read a little each day, you will start to have small breakthroughs that will bring you much joy. You’ll struggle to read and figure out a word and then find that it’s a word you know! (Moo-saa, sa-laam-un, al-malaa-ikah). Short surahs that you had learned through English letters, will become more clear as you confidently begin to make corrections. These small triumphs will keep you encouraged and become a reward for your effort. Each time you sit to read, you will notice it becomes just a little bit easier and little less stressful as you recognize letters and vowels and apply rules much more quickly.

Remember this:

Everyone has struggled like this. All the Muslims whether from countries like the Arab Gulf, India or Indonesia, all have struggled like this to learn Quran. The only difference is that most of them struggled in their childhood, while you are struggling in your adulthood. So this must be an encouragement for us to make sure that our children learn to read Quran at the earliest age possible. Quran for children is more important than Mother Goose rhymes, cartoons or video games. The Muslim child should learn to read the Quran in Arabic, even before learning to read his native language whether it be English French, Chinese or Russian.

So although you are learning as an adult, your struggle is normal and should be expected.

Beware of this, and this is very important:

If you quit at this stage, you will go backwards. Just like climbing  a hill, if you quit you will never reach the top to sit and enjoy the view. Those sisters who close the mus-haf and put it back high on the shelf because it’s too hard, may not return to it for months or even years. It’s easy to get busy with life; we have husbands, children, work, laundry, cooking. Time moves on and the belief that it’s too hard’ becomes so strong, that it’s easier and easier to ignore the Book of Allah. Al-hamdulillah we are  praying, wearing hijab, and avoiding major sins. But deep in our hearts we imagine the Quran looking down on us from the shelf asking us, why have you made hijrah from me?” Deep inside we know that our heart never felt the happiness it felt while learning to read and recite the Book of Allah.

Some people classify themselves as ‘stagnant’ due to their time away from learning Arabic and Quran. Actually, after months or years away from learning Arabic and reciting Quran, when we come back sometimes we find we have to start again from scratch.  We learned how to read Arabic but we ‘we don’t remember too much. We memorized a juz of Quran but we forgot half of it. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raa-jioon.

So PUSH THROUGH the pain and keep climbing. There is nothing stopping you except you. Nobody can do this work but you. My relationship with the Book of Allah can go as far as I allow it go. Because the Quran is always calling us back to it once we’ve had a taste of it Once we experienced that rise in Imaan that comes from reciting the Book of Allah, our hearts will always be yearning for it but we have to fight ourselves and win.

Nadiya Johnson

Arabic Language Curriculum & Instruction


Standing and Understanding

“I don’t attend salaatu – taraaweeh because I cannot understand the Quran.”  As an Arabic teacher, hearing that statement from a student gives me a pain in my heart.

 The number 1 reason to learn Arabic is to develop the skill of understanding the Quran.  However, it will take some consistent effort on your part and now is a great time to start because Ramadhan is less than 2 months away. I encourage you to take my course “Quranic Arabic for Ramadhan”. You can register

Until then, here is some practical advice that may help:

Start actively listening to the Quran.  Rather than just playing it in the home and enjoying the rhythm, sit and try to distinguish words. Sit with the English translation on one side and the Arabic on the other side. Choose a simple word-for-word translation like the one offered at  The Noble Quran, which contains tafseer (explanation), can be used for further explanation but a simpler translater is needed for word-to-word translation.

Start with a surah that you love. If you love suratu Maryam, then start with that one. If you love suratu Yusuf then start with that one.

Choose a Sheikh who recites at a moderate pace. There are many to choose from on youtube or Quranexplorer, for example Huthaifi, Menshawi, A-Shatri, al-Husri and many many others.

Decide on how many words/phrases you will collect in one sitting.  7 might be a good amount to memorize, and try to make them words that are often repeated. There are many words and phrases which are repetitive in the Quran. Start paying attention to them and collecting them as you listen. Here are some to look out for:

“Oh you who believe…”

“Allah created the heavens and the Earth…”

Allah does not burden a soul more than it can bear…”

“Verily those who believe and do righteous deeds…”

“And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the Earth…”

According to Sheikh Muhammad ibn al-Uthaymeen, (rahimahullah), the Quran consists of 3 major themes: First, Allah tells us about himself.  Allah is informing us about His most Beautiful Names,  the wisdom of His creations and His signs, the descriptions of Himself; what He does and what He does not do. There are videos on youtube, for example, to help you learn and memorize the Beautiful Names of Allah (Asmaa ul Allah il Husnaa). This is a good start. Then you could begin memorizing words concerning Allah’s creation and signs such as:


You would also memorize (in Arabic) words related to the the Hereafter:

paradise…fire….Day of Judgement (which has many names)….the accounting,… angels….jinn…

The second theme of the Quran is true stories; stories of the Prophets, stories of people who came before us, stories of those who obeyed Allah and their rewards, and stories of those who disobeyed their Prophets and their punishments. We are meant to take examples from these true stories. There are some words in these stories that are old words which may no longer beused, but at least 60 % – 70% of the words in these stories are understandable. The most repeated story in the Quran is the story of Musa alyhi salaam. His story comes in so many surahs of the Quran. you will hear words like:

...Musa…Firoun…Haroon…signs…his soldiers…the sea…Children of Israel…his people

You will need to do a little research and find the re-curring words/phrases surrounding this story.

The third theme of the Quran is information about Allah’s laws.  The everyday Muslim cannot exactly understand these laws without an explanation. Many of these laws are contained in surat il-Baqara, a-Nisaa, and al-Maidah.

So now, after spending time, let us say a minimum of 12 sittings, listening and repeating, collecting words/phrases and memorizing them, your ears should become more and more attuned to the Quran. The speech of Allah should no longer sound like just one long word, but different words here and there should begin to jump out at you.  This is a good beginning.

When it comes to the taraweeh prayer, let me tell you, I feel your pain! Some of the Imams recite very quickly in order to complete the Quran before al-Eid, subhaanAllah, so it can get challenging!  What many Muslims do is read that day’s part of Quran before going to the masjid. Make yourself familiar with what will be recited that night and again collect key words that will cue you into the recitation in case your mind wanders.  Know that if you are actively trying to understand then you WILL be more likely to hold your khushoo’.

At the end of the day, your effort is towards a lofty goal; understanding Allah’s Book  because understandin it will make it easier to recite it, and to ponder it and to act upon it.

As Allah says in suratil Qamar:

And we have made the Quran easy for remembrance so who will remember?

Take the Quranic Arabic Course that will DRAMATICALLY increase your understanding of Allah’s speech.


My Shahada, Wedding, and Finding Myself

The shorts I wore the first time I walked into an Islamic Center,

looked something like these. I was a 22-year old confused Christian, who married a Muslim in summer of 1993. Yeah, the wedding day was really interesting. Imagine me in a low-cut white gown walking across the masjid carpet. I remember there were these older sisters who gently guided me into the bathroom and1024425_in_pp.jpg tried to cover me up with the lace veil. It was hopeless; I was exposed. I had no idea what was going on around me and I couldn’t understand why was it so important for me to be covered. Didn’t I just come there last week in my cut off jeans? After the wedding one of the ladies handed me a Quran. She said, “I heard that you study languages,”  “you may be able to learn the Arabic because that’s the original language of the Quran.”  She opened the Quran. I saw the English on one side and the other side what looked like a lot of lines, curves, dots and dashes, I thought, ‘Arabic looks impossible.’ 

The Quran became my best friend.

My first husband was still in the Army, so he was in Germany and I was in the New York , we were separated for months. I kept the Quran that the lady gave me after our wedding and it became my best friend.

I just opened it and started reading. There wasn’t exactly a ‘beginning’. At that time, I was reading the Yusuf Ali translation which contained many footnotes. Some of them under the stories of Prophets gave you the consequent Bible verses to refer back to. That was critical for me because the Quran was new.. I had not developed the trust in it yet. So it was helpful to refer back to the Bible and after some time, I put the Bible on the shelf…for good. I started using phrases like , what your hands put forth, and People of the Book. Every so often my eyes would drift over to the Arabic side of the page, and I would think, one day… one day…

When he came home from Germany, he brought Dr. Bilal Philips book on Tauheed. “You think you can believe in Allah any way you want to?!” that’s what my first husband said to me as he handed me the book. It seemed like he became so MEAN all of a sudden.  He wasn’t mean when I was wearing the cut off jeans though.  Now that he had made Hajj and had been to Medina with the students of knowledge, everything had to be just so…especially my clothes.

I moved away and put on all black plus a face veil

My first attempt at wearing a face veil was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin while I was still in college. We fought about it for days. Finally he said, “You know, as your husband, I can order you to wear that veil.” I didn’t budge. The next day he tried another tactic,  he took out a bag and acted like he was leaving me, ‘that’s it!’ he shouted ,” you don’t know who’s the man around here.” Then I gave in,  put the niqab on my face… and I became the meanest wife in the Midwest. I’m laughing about it now; we were both so young and foolish!

We moved to Atlanta and joined a community where all the sisters dressed in black and covered their faces. I could see how that set us apart from other communities. I became another person, so different than the college girl wearing cut off jeans.  I was a Muslimah. I was wearing black. I was a part of the saved sect. My family would never understand. The religion and my new friends provided many reasons to stay away from my family…far away.  One day my Aunt Jan surprised me with a phone call. “you know, your Grandmother was very hurt that you didn’t call her on her birthday.” I said, “that’s against my religion to celebrate birthdays.” My aunt said, “she was your grandmother before the religion!” I kept my guard up. I was very good at numbing myself. (I realized later.)  I am upon the Truth, they just don’t understand, I thought. Anyway they couldn’t tell me what to do, they were in New York, I was in Atlanta. I was “free”.

Even farther away…

I remember one email I got from my younger sister asking me, ‘Will I ever see you again?”  She was in college then; she needed me. I tried to be oblivious to the fact that my family missed me especially the older ones. And then something happened, it was like my younger siblings and cousins just…forgot me. I became a non-issue, someone who did not matter. They didn’t know me…Actually…I didn’t even know me.  

From 1995-2004 I lived in Egypt and Saudi Arabia I studied, I learned I had countless adventures and have many stories to tell. But who was I? 

Then, September 11th happened

in my hometown New York City it was a shock. I used to walk through those buildings every morning to take the A train when I worked in the Village. It felt like a personal attack. I ran upstairs to my neighbors to watch the news. Then I went to the Call Cabin and got on the phone with Umm Medina; she was from Queens. We were both in shock. I asked her, ‘Do you really believe Arabs/ Muslims did this?” We both paused….‘Naaah! Get-atta- heya”  A part of me was like what am I doing here? I should be there with my people, my family! I was conflicted and confused.  By then my 1st husband had left for AFrica never to return (that’s a whole other story).

I was living in Medina, as an Arabic speaking American. Arabic was my everyday language by then, there was no English spoken on the street. All my neighbors and co-workers except 1 were Arabs or Arabic speaking.  I had been ‘adopted’ into my Yemeni family (another story) who I was with every weekend. Had I become an Arab? Who was I?  The wake up call was when I heard George W. Bush’s voice through VOA, ‘you are either with us or you are with the terrorists’. How can he say that?? The Iranian president came on the next night and replied ‘we are not with you and we are not with the terrorists! ” 

over the next weeks we got to witness the pseudo-investigation in America and the real  investigation in the Middle East from Syria, to Saudia to Egypt. Arab journalists were on it uncovering the lies.

What 9-11 did for me was bring me a certainty…That  I was really a Muslim. I was so happy to be in Medina a that time, being there during that time really grounded me. So at least I knew that I was really Muslim, not because of my first husband, not because of my friends, not because of the clothes I wore, but because I believed.  

At least I knew that much, yet many layers were to be pulled back and examined.

Are you a re-vert Muslim? What’s your Shahadah story? Share it below or on our Facebook group.


Hijrah: Cutting Off Family Ties? by Nadiya Johnson

‘Our only mistake was coming to this stupid country!’ She sounded like Jaden Smith in The Karate Kid.

One day it came out, just like that, raw and unfiltered, my daughter’s pain of being somewhere she does not want to be. For almost 2 years she wore a heavy sweater that I hated. I kept telling her , ‘its too hot for that take it off.’ It was much later she told me ‘Grandma gave it to me. I wear it because it reminds me of her.’  My bonus daughter gives more subtle hints like, ‘I sure miss Granny’s salmon cakes! I sure miss Granny’s corn bread!’ 

The reality is that in order to have what we consider a ‘successful hijrah’ we may inadvertently cut our children off from their lineage.

Listen here

I found this hadith just recently:


عَنْ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا ، قَالَتْ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ .الرَّحِمُ مُعَلَّقَةٌ بِالْعَرْشِ ، تَقُولُ : مَنْ وَصَلَنِي وَصَلَهُ اللَّهُ ، وَمَنْ قَطَعَنِي قَطَعَهُ اللَّهُ ” . أَخْرَجَاهُ

Related on Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) said.

The Messenger of Allah (prayers and peace be upon him) said: The womb is connected to/suspended from the Throne of Allah and she says, ‘ Whoever connects to me, connects to Allah and whoever cuts me off then Allah cuts him off.’ 

There are families that leave the West permanently and never return

Some families are able to travel back every year to visit. Some families have the position that this is wrong, why would you travel back every year to Dar ul Kufr after moving to the Muslim lands. And from my observation; those families that are really serious about hijrah do not travel for years at a time There are families that leave the West permanently and never return. They raise a whole new generation of grandchildren in the new land and their family back home is basically a memory. These are the ones we consider the Hijrah Success Stories. At one time I thought I wanted that but I don’t think I counted the costs.

I am the oldest on both sides of my family;

I am the oldest grandchild, the oldest of all my cousins and the only Muslim in my family. Do I not have a responsibility?  As my grandmother ages I feel the guilt of not being around to help care for her as my mother would have done if she were alive.   I have been watching my nieces and nephews grow up on Facebook; the baseball games the basketball games, the graduations. There are many precious moments that I missed.   And one day I felt it. I had a nap on the sofa and I woke up in pain. It was this intense feeling of emptiness that I had never felt before; the pain of not seeing my father for 2 years.  Some hijrah families have been blessed that their parents came to visit them in Egypt or the UAE. My father never came and it disappointed me but the truth is: He is the parent I am the child, it is not his duty to come to me.


It is not my intention to turn anyone away from hijrah my intention is to present the ‘ouch!’ points that most of us don’t want to discuss.  This is from 15 years of my personal experiences and observations living in 3 Islamic countries.


I Want to See My People Rise by Nadiya Johnson

If you are a teacher or a homeschooler then you are familiar with the word “standard”.

In education, it is knowledge that a child is required to have at each grade level. For example, 3rd graders must know all their timetables and 4th graders must know long division; those are Math standards. Fifth graders master higher levels of spelling and can write persuasive paragraphs; these are English standards. So as American Muslims, what are our standards for Islamic education? Can we say that a 10-year old who cannot yet read the Quran in Arabic is ‘below level’? Can we say that that a Muslim high-school student who does not understand basic Quran vocabulary has ‘fallen behind’? Actually, no we can’t say that because we, as a community, have not yet set Islamic studies ‘standards’. So how can we know where we stand if don’t have standards.

If we look at other cultures: Indian and Pakistani parents enroll their children in


weekend and after school Islamic studies to make sure their children are ‘up to the standard’. And if there is no program around that is suitable, then they hire a Sheikh to come to the home and teach to make sure their children are ‘up to their standard’.  It is tradition in Indonesia and Malaysia that children recite the whole Quran by age 11 and this is considered a ‘rite of passage’ between childhood and adulthood. Somalians are known to memorize a lot of Quran.   I always get a little bit concerned when I have an Asian or a Somali student in the class because I can feel sometimes that the pace is too slow for them. Somalis, Indians even Turkish have many Arabic words in their language so they don’t really need to spend much time on ‘hatha baytun’ ‘hatha kitaabun’. When you come from a people who have Quran on their tongue you are not exactly a beginner. I’ve had Indonesian, Malaysian students say ‘I am a beginner.’ But they did their ‘khatam ul Quran’. I can see my people are behind the rest of the Muslim world.

We have to realize that we are behind the rest of the Muslim world. It is not our fault, but it is our responsibility.

When Islam was spreading to various parts of the world, the Arabic language was also being spread because the people wanted to understand the Quran. Many regions accepted Arabic as their official language or Arabic words were enmeshed in the native lughah that was already there.  For some reason that did not happen when Islam came to us in the West. There is no visible influence of Arabic on the English language today. In order to set our standard we have a lot of work to do but we keep looking for others to do it for us. We keep looking for others to take the responsibility of Islamically educating our children.

Many American Muslims are thinking the answer to move ‘overseas’ to the Arab world. Some of us are thinking ‘if we could just get into that environment, we’ll get it.’ Only few are successful.

In my personal experience, living in Egypt, Saudi and Qatar, observing and talking to many families, being on internet social groups and emailing groups over the last 15 years.  I will guess-timate that less than 30% of families living in the Arab world, have children who achieved a mastery of Arabic and Quran skills.  I will guess-timate that the highest number of them were or are in Yemen and Egypt. That number may surprise you and there are several reasons for it that I will speak about in another article entitled: Hijrah; Life in a Bubble.

Our next solution is Islamic schools. They try. but as they seek accreditation from the authorities and try to keep up with the Common Core standards, secular education takes more precedence over Islamic education. There are only so many hours in a school day.

Many of us have a picture in our mind of what we would like to achieve with our children and how we like to see them enter adulthood but we need a plan of how to a get there….

Follow this link if you are ready for Arabic to flow into your home from WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW

Hijrah Discussions pt. 2: Education in the Arab World

Yaa Akhwaatee!

My goal in these articles is to share my personal experience as well as what I have observed from other families over the years. However I am not saying:  Do not move to the Muslim lands. That is not my intention as our Prophet sallallahu alyhi wa sallam said:

وَعَنْ مُعَاوِيَةَ – رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ – قَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ – صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ – : “ لَا تَنْقَطِعُ الْهِجْرَةُ حَتَّى تَنْقَطِعَ التَّوْبَةُ ، وَلَا تَنْقَطِعُ التَّوْبَةُ حَتَّى تَطْلُعَ الشَّمْسُ مِنْ مَغْرِبِهَا ” . رَوَاهُ أَحْمَدُ ، وَأَبُو دَاوُدَ ، وَالدَّارِمِيُّ .

Narrated Mu’awiyah:

I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: Migration will not end until repentance ends, and repentance will not end until the sun rises in the west. (Sunan Abi Dawud: Book of Jihad)

As I said in part 1 of this discussion, traveling as an adult to study or live is different than traveling as a parent wanting to raise and educate children. So I want to give a summary of the types of education offered in most Arab countries; that is North Africa, the Arabian Gulf (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait) and Jordan.

Types of Schools in the Arab World

  1. The Government Schools:  these are schools set up by the government, public schools. The official language of the public schools is Arabic, so all the subjects are taught in Arabic. There will usually be some level of Islamic studies and Quran taught as well.
  2. The ‘International’ Schools:  These are schools set up to educate Arabs in a Western language, most likely English, there are also French schools. These schools are usually owned by non-Muslims as private businesses or may be under a Western embassy.  Usually, the more ‘high class’ the school is, the more they are pushing Western culture and values. There are International Schools owned by Muslim families who do try to keep the Islamic values along with teaching the English. Many of these schools create within them a whole different culture. Al-hamdulillah, many Western Muslims are going to teach in these schools and helping to bring the balance.
  3.  The 3rd type of school is the Private Islamic schools. These are Arabic language schools, privately owned by religious families, that focus on creating an Islamic educational environment. I have heard mixed reviews about these kinds of schools so I can’t report.
  4. Quran Centers; in most or all of the Islamic countries, there are Quran Centers in every neighborhood or district of each city. Some are better and more progressive than others. If they are private they charge fees, if they are government run then they will be free or for a small fee. In general, they all operate in Arabic, the registration, the classes, the books. Sometimes you can find a center that has an English section but this is something that will take research.
  5. Homeschooling; many Western families living in the Middle East are homeschooling their children in English. It is always an option and many families prefer it or do it out of necessity to avoid the high fees of the International schools and the bad behavior and bullying of the government schools. The question is; how to fill the gap of Arabic/ Quran learning? How can you raise children in the land of the Arabs without them learning Arabic?  Can you afford the fees of bringing in a private tutor? Can your children learn in an Arabic speaking Quran Center? (Well they probably can,  but are you willing to put them in that sink or swim environment).

This is why it’s so important to do the research.  Whichever type of schooling you choose, you will have to be ready to fill in the gaps.

And…what if you just can’t get overseas at all?

I want to show you the program that will work from where you are right now.

The Ramadan Course that will bring Arabic into your home and raise the level of your family.




Hijrah Discussions: Raising Kids Who Speak Arabic WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW

This Ramadan, I will be sharing some “secrets” or perhaps little known or told information about living in the Muslim countries and

how you can raise an Arabic-speaking family WHILE YOU ARE RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE, You see,
I keep getting emails from sisters asking me ‘how can I get over there?’


So we think going overseas to the Arabic speaking countries is the answer and we start to dream. Some of us even pack up all our stuff, give up our Western life and move. I did that, more than once… The first time to Egypt back in 1995, then Saudi Arabia from 1999 – 2004. But I did not have any children then; different experience.
We made it to the Promised Land !
Well, kind of…

You move to the Land of the Muslims with sincere heart and people don’t realize, it may be a struggle to maintain that sincerity…

My professional experience was pretty amazing! I learned so much!

But my daughter’s experience was something very different…

Being the only 1 of 3 non-Qatari children in the whole grade level (Years 1, 2, and 3) I realized the bullying was a problem towards the end of the 1st year. So before the 2nd year I had the Enrollment lady put the 3 foreigners in the same class; my daughter and 2 Egyptians. People talk of Racism in the U.S.A. but this was so much more than colorism. The Egyptians were vanilla skinned and just as rejected and bullied; didn’t matter… they were outsiders. There was one little Qatari girl, Aisha al-Ka’bi, Allah yah-deeha, she was a big girl and she used to say to the other girls, “If you love me, then hit Aamina!” So they would do it.  Getting my child into the classroom in the morning became traumatic at one point, she would cry because she didn’t want to go into the class.

Then there was the academic issue. After 3 years, her spoken Arabic was good, she had also memorized some Quran, hadith and poetry, and she could understand 3 different Arabic dialects.  There was a lot of memorizing but at the end of year 2 I realized my child could not actually read; not Arabic, nor English. I didn’t concern myself too much with the English literacy at that time my main concern was the Arabic.

The best part of the primary school was the Quran teachers, several were from Syria and they had a beautiful way of teaching. And when the budget cuts came in the 2nd year, they were the first to be cut. Everything went downhill from there.


We had to learn 2-3 different Arabic dialects in order to learn Fus-ha, the pure Arabic of Quran. You see, in the Gulf Arab countries (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar) the native kids speak Najdi dialect, but the teachers are Egyptian or Jordanian, so the kids also have to understand their dialects.

This along with the BULLYING and bad behavior, teachers who are there for a paycheck and always comparing their low pay to English teachers high pay. (I talk about this in another blog post).
The sacrifice of my child’s character and self-esteem at that tender age JUST to get the Arabic language and EVEN THEN WHAT SHE GOT WAS NOT NEARLY WHAT SHE WAS GETTING BEFORE LEAVING THE U.S.!!!

It took 2 1/2 years in homeschool to undo the damage. (Wallahi, I wish I was exaggerating)
إنَّا لله وإنَّ إليْهِ راجِعُونَ
Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raa’jioon
I had to humble myself and realize my mistakes and realize that I had  actually been onto something before I left the U.S. ….  

Well, I will continue tomorrow inshaAllah, you can read, comment if you like.

This is the course I will be teaching during Ramadan to show you how you can RAise Children Who Speak Arabic (even if you don’t).  Take the first lesson for free if you like:

My Ramadan Course

Ustatha Nadiya Johnson

Curriculum Design

Arabic for non-Arabs.

Hijrah Diary: My Yemeni Neighbors – “Jeerani minal Yemen”

When I lived in Medina I had neighbors in the upstairs apartment who were from Yemen but they had been in Medina for 3 generations 

When you are living in any foreign country, even a Muslim country, one of the worst things that can happen to you is the feeling of loneliness. It is a feeling that results from the belief that ‘I do not belong’. It is a feeling that many of us do not anticipate when we make the journey over. We have so many ideas in our mind about having a better life in the land of Abu Bakr and Umar رضي الله عنهما I have witnessed that when people carry this feeling over a long period of time it festers into resentment and disgust with the very people who you said you wanted to live among…the Muslims. I hope to delve into this discussion at a later time because it deserves its own time.

On the other hand, the best thing that can happen to you , in my opinion,  is what happened to me when i lived in Medina. I was ‘adopted’ by an Arab family.  When I say adopted I mean they accepted me as a part of their family and made me feel that I was one of them; that I belonged to them.

It started with my upstairs neighbor Sabah. One day she sent her 8 year old daughter Imaan to knock on my door and invite me to tea. I went So I went. I was really glad she could speak fus-ha (proper Arabic) because I didn’t understand dialects at that time. she had 6 kids and don’t ask me how they all lived in that apt but they did. she asked me all about myself and where I came from and how long I had been Muslim and how did I become a Muslim etc. That was the first week. the second week she invited me again. but this time she said , every Thursday we go to my moms house I have told her all about you and she wants to see you. I thought that was very strange it made me feel a bit uncomfortable at first because I was thinking what did she tell her mother about me? I didn’t get a chance to answer before Sabah said, “khallas! after Asr Thursday we go”. I said, “Tayyib.” 

So Imaan and little Ameen came knocking frantically at the door after  salaah both of them knocking at the same time as Sabah was coming down the stairs, Yallah Yallah yaa Nadiya naruh inda Umminaa! ( Come on! We are going to our Mother!)

Sabah’s mom had 8 daughters 5 of them married 1 engaged , 1 daughter divorced and 1 still in waiting.  All had to be there.

Everyone sat in a circle facing Umm Sabah. she was a strong little Yemeni woman with a very kind and loving face, but she didn’t play when she asked you ‘ Ish akh-baar-ak?‘ (what’s your news?) she wanted to know! There was no such thing as ‘that’s my business’ There was no generic answer like, ” oh everything is fine.” No, everybody had to spill it! Even me! They talked about husbands, money, kids, everything.

Week after week I was there drinking tea, eating laham (meat) and that’s how my Arabic speaking skills really became stronger.  Nobody spoke English at all! Sabah could speak really good fus-ha so fi I didn’t understand something in the dialect she would translate for me. But after a while I didn’t need translation I could understand almost everything and I was a part of the gang. If there was a birth I was there, if someone was sick I was there, if someone was getting engaged, married, or even divorced I was there.  I remember when one of the sisters Samar got married to a Pakistani.  He was from Medina and had lived there all his life just like her. I don’t know how they met but it was a very interesting mix of the 2 cultures. He had a first wife and 2 children so she was marrying as a second wife. When we went to the shabka, ‘ the engagement party’. In Saudi Arabia, that’s when they actually write the marriage contract, but without living together yet they start ‘halal dating’.  The ‘shabka’ is just for the 2 families to meet each other so his mom, and his sisters and the Yemeni sisters and mom were there…and me. I was the only one who didn’t belong nobody treated me that way.  I kept waiting for someone to ask, who are you? what are you doing here?’ but they never did. MashaAllah!  During the party, everyone sat and talked for a while and then the first wife walked in! Everyone is kind of stopped and watching her everyone was watching for her expressions. She was so elegant! She was wearing this kind of cultural dress that sparkled with beautiful colors and she had gold that was unbelievable. IT was the the kind of gold that if I saw it in the window of a gold shop I would think it too much but it looked so good on her. So then the Pakistani mom and the eldest sister they had these empty water bottles and they started beating on them and the other starting singing and before I knew it we were all going round in a circle dancing and giggling and having fun! The wedding was the next month and a couple of weeks after the wedding, it was another Thursday and we were all at Umm Sabah’s house, Samar walked in, now a married woman. And when she took off that ebaya,  she had the same amount of gold that the Pakistani first wife had!  It was different style but it was the same amount. I thought, MashaAllah! These people know really know how to do polygyny!  

This was not the only polygynous marriage that happened in the family, the youngest sister Amberiya who liked to be called ‘Abeer’ also got married as a second wife. They did the contract /shabka, and they started ‘dating’. But while her new husband was preparing her apartment, the first wife gave the man an ultimatum. “Its either her or me!” Since he had 4 children with her, he chose her. So poor Abeer was jilted but she did get to keep the dowry which was 20,000 riyals! (about 5,000 dollars).

I enjoyed my time with my Yemeni family. I learned a lot from them.  I felt blessed to be with them because at that time I was alone in Medina so I felt very happy that I belonged to them.  I think this feeling is very important wherever you are. Where do you belong?  Who do you belong to?

Egypt Stories 2: I didn’t go inside the Pyramids

I’m Adventurous but I didn’t go inside…
I didn’t go inside well after all, the pyramids are….graves. Amazing feats of architecture they are, but nonetheless, graves.
What I did see was the Pharoah/ Fira’on in the museum along with a princess and a few other royals pulled from their graves encased in glass. The only word I can use to describe it is …macabre. Interesting English word that originates in Arabic something frightening, gruesome, sickening, coming from the grave ‘qabr’ . That is the best word to describe literally seeing the bandages ripped back off the MUMMIES like …in the movies. Much of their skin did not decompose and back in my college days I would have been proud to report Yesss! They were carmel-colored like me! and chocolate-colored like my Mom! but as a Muslim knowing what they worshipped, statues of creatures half-men and half hawk. They worshipped snakes, dogs and other animals made of pure gold. They worshipped their kings who they buried at the top of the pyramid with the belief that the King was always looking down on them. I couldn’t feel proud standing over that glass container. It was …macabre.
“هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ مُوسَى إِذ نَادَاهُ رَبُّهُ بِالوَادِي المُقَدَّسِ طُوَى إذهب إلى فِرعَونَ إِنَّهُ طَغَى”
Did you hear the story of Musa, when his Lord called him to the Valley of tuwa and told him, ‘ Go to Pharoah for he is surely astray.’surah aNaziat


The Heat of the Halaqa

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

والصلاة والسلام على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه أجمعين

It’s your turn to read. Your heart beats a little faster. You put together the letters, vowels and other symbols in your mind and as quickly as you can and try to make the sounds come out as  correctly and as smoothly as possible. Then a word comes up with both a ghain and a khaa, you can’t control your throat. The next word has a yaa at the end … or is that an alif maqsoorah? While you try to decide you know your classmates are waiting, patiently for their turns. The teacher reads the word for you and you repeat, but you’re thinking: I should have known that.  You feel yourself perspiring under the heat of the halaqa. Maybe you know how it feels. When you are sitting in the halaqa (learning circle) learning to recite the Quran there is this pressure and heat of being ‘on the spot’.

The Halaqa in Medina

When I lived in Medina, I used to sit (unofficially) in a large halaqa with a teacher named Us-tatha Soraya, an Indonesian by birth who grew up in Saudia. She was very tough, would not let you get away with the smallest mistake. All the students sat in a circle and each one would come up and sit in front of the Us-taatha face-to-face to read when it was their turn.  One day an Egyptian sister came up to read for Soraya. She was reading surat ul-Adiyaat. She couldn’t get out one word without Soraya stopping her ‘Laa! Laa!”  Now if you can get a feel for the situation, This halaqa was not inside of a classroom but in the al-Masjid aNabawi (Prophets Mosque) sallallahu alyhi wa sallam in Medina. If you have ever been there you know how huge it is.  So not only are there 15-20 Taalibaat (students) around listening to you be corrected. There are also people passing by, praying, walking around, drinking Zamzam water, etc. You really felt that you were on display. After being cut down harf by harf (letter by letter) in the first 3 ayaat, the Egyptian sister couldn’t take any more.  She stopped reading. The halaqa was silent. Her lips began to shake and the tears started to roll down her cheeks. I really felt it for her. You would think the teacher would take her by the hand and give some words of encouragement. But No! The Us-taatha sat unmoved watching and waiting for her to finish her cry. Then she said, ” Lets’ continue.”

The Online Halaqa

is a virtual place to learn and not quite as pressurized as being in a huge masjid but there can be anxiety and frustration.  a reason some sisters prefer one-on-one classes and that is understandable. Although there are bonuses from with a group

1/ benefiting from the mistakes of your classmates

2/ pushing yourself to catch up with a stronger student

3/ seeing other students struggle with the same challenges that you have

These benefits you will never get from sitting one-on-one.

Whether you are reading one-on-one, with a group, or on your own with YouTube, the focus is to read often enough that reading becomes easier and flows more naturally.

Are you are reading Quran in Arabic, even with difficulty? You can take yourself to the next level as we are starting some 2 and 3-month Live courses for the Winter season. The Beginner’s Quran Recitation     is a basic course in Tajweed to train the parts of the mouth and throat to give each letter its right. We also invite you to Quranic Arabic course using Everyday Arabic to Understand the beautiful speech of Allah.

Have a look using the links above and I hope to see you in class!

Subscribe to our mailing list for free eBook with audios.



pt 2 Teaching in Qatar: Principal’s Office to the Police Station

Tell me: Did I put my foot in my mouth?

I worked in the Secondary school and the girls were required to offer salaah at a certain time of day and there was a musalaah for them. But many of them preferred to use the time to socialize with their friends, so they would rush through their salaah to get the free time. This made the prayer lines look all crazy and disorganized some girls in ruku’ and others in sujood all standing in the same line. They were really hard to control. One day when I was on ‘prayer duty’ I got sick of it and I shouted at them.
I told them this is the way that the Shi’aa (Shi’ites) pray; in a confusing way.
Well, have you ever heard the term ‘you put your foot in your mouth’?  Right after I made my comments some girls ran up to me upset, “Miss Nadiya why did you talk about Shia, they are our friends! You made some of the girls cry! ” The next day I was told me to meet the Mudeerah in the Social worker’s office. The Social Worker was a large Lebanese woman who wore ebaya over her clothes with no head covering.  She had a deep slow voice, “Miss Nadiya what you said is very hard… you know my mother actually is a Shia’ and my Dad is Sunni.” Ya Allah!” my head dropped and I wanted to disappear. My heart started racing. “You should not teach religious beliefs just moral values. This is better,” she instructed me.  She’s the social worker! What was she talking about? I teach Islamic studies and that includes Aqueedah.  Had she even SEEN the Islamic studies books issued from the government??  I looked at my Mudeerah to enlighten this woman. My Mudeerah was seriously Sunniya, her dress code, the way she talked the way she taught;  she mastered all the subjects of Islamic studies and Quran taught in the department. I had deep respect for her level. I expected more from her in that moment, but all she did was give me a nervous smile.  Am I sorry for what I said? Well, I can’t apologize for my beliefs but I did not intend to shock anyone or make anyone cry. And although I don’t have any ill will toward Shia people,  I do invite them to the Sunnah.

A couple days later, the Principal worte me an email, “I would like the opportunity to speak with you.” The Principal (the 4th one that school year) was a British Pakistani woman. “You made inflammatory statements we don’t tolerate that here. “  Did she think she was back in England? I wondered if I was the only English speaker in the school who had ever read the Islamic studies books.


When living as a foreigner in the Arab Gulf, or anywhere, it is very important to maintain your legal status; keep your ‘iqaama’ (residence visa) valid. I was working so I had mine but my daughter’s iqaama was delayed. I had to get special permission to sponsor her since her father wasn’t in Qatar yet and then the paperwork went back and forth a few times and between trips down to the Jawazaat (passport) office and flying out every 2 months for a tourist visa. At last! All the paperwork was finally filed.  I stopped flying out and I thought everything was fine. AFter the 5 month process I went back to Jawazaat office presented everything and I was told: As soon as you pay the 20,000 Riyal fine, you can sponsor her. What!? While waiting for the process a ‘graama’  (fine) increased by 200 Riyals a day on her passport, and a ban was put on my own passport.

The Police Called and said, “Give Us Vernell!”

Vernell is my birth name. It’s a good name. It was the name of my great-grandmother. It means green and flourishing. I was giving a class with my students when the H.R. lady called me on my cell. “Vernell!”I  heard this urgent almost whisper on the phone, “The Police called they want you NOW. Leave everything and go to al-Bahath wal Mutaab’iah!” I didn’t even know what was Bahath wal Mutaab’iah but I knew it wasn’t good. I knew I was in deep trouble. I left my class and went in a taxi. The taxi driver took me around in circles a couple of times, not knowing exactly where to take me. I told him the name of the department I needed but he didn’t speak Arabic, so he couldn’t understand. Finally, I saw the name on the building from far away and I pointed to it, “There it is!” I said.  Although he didn’t know Arabic (he was Indian) and couldn’t understand the sign, he eyes got wide when I pointed to the building. He asked, ” you wanna go there? But Madame,… that’s the jail! “

My heart was beating out of my chest as I went through the security check full of men. I didn’t know what to expect. I was ushered to the front of the line.  The building was surprisingly classy, lovely carpets and pure white walls with Arabian motifs. I passed a waiting room where Qataris were waiting to submit reports about runaway maids. I had to go upstairs to one of the head policeman. Surprisingly the policemen were polite “You’re American, and Muslim?” That’s always a discussion. I told them how I misunderstood about the rules, why I had the fine. Then I asked,  “So, do I really have to pay it?” The  policeman smiled at me very kindly and said, “yes, you do.”

I told him that I didn’t have the money and he said I should borrow it from the bank. I said I would try. I did try and I was denied the loan. Remember I was living as an American on an Egyptian’s salary. My rent to was too high, the bank lady said.  About 2 weeks later, the H.R. lady called me again in the middle of my class. “Vernell! The Police just called. They want you NOW. Go and leave everything.” Again I left my students and off I went. Again they wanted to talk about how I was going to pay the fine. I had no clue. They let me go again.
The next call I got from H.R. was for a meeting in the Principals office between myself, my Mudeerah, the Principal, and the H.R. lady. The Police Dept had called the Head of the Boys School. If I couldn’t pay, the school would be charged. Every one in the room wanted to ring my neck.

After that meeting I went home a nervous wreck. It was getting close to summer break time to travel, but I had a ban on my passport.  I decided to write a letter in Arabic about how I got the fines and how I misunderstood the rules. I wasn’t sure who to give it to at first. I will just say Allah ta’alaa guided me to the right person who helped me and instead of paying 20,000 I only had to pay 2,500. That’s all to be said about that. It happens that way sometime. They call it ‘waasitah’ someone to intercede on your behalf, talk to the authorities for you. Some people might call it unfair advantage. I call it a mercy from Allah AND it beats going to jail.


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Becoming a Teacher in Qatar


When my friend in Qatar, told me that her daughter’s Arabic class had no teacher and that she was recommending me for the job I thought, “Nice idea, but it will never happen.” Why would Arabs hire me from the USA, to come teach Arabic in an Arab country? So 2 weeks later when she gave me the email address of the H.R. person and told me to send in my CV (and quick!) I did it …but I was still in denial. The head of the Elementary school, a kind lady from New Zealand met me on Skype and said, “we are looking for an Arabic teacher for our non-Arab students…you will be offered the full benefits package.” Was I in the Matrix? Did I just swallow the red pill? I kept my mouth shut, other than my family, nobody knew until like the week before my flight because I still actually couldn’t believe it. My brother was living in Qatar at that time, working with the military. Between him and the school, all my affairs were taken care of. I was on my way, just like that.

Sounds like a dream right? Ha! Little did I know I was in for the most challenging fight of my life! The next 3 years I underwent rigorous training ! My patience, perseverance even my self-esteem, was tested at every level. The years I had spent teaching at my dining room table in Philadelphia, were child’s play compared to the fire I had to walk through at al-Maha Girls Academy.
When I arrived, although I had been hired by the English department, I realized that I was actually a member of the Arabic department. I was the only non-Arab teacher of 42 mostly Egyptian, Palestinian, and Jordanian professionals. I knew I was in for it from Day 1 when I had my official interview with my Muna-ssaqah and my Mudeerah. ( I didn’t even know what the word Munassaqah meant when I was introduced! ) If only I had a dollar for all the times I felt totally out of place in that first year! I had no professional skills. I had 2 years of Arabic at the Fajr Centre in Cairo and 4 years of conversational Arabic with my neighbors in Medina. I had never been trained as a teacher in English and now I had to attend workshops and trainings in Arabic with people who were far above my level. My colleagues all had degrees from Arab countries specializing in Arabic and/or Islamic studies and some had Master’s degrees. They used terminologies I didn’t understand like ‘maeer’ and ‘tat-beeq’ and ‘taq-weem’ and ‘mih-nee’. When my Munassaqah (coordinator) presented me with 2 new students and told me to prepare an ‘Ikh-tibaar Tash-keesi” I gave her this blank look like , “huh?” It’s hilarious when I think back on it now. Yet, with all the professionalism and decorum, the department had no idea how to teach the 40 or so non-Arab students in the school. So although the first 6 months I was lost in the sauce, I hated staff meetings and I was terrified of the workshops.  I had to keep reminding myself that I am a specialist in my field I teach Arabic to non-Arabs and I am a non-Arab. I actually know things that they don’t know. I had to keep my head on straight and stop comparing myself to other people who had a different purpose.

Then there was the money issue. Everyone wanted to know how much I was getting paid.

You see in the Middle East the pay grade goes according to nationality. Anyone from the Khaleej (Arab Gulf) is always the highest paid, then US and UK passports second highest, then other European countries and South Africa, then the other Arab countries. Actually the teachers in the English department were paid a whopping 40% higher salaries than the teachers of the Arabic department. So what do you think they did with me? Well, being an American they had to pay me more than an Egyptian or non Khaleeji Arab. But I was in the Arabic dept so I couldn’t be paid as much as someone in the English dept. They paid me something in between and my American friends were like: “How in the world do you live off that???!” and my Arab collegues knew I didn’t deserve to be paid more than them since I was not at their level of knowledge. But that’s Middle East job politics.

In that 1st year, I went from amateur ‘shoot from the hip’ dining room table teacher to  ‘professional’.  I had no choice.

I learned to write lesson plans in Arabic according to the dept standards. I learned to prepare worksheets with proper objectives. Every teacher’s work had to be filed into her own binder for the Muderah to inspect at any time. My Arabic typing got faster, my professional vocabulary grew. I was on a roll…until mid-term exams. It was the first time I had to write exams for my students. The exam had to be written in a very exact way to be accepted by the Arabic dept. then submitted to the Education Council. I had to write at least 4 different exams for the different levels of my students. Of course the other teachers had a format that was given to them by the department, since they had a ‘ma-eer’ (standards). But ‘Arabic for non-Arabs’ had no set standards, yet I had to bring it up to the department standards. Otherwise it would be an ‘ih-raaj’ (embarrassment) on the dept, I was told. I kept making mistakes in the instructions or on the questions or on the title page or the page numbering. The Munassaqah sent it back to me 3 times and on the 3rd time she was sick of me, so she reported me to the Muderah. I was tired and felt hopeless. That night, I wrote to my friends back home like, “That’s it I can’t do this. I am looking for a job teaching English this is too hard. They don’t want me here. I’ll never fit in and I feel like I can’t do anything right.”

I carpooled to work with a sweet Moroccan sister who taught Islamic studies and I told her what I was going through.

She invited me to go with her group to help manage the girls during a Quran competition. That morning I sat in her halaqa listening to her remind the girls about how Allah had honored them and advising them about their manners. All along the bus ride I listened to the girls reciting Quran, and I just cried and cried. Although I was hurting, feeling awkward and overwhelmed with frustration, I knew that I was in the right place at the right time. I decided no matter how much I had to go through, I would stay on the job for as long as they would have me, which turned out to be 3 years al hamdulillah.

In part 2 I will share about, almost becoming homeless, getting called to the Principal’s office and run-ins with the police. Oh my, there is a lot to tell!

I am Ustaatha Nadiya Johnson, Teacher & Curriculum Designer, Arabic for Understanding al-Quran29249172_1722833444445582_5048873264149106951_n

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