3. The Northern Half of Africa

The Muslim World: North Africa, by Nadiya Johnson

Africa is a vast and diverse land mass, made up of numerous cultures, peoples, and languages. Yet despite its size, Islam swept over the whole Northern half of this massive continent from the Indian Ocean on its East to the Atlantic on its West and across the Sahara الصَّحَرَاء  (desert).

Africa is basically sectioned into 3-4 regions in terms of the Muslim world: al-Mashriq, al-Magreb, and the Horn

المشرق  Al-Mashriq

The Northeastern Region: مِصْرُ Egypt, لِيبِيا Libya السودان Northern Sudan

رَبُّ الۡمَشۡرِقِ وَالۡمَغۡرِبِ لَاۤ اِلٰهَ اِلَّا هُوَ فَاتَّخِذۡهُ وَكِيۡلاً

 Lord of the East and the West, there is no deity (worth of worship) except Him, so take Him as a Disposer of (your) affairs. (Muzammil:9)

مصر  Egypt

When most people think of Egypt, they envision the Great Pyramids of Giza and Luxor and the face of Ramses II carved in stone, but aside from its Pharoanic history, Misr has a tremendous Islamic history as well. Mentioned both in the Bible and the Quran, this powerful country has been the backdrop of the stories of Prophets such as Musa (Moses), Harun (Aaron), Ibrahim (Abraham), Yusuf (Joseph), and  Ya’qoob (Jacob) alyhim assalaam. Misr was opened to Islam under the 2nd Khaleefah, Umar bin al-Khattab رضي الله عنه  and the military leadership of the Sahabi, Amr bin al-Áas رضي الله عنه in 645 A.D, about 22 years after hijrah.  Flickr_-_MiqsPix_-_The_Mosque_of_Muhammad_Ali_Cairo_Egypt

Upon approaching Cairo from any direction, one of the first sights is The Great Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha, built between 1830 and 1857.  The mosque sitting on a hill,  along with its citadel, stands as a reminder of Egypt’s Islamic heritage which spans over 1,300 years.

Even today, students of knowledge from the US, UK and Europe, flock to Egypt to learn Quran, Arabic language and Islamic knowledge. With al-Azhar University and many active private learning centers, some students have been able to reach a high level of competencies, even as far as receiving an ”ijaza” : الإِجازَة  which is the grant of permission or authority usually represented by a certificate,  to indicate that one has been authorized by a higher authority to teach Quran or another subject of Islamic knowledge.

السوان Sudan

To the south of Egypt is Sudan. Sudanese m40db5d25615b2a3fa8a283a436ca3eb4en are known for the large white turbans العِمَامَة and wear a distinguishable white thobe, with its wide arms and relaxed style. The women are known for their ‘thobé’ which is not actually a thobe but rather more like an Indian saree, wrapped from the waist and then over the torso and head.  contentItem-1199957-6478212-vdacstrvrmm0m-or

Besides their distinctive dress, a major quality that Sudanese are known for is their sincere generosity and relaxed nature. In a Sudanese living room, it is normal to find single beds, decorated with pretty sheets, instead of sofas. After eating a large meal, you may be invited to ‘ to ‘lay down’ and let your food digest. So just relax!

المَغْرِب Al-Magreb

The Northwestern Region: المَغْرِبُ  Morocco, تونس Tunisia, الجَزَاِئر Algeria

The Magreb is now known as the official name of the country of Morocco, however in the past, the Magreb referred to Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Mauritania. Magreb, like the name of the prayer after sundown, means the western region, the direction at which the sun sets.

The Magreb was opened to Islam under the military leadership of الصحابي الجليل The courageous companion, Úqba bin Nafi رضي الله عنه under the Khalifa Mua’wiya رضي الله عنه . This represented the spread of Islam from Arabia, the Red Sea, and all the way across to the Atlantic Ocean.  It is related that U’qba bin Nafi, upon reaching the Atlantic ocean, he rode into the water still on the back of his horse, lifted his eyes to the heavens and said, “Oh my Lord, I have done all that I can do. If it were not for this ocean, I would have continued to fight until none is worshipped except you!” 

So it is no surprise that, like Egypt, this region has also a long history of Islamic and scientific scholarship. Beginning with Fatimah al Fihri, who grew up in an educated family and learnt Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and Hadith. Fatima inherited money from her father which she used to build a mosque. Established in the year 859, the Qarawiyin mosque had the oldest, and possibly the first university in the world. Students travelled there from all over the world to study Islamic studies, astronomy, languages, and sciences. Arabic numbers became known and used in Europe through this university. This is just one important example of the role of women in education and an example of the heritage of knowledge in this region. http://www.1001inventions.com/

Five centuries later in the 1300’s the Magreb was still producing scholars such as Ibn al-Battuta, the Islamic judge, explorer and anthropologist, who traveled to China, Southeast Asia, India and upper Asia and all of the known Muslim world recorded his travels, observations and experiences in the book Ar-Rihla.

the right is the hijab that was worn in all 3 countries of the Magreb; Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. Called al-haik الحايك it was a full hijab in white. Sadly, it was after colonization by the French, then World War 2 and the rise of Arab nationalism, that the Muslim woman began to appear in the streets uncovered across North Africa.

موريتانيا  Mauritania

Mauritania has been called “The Forgotten Country”. This country is known for producing eloquent scholars of the Arabic language and outside of Mauritania, many are well known by the name of  Shanqiti/ Shan-qeetee.  When we hear this name, we know the person has his lineage in Mauritania.


الحَبَشَة  al-Habasha (Ethiopia)

This region was all the lands around the Horn of Africa, now broken down into 4 countries; Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti.

Remember our Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and the early Muslims made their first hijrah to this region and were protected by the Habashi/Ethiopian King Najashi.

When I taught Somalian students, they would always say ‘I know that word!’ ‘Oh, we have that word in our language!’ The Somali language has Arabic sounds and words in it and if we travel a bit more south we will find people speaking Swahili. What we call, lughatu Sawahil which is an Arabic/African language. It is

Wherever Islam spread, it brought with it the Arabic language. Just have a look and compare these Swahili words with Arabic words.

Swahili Arabic Meaning
hatari خطر Danger.
Safari سفر Travel. Also: trip
mahali محل Place
vitabu كتاب Book
msumari مسمار Nail
kata قطع Cut, chop
habari خبر news
huru حر free
dhamiri ضمير conscience
kamusi قاموس dictionary
baridi بارد cold
samahani سامحني forgive me, excuse me
rafiki رفيق companion, friend
tafadhali تفضل please
furahi فرح happy


2. ‘Sham’

Let us travel from al-Khaleej al-Arabi to the northwest. Between Saudi Arabia and Turkey we find Palestine, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon; a region we Muslims know as bilaadu – Shaam,   بِلادُ الشَّام  and that which the French and English called the Levant “the land where the sun rises”.

The star of this region is the city of Jerusalem, which we call al-Quds. Why is Palestine and in particular Jerusalem so important to us as Muslims? Our Prophet sallallahu alyhi wa sallam said that it is one of the 3 masajid to which it is permissible to specifically travel.

Al Bukhari, Muslim and others reported from Abu Huraira that the Prophet. “Do not set out on a journey except for three mosques: Al Masjid Al Haram, my Mosque (at Medinah) and the Mosque of Al-Aqsa (Mosque of Jerusalem)”.

Masjid al-Aqsa was also the Qiblah, toward which the Muslims prayed until 16 months after hijrah to Medina.

The most important event showing the significance of al-Quds and Al-Masjid al Aqsa is The night of al-Isra wal Miraj, The Night Journey and Ascension. Allah mentions in Quran, the night in which our Prophet (saws) miraculously traveled with Jabril alyhi salam to Masjid al-Aqsa is one night and then to the 7 heavens.


سُبْحَانَ الَّذِى أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلاً مّنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الاْقْصَى الَّذِى بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ 

 Glorified be He Who took His servant for a Journey by Night from Al-Masjid Al-Haram to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, the neighborhood whereof We have blessed…(al-Israa:1)

ِAllah, Most High, goes further to show the virtue of Jerusalem and the lands around it:

وَلِسُلَيْمَانَ الرِّيحَ عَاصِفَةً تَجْرِي بِأَمْرِهِ إِلَى الْأَرْضِ الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا ۚ وَكُنَّا بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَالِمِينَ

And to Solomon [We subjected] the wind, blowing forcefully, proceeding by his command toward the land which We had blessed.(surah al-Anbiyaa: 81)

And We caused the people who had been oppressed to inherit the eastern regions of the land and the western ones, which We had blessed.

al-A’araaf:137 Allah mentions

يَا قَوْمِ ادْخُلُوا الْأَرْضَ الْمُقَدَّسَةَ الَّتِي كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ وَلَا تَرْتَدُّوا عَلَىٰ أَدْبَارِكُمْ فَتَنقَلِبُوا خَاسِرِينَ

(Musa said) “O my people, enter the Holy Land which Allah has assigned to you and do not turn back [from fighting in Allah ‘s cause] and [thus] become losers.” al-Maida: 21

The explanations of the above 3 ayat in which Allah speaks about the blessed land, a Holy land, all point to not just Jerusalem itself, but the region of bilaadu Shaam.


Jerusalem, Baytul Maqdas, is a city that numerous Muslim prophets called home, from Sulayman and Dawood to Isa (Jesus), may Allah be pleased wفواكه لبنانith them. It is called in Quran a blessed land. Part of its virtue is that it is a fertile green land that bears many fruits. Agriculture is a big part of their economies. Here in Qatar, we consider Jordanian and Lebanese produce as ‘local’ produce and it is always plentiful mashaAllah. Peaches, grapes, dates, olives, almonds, apricots, citrus fruits, figs, pears,  cucumbers, and green leafy vegetables are all found in the markets, imported from Lebanon and Jordan.

In these times, Palestine is known in the Arab media as “occupied Palestine” فلسطين المحتلة That is because the land was overtaken by Zionist Jews after World War II, who consider it their religious homeland. With the help of England and the United States They renamed it Israel. Israel is internationally recognized as a country Palestine is not. So in the Western Media they will only speak of ‘the Palestinian people’, or areas such as ‘Gaza’ or the ‘West Bank’.        May Allah give honor to Islam and the Muslims in every place. 

اللهم اعز الإسلام والمسلمين في كل مكان


When I hear the word Lebanon, the first thing that comes to mind is…the food! When it comes to Middle Eastern food, Lebanon and Egypt are in stiff comptabboulehetition to be the best. Lebanese food is known for variety and color; your mouth waters just seeing it hit the table at Shater Abbas (a popular Lebanese restaurant). Fresh grilled meat, seasoned and oh so tender,  fresh vegetables, blended dips made from eggplants, cucumbers, seasoned with mint, garlic, olive oil, and lemon. Green taboula salad is my favorite, full of parsley (so cleansing for the liver and kidneys) and bulgur, a high-fiber, low-fat whole wheat grain. I dip my bread in the humus, then the baba ghanoush, then into the taboula, then make a little sandwich with the grilled meat and dip it again… mashaAllah, so delightful!

Female supporters of Sunni Muslim Salafist leader Ahmad al-Assir engage in a snowball fight in the Faraya ski area in Mount LebanonWhile I have never been to Lebanon, I can only imagine that its high mountains and green fertile valleys are just as beautiful and refreshing in person, as in the pictures. Northern Lebanon also sees quite a bit of snow!   To the left, Lebanese women in hijab engage in a snowball fight in Faraya, one of Lebanon’s ski resorts. (Reuters: Mohamed Azakir)



The Hashimi Jordanian Kingdom, its official name, traces its lineage to the tribe and clan of our Prophet sallallahu alyhi wa sallamfdf990daaf4942124503caa7d80a6b71Surrounded by civil wars and destruction all round it, by Allah’s permission, Jordan has maintained safety and security. Jordan is the location of important historical sites. The Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, is believed to be the place in which Allah destroyed the people of Lut/Lot. The Dead Sea is at the border of Jordan, Palestine and Israel. It has such a high salt content that people naturally float in it but living things such as fish cannot live there.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Dead Sea

Petra is a historical and archaeological city in southern Jordan. The city is famous for its rock-cut architecture and water conduit system. Another name for Petra is the Rose City due to the color of the stone out of which it is carved. Established possibly as early as 312 BC as the capital city of the Arab Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan, as well as Jordan’s most-visited tourist attraction. (wikipedia)

Here is a video about travel in Jordan. showing historical site Petra and more. There are subtitles in this video, so you can mute the music.



Syria, in Arabic Suriya, سُورِيا  is located north of Jordan and south of Turkey. As all of the Middle East, Syria is an ancient land inhabited for thousands of years a part of the Greek and Roman empires and before that. Aleppo, Halab حلب  is said to be the longest inhabited city in the world.  Damascus was captured by Muslim Arab forces led by Khalid ibn al-Walid in 634. Decades later, the Islamic Caliphate came under the rule of the Umayyad dynasty, which chose Damascus to be the administrative capital of the Muslim world. (wikipedia)

The Great Mosque of Aleppo (Arabic: جامع حلب الكبير‎‎ Jāmi‘ Halab al-Kabīr) or the Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo (جامع بني أمية بحلب Jāmi‘ Bani Umayah Bi-Halab) is the largest and one of the oldest mosques in the city of Aleppo, Syria. It is located in al-Jalloum district of the Ancient City of Aleppo, a World Heritage Site, (wikipedia)

The Umayyad Masjid before and after the war in Syria:

Masjid Courtyard Before                                           After

         umayyad-mosque    article-2314459-1952D062000005DC-999_964x629.jpg

      Masjid Interior Before                                         After

   Damasc14      _63505294_umayyad_destroyed_afp

Since the war began, many schools and hospitals were targeted for bombings and have been destroyed. I interviewed a new Syrian friend named Raama who is from Halab. I asked her about the war. She said she was a student in a university outside Halab 4 years ago. Her and her classmates were having coffee in the cafeteria after classes when 2 bombs hit the university. “Glass was shattered all around us. Al-hamdulillah I was wearing a thick jacket, so the glass did not cut me. When we stepped outside the building and looked back, the building looked like a piece of cake that had been sliced on both sides with the middle still standing. I knew it was only the mercy of Allah that I was still alive. My mother and father were already living here in Qatar. They got a visa for me and I was able to leave.”

Just the other day while I was driving home listening to al-Jazeera I heard an interesting radio program about Syrians living underground. The journalists interviewed teachers at an underground school, syria-underground-playgrounda doctor and a nurse in an underground clinic and everyday people who have carved out homes for themselves amid the maze of tunnels designed to protect them from the bombings.  There stories are sad, but at the same time I am amazed by their resilience, subhaanAllah!

Press the link to see this AMAZING underground playground in northern Syria!


 The Shaami Dialect (al-lah-jah) ُاللَّهْجَةُ الشَّامِيَّة

Some phrases in the ‘Levantine’ dialect or lah-jah of Shaam.   You can compare these to the fus-ha which we learn in classes. What similarities or differences do you find?



1. The Arabian Gulf

ur tour of The Muslim World begins in Mekka and Medina which are located in the country of Saudi Arabia    المملكة العربية السعودية
This is the home of our Prophet sallallahu alyhi wasallam and his companions. Saudi Arabia (see the map) is quite a large land mass and it is divided into 2 major regions; Hijaz and Najd. Hijaz is the southern region where the Haramayn (Mekka and Medina) are located. Najd is the northern region where the capital Riyadh is located.


There are several smaller countries which surround Saudi Arabia; they are al-Yemen, Oman, al-Bahrain, Qatar, al-Imaraat (UAE), and Kuwait. All these countries, (except Yemen) are major exporters of oil/petroleum/natural gas and come together to form a group which is known as the GCC or Gulf Cooperation Council. What we know in Arabic as  مَجْلِسُ التَّعَاوُن الخليجيgulfب

Have a look at the map. This is the Gulf  ُّالخَلِيجُ العَرَبِي (al-Khaleej ul Arabi) The peach-colored portion you see is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (al-Mamlaka). Around it are al- Yemen, Oman (note: Umman عُمَّان with letter ayn) to the south/southeast, UAE , Qatar, Bahrain to the east. Kuwait to the northeast near al-Iraq.  This land mass is called a peninsula or gulf in English and khaleej in Arabic. The khaleej is also referred to as al-jazeera.  It is connected to the continent of Asia, but is surrounded by water on 3 sides.


The GCC countries have very similar dress codes, customs, laws, local dialects and ways of living. The dress code in the GCC is generally the black abaya for the woman and the white thobe (long garment) for the man.  This is the national/ official puنساءblic dress code throughout most of the Khaleej. The styles do vary somewhat depending on the country.

Omani (عُمَّاني) males have a unique look with their colorful turbans and hats. When we see them we automatically know them by their style mashaAllah!1.1298626690.young-omani-men

WHAT IS AL-BATOOLA? 3250160149_c56a60593e_b.jpg

Another unique cultural trait you will see in the UAE, Oman and Qatar is al-Batoola. Originally worn as protection from the harsh, desert climate to help keep hot sand and dust out of the nose and mouth, the batoola also serves as garment of modesty and used to be worn by young females (before marriage) as a sign of coming into age.

At first glance, its metallic, shiny texture appears to be metal, however if you were to touch it you would find it a material of cloth or soft leather, sometimes made of colored silk, sometimes with gold or silver threads and sequins. Of course, al-Batoola is not from Islam, it is said to be a Persian tradition. Nowadays, we see mainly older grandmothers wearing it.  A young Qatari woman talks about her grandmother and al-Batoolah


The dialect spoken in al- Khaleej, is different from the fus-ha (classical Arabic) we learn in class.   Some words are used across most of the Middle East, but there are some phrases that are particular to the Khaleej and some that are only used in the North. Here are some common phrases used in Qatar and Kuwait:

Some people give salaam, but a lot of people say ‘Yaa halla‘.

What’s going on with you? Ish lown-ich or Ish akh-baar-ich. What’s that? Ish-nu hay?

Enough- Khalaas!  What can I do? Ish A-saawee?  I tell you. A-qul-lach

This ‘ch’ sound which takes the place of ‘kaa’ or ‘kee’, is interesting to me as a linguist and makes me wonder if it comes from Urdu or Hindi.


Of course the vast majority of Gulf people are Muslims, although there  are foreign workers from around the world living in al-Khaleej.  We hear the athan 5 times a day and there is a masjid in every neighborhood, on every street, at gas stations, in malls and shopping centers. No reason to miss a prayer!

Many public places such as schools, gyms, and hospital waiting rooms are separate for men and women. In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive but in the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar woman are allowed to drive cars. Actually, if you don’t live in the city it is quite difficult to get around without your own vehicle, unless you pay for a private driver which can get expensive.   Dubai and Abu Dhabi in UAE, have railway systems to make transportation easier, and Qatar is building one too mashaAllah.

Food in the Khaleej, tends to be thumb_600different variations of meat and rice. In Saudi Arabia, they call it ‘kapsa’ and in Qatar we call it ‘mach-boos’. If you are invited to an event like Eid or a wedding, you’ll taste lamb that practically melts in your mouth!  I do love the way they cook that lamb mashaAllah, so tender!  The rice gets to be a bit much for me though. As an act of generosity, the hostess will keep feeding you and feeding you until you are about to burst!  So lay your spoon across the plate and slide back from the food, then they will stop feeding you.


The countries of al-Khaleej ul- Arabi are also similar in their governments and laws. For example they all (except Yemen) have a ruling family. Saudi Arabia is ruled by the Family of King Abdul Azeez ibn Al- Saud. King Abdul Azeez (rahimahullah) is best known for uniting the Arab tribes, to form what is now known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The ruler of Saudi Arabia also assumes responsibility over the millions of Muslims who travel there for hajj and Umrah every year. So in 1986, King Fahad ibn Abdul Azeez, rahimahullah announced on national television that he would no longer like to be called “Your Majesty” he said, “I would be honored if you would call me ‘Custodian of the 2 Holy Mosques'” . ِِخَادِمُ الحَرَمَيْنِ الشَّرِيفَيْن   Khaadim ul Haramayn aSha-reefayn.

Since then, this is the official title of the ruler of Saudi Arabia but you may only hear this term mentioned by the Arab media. In Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE and Qatar we know the leaders by the traditional title, “Sheikh”.  So for example in Qatar, our leader is called Sheikh Tamim (hafi-tha-hullah). In UAE, we have Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid of Dubai and in Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Ahmad Al-Jaber.


I am often asked about visiting the Gulf and, outside of Saudi Arabia, it’s quite easy. If you are a U.S., U.K., or citizen of most European countries, you can obtain a 30 day tourist visa and extend it an additional 30 days to visit any of the GCC countries. This visa is issued at the airport upon arrival into the country, for about $30.

Have you ever lived in or visited al-Khaleej? It would be interesting to know your thoughts and experiences. If you have never been, then it would be interesting to know what you imagine life to be like in the Khaleej, what you heard or if you have any questions. 

Begin with a Short Arabic Course


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 @arabicforwomen.com.

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 quran.com.  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 Journey: Study in Mekka

by Ummu Saajid Ruqayah,; Philadelphia, Pa, USA

My journey to The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia specifically Makkah. Makkah is a place that I have always dreamed of going to whether to visit or live, it finally came true Alhumdulilah!

Before I embarked upon my journey to Makkah, Saudi Arabia, I had several questions: what does it look like, how long is the flight, how big is the Kaaba, what kind of housing will I be staying in with my husband and two young children, how far will It be from the Haram, how will I get around in the city if the women cannot drive and my husband is busy, what would it be like to learn Arabic and Quran there? Lastly how will Umm Al-Qura University look and what classes will I be taking. These were just my thoughts. I was so excited to leave and embark upon this tremendous journey that I was not nervous or scared. I knew that I would miss my family but that didn’t stop me from moving away.

After I arrived to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I was overwhelmingly excited and astonished to be in a place that people wish that they could visit. Going to the Haram for the first time I felt like I was in a deep dream and I couldn’t believe that I was actually looking at the Kaba with my own two eyes. It was breathtaking subhanallah. It was a very emotional time of amazement for me, so unbelievable. In addition to that, I was amazed to see how different the houses and city looked compared to how our homes are built in America. I was so used to seeing houses that have a triangle roof top. Yet, In Saudi Arabia majority of the homes are built with a flat roof top, I thought that was very interesting. Some other things that I found interesting was that the stores were flooded with male employees only! That was pretty awkward because they were even working in the lingerie and women fragrance shops. The hospitals also had more men doctors than women Doctors this is something that I had to get used to while living there. None of those things bothered me I was just so happy to be in the land of the Muslims and living a different life style than I was living at home in America.

As far as learning Arabic and studying in Umm Al Qura University in the Arabic Language program, it was a beautiful experience to study Quran, Arabic and other Islamic subjects with Muslim women from other countries. To meet women from all over the world was amazing! Everyone was speaking their own language and some tried to speak a little English. Attending the University for the first year was very challenging for me at times because I did not understand anything that the teachers were saying and the only language that they spoke was Arabic.  There was one Arabic teacher that knew some words in English however that wasn’t helpful because she could not converse with me or understand the questions that I was asking in English. That was the most difficult part about attending the school during my first year. After the first year the course work became slightly easier. Some classes that I found interesting were my Aqeedah, Fiqh, Tafseer and writing class which consisted of learning how to write Arabic letters in the script that it is written in the Mushaf. That was my favorite class! I really enjoyed learning the different ways to write Arabic letters and how to use them as a form of Art.

Another thing that I loved so much about the University was being able to uncover your head on campus. It was the best feeling ever to take off your abaya and tarha (scarf) when you entered into the University, and walk around campus in the sun without your hijab. The Abayas were not allowed at all once you were on the campus grounds. We had uniforms which consisted of a long skirt without splits and a long sleeve shirt any color of your choice except for neon. Overall it was a great experience. I thank Allah for giving me the opportunity to learn Arabic and study in the Land of the Muslims and live close to the Kabah.

Studying in Egypt: My Story


Study in Egypt: My Story
by Ummu Mansuur Najlaa; Cairo, Egypt

1. What has your experience been like for studying Quraan in Egypt?
Alhamdulilah well firstly my spouse and I decided to bring our children here more than
ten years ago in order to learn Arabic, learn Quraan and raise them amongst the
Muslims. Being from the West and not knowing the language is a great barrier that we
had to cross with regards to our Islamic education here. That being said, I have many
children and Allah always aided me in regards to what I wanted to accomplish. I see great
progress from where I was to where I am now; and I hope to achieve more of my
personal goals with regards to learning Quraan, InshaAllah

2. Can you tell me what some of the Quraan programs are like there in Egypt?

I have gone to three different kinds of women’s Arabic and Quran programs in the past. The first time was basically in the masjid. It was free and we met a couple times a week for three hours each time. I was the only English speaking foreigner most of the time and the rest of the sisters were natives. The teacher spoke in Ameyyah (Egyptian dialect) a great majority of the time and I was very frustrated because I couldn’t understand most of it, although I had studied fus-ha for almost a year before this. MashaAllah the teacher was still very patient with me and tried her best to help me as much as she could. I love that dear sister for the sake of Allah, May Allah reward her Ameen.

The class was for learning how to read a specific surah with the application of the tajweed rules, and not for memorization. However and only by the will of Allah, just by sitting in the class, about a year and a half later, I ended up retaining 10 pages of that surah.(Baqarah). The other major achievement though was being able to read directly from the mushaf on my own, with about 60% accuracy, and especially because I knew bare to nothing previously, just the letters and some of the sounds. Learning some Arabic prior definitely helped because I recognized many words and knew their meanings, so understanding what was being said is the greatest blessing mashaAllah. Taraweeh was never the same LOL.

The second program I went to was a private center which caters to the needs of the
foreign student, called Dar Al Fajr. The cost was $20 every few months…TheArabic teachers and Quran teachers spoke fus-ha a great majority of the time and there are different levels, or grades. I started at level 1 and in each level the syllabus includes tajweed, knowing its rules and its application. We also had tafseer and Aqeedah lectures
once per week included into our regular class for no additional cost alhamdulilah. There
is testing each level before moving on to the next. And there is in the beginning a
separation of those who are native speakers and those who aren’t. Later on, as the non
native speakers get more fluent, they are joined with the native speakers. I had an overall
good experience with them, and even I was allowed to bring my young child with me in
my classes. But I left due to a difficult pregnancy and it became hard to go to school and
back. In addition the policies have changed to no children in the group classes which I
understand. Also visa policies are enforced so one must be updated on their immigration
status when enrolling and registering for the center.
The last place I found in walking distance from my apartment, was through Azhar
system, though it is a private center. It’s called ‘Mahaad Al Alameen. It’s for whoever
wishes to join with them and the cost is around 60$ for the whole year. Very affordable
but very rigorous because there are 4 other subjects one takes in addition to the Quraan
classes. In general the Arabic and Quran teachers spoke Ameeya and natives and non natives were mixed together. Our classes met twice a week for 3 hours in the morning. We took around 2
pages each class to memorize and be prepared to come back with it the next class.
Eventually we got up to 5 pages per week, which put us at a juz per month. This was like
the other program I was in previously so I was used to it, but it was hard if I had to miss a
class, because one must review constantly to retain what was learnt. This center is catered
for adult education, though in the summer the children’s programs are open to the public.

When I asked Umm Mansuur: If someone found a way to take a year off from working and focus on Quraan, how much could they accomplish in a year?
She replied: It highly depends on the motivation of the student. He or she could come and finish the whole Quraan in that amount of time, if they focused on that, and nothing else.

Sometimes people find that they want to learn Arabic first and then memorize and some
are able to do both mashaAllah. I think realistically speaking, one could finish a juz every
other month or about 6 juz for the year, again it all depends. Allahu Mustaan

Ummu Mansuur still lives in Cairo, and continues to learn and facilitate the learning of her children. May Allah continue to bless them and aid them in their affairs, Ameen.

Out of Love I Became a Teacher

by Ummu Aamina Nadiya Johnson

Many years ago, I moved to Egypt and attended an Arabic language school called the Fajr Center. At that time, I was one in a large group of American Muslims who moved to Misr (Egpyt) for hijrah and studying Arabic. It was very very exciting! Being overseas, hearing the athan  (call to prayer) throughout the streets, going into restaurants knowing everything is halal, and attending real Arabic and Quran schools…finally.

There were many different nationalities at my school; Malaysians, Indonesians, Somalians, Indians, Pakistanis, French, British, Canadians, and Americans. At the time I joined, there were about 5 or 6 other American sisters in level 1. By the end of level 1, there were three of us and by the beginning of level 2, there were two of us and by Level 3, there was just me. Many sisters at that time and those who came later, felt that the program was just too difficult. I knew sisters who failed level 1, failed level 2, and even failed to benefit with private tutors. The amount of new words, the pace of the lessons, the ‘only speak Arabic in class or pay a fine’ policy… Yes we had to pay a fine for speaking any other language in class). The Written Homework was amazing, I had writers cramp in my fingers for 10 years that worsened with using a computer mouse. Then there was the dreaded video class. The video class, which was my favorite, was hated by other students due to the rigorous amount of new vocabulary and the high expectation of the teachers that we should memorize it… ALL of it.

Yes, it was intense, but to be honest, I loved it!

But while people like myself thrived in that environment, others felt defeated and deeply disappointed. Imagine selling your stuff and leaving your country in order to come overseas to study, only to find that the learning environment just did not suit your needs. Interestingly, some people actually pass blame by saying, those sisters just ‘didn’t work hard enough‘ or ‘they didn’t want it bad enough’.  This is a very unfair assessment. And now after 15 years of teaching experience, I know that every learning environment is set up to meet the needs of a particular type of student. If you are not that student, then you just don’t fit there. It’s that simple.

So who is the Muslim woman as a student?

She is typically a wife, a mother, a homemaker, active in her community, an employee, a business owner, and in general a very busy person. So her mind is moving in different directions all the time; from worrying about the husband’s dinner, to changing babies diapers. She is doing laundry, cooking, and helping kids with homework all at the same time.  So when it comes time to study, now she has to focus her mind in one direction And as women,

Learning Arabic can enhance our role as Nurturers; enabling us to recite the prescribed duáa, and ath-kaar (remembrances) to lay hands on the sick,  to protect ourselves,  our families, and our homes from Shaytaan’s endless attacks and to break the spells of mind control and subliminal messaging.

Nakh’lah Arabic Center’s Curriculum

is a curriculum I personally designed specifically for Us, taking into account our unique learning needs. You still need to put in the wor to allows you to learn and then teach your children or even have your children learn alongside of you.  We have grandmothers, homeschooling Moms, community workers who are all learning in order to pass on what they know. As Western Muslims, we have a legacy to build and the Arabic language is a part of that because it is the language of al-Quran.

We are all teachers as our Prophet saws said,

The best of you is he who learns the Quran and then teaches it.

No more stressing out over Grammar made easy

Lots of Vocab going back to al-Quran

Worksheets for adults and children

Memorizing Hadith

All you need to do is devote your heart and about 4-5 hours a week.

Students are surprised at how much Quran they can understand and roughly translate. . Once you sit quietly for about  30 minutes and get focused, you will find your lessons easy to grasp, inshaaAllah.

The Believer rushes to do good, as Allah says:

إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا يُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ وَيَدْعُونَنَا رَغَبًا وَرَهَبًا ۖ وَكَانُوا لَنَا خَاشِعِينَ

Indeed, they used to hasten to good deeds and supplicate Us in hope and fear, and they were to Us humbly submissive. (surah al-Anbiyaa: 90) 

Join Us Now and Start Your 1st Lesson Today! Click here.

و بالله التوفيق

Nadiya Johnson

Teacher and Curriculum Designer

Arabic for non-Arabs

نادية جونسون, معلمة اللغة العربية لغير الناطقات بها