As-salaamu `alaykum wa rahmatullaah
One of the benefits of studying Arabic in a class with other students is the beauty of meeting people from all over the world (literally from all the corners of the globe!). In class, I would be thrilled whenever a new student joined us as it meant a new insight into their background, life back home etc (yeah, this stuff fascinates me although unlike science and medicine, anthropology & humanities were never my cup of tea!)
Imam al-Shafi’i said it best when he said, “I love the righteous, though I’m not from amongst them”. These accounts below are of a few blessed individuals that came across my path and who unfortunately I don’t think I’ll ever be seeing again (names have been changed). Sometimes, people have an impact on us and leave many a memory, even though time together may have been very short. Bearing in mind I was only a teen when I went abroad, and I was easily inspired and thus looked up to many people… but of course I’m not able to include everyone, so these are a select few who I wasn’t able to keep in touch with.
There was Ruwaydah from Kosovo, who was just a gem. I would visit her often, doing homework together and she’d teach me how to make a banana and peanut cake (of course, I was too busy eating it than listening to even the ingredients!). We’d talk about common things in life – from war and politics to marriage (which I guess means more politics) and of course banana/peanut cakes lol. She was an amazing sister, never failing to cheer me up (and always making me laugh in class! Hmm… is that a good thing?).
Then there was Salihah, a very, very wise sister from Albania, full of good advice. She would always have a balanced approach to things and look from a different perspective.
One person who inspired me a great deal was Layla from Kazakhstan. She was the most fluent amongst us when it came to speaking and reading Arabic. Subhanallah, her modesty and kindness shone from her like light shines from the moon. She would mention her dreams of teaching Arabic when she went back to Kazakhstan, and of course knowing the situation back there (of persecution, and public ban on teaching even Arabic), we asked how – she simply replied, ‘she’ll try even it has to be taught in secret’. This always fired me up, how something as innocent as teaching Arabic could be a threat and consequently banned?! Allahul Musta’an. Anyway, one day just before she left, she came into class and gave me a book. It was al-Ajroomiyyah, with the Sharh of Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen! The sister knew that I, being the bookworm that I am, had been looking for this particular book (published by Dar al-Ansar) for so so long. She said that she couldn’t find it, so she gave me her own personal copy.
There were also Zaynab and Firdaws, 2 sisters from South Africa (one of Asian descent and the other of mixed European and African). These sisters were very studious masha’Allah and in addition to being able to recite exceptionally well, they were memorising text like al-Shatibiyyah and were well on their way to receiving Ijazahs in Qira’ah (inspirational!)
I also met the funniest twins from Kyrgyzstan. At ages 16 or 17, they were the youngest in the class (after being teased in class for some time, I was glad someone younger than me turned up!). They’d crack us up in class with their unique character and even the teacher would be left in stitches lol masha’Allaah.
I had the honour of meeting an older sister, Khalida from Malaysia. She had the characteristics that were very much the epitome of the Malaysian people, tabarak’Allah – very welcoming, humble, kind and generous. Very inspirational she was, holding strong to the Fast of Dawud (AS) – fasting on alternate days. I must go and visit her one day insha’Allah, apart from being such a gem; she owns one of the plushest hotels on the small Islands of Malaysia!
I also met a plethora of reverts coming in from Europe, the UK and USA. Alhamdulillah I’ve been able to keep in touch with the UKers on our returns, and was delighted by some old students turning up!
Other sisters whose company I was blessed with came from other countries including France, Pakistan and some from Algeria/Morocco. Cairo is bustling with Indonesians, who all study at al-Azhar, one of them helped me find out a lot about al-Azhar when I had planned to enrol (I didn’t after she showed me the timetable!).
There are also many Russians that study Arabic in Cairo. Subhan’Allah, I was quite shocked when one of them said to me that Muslims in Russia number 1 in 5! In our local masjid one time, my dad came back from the ‘Isha Jama’ah quite late. He told us of his amazement in witnessing a Russian brother complete memorisation of the Qur’aan (khatm) and even more amazing was his level of Tajweed.
In addition, there were also scores of Chechens. Such a pleasure to be around them, masha’Allaah very studious, strong and hard-working people. We heard the account of one sister who at the age of 8 or 9 year, had her whole family killed in front of her eyes during the conflict (as she hid in a closet), when the invading army left, she left and in obvious shock began to tread the mountains. She was found by a group of Mujahideen, and they helped her get back on her feet and paid for her to get some education in a more stable country.
I could go on, but the stories will never stop. This is without doubt one of the benefits in studying with other students – you meet people that influence you to really aim high and achieve a lot in life, some tell a life of amazement and others… well, Allaah `azza wa jall puts them in your path for a particular reason…