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Teaching. One of the things I love the most, one of the things that makes me most grateful for the knowledge I gained during my years of study- years that, admittedly, are ongoing, as there are always new things to learn.

I recently dove back into teaching Muslim women about our shared faith; this time, instead of in a masjid in a mountain village or stone-walled city, on the internet. The first couple of days were spent getting used to the technology, and the lack of seeing my students face-to-face. Now, though, I am beginning to get a feel for some of the people behind the screen names, and memories of other classes, in other places, keep rising to the surface like bubbles of air, fragile, yet precious.

Damaaj from the mountain top

I remember the first class I taught in the masjid in Damaaj. I began teaching the Medina series of Arabic books to a group of sisters who had nothing much in common except a strong desire to learn the language in which the Qur’aan was revealed. Among them there was a Nigerian sister, strong and quiet, who always seemed to be holding some strong emotions in check behind her shy smile. There were two little French girls, so sweet, so quick to learn despite not having any Arabic or English, smiling at the goofy drawings I had to make on the whiteboard to demonstrate the meanings of words to them. There was an older Indian woman who was there with her son, who exuded a feeling of peace and tranquility. Another sister once asked her about it.

“How can you always be so calm about everything?”
“I’ve learned.” she answered, “that it doesn’t do any good to get upset over things.”

Later, during the blockade, this peaceful, serene woman would lose her son to the Houthi rebels.

When teaching in Sana’a, I had a whole new set of students. My favorites were the teenage girls, so full of life and always so earnest, listening and trying to take down every word that was said. Most of them were British Somalis. I loved to hear them speak. I always wanted to tell them I would teach them Arabic if they would teach me Cockney. I still hear from them from time to time, all praise is due to Allaah, and they are never far from my heart even when they are silent.

Simply put, I love to teach. I love to help other women understand this beautiful religion. I love to hear how something I taught them or reminded them of or explained, and all praise is due to Allaah, helped make a difference in their lives. After months of feeling disconnected and far from home, I have found that teaching reminds me of connections made and never truly lost. Though across the world, I can bring up the masjid in Damaaj, see my circle of students, hear the recitation of the circles around me. In the emerging personalities of some of my new students I see echoes of students past, and the promise of a uniqueness all their own.

Through this blessing of knowledge, and the gift of being able to pass it on, I feel tethered again, through the grace and mercy of Allaah.

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