Inspiring People

I met Um Esa at Markez Fajr.  She had a kind of dry sense of humor which she’d use it in the kitchen during our breaks.  I’d always been shy, but I realized if I wanted friends, I’d have to make some of the first moves.  I found out (as I’d guessed) that she was a Londoner of Bengali origin.  She’s come to Egypt a few months prior to us.  During the course of our conversations, I found her son, Esa, 8, at the time same age as my oldest, had memorized five juz of Quran.  Wow, I thought.  We’d always planned for our kids to memorize the entire Quran, but had assumed they wouldn’t start in earnest until they were older, say 12.  This changed the whole equation!  I quickly got hooked up with her teacher and started the kids on private Quran lessons.

It became a competition among the kids.  How much have you memorized?  Or, I’m on such and such juz or surah.  I remember being on an elevator with a sister from Kosovo, she told me with pride that her son, the same age as mind had memorized 10 azja.  My son, who had finished about 15 juz, said, “that’s all!” It got so that was the first question they’d ask a kid when they met, ‘what surah are you on?’  LOL, once they said it to their American cousins, who weren’t even memorizing the Quran!

Um Esa was who I’d go to to ask questions about the kids reviewing the surahs they’d memorized.  Or to find a new teacher or Quran school.  I tried her ideas, put Quran on while they are playing.  Have them listen to each other recite.  Um Esa would make charts to track their progress, and much of it she did alone, while her husband worked in Britian.  Her son finished his hifz last year, before his 11th birthday.  Her daughter was about 3/4’s finished and was trying to finish the same year.  Her kids recite beautifully mashallah.  I’m still waiting for my ‘moment’, when my oldest inshallah finishes.  She still has 4 azja remaining.  I don’t think I ever could have pushed her alone, dh primarily works with them and makes sure they are progessing and reviewing.

We plan, and Allah plans…

We’ve made Cairo our home for the past 3.5 yrs, and have lived outside of the States for the past 4yrs.  I’d fully expected to be here for at least another 2yrs, or at least until my two oldest have finished Quran (mashallah, my daughter has 2/3 memorized, and my son 1/2).  However, dh returned to America during Ramadan to work and now he’s calling us to join him!  Subhannallah!  I have to be honest, Cairo is not the easiest city to live in.  It’s overcrowded and dirty.  And prices are raising astronomically.  But mashallah, the opportunities to study Islam are very numerous.  And you can meet many people also striving to learn.  I feel very conflicted right now and hope the kids can continue their hifz in America.  We’re keeping our appliances at the house of my girls Quran teacher in case we are able to return soon.  Inshallah, I still plan to keep blogging, there is so much I want to say about our experiences here (learning arabic at Fajr Center, taxi drivers, etc), and I’d also planned to write about the time we spent in Mauritania before coming to Egypt.  Stay tuned.  I will try to answer the comments asap!    

The Kids Quran School

dar abdul warith

This is the kids Quran school, Dar Abdul Warith.  The kids have been going on and off for over two years now.  The school is located in Madinat Nasr, Haya Asher.  There are classes for women and kids.  You can chose for your children to attend daily (sat-thur) or 3 days a week.   The cost is 30 LE (about $5) for 3 days, 60LE for 6 days.   Most of the sisters who teach are all practicing, most, if not all wear niqab.  I consider it a very good atmosphere. 

Organization is sometimes a problem.  They don’t always have enough teachers, or keep to schedule.  In fact, I removed my girls for a time because I felt they weren’t accomplishing enough (my son no longer attends, no boys after 8yrs).  They are back in now, and hopefully things will run more smoothly inshallah. 

Another issue has been brought up by  several families we’ve referred to the dar, and that is cleanliness.  It hasn’t escaped me that the dar is sometimes not in the cleanest state, in fact my children have complained about it at times.  Since I feel there is ultimately benefit in them attending, I overlook the dirt.  There is not always a maid available, and the sisters are too busy working with the kids to clean up after them too.  I’ve seen really nice and clean ‘secular’ and even so-called Islamic day-care for kids and I wouldn’t feel half as comfortable with my kids going to them because of the staff and the school practices.

The summer program is usually very productive.  Last year my oldest completed 4 ajza, mashallah.  Inshallah I hope this year is just as productive.

Finding an Quran or Arabic Teacher

There are several options for studying Quran and/or Arabic in Cairo.  Al-Azhar University offers virtually free classes,  with programs targeted to foreigners.  However, it can be a major hassle going through the proper channels to register.  There are also the Arabic language centers (Arabic centers are a whole ‘nother post), many of whom have carved out a VERY lucrative business catering to muslims and non-muslims who want to learn Arabic.  Many centers will also have on hand, or will locate a Quran teacher for you.  That route is pretty easy, although it can add up.  Another option might be a private teacher who comes to your home.  The cost of this can vary widely. 

I’ve found that the teachers who are accostomed to working with non-Egyptians, generally charge more.  The rate for both Quran and Arabic seems to be between 15LE-25LE ($2.60-$4.30), depending on the teacher and their experience.  Some teachers can charge up to 30 LE ($5.20).  Cost doesn’t matter as much if you plan to be here a short time, but in the long term, you’ll want the most economical solution which allows you to learn.  Meaning don’t settle for a cheap teacher who can not teach.

There are various ways to find teachers, one is through the language centers.  Some,  but not all, will send teachers to your home.  Another option is to ask other foreigners.  Usually there are a few teachers well-known among different groups of foreigners.  The option I prefer best is to ask Egyptians.  This may not work for Arabic, after all, it’s not likely Egyptians will be studying Arabic at home.  There are however, Egyptians who study Quran at home, and if you know any they may be able to refer you to some.  I prefer this option because you usually can find a lower rate. 

It’s generally much easier to find male teachers than females.  Especially qualified ones.  My son’s Quran teacher is a hafidh of Quran (meaning he has memorized the Quran in it’s entirety), has ijaza in Qira’at (he’s been certified to be proficient in proper recitation of Quran), and is a student at Al-Azhar.  We pay him 25LE for a two hr lesson, 4-5 days a week.  A female teacher WITHOUT ijaza, might cost you 30-40LE for the same amount of  time.  My daughter’s last teacher wanted 20LE an hour. 

Teachers and imams make VERY little money.  Many times not more than $50 a month, so teaching on the side can be a way for them to supplement their income.  That means you may find a very qualified teacher for little money.  One thing to remember is that most people teach on the side.  They have a ‘main’ job or study.  So when something else comes up, you may end up missing lessons. 

In my experience, most teachers prefer to be paid monthly.  Some request the money in advance.  If you do pay in advance, try and be sure the person is trustworthy.  Another option is to offer to pay weekly, or at the end of the month.