Muslim students in Regina learn Arabic as a way to connect with God

Ask Munir Abdulahali to recite a verse from the Qur'an, and he'll do it without a glance at the page. In fact he could recite the entire book, in Arabic, by heart. He's memorized all 604 pages and all 6,666 verses.

For many Muslims, Arabic plays an integral role in their culture and religion

Munir Abdulhadi recites the Qur'an 0:52

Ask Munir Abdulhadi to recite a verse from the Qur'an, and he'll do it without a glance at the page. In fact he could recite the entire book, in Arabic, by heart. He's memorized all 604 pages, all 6,236 verses.

"It motivates me to do the good which our God tells us to do in the Qur'an," Abdulhadi said. "To have it in my heart, and to have it in my brain, to memorize it. I'm basically like a walking Qur'an, you could say. And I learn from it every single day, and I try to convey the message that it spreads."

I know I'm a memorizer of the Qur'an and I know that's a big responsibility. So I know what to do and what not to do, and it keeps me grounded I guess.- Munir Adbulhadi

Abdulhadi took up the challenge when he was in Grade 8. In order to fit it into his schedule, he took time off school and studied privately to keep up with his other subjects. The memorization process began with one page a day. By the end, he would memorize five or six a day. He had completed the holy book in less than nine months. 

"I'm seen as a role model, and it kind of sets me straight, because I know I'm a memorizer of the Qur'an and I know that's a big responsibility. So I know what to do and what not to do, and it keeps me grounded I guess."

The kindergarten class at the Regina Huda School has worksheets to help learn the Arabic language. (Tiffany Cassidy)
While being a memorizer of the Qur'an isn't for every young Muslim, learning Arabic plays a large part in their lives as they grow up in the faith. Abdulhadi attends the Huda School in Regina. It's a school for Muslim children. Arabic classes begin in kindergarten. By the end of the year, students will know the alphabet, and be able to form small sentences. 

Arabic a central part of Islam

Arabic is considered an important part of connecting with God. It's also the original language of the Qur'an, and all translations are considered copies. 

"It will be amazing to read the original language. To feel each word of it in the same language, that has been revealed with," said Asmaa Olwan, who teaches the kindergarten class at the school. 

Isa Haque is a Grade 11 student at the school. Although he's not fluent in Arabic, it is the language of his prayers. The exception is the Dua, a more spontaneous prayer. The salat, the prayer recited five times a day, is done in Arabic. 

"There are some Muslims who don't know Arabic, and that becomes a little bit of a problem," said Haque. "Part of Islam is actually being able to use Arabic when interacting with God... Life would be pretty different without Arabic, because the whole religion is based on prayer, which is based on Arabic."

Arabic plays a part in self-identity

For other young Muslims in Regina, Arabic plays a strong role in their culture and family life. 

Alaa Safia moved with her parents to Canada from Syria when she was a young girl. She's now in Grade 12, and has spoken the language with her parents her whole life. 

"At home we do speak that Arabic, and all of my practices and my culture's all based on the Arabic culture," she said. It makes up a portion of her complex identity. 

"Even novels, like the Disney stories you learn in English, I've learned them in Arabic. The lessons, like the way I was taught manners or something, that was all taught in Arabic, too. The stories of important people, that was all taught in Arabic to me. So, would it make a difference if it was in English? Probably not. But I just think it wouldn't be me anymore."

Students learn Arabic as a way of connecting closer with God. 5:01