The fast of Ramadan just ended last week for Muslims around the world. It is a time of worship and contemplation. For those "Growing Up Muslim in Region 8," it's a time to introduce others to their way of life.
"Our religion is Islam," said Driss Elakrich, Islamic Center of Jonesboro. "And we are?" "Muslim." "How many prayers in Islam? Five" It's Saturday morning, class time, at the Islamic Center of Jonesboro. Wafa Alenezi has brought her Christian friend, Megan Fox to learn Arabic, which incidentally is written right to left, not left to right like English. "She's Megan and she's my friend and she's coming here to learn with me," said Wafa. The pair of girls were classmates at Hillcrest Elementary last year. But, on Saturday, Megan who's a Mormon, learns alongside Wafa.
"It started when Wafa came from Saudia Arabia and she was in my class in second grade," said Megan. "I taught her English. So now she's doing me a favor by teaching me Muslim and stuff like that." "One of the articles of teaching Islam, if you don not share your religion and what God gave you whether it is food or what have you, you are not a believer," said Emaam Abdu Rahman.
Sharing is important... especially when it comes to Ramadan. "We have to fast," said Mariam Bouzihay, a second grader at University Heights Elementary. "We just eat breakfast in the morning and then we have to wait a long time for dinner. So we can't eat lunch."
"Driss teaches us numbers and some Qur'an and how to write our name and stuff," said Badria Mryyan. Learning Arabic is essential for these children. That's because the religion is based on the Qur'an and the teachings of Muhammad. The Qur'an is revealed or written in Arabic and when these children pray, they're encouraged to pray in Arabic and their own language.
"Prayers, said Driss. "We have how many?"
"We are supposed to pray five times a day, " said Badria. "So, I pray in the morning and then I don't pray during school hours. When I get home, I make up for the other prayers."
The times for prayer are at first light, noon, afternoon, sunset and evening. These young Arabic scholars learn the five fundamental requirements of Islam: profession of faith in God, or Allah. Prayer--five times a day. Giving to the poor. Fasting during Ramadan. And, a pilgimage to Mecca at some time in their lives to carry out Haj.
"This is where the sacred house of Allah is located," said Driss. "This is the first house on earth. That's where Adam was. That was built by Abraham."
"Education is essential in Islam," said Emaam Abdul Rahman, leader of the Islamic Center of Jonesboro. "It is dialogue. It is a center of what's there to wipe out this ignorance, this total ignorance that really bring.. that gives birth to prejudice and then to violence and a hate crime."