Arabic, Qur’an and Civic Engagement: A Case from WISE!

Posted on: January 24th, 2020 by Sawsan Abbadi

With appreciation to the generous support of Modern Languages and Literatures at Loyola University Chicago, it was a pleasure to be invited to participate as a guest in Qur’anic Arabic lessons and activities at World Islamic Sciences and Education University (WISE) in Amman, Jordan. 

Arabic is one of the formally recognized languages of the UN and is globally pursued for a number of reasons, including its sacred connections to the Qur’an. Dr. Sona Abbadi, Assistant Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence and Arbitration has presented a holistic framework for teaching and learning Arabic as a prerequisite to Qur’anic and Islamic Studies. I’m thankful to her kind invitation and to all her diverse body of students from Ghana, Russia, China, Tajikistan, and Jordan.

Surprisingly, I have also found myself joyfully caught in another invaluable experiential learning opportunity under supervision of Dr. Sona with “Tobacco Control” club in the university’s Medical Day Fair. Dr. Sona’s pedagogy encourages collective and individual explorations of concepts of civic engagement, challenges, and community development.

Her interdisciplinary teaching of Arabic, Qur’an, spiritual values, and elements of human and personal development is a marker to promote social change respectfully and professionally. I was in awe to witness the participation of the university President, Professor Wa’el Arabiat, and the Assistant President, Professor Al-Qudah, inquiring about the variety of initiatives coordinated by the students and guest vendors.

Please share with me a few photos and critical tidbits from WISE!

Dr. Sona has elaborated on the importance of Arabic linguistics and philology to the teaching of the aural skills, Qur’anic script and calligraphy, and accurate recitation rules of the holy texts. She has focused on the variation of dialects among native Arabic speakers compared to the classical formal pronunciation needed for Qur’anic recitations. This becomes particularly critical for non-native learners in her classes. Dr. Sona also highlighted the value of confidence in oral skills as a basis for students’ immersion in Arabic communities, and furthermore in developing the linguistic and psychological skills for oral presentations to a variety of audiences, media participation, and larger communal needs. I loved her vision of her students as educated voices in critical diverse societal platforms.

In accordance with Dr. Sona’s vision of learning for service, her presence on campus is beyond being engulfed by the classroom walls. She is an active participant in a variety of initiatives on and off campus including: a Liaison Officer for the ISLAMH2O project of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) for sustainable water use in universities, a member of the Union of Jordanian Universities for Anti – Smoking representing WISE, a President of the Anti-Smoking Club at the University & Supervisor of the club’s university website, and a member of the Jury Committee – the Annual Holy Qur’an Scholarship.

Her vision of religion as a way of life empowers her to facilitate and participate in several interdisciplinary transformative initiatives. These include the meetings of the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, and King Hussein Cancer Center as part of the administrative board of the Jordanian Universities Union for Anti-Tobacco and Smoking, and as a representative member of WISE in the Federation of Jordanian Universities to fight tobacco in the high-level political dialogue, held under the patronage of the Prime Minister and with the participation of HRH Princess Dina Mir’ed, the Minister of Health, a number of Parliament members, and government and civil institutions.  

My own experience with her Arabic classes and experiential learning civic initiatives was empowering and humbling, as we too at the Arabic Program at Loyola take pride in celebrating the uniqueness of learning languages as communal investments and doors into understanding humanity and cultural interactions in all their richness. In light of Loyola’s focus on integrative transformative education, Dr. Sona’s classroom presented a clinical case of reconstructing the teaching of a foreign language as a way of life. It is key to design and integrate learning to recognize social injustices and to reconstruct and transform current realities, in this case of anti-smoking initiatives with her students to merge spirituality, language learning, and medical sciences for a dignified sustainable living. We hope to participate again in the future and benefit from continued cultural exchange experiences across our campuses.

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