My name is Aliya Syed. I am a Human Services major with minors in Arabic and Psychology at Loyola University Chicago. Over winter break, I attended an Intensive Knowledge Retreat; part of the Annual Muslim American Society and Islamic Circle of North America (MAS-ICNA) Convention. This unique opportunity created a two day intensive knowledge experience for learners by providing educated inspiring speakers to analyze contemporary challenges in the Muslim communities and faith related perspectives. Each speaker shared a unique perspective and connected historical characters and experiences to our modern day lifestyles. I found this retreat to be a challenging but beneficial learning experience to enhance and develop my perspectives and beliefs. Surrounded by other diverse new Muslims for a total of 18 hours was a unique experience. I was able to meet people from across the city and other states, like Texas. This was a transformative experience.
I felt so cleansed emotionally and intellectually after this two-day knowledge retreat. The reason why I decided to learn Arabic at Loyola is that I want to be able to understand the Quran when it is recited during prayer. One of the speakers at this convention shared an experience from when he visited Bosnia. He nodded during prayer while listening to the Arabic recitation. The man praying next to him asked why he nodded. The speaker said he felt touched by the words that spoken. To this, the man began to sob for his greatest desire was to understand the Quranic recitation. Speaking and understanding Arabic is such a privilege, and this convention left me with a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity I have been given to learn. Education is such a privilege, and this knowledge retreat was one of those times when I really did feel the value of education. As a Muslim, the opportunity allowed me to strengthen my faith and increase my love and appreciate for the Prophet Muhammad and respected companions.
Not only was this retreat an educational immersion, but it was also an Arabic language escape. For two days, I was surrounded by Arabic speakers and was able to notice and pick up bits of conversation. Being able to understand families talking about ordering coffee for lunch or knowing when friends are saying goodbye to each other were times when I was able to understand the Arabic around me. I do not know much, but being able to understand bits and pieces gave me hope that one day I will be able to understand entire conversations and possible participate in them as well.