Being in the great land of Africa has a vibe of its own; it invites you to do good and be part of the act of charity, said Zaher Al Abdissalam, an IT graduate and Imam, who has a passion for the Arabic language beyond compare. And, he loves to share his knowledge with children and those who admire the language in Africa.
Zaher’s journey was part of Al Istiqama Association and Educational Institute, which is a charity organisation that was launched in the early 90s in East Africa. One of its branches is situated on the island of Zanzibar, where teaching Islamic studies and the language of Arabic took place. The institute sees students from all walks of life coming together in search of a better understanding of the religion and its culture. Students flock to these classes from Kenya, Tanzania, Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi, too.
In 2004, Zaher was offered a golden opportunity to travel to Africa to teach. As the young man prepared for his 11th grade summer break, he packed his bags and headed to Tanga and Pangani in Tanzania, where he taught his passion for two months. In 2006, he was enrolled in IT at a local university before travelling again to Uganda for another month. After completing his degree in 2011, he left for Zanzibar Island and stayed there for two years with the Istiqama Association, where he continued to teach his favourite language, Islam and Shariyat, and basic computer science.
Because of the historic ties between Oman and Zanzibar, the culture factor is great, with elements from Omani traditions. But that was not the only reason that made Zaher’s experience unforgettable. He was stunned by the eagerness to learn in the students he taught. His classes ended up becoming a miniature community of their own, where they shared cultural knowledge, social issues, and Islamic stories.
After deciding to settle in the land of gold, Zaher and his colleagues embarked on another journey outside the institute. They launched an educational programme during their own free time where they would visit mosques around town and hold sermons. Each person had two mosques per week to teach at. Zaher would also hold a class for women during the day and another one for men after the Maghrib prayer.
“What makes Zanzibar so special is that the life there is simple,” said Zaher, adding that “I am a fan of the simple life.” He continued expressing his decision to travel and help those in need of education. “When the opportunity came to teach Arabic and Islamic studies, I seized it quickly as it is a fanatical passion for me,” said Zaher .
“When there’s an opportunity to give back, you certainly take it. This journey was a golden opportunity for me — I have benefited the most and learned from the students and the African culture.” Today, Zaher has his own business in the language field, and participates in mosques to deliver sermons and in other activities. He has plans to travel back to Africa for more short-term educational trips in the future.