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Faith Across Continents: A Young Brother’s Inspiring Journey

Meet Brother Radwan, a 21-year-old Muslim from Cabramatta, Sydney who made the courageous decision twelve months ago to travel to Mauritania in North Africa to study our religion in depth.

I use the word “brave” because when Radwan went abroad, he left behind a successful business and, more importantly, he said goodbye to his loving parents and three siblings.

Radwan was born in Sydney to Lebanese parents and grew up in the close-knit community of the OBA Cabramatta Mosque, so it also meant saying goodbye to most of his friends.

“I grew up in Cabramatta, near the mosque, and mine was one of the few families involved in the building of the mosque, so I have had a lifelong attachment to it.”

“That influence and that passion are still very much with me,” Radwan, who is currently home in Sydney for two months, told AMUST.

“Whether it is academically or in terms of brotherhood – you will find that the brotherhood is stronger in the mosque because we are all there for the sake of Allah.”

“I have a number of role models; academically, my role model is Sheikh Abdul Moez Al Nafti (I studied under him for many years and I am amazed at the amount of knowledge he possesses); In terms of volunteer work, I consider my friend and brother Salim Allouche as a good example, while my father is my role model when it comes to good manners and someone I look up to.”

“And when it comes to inspiring confidence and encouragement, I can’t go past my mother.”

“My mother is a very knowledgeable student herself and throughout my upbringing she taught me all the basics I learned at home: Arabic, reciting and memorizing the Quran and Islamic studies during Ramadan.”

“She also always encouraged me to participate in public speaking engagements and Quranic competitions, even outside of school, and sometimes against my wishes at the time – but looking back, this is what built my confidence.”

“Growing up, I did a lot of Qur’anic and Islamic studies with the Mashayikh in Cabramatta, whether visiting imams or visiting imams, and I benefited greatly from their knowledge and teachings.”

The beloved OBA Cabramatta Mosque of Br. In mid-2023, Radwan attracted more than 800, mainly young visitors, to a lecture by Mohamed Hoblos.

“My parents always strongly encouraged me to learn from these men of great knowledge.”

“The scholars say there is a time to benefit and a time to give, so I try to give back to the mosque, whether it is giving lectures or teaching or translating for the sheikhs or sometimes leading of the Taraweeh prayer or helping in any way. it is our duty as Muslims to give back.”

“The younger brothers of Cabramatta really appreciate the translations into English because it is easier for them.”

“After completing my HSC I was both working and studying, but I knew university wasn’t for me; However, I always had the idea that one day I would travel abroad and I could save some money while I worked on this.”

“But my actual decision to travel to Mauritania to study came quite suddenly.”

“Sheikh Abdul Moez told me that his son (who is a good friend of mine) was planning to travel there and after discussing this with my family and others around me, I decided to accompany him.”

“But even though I had always planned to travel, Mauritania had never been on my radar, so I still had a lot to read!”

More than 90 percent of Mauritania is located in the Sahara.

“Arriving in Mauritania it was a huge culture shock, because it is a very different culture and a very different mentality there.”

“Life there is very simple and people are not concerned with the materialistic things that we take for granted; there is also a lot of poverty…it is very different.”

“The Mashayikh who teach us are very modest and their dress code is the same as the rest of the community… you could travel somewhere, sit next to a scholar and you wouldn’t even know it.”

“And for local students, studying is a way of life, not a career/job vision.”

“Whether people are in business, teaching or have a 9-to-5 job, seeking Islamic knowledge should be part of that. “

“Studying there is also very different from how we know it, because many texts are in poetry form. They are very big on poetry and Mauritania is indeed described as ‘the land of a million poets’.”

“Students learn in poetry form; they remember everything so that it can ‘sink in’ and so that if they forget something, they can remember it.”

Students are with their teachers in Mauritania.

“The lessons last a maximum of 25-30 minutes. The teachers are completely focused on the text and do not allow themselves to be distracted from the subject. They talk very fast, so you have to be completely focused on what they are telling you and take notes and make sure you understand what is being said.”

“The teachers in the villages divide a time, for example between Fajr and Dhuhur, where they sit in their house and the students know that they are available, so they come in and stand in line and the teacher will bring a stack of books have in front of them. – and whatever book the student wants to discuss, the teacher will teach him one on one.”

“If the students study from the same book, the teacher can sometimes address a larger group, which saves him time.”

“The oppressive heat (the temperature is over 35 degrees for much of the year) also means that it is not practical to teach long lessons.”

Radwan has been living in a student house in the capital Nouakchott, but when he returns to Mauritania next month he has made arrangements to live in a village.

Village life is very simple and furniture is scarce. There is no comfort whatsoever.

Radwan says it is impossible to sleep outside a mosquito net and that these blood-sucking insects are a fact of life in Mauritania, as are a variety of other insects, scorpions and snakes.

Mauritania has approximately 4.5 million inhabitants, mainly Muslims.

There is no production, so much of the food is imported from Senegal, Morocco and Turkey, making it very difficult for locals to afford it.

For most, meals consist mainly of simple meat and rice dishes.

“Interestingly, in Mauritania a man is only called a sheikh when he has reached an extremely high level of knowledge, which can take most of his life… until then he is only called by his first name, even if he has been studying for fifteen up to twenty years,” Radwan revealed.

“This is a concept I like, as even the Companions were only known by their first names… Being called ‘Sheikh’ is something that is overdone in Australia.”

“My first piece of advice to young brothers who have ambitions to study abroad is to memorize the Quran as this is vital in terms of Islamic studies and is something that Sheikh Abdul Moez always reminded me of I should never underestimate it.”

“I actually completed my own Quran memorization in Mauritania as Allah ordained for me.”

“Step two is the local search for knowledge; the scholars would never travel abroad to seek knowledge without first seeking it from the Mashayikh in their own area.”

“Step three is Arabic – seeking knowledge to master Islamic subjects can only be done in Arabic and of course the Quran was revealed in Arabic, so you have to understand the Arabic language very well – have the vocabulary, the grammar understand – and the basic knowledge before you go abroad to study.”

“People should also understand that going abroad to study is not easy; you will experience hardship…days when you don’t want to get up, when you don’t want to study, when you don’t want to memorize.”

“And going to a country where life is already hard will make it even harder.”

“My biggest problem, especially when I first arrived in Mauritania, was missing family and close friends, but eventually you get used to it, you have to adapt to the circumstances and to the people.”

“But I missed family and friends very much because it was very difficult to leave my circle at home, because I was not used to this.”

“However, in terms of seeking knowledge, Mauritania is ideal because there are no distractions and everyone is very religious.”

“You jump into a taxi and the driver is reading his daily Quran, or you might be at the mosque and an old man comes in with a pillow and he can lie down between Dhuhur and Asr and fall asleep reciting from his Quran. and…it’s beautiful.”

  • That is the humility of Brother Radwan. He requested that his surname be withheld, which AMUST happily agreed to, in order to bring such a fascinating story to our readership and one that will hopefully inspire other young Muslims to follow a similar path.