Interview with the Director of Darul Arqam

What influenced your decision to start Darul Arqam?

Darul Arqam emerged from a common desire shared by families here in Nouakchott and abroad.We found many families, both Mauritanian and foreign, dissatisfied with the educational opportunities available for their children, thus resorting to homeschooling.  With so many families diligently working to educate their own children, we thought it would be better to join our efforts and start a school for us and by us.


How would you compare Darul Arqam to other mahdharahs (traditional Islaamic schools) for children in Mauritania?

Our school offers a cleaner learning environment for students to thrive in.  Conveniently located in Nouakchott, families of Darul Arqam have greater access to modern amenities and comforts, a wide variety of food items, and greater economic possibilities.  Also, while many mahdharahs emphasize and produce students with strong memorization skills, our school aims to inspire and enliven the practical application of religious knowledge through personal attention, sincere advice, enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.  Another unique feature is that we have an integrated curriculum that equips students with academic essentials, as well as sound Islaamic education.


What is your teaching philosophy?

Learning needs to be practical, applicable and beneficial to maintain interest in the subject.  I remember being a primary school student and not knowing the purpose for learning what I was being taught. My philosophy is that education should lead to beneficial words and actions.  Education should give you the tools needed for the journey of this life and the next.  We’re all travelers and when you travel you need certain tools, both physical and spiritual, to arrive safely to your destination.


How would you describe your teaching methodology?

One of the strengths of education in Mauritania is a strong emphasis on the memorization of texts and fundamental principles.  However, many students don’t know what to do with this stored information and therefore don’t know how to derive benefit or benefit others by means of it.  Our methodology will equally emphasize the application of knowledge by working with the students to solve problems, unlock concepts, and work through the material with the children.


How does the area where Darul Arqam is situated help to achieve the school’s objectives?

Darul Arqam is situated in a community that values sacred knowledge.  Many families who previously fled Nouakchott to avoid tribulation have returned and settled in this very community.  There are many other mahdharahs in the area and there’s great respect for the pursuit of knowledge with minimal distractions.  Also, the community is not densely populated and everyone knows each other.  This makes reminding and being reminded much easier.


What are some of the educational challenges that relocated families face in Nouakchott?

Education is a major challenge for relocated families.  The traditional Islamic schools don’t teach other academic subjects taught in the secular academic school system.  The secular academic schools don’t teach religious studies found in the traditional Islamic school system.  Most relocated families desire both for their children and may not have the resources or skills to teach their children on their own at home.  Hopefully, our school will help to address this challenge of youth education. 


What are some factors that families moving to Nouakchott should consider?

Nouakchott is not a very developed city.  There are not many comforts here unless you’re willing to pay higher prices for them.  You have to prepare yourself to live with people who have different values.  Also, it’s hard to find work because most people are self-employed with small shops and business ventures.


Can you tell us your most memorable teaching experience at Darul Arqam?

Watching students really grasp what they’re learning and why.  For example, I watched one of my students go from learning letters to vowel sounds to reading words.  When she realized that she was actually reading words, her face lit up, as if to say “this is why” and that was beautiful for me.


What is your vision for Darul Arqam?

I’d like Darul Arqam to at the service of the Ghuraba. To be a school that gives our children the tools and skills needed to embark on this life journey, enabling them to function in society and contribute meaningfully to it. Education should increase our yaqeen (certainty), so that the unseen will be more real to us than the seen.