The room was split up according to different noise levels and tunes. To my right, younger girls were reciting somewhat in unison. In the rest of the room, the older girls were memorizing different portions of the Qur’an in euphony. If someone were to hear some of these girls from a distance, it was a beautiful, muffled tune. I never was really able to discern where the most beautiful of these sounds came from exactly. However, sometimes I would be able to distinguish one or two voices, and later I became mesmerized by their imitations of the different scholars they chose to emulate.
This all took place in the masjid, place of worship, of a boarding school, the Institute of Islamic Education (IIE), located in the suburbs of Chicago, IL. It emitted a ray of inspiration for me, to revere and learn the Qur’an. This was a significant time for me given that I started feeling Islamophobic sentiments beginning as a middle schooler.
As my foot sank into the dark green and maroon carpet of the masjid, the serenity engulfed me. It was restricted to us girls except during Friday prayers along with the night prayers known as taraaweeh along with days off, where the brothers would occupy the blessed space. It was a place where all of us used to congregate, and if we had not met each other all day, we would smile, shake hands, hug, and talk. Other times it was just a place to revise whatever portions of the Qur’an we had memorized and catch up on studies. To me, it was almost a spiritual library. Whenever I needed a place to get away from any commotion and just meditate, the school masjid was the place to be.
It was during my freshman year of high school that I attended IIE, which was a specialized school that had both secular studies along with heavy emphasis on Islamic studies, particularly on this holy book. I remember initially having second thoughts about attending. Some close family friends had gone for several years and invited me to check out the school — as it was truly one of a kind. From ages 12 and up, there were majority girls of color that came from immigrant…