Pumpkin. That is what drew Andrea Cluck to join Ribaat. Yes, pumpkin. While attending a Lina Forward meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan, she was virtually introduced to Anse Tamara Gray.
“When Anse told us that we should eat pumpkin (roasted with butter and sugar) as it’s a practice of Prophet Muhammad (s), I knew I needed to have this wonderful person in my life. I started taking Ribaat classes and volunteering for it soon thereafter,” recalls Andrea, who now resides in a small town near Springfield, Illinois, with her husband and three step-children, volunteers with the youth, and runs a local Muslim women’s book club where they are currently reading Joy Jots by Anse Tamara Gray.
Through Ribaat, Andrea states that she has found a community of women with whom she can mature spiritually – something she did not have while pursuing her master’s degrees in Islamic studies and library science.
“As a graduate student, I learned about Islam from the outside without having a consistent source of religious guidance to help me live Islam,” says Andrea, who embraced Islam in 2005. “Before Ribaat, I did not have a steady source of Islamic knowledge, especially one imparted by loving and understanding female teachers. It has been life-changing,” she shares.
Andrea has been a student with Ribaat since 2012 and is loving her experience thus far. She appreciates its level of quality and professionalism and speaks highly of its affordability and organization, irrespective of it being run solely by volunteers. With the help of the Ribaat program, Andrea is working hard to become proficient in reading and understanding the Quran.
“I’m taking tajwid and Arabic classes through Ribaat to help me comprehend the Quran on my own without needing a third party translate it for me,” tells Andrea. “Thanks to Ribaat, I’m on schedule now to finish my first complete reading of the Quran by Ramadan, inshallah. Without this wonderful program, I don’t think that I’d be able to get to this level.”
This cat and book lover is also working towards learning enough conversational Arabic to be able to communicate with her in-laws. She also wants to become qualified to eventually share her knowledge with the youth and women of her community.
“My long-term goal is to obtain a teaching certificate through Ribaat. It’s particularly important to me to be able to help converts keep a firm foothold in Islam,” she says. “I feel more joyful and confident as a Muslim woman now, because of the practical and spiritual knowledge I have gained. The support system from my fellow classmates and teachers is so helpful too. Thank you, Ribaat, for being a part of my life!”