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Famous historiographer Ibn Khaldun described Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan’s generosity: One may compare the gifts Ibn Dhi Yazan presented to the Qurashite ambassadors. He gave each of them ten pounds (ritl) of gold and silver, and ten slaves and maidservants and one flask of ambergris. To ‘Abd Al-Muttalib he gave ten times as much. Ibn Dhi Yazan’s realm, as it was located in the Yemen, was under the complete control of the Persians at that time. His generosity, however, was caused by high-mindedness, which stemmed from the royal authority that his family, the Tubba’s, has possessed in the Yemen and from the superiority they had once exercised over the nations of two Iraqs, India and the Maghrib. (Ibn Khaldun, Al-Muqaddimah, I, 360)


Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan (سيف بن ذي يزن), of the Himyarite royal line, played an important role in Arabian history in the expulsion of the Abyssinians from South Arabia when they had held away since the time of Dhu Nuwas. A member of the former royal family of the Yemen, Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan, was obliged to expel foreigners from his country and reestablish his ancestors’ dynasty. He started a freedom movement, but when local support proved insufficient for the achievement of his aims, he went to the Persian king in search of military support. Native traditions records that he first sought assistance against the foreign yoke of the Abyssinians at the Byzantine court and later at the court of Persian Khusraw. Khusraw, however, would not risk anything in an enterprise with such hopeless prospects, so he just gave to Sayf a number of criminals out of the jails under a leader whose name was Wahriz in order to assist him. The Abyssinians under Masruk were defeated and driven out of the country and Sayf was installed by the Persians as king.

From this tradition and several Arabic poems, it was concluded that Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan conquered the Abyssinians with the help of the Persian king Khusraw Anushirwan, broke their rule over Yemen and held away over the land of his ancestors under a Persian protectorate. His victory over the Abyssinians may be dated about 570 AD.

After Yazan was installed as king, he was killed by Ethiopian slaves and the Persian army returned bringing southern Arabia under Persian rule and it belonged to the Persian Empire until the time of the prophet Muhammad.

Story of Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan was studied and transmitted among the Muslims from the beginning of the Islamic era. The hero is portrayed as a Muslim warrior of the time before the advent of Islam who fights successfully against pagans establishing the dominion of Islam. He is one of the first genuine Arab heroes. In the romance Sirat Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan the war between the Muslim Arabs and Abyssinians occupies considerable space. The king of Abyssinia, whose conflict with Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan runs throughout the text of the romance, gives a clue of the date of origin of the sirat. In the story he is called Saif Ar’ad and corresponds to the Ethiopian king Saifa Ar’ad who reigned in Abyssinia 1344-72. From this reference it is possible to deduce that the existing versions of the Sirat date from 15th century, during the Mamluk period. However, whole romance did not arose at the same time; some parts were composed and put into circulation earlier. Egypt is the place of origin of the romance or, more precisely, Cairo.

Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan lived in the pre-Islamic period. Like his father Dhu Yazan, he was convicted of the truth of Islam before Muhammad and was won over to the new religion. In place of Muhammad, who had not been yet appeared, in the profession of faith, there is the prophet Ibraheem. In such a way we see that the purpose of the war was the gaining of recognition for the unity of Allah and recognition of the mission of His prophet Ibraheem.

In the romance there are the records of the origins of famous towns, places and buildings, of the bringing of the river Nile into Egypt, numerous travels and adventures, splendid buildings, regions and men that are described in such a picturesque way. Countless are the magic treasures mentioned in the course of the story. The magicians form the greatest obstacle to the believers and Al-Khidr, the helper of Muslims, who regularly overcomes powers of the magicians. This hero and Yemeni ruler traveled throughout ancient Egypt observing the architectural styles and religious rituals. Throughout the romance we find descriptions of ancient Egyptian motifs such as the pursuit for the Book of the Nile as well as the words and names that belong to the pagan Egyptian era, such as that of the sky goddess Nut.

Sirat Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan gives the truthful image of the life in Egypt at the end of Middle Ages and forms valuable historical source.

A lecture on Human & Minority Rights in Islam

Arab Academy’s on-campus students had an exciting lecture on Human & Minority Rights in Islam given by Prof. Ahmed Abou el-Wafa, the head of International Law Department, Law School, Cairo University.

In Islam, non-Muslim minorities receive rights and privileges that include:

  • Minorities’ right to freedom of belief
  • Warning against doing non-Muslims injustice
  • Protection of non-Muslims’ funds
The relationship between the Muslim community and the non-Muslim minority is based on Allah’s rule that says: {Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them} [Al-Mumtahanah: 9] Another very important verse that ensures the freedom of belief is {There is no coercion in religion} [Al-Baqarah: 256].
Our students enjoy being exposed to the Arabic culture while learning Arabic.  It is very useful to have such lectures and events to in order to get immersed in the Arabic-speaking community.

A lecture on Human and Minority Rights in Islam








Holidays and Traditions in Arabic Countries

Holidays in Arabic Countries

There are a number of holidays and traditions throughout the Arabic world that have a history going back many centuries. Different countries may have different ways to celebrate these occasions, but the meaning and purpose is generally the same. Whether there is a religious or spiritual element of the holiday or it is a time to enjoy being with family and friends, these festivities and traditions are a great way to experience the Arabic culture.

Two of the major holidays (Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha) follow some of the most important traditions in the year. The celebrations are a time to reflect and develop spiritually, and take the time to be close to loved ones.

Eid al-Fitr

In the tenth month of the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of Fast Breaking) is celebrated after spending the previous month of Ramadan fasting. While celebrations may be different from region to region, it is usually a three-day period that begins on the first day of the month Shawwal. On the day of Eid people will get together in the morning, either in a nice outdoor location or at a mosque, for the Eid prayer. After that they will head off to meet with family and friends for some wonderful meals and some gift-giving.


Ramadan directly precedes Eid al-Fitr with a month of fasting and spiritual reflection. If a person is physically able (there are special rules for those who may be infirm or have other medical needs), they are required to fast from sunup to sundown every day of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Evening meals are usually held with the family or the community where you can also share prayers and spiritual reflection, and many cities decorate their streets with lights or other ornaments to celebrate the month.

The fasting during Ramadan is about more than just going without food and water, though. It is about purifying both body and soul. It is an opportunity to refrain from speaking ill of others, listening to obscenities, and seeing the wrong things. This is also a great chance to do charitable acts for others, and go out of your way to help people in need.

Eid al-Adha

The Festival of Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha) is a religious holiday that commemorates Abraham and Ishmael’s trial of obedience. It is held on the tenth day of the last month of the year, just after the end of the Hajj. This is also generally a three-day celebration that starts with the Eid prayer in the morning. During the holiday people will visit friends and family, but mostly it is a time to show that you are also willing to make sacrifices.


Hajj takes place in the 12th month of the year, and it is the time for the pilgrimage to Mecca. This is one of the more famous traditions in the Arabic world. Millions of Muslims make the journey to Mecca every year, and the sheer enormity of it is fascinating. Pilgrims have the opportunity to examine and renew their spiritual lives and take part in a tradition that is centuries upon centuries old. While access to Mecca is restricted to Muslims only, there are some great documentaries that can give others an impression of what it’s really like.

Experience for Yourself

Participating in some of these holidays and traditions is, for many, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If you find yourself with a chance to experience something like this, don’t pass it by. If you have to learn Arabic online before going, or if you have to start a special savings account, it will all be worth it. These cultural traditions and holidays have an incredible history, and this is a chance to see what they are really like.

Our Students Have Fun Cooking While They Learn Arabic

Eid al-Adha

During the last week of October, Muslims all around the world will celebrate Eid al-Adha (the Greater Eid). Eid al-Adha is an important religious feast celebrated annually on the 10th day of the Islamic Month Dhu al Hijjah; it starts after the Hajj (the annual pilgrimage to Mecca by Muslims) and lasts for 4 days.  Islamic and Arab countries announce official holiday during those days.

Muslims and Arabs keep several traditions during this Islamic festival; they dress up with their finest clothes and go to mosques to pray the Eid prayer and visit their families and friends. Those Muslims who can afford, sacrifice an animal and distribute third of its meat on the poor, usually it is a cow or a goat or sheep depending on the region. Distributing meat amongst people, making contributions to the poor, charity work and families’ visits are prominent traditions of this festival.

In Egypt it is no different than any other Muslim country, however there is one special thing that is common in all Egyptian homes but not anywhere else which is the iconic meal of “Egyptian Fatta”. Egyptian Fatta is a ruling dish in Eid al-Adha, and consists of meat, rice, bread and red sauce.

You can uncover more about Islam, Arabic culture and traditions when you learn Arabic. Learning the Arabic language will open you up to the deep and rich world of Islam. You can spend a summer, semester, or full year abroad practicing your Arabic language skills and learning firsthand about Arab culture. At Arab Academy, our on-campus students had the chance to live this formidable Islamic festival while taking Arabic lessons. They learnt how to cook the Egyptian fatta on the hands of  one of Egypt’s many talented chefs.








Eid ul-Fitr

Eid ul-Fitr marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Eid prayer is performed in congregation in open areas like fields, community centers, etc. or at mosques. Gifts are frequently given to children and immediate relatives; it is also common in some cultures for children to be given small sums of money by adult relatives or friends (3idiya). Children will wear their new clothes and go out to amusement parks, gardens or public courtyards. Family gatherings involve cooking and eating all kinds of Egyptian food, but the item most associated with Eid al-Fitr are Kahk, which are cookies filled with nuts and covered with powdered sugar.

On such occasions, students learning Arabic abroad (in Egypt) usually get to indulge into Arabic culture. They live those traditions themselves and have the chance to eat the yummy Kahk. For those who take Arabic lessons online, they will get to explore more the Arab communities and their people.