Huda Graduates, Onward and Upward

By Adil James, TMO

r-l:  Hossam Musa, Omar Mahmood, Abdelrahman Allam, Zac Saleh, Mohammad Rathur, Hassan Saleh, Moaz Sinan, Principal Azra Ali.

Huda School’s Class of 2008 are young Muslims with promising futures.  They are now in their senior years at local high schools and have been achieving academic excellence.  I interviewed six members of the 16-member class Tuesday night at Huda, and they recited their accomplishments.  Their ACT scores range from 26 to 35 (the maximum possible is 36), from the 86th percentile up to the 99th.  All except one have ACT scores above 30.  One has a GPA of 4.0, but that is not the highest GPA among them–one has a 4.2. 

They attend the best local secular private and public schools, such as the International Academy (IA), Detroit Country Day School (DCDS), and Lahser High School.  They hold leadership positions–one serves as the captain of his school’s basketball team.

One is a published poet. Two have received full scholarships at local universities.

All those I spoke with showed their love for friends and family through their familiarity with one another, and most by one telling decision. They mostly had a preference for attending university in Michigan–most of those present intended to attend the University of Michigan Ann Arbor–despite their all being likely successful candidates at very selective East coast or California universities.

Moaz Sinan, who earned a 32 on his ACT and attends the International Academy, expressed a desire to attend the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Abdelrahman Allam received a 31 on his ACT, has a 4.0 at Lahser High School.  He would like to go to Stanford but also applied to Ann Arbor.

Zac Saleh has a 4.2 average at IA.  He applied to Ann Arbor, Michigan State, and Wayne State. He received a 31 on his ACT.

Mohammed Rathur received a 26 on his ACT (which gives him a score in the high 80s percentile), attends DCDS, and plans to attend either the University of Michigan Ann Arbor or Michigan State.

The character among the group was Hassan Saleh, a young man with a full ride at Wayne State University–he would not give his GPA but he said that the average full ride at Wayne is a 3.83 GPA and 30 ACT. He has published 2 poems.  His family moved here from Palestine in 1983.

One standout from the graduating class was not present.  Tariq Akeel, the son of prominent local attorney Shereef Akeel, is, in the words of one of his classmates “the best soccer player ever to come from Detroit Country Day School.”  He was recruited by many Ivy League colleges, including Princeton, Yale, and Brown.

The Huda class of 2008 was unique in that they were all together for at least six years, most since kindergarten but all from at least 2nd grade through 8th.  They remain close, as was evidenced during my visit with them–the six of them joked playfully with one another during the entirety of my time with them.

They spoke highly of their time at Huda, and again and again the students referred to the character education they had received there.

“I miss touch football during recess, exploring the forest and swamp next to the school, collecting frogs and bringing them back to the lab,” said one.

They all studied Arabic during their time at Huda, and Hossam Musa, a trained hafiz who serves as the head of Huda’s Qur`an, Arabic and Islamic Studies (QAIS) program, explained that the students learn half a juz of Qur`an every year.  Some Huda students even take a break to attend the Tawheed Center’s Hifz school until they finish memorizing Qur`an, then return to their classes at Huda.

After Huda, the students go on to the best local schools.  The students explain that “About a dozen students from Huda are at DCDS,” and “about 20 at IA.”

“The non-Muslim kids know Huda is good.”

Mr. Musa has so much belief in his students that you can almost feel his love for them in his words.  “All you guys are at the top of your class–insha`Allah this will continue at the national level.” 

He compares the students to Steve Jobs, or the CEO of Domino’s.  “Keep up whatever you did in high school–continue through college–whatever you do, stay on the same track.”

The principal of Huda for the past four years is Azra Ali, a very bright young woman originally from Hyderabad, whose well-behaved children also attended the meeting. 
She speaks with great pride about Huda’s prominence.  “Huda is the first Islamic IB school in the Midwest.” 

In fact, although she does not mention that fact herself, Mrs. Ali was the one to bring Huda the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. 

She speaks highly of the quality of the Huda education, and of its staff.  On the mandatory state exams, she explains, “98% of the students test  proficient if not advanced.”

“QAIS is strong as well.”  She speaks highly of the moral lessons learned at the school, which begin with a group du’a every morning. 

There are 10 major character themes that Huda inculcates, and she explains that “this month was compassion, last month friendship, the previous month respect.”

What seems unique and enlightened in her approach, however, is that Huda inculcates belief in Islam and patriotism at the same time.  Both she and Hossam Musa explain that Huda tries to teach the students to be “patriotic but at the same time have a Muslim identity.”

They cite a recent Veteran’s Day observance, where the students focused on the achievements of veterans, as evidence.

The school is very diverse.  There are students from the Middle East and from South Asia, and also recently more African American Muslims.  “All together under a Muslim umbrella,” as Mrs. Ali puts it.

In fact what was most remarkable about the students was that one of the few that I met, and one I did not meet, took the time to write short but heartfelt notes about what they felt Huda had given them:

Below is the note from Abdelrahman Allam:

“Huda School did prepare us very well academically. I noticed that immediately freshman year that it was an easy transition academically. Yes I have a high GPA, and yes I did well on my ACT, Alhamdullilah, but those are things that anyone can learn to do. There are plenty of people who didn’t go to Huda School who were able to accomplish these things. The one thing you’ll notice about our class, and this is due to the environment we were taught in, is the strength of our character. It has allowed us to continue to be leaders. Walk into any Senior or even Junior class at some of our high schools and ask people to tell you about myself, or Zac, or [one other student]. You will only hear great things. The social transition was not a breeze. But our high character made it easy to adjust and have people see us as role models and people they want to get to know. This is what will determine our future success, not how well we do in school, but how we respect and elicit respect from others. We learned to do that at Huda School.”

Another Huda grad who could not be present but who sent some biographical information was Uzair Khan, who received a 35 on his ACT.  Mr. Khan wrote a brief essay which again emphasized the character building he experienced at Huda.

Khan explained that “[t]he best part about Huda School is the small grade size.  It allowed for many of us to enjoy our times at Huda, from playing basketball to the end of the year field trips to Cedar Point.  To this day, many of us former Huda students remain very close friends and I am sure that those bonds will never break throughout our life.”