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04 March 2024 / 23. Shabaan 1445

Seek Knowledge even if it is as far as Korea

The benefits of having a university education are manifold and range from financial to cultural. The Holy Prophet (SAW) has said “Seek Knowledge even if it as far as China.” A perfect example of this quote was done by one of our very own community sisters. Fatima Munir Walji has gone all the way to Korea to achieve her dream of learning 15 languages. This is her story!

Question: Why did you decide to study this course and what motivated you?
 “I basically studied English Literature and languages in my undergrad in America and that's when I began studying Korean. The Korean language has fast become one of my favourites amongst the languages that I had begun (i.e. Chinese, Japanese and German). After completing my degree I decided to take any opportunity I could to come to Korea because in about 6 months I was semi-fluent in the language. At that moment, the only available way of coming here was by getting my masters. I thought I'd simply come to Korea and learn Korean but my masters’ course is much more difficult than that. Even though my major is titled Korean language and Cultural Education, I don't learn any Korean but rather there is this assumption that you know enough Korean to be able to teach it. I have had to drastically improve my Korean level by myself here and it's been a great experience so far Alhamduillah. I got into one of the top three schools in Korea called “Korea University” and am now in my last semester.”

Question: Are there any Muslims in Korea? What is the Islamic environment there?
“At first like I mentioned, my main purpose for coming here was because I knew and loved the language and the culture. I hadn't researched about the Muslim community before I came and didn't know what big of an effect it would have on me.  I came and discovered a huge Sunni community and since I didn't know if a Shia community existed, I participated in a lot of the events held in the Sunni mosque and even went on to MC a couple of events the majority of which are held in the Korean language. (These events basically are there to introduce Islam to Koreans and also clear out misunderstandings they have about Islam). I realized from here that my Korean skills helped me a lot with communicating with the Koreans about Islam and this slowly gave me a purpose.
During my second semester, by pure luck I discovered a small Shia community and there was a Musallo right at my school. This small Shia group contains mostly of students and some labourers that work in factories. The only people actively trying to create a proper Shia community are a group of five of us. We are trying to create a non-profit organization with promoting Shiasm as the main purpose and translate Shia books into Korean. Korean happens to be one of the only languages in the world that has no Shia texts. We are a small group so getting much achieved is difficult but we are trying our level best. There are about 30,000 Korean Muslims in Korea (99% Sunni) and more increasing every day (Alhamdulillah). But the majority of the people that come to the mosque are foreign Muslims and a lot tend to get married to Korean ladies.

Personally, my own purpose has become translating Islamic books of every level into Korean. There are almost no children books and I want to work in that area. Due to the huge number of Muslims in Korea, there is of course a Muslim area in Seoul. There is this place called Itaewon, where the mosque is located that has streets lined up with Halal Restaurants and stores that sell halal meat. It's not much but enough to survive by. I'm not going to say that food is easy over here but it's not impossible to live here. More than anything, so far all the people that have approached me regarding the hijab have been polite and almost always guided by curiosity because they have no idea why we do what we do.”

Question: Would you advise any of our Khoja Students to study in Korea?
“I would actually love if more Khojas would come here because the schools are pretty amazing and foreigners have a lot of opportunities career wise here. Seoul overall has an amazing environment to live in and lots to do for the younger generation. I can say that I am almost 98% happy with my choice of coming here. I think Shia Islam needs much help here and therefore if more Khojas could come and help, it would be amazing!”

For further information on higher education in Korea or help in deciding on your career choice please contact [email protected] 

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