CHICAGO (  – As a young girl Zainab Akinlabi says she always prayed for knowledge, wisdom, understanding and help in her struggles with literacy.

“All my life I had a problem with reading. I could read, but I couldn’t read, read. So I was embarrassed in the public to read because I felt ashamed. So I asked Allah (God) to get someone to help me with that struggle,” she said.

Through patience, endurance and unwavering faith, Ms. Akinlabi now 36 is well on the way to overcoming her struggle. The answer came through the Ministry of Education of the Nation of Islam at the group’s National headquarters at Mosque Maryam in Chicago.


When Ms. Akinlabi heard about evening adult literacy courses and other classes being offered to the public at Muhammad University of Islam, she enrolled immediately without hesitation. Under the direction of Dr. Larry Muhammad, national director of Muhammad Universities of Islam, the school has remained open Tuesday and Thursday in the evenings offering a variety of classes in adult literacy, GED preparation and self-improvement courses.

“The Muhammad University of Islam through the NOI Ministry of Education is working to fulfill a desire of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan to aide our people in the fight against illiteracy. Illiteracy and the lack of access to information means death in this modern, fast paced, hi-tech world,” said Dr. Muhammad.

Ms. Akinlabi said it was a process for her to “let go of the pride” in order to begin her journey toward literacy but she has enjoyed learning phonics and breaking down words she does not understand. Before, she felt uncomfortable trying to read stories to her nieces and nephews, but after only a few weeks in the literacy course, she is gaining confidence.

Her older brother Lukeman Clare also enrolled in the class driving each week from Gary, Ind. Mr. Clare, 47, is a bit uneasy with making his struggle with reading public but says he realizes that with so many things he wants to do, he knows he cannot accomplish them without a good education.

Mr. Clare said after only a few weeks in the course his interest in reading has been stimulated and he now enjoys picking up and reading things, he never bothered with before like newspapers, magazines and books.

“My wife and I can pick a newspaper up and instead of her going all the way through it, I go through it a little now,” he said proudly.

Mr. Clare adds that the love he has for his wife was the inspiration behind his desire to tackle his literacy challenges head-on. “I owe myself but I owe her just as much. She’s been good to me. She’s always been by my side and I really want to do something special for her. I want to show her something special,” he explained.

Mr. Clare also wants other adults that struggle with literacy to know that it is never too late to learn. “I heard about a guy who was in his late 80s going into his 90s before he ever learned to read and write. He couldn’t even write his name and when he died he was a college student. You know if he can do it, I’m quite sure I can do it.

“Learning How To Learn” is another course being offered in which students are introduced to the different barriers to study so they can be overcome in order to enhance the learning experience.

Jewel Moore-Nicholson, whose seven-year-old son attends M.U.I., enrolled in Learning How To Learn because as a parent she wanted to become actively engaged in her sons education and also because he took the course during the day at school.

Ms. Moore-Nicholson admits she was apprehensive about taking the course initially because having her Master’s Degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in health care management she thought she already knew how to learn.

“Interesting enough, you would be surprised what you really don’t know,” she said. The course has helped her identify ways to help her son grasp and understand concepts he needs to know in various subjects.

“It (the course) was really something that made me focus more. It made me pay better attention to what I’m doing. It also made me be able to relate to my son when I am assisting him with his homework assignments because now I know how he feels. I know the symbols to look for,” she said.

Dr. Muhammad says eventually, courses will be offered that will aid in skills development /enhancement and eventually college level, degreed courses.

“These evening courses are available and open to the general public. We thank Sister Bercola Kamaliyah and Brother Leon Muhammad for their hard work and consistency in managing this program,” said Dr. Muhammad.

Ms. Akinlabi said she was not afraid to ask for help with reading because of something her mother once told her about the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.

“My mother used to tell me a story about the Messenger’s teaching. She said sometimes the Messenger said, ‘Allah will send you blessings and we would turn them away.’ So I figure if I’m ashamed to ask for help then I won’t receive help so I have to ask so I can receive my blessing and that gave me courage,” said Ms. Akinlabi.

“I can’t put nothing down now, all I want to do is read,” she laughed.

The M.U.I. Continuing Education Program offers: Learning How To Learn, How to Use a Dictionary, Grammar and Communication, Progressive Teaching Tools, Basic Study Manual, Adult Literacy, Study Skills for Life, How to Live and Work with Children, as well as courses in the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Self-Improvement: The Basis of Community Development by Minister Louis Farrakhan and more. Muhammad University of Islam in Chicago is open Tuesday and Thursday evenings offering various classes that are open to the community.

For more information or to register for classes contact Sis. Bercola or Bro. Leon at M.U.I at 773-643-0700 or email moemuichicago@ For inquiries from outside Chicago, email moe@