While many of them had to get used to reading Arabic from right to left, the 75 students who graduated from the Islamic School of North Jersey on Saturday morning said their experience over the past year, or years, has been rewarding.
The ceremony was held at the Mount Olive Senior Center on Flanders Drakestown Road.
At the school, which runs from September to June, students learn how to read and write Arabic, the language in which the Koran, the holy book for Muslims, is written.
Azza Soliman, the school's principal, said some 500 students have graduated from the school since its inception.
Parents find the school invaluable.
"It has been wonderful," said Waseem Bhatti of Flanders. "I can see the difference. They know much more about the religion and can now lead the prayers."
Muslims generally pray five times a day.
At Saturday's ceremony, the boys snd girls received certificates, medals and trophies for their achievements in the past year. Many of them wore mortarboards and tassels when collecting their certificates.
The students are at different levels, with some being first-year graduates and others in their fifth year. Their ages ranged between 5 and 15.
While all are Muslim, their ethnicities range widely. The students' parents emigrated from Jordan, Syria, Palestine, Pakistan, India, Egypt and Morocco, among other countries.
The students are instructed by adult volunteers, who teach them the Arabic alphabet and help them form sentences and use new vocabulary.
While the school has 12 grades, like conventional schools, students can stop coming at anytime they feel they have mastered reading or understanding Arabic, according to Soliman.
One question on the first-grade exam was to name one food that is "haram," or sinful. The student wrote bacon. Moslems are forbidden to eat food derived from pigs.
Another question asked students to do "wadu," or clean the body, before praying.
Virtually all of the students described their experience at the school as a good one.
"It's awesome," said Magdi Aref, of Hopatcong. "I've learned lots of Arabic words. It was challenging, but fun. You have to make the 'kh' sound a lot."
Saad Shah, 10, of Flanders, said "It's been very good. I learned how to make (Arabic) sentences and memorize words."
Miriam Zoklat, 10, of Hackettstown, has attended the school for four years.
"It has been a fun experience," she said. "I learned new words and phrases."
Other students said their knowledge of Arabic helped them recite more "suras," or chapters, in the Koran.
One parent praised the school, having had two children go through it.
"It is an imporant part for raising our children," said Aref Assaf of Denville. "The kids learn about the faith and the language. It's a building block toward better understanding Islam."