The cultivation of an Islamic ethos of piety is felt most deeply in the Quranic Exegesis modules. For these classes, students from all levels of the ISP study a chapter (surah) of the Quran from a thematic and spiritual perspective, concerned with understanding and implementation. Whilst the sources of the lesson are from a mixture of classical and contemporary exegeses, the module is not assessed by assignment or examination. The primary objective of the module is for students to deepen their connection with their Lord and to strengthen their resolve to embody and enact the message of the Quran.
In addition to the development of the inner dimensions of worship, the Quranic Exegesis module also serves to improve the student’s use and comprehension of classical Arabic. In conjunction with the Arabic Department (p16), Quranic Exegesis introduces new vocabulary and expressions that are often particular to the Book of Allah and the language of pre-Islamic Arabia. In order to convey an enriched understanding, linguistic and grammatical exposition is utilised throughout the course to foster a deep appreciation for the message of the Quran and advance the students’ progress in their Arabic studies.
ASI enjoys international recognition as a provider of leading education in the fields of hadith transmission and classification (‘Ilm al-Rijal and Mustalah al-Hadith).
In the initial years, students will be able to derive benefits from authentic ahadith in abridged compilations. Emphasis is placed on the essential meanings of hadith narrations, the character and personality of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and the many virtues of his companions. Students will then be introduced to the principles of Prophetic narrations in the Usul al- Hadith modules. To develop a deeper appreciation for the compilations and compilers of hadith, students will begin to learn the nomenclature and practices of those scholars who spent their lives in the accumulation, scrutiny and study of Prophetic narrations.
Continuing on to the Intermediate level, students will be introduced to the notable text ‘Garden of the Hadith Scholars’ (Bustan al-Muhaddithin) in a dedicated seminar. This course will introduce students to every major hadith compilation, their authors and the methodologies that they adopted in compiling their books. Students will study aspects of the six primary sources (Kutub al- Sittah): Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sunan al-Nasa’i, Sunan Abu Dawud, Jami’ al-Tirmidhi and Sunan Ibn Majah over the course of three years.
Also taught in the Intermediate level is the Muwatta of Imam Malik. It is both the original book of hadith and the basis of the Maliki school of thought. Students will apply the principles of hadith narrations learnt at Foundation level to the narrations and narrators found in this text. With the chains of narration being very short, and the number of documented transmissions from Imam Malik being relatively high, it is the perfect compilation for students of hadith to learn the methods of the scholars.
Students who progress on to the final years of the Islamic Scholarship Programme will study in one of the most advanced classes on Sahih al-Bukhari in Europe, and perhaps anywhere in the world. Scholars and senior students of hadith travel from all over the world to attend the Hadith Criticism and Fiqh Methodology classes with Shaykh Akram Nadwi. Some students may choose to specialise in this discipline, receiving advanced tuition for many years and receiving multiple ‘ijazat in hadith reading sessions.
The field of Islamic Law (Fiqh) is the most encompassing area of study taught at Al- Salam Institute.
These modules are taught by a number of expert scholars and seek to expose students to the fundamental values and concepts of Islamic Law. Through intellectual honesty and academic rigour, we endeavour to provide students with a pristine form of scholarship true to its intentions.
Fiqh covers such a vast area in the study of Islam. In the first year, students will cover the Chapters of Worship. These are the timeless and immutable areas of central importance, such as the spiritual rituals of prayer and purification, which remain fixed and unchanged since they were first decreed over 1,400 years ago. Every student who completes the Foundation level of the ISP will complete the course with the ability to confidently practice the law covered in the chapters of worship: purification, prayer, charity, pilgrimage and fasting during the month of Ramadan.
Those who attend the programme come from a diverse range of backgrounds. As a result, we often have students who are familiar with a particular school of Islamic jurisprudence whilst being relatively unaware of others. Accordingly, at ASI the four schools of thought are taught in an impartial manner in addition to other, less mainstream, schools. These are introduced incrementally throughout the six years so that students are comfortable with the methodology and juristic reasoning found in one school before moving on to another.
As the student progresses on to the Advanced level, subtleties and nuances in the development of Islamic law will become clearer. Contemporary notions of justice, freedom and equality will be analysed alongside the interplay between laws (hudud), rules (ahkam) and norms (sunnah) in both historical and contemporary societies. Each of these concepts or values has a measurable authenticity, a true understanding of which will enable the student to apply the principles of Islamic law to current and emerging aspects of day to day life, such as: politics, banking, business, family, contracts, personal hygiene and modern-day social issues.
PRINCIPLES OF ISLAMIC JURISPRUDENCE
The Principles of Islamic Sciences includes a number of modules that connect and underpin all other areas of study. Critical questions on the sciences of Islamic Law, Hadith and Quranic Exegesis will arise at different stages of the curriculum. For example, how are we to interpret any given Quranic injunction? What tools are in place for one to assess the strength of one hadith narration over another? How have the four well-known schools of thought developed over the centuries and why is it that others have not withstood the passage of time?
The Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence (Usul al-Fiqh) is one such module that spans the entire six years of the ISP. The module is introduced in the first year, alongside the Principles of Prophetic Traditions (Usul al-Hadith) and the Principles of Quranic Exegesis (Usul al-Tafsir), to be studied alongside the disciplines for which they provide a conceptual framework. These jurisprudential modules increase in scope and specialism up to the final year of the Intermediate level, culminating in the Objectives of the Islamic Law modules which are taught at the Advanced level.
Throughout the duration of the programme students will study the inception and development of Usul al-Fiqh during the formative years of Islam. Its role in the development of Islamic legal schools will become clear during the first year of study. Thereafter, students will evaluate the historical progression of the science and undertake detailed study of the notable contributions that have occurred throughout the ages. Classical texts in Islamic jurisprudence such as al-Risalah of Imam Shafi’i will be studied alongside influential works of the modern era that have helped to revive or reshape the study of the classical Islamic sciences, such as Shah Wali Allah al-Dihlawi’s ‘The Profound Evidence of Allah’ (Hujjatullah al-Balaga).
During the final years of the Intermediate level, students will discover the contemporary applications of Islamic jurisprudence and determine how it relates to the day-to-day affairs of an individual, as well as how it provides a blueprint for understanding the global socio-legal affairs of the modern world.
PRINCIPLES OF PROPHETIC TRADITIONS
The study of the Principles of Prophetic Traditions provides an unparalleled opportunity to study the sciences of hadith classification under a systematic programme of discussion and analysis. Beginning in the first year of the ISP with the study of the commonly-used terminology and nomenclature, students will then progress on to the history of hadith and chains of narration (isnad) to provide a solid contextual foundation in Usul al-Hadith studies. Critical evaluation of prominent texts and the doctrinal standardisation of the science will be studied from a theoretical perspective, as well as a thorough look into the biographies of prominent hadith scholars from the first generation of Muslims to the present day.
An in-depth study of the lives of the hadith scholars will enable students to derive a multitude of benefits, both inside and outside of the classroom. For instance, by focusing on the exact wording used by a particular hadith narrator, students will begin to recognise some of the more technical elements of hadith classification – such as those that have been utilised by Imam Bukhari and Muslim. In addition, studying the biographies of hadith scholars provides an insight into their way of living. Students will learn first-hand the etiquettes of study that have been practised by the earliest generations of Muslims and those who followed them; the prevalence of travelling in pursuit of knowledge, the unyielding focus with which the students of hadith would commit to their studies, the manner in which they would take knowledge from their teachers and the sheer number of teachers that they would study under!
Moreover, this study provides a unique insight into early Islamic societies from a scholarly perspective. Students will benefit from the monumental research conducted by Shaykh Akram on the lives and teachings of female hadith scholars and the societal role of women in the history of Islam. All those who were engaged in the study of hadith considered it a life-long vocation; from Imam Shafi’, who had memorised the Muwatta of Imam Malik by the age of 10, to Aisha bint Abd al-Hadi al-Maqdasiyyah, who continued to teach Sahih al-Bukhari until she was the last surviving student of Ahmad al-Hajjar in the world.
Through this unique combination of theoretical and practical training, students will be well-equipped to take part in thorough discussions regarding the strengths and weaknesses of particular hadith narrations, as well as the effectiveness of different authenticity measures. Development of these skills will prepare students for the final year units on Hadith Criticism and Fiqh Methodology, where students will cover in-depth the Muwatta of Imam Malik, the Jami’ of Imam Tirmidhi and the Sahih collection of Imam al-Bukhari.
PRINCIPLES OF QURANIC EXEGESIS
The modules on the Principles of Quranic Exegesis are concerned with the rules of interpretation of the Noble Quran.
The development of this science as a formal area of study helps us to determine how to understand the Quran as a book of guidance, legislation and spirituality. It also provides the tools which enable us to determine whether we are able to interpret the Quran through these lenses. For instance, in the modern era of empirical evidence there has been an unprecedented amount of scientific readings of the Quran. The study of Usul al-Tafsir provides a framework which governs the degree to which we may accept these interpretations and understand the Quran in light of modern scientific discoveries.
Throughout this module, students will cover introductory texts such as al-Tashil of Ibn Juzayy and longstanding pillars of Usul al-Tafsir, such as the Muqaddimah of Ibn Taymiyyah and al-Fawz al-Kabir of Shah Wali Allah al-Dihlawi. The study of these texts will assist students in understanding the units on Quranic Exegesis that appear throughout the programme as well as in their personal readings of the Quran. By the end of the Intermediate level, students will have refined their critical thinking skills and will progress on to detailed study of different classical and contemporary works of tafsir.
By studying the Islamic sciences modules over the course of six years, students will graduate with a deep insight and awareness of the development of the traditional disciplines as they have been understood and conveyed by scholars of Islam throughout the ages. This, added to the mastery of the Arabic language, will ensure that students are well-equipped to continue their religious instruction independently and begin to convey what they have learnt to others in a more official capacity.
POLITICS, THEOLOGY AND HISTORY
The taught modules on Politics, Theology and History cover nearly all aspects of human activity.
The breadth and diversity of the units within this module provides a unique opportunity for students to explore their interests across an array of subjects, ranging from the political and theological groupings in the formative period of Islam, to the sciences of reasoning and argumentation as introduced by Greek logicians and philosophers.
Studying this vibrant selection of modules is more than a highly rewarding intellectual pursuit; it is the development of an entire skill set for understanding complex issues and reapplying these skills in the real world. Critically evaluating the impact of Greek logic and philosophy on the intellectual heritage of Islam provides a blueprint for understanding real world reactions to cultural assimilation and traditional conservatism. The study of Islamic history, spanning from the Prophetic era to the formation of some of the major early Muslim sects and beyond, helps us to appreciate the dogma of the “politics of belonging” and why prominent thinkers hold the positions that they do.
This unique focus on the realities of political, theological and historical Islam is designed to equip the next generation of leaders with the skills of rigorous thinking and analysis that will always remain with them. In the Advanced level of the ISP, students will undertake an exhaustive textual analysis of remarkable works in order to cement the tools of reasoning and appraisal that enables one to confidently contribute to the international scholarly community
RESEARCH AND DISSERTATION
In the final year of the Advanced level, students are required to submit a 10,000-word dissertation on a subject of their choice, including a theoretical background of their subject.
Students must demonstrate the ability to carry out independent academic research to a publishable standard. ASI seminars and workshops on study skills and academic writing will be held throughout the year to provide students with the necessary skills for their essays and dissertations. Students will also be allocated a supervisor to help them prepare for their transition into academia and contribute to discussions on their specialised subject.
Writing as an authority on any given subject of the religious sciences may seem a daunting prospect. The objective is not for students to merely opine on the contentious or unresolved areas of uncertainty. Rather, the aim is for students to become familiar with the style of writing for an academic dissertation; planning the title and hypothesis, structuring the paper, researching the sources and information, organising thoughts and ideas and presenting the finished thesis to a body of experts.
The module has been designed in order to bridge the gap between essay writing and scholarly publications. The former is undertaken with thorough guidance and rigid parameters, whereas the latter contains a lot more freedom for the author to determine their own thesis in terms of content, style and direction. As such, a postgraduate level dissertation with supervision and advice from members of the ASI faculty will ensure that graduates of ASI are fully prepared to transition into the world of academia and contribute discussions and conclusions developed during their own personal, independent research.
The paper can be linked to one or more of the taught modules of the ISP – at any level – or it may cover an entirely new area which the student has covered independently. The final submission should be of publishable quality, which includes a complete theoretical background, a viable research topic and also fulfilling the requirements of a scholarly piece of research.