Preliminary training program for new Fuqaha announced.

Names of successful candidates soon to be announced while
Itinerary for this years training program released.

Over the last few years the Council of Islamic Scholars (CIS), in conjunction with the Ministry of Religious Affairs have developed and refined a preliminary training experience for students who wish to undergo future training as Faqihs, or Islamic Scholar. This one year program sees students travel across the Khilafah to learn about different cultures and ethnic groups that make up the wider Ummah, while also developing their understanding of the broader responsibilities that the Fuqaha must contend with, as explained by head designer of the program, Miriam al-Khateeb:

This program was created to help repair the multi-generational damage that the Islamic world suffered as a result of widespread colonialism and imperialism that devastated the region. In particular, the disconnect between the Fuqaha and wider community, a disconnect that was most noticeable in the early 21st century. For many generations the Fuqaha have been considered an intellectual class that is removed from the day to day actions and lives of many Muslims. This program aims to change that by showing the important role Faqihs have in day to day life, from the responsibility of providing religious instructions to the more traditional duties of promoting environmentalism, participating in community activities and maintaining a visible public presence.

This year, new students will begin their year long training in the Ethiopian town of Negash, where one of the earliest African Islamic communities lived. Here they will spend their nights learning about the early history of Islam in Africa from the local imam and spend their days working the lands with the towns people. This dual experience will teach students the necessity of remaining connect to the people, of the importance and value of work and the necessity to assist and help friends, family and strangers alike.

A mosque in the Ethiopian town of Negash.

From Negash, students will then travel to Nigeria where they again will spend their nights learning and their days working. Here they will learn about the predominance of the Maliki school in west-Africa, the traditional methods of Islamic learning and devastation that resulted from the trans-atlantic slave trade and colonisation.

Traditional methods of Islamic learning.

The education will be solidified by real-world lessons, for instance in cleaning and assisting in the rehabilitation of the Niger Delta, one of the largest rivers in Nigeria that was polluted by western oil companies for decades. This will be facilitated by local Nigerian imam Afiq Luqman who has been involved in the Niger Delta conservation project for most of his life:

My family has lived along the Niger Delta for many generations, before and during the attacks it suffered from oil companies. Since the return of the Khilafa we have strived hard to return this river and its surrounded ecosystem to its former state of beauty, and while we’re far from finished we’ve made significant progress Alhamdulillah. While the students are here we will take through through the river system and show them the work we have done and the work that still needs to be completed. They will work along side us, cleaning the river, planting mangroves, testing water samples and understanding the importance and value of the environment and the religious obligations we have to preserve it. Often students think that the role of the Fuqaha is to sit in their room, to read, think and educate. But we tell them theres more to that, and that the role of the Fuqaha is to live and breathe Islam, and the best example of that is what we do here, in the water and mud.

Volunteers cleaning the rivers.

Students will then travel to South-East Asia by high-speed rail where they will work with local experts in the continued battle to eliminate the region of land-mines and un-exploded ordinance left after numerous wars. This will be one of the most dangerous activities that students will engage in this year and the decision to proceed only approved by upper level government officials. The rationale for exposing students to significant dangers was championed by Fatima bint Ayan, director of the Cambodian Center for Islamic Training (CCIT):

To clarify, there is no obligation on students to partake in the land-mine clearing task. We recognise the inherent dangers involved and stress the importance that being involved must be a decision that is made by individuals exclusively. However, to succeed in the program and have the opportunity to enter the Fuqaha training program at the end of the year we also stress that students must be involved. We understand this puts students in a difficult situation, but that is done intentionally. The justification is simple, we want students to understand that their life, or more importantly their death, is dictated solely by Allah (SWT). Secondly, the life of a Fuqaha shouldn’t be considered easy or safe either. We want to remove the old pattern of Fuqaha not being active participants in society and return to our true tradition, where Faqihs would be the first to expose themselves to danger to protect their communities and societies.

An Imam spending their weekend investigating an area of land suspected to contain dangerous mines.

Though this is a mandatory pre-requisite for students to complete before proceeding with their training, the CIS has emphasised that their will be exemptions for students that are incapable of partaking, for instance students with physical disabilities that make it impossible to safely participate.

The next destination after South-East Asia will be Central Asia, starting in Afghanistan. From here, students will join with other Afghans in a caravan, travelling nearly 1000km over 30 days to the Central Asian city of Samarkand. During this time they will learn how to live in a traditional manner that reflects the lifestyle of those during the early years of the Muslims, in stark contrast to todays world. They will also spend this time learning about the importance of oral traditions, of telling stories and of a simpler life removed from technology, urbanity and other distractions.

An Afghan donkey caravan somewhere in the central asian steppes.

Once in Samarkand, students will then spend time learning about the history of Islamic art and the importance placed on beauty by the religion and on the various styles and schools developed by early Muslims. Time will also be

Students admiring the architecture.

spent learning about the lesser known Timurid dynasty that once ruled the Central Asian region, and the history of Islam in the region. Here they will meet local artists such as Abdul Rahman Karimov, an expert on Islamic Geometry and Ceramics:

Islam and art, Islam and beauty, the two are indistinguishable. Islam is art, Islam is beauty, the call to all that is beautiful, the call to witness and testify to the beauty of the creation and the magnificence of the One who created. For many generations our ummah forgot the purpose of art. Lost in a world smothered by materialism and capitalism we prioritised that which was profitable at the expense of that which is invaluable, unquantifiable. Art has meaning that cannot be calculated in monetary terms, and therein lies its strength. Here in Samarkand we teach the history of beauty and art in our religion, from the great splendour of ceramics, to the mathematical brilliance of geometry. We teach about our history through the discovery and perfection of glass and we discuss how the pursuit of excellence and perfection can be used as a method for attaining closeness to Allah (SWT).

Leaving Samarkand, and with their new insight and training in the world of art, students will then head to the centre of the Islamic world, Mecca. Here they will watch the Kiswah, the cloth that shrouds that Kabbah, be carefully woven and experience first hand the symbiotic relationship between art and the deen. During their days they will attend to cleaning and maintenance within the Haram, their identity as potential future Faqihs hidden by their workers uniforms to shield them from arrogance and teach them humility and patience. By night they will learn from the scholars and experience the opportunities to pray throughout the night to their hearts content.

Inevitably the final month, which will coincide with Ramadan, will see students leave Mecca for Bosnia. The wisdom behind this decision is to teach students that the life of a Fuqaha isn’t one of privilege and luxury but rather of sacrifice and opportunity. In this case, students will be given the opportunity to spend the holy month of Ramadan in Bosnia, where they will help in the care taking of the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial. During this time they will meet the descents of those murdered in 1995, learn their stories, witness their suffering and be taught the importance of never standing idly by when injustices are being committed. Lessons will also be delivered on the history of Islam in Bosnia and the unique ways Muslims protected and practiced their religion during times of difficulty. Furthermore, this decision intentionally attempts to create a situation for students to reflect on the experience of those who have previously been deprived the opportunity of being in Mecca for Ramadan, of being in Mecca at all.

The Srebrenica Genocide Memorial.

Eventually the year long program will conclude on the day of Eid. Students will celebrate their endeavors and spend the morning of Eid in Srebrenica before leaving for their homes on the same day to reunite with their families. While the retention rate of students who decide to continue with their studies and enter the Islamic Seminary after the year are not published, the feedback from students is uniformly positive. Whether students continue or not, the wealth of experience, training, networking and education that is gained over the 12 month course is invaluable. Jamal Sutrisno,  a former candidate who know works at the Daily Khilafa, summarised his experience as such:

Though I did not continue the journey to become a Faqih, I was left with one memorable and gratifying lesson through my year long adventure. The life of a Faqih is the life of a worker. The Fuqaha are not people confined to their offices studying all day, but are people who are in the community. They lead by example. They repair the mosques, they clean the parks, they help their community and they remain involved. They are organisers and activists and they teach the Sharia and the religion through their actions. They embody the Qu’ran and the Sunnah to its full extent and we are truly blessed that the Khilafa has created a program such as this to ensure the next generation of Fuqaha build upon the great example that the current generation has set.

Have you ever thought about joining the Islamic Seminary?  Have you previously partaken in the year long training program and have thoughts to share? Join us on our twitter and facebook page and have your say.

 

 

 

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