Relevance of content and context: A Word From The iSyllabus Project Director

Updated: Jun 12, 2018


From my experience having taught the iSyllabus course at both the Intermediary and Advanced levels is that it gives the students the opportunity to explore incredibly important subjects mentioned in passing in the One Year Diploma. The Dawah module was for me one of the highlights of the Intermediary course. It is an area which is part of our daily lives and yet our efforts might not seem to reap the best results simply because we haven't grasped the essence of what Dawah really is. The module focuses on how to make Dawah both practical and profoundly prophetic at the same time. It takes me back to the questions I had when studying the topic such as ‘How do we give Dawah?’ and ‘How do we judge success in Dawah?’. The practical result has been that the module has inspired many a student to become active and effective contributors to community work.


From the outset, the Intermediary course covers contextual hadith studies, which is one of the most eye opening and challenging subjects for students. Not only do we look at technical hadith analysis, scholarly Usul methodology and all the various opinions including the four schools as well as minority opinions, we grapple with reoccurring questions which often provoke lengthy discussions of what really is the sunnah in a particular question. An obvious example would be, ‘Why do two of the four schools of law not accept the extra raising of the hands in prayer (Raf’ al-Yadayn) despite there being rigorously authenticated hadith related by al-Bukhari and others on this very topic?’ This and more complicated questions are dealt with in depth.


Studying the Prophetic character (Shama’il) is a real and intimate experience. The subject creates a deep connection with the Prophet of God : how was he as a person; how did he deal with different situations etc. It allows the student to aspire to improve and adopt prophetic characteristics in their daily lives. Knowledge without improving a person’s character is deficient. Thus, the Plus course through both the Intermediary and Advanced level gives ample time to subjects that touch the soul, create a yearning to be a better person and improve our relationship with our Creator. The materials tie in what the Salaf talked about regarding purification of the heart but within our context in the 21st Century.


By the Advanced level of iSyllabus, students have been studying with me for a few years. The relationship changes, our discussions become very frank and I often share my experiences and real life scenarios with them. Since class sizes intentionally kept smaller, a more intimate relationship is established between teacher and student.


The Advanced course gave me the opportunity to go in depth into my favorite subject: Muslim Family Law. We covered the detailed Marriage, divorce, custody and inheritance law. Students have already covered the basic rules of these topics at the One year Diploma, and now, together with the textual hadith studies on Family law we engage with the subject in greater depth, covering all significant opinions. Topics explored include temporary marriage: looking at both the Sunni and Shia perspective; what happens when a woman becomes Muslim but her husband hasn't converted; Contraception and its parameters; A woman seeking divorce via khul; the standing of ‘Three Talaq’ given at once, with an extensive discussion on the debate on this topic amongst classical and contemporary scholars.


I have also realized that such topics are invaluable in not just teaching knowledge but showing students how to apply that knowledge to real life scenarios. Students benefit from applying knowledge with wisdom, and thus are able to benefit a large number of people since marriage is such a large component of our lives.


The same depth is repeated when covering the religious text of financial law and the discussions of the schools on issues such as Interest (Riba), the stipulation of contracts in marriage and uncertainty in financial contracts. This proved to be an eyeopener for students and gives a glimpse into the wisdom and relevance of Islam to the modern age.


SHAYKH AMIR JAMIL

iSyllabus Project Director

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