SHAFAQNA – Education remains one of Islam’s greatest principles – that only through knowledge and wisdom man can learn to rise above his station to aspire to the divine. And while not all minds are destined to reach the heights of academia, all people should strive to learn and thus become better version of themselves.
The study of Islam stands most important of all of course, since the misuse of such knowledge can lead to devastating consequences – it needs to be said that the rise of radicalism throughout the world stems from a lack of adequate religious education, and a great deal of arrogance.
It is to offer a space of learning and religious empowerment that the Islamic College first opened its doors in 1997.
Hujjat-ul- Islam Shaykh Eisa Jahangir told Shafaqna: “Perhaps there have been other institutes in the past, but being closely in touch with western academic societies has become possible after the establishment of this college.”
With Shia Islam on the rise in all Western countries the need for services such as academia, and socio-cultural life became an imperative – a need which the Islamic College has worked hard to cater to, while fostering greater understanding in between various religious communities.
The Islamic College in London is one of these institutes that has been providing valuable cultural and scientific services for the past two decades. To find out about the history, programs and activities that take place in this college, Shafaghna’s reporter in London decided to visit the head of the Islamic College.
The Islamic College represents the fusion of the classical with the modern. It was founded in 1998 to promote a new approach to the study of Islam and Muslims by providing a unique ‘insider’s perspective’ on Islam and fostering a non-sectarian outlook. The College is fast becoming an important academic centre for Islamic Studies: It offers fully validated degrees at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, and has to date, published more than twenty major texts in the field of Islamic studies and now releases a quarterly academic journal. It is also a multi-faceted institution, offering certificate level courses in practical Islamic subjects, such as Qur’anic Arabic and Islamic Banking, not to mention having just launched a momentous new programme to train Muslim scholars for the West. The Islamic College is one of the few Muslim institutions in the West today able to boast such an impressive contribution to the study and future of Islam.
Hujjat-ul- Islam Jahangir explained the aims of the college and said it was intended to approach a two-pronged in Islamic sciences (Hozeh and University) since the college was established.
In Hozeh sciences the intention is to provide similar Islamic resources and facilities for people who are interested in learning Islamic studies but are not able to travel to countries such as Iran and Iraq.
The president of the Islamic College also talked about the second aim of this college, which are academic purposes. He stated that since the beginning, the goal has been to train influential and dominant people who could then grow to be the voice of moderation, rationality, wisdom and spirituality for Shia Islam, and Islam in general.
Eisa Jahangir added “what is quite common in universities and academic centres of west is more history oriented. Students usually focus their studies on history and Islamic figures and rarely study to understand the content of religious texts. Therefore, the biggest disadvantage in academic centers of the west is the weak understanding and perception of Islamic texts. However on the other hand, students of Hozeh focus on understanding of Islamic and religious texts from the start.”
Accordingly, the Islamic College has tried to regulate its educational system on the basis of both methods. Hujjat-ul- Islam Jahangir continued: “in addition to preserving the traditional principles of Hozeh, we try to bring modern educational ways and aspects uses in west. Therefore, students learn both traditional methods as well as Western system.”
The head of the Islamic College stated that the college is registered as an independent religious educational institute in this country and has a license for its activities. However in order to provide an official certificate that is acceptable in the UK, a contract has been signed with the University of Middlesex.
“We have two courses at undergraduate level, which include Islamic studies and Hozeh studies. Islamic studies, Islamic law, Islam and West are also available at postgraduate level.
We also have a professional doctoral program in Islamic culture and civilization.
Also in our Hozeh field we have a full-time undergraduate program in Islamic Feqh, which is a four-year course. Volunteers who are interested in having a formal English degree will join the Hozeh studies in the academic part of college.
We also have a one-year program which includes courses in Arabic, Islamic history, ethics and beliefs. The aim of this program is to make opportunities for those interested to learn Hozeh studies.”
He added: “Also, we have recently been in touch with other universities such as Chester and soon we will have a joint PHD program in Islamic studies. The Islamic sciences teacher training at master level as well as introducing Islam that can be useful to both Muslims and non-Muslims are some other future programs of the college. We have also agreed to have joint Shia research with the University of Edinburgh.”
In regards to the College publications and researches, Jahangir said “the College has wide activities which will continue to have. For example, so far the total number of books that have been published by the Islamic college is around 90. We will increase this number by publishing 18 more books in the next couple of years. These books include educational texts, the result of researches and translations. In addition, the Shia studies Journal; quarterly publish as one of the most prestigious Shia journals.”