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Online Islamic Education Opportunities

The Internet has transformed the nature of mass education in the modern world by expanding access to all segments of society. The transmission of knowledge has probably never been wider, as the intellectualized, legalist Islam of the ulama (Islamic scholars) comes to meet the popular, as well as the middle-of-the-road Islam in an arena that has no limits.

Islamic websites that specifically focus on online education offer classes on general subjects in Arabic, Hadith (sayings of the Prophet), Fiqh (Islamic law), Sunnah (practices of the Prophet), History, Qur'an and tasawwuf (Sufism). These sites may offer an entire package of Islamic courses or they may have their own specializations, such as courses teaching the Qur'an or online Hadith projects. Utilizing a persuasive and original language to lure users, the programs are able to appeal to an increasing number of participants every day.

While most of the sites offer introductory courses for free, they usually charge the user for more specialized degree courses. The free courses of Study-Islam.org, for example, serve a Muslim audience with more than twenty-five titles.

Online Hadith Classes by Lastprophet.info

Lastprophet.info is one of the prolific sources that utilize the Internet for online education. The Turkish version of the website has initiated online hadith classes, which are taught by some of the best qualified scholars in Turkey.

The aim of online hadith courses is to furnish its participants with hadith knowledge that is comparable to that of a theological faculty student. Instead of recorded lectures or simple discussions between the users, the program consists of a systematic and informative program conducted under the provision of moderators who are specialized in their fields.

There are four online hadith courses offered by Lastprophet.info, each of which lasts for six weeks. These are namely, the history of hadith, the method of hadith, and selective readings from hadith Literature I & II. 

As Muhammad al-Azami once stated, hadith literature comprises the common memory of Islamic society. It is with such awareness that this application has been set to become a pioneer in its field in Turkey. The project will soon be available in English for non-Turkish audiences.

A Pioneer in Its Field: Sunni Path

"As a student of knowledge with significant exposure to a wide array of Islamic learning methods in the West, I believe that SunniPath has been unparalleled in its professionalism, academic qualifications, technological aptitude, and most importantly, relevance to the cultural context that characterizes the lives of the majority of Muslims in the West. As an online academic institution that is easily accessible, SunniPath is fulfilling a critical need by bridging the gap between Muslim communities in the West and their classical legal heritage. By increasing and enriching the Islamic literacy of Muslims in the West, SunniPath will undoubtedly prove to be essential in strengthening the vitality, competence, and unity of our communities for generations to come."
Hadia Mubarak, 25
PhD Candidate in Islamic Studies, Washington, DC; 4 courses since 2004

The distance courses pioneered by Sunnipath utilize unique online learning tools and combine both ancient and modern methods of teaching. Recorded lessons, two-way live video sessions, discussion forums, private office hours, assignments, individual or group projects, closed-book tests all work to provide the student with an interactive learning experience and close contact with instructors. The 24-7 access to course content allows the student to work on their material whenever convenient.

Based on the ancient Muslim scholarly tradition, the curriculum presented by Sunnipath takes students with no knowledge of the religious sciences or Arabic and plugs them directly into this tradition. The program consists of four major titles;

The Foundation program offers six courses teaching the essentials of the three dimensions of Islam: Islam (practice), iman (faith), and ihsan (spirituality).

The Seekers Program is a comprehensive degree program covering main works in Islamic law, belief, spirituality, the Qur'an, Hadiths, legal methodology and history, aiming to give an understanding of the central religious disciplines.

The Miftah program consists of six courses that systematically introduce the student to the core rules of Arabic. The central courses teach Arabic through hadith. The three courses combined cover about 300 hadiths. The text used for this course is Zad al-Talibin, which is a selection of hadiths from the famous Mishkat al-Masabih. The students memorize each hadith that is covered, which provides a large pool of classical Arabic vocabulary, many eloquent sentences, and gives exposure to the rules and sentence structures that are most commonly encountered in hadith literature and classical Arabic usage.

The level of education offered in this online academic institution is of such a quality that it enables the students to continue their studies in the Middle East in more traditional institutes without any extra preparatory programs.

Among the main course titles that are currently running are Hadith and Its Disciplines, Introduction to Classical Logic, Introduction to Islamic Belief, Tafsir of the Short Surahs, The Muslim Scholarly Tradition, The Qur'an and Its Disciplines.

The informative, interactive and systematic website developed by Sunnipath in propagating its courses attracts the visitor in many ways. One of these methods is to share user feedback with visitors. The diversity of the courses, the quality of the instructors and the marketing methods all indicate the popularity of the program among Muslims.


Islamic Online University

Another major service is provided by the Islamic Online University (IOU), which is the online version of the Islamic Studies Academy's accredited BAIS (Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Studies) program, the only accredited BAIS program of studies available on the internet. One facet of the program consists of a series of free short courses offered on topics of immediate and practical relevance, of great benefit to the students. The program provides an introduction to the basic Islamic sciences and insight into the manhaj, or way of the Prophet, as embodied in the Qur'an and authentic Sunnah in accordance with the understanding of the first generation of Muslims. Some of the courses include a Da'wah training course, Foundations of Islamic Studies, Qadar: Predestination, Usul al-Hadith and Usul al-Tafseer as well as the Forty Hadith of Nawawi.

Another facet is the fully-fledged, formally accredited Islamic Studies (Usool Ad-Deen) Degree Program in English (BAIS). Course material, which is provided online, consists of written, audio and visual material of the basic text that is being taught.  IOU has recently finalized its accreditation with Omdurman Islamic University, which offers a variety of disciplines including the discipline of Usool ud-Deen (Fundamentals of Islamic Studies).

The founder and main instructor of the website is Dr. Bilal Phillips, who grew up in Canada, becoming Muslim in 1972. Dr. Phillips completed a B.A. from the College of Islamic Disciplines (Usool ad-Deep) at the Islamic University of Medina in 1979 and an M.A. in Islamic Theology in 1985 at the University of Riyadh, College of Education. In 1994 he completed a Ph.D. in Islamic Theology at the department of Islamic Studies, University of Wales. In 2001, Dr. Bilal established the Islamic Online University, the first accredited Islamic university on the Internet.

Non-Islamic Sources

Some of the most prestigious universities around the world have included classes related to Islam in their online curriculum, as we can see in the example of the Islamic Art and Architecture class offered by Oxford University in its 2009 Spring program. The course is accredited, with the online education offered involving active participation as well as regular written contributions. Successful students receive credit awarded by the Board of Studies at Oxford University Department for Continuing Education.

Final Word

In short, in this new cyber world the excuse that one lacks proper access to Islamic institutions simply because we cannot leave our homes is no longer a valid excuse. Education comes into our houses and all we need to do is to log on and welcome it in. Not only have the learning opportunities multiplied greatly this century, so too have our responsibilities as Muslims to learn and pass this information on by all available means.

 

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