The idea and vision of the Cambridge Islamic College grew out of the Muslim Education and Outreach Cambridge, a community-based organisation set up to serve the city’s diverse population. Sensing a dearth in opportunities for both Muslims and non-Muslims to learn about Islam, MEOC began to serve the wider community through a variety of platforms, including information stalls, events and publications.
In 2011, MEOC ran a seven-day exhibition at the Central Library, with interactive displays showcasing Islamic teachings and history as well as exploring Muslim contribution to global cultural and artistic heritage. A success, with over 500 attendees, the exhibition has been re-run in subsequent years, most recently as part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas in 2015.
Responding to the high demand for Islamic education, the organisation began running regular classes, courses and lectures through its subsidiary, Cambridge Islamic Sciences Seminars. Aiming to provide students with an introduction to the various Islamic sciences in an accessible yet academic setting, its principal programmes were those delivered by Shaykh Akram Nadwi. Between October 2012 and the end of the following year, classes were primarily held in Cambridge. Soon, classes were rolled out through a virtual learning environment, allowing students around the world to follow them online. The flagship Juz Tabarak series, which explored the oft-recited chapters in the Qur’an and which became the subject of Carla Power’s Pulitzer Prize Finalist book If the Oceans were Ink, was one such example.
A number of course seminars were held in a number of cities across the UK and Ireland, including London, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Leicester, Peterborough, Luton, Blackburn, Dewsbury and Dublin.
Building on the success of these courses, MEOC began devising a long-term vision, which culminated in the transition to a fully-fledged college model in August 2013. And so, with its foundations lain, the Cambridge Islamic College was born.
Soon, planning for the College’s future began in earnest. In anticipation of its opening, a number of programmes were started, to provide future students with a foundation in the Islamic sciences. Delivered in an accessible way and allowing students to acquire practical lessons, different courses explored a variety of disciplines, including lives of the Prophets, usul al fiqh and usul at tafsir. A popular two-year Classical Islamic Texts programme, providing an in-depth introduction to canonical texts in the Islamic scholarly tradition, was followed by another two-year programme, the Diploma in Arabic and Islamic Studies (DAIS), which aimed to equip students with the relevant skills for the College’s flagship full-time degree programme.
Other courses included a course on the exegesis of Surah Al-Baqarah and another based on Shaykh Akram’s ground breaking research on female hadith scholars, published as Al-Muhaddithat.
As a natural progression for those completing the DAIS, a Diploma in Balagha, classical Arabic rhetoric, a discipline seen as a prerequisite for rigorous study of the Qur’an and ahadith, soon followed.
Maintaining MEOC’s community-based ethos, the College began offering iGCSE courses in Arabic and Islamic Studies, specifically tailored to younger members of the community.
With a growing array of courses on a variety of disciplines, delivered by a number of teachers, the College continues to go from strength to strength. With a worldwide reach, to date, it has over 2,000 students, based in over 180 countries, across 25 countries.