At the heart of the College’s approach to education is the synthesis/marrying of critical thinking skills, more typically associated with Western academy, with the close reading of the sources/Islamic texts found in a traditional seminary.
The full-time Advanced ‘Alimiyyah course, devised by Dr Akram Nadwi, combines the best of what the College has to offer. A full-time degree-level accreditation, over the two years, students employ the Arabic language skills they would have acquired earlier, either through the Diploma in Arabic and Islamic Studies or elsewhere. Teaching at the College employs aspects of both instruction and independent study, providing opportunities for the dissemination of knowledge as well as consolidation through private reading. The curriculum aspires/aims to produce a new generation of Muslim scholars who are not only grounded in the Islamic sciences but uniquely conversant in the reality and challenges of modern life, equipping them for service in their communities and society at large.
The curriculum benefits from the Dr Akram’s engagement, over a number of decades, with Islamic scholarship both in the UK and abroad. These experiences help guide both the form and content of the degree programme. In addition, during his at the 23-year tenure at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Dr Akram’s research explored the intellectual and social history of the Muslim world. This thorough analysis involved an in-depth examination of the curricula used in madrasas in India and more widely, looking at how they were changed and adapted over the course of more than a millennium.
In consequence, the degree course carries centuries and centuries of the very best of Islamic scholarship, adjusted appropriately for the time and place in which students live and upon graduation will ultimately serve. This represents a unique departure from other centres of learning, which adhere largely to a fixed syllabus, with little modification to reflect the needs and requirements of their particular regional, cultural and temporal contexts. In uncovering and highlighting the dynamism and rigour of classical scholarship, the College hopes to teach Islamic learning as a living tradition which, alongside certain fixed constants, is constantly evolving.
In keeping with traditional understandings of what a centre of learning involved, the College will not only serve as an institution which disseminates knowledge but also nurture in its students the capacity to deal with the realities of the wider world. In order to foster an inclusive mindset in students and to encourage them to look beyond their differences, the College encourages applicants any background. Opportunities for part-time study, with a focus on certain modules, will also be available to members of the local community, such as university students with particular interests.
The disciplines taught at the College can be principally categorised into the following way: Arabic language, tafsir, fiqh and hadith. Short courses, in the form of diplomas, can be studied on a part-time basis, in a wide range of Islamic disciplines, allowing students to prepare for the 2-year Alimiyyah programme. In time, once students have completed the Alimiyyah, it is envisaged that they will have opportunities for further specialisation in one of the above disciplines, through a MA or PhD programme.