In the Name of Allah, Merciful and Compassionate, with blessings and peace upon our Master Muhammad, his folk and companions.
This is a one-year Specialization Certificate Program in Islamic Theology, Logic and Contemporary Challenges. It covers Level Four of the SeekersGuidance Islamic Studies Curriculum in ‘Aqīda (Islamic beliefs), and Level Three of Manṭiq (Logic).
This program will encompass a thorough study of three texts.
- The first is Sharḥ al-‘Aqā’id al-Nasafīya, one of the most important works ever written in `Ilm al-Kalām, which will take the full duration of the program (50 weeks).
- The second text is Shaykh al-Islam Zakarīyā al-Ansārī’s Commentary on al-Abaharī’s Īsāghūjī titled: al-Maṭlaʻ, an integral part of the Logic curriculum at al-Azhar of Egypt and the Madrasas of al-Shām, which will be taught in parallel to Sharḥ al-‘Aqā’id during the first half of the program.
- The third text is al-Intibahāt al-Mufīda ‘an al-Ishtibahāt al-Jadīda by Imam Muḥammad Ashraf ‘Alī Thānvī, one of the most powerful attempts to revitalize `Ilm al-Kalām in the early 20th century, which will be also taught in parallel of Sharḥ al-‘Aqā’id, but during the second half of the program, so after the conclusion of al-Matla`.
Two pre-recorded classes per week, an hour and a half each; and one bi-weekly live discussion.
Students are expected to follow the recordings and attend the live session.
Preparation, participation, questions, and doing recommended readings are expected.
There will be an online forum for questions, discussion, and for related texts, and resources. The PDFs of the assigned texts and other important readings will be provided.
The objectives of this program are:
(1) to begin the journey of gaining mastery of Sunni theological reasoning;
(2) to develop a capacity of reading advanced-level theological texts;
(3) to be prepared and equipped for the study of Philosophical Theology;
(4) to engage with contemporary theological challenges; and above all,
(5) to seek the pleasure of Allah through benefiting oneself and others by preserving, acting upon, and transmitting this noble Prophetic inheritance.
This course shall be taught by Shaykh Ahmed Hussein El Azhary, a Senior Instructor at SeekersGuidance. He is also a teacher of Kalam, Logic, Hadith, and Usūl at Rawdatul-Na`īm under the supervision of Habib `Ali al-Jifrī; and at Madyafat Shaykh Ismaīl Sadiq al-`Adawī (Allah have mercy upon him), a prominent learning center by al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo. Shaykh Ahmed began his journey of studying traditional sciences about 20 years ago. In addition to studying with scholars from al-Azhar, he had the privilege of studying with visiting scholars from Algeria and India in a one-on-one format and was thus given an exceptional opportunity to study and discuss advanced-level texts of different sorts and over a long period of time. Formerly, he worked as a Lead Researcher at Tabah Foundation. He was appointed by Habib `Ali al-Jifrī to architect the philosophical framework of Suaal initiative – an initiative concerned with modelling an Islamic philosophical response to contemporary existential questions. Shaykh Ahmed continues to participate in Suaal Initiative through essays, public lectures, and workshops. Alongside five published works on the Art of Deep Reading, Philosophy of Education and Pedagogy, Linguistics and the Art of Scientific Investigation, he has published a commentary on “Kifayat al-Muhaqiq,” Imam al-Arwādi’s Logic manual. He also has two published research papers by Tabah Foundation; one on the permissibility of inquiry in matters of creed and the other is a critical response to Sam Harris’ “The Moral Landscape.”
Conditions for Joining the Program
This is an upper-intermediate to advanced class in `Ilm al-Kalām—the science of Islamic beliefs (‘Aqīda). It covers Level Four of the SeekersGuidance Islamic Studies Curriculum.
Students need to have completed a study of at least two of the following texts or their equivalent: al-Dardir’s Commentary on al-Kharīda, al-Bajūrī’s Commentary on al-Jawhara, and al-Sanusi’s Commentary on Umm al-Barāhīn.
This program will be taught in English, but knowledge of Classical Arabic and familiarity with Classical Arabic texts is necessary.
The expectations from the students would be to:
Prepare for the classes, by
[a] thorough reading of the matn;
[b] deep reading of the commentary–with focus on the theological reasoning mentioned in the commentary;
[c] preparing properly thought-out questions related to the text and its implications.
It is encouraged, especially for more advanced students, to research key issues in the various super-commentaries and glosses written on Sharḥ al-‘Aqā’id and al-Maṭlaʻ. This, however, is a recommendation, but not a requirement. Students who are ready to engage super-commentaries are welcome to email the teacher for advice on this.
Watch the recordings of the class with
[a] attentiveness, through cutting out distractions (no surfing, messaging, texting, etc);
[b] taking notes of essential details, especially matters related to unpacking the text and analyzing its content;
[c] asking questions based on their preparation or related to anything they found to be unclear whether in the text or the recordings of the teacher.
Review of the class notes and texts. Research of issues that arise is encouraged and asking questions regarding things that remain unclear is essential. The more you can keep reviewing the text and its commentary the better.
Test yourself by checking whether you remember the key details. Diagramming the text helps.
Take notes. It is best to create your own copy of the texts (‘Aqā’id al-Nasafī and Īsāghūjī) itself and add to it essentials from the assigned commentaries and preferably from the recommended super-commentaries. This is also good Arabic scholarly writing practice.
Participate in the Class Forum by asking questions, sharing issues of benefit, and getting involved in the relevant discussions, with the proper manners of a keen seeker of knowledge.
Seek Allah’s assistance, make this a means of seeking His pleasure, have high secondary intentions of acting upon what you learn with excellence, preserving and transmitting Prophetic guidance, to benefit yourself and to benefit others, and to gain all the benefits mentioned by Allah and the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) for those who seek and transmit sacred knowledge for the sake of Allah.
Students will be evaluated through a variety of quizzes, written assignments, projects and oral exams. Each class will be accompanied by a quiz. Writing assignments and projects will be demanded periodically (a detailed schedule will be announced). Oral exams are imperative to receive the Ijaza Certificate.