Islamic Distance & Online Education
Prophet Mohamad (pbuh) said: "Seeking knowledge is a religious obligation upon every Muslim". Allah (swt) has blessed us to live in a time when access to Islamic knowledge is easy and inexpensive, such that there is no excuse for not seeking proper and authentic Islamic knowledge. The early generations of Muslims used to travel long distances by foot or on horseback to study at the hands of a scholar. They would spend years of their lives travelling from one city to the next gathering knowledge. It is well known that collectors of Hadith would travel for months to a far-away city, just to get one single Hadith from a narrator and to ensure the chain of narrators is valid. At their time, travel was very difficult, dangerous and time consuming.
Today, we can travel around the entire world in less than one day. However, to gain Islamic knowledge, we do not even have to travel at all. The amazing advances in communications technology means that Islamic knowledge is at our fingertips. If we want it, we can have it. It is just a matter of making the decision and having the discipline to carry it through.
But does our Ummah really have a need for more religious scholars today? Or should Muslims be focusing upon secular knowledge such as science, engineering and medicine? The truth is that both aspects are needed. We cannot afford to have scientists, engineers and doctors who have no knowledge of Islamic sciences, and we cannot afford to have religious scholars who have no scientific knowledge. We need to raise a generation of Muslims who have both.
In fact, when we study the history of the greatest Muslim scholars, we find that they almost always combined expert knowledge in Islamic sciences with other secular sciences such as medicine, astronomy or mathematics. Unfortunately, in recent times a great divide has developed between religious scholars and scientists. It is part of the secularization of our societies which occurred during and after the colonization of the Muslim Ummah by secular, European powers. We must bridge this divide if we are to take back our position as one of the leading civilizations on Earth.
It is true that seeking any type of useful knowledge, when combined with sincere intentions, is a good deed that a Muslim is rewarded for. In fact, it is obligatory upon Muslims to obtain enough of all types of knowledge in order to satisfy the needs of the Muslim Ummah. For example, the Muslim Ummah needs enough doctors to treat the sick, enough engineers to develop the tools, machines and buildings that make our lives easier and safer, enough teachers to teach the new generations and so on.
However, it is also obligatory upon all Muslims to have at least some basic understanding of Islamic sciences. How can we claim that we really believe in Allah (swt), and in the holy Quran, and in Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), and not spend at least some time and effort learning about them?
If we really believe in Allah (swt), shouldn't we study the principles of faith, the science of Aqeedah which teaches us about the oneness of Allah (swt) and the six pillars of faith? If we really believe in Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), shouldn't we study his seerah, the biography of his life, and learn from it? Shouldn't we study his Sunnah and implement it in our lives? If we really believe in the holy Quran, shouldn't we learn how to read it? Shouldn't we learn at least some interpretation or tafseer of some of its verses? Shouldn't we try to memorize at least a small portion of it?
With the complexity of life today, it is almost never enough to have knowledge of only the Islamic sciences. We need to educate our religious scholars in science, and our scientists, engineers, doctors and economists in Islamic sciences. In order to solve the big issues facing us today, we need people who can combine the religious knowledge with knowledge of other secular sciences.
For example, in order to build and strengthen a true Islamic finance system that is not based upon Riba (usury or interest), we need economists who have knowledge of Islamic sciences, and specifically of the jurisprudence of buying and selling. The new ethical issues facing our Ummah relating to cloning, stem cell research, organ transplants and other such complex issues can only be fully understood and resolved by Muslim doctors who also have strong knowledge in Islamic jurisprudence. The scientific advancements such as computers, the internet, space travel and other such topics are raising many challenges to traditional Islamic thought. Such issues need to be studied by Muslim Engineers who have been educated in the Islamic sciences.
Therefore, whether you are a doctor, lawyer, engineer, scientist, economist, psychologist, social scientist or have any other specialization, your Ummah needs you to learn Islamic sciences to help answer the great and complex questions, issues and challenges facing our Muslim Ummah in the 21st century and beyond. We can no longer afford to separate Islamic knowledge from all other types of knowledge. It is an essential science that every Muslim should have in order to enable us to continue the revival of our Ummah and to go back to being a beacon of light, knowledge and scholarship to the world.
There are a number of Islamic Universities that offer Islamic studies online or through distance education. Some offer full degree programs, including bachelor, Masters and Doctorate programs in Islamic studies. Others offer just short courses and seminars. If you are not able to commit to a full degree program, you should at least take introductory courses in the basic Islamic sciences: Aqeedah (Principles of Faith), Quran, Sunnah, Fiqh (Jurisprudence), Seerah (Biography of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) & History of the Islamic Ummah.
The following is a list of the top 10 most popular and trustworthy of these Islamic Universities:
#1) American Open University: The AOU is an independent and non-profit Islamic University that is based in the United States. The AOU offers many degree programs in Arabic and in English, including Diploma, Bachelor, Master's and Doctorate degrees. The AOU is accredited and recognized by Al-Azhar University, one of the most respected Islamic Universities in the world. All programs are offered through distance education, meaning you can study at your own home in your own country. All books and learning materials are sent to you, and you send course requirements back to the professors for evaluation. The best feature of this University is the authenticity of the Islamic teachings. They rely on the Qur'an and Sunnah, as practiced and understood by the companions and the early generations of Muslims, while keeping pace with the fast developments of the modern world. Their website is: http://www.aou.edu
#2) American Open University - Egypt Office: The same as the American Open University discussed above, but serving the Middle East region. Their web site is: http://www.aou-egypt.com
#3) Sharia Academy of America: An independent educational institution, with its headquarters located in Tampa, Florida in the USA. Sharia Academy adheres to the Quran and Sunnah, and aims to spread Islamic knowledge in a moderate and balanced framework. The Academy offers Islamic education orally, by video-conferencing and interactive live broadcasting through the internet available to students all around the world. Their web site is: http://www.shariaacademy.com
#4) AlMaghrib Institute: Provides courses on Islam in a six-day, two weekend, intensive seminar format, towards a bachelor's degree in the Islamic Studies. Scholars teach the courses live and in person in many cities in North America. Although the main program is not online, they do have some online activities and seminars. Their web site is: http://www.almaghrib.org
#5) The American Interglobal University: An independent non-profit distance learning institution offering several diplomas and degrees in various aspects of Islamic Studies AIU's approach depends totally on the holy Quran and the adoption and pursuance of the methodology of Prophet Mohammad (saaw).Their web site is: http://www.aminuniversity.com
#6) Islamic Open Academy (Arabic Only): Free Islamic courses in Arabic online, with course materials, live and recorded audio lectures all available online. Top three students get cash prizes! Their web site is: http://www.islamacademy.net
#7) Islamic Online University: Founded by Dr. Bilal Philips, offers an accredited bachelor degree in Islamic studies in English. Courses are offered online. Also offers a number of free courses. Their web site is: http://www.islamiconlineuniversity.com
#8) Islamic American University: Offers Arabic, English, and non-degree programs. Courses are offered online, on campus or via correspondence. Their web site is: http://www.islamicau.org
#9) Al-Madinah International University: Based in Malaysia and recognized by the Malaysian government, this university offers a number of degree programs through online education, including bachelor and Master's program in Islamic studies, Arabic language, Information Technology and Business. Their web site is: http://www.mediu.edu.my/
#10) Sunni Path: Online Islamic Academy for those that want to learn Islam online by way of distance courses. Their web site is: http://www.sunnipath.com
As you can see, with all of these options available to you, there is no excuse and no valid reason for you not to pursue formal Islamic education. Do not make excuses and say you will do it later. Do not say that you will register after you finish school, or get a job, or get married, or whatever! Just make the decision and go for it.
We have no problem spending many years and thousands of dollars on getting a secular education. Why can't we dedicate just a small percentage of our time and money to get Islamic education?
The Prophet (pbuh) said: "Whoever Allah (swt) wishes good for, He will make him understand the religion". Did Allah (swt) wish good for you? You will decide the answer to this question by your reaction to what you have read today.
And having this information, it is now your duty to pass it on to all of your friends.
May Allah (swt) guide us all to what pleases him.