Cii Radio | 22 September 2014/27 Dhul Qa’dah 1435

As part of its current focus on Islamic higher education options, and in the interests of holistic career guidance, Cii Radio’s Ulama In Focus spoke to Maulana Abdullah Yusuf from a South African Darul Uloom seeking his answers to “Frequently Asked Questions” about Darul Ulooms.

A brief History of the origins of a Darul Uloom

Darul Uloom literally means, Dar means house and Uloom means knowledge so Houses of Knowledge, Seats of knowledge, academic institutes as we know it today. As far as the origination of Darul Ulooms, the Scholars of Islam state that there is a very rich and unique history as far as the Darul Ulooms is concerned in the sense that, firstly Darul Ulooms are as old as Islam is. The first institute, obviously not in its formal way that we have today, was the one we read about in the Seerah and History, at the house of Zayd bin Arqam (radiallahu anhu) near Mount Saffa where Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) himself was the teacher and the students there were the Sahabah (radiallahu anhum), the blessed Companions of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). After Hijrah, after migration, we find that the madrasah (school) known as the Madrassah of Suffa, was established in Masjidun Nabawi. This was also like an informal Darul Uloom where Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) again was the teacher and the students were the Sahabah (radiallahu anhum). And this chain continued throughout the history of Islam. We find in the time of Ali (radiallahu anhu), when the seat of Islamic rule was moved to Iraq, many Sahabah (radiallahu anhum) also settled in Iraq and there the system of teaching and disseminating the Deen from heart to heart continued where Sahabah (radiallahu anhum) taught their students. We find in Iraq also, in an informal way, we had this system of acquiring knowledge of Deen and the knowledge of religious sciences. From there onwards it spread to different parts of the world, in Morocco, in Cairo, various parts of Asia as we go through the history of time. Samarkand, Bukhara – these were famous seats of Islamic knowledge. This system spread during the Uthmani Caliphate and during the Ottoman Empire and it spread to the Indian Subcontinent. These Darul Ulooms serve a great function as they are the seats of disseminating Islamic knowledge in its classical form, in its traditional way, heart to heart. There are many salient features of these Darul Ulooms which we find are prevalent till today. The ustaad (teacher) and students sit on the floor etc. The Darul Uloom of Deoband is very famous. Many graduates of Darul Uloom Deoband then established other Darul Ulooms around the world. In our country as well, the origination of these Darul Ulooms is that we are an off shoot, a branch of previous Darul Ulooms that were present in the world. It is said here in South Africa the first Darul Uloom that was established was the Darul Uloom in Newcastle by Hazrat Maulana Qasim (rahmatullahi alayh). There was also the Darul Uloom, the Waterval Islamic Institute. Thereafter, the other Darul Ulooms in our country were started.  Today students from across the globe come to study The Deen at various Darul Ulooms across the country so it is indeed a great favour of Allah SWT.

Do Darul Ulooms across South Africa run the same syllabi or does it vary?

The cornerstone of the syllabi in our Darul Ulooms firstly is Quraan, Sunnah and Islamic Jurisprudence. As far as this aspect is concerned in its broader form, there is definitely uniformity because the object is to understand Quraan, Sunnah and Islamic Fiqh and Jurisprudence. So there is uniformity in the content matter and subjects. As far as the syllabi are concerned in term of the books there might be some slight differences in the various Darul Ulooms. Obviously before a student starts to actually study Quraan, Sunnah and Fiqh, he first needs to know Arabic. For that he needs to study Arabic grammar, morphology, syntax, literature and various other sciences that will assist him in understanding Quraan, Sunnah and Fiqh. This subject is uniform in terms of the subject itself but the books used in the syllabi might differ from Darul Uloom to Darul Uloom. Another important aspect to note is that here in South Africa and a few other countries where there are Darul Ulooms, like in the United Kingdom and some parts of America; we have two types of Darul Ulooms. One Darul Uloom is such where the medium of education and the mediums of instruction are Urdu and Arabic. And the other is English and Arabic or just Arabic itself. There is that difference and a potential student who wishes to become an aalim or wishes to study at a Darul Uloom, has a choice. The wisdom behind Urdu is that in South Africa and various other countries, Alhamdulillah, many of our scholars and many of our Ulama have studied in the Indo-Pak Subcontinent and there are many great scholars who hail from that part of the world. Students are taught the Urdu language as well so that they can directly benefit from the knowledge and the books written by the great scholars of the Indo-Pak Subcontinent.

What is the name given to the syllabus in a Darul Uloom?

Darse Nizami – This is the name of the syllabus and it’s a very, very old syllabus. Some say that during the Abbasid Caliphate, one of the rulers at that time known as Nizam ul Mulk, created, some say, one of the first major official academic institutions known in history as Madressah Nizamiyah. Before this, the system was an informal majaalis and sessions of the Shuyookh of the Mashaaikh in the various Masaajid in the major Islamic cities where a great Sheikh, an expert in Tafsir, or Hadith or Fiqh, or the Arabic language or in Aqaaid (beliefs), used to conduct his lessons in an informal way from the Masjid. Based on that system of disseminating Islamic knowledge, it is said that Nizam ul Mulk, then initiated this institute. Then the system of maadaaris and Darul Uloom commenced. That is why the syllabus is known as the Darse Nizame. In the broader context of subjects and the content matter that was initiated at that time we find it is prevalent till today. This is one unique aspect of our Darul Ulooms – traditional and classical works of our great scholars written many, many centuries ago during the golden era of Islam and we find students of the Darul Ulooms still studying their books. Take the classical work in Fiqh known as Al Hidayah which is a great book in Hanafi Fiqh, it was written around the 6th Century and more than 10 centuries away we find them still studying this book.

Describe a typical day at a Darul Uloom?

A typical day at a Darul Uloom, again in South Africa, Alhamdulillah we have many Darul Ulooms, a typical and common Darul Uloom is the one that has a boarding facility where students are housed at the Darul Uloom campus. There the program is different. These days there are some Darul Ulooms in some cities, like Johannesburg for example, where there is no boarding facility. We will discuss a typical day at a Darul Uloom where there are many students from around the world have made a big sacrifice and left their homes to acquire the knowledge of Deen, this brings to mind the Hadith of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) when he said, “The one who leaves his home in order to acquire knowledge then he is regarded to be in the path of Allah SWT until he returns. Today there are thousands of foreign students. The weather, food and living conditions are different to what they are accustomed yet they have made the sacrifice. Generally at a Darul Uloom with a boarding facility, we find that students are woken up before Fajr. Students who come to memorise the Quraan, their program begins, especially in the winter months, begins well before Salaatul Fajr. Those studying the aalim course arise at Fajr and after the Salaah normally they complete their Ma’mulaat of Surah Yaseen or Adhkaar or some Tilawat (recitation) of Quraan. Breakfast is then served. Depending on the season, by 7h00 or 7h30 classes commence until about noon. The students then break for Dhuhr Salaah and lunch is served. Till today Alhamdulillah, the Sunnah of Bailoolah – the afternoon siesta – is practiced in most of the Darul Ulooms. The students and teachers are given time to take an afternoon nap. After that there is about two hours more of classes until Asr Salaah. After Asr Salaah one of the teachers renders advice to the students or have a program to uplift them spiritually. Then supper is served. From Maghrib Salaah until 9pm, for about two or three hours, students have to sit and revise the entire day’s work and then prepare for the next day’s lesson. This basically is the program. The students do get time for sport and rest. In South Africa there are those Darul Ulooms where the week begins on Saturday up to Thursday Asr. The students’ day off is from Thursday Asr until Friday Asr and other Darul Ulooms where the week follows the normal pattern as schools and colleges from Monday to Saturday.

What is the duration of the course?

The student who wishes to enrol for Tahfidhul Quraan (to memorise the Quraan, to become a Haafidh of the Quraan) has no duration. It depends on the learner himself. There are some students who take two to three years to memorise the Quraan who remain another year for revision. Some students complete their memorisation of the Quraan in a year or a year and a half. The aalim course is between six and seven years long depending on the Darul Uloom. There are also Darul Ulooms for girls. This too allows our young females of the Ummah to also acquire knowledge of Deen, to learn Arabic and understand Hadith, Tafsir and Fiqh. Their course runs for about four to five years.

What are the necessary requirements to enrol for the course?

These Darul Ulooms are regarded as higher seats of Islamic knowledge, a tertiary institute we may call. The first requirement for anyone wishing to enrol is that they know the basics of Islam. They must be able to recite the Noble Quraan fluently and they need to know the basic laws of Deen, Taharah, Salaah etc. It is recommended that they pass through what we call the Maktab phase – the primary madressah. It is highly recommended that a learner be at least 14 or 15 years old before enrolling at a Darul Uloom, especially if it is a Darul Uloom with a boarding facility, one must be mature and understand one’s purpose and objective in life and have their priorities in order. This age is recommended because they are able to fend for themselves and understand what is beneficial.

What are the subjects taught during the duration?

As far as the aalim course is concerned the course commences by studying the Arabic language. At those Darul Ulooms where the Urdu language is taught, then they are taught both the languages. They are first taught the basics. It’s very important that a learner be well grounded as far as the Arabic language is concerned in order to understand the Hadith, Sunnah and Islamic Fiqh. Thereafter the cornerstone of our Darul Ulooms is Quraan, Sunnah and Islamic Fiqh which learners are taught after doing the Arabic language, grammar and a bit of literature, logic and philosophy. They go on to translate the Quraan and the Ahadeeth of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). They start off with basic books in Islamic Jurisprudence and Islamic Fiqh. They then move on to the Tafsir of the Quraan and the commentary of the Quraan. They study Ahadeeth in detail, the principles of Ahadeeth, Islamic Jurisprudence and the principles of Fiqh, known as Usul ul Fiqh. Another important subject is Aqaaid (beliefs). Learners are taught how to fulfil their function as a religious leader, an Imaam or a madressah teacher.  The course culminates in the final year with Dawratul Hadith where students study the six famous compilations of Hadith like the Sahih of Imam Bukhari, the Sahih of Imam Muslim, Jamiui Tirmidhi etc. Thereafter a student graduates as an aalim.

Beyond the formal course, do the Darul Ulooms offer any other courses?

In South Africa, we have post graduate courses where a student is able to specialise in a particular science or field. If a student wishes to specialise in Fiqh and Iftaa and become Muftis for example, spends another two years specialising. Students can specialise in Tajweed and Qira’ah, Hadith and Sunnah or Aqaaid.