ALIM Summer Course Descriptions
The ALIM Summer curriculum addresses traditional subjects such as Fiqh, Tafsir and Sirah as well as contemporary issues in courses like Islam in America. The study of tradition fosters critical thinking, whereas the contemporary courses invoke tradition, thus empowering the participants with the tools to balance contemporary realities with traditional sciences. Click the subjects below for details.
Aqeedah – Aqeedah is the study of the basic creed of Muslims beginning with the nature of Allah, and His relationship to mankind. The class will focus on the classical understanding of Allah in terms of His essence, His qualities and His attributes. Historical controversies and ideological movements will be discussed briefly, but will be covered more in-depth in other courses. Students will formulate an understanding regarding Allah and contrast different conceptions of Allah and their ontological ramifications.
Comparative Religion – This course offers a comparison of the three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). The course examines different thoughts surrounding the beginning of time and traces the emergence of each of the three religions from both an Islamic and Judeo-Christian perspective. Students gain a thorough understanding of historical discrepancies, the evolution of the Torah and the Bible, and a broad understanding of the differences and similarities among the three major religions.
Contemporary Issues – The purpose of the contemporary issues course is to raise discussion around topics that are of relevance to Muslims today. The scholars address these issues with students through open discourse between scholars and students that are directed towards further analyzing modern day problems such as tensions within communities, issues within the realm of Fiqh that are debated in the broader community, among many other topics and concerns. Students are encouraged through this course, as is the theme in all ALIM courses, to think critically about the issues and look beyond the surface to begin addressing these concerns once they are back in their respective communities and later on in their lives. Hence, this course serves as a springboard for ALIM students to begin taking all of the traditional knowledge they have gained with a new understanding through the lens of critical thinkers who apply it to the world around them and the issues they are, and will be, facing.
Diseases of the Heart – Diseases of the Heart inhibit our soul and psyche from functioning at their most beneficial level. Being aware of how these diseases affect our soul can help people fight them and guard against recurrence and contraction of other diseases. This class emphasizes that the heart can be diseased in terms of perception, will, or affection, causing inabilities to see, know, and understand. Students will learn how to improve their moral character by nurturing a close and honest relationship with their Creator. They will also gain life-altering skills to become more emotionally intelligent and cognitively aware to identify and battle both their personal diseases and those that may spread throughout the community.
Fiqh – Islamic jurisprudence, Fiqh in Arabic, is comprised of the rulings by Islamic scholars to direct the lives of the Muslim faithful. The general consensus among scholars is that Shariah is the collection of legal rulings that Allah has determined but are not wholly accessible by the jurists. The numbers of rulings in this subject are large and expansive; the topics of salat, tahaara (cleanliness), marriage, and siyam (fasting) are some of the main areas of concentration in the course. These rulings are taught with the perspective of one madhab, while expanding upon the differences between the other madhaahib. Students will see firsthand how the four schools of thought share many of their final decisions, but differ on the grounds of particular hadith they accept as authentic, or the weight they give to analogy and reason (qiyas) when determining their rulings. Usul al-Fiqh, the science behind determining these rulings based on the best understanding of the texts and practices at hand, will be examined in another course.
History of Islamic Law – Pursuant to ALIM’s overall aim of promoting Islamic literacy, the aim of this course is to trace the broad outlines of the development of Islamic law and Muslim legal discourse. The goal is to show how Muslim legal discourse developed in tandem with concrete historical realities confronting Muslim communities in different times and at different places. Thus, rather than see everything in a fiqh manual as having come directly from the Prophet, this course aims to show how Muslim jurists struggled to come to terms with their concrete historical realities in light of the legacy handed down by the Prophet, during the time in which they developed ways of applying Islamic law to dynamic and changing circumstances with full integrity. Special attention is paid to the development of Muslim educational institutions and to such issues as ijtihad, taqlid, the madhabs and the ijazah system.
History of the Khulafa – This course provides an informative and eye opening presentation on the life and times of the first four rulers of the Muslim Ummah – Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali (May Allah be pleased with them). The engaging accounts reveal the powerful and noble personalities of the Khulafa. Students are introduced to 4 dynamic rulers that differed greatly in their individuality yet were tremendously dedicated to Allah. Beginning from right before the Prophet’s death, the course discusses the process by which the Khulafa take leadership along with the conflict and challenges they and the Ummah face.
Islam in America – Islam in America is a collection of courses dealing with the realities of Muslims living in the midst of a secular paradigm with specific emphasis on America. Specific topics will include: History of African-American Muslims, Immigrant and Indigenous Relations, Challenges Facing the American–Muslim Community, and many other issues. These courses are interactive and allow students to grow in their understanding of America, her history, and the role of Muslims within it.
Islam and Modernity – This class explores one of the many reasons that contributed to the decline of the Muslim empire. The question, “where did we go wrong?” is addressed in the context of Enlightenment Thinking and the Industrial Revolution. Through it, one should gain an appreciation for how new ideas, and innovative technology catapulted the West into the future, while the Muslims remained mostly oblivious to this. Finally, the class seeks to explain the various Muslim responses, both religious and secular, to western dominance of the world.
Pre-Modern Islam – The Muslims of today face unprecented challenges in the following areas: Women’s issues, minorities, secularism and democracy, and law. These issues were insignificant a century ago, but have now become very important issues for Muslims all over. In order to understand how these changes took place, we study Pre Modern Islam. This study covers the specific condition out of which particular individuals and groups emerged, the relationship of the various groups to modern history and its entry into the Islamic world via colonialism and the nature of Islam and the revivalist impetus native to it.
Sirah – The Prophet was the last messenger of God who came as a model and teacher to all of humankind. However, many Muslims forget that He was also a man who lived in a particular place and time, was part of a particular culture and spoke a particular language. This sirah course invites students to see how the Prophet exemplified the universal values of Islam while always remaining aware of the particular cultural values of his seventh century Arab society. Students will not only learn the story of the Prophet, but they will continuously be asking themselves, “How does his example help me to better live Islam in my own cultural context?”
Tafsir – Tafsir is known as Qur’anic exegesis or commentary. The goal of this course is to provide students with an overview of how scholars have performed Qur’anic exegesis historically and the different methods applied to the process. Students will gain an understanding of the tools used in tafsir and gain an appreciation for the contextual importance for the application of tafsir in Islamic law. They will leave this class having gained a greater familiarity with and understanding of the Qur’an, making the words of Allah more meaningful to their daily lives. [Note: The summer program will also have a strong emphasis on daily Qur’an reading that will be supplemented through structured Qur’an reading sessions. The intention behind the daily Qur’an sessions is to reestablish the presence and permanence of the Qur’an in our daily lives.]
Ulum al-Hadith – This course describes the complex and controversial system by which hadith are determined as authentic or fabricated. The student will learn the history of hadith collection, as well as the methods by which classical scholarship deemed the purity of hadith, both in its narrative line (isnad) as well as its text (matn). Topics will include the study of the hadith transmitters (‘Ilm al-Rijal), the various classification of hadith in relation to the veracity of the line of transmitters, the controversy regarding hadith that abrogate or seemingly contradict each other, as well as the context of hadith in Islamic law. At the completion of the course, students will be able to evaluate the discussion regarding hadith criticism, and will have developed an informed understanding of the issues and complexities of this discussion and its relevance to Islamic law.
Ulum al-Qur’an – This course will examine the process and logic behind gradual revelation, the process of compilation, the specifics of poetic style and language used, interpretive devices, and sources used to extract meaning from the Qur’an. Students will learn to apply basic interpretive devices to specific Qur’anic verses and appreciate both their explanatory power and limitations. This course will prepare students to understand material covered in the course on tafsir.
Usul al-Fiqh – Usul al-fiqh is best summarized as the philosophy of Islamic law. Some say that all we have to do is read the Qur’an and the hadith; however, anyone who has studied usul al-fiqh knows that the process is much more complicated. Usul al-fiqh deals with the complex relationship between revelation and reason. This course will encounter and explore these, as well as other, fascinating and important questions. Most importantly, students will grow to appreciate the real world context that Islamic jurisprudence takes place in, focusing on fiqh al-waqi’. Subsequently, a few topics (decided on by students and instructor) will be analyzed in depth in regard to usul ul fiqh in the Fiqh classes that follow. Previous classes have studied topics such as fiqh of marriage, fiqh of salat, and fiqh of zakat.