Almost a decade ago I had stepped out of my country for the first time. I had set abroad towards Canada for the purpose of my academics. I had no idea how long this journey would be. Crossing the Atlantic and as they say, “the seven seas and the lands” I landed in Toronto. This was all new to me as I was only 17 at that time. It didn’t take long for me to realize that “Hijrah” is not an easy thing, even when it is for sake of one’s study. There were so many things I had to incorporate as a part of my lifestyle to get adjusted to Canada. At that time I had decided to make efforts towards making the lives of those who will come after me a bit easier by providing them materials about what to expect once they embark on such a journey. Eight years or so have passed and I have now taken a similar step out of Canada once again towards my next level of studies. South Africa!
It was in the last year, no, the last class of my Master’s Degree that I had decided to flip my academic world and give it a sharp U turn. I decided to pursue a field that many thought and still think to be a lower level studies. As I recall people in my native land of Pakistan would comment, “Those who cannot excel in regular studies choose to become Maulvis”. It is so ironic that what many think to be a second class study is seen as the only real study from a “Maulvi’s” point of view. I remember Mufti Abdul Jaleel Damat Barakatuhum mentioning that all the worldly academics are for worldly gains, and thus only a means of living and “Dharooriyat” while what we study here in this institution not only deals with the world but also that which will surely come after it. I also remember reading this in Imam Ghazali r.a’s view of Islamic Studies.
Intentions and Aims
It would be clear by now that I am referring to the life of yearning towards the gain of Islamic Knowledge. My course title says, “Islamic Theology” and my Madrassah’s (institute) website claims it to be an equivalent to B.A. That I would presume be Bachelors of Arts (Religious Studies). However I would say that it is much more and somewhat less at the same time. This is because Islamic Studies cannot in the least be compared in secular terms. It is a living style on its own; a whole new dimension that cannot be explained by mere number of years of studies as is the case of secular education.
Coming back to what my intentions were while writing this, shall we say, “A Welcome Pamphlet”; I have been in South Africa for over a year now, and it has definitely been a roller coaster ride, going up and down. At the very outset I should say that this information is intended to primarily benefit those who are eager to come to Camperdown, South Africa, with the aim of studying at the Madrassah In’aamiyyah. If it helps someone else as well, I will be thankful to Allah for that. The life that I had imagined for myself was nowhere near what I got when I came here. This is why I have decided to write something that would prevent or rather caution those who will come after me. It is vital to have an idea of the place you are about to make Hijrah to, so as not to get despondent in the very year you arrive.
When I had decided to set out to study “Alim” course I had two options. I could either go to UK or to South Africa. My perception was the same as anyone else’s. South Africa would be a rural country, without much living standard and facilities. And why should it not be, its “Africa”!! This was one of the major reasons I had decided to come here instead of UK; A disciplined Madrassah, with staunch environment and all that with the facility of English speaking Scholars. It was close to, if not “The dream come true”. But even to this extent I was proven wrong when I landed here. Many things were better than what I had imagined but a few were slightly off as well.
Also, if you are really looking for a Madrassah to go to, and by chance, you know how to speak Urdu, my preference (now after having the experience of the English style Madrassah) would be either Pakistan or India. Since Pakistan is no longer taking foreign students, India would be the choice. The reason is simple. The Madaris here have taken their curriculum and syllabus from the well established Indian and Pakistani Madaris, but what lacks here is firmness in Urdu which the teachers have tried to compensate with the local language, English. A brave effort indeed! But the transition has created a gap between the language of the material of the methodology (which is Urdu) and the teaching language (which is English). Many of the older Madaris like Azaadville and Zakariya are still using complete Urdu studies. However in this Madrassah the teaching language is generally not fixed. This causes a lot of drawbacks for both Urdu and English speaking students, and especially the ones that are not oriented to the style.
[Update – After 4 years]
I feel that in all honesty I need to add a few comments after having lived here for over 5½ Years. Over these years, I have noticed that I might have been hasty in making my comment regarding English medium studies being slightly deficient towards the methodology. Alhamdulillah, I have seen that English has in fact helped me in places where urdu might have not. I would, however, say that the current English system, though not completely perfect, yet it provides sufficient medium for dedicated seekers to fulfill their aims. Urdu is being taught as a subject. By 5th year I have seen my colleagues who otherwise are not well versed in urdu, yet can understand and digest urdu speech with sufficient proficiency.
( Ch 1 , Madrassah In’aamiyyah Guide)