The most basic function of education is to equip the young with the skills and knowledge that will enable them to participate fully in the human world that they inherit from the older generation and to live ‘a good life’. In recent times this function has come to be understood in the narrow sense of instruction that equips the young to be economically productive, that is, to earn a living. The religious underpinnings and values of ‘a good life’, such as mutual respect and caring, have come to be largely subordinated to economic activity. The negative outcomes of limiting education in this way are everywhere obvious and everywhere on the increase. For example, since regulations and professional procedures cannot teach the will to care and the will to do the right thing, shared public spaces (indeed, even some private spaces) have to be kept under surveillance and policed. That is just one symptom of a vicious spiral of incivility, mistrust and hostility within and between sections of our society.
Cambridge Islamic College is dedicated to restoring the full meaning of education by offering an opportunity to study, comprehensively and critically, the syllabus of a classical education in the Islamic sciences sensitively adapted for our time. The core aims of the teaching program are:
To give students the necessary skills in reading and using both classical and modern Arabic. Without these skills they cannot expect to access the vast treasury of Islamic thought and culture, still less to benefit by interrogating it critically. Also, Arabic remains the common language among Islamic scholars from different parts of the world and is therefore essential for the exchange of perspectives and experiences.
To teach students the basic techniques and responsibilities of academic research, how to read sources critically, how to negotiate and evaluate arguments and counter-arguments, and how to build their own arguments through writing and speaking exercises.
To enable students to read the Qur’an and Qur’anic commentary (tafsir) so that they understand how its teaching educates conscience and behaviour. They should be able to explain to others, as well as understand for themselves, how the guidance of the Qur’an relates to contemporary issues and circumstances.
To teach students the history and development of sira (the biography of the Prophet) and of the hadith sciences: emphasis will be placed on understanding when and how the major hadith compilations were recorded, how the material was assessed and interpreted to inform the norms and rules of individual and collective life, and its continued relevance today.
To give students a firm grasp of the major events in the evolution of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), the major schools of law, their commonalities and differences, and the good manners (adab) in managing plurality of legal opinion.
To help students think through some of the theological and philosophical controversies that have persisted in Islamic societies over the centuries and the cultural and political consequences of these controversies in terms of inter-sectarian and inter-religious polemic.
To enable students to serve as faithful representatives of a practised Islam that is, according to the pattern of God’s Messenger and his Companions, gracious and patient with religious diversity; an Islam based on sound knowledge that the students have acquired for themselves and which they carry back into their communities; an Islam practised as a commitment to respect, care for and serve others; an Islam secured not by attachment to communal identity but by attachment to God.