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Madrasa Curriculum: Experience Madrassa Style Traditional Education

What follows is a general FAQ for the Shariah Program and its classical madrasa teaching methodology. Much of what comes below has to do with our Toronto based classes which are not being offered in 2009. For specific questions regarding the online offering which began in the summer of 2004, and will become our primary teaching format in 2009 click here








What makes this course unique compared to other courses being taught in the GTA?

This course is unique in that it is a sustained 5 year effort being taught by young, Western-born, classically trained, and well-authorized teachers of knowledge using a traditional methodology (the Dars Nizamie) that has ennobled many Muslims throughout the years with knowledge of the Shari'ah. This methodology lays emphasis on rote memorization, class participation, and oral recitation to enable each student to firmly grasp material in its original Arabic. New material is introduced as previous subject matters have been mastered, renewing the student's zeal by continually learning fresh material.

Besides the methodology, no course in the GTA has attempted to cover so many of the Islamic sciences in such a long-term and organized manner.

Should I know anything before joining, i.e. are there any prerequisites? Is it a problem if my Arabic reading/writing is poor?

The only prerequisite is basic reading and writing ability in Arabic. Prior exposure to grammer will make the initial stages easier, but lack of the aforementioned should not be an insurmountable stumbling block. Many successful students have joined the class with nothing but the very basics; it all depends on the student's effort. And we ask Allah to make it easy for everyone insha'Allah.


Does this course cover all the material and sciences that the traditional Madrassas cover, i.e. in Pakistani Madrasas and England Madrasas? Which books will be covered? Will we leave any books out that are traditionally studied?

The course outline at www.shariahprogram.ca/outline.shtml lists the texts to be studied in each individual science. The program will cover all 12 sciences with minor additions and deletions that have been carefully thought out to maximize student benefit and accommodate the time schedule. None of the core material will be left out. In Hadith, the course covers up to Mishkaat al-Masaabih, and students can continue on to study the 6 Hadeeth collections at a Madrassa or with a qualified Shaikh.

How high will the concentration on Arabic grammar and Morphology be during the initial months?

Arabic grammar (Nahw) and morphology (Sarf) will comprise about 80% of the material during the initial months. Only when students are firmly grounded in these does the course move onto other sciences. The Arabic language will be the soil from which all our understanding of future sciences will grow; thus if our grasp of it is weak one can expect the resulting fruits grown therefrom to be sour and rotten too. It is only after firm understanding and retention (through regular study and practice) of grammar and morphology that our study of future disciplines shall flourish.

Some of the additional topics of study (20%) during the initial months will be: Seerah (English translation by Aisha Bewley of Qadi 'Iyad's "Ash-Shifa'"), Tajweed (an English primer will be available), and 'Aqidah (beliefs).

How much Arabic can I expect to acquire in the first year alone? When I have completed the course, will I be able to fluently converse in Arabic?

If one looks at the meaning of any Arabic word from 3 aspects, namely: the intrinsic meanings associated with root letters, the meaning deriving from the pattern of vowelisation of the root letters (Sarf), and the meaning derived from a word's place in a sentence, and reflected by changes at its end (Nahw); then at the end of the first year the course will have covered: all of Sarf; all of the Nahw at a basic level, with more detail in upcoming years; and some vocabulary, enough to delve into the texts studied. Students' vocabulary will continue increasing throughout the course.

Conversational skills will depend heavily on the student's own efforts. The course equips one with the tools to understand classical texts, but conversational fluency will require additional efforts with a native speaker.

When will the Shariah component of the course be introduced? What are the first few sciences that are covered?

We expect that approximately 6-7 months after the beginning of classes students will be studying Hanafi fiqh and Mantiq (logic) in their original Arabic.


I have never studied in a traditional madrasa setting before, how much note-taking is expected? Will I be taking so many notes that they will compromise my understanding? Will there be homework like in secular schooling?

There is some note-taking, but the real effort comes in learning what is taught, and preparing for class beforehand. There is some homework in terms of preparing vocabulary for the reading in class and some composition as well.

Will there be Qur'an recitation, or other recitation, in front of the teacher/class?

Yes. In Tajweed class each student will recite in front of the teacher, and verb tables and other material is recited orally.

How much time will I have to devote to this program?

The goal of the program is not merely to allow one to do something "religious" during the weekend but rather to be an intensive program designed to equip Western-educated students, with the fundamentals to begin understanding the Shari'ah at a deeper level; training which one would normally not have access to. That being said, taking into consideration that students will be engaged in full-time studies, work, or family commitments during the week, and in order to strike a balance between all commitments, we are merely asking that you invest 1-2 hours/day rehearsing the previous week's material and preparing yourself for upcoming material. So out of the 120 weekday hours you have at your disposal we are only requesting 5-10 hours be put towards your Shari'ah studies.

Due to circumstances beyond one's control, if sessions are missed, how would one be able to recover? If I miss a single class, will there be repetition of discussions for a chance to quickly catch up?

It is of utmost importance that one does one's best to attend each session promptly and for its full duration. Each class builds upon the last and missing a previous class entirely would severely hamper one's understanding of future material. But due to the nature of the methodology we are using, material from one week normally gets repeated class after class (although not to the same degree as initially). The best thing upon missing a class is to contact someone who was present and go over the material.

How frequently will the students be tested on the material, and after what intervals?

Students can expect to be formally tested approximately once every 3-4 months (initially on Arabic and tajweed and progressing to other material as it is introduced). Testing is not designed to see who can achieve the highest marks and win the accolades of their peers but rather is an impetus for students to study the material and for the teachers to judge if any adjustments need to be made in the teaching pace and emphasis.

How many students are there per class? Will I have a problem communicating with the teacher?

Each class has approximately 15-20 students. If the number of students rises above that classes are split between two teachers. The course is very interactive and there is no problem asking questions of the teachers.


How will sisters be taught?

As far as possible, qualified female teachers are employed. However where this is not possible, a one-way mirror is used with male teachers. Click here for more detail.

Is there a particular dress-code sisters are required to follow?

In keeping with the Islamic tradition and submitting to Allah in full faith and modesty before engaging on the journey of seeking knowledge, we kindly request that sisters please come with proper hijaab (covering all the hair).


How old are the children?

Generally, the ages of the children are between 2-10 years of age. However, we do make exceptions depending on the parent/guardian’s circumstances and on the child.

What is the cost per child?

We are administering the fees on a child-per-month cost basis. The center is charging $40 for the first child that is enrolled and $20 for any additional child per-month.

What is the adult to child ratio? How many adults are present on-site?

We try to maintain the ratio of 1 “adult” to 5 children. There will always be one qualified working caregiver. The more children that are enrolled into the center, the more working staff are hired. Volunteers, many of whom may be in high school, also make this ratio possible. If for example fifteen children are enrolled, we will hire two caregivers and have one volunteer, insha’Allah.

How qualified are the caregivers? Are the caregivers trained in first aid?

Our working caregivers (as opposed to volunteers) have Early Childhood Education training or equivalent work experience. At least one of the staff members will have first aid training.

In what types of activities do the children participate?

We try to balance a flexible free learning environment with a structured learning environment. During free time, we try to provide the materials and the environment through the classroom arrangement for children to play, work, and learn. Structured activities include different arts and crafts, Story-time with stories of different Prophets (peace be upon them all), Sing-Along Circle Time with Islamic songs, and Qur’an for children over five. There are also set times for snacks, lunch, and for naps.

What if my child cries for me?

When your child needs you, we will call you out of class and into our centre. However, our caregivers will try their best to serve the needs of your child. For some children, it may take time before they are comfortable with their new situation.

What time does the childcare service open and close?

We are open during class times, Saturdays and Sundays from 8:30am-2:30pm.

How can I register my child?

Email childcare@shariahprogram.ca, and print and fill out this form and bring it to class.


Are there any options for class timing? How long are classes?

Classes are offered on weekdays, weekends and in intensive summer sessions. Class duration depends on which of the sessions one is attending. See www.shariahprogram.ca/outline for more details.

If I am unable to completely afford the costs, will there be a possibility for help in that area? What are the costs for text-books?

Nobody will be turned away due to financial hardship. In addition, costs will be kept at a minimum for books and no attempts are made to profit from any material. Some of the books are also shipped from overseas and have a very nominal price.

Is it guaranteed that this program will always be in the same place and that I will not have trouble finding directions if I'm coming from afar? Will transportation be a problem if I have no car? Is the location TTC-accessible, or is carpooling available?

The class locations are insha'Allah quite stable, and any change will be announced well in advance. Both locations are TTC accessible, and in addition many students carpool from several parts of town. Contact the instructor or post on the message board to find someone in your area.

Will classes run year round, or will there be times when classes will halt for a significant period?

Insha'Allah we plan to have a 2 week break during the summer months, and a 3 week break during Ramadan. Further breaks will be up to the discretion of the teachers but students will be given notice ahead of time.

Upon successful completion of the course, will there be a certificate and/or diploma, as proof of having taken the course?

Yes, insha'Allah. Details are being worked out but we expect a certificate/diploma to be offered to those graduating at the end of their studies in the hopes that many will go on to higher studies. This certificate may be offered in conjunction with a recognized madrassa overseas.
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