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An Interview with the College of Islamic Studies (CIS)


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5. How do you envision CIS in 3-5 years?

Currently, we’ve outline two years of study. I envision adding a third year consisting of only Arabic studies, bringing the student to an intermediate level. A fourth year would then follow where most classes would be taught entirely in Arabic. This would serve a dual purpose: studying more advanced, theoretically intensive subjects as well as continuing to improve the Arabic skills of the student, thus bring them to an advanced level of fluency. Also, I envision adding elective courses and short intensive modules that are not part of the core curriculum but are important nonetheless. Furthermore, I envision satellite colleges popping up in different Islamic centers where they have smart flat screen televisions with internet connections that live stream classes, so that people can attend in person and get almost the same experience as students who attend the live classes receive. In fact, we already have some organizations who are interested in pursuing this idea in the coming months [and one that has already implemented it].

6. What can students expect to gain throughout their studies and at the end via CIS?

On successful completion of the entire course, a student will receive a diploma certifying that they possess a sound grounding in the most essential Islamic sciences. At minimum, it will allow them to practice Islam in all aspects of their life: prayer, fasting, zakah, distributing inheritance, proper method of marriage and divorce, etc. It will also provide them with a firm foundation in most necessary aspects of Islamic knowledge. This will enable them to navigate through modern discourse on Islam and also impart the knowledge they have gained to others. It will provide them with a foundation to filter un-Islamic ideas as well as arm them with the tools needed to spread Islam wherever they go.

7. An undertaking like this takes a considerable amount of effort and support. Tell us about some of the hard work that was done, and what you learned from the process.

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Alhamdulillah, Allah blessed me to be a part of the Islamic Institute of Orange County that sponsored the idea. We have several volunteers as well as staff, working tirelessly long hours to plan every aspect of the college, from physical setup to formatting and grading online tests and essay questions. One of the main things we learned is that we should not cut corners and instead should invest in both human resources as well as technology, whenever our budget allows. I knew that this would not be a simple task going in, but it turned out to be more difficult than I had anticipated, mainly because I did not envision that it would receive such a large acceptance during the initial stages of the project. Moving forward, we are hiring more staff and investing more into the college on a long term basis.

8. How would you encourage those who may be on the fence when it comes to taking actual Islamic courses, especially in an age where seminars are the most common form of mass Islamic education?

I would ask them to simply give it a try and see what they think. Not only are the classes extremely cheap but we also offer a refund for classes which are dropped early. So far, everyone who tried out a class liked it and benefited immensely, even those who were not able to keep up and ended up dropping. With seminars, there is a massive load of knowledge imparted in a weekend or two and many people find it difficult to absorb and retain all that in such a short time. Furthermore, there are usually no exams to test whether the person really understood what had been taught, or the exams are not comprehensive or intensive enough. With the College of Islamic Studies, we are simply offering the same standard for Islamic studies that any student at a university has experienced before. If students are prepared to have the time and discipline to study worldly subjects like law, engineering, medicine and psychology in a proper university environment, how could they claim to be dedicated to Islam if they are not willing to do the same for Islamic classes?

9. How can those who wish the program well support the College?

The best way is to enroll in the classes and spread the word. Don’t just spread the word but convince others why they need to join. I feel that, at present, Muslims are more willing to donate their wealth to support a project rather than their time to partake in it. The only way ignorance can be removed from the Muslim community is through the diffusion of knowledge, which requires time and effort. However, whoever is, in reality, unable to take classes, or has taken the maximum load they are able to handle, then they could donate to the college by contacting us directly.

10. What is the type of response and the demographics of the students at the College?

The response has been phenomenal with 440 enrollments and 237 unique students in the first quarter of launching the college. We have not done a detailed demographic study but people come from all backgrounds: Caucasian, Latino, Arab, Desi, African, etc. In fact, we even have had a 78 yr old woman who enters class on a walker and another brother who is paralyzed from the neck down who studies from home while using his head to move the cursor and his mouth to click the mouse.

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Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.



  1. h

    August 26, 2013 at 7:16 PM


  2. Summer

    August 28, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    Reading this article gave me a pang of longing. I live in the UK where education like this is hard to find if you don’t have the expenses. I pray you find every sucess with this college inshallah :)

  3. ahmadali

    August 30, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    I pray Allah to be very kind on the muslims living in different part of the world to be able to live a life similar to prophet and all those who make effort in this direction are lucky people

  4. StrangerFromTheEast

    September 14, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    Looked interesting at first, but after further browsing I noticed they are promoting material from Hamza Yusuf whom I believe is a Sufi. Nothing else needed to know: I immediately closed the website.

    If you want a good, tried and tested online islamic degree course: I recommend islamic online university (IOU) or Knowledge International university (KIU)

    • Abdus-Sami Hoda (@studentsjourney)

      October 2, 2013 at 3:00 PM

      Salam StrangerFromTheEast,

      In all honesty, I’m not sure you read the whole article about our approach, if you scoured the website looking for someone or something you could disagree with. May Allah (swt) have mercy.

      Again, in all honesty, our Purification of the Soul class, like all our classes, encourages outside reading. The outside reading is optional. For this class we currently recommend “Purification of the Heart: Signs, Symptoms and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart” by Hamza Yusuf which is a translation and commentary of a prior Scholar’s work.

      We’re always evaluating the optional reading we recommend, and like is mentioned in the article, stay away from things that divide the Ummah. Perhaps this book may or may not be a part of our future curriculum, but it is no way a reason to avoid the college or to label it.

      IOU and KIU are good alternatives, and we work well with other colleges. In fact, we may have credit transfer agreements and accreditation agreements with many of them in the future.

      That being said, Alhumdulillah, we have no close to 400+ enrollments this term, and that would probably make us the biggest Islamic college in North America (from what I can tell). We are always looking for people support, supplication, and honest feedback. If you’d like to talk further, please feel free to tweet me, but I hope you see we’re honest and transparent about all this, and quite simply, just trying our best.

      May Allah (swt) accept.

      • StrangerFromTheEast

        October 4, 2013 at 10:42 AM

        Wa alaikum salam warahmatullah to the contrary I scoured the website looking for any resources that would actually help me.

        How can you say that the references or supplementary material that are in there, has nothing to do with the credibility of the rest of the curriculum or even the institution as a whole?

        When you put in references to topics or individuals that ‘may’ cause deviation to the very CORE of islamic beliefs which is tawheed, then you would need to be careful of who you are supporting and what you are propagating. I am especially fearful for the new muslims out there.

        I’m telling you this because I think you are honest, open and transparent in your intentions and I think you will take action by having scholars who are well grounded in matters of religion frame your curriculum, preferably scholars from Saudi Arabia.

        • Abdus-Sami Hoda (@studentsjourney)

          October 4, 2013 at 11:57 AM

          Salam StrangerFromTheEast,

          A couple things to consider, and I’ll leave it at that.

          One of the keys goals of the college is to help build a foundation so that you can process books from different authors (that you may agree with, and those whom you may disagree with) so that students are not afraid of approaching other texts and can critically analyze the texts to take what benefits them, and reject (with adab) what does not.

          In class, we actually criticized some points in this book and others, and this is documented in the videos.

          The text we really wanted to get for the class was unavailable for such a large class. It had to be imported, and was not available from any seller in the US. With around 80+ students in each class, we needed a huge quantity and shipping costs were significant. Not to mention, we are offering the college at minimal cost, so the book itself would be more expensive than the class itself.

          In the end we chose a book which we could reference and discuss, and was available for free on the Internet for download (without copyright). If you have some other books you would recommend, please feel free to do so.

          But these are some of the practical implications of running a new school. Like I mentioned, we will continually work to improve our curriculum, but we also wont shy away from teaching students how to navigate the world of Islamic scholarship.

          The argument that the books are linked to the credibility of the organization is somewhat a red herring – because many controversial books (or uncontroversial books by controversial authors) are taught in many schools, and the teacher uses the text to teach what is right and what is wrong [and the principles to determine the difference]. If we only teach “our books” from “our scholars”, we limit ourselves and our students.

          As for tawheed, yes indeed that is imminently important. My own teachers are some of whom who teach at IOU and KIU. But I’ve also learned from the mistakes of other teachers in what to avoid, what areas are grey, etc. That education has been just as important. It would not be accurate to say that the truth lies in teachers from only one region of the world, or more so, from any one school.

          And Allah (swt) knows best. I have tried to be as honest and straight-forward as possible. Give us a try, if you don’t like it, ask for a refund.

  5. Cara Sholat

    December 13, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah, Who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them, And who believe in what has been revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you, and of the Hereafter they are certain [in faith]. (al-baqarah:2-3)

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