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Islamic Studies and India: Is This the Right Place for You? | The Motherland – VI


Prelude | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI

The “The Motherland” series will go over the benefits and challenges of studying Islam overseas in India, institutions of learning there in, and Nihal Khan’s journey of studying at Nadwatul ‘Ulama in the 2014-2015 academic calendar year. The subsequent articles in this series will detail his experiences and reflections from his travels and studies in India.

. . .

Conclusion: Is India the Right Place for You?

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Students present at a seminar at Darul Uloom Deoband.

Traveling India as an American is awesome. Regardless of your background, I think everyone should see India to understand how a seventh of the world’s population lives, learns, and teaches. Especially if you are of Indian origin, you should be connected to your roots to give you a better perception of yourself and where you are going.

As for students seeking to study the traditional Islamic sciences, studying Islam in India requires much sacrifice and is no walk in the park.

With so many potential countries and institutions to study Islam from, the question arises if India is the right place for you. Personally, I view this is to be a very loaded question which has many nuances to be unpacked, so for now the few points below will suffice for this discussion.

The Necessity of Clear-Cut, Quantifiable, Practical, and Functional Intentions

If I could add more adverbs above, I would. Regardless of location, so many students end up enrolling at an Islamic university without a solid individual understanding of why they want to study Islam overseas. You need to ask yourself: what are you looking for? Why are you looking for it? Can you get it in the west? If not, then why not? What will you gain from traveling overseas? Are you ready to sacrifice regular comforts such as hot water, clean food, an air conditioner in a heat, a heater in the cold, etc? What do you plan to practically do with whatever you gain from traveling overseas? (Don’t use the old “Allah will provide” card, because part of relying upon Allah is making preparations yourself). This is a partial list obviously. A serious seeker must learn to ask the right questions before looking for right answers.


Efficacy and Precision in Hadith Studies, Fiqh, and Arabic Literature

If you are looking for a place that is rigorous in the study, memorization, understanding, and dissection of hadith literature, fiqh studies, and Arabic literature, then India is the right place to study. Though learning Urdu beforehand, having a previous background in Islamic studies and stipulating the first point above may prove to be very high barriers of entry. An individual seeking to expand their knowledge in this science will find the larger institutions in northern India to be a delightful experience—specifically Darul ‘Uloom Deoband (for fiqh), Mazahir al-’Uloom (for hadith), and Nadwatul ‘Ulama (for Arabic). You can navigate around the Urdu if your Arabic is up to par, but the other two points I mentioned are non-negotiables for obvious reasons.

05 - Delhi, Gujarat, and Mumbai (44)

Minaret of a masjid in Gujarat

The Need to Know Where you Came From

Though Gov. Piyush “Bobby” Jindal thinks having a connection to your heritage in any way at all by hyphenating your ethnicity makes you less of an American, the truth is that if you are not a Native American, you came from some country over the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean.

Ethnic groups take pride in where they came from within the United States. Be it Gambia, Senegal, Nigeria, England, Ireland, France, Japan, Palestine, Jordan, Yemen, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bosnia, Albania, Turkey, etc. If your parents immigrated from another country, then make it a goal to visit their ancestral places to learn about your ancestors that lived and prospered in those areas for over a thousand years. Not to mention that emigration out of a certain culture was not common at a grandiose level up until a few hundreds years ago. So returning back to revisit those places may connect you to a history and culture which you may be an undiscovered part of your identity.

. . .

This completes the summary of my first year in India. I look forward to sharing more of my experiences, travels, and reflections with you.

If you would like to follow me throughout my journeys in India, feel free to “Like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter.

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Nihal Ahmad Khan is currently a student of Islamic Law and Theology at Nadwatul 'Ulama in Lucknow, India. He was born and raised in New Jersey and holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a minor in Business from Montclair State University and a diploma in Arabic from Bayyinah Institute's Dream Program. He began memorizing the Qur’an at Darul Uloom New York and finished at the age of seventeen at the Saut al-Furqan Academy in Teaneck, New Jersey. He went on to lead taraweeh every year since then. Along with his education, Nihal has worked in various capacities in the Muslim community as an assistant Imam, youth director, and a Muslim Chaplain at correctional facilities and social service organizations. Nihal is also an MA candidate in Islamic Studies from the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.



  1. Waleed

    December 2, 2015 at 1:02 PM

    Salam Nihal bhai
    I believe you are in your final year of Aaliya. You planning on doing dawrah in mazahir?

  2. Naz

    December 3, 2015 at 12:42 AM

    Assalamalaikum brother,

    You mentioned in your article about keeping in touch with your roots and knowing where you came from.

    But in light of the current situation of muslims in India, do you think its safe?

    What I mean to say is while you studied there, do you feel there is great oppression upon muslims?

    How do madrasahs operate in these conditions of harsh oppression much less regular practicing muslims?

    What is the climate for muslims there? Do they have to renounce their faith to live normally? Is it like that only in rural areas or large metropolitan areas as well

  3. Abubakar sadiq usman

    December 3, 2015 at 12:51 PM

    Muslim can seek anywhere they whish

  4. Abubakar sadiq usman

    December 3, 2015 at 1:19 PM

    Muslim can seek knowlage anywhere they whish

  5. Umm hadi

    December 12, 2015 at 7:43 AM

    Asalam a laikum wrwb,
    Mabrook on your pursuit for knowledge. Barak Allahu Feek.

    Initially, I happened to read your series vi, which for my own reasons persuaded me to read the other 5. But unfortunately I didn’t get the answer to it.
    I was eager to know about your core subjects, the teachers, the hold over the subject once one passes out and more of your experiences within the institute as a student. How many years is the course, how many levels are for each of em? Hope you add them to form another series. May Allah keep your passion for gaining knowledge forever.
    As Allama Iqbaal said, “Ya Rab! Dil-e-Muslim Ko Woh Zinda Tamana De
    Jo Qalb Ko Garma De, Jo Rooh Ko Tarpa De”

    And Yes, Br Nihal
    “tundi-e-baad e mukhalif say na ghabra aey uqaab….
    ya tau chalti hai tujhay oncha uranay k leya”


    Taqabbal Allahu minna wa minkum.

  6. MH

    April 18, 2016 at 4:24 PM

    Assalamu’Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh!

    Am I the first to comment in 2016? Has this post been abandoned? Anyway, I must say that you got me hooked onto this series, Nihal bhai. I’ve had my own experiences with India and can relate to a lot of what you have written so far. Truly it is a different type of experience for those of us born and bred in the west – perhaps more so for you since you’re American. I hope that didn’t come out as discriminatory (sincere apologies if it did). I am African btw :)

    There are just two issues I’d like to tackle. One is just my own point of digression which anyone is free to follow or forsake. The other is a question.

    1. What experiences have you had with Tabligh Jamaat? Some of your pictures are from Delhi so I’m wondering if you were fortunate enough to visit Nizamuddeen Markaz. Are the students and teachers in Nadwa attached to the effort? Have you decided to do a khurooj once you are done with your studies?

    2. My point of digression may come out as a bit of a rant – I apologise in advance. I would like to tackle your point on ‘connecting with your roots’. I have no problems if someone wishes to pursue this point in their life. However, I cannot brush away the pain that personally stings me everytime this topic is brought up. Like you and many others, my parents also immigrated to my current country of residence. I am happy here and obviously I bear no ill will to any of my relatives from my parents’ country of origin. My problem lies with the fact that throughout my childhood (even now) I have been denied my right to be different. I don’t mind speaking a language. I do mind the fact that you have to shove it down my throat as my “mother tongue”. My dreams are in English, isn’t that enough to show that English is my mother language? Plus, why am I shoved away when I try to speak the native language of my current country (not English)? I have been constantly pushed into “loving my motherland” – a place which is still foreign to me. Love should be voluntary, right? Since when is love forced? Most people from my “motherland” find it repulsive that I am patriotic towards my current country. These are often the same people who are critical of me growing a beard, donning a thobe and frequenting masaajid. Of course, it is completely unwise to paint everyone with the same brush. However, it is extremely difficult and painful for me to simply disregard all that has happened to me. It’s gotten to the point where saying that I hate my “motherland” and “mother language” is no longer taboo or something that strikes me as sinful. For reasons of decency I try not to vocalise this too much.

    It is worth noting that I have visited my parents’ home many times in my life – perhaps too many times for comfort. Perhaps you guys in the West don’t visit that often, if at all (once again apologies for the sweeping statement). Had I been in that situation, I cannot deny that the prospect of visiting a place to which you have never been to yet share a connection with sounds utterly magical.

    P.S. Cool fact – my Dad’s family is originally from a different part of the subcontinent. They no longer have any ties to that place seeing that my Dad, the youngest of his siblings, grew up in my Mum’s country.

    P.P.S. My Chacha migrated to YET ANOTHER part of the subcontinent very early in his life and has been there since. He has adjusted well. Like me he is also not the greatest when it comes to my Dad’s language.

    Keeping both these points in mind it irks me that no one wields the mentality which is used to attack me against any of my Dad’s family or my Chacha (not that I want them to, I just find it bothersome that only I am being targeted when the same has been done by others before me). Sometimes I wonder if my young age is what others are exploiting. Personally I have decided to tank it all and focus my efforts on becoming a better Muslim, serving Allah and his deen first, followed by my (current) country.

    In any event, reading your articles leads me carelessly assume that you do a better job at handling Desi problems than myself. I am more than open to discussion on my views – perhaps you could even advise me as a brother. :)

    Maaf for my neo-bakwaas

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