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.
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Conclusion: Is India the Right Place for You?
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.
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.
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This completes the summary of my first year in India. I look forward to sharing more of my experiences, travels, and reflections with you.