The Whitethread Institute Ifta’ Program Online Pilot for 2019-2020
The advanced Specialisation in Fiqh and Ifta’ Program is a rigorous two-year course for which only a dozen or so places are available. The course is now available online for the 2019-20 Academic year to students who can show a high level of competence in the field of Fiqh and can rigorously maintain a long-distant online studying schedule full time.
If you are interested please apply today!
A post-graduate course focussed on developing the ability of ‘alimiyya graduates to proficiently research and formulate legal responses (fatwa) to both complex and everyday issues (nawazil).
The course comprises the study of important texts on usul al-fiqh (legal theory), qawa’id al-fiqh (legal maxims), usul al-ifta’ (principles of fatwa giving) and juz’iat (derivative rulings).
Students study research methodology and the ifta’ process in depth to attain proficiency in research and answering questions according to contemporary demands and sensitivities. Over the course period of two years, students practice answering over a thousand questions on a variety of topics.
The second year of the course includes a specialisation in at least one of a number of important areas:
- Islamic Bioethics (Medical Ethics and Medicine)
- Islamic Family and Marital Law
- Islamic Food and Dietary Law
- Islamic Inheritance Law
- Citizenship, Integration, and Political Issues
- Islamic Trade and Commerce
- Women Issues (Menstruation, Post-Natal Bleeding, Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding)
- Astronomy and Prayer Times
Regular Teachers include Mufti Abdur-Rahman Mangera, Mufti Zubair Patel, Shaykh Zeeshan Chaudri
Guest teachers: Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari (Darul Iftaa, Leicester), Mufti Zubair Butt (Al-Qalam), and Mufti Sarfraz Ahmad (Birmingham Fiqh Council Birmingham), who have promised short seminars as and when possible.
Start Date: September 2019
Duration: 2 years plus 6 months research thesis
Yearly fee: £2,499.00
Times: Monday to Friday 8:30am to 3:30pm British Standard Time plus personal research time
Venue: Whitethread Institute
329-333 High Street (2nd floor)
London E15 2TF
(former site of Interlink College)
Please note that this is an intense post-graduate course open to graduates of the dars nizami or equivalent system, who are juridically inclined, can demonstrate an adequate grasp of fiqh (Marghinani’s Hidaya), and possess an advanced level of Arabic text analysing skills.
Due to the interactive nature of the course and the individual one-to-one mentoring required, only limited spaces are available.
The course is now available online for the 2019-20 Academic year to students who can show a high level of competence in the field of Fiqh and can rigorously maintain a long-distant online studying schedule full time.
Open to ‘alims and ‘alimas
*Every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained within this course is correct at the time of publication. Courses are subject to on-going development which could necessitate cancellation of, or alteration to, the advertised courses and timings.
My Journey through Ifta'
View testimonials below from our past students who have undertaken the journey on our Ifta’ Specialisation Program.
My journey so far through the iftā course at Whitethread institute has been a challenging yet promising journey. I had completed a year of iftā at Dār al Ulum Bury prior to enrolling onto the course; hence I had a relatively good understanding of how an iftā program works. However, the course turned out to be much more intense than I had anticipated.
There was a high standard and expectation from the students to ensure that they did not become lazy and deliver careless work in the last minute. These standards prevented me from wasting time during my day, even out of class hours, as an average day would require a student to spend anywhere between 5-8 hours outside of class time researching, writing and editing fatāwā.
On a personal level this developed within me the value for time and an understanding of how much can be achieved within a short space of time, especially when work is done with consistency. Prior to the iftā course I was known for wasting time and would not have considered myself the studious type. However I desired to fill a gap in serving the deen and felt that this was the way forward for me. The rigour of the course forced me to get into the habit of reading, which I was not fond, but over the duration of six months I felt I changed from an individual who could only learn from videos to one who now enjoys reading and studying the written work of others. It has now become a habit of mine to travel with books, as I have seen how much benefit continuous reading and studying can bring.
The first year was in no way a walk in the park. Once the buzz of the new atmosphere wore away and the expectation of answering five to seven questions daily become the norm, I started to realise that this, for me, was an extremely stressful position to be in. I saw myself isolating myself from friends and family and reducing sleep to about 5-6 hours per day in order to achieve the desired results.
Studying iftā at Whitethread Institute is one of the most humbling experiences I have been through. I soon realised how little I knew and how difficult it can be to find answers to the questions given, at times searching for hours for just one line of text. This process can ultimately defeat an individual. There have been moments throughout the first six months where I decided to give up and leave the course. I went to sleep on those nights totally defeated, feeling useless for not possessing the skills required for the challenges iftā program presents. However, I had a desire to one day be able to answer challenging questions in a manner that would be easy for the common person to comprehend. I had to convince myself that the reason we only have a handful of individuals who are willing to grapple with the challenges of the rapidly changing times is because individuals aren’t willing to go through the challenges thrown at them, such as those I was going through. This would then give me the motivation to keep trying.
There are many skills I feel I have developed during this course, some of which are related directly to the field of iftā whilst others are more general. Prior to the iftā program, I was extremely stage shy and not willing to stand in front of others and speak. However, the environment at Whitethread was one of creating leaders and people who are going to bring about change. Just being part of this environment gave me the encouragement I needed in order to take on public activities such as jumuʿah lectures and delivering classes etc.
The approach adopted by the institute in regards to answering questions is where I feel I benefited the most. It grounded within me a deeper understanding of fiqh and its dynamics (how it works and functions). Knowing a ruling was not sufficient but understanding each component of it and how fiqh functions was an expected requirement throughout. This ensured that answers were not just regurgitated from the works of others, but rather a strong foundation of fiqh and its principles were imbedded within us. This made me appreciate the depth and the complexities that surround fiqh.
There is clearly a vision to create leaders and those who can make meaningful contributions to the community whilst maximising their own potential. It is not a course where one can just sit through and pick up a certificate at the end. I feel that what I have achieved within the space of 18 months under guided study, I would not have been able to achieve even over the space of several years studying alone.
Despite the everyday rigour of the course, the overall environment is a very open one where students are able to explore any questions or issues they have. Questions are not just passed off or deferred, but are addressed even if they are personal. I felt that no student was left without support including one-to-one support and advice where needed.
For prospective students, I would definitely recommend that a book of fiqh be studied/revised before enrolling onto the iftā program, be it a concise one. As it had been a few years since I had studied certain topics, I felt at times I was playing catch up before I could engage with discussions on the level of iftā. Had I covered the main chapters once before the course it would have saved me a lot of time and boosted by productivity.
I enrolled on to the Ifta’ Program, not knowing what exactly to expect. Having completed the Alimiyah course, I thought I had an understanding of fiqh but I quickly realised that the dynamics of fiqh and issuing a fatwa has a comprehensive system, far beyond what I thought I had understood. I feel that my experience at Whitethread Institute has helped to consolidate and broaden my knowledge. Before enrolling onto the course, I had a lot of questions that were unanswered/unresolved and I feel that these questions and queries were slowly answered and unravelled throughout the course.
One of my main objectives when joining the course was that I wanted to gain an understanding of the internal workings of the Hanafi madhab. I also wanted to gain competence and confidence in reading and navigating through the classical texts.
This course has helped develop my critical thinking and analytical skills. The course has given me an opportunity as a woman to voice my opinions. The course instructors and students are all very respectful and there is a healthy environment where we are able to have open discussions and come to an agreement without anyone’s opinion being forced upon us. If we are unable to come to an agreement then we agree to disagree at times or carry out further research until we are able to come to a conclusion. Otherwise we refer these unresolved questions to other ‘ulama. I have found these discussions in particular extremely valuable, as it is an opportunity to learn the art of debating, and also a great opportunity to hear the opinion and ideas of others. This has made me realise the importance of taking mashwarah and working together as a group. It has made me more open minded and helps me to see things from different perspectives. I have learnt that sometimes we don’t understand everything fully, and sometimes we may not be able to answer a question and that is ok. Fiqh is a work in progress and continues to evolve throughout the progression of the modern world. It is empowering and encouraging to know that you have the opportunity to contribute and be part of a great science. Fiqh is often underestimated, I cannot stress how important it is, especially for women. Everything I have learnt here has been directly applicable on some level to me, my family and friends.
The most important lesson I have taken from my dear teachers is that of humility and humbleness. The teachers at Whitethread are always open to listen to and take on student’s opinion and suggestions. If they don’t know something they will openly admit it. There is no false pretence of having to know everything. I value their honesty and humility.
The saying goes ‘Knowledge without Adab is like fire without wood, and Adab without knowledge is like a spirit without a body’’. Alhamdulillah I feel that I was able to take benefit in both from my teachers, so this course is not only that of an intellectual pursuit but it also has a spiritual dimension. It is humbling to observe such great ulama of our time, remain so humble and easy going. Knowledge is passed on from heart to heart and I truly feel this at Whitethread. Our teachers have genuine care and concern for all the students. They try to facilitate for our diverse needs and are constantly looking for ways to improve. I cannot thank them enough.
The course itself has been such a humbling experience and I have developed deep appreciation for the science and the effort the ‘ulama have put into devising and preserving the Shariah.
When it comes to advanced traditional study there really aren’t many options locally accessible for both men and women. Many times, courses are advertised as in-depth study or comprehensive courses, but they fail to deliver at that level, and generally end up being repetitions of the foundational levels. For these reasons, I was very apprehensive about enrolling at Whitethread for further studies. Despite my initial concerns, I have so far found it beyond empowering learning to independently navigate the key sources of the ḥanafī madhhab.
The in-class and external guided reading of relevant chapters and books has developed my Arabic comprehension skills through expansion of my applied vocabulary knowledge and improved my attention to detail in jurisprudential texts.
Presenting my research of various module-related case studies to the class and receiving feedback on content and language, along with verification of the sources I’ve used has enabled me to exponentially progress in my fatwāwriting skills. Additionally, the opportunity to hear my peers present their findings has allowed me to explore different approaches to the juridical research and has provided room for open discussion and healthy debate in the case of differing conclusions. The classroom is a stimulating environment, where we are constantly challenged to think outside the box and step beyond our comfort zones to understand modern day implications of rulings in our research.
I cannot express enough appreciation for the endless support and guidance received from all the teachers and supervisors and their continuous encouragement inspiring both personal (spiritual) and professional development, without which entering the IftāProgram from the second year would have been near impossible.
As with anything, studying iftāhas also come with its challenges. The limited female presence in class has meant there are reduced opportunities to have productive discussions with female peers. On the other hand, it has allowed me to remain focused on my research questions and make efficient use of my study periods. With the workload this course demands, learning to manage time and setting priorities has been a crucial element of this journey.
I feel extremely honoured to have this opportunity to come back into study, especially under the guidance and mentorship of great teachers. My learning experience so far combined with the practice of learning to formulate legal fatwāhas given me a representation of the true dynamics of this field and the level of (juristic) insight required to excel in this noble work. May Allah bless all our respected teachers, accept and reward their efforts and allow them to continue in this noble endeavour.
One thing that I am very grateful for is that the teachers had genuine concern for the students and when they noticed weaknesses in students they tried to rectify them, even when it was not strictly related to iftāʾ. I myself was weak in giving bayans, tajwīd and reading ʿibārāt loudly but due to the teachers’ efforts I have been able to improve in these areas, at least slightly. The amount of support offered by the teachers was truly remarkable and I hope that I will be able to give something back to them one day. I am also very grateful to my family who underwent sacrifices whilst I was spending the weekdays in the London for the course.
The core of the course lay in answering fiqh questions. All students answered the same pre-formulated questions and we discussed the answers in class the next day. I found this method very beneficial. When discussing our answers in class the next day, many a time I realised that other students had points that I had overlooked or misunderstood. These discussions and the feedback from the teachers were crucial to our development. It also increased the bond amongst us students which really was a major benefit.
We answered approximately 5-7 questions a day. How long time it took depended on how deep we went into them. Often, the more time you give it, the better understanding you get of the masʾalah and the more well-grounded your answer is. It is therefore important to assign much time for the answers. The teachers will catch you out if you give a lazy answer which lacks nuances – but the main responsibility falls on the individual student to do thorough research. I would therefore recommend somebody interested in the iftāʾ program to set aside plenty of time for it. That will inshAllah be of benefit in the long run.
One of the main things that I learnt over these past two years is the answer to a question which left me speechless on the day of the ifta’ interview: what are your weaknesses?
When Mufti Abdur-Rahman asked me that day I genuinely could not give him an answer, not exactly because my mind went blank (as I had said on that day) but because I had never before been asked to ponder on this. I’ve learnt throughout this entire process how deeply flawed I am, which enables me to reflect on the very objective of this course. I do not think I deeply pondered over the fact that a mufti is not an academic title, but a spiritual and religious one; it reflects a specific status the holder of such a titleis expected to conform to. Of course, they are expectedto have an academic pedigreebut also act with brilliant character and decorum. A mufti is one who holds the trust of the people, and thus, their charactermust reflect this. As I introspect about this, I attempt to develop myself so that one day I may be worthy of this status.
For the first few months of our course, our exposure was to the primary Arabic sources alone. We learnt that copying the thoughts of another contemporary mufti would be a backstep to what our real aspirations should be; to be like these muftis. We were told to be critical and analyse the thoughts of secondary sources; to quote someone without examiningtheir evidencecould turn out to be a hugemistakewhen our answers were reviewed.
Principally, the Ifta programme taught us that balance is the essence of good work. We were told to be critical and use the primary sources for our comprehension of an issue. At the same time, our contributions are not to be foolhardy by isolating ourselves from the majority with ‘quirky’ views. We were taught to balance; balance our independent academic research with the needs of the communityand the scrutiny of our peers. The spirit of Ifta and fatwa is in this middle ground of representing “orthodoxy” while balancing out these different variables.
I was told to think originally, analyse arguments and provide critique. The unspoken rules which I learnt in abundance arethese meta-ideas about spirituality, community needs and approaching issues with wisdom and foresight.
I close my reflections which another anecdote from the iftainterview. Mufti Abdur-Rahman asked us, “why are you interested in fiqh, is it not just a reallydry subject?”. This process has taught me that fiqh is anything but dry. The mufti has to grapple with all these competing variablesand see the threads to make the response applicable to the questioner’s lived experience. In essence, it is to give life to the law, and a pretty organic process at that.
What is the duration of this course?
This is a two-year taught course, with additional six months for thesis.
Will the course be offered online?
We do not think that the same benefit can be gained by taking this course online. However, we may consider an online option for very select talented students.
Is there any selection criterion for the selection of students, or can anyone who has completed dars e nizami enrol?
Yes, there will be rigorous selection criteria in place. We are looking for students who are juridically inclined, have a grasp of fiqh (Marghinani’s Hidaya), and possess a good level of Arabic text analysing skills.
Can students choose multiple specialties or just one at a time?
This is possible as some specializations are not as extensive as others.
Will there be exams and assignments?
Yes, there will be exams and assignments. This should be treated as any other full time course.
How many hours a day are expected?
6–8 hours, with a 50–50% combination of study and research.
What will be the language of the instructor?
English and Arabic with some Urdu required for access to contemporary Urdu fatawa collections.
Is this a formal diploma course with ijaza in the particular speciality?
This is a formal course with an ijaza system for which there will be rigid criteria. Not everyone who completes the course will necessarily receive an ijaza.
Will the students be able to contact the teacher after the course is over for complex matters and guidance?
Of course. The teachers will insha Allah always be available. We are interested in forming long term relationships and working together to assist the local community and the umma at large.
What can be expected in regards to workload?
At least 2-4 hours of research and writing along with the taught classes each day.
Will all classes be held at the same venue or are we expected to travel to different locations for some classes?
All classes will be held at the institute. Students may have to travel to attend some meetings or seminars in other places as and when the need arises.
Can we issue fatwa’s after completing this class?
The course is designed to train in issuing fatwas. All students who graduate with an ijaza, remain in training practice for a few years and whose competency is recognized by our panel of senior muftis will be authorised to do so.