Wednesday, February 4, 2009

54 students graduate with certificates in Islamic Law

From a modest intake of just 14 students in 2004, to a staggering 85 in 2008; the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) Certificate in Islamic Law course has proved its weight in gold. The course has had wide appeal across cultural, religious and racial lines. It gives non-Muslim students a better understanding of Islamic Law in particular; and Islam in general. For Muslim students, a definite draw card has been the comparison of Islamic Law to South African law in issues that affect them in their daily lives, like marriage, divorce, succession, Islamic banking, and medical science.

The course boasts a diverse student profile. 'Ulama (Muslim theologians), lawyers, accountants, businessmen, bankers, medical doctors, social workers, NGO staff, lecturers, ex-teachers, home executives, students, and matriculants have all found relevance for it in their lives. This indicates that perhaps people might want to study Islamic Law not so much from the point of view of wanting to practise law, but to get an insight into Islam. An analogy may be drawn with those who might study philosophy or psychology to get insight into human thought and behaviour, and not necessarily to practise as psychologists or philosophers.

So exactly what is Shari'ah (or Islamic Law) and how does it differ from western law? Course-coordinator Adv Muhammad Vahed explains: "Western law is man-made law; it's changing all the time, depending on circumstances. Whereas Islamic Law is divine law and is applicable to all Muslims for all times, wherever they may be situated." In the context of the Certificate in Islamic Law course, students are equipped with knowledge on a wide spectrum of Islamic legal issues in order to create a better understanding of the practicality of Islam in a secular state. Every module commences with an overview of western law followed by a detailed discussion of Islamic law. Contemporary issues such as the Amina Lawal Zina (adultery) case, the 'Khatif girl' rape case in Saudi Arabia, the cartoon cases involving the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), including the local Jacob Zuma cartoons in the context of freedom of speech, the Muslim Personal Law Bill, and the global financial turmoil are examined.

UKZN is the only tertiary institution in South Africa that offers this course, which has created a huge demand for it nationally. But UKZN is not a correspondence university and therefore the course was offered in 2008 as block lectures at three new centres in other parts of South Africa. The immediate result was a significant increase in enrolment – 40 more students joined the course outside the Greater Durban area.

The 2009 Certificate in Islamic Law graduation took place on Saturday, 31 January, at the UKZN Westville Campus Graduate School of Business hall. 54 graduands were honoured at the ceremony, along with 31 students who received certificates of attendance. Mrs Munirah Osman (lecturer in the School of Law at UKZN) stated: "In a time when social injustices and challenges are facing many countries, this course is especially relevant." Future plans were also unveiled for the certificate course, such as developing it into a postgraduate diploma, and later on an LLM (Masters in Islamic Family Law/ Criminal Justice/ Islamic Banking/ Medical Jurisprudence).

Mr Shabir Chohan, CEO of Albaraka Bank (corporate sponsors of the certificate course), highlighted that in the wake of the current global economic crisis, flaws in the way business was done in the past have surfaced. "Governments bailing out banks show them to be really just treating the symptom and not the cause. Islam has the solution; based on risk-sharing, interest-free investment. This is evident from Islamic banking in several countries remaining largely unaffected." The reason for this is that Islam prohibits any form of speculation, whereas western banking and finance trade in debt and paper, which have no intrinsic value.

The Address by Class of 2008 segment of the programme was particularly engaging. Here, graduands treated the audience to a first-hand appraisal of the course:

"I had done an 'alim (Islamic theology) course, yet I learned so much in this course, especially in comparing Islamic Law to conventional law." (Mawlana M Salim Omarjee)

"The benefit of this course lies in its day-to-day practicality; it was fascinating to compare and contrast South African or western and Islamic Law… May Allah ta'ala strengthen this course and make those who take this course better human beings." (Dr Yacoob AK Vahed - Overall Top Student 2008)

"As a magistrate, I know about crime, theft of property… But it was for the first time in my life that I compared South African law with Islamic law. And it made me realise some aspects of South African law should change. A fascinating aspect for me related to the appointment of judges by the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s) and Umar (r.a.). Their criteria were so stringent and strict, that only the best judges were chosen." (Referring to moral righteousness of a person being one of the main criteria for appointing a judge under Islamic Law. South African law does not give such prominence to this character trait in the selection of judges.) (Ms Fathima Moola)

"Only after I enrolled for this course did I realise how little I knew about Islam – a religion into which I had been born and practising all my life… It (the course) has equipped me with deeni (religious) knowledge, tawfiq (success) and hidayah (guidance) to follow the teachings of the Qur'an and Sunnah." (Mrs Ayesha Agjee – retired school principal)

Separate graduation ceremonies will take place in the South African provinces of Western Cape and Gauteng on February 7th (Sat) and 8th (Sun), 2009 respectively.

Students interested in enrolling for the 2009 Certificate in Islamic Law course should contact Mawlana Mulla on 079 796 7307 or

For more details on the UKZN Certificate in Islamic Law course, go here.

BACK Adv Muhammad Vahed (Course-coordinator and Executive: Regulatory and Compliance - Albaraka Bank) announces the names of graduands
FRONT Dr Yacoob AK Vahed is awarded for being the Overall Top Student 2008 by Prof Salman Nadvi (retired Professor of Islamic Studies) and Prof Mohseen Ebrahim (Course-coordinator and Professor in the School of Religion and Theology - UKZN).