The spiritual heart (qalb) is the subtle, Divine creation that is the seat of all cognition, emotion and will. It is our greatest and most precious gift, by which we know Allah, experience Him and seek Him.
Drawing from the rich legacy and practice of Islamic spirituality (Tazkiyat al-Nafs) from the Messenger ﷺ, the Companions (Allah be pleased with them) and the early and later generation of Scholar-Saints (Allah sanctify their souls), this module discusses the essential principles and practices of the science.
Topics include the Islamic psychology of the self; the attainment of khilafa (vicegerency) in the realization of the Divine Names and Attributes at the human level; the destructive vices and salvific virtues (akhlaq) of the heart; inner dimensions of worship; and a practical, holistic model of the essentials of Islamic spirituality such as ‘Ilm (Knowledge), Tawba (Repentance), Mujahada (Personal Striving), Dhikr (Divine Remembrance), Muraqaba (Divine Mindfulness), Du‘a’ (Supplication) and Khalwa (Spiritual Seclusion), among others, with an in-depth discussion of each.
The Islamic principles of textual interpretation (Usul al-Fiqh), the legal guidelines (al-Qawa‘id al-Fiqhiyya) induced from the corpus of jurisprudence, and the universal objectives in the attainment of human welfare through the promotion and preservation of faith, life, intellect, honour and wealth (Maqasid al-Shari‘a) are anchored in a historically unmatched method of rational analysis and synthesis.
For our spiritual journey to the Divine to be deeply rooted and fruitful in the modern age, we must gain an appreciation of the importance of these noble sciences, their aims and purposes, their basic concepts and a general understanding of their application to specific cases. This module will give us an introductory grounding in these sciences while illustrating their key theoretical concepts through a critical analysis of contemporary issues.
The concept and application of bid‘a will be studied thoroughly, together with many misunderstood jurisprudential issues that arise from its incorrect conceptualization and application. Topics in Maqasid al-Shari‘a (Higher Objectives of the Law) and al-Qawa‘id al-Fiqhiyya (Legal Maxims) include discussions and case studies of key principles and axioms that assist in rational and spiritually-sensitive decision making in personal and collective life.
Our Master Muhammad ﷺ is the Beloved of Allah and the most perfect created expression of His Names and Attributes. He ﷺ is the door to experiential tawhid (Divine unicity) and to refined, exalted character (akhlaq).
Conventional studies of the Prophetic Biography (Sira) typically treat his life ﷺ as a chronology of events, crises or military engagements with scant attention paid to his reality ﷺ. This module will first introduce us to his reality ﷺ and special station with Allah, and then proceed to examine the Prophetic Biography in Mecca in the context of that reality ﷺ. We will begin to see that each event in his biography ﷺ gifts us with an experiential realization of Allah’s Names and Attributes and provides us with precious, personal lessons for refinement of our own character (akhlaq).
This new perspective on the Messenger ﷺ will grant us a fuller appreciation of the sublime majesty and beauty of his character ﷺ; change the way in which we relate to his words, deeds and life ﷺ; and truly make him ﷺ the emulative archetype for our hearts, minds and bodies throughout our lives. And with Allah is all success.
The Qur’an is Allah’s eternal speech to us, our most direct experience of His Names and Attributes, and the cure and remedy for all our spiritual ailments.
This module of Qur’anic Exegesis (Tafsir) studies the chronological revelation of the Qur’an in Mecca as it addresses the personal and collective challenges of the first believers and provides them with spiritual strength and inner composure. In the Divine plan, there is no Medina without Mecca. So, too, in our lives: We must first establish ourselves in the foundational meanings of the Meccan revelation before we can hope to build the edifice of our Medina.
The Meccan Qur’an unfolds with profound, transformative spiritual meanings that develop an experiential awareness of Allah’s Names and Attributes together with the akhlaq (inner character) essential for one’s individual and collective growth. As we internalize and actualize these meanings, we will build an emotional, personal connection to the words of the Qur’an and feel that it is revealed for us, and to us, in real-time and real-life. And with Allah is all success.
Akhlaq (Inner Character) and ‘Amal (Spiritual Works)
Foundations is not about gaining information. It is about genuine spiritual transformation through internalizing, practicing and living what we learn.
In our Islamic tradition, knowledge is never intended for its own sake, but to reform and transform our hearts through beautiful akhlaq and heartfelt ‘ibada (worship). The emphasis on akhlaq and ‘amal is as important as the acquisition of knowledge – and in some cases, more important.
The Foundations curriculum contains practical written and audio resources for turning knowledge into transformative action. These will be introduced gradually over the course of the year, for those who wish to use them.
They include a daily schedule of ‘ibada with recommended priorities; and devotional remembrances (adhkar) after salah, in the morning and evening, before sleeping and after waking, and on various occasions.
Supplemental lectures and seminars will also be made available when necessary on topics such as salah, sawm (fasting), dhikr (Divine remembrance), du‘a’ (supplication), khalwa (spiritual seclusion), mujahada (spiritual struggle), muraqaba (Divine mindfulness), diseases of the heart, sidq (truthfulness), tawakkul (reliance), sabr (patience), and the grace of calamity.
The intent of suhba is to find spiritual solace and strength in one’s learning, understanding and practice through fellowship with one’s teacher and fellow students.
While online suhba can never replace in-person suhba, Foundations currently provides five avenues to maintain the ties of fellowship:
- The One-Hour Weekly Review, Practice and Fellowship Class: The weekly Review, Practice and Fellowship class with Shaykh Riad is an opportunity for students to learn through interaction, reflection and discussion.
- The Suhba Circle: The Suhba Circle is an online community where students will be able to post their brief reflections and read the reflections of their companions.
- The Family and Community Dhikr Program: Al-Madina Institute’s Family and Community Dhikr Program is a wonderful avenue for families to gather and recite some Qur’an, remember Allah and His Beloved ﷺ, listen to beautiful renderings of spiritual songs (along with their translation and a brief commentary), learn core Islamic concepts essential for individual and family spiritual growth, and share reflections and experiences.
- Jumu‘a Mubarak: Every Friday, students will receive a written reminder discussing an inner meaning of the blessed day of Friday, and how we can live that meaning to improve the spiritual quality of our week.
- Spirited Reflections: From time to time, students will receive a written reflection connecting the material taught in Foundations to their daily lives.