Chapter 34: Master’s Degree Student at al-Majma’ al-‘Ilmi al-‘Ali, Jami’ al-Sadat

In the early morning, Zul, Azli and Hazman were all standing in wait in front of Majma’ al-‘Ilmi al-‘Ali (MIA) at al-Aqsab Mosque (Jami’ Sadat), Damascus. It is an educational institution which was founded by Syeikh Prof Dr Muhammad Abdullatif Soleh al-Farfour who is also the acting dean. He is a member of Lajnah Majma’ Fiqh Islami in Mecca. MIA is founded in the year 1990 and consisted of Kulliyyah of Islamic Knowledges and Arabic, as well as Postgraduate Islamic Studies. MIA offers a Diploma, Licentiate, Master’s and Philosophy Doctorate courses in the field of Arabic Language, Syariah and Law.

Syeikh Prof Dr Muhammad Abdullatif Soleh al-Farfour was born in the year 1944 in Al-Faiha’, Damascus in a famous and respected family in the field of knowledge, law and fatwa for hundreds of years. He receives religious education through talaqqi classes with local scholars which also includes his own father, al-‘Allamah Syeikh Muhammad Soleh Al-Farfour Al-Hasani, a writer and poet who is also renowned for his knowledge in fiqh, usul fiqh, aqidah and debate (munazarah). Furthermore, he is also a student of former Syrian Mufti, Dr Muhammad Abi al-Yusri ‘Abidin; Mufti Maliki and Head of the Scholars Association, Syeikh Muhammad al-Makki al-Kattani; and Syeikh al-Sayyid Muhammad al-Hasan bin ‘Alawi bin Abbas.

“Do you know this Syeikh?” Azli asked Zul. “Fuad Ibnu Ali told us the other day, Syeikh has a degree from the Syria University, Damascus. Then, he took his second degree in Law, Masters in Comparative Fiqh & Law. His thesis is titled ‘The Theory of Istihsan in Islamic Law and Its Effects on Masalih Mursalah’. He got a first-class honour for his thesis. Subhanallah. He then pursued his PhD also in al-Azhar. His PhD thesis title was ‘Ibn ‘Abidin and Its Effects on Islami Fiqh – A Comparison Study with Law’. During his viva voce, Syeikh Prof Dr Abd al-Ghani Muhammad ‘Abd al-Khaleq was the lead examiner. He passed with first-class and al-Azhar University requested for his thesis to be published. We are so lucky to get to study under him.” Zul explained comprehensively.

Here, read this. This is the list of the title of books that Syeikh has written.” Zul handed over a book written by Syeikh Prof Dr Muhammad Abdullatif Soleh al-Farfour titled Ahkam al-Solat ‘ala Mazhab al-Syafi’e. On the back cover of the book was a list of books he had written:

  1. Ibn ‘Abidin wa Atharuhu fi al-Fiqh al-Islami: Dirasah Muqaranah bi al-Qanun
  2. Nazariyyah al-Istihsan wa ‘Alaqatuha bi al-Masalih al-Mursalah
  3. Al-Fiqh al-Hadhari fi al-Islam
  4. Al-Wajiz fi Usul Istinbat al-Ahkam
  5. Al-Madrasah al-Rabbaniyyah wa Rijaluha al-Rabbaniyyun
  6. Al-Zad bin Usul al-Fiqh al-Islami
  7. Al-Arba’un al-Sihhah

There’s a lot more. This is just a portion of it.” Zul said. As they waited for their turn to hand over their documents at the registration counter, they read through several of the pamphlets prepared.

MIA has assembled more than 80 scholars around the world as their Supreme Advisory Council. While analyzing and studying the MIA profile book, Zul had the opportunity of reading several great names who supported the founding of MIA, among them are Syeikh Dr Muhammad Sa’id Ramadhan al-Buti, Syeikh Dr Nuruddin ‘Itr, Syeikh Dr Mustafa al-Khin, Syeikh Dr Wahbah al-Zuhaili and many more.

Eh…Zul, Man, looks like the person in front of us is done. It’s our turn now!” Azli whispered hurriedly to his friends. They quickly went to the counter and handed the necessary documents to the officer in charge of the registration at MIA.

Where are you three from?” The officer named Ustaz Fuad who was manning the counter asked them frowning. “We’re from Malaysia,” Zul answered on behalf of his friends. Ustaz Fuad sighed apologetically before saying, “We’re very sorry. You’re all actually a week late. The registration to al-Majma’ al-‘Ilmi al-‘Ali has been closed since a week ago. I’m sorry but I can’t be of help.

Allahuakbar! They were faced with a second issue after the visa issue they had at the Syrian Embassy last week. Hazman scratches his head. Azli sat down in disbelief. They were dumbfounded, trying to think of a solution to their predicament.

Zul quickly discussed with the officer and asked for his consideration to accept their registration. It took him about 15 minutes to discuss the matter. All the while Azli and Hazman only observe from afar. Once in a while, Zul and the officer would laugh humorously. After a while, Zul showed the officer each of the documents he had brought. His two friends waiting had no clue of what they were talking about. Alhamdulillah, the officer finally smiled, nodded his head and accepted their documents and registration.

Zul then turned to face his friends and signalled a thumbs up. “It’s settled…” he said slowly smiling widely. “Alhamdulillah…” Azli responded, wiping his face, relieved. Hence, it is the beginning of Zul’s life as a Master’s student in MIA.


Syeikh Dr Mustafa al-Khin

His heart raced in his chest as he walks to his appointment with his supervisor for the first time. His draft for his proposal is grasped firmly in his hand. When he reaches the front door of his supervisor’s office, he read the name “Syeikh Dr Mustafa Sa’id al-Khin”. He inhaled, then knocked on the door and gave his salam.

Waalaikumussalam. Please come in.” He could hear a coarse voice reply from within the room.

Zul opened the door. An elderly man with white hair wearing spectacles was sitting in a chair, busy reading and studying the books and documents strewn on his table.

Please, sit,” He beckoned towards Zul.

Zul felt awkward. Maybe it was his nerves. It was his first time meeting one of the authors of al-Fiqh al-Manhaji, a popular fiqh book of madhhab Syafie which was just published in 1992.

Syeikh was born in the year 1922 and begin to memorize the Quran at the age of 8 years old. His schooling years starts at al-Jam‘iyyah al-Ghara’ school of which was managed by Syeikh Muhammad Hasan Habannakah, the headmaster there. Here, he grew famous for his aptitude in Mathematics. Starting in the year 1931, he begins to attend halaqahs led by Syeikh Hasan Habannakah at Manjak Mosque with his father. Syeikh Hasan Habannakah taught his class at the mosque for the public after Isya’ and for his students after Zuhur. His teacher at his school, Syeikh Husain Khitab, recognized his intelligence and sagacity when he was able to memorize 50 hadiths in a single day. His teacher then advised the Mustafa family to focus and emphasize his education.

Syeikh then continued his studies at Maahad Tawjiyyah al-Islami located at Manjak Mosque. Among his schoolmates and friends were Syeikh Abdul Rahman Hasan Habannakah and Syeikh Muhamad Hamawi. At this level, he received a direct education from Syeikh Hasan Habannakah learning subjects such as fiqh, hadith, tafsir and others. On Friday nights, they learned sirah from the book al-Syifa’ written by Qadhi ‘Iyad. When he was 20 years old, he started his teaching career at Maahad al-Tawjiyyah al-Islamiah teaching the subject of Mathematics at the junior level. He also taught other subjects such as insya’, nahu and ulum syar’iyyah.

Due to his intelligence and proficiency, when he enrolled at al-Azhar University he straightaway begins his third year and fast-tracked his post-graduate studies to a Doctor of Philosophy; after the al-Azhar University management established new rules, where any alumni who had 5 years of work experience is eligible to apply for a Doctor of Philosophy. Coincidentally, after he completed his Bachelor’s degree, he had the opportunity to teach in several schools, Damascus University and Imam Muhammad bin Saud University in Riyadh. His PhD thesis is titled “Athar al-Ikhtilaf fi al-Qawa‘id  al-Usuliyyah fi Ikhtilaf al-Fuqaha’ (The Effects of Different Usul Methodologies in the Differences of Opinions Amongst Fuqaha) was successfully completed in the year 1971.

Zul stayed silent, looking at the Syeikh’s bookshelves filled with various books. There were also several books on his desk. Everywhere he turned, Zul could see books. As he stays seated, the Syeikh continue to peruse the documents piled on his desk. For about 5 minutes, the room went silent albeit for the sounds of cars outside. “Your name is Zulkifli, right? From Malaysia? What is the title you are proposing?” Syeikh asked, starting their discussion amicably.

Unwittingly, it has been nearly an hour, both Zul and the Syeikh discussed Zul’s thesis. Starting from the draft Zul has written up till the title of his thesis. Syeikh is a detailed and serious person, who emphasized the accurate usage of language. Throughout their first meeting, he helped Zul in suggesting the references and guidelines of his academic writing. “Zulkifli, starting next week, come to my house once a week for me to supervise your thesis,” Syeikh informed Zul.

Zul exited his supervisor’s room with a smile on his face, relieved. He unzipped his bag, grabbing his notebook. It is now filled with the notes from their discussion. Zul looked back on his notes, rereading the title the Syeikh and him decided previously…

Al-‘Uqubat: Dirasah Muqaranah baina al-Syari’ah wa al-Qanun al-Wadh’ie

(Punishment: A Comparative Study between Shariah and Statutory Law)

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