“Zulkifli, you’ve nearly completed your thesis. It has been a year of you going back and forth to meet me at my house. What are your plans after this?” Syeikh Dr Mustafa al-Khin asked him one evening, after Zul’s thesis consultation with him who is Zul’s supervisor.
“Insya-Allah, I want to continue my PhD here,” Zul replied simply with confidence.
“Good, I’ll be waiting for you to register as a PhD student here!” Syeikh said happily.
For more than a year, Zul worked hard to complete his handwritten thesis. He never imagined that he would write all 300 pages of his thesis by hand but he managed to do so. However, he cannot simply hand it over to the management of al-Majma’ al-‘Ilmi, for every thesis must be type-written. Zul then hire a guy from Algeria named Mahdi for his services of copying and typing his thesis. “Mahdi, if possible, please finish it as soon as possible. I need to submit it by next week.” He said to Mahdi. His handwritten thesis was passed to the guy who took payment for typing official documents including the thesis. After several weeks the thesis is completed, typed and bound in a volume.
It felt as though the whole year of him at the Syria Square passed by in a blink of an eye. The most awaited day for every post-graduate student has arrived. The viva voce of al-Majma’ al-‘Ilmi al-‘Ali (MIA) Jami’ Sadat will be held at night time after the ‘Isyak prayer. The small MIA hall was filled with Malaysian students who attended the ceremony to give moral support to Zul. The ceremony begins with the recitation of the Quran by Hazman.
“Zulkifli bin Mohamad, now I welcome you to the stage to give some words before we start your viva voce ceremony.” Syeikh Prof Dr ‘Abd al-Latif Soleh al-Farfour who is the principal examiner begins.
Zul looked in front of him. His supervisor, Syeikh Dr Mustafa al-Khin nodded and smiled at him. It is as though he is signalling for Zul to begin his presentation session and defend his thesis Al-‘Uqubat: Dirasah Muqaranah baina al-Syari’ah wa al-Qanun al-Wadh’ie (Sentence: A Study on the Differences Between Syariah and Statutory Law).
“I would like to thank al-Majma’ al-Ilmi al-‘Ali Jami’ Sadat for accepting my application to pursue my studies here. I can never forget the memories I made at the Syria Square for I not only sit under the shade of knowledge of the great scholars here, but I get to experience the beauty of the character of the people here who will always be near in my heart. I would dedicate a profound acknowledgement to Syeikh Dr Mustafa Sai’d al-Khin for everything that he had taught and helped me throughout my studies here, as my supervisor, as well as Syeikh Prof Dr Abd al-Latif Soleh al-Farfour the rector who is very concerned and care for all the students. I don’t have anything else to say except that I would like for all of you to supplicate for me so that one day, my return back to Malaysia will have a great positive impact on the Muslim ummah in Malaysia.”
The loud applause from the audience somewhat calmed some of Zul’s nerves.
Throughout the ceremony, Syeikh Dr Mustafa al-Khin would interject several times and help Zul in defending his thesis. After about an hour, Syeikh Prof Dr ‘Abd al-Latif Soleh al-Farfour held a brief discussion with the other examiners.
The microphone is opened and he said, “Zulkifli has completed a very good thesis and fulfilled the initial prerequisites to be awarded a Master’s degree in the field of Syariah from this fortunate higher education institution. Before I announce, I’d like to draw your attention to always practise the tarjih methodology when citing a certain opinion. We should get out from stagnancy and utilize every faculty to be brave in supporting or criticizing or improving the opinions of previous scholars. This is an early step towards being a successful scholar.”
“After analyzing the thesis presented, considering the presentation and ZUlkifli’s ability in defending each of his arguments, the examiners hereby agreed to pass the thesis with the level Mumtaz (Excellent)!”
“Alhamdulillah…Allahuakbar!!!” the voices of the audience chanting the praise of Allah SWT for the blessing of the success filled the hall. Zul couldn’t describe his overwhelming feeling of gratitude and happiness that night. His friends couldn’t stop congratulating and hugging him.
Remembering the promise he made with his supervisor, the next morning, Zul immediately register as a PhD candidate at the same institution and paid his fees. He couldn’t wait to inform his wife and family of his success.
“Alhamdulillah, last week I’ve finished my viva voce ceremony. I managed to get Mumtaz. I’ll be continuing my PhD here,” Zul informed his wife through a phone call. His wife was silent for quite a while.
Then, her voice could be heard saying, “Is it possible if I suggested for you to continue in Malaysia? I’ve graduated from RCSI Dublin and have already returned to Malaysia.”
It was a hard suggestion for Zul to accept. His heart is already bound to Syria. He had already paid for the registration and PhD studies fees, not to mention, his promise to Syeikh Dr Mustafa al-Khin to continue as his PhD student here. However, Zul has to give a prompt answer now for he is certain that any wife would want her husband to be by her side. For a woman, her request might be simple but there is great hope behind it.
“Insya-Allah, ok then,” Zul answered simply.
“Are you sure you’re fine? It’s just my suggestion…” His wife asked for certainty.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Hehe… Wait for me in Malaysia. Maybe I’m going to find a job first before continuing my PhD.” Zul said, sharing his new plan. He realized that now he has his own family. Every decision that he is going to make regardless of whether it is a big or small decision, he should make it together and consider the opinion of his wife.
Ijazah (certification) in the world of Islamic knowledge generally means a license or permission to teach. It also refers to a certificate issued by a Syeikh (al-mujiz) in a certain education institution to a student who followed his classes and according to the evaluation of the Syeikh is sufficient and competent to teach the same knowledge to his own students.
The chain of narrators or more accurately called sanad will end at the author of the book being studied, a practice taken from any scholars or Rasullullah PBUH. The knowledge, for instance, is taught verbally by Rasullullah PBUH to his Companions and are then taught to the Tabi’in and Tabi’ tabi’in and this continues for several centuries until it arrives at the scholars as stated in a hadith narration. The methodology or way it is narrated is by listening to the hadith, reading, and memorizing and then reciting it out loud just as how the Prophet PBUH faced Gabriel AS when he received the first revelation from Allah SWT at the Hira’ cave.
For example, there are several methodologies of receiving hadith from a narrator from his teacher which are:
- Al-sama’: A Syeikh read and his student listens.
- Al–‘ard wa al-qira’ah: A narrator read a hadith to a syeikh and the syeikh listens to him, whether he read it from his own memorization or from a book or the syeikh also follow the reader from his memorization or holding his own book or holding a book of another thiqah
- Al-ijazah: A syeikh permits for his student to teach a hadith or narration regardless of whether it is through his speech or writing.
- Al–munawalah: A syeikh giving his student an original or copy of his book or any written material that contains hadith to be narrated.
- Al–kitabah: The syeikh himself wrote or ask another person to write his narration to the person who is present or absent there.
- Al–I’lam: A syeikh informs his student of a hadith or book that he narrated, heard or took from another person without clear information regarding the ijazah or permission for it to be narrated to another person.
- Al–Wasiyyah: Syeikh gave his full trust and hands over a hadith book to another person so that he can narrate the hadiths in it supported by the person who has given his trust for him to use the book. According to the muhaddith, this is the weakest methodology. Some scholars even rejected this methodology.
- Al–Wijadah: A person takes a hadith from a certain book without listening, ijazah and just takes it to narrate the hadith. Imam al-Syafie ruled it permissible on the condition that the source of how it is taken is informed.
Other than ijazah used for narrating hadiths, ijazah in other fields are also widely used just like the ijazah to teach (ijazah li al-tadris). It is said, this license to teach was first issued in Baghdad was as early as the 3rd century of Hijrah.
“There are many advantages of ijazah. We can learn the biography in the list of narrators, the knowledge dissemination centre at the time, we can also learn about the various types of books and others. The main matter is the blessing. That’s why we have to work hard, talaqqi. Study the best we can!  Not just being proud of gathering a lot of sanad but doesn’t know anything.”  Zul shared his opinion with several junior students about the importance of attending a class with sanad.
That night was the last one-on-one class Zul is going to attend with Syeikh Rusydi Qalam. After his class, he informed Syeikh, “Insya-Allah, I’ll be returning to Malaysia shortly. I want to get the ijazah sanad from Syeikh, for all the books I’ve been learning from Syeikh.”
“Sure, insya-Allah, come to the Manjak Mosque tomorrow,” Syeikh answered simply.
After the Zohor prayer the next day, Zul cycled to Manjak Mosque. As he neared the mosque, he could see that Syeikh is already there with his small child.
Al-‘Aqidah al-Asbahaniyyah, Ithaf al-Murid bi Syarh Jaurahah al-Tauhid, Qatr al-Nada, al-Adab al-Bahth wa al-Munazarah, Syarah Hikam Syeikh al-Syarnubi, are among the books that you’ve learned page by page with me from beginning to end. I’m giving you the ijazah as well as ijazah al-tadris, permitting you to teach wherever you are. Starting from this moment on, you’re officially called my student and permit you to teach anything that I’ve ever taught you…” Syeikh Rusydi Qalam said and then handed him 2 pieces of paper detailing the ijazah he received handwritten and signed by Syeikh.
Zul kissed his teacher’s hand and thanked him for the beautiful gift. It is a greater gift to him than the 4 years of memories he created in Syria.
“Zulkifli, what are your plans after this? You’re already married and will be pursuing your PhD in Malaysia. What’s after that?” Syeikh asked curiously.
Zul smiled, shook his head and replied, “I’m handing my affairs to Allah SWT.”
“Insya-Allah, you’ll return as a star. Who knew, maybe you’ll be appointed as a Mufti? At that time, don’t forget about me here!” Syeikh teases and both of them laughed.
Borrowing the words of Hiraqla, the King of Rome, when he heard the news of the defeat of Rome for the battle with the Muslim army in the Yarmouk battle,
سلام عليك يا سوريا، سلام لا لقاء بعده
“Greetings to you O Syria, a greeting of which we’ll never see each other again…”
Goodbye Damascus. Farewell Syria. Goodbye Syria Square which witnessed the fight of the Companions and prophets here. The song Guests of Syrian Suqare sung by Hasrizal played in his mind…
Guests of the Syrian Plains, you are our hope,
For the future of our ummah and how we’ll cope,
As scholars and fighters,
Surely, you’ll free Islam.