Reaching Out and Reaching In

She walks down streets that curve and turn, balconies reach across the street and graze the vines of neighbor’s walls. These are old streets. Rūmī, Ibn Taymiyya and Imam Ghazālī walked up and down these streets.

She turns the corner and finds wide black metal doors greeting her with a tiny doorbell. She pushes the bell and the doors open with a click. Inside it is cool and quiet. There is a hush and a hum. She puts her shoes in the cupboard, walks down three steps and up a winding staircase. She turns a corner and takes her place in a line of women waiting their turn to recite.

Here is the only school in the world that offers advanced scholarly degrees to women. Women have graduated with official certification in the seven great hadith books (Bukhārī, Muslim, Aḥmad, Nasāʾī, Abī Dāwud, Tirmidhī, and Ibn Mājah) meaning they have memorized the text and sanad (chain of narrators). Students study Islamic law, history and philosophy. They work to become experts in Quran recitation, explanation, and memorization. Here at Madrasa al-Nūriyya, women become the Islamic scholars of tomorrow.

She takes a break to get a sandwich, and then goes to the library. Here is the place wherein Imam Ghazālī wrote his IḥyāʾʿUlūm al-Dīn – the very spot! She closes her eyes and imagines that she is studying atop the floor that held him as he wrote the first words of the volume that changed a generation of Muslims, balanced them, and united their thinking. She wonders the effect of the women studying between these walls on future generations.

One of the blessings of modern life is that we have defined walls in a whole new way. And today this blessed place stretches its walls to encompass and shelter women all over the world through the Ribaat academic online program. Here women, sitting in their living rooms, caring for their children, and working in offices, can access this sacred knowledge and light.

She turns back to her computer, a memory of days in Damascus files itself away as she types her name in the ‘guest’ box and sits back, steaming mug in hand, to continue the long line of female scholarship. She is standing in that line.


[Registration for Ribaat begins December 20th. Build the shelter, join the movement, give rise to female scholarship. Register for Ribaat.]

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