Established in 1396/1976, Mahad al-Zahra, a department dedicated to the memorisation and study of the Holy Quran, is the result of His Holiness’s dedication to Islamic education in the modern era.
It has a pivotal position in the 11-year curriculum of the academy since students are encouraged to memorise the Quran in its entirety in the initial stages of their education. This memorisation is coupled with a thorough education in the science of recitation, Arabic grammar and pronunciation, and Quranic exegesis. Hence, at Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah, memorisation is not merely a process of rote learning, but the comprehension of Quranic meanings contemporised for life in the modern world and the assimilation of Quranic values contextualized to one’s daily life.
FACILITIES BEFITTING THE CAUSE
Mahad al-Zahra moved into a newly constructed, dedicated facility adjacent to Aljamea’s central buildings in the Surat campus. A similar building was constructed for the Karachi campus and inaugurated by Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA in 1430/2009. The Nairobi campus also features a breathtaking Mahad al-Zahra building which is situated at the very centre of the campus symbolising the pivotal role of the Quran in the educational philosophy of Aljamea. It was inaugurated by Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS in 1438/2017. A new edifice for Mahad al-Zahra is also under construction in the upcoming campus of Aljamea in Mumbai. This facility represents Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah’s implementation of modern technology and concepts in the service of Islamic education. Voice training facilities, anechoic chambers, soothing waterfalls, lush gardens and indoor Koi ponds are some of the aesthetic and technical features of this building that facilitate better memorisation of the Holy Quran.
Right: The Mahad al-Zahra building in the new Nairobi campus is the first one visitors encounter as they approach the campus serving also as the campus’ ceremonial entrance. This location symbolizes the importance of the Holy Quran in Aljamea’s education while also demonstrating that the most prominent and honourable platform by which Aljamea and its students can serve the community they are a part of is instruction pertaining to the Holy Quran.
Mahad al-Zahra is one of Aljamea’s largest avenues for community outreach. Over the last two decades, the department has undertaken initiatives to provide access to Quranic education and memorisation to members of the community outside Aljamea, both young and old. Through the creation of this outreach program, numerous guides and booklets have been published and distributed throughout the world in order to foster better understanding of Quranic arts and sciences. Furthermore, instructors from the department are sent to various cities, from Chicago to Sanaa, to conduct 30-day satellite programmes during the holy month of Ramaḍān that offer Quranic education for adults and children alike. Recently, Mahad al-Zahra has initiated permanent residential and non-residential programs at various venues in South Asia, the Gulf states, Europe and the UK , East Africa as well as the USA, that are specifically designed to help student commit the Quran to memory in four years while concurrently attending regular schooling.
One of the most significant Mahad al-Zahra undertakings is e-Learning Quran, the first of its kind in the history of Quranic education. A combination of virtual classes along with one-on-one recital sessions through video-conferencing and internet telephony has revolutionised Quranic education. Hundreds of yearly applicants have made e-Learning a huge success.
FUNUN AL-QURAN: QURANIC ARTS
Al-Jamea’s department of Funun al-Quran focuses on the visual and decorative arts inspired by and derived from the words and meanings of the Holy Quran. Quranic art, through a combination of complex geometrical designs, intricate patterns of floral ornament and Arabic calligraphy is a unique form of aesthetic representation.
In the epistles of Ikhwān al-Safāʾ, Imam Ahmed al-Taqi AS discusses the erudition in the shapes and forms of the Arabic script and its Islamic connotations with specific regards to monotheism. Arabic calligraphy has always been considered the noblest form of Quranic art and is given special importance at Aljamea. Funun al-Quran’s dedicated and highly trained staff provide instruction for students interested in this traditional art, and also contribute to Arabic calligraphy’s repertoire of art and corpus of knowledge.
The restoration movement of Fatimi masjids in Cairo, Egypt initiated by His Holiness Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA is a major milestone in the study of Fatimi and Quranic art within Aljamea. The unique philosophy underpinning this movement led to a resurgence of the appreciation of Fatimi art and architecture throughout the world.
Funun al-Quran’s primary purpose is to further develop Quranic art in its various forms. Today, this development can be seen in the department’s various projects and undertakings, such as the design and ornamentation of community structures, the artwork of Aljamea publications and the embellishment and decoration, or tazyīn of community functions. Currently, the restoration of approximately four thousand metres of Quranic verses in the Kufic script running along the arcades of the Fatimi jāmiʿ masjid, al-Anwar in Cairo is being undertaken by this department.
The department prides itself on its skill in traditional Arabic scripts such as Kūfi, Naskh, Thuluth, Dīwanī and Riqʿa as well as its expertise in graphic design and digital media. It is this combination that allows for the department’s important contribution to the study and development of the Quranic arts in the Fatimi context.
Right: A verse from the Holy Quran, ‘As to those who hold fast by the Book’ (7:170), in glass designed and commisioned by the Quranic Arts department as part of the backdrop for this year’s Ashara Mubaraka sermons conducted by His Holiness Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS.
Housed in Mahad al-Zahra’s basement, Janah al-Tarannum, Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah’s in-house recording and sound studio is designed keeping in mind the acoustic properties appropriate for the recitation of the Holy Quran and other Arabic and vernacular poetry. Students and staff of Aljamea use the facilities for voice therapy, phonation and pronunciation improvement and personal recording sessions. In a long-standing tradition of over thirty years, Aljamea is also responsible for the publishing of a series of devotional poetry and hymns known as Saut al-Imān, the Voice of Belief. In recent times, Janah has also produced Arabic teaching aids and held online vocal competitions.