Welcome to a new journey forward in the pursuit of knowledge, aimed at transforming us into true students seeking to be ever more genuine professors of divine love. The word Kawthar is evoked with the intention of gaining the blessing of association with Lady Fatima al-Zahra (as), whom we beseech to aid us in our journey of learning towards God. Al-kawthar is also in association with the Pond of Kawthar, which represents the source of salvation, life and knowledge of Allah, the Most High.
The word circle is to capture the vision of our esteemed teacher, Shaykh Mohammad Ali Shomali, who emphasized his mindset that is anchored in a spirit of collective learning, where teacher and students eagerly welcome the thoughts and questions of each other with a shared devotion to discover the Truth.
علي بن محمد وغيره، عن سهل بن زياد ومحمد بن يحيى، عن أحمد بن محمد ابن عيسى، جميعا، عن ابن محبوب، عن هشام بن سالم، عن أبي حمزة، عن أبي إسحاق السبيعي عمن حدثه قال: سمعت أمير المؤمنين يقول: أيها الناس اعلموا أن كمال الدين طلب العلم والعمل به، ألا وإن طلب العلم أوجب عليكم من طلب المال، إن المال مقسوم مضمون لكم، قد قسمه عادل بينكم، وضمنه وسيفي لكم، والعلم مخزون عند أهله، وقد امرتم بطلبه من أهله فاطلبوه.
It is narrated that Imam Ali (as) said: “O people! Know that the perfection of faith is [attained through] the pursuit of knowledge and its practice. Know without a doubt that the pursuit of knowledge is more incumbent upon you than the pursuit of wealth. Verily, wealth is allotted and guaranteed for you. It has been divided among you by One Who is Just. He has guaranteed it [to you] and will fulfill [His promise to you]. [As for] knowledge, it is stored with its people and you have been commanded to seek it from its people. So seek it!”
In a materialistic society, before engaging in any activity, its material return must first be ascertained. “Will it increase my wealth?”, “Will it improve my social status?”, “Will it afford me recognition from others?” are some of the top questions asked. In turn, any endeavor deemed of little material gain is deemed secondary or unworthy of pursuit. The pursuit of knowledge is unfortunately also subjected to this destructive myopic lense.
Yet, Islam teaches differently. It states that the pursuit of Godly knowledge that is put into practice is a goal in its own right because it leads to gnosis of Allah (swt), the Most High, and the ultimate goal is gaining proximity to Him. In this spirit, the Kawthar Learning Circle seeks to offer comprehensive guidance and support for individuals who cannot pursue full-time seminary studies; yet wish to make the pursuit of Godly knowledge an integral and continuous anchor point in their lives, irrespective of their age, gender, profession or life circumstances.
The Kawthar Learning Circle aims to build its foundation on the idea of Social Wilayah and therefore encourages a communal approach to learning and encourages the students to support one another in their endeavor to develop intellectually and spiritually. The social function of wilayah is that it “creates unity amongst (the faithful) in such a way that in all situations, whether in times of comfort or hardship, in this world or the hereafter, they always think about each other, love each other and they are quite willing to sacrifice their lives, property and time not only for their walis [i.e. Prophet (p) and Imams (as)], but also for their sisters and brothers in religion…It is wilayah that makes an integrated and fully functioning body out of the faithful. It is wilayah that melts any kind of self-centeredness and egotism and causes love and self-sacrifice to flourish. Wilayah is the spirit and the soul of Islam and it can give spiritual life to Islamic communities.
Wilayah is not just a relationship between individual believers and Allah (swt)’s walis, nor is it between individual believers and those who have wilayah. Wilayah is a social issue that is based on three essential elements: knowledge, love and obedience. In other words, wilayah is a kind of strong spiritual bond, which connects believers to the Infallibles and enables them to have the same aim and destination in this world and the hereafter. Wilayah is a relationship between all the believers collectively and the Infallibles (as) and also amongst the believers themselves. Wilayah establishes a united society and an integrated body of believers, which is ruled by the love and devotion amongst them.” (M.A. Shomali, A Probe into Social Wilayah and Its Social Dimensions)
The Beloved Messenger of Allah (swt) said in a hadith that is agreed upon by all Muslims: "Whoever dies without an Imam (a godly leader that is recognized and obeyed) [or in another variation - and does not recognize the Imam of his time] then he has died the death of Jahiliyyah (Age of Ignorance)" [Mizan al-Hikmah, V.1 P.120]
Knowledge that does not produce light and spiritual clarity nor enables a believer to recognize and support the Imam (ajf) of the time and those striving to achieve his universal goals is of no avail. In this spirit, the Kawthar Learning Circle aims to cultivate applied and transformative knowledge with the following objectives:
- To create a healthy, safe and non-judgemental environment whereby students collectively build a robust Islamic foundation, character and worldview.
- To transform the acquired knowledge into practice, which is then shared within our circles of influence and care.
- To communally sharpen our spiritual insight (basirah) [3:104] and enable students to recognize and follow the Imam of our Age (ajf) in two ways: A) By recognizing and supporting those who are currently aligned and sincerely dedicated to serving his universal goals and B) By recognizing and supporting the Imam (ajf) upon his reappearance.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّـهُ ثُمَّ اسْتَقَامُوا تَتَنَزَّلُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ أَلَّا تَخَافُوا وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا وَأَبْشِرُوا بِالْجَنَّةِ الَّتِي كُنتُمْ تُوعَدُونَ
Indeed those who say, ‘Our Lord is Allah!’ and then remain steadfast, the angels descend upon them, [saying,] ‘Do not fear, nor be grieved! Receive the good news of the paradise, which you have been promised. - Surah Fussilat 41:30
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّـهُ ثُمَّ اسْتَقَامُوا فَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ
Those who say, ‘Our Lord is Allah,’ and then remain steadfast, they will have no fear, nor will they grieve. - Surah al-Ahqaf 46:13
وَأَن لَّوِ اسْتَقَامُوا عَلَى الطَّرِيقَةِ لَأَسْقَيْنَاهُم مَّاءً غَدَقًا
“If they are steadfast on the path [of Allah], We shall provide them with abundant water.” - Surah al-Jinn 72:16
Istiqamah, meaning uprightness, steadfastness and perseverance is a cornerstone quality for any perfection. Indeed, during the course of the year, many obstacles and challenges will come in the way of the student body that could prevent them from arriving at the end. That is why istiqamah will also be a cornerstone quality for successful students. In fact, this idea is so important to us that we have made it our code word!
The one-year study program is based on a detailed series of readings, lectures and discussions, all of which are carefully designed under the direct supervision of Sh. Dr. Mohammad Ali Shomali. The students will be evaluated on assignments, projects and exams.
A term-based curriculum that will be driving our 1 year program moving forward. The work load is based on 4 hours a week and approximately 15 minutes of lecture time per day. The year is comprised of 3 terms, namely Fall, Winter and Summer and the study program is one year long. New students are able to join the KLC at the commencement of any of these terms. Each term is make up of 12 lecture weeks, 2 review weeks, exams for each module at the end of term and 2 weeks for exam corrections. A detailed outline for students is available on the student portal.
For a full list of the course descriptions for the entire one-year program, please refer to the 1 Year Program outline.
The one-year program also has the following elements:
- To attend weekly live webinars with our teacher with Q&A
- To engage in a discussion with his/her Study Partner(s)
- To submit completed evaluations (exams, quizzes or assignments)
- To participate in the gatherings, events, retreats and travels
- (Manual) If three consecutive exams are not passed, students is considered inactive.
Over the one-year period, the KLC student will be evaluated on group discussions, quizzes, exams and assignments, keeping in mind the following considerations:
- Students must maintain one of three standings:
- Excellent Standing (90%+ with Good Ethical Conduct)
- Honorable Standing (80%+ with Good Ethical Conduct)
- Good Standing (60%+ with Good Ethical Conduct)
- Students who maintain excellent, honorable or good standing are considered active. Students who have neither excellent, honorable nor good standing are considered inactive.
- Students who maintain excellent standing throughout the program will graduate with distinction.
- Students who maintain honorable standing throughout the program will graduate with honor.
- To maintain good standing or more, students must score 60% or more on each exam.
- Only student who scored 60% or more on all pre-requisite exams are eligible to take the upcoming exams.
- Students who scored below 60% on a given exam are eligible to reschedule an exam retake.
Assessments can be a cause of worry for some. They are limited in their ability to ascertain the true knowledge acquired by the student. They can be stressful at times. They can be feel laborious. This being said, they are a necessary tool to help the community of knowledge seekers to:
- Stay on top of their studies and not fall behind.
- Better digest and internalize the study material.
- Stay synchronized with the pace of the community of students they are studying with.
- Challenge oneself with questions they have not yet thought of.
- Cultivate team ethic when assessments are group-based.
- Harness a sense of accountability before Allah (swt), their teacher and their peers.
Most importantly, however, assessments are only a means and not an end. The real assessment is how well we internalize our gained knowledge, which can be evaluated by our inward and outward practice. Finally and above all, our ultimate assessment will only be given to us by Allah (swt), the All-knowing.
The student lifecycle from registration to program completion is as follows:
- The applicant sends their submission to join by clicking on the Apply Now link on the front page.
- Once the administration team has reviewed the application, the applicant may be granted acceptance.
- The new student makes the one time payment of 200 CAD as a registration fee for the 1-Year Program which includes the cost of books except for shipping.
- The new student will join in either the Summer, Fall or Winter terms and will be required to complete the one-year program within one year. Failure to complete the one year program within the specified time will require the student to re-register and pay the registration fee again.
- After completing the full one-year program, the student will obtain certification of program completion from the International Institute of Islamic Studies. Note that this will not equate to one year of hawza studies. Next, the KLC offers to facilitate continued studies either at the seminarial level or with the KLC at a more advanced level.
Indeed, the more engaged a person is in seeking knowledge, the more thirsty they become for it. Hence, after successfully completing the one-year program, a pressing question might arise about what is next. The answer is very simple: continued studies. Indeed, we, especially in our Western context, are in need for a societal push to support structured, if not seminarial, acquisition of knowledge by pious, outstanding and motivated individuals from within our communities. In this spirit, we are committed to facilitate bridging interested and qualified students into continued studies or full-time seminarial studies abroad including Qum. Further, the Kawthar Learning Circle offers a number of targeted scholarship packages for KLC students who choose to become hawza students. For more information on these services, students can reach out directly to the administration.
Many of us, however, may not have the circumstances for making such a noble move. Nevertheless, we remain equally avid seekers of knowledge and are looking for where to go next. For those of us who fall in this category, Kawthar Learning Circle is committed to offer new curriculums for continued studies. More details about this will be communicated, God willing.
Every year the Risalat International Institute, headed by Sh. Shomali provides a two-week learning intensive abroad for anyone who is directly involved with the pursuit and sharing of knowledge. Inline with our efforts to promote the communal pursuit of knowledge, the Kawthar Learning Circle will be providing scholarships towards this initiative. Although, all students will be invited to apply for the program, scholarships will be provided to committed and admitted students with good standing or higher.
Specifically, students with the highest academic performance will be given priority in terms of scholarships. Students with excellent standing will be eligible for a full scholarship to cover the program cost, which is 700 USD excluding travel expenses. In addition, they will be eligible for up to 700 USD towards their international ticket.
The program would include:
- Ziyarah to Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Rida (as) in Mashhad and Lady Ma’sumah (as) in Qum.
- Two-Week Learning Intensive Program in Qum.
- Food and lodging throughout the travel.
And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah's favour on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth Allah make His Signs clear to you: That ye may be guided. - Surah Aal-Imraan 3:103
The Beloved Messenger (p.b.u.h.f) said: "The eminence of the knowledgeable one over the worshipper is of seventy ranks, between each two ranks is [the like of] 70 years of horse gallop. That is because [when] Satan introduces a [new] deviation to people, the knowledgeable one sees it and puts it aside, while the worshipper continues with his rituals [or accepts it despite his worship]." (Munayat al-Murid, p.100)
As the students will journey together in their quest for knowledge during the one-year program, important discussions and questions will arise on critical issues that are not clearly related to the study material or that have not yet been covered. While these questions might be important or deemed controversial, all students may not be equally equipped to address at a particular point in time to address them comfortably. We must accept that such questions will inevitably arise within the study body demanding from us to erect the necessary fortification of answers as well as attitudes. This is particularly relevant in instant messaging platforms or online forums. Thus it's crucial from students of good standing to uphold the following:
- To solidify our determination to study and gain authentic knowledge of Islam and appreciate the importance of our program.
- To solidify our determination to gain necessary knowledge about our history and the current socio-political world landscape.
- To be mindful of the advice from the administration team, who will act as moderators while you make your own independant and free conclusions and deductions.
- To be accepting of the fact that our perspective of the world will evolve as we grow in knowledge and understanding together.
- To be mindful that each of us do not have the same background nor experiences and did not have the same exposure to different aspects of a given problem or question.
- To trust that all students are genuinely and sincerely trying to find the truth and follow it.
- To be more determined to support each other and never be judgemental of each other even if wording or opinions are shared that might inadvertently hurt or discomfort us.
- To be careful in our choice of words, especially in instant messaging platforms (whatsapp), when addressing each other to minimize misunderstandings.
- To be unwavering and steadfast in our to love for one another because the plot of Satan and his followers today and always is to divide us and keep us apart, apart from Allah (swt), apart from our Imam (ajf), apart from each other and apart from our duties.
Updates to the student manual can be made throughout the course of the study program. If any updates are made students will be notified and are responsible to review the revisions.