“An immoral man of learning is a great evil;

Yet a greater evil is an ignoramus leading a godly life.

Both are a great trial everywhere

To whomever clings to his religion.”

Imam Burhan al-Din al-Zarnuji cited the above lines of his poetry in his work, “Ta’lim Al-Muta’allim” (Instruction of the Student). A good reminder to all, especially to those who teach.

There are three English-language classes taught weekly in Islamic studies via Azzawia Institute and privately. Prospective students should email classes AT hahellyer DOT com to enquire about joining them. They’ll then get a WhatsApp group invitation, and a number to send their full names to, and how they came across the class. The group will be how class times and details are sent out.

Generally speaking, they’re usually in person – but at present, they will be done via Zoom or some other online application – more information will be given in the WhatsApp group.

The classes are as follows:

  1. Uyub al-Nafs” (The Infamies of the Soul) of Imam Muhammad b. al-Husayn al-Sulami, the 10th century Iranian scholar. Held under the auspices of Azzavia Institute, where Sh Dr Hisham was appointed as ‘Senior Scholar‘ by the resident shaykhs of the Zawiya, this text is a concise tract of advices given to spiritual aspirants on various ailments of the heart, and offers recommendations for their rectification. The class will be taught in a mixture of Arabic and English, but there will be full translation. The Arabic text can be found here: “Uyub al-Nafs (PDF)’ ; there’s an excellent English translation by Shaykh Musa Furber. Generally speaking, this will be held for 1hr around 530pm (GMT+2) on Saturdays. [This class will also be live-streamed on Azzavia Institute‘s FB page, and thus can be watched following the class.] —–
  2. Risalat al-Jami’a” (The Encompassing Epistle) of Imam Ahmad b. Zayn al-Habshi, one of the main students of the 17th century Hadrami scholar, Imam Abdullah b. Alawi al-Haddad. One could term this text as a summary of a summary of a summary of the “Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din” (the Revival of the Religious Sciences) by Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali. It contains the basic compulsory elements of theology, practice, and spirituality that should be known, and is a regular primer in traditional seminaries such as Dar al-Mustafa in Tarim. At the moment, the class is covering the spirituality section. The class will be taught in a mixture of Arabic and English, but there will be full translation. The Arabic text can be found here: ‘Risala al-Jamia (PDF)’ Generally speaking, this is held for 1hr at 6pm (GMT+2) on Sundays.
  3. “Islam and Secularism” of the contemporary Malaysian polymath, Professor S. M. Naquib al-Attas. This is one of Professor al-Attas’ most famous works, with a focus on the theology and metaphysics of Islam, particularly as it referred to the modern age. His work is taught in the West as part of curricula at the Zaytuna College of Imam Zaid Shakir, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Dr Hatem Bazian in California; and the Cambridge Muslim College of Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, where Dr Hisham is a professorial fellow. The text is in English. Generally speaking, this will be held at 7pm on Thursdays.

Teacher biography

Dr Hisham A. Hellyer began teaching privately some years ago works in fiqh, ‘aqida, and tasawwuf, after his shaykhs and teachers encouraged him to do so, alongside his professional academic career. This was particularly following the directives of Shaykh Seraj Hendricks of Azzawia Institute, who accorded the traditional complete license (‘ijaza) to Shaykh Hisham. A scholar of noted repute, Shaykh Seraj is the khalifa of the Makkan sage and scholar’s scholar, Sayyid Muhammad b. Alawi al-Maliki, shaykh in the tariqa ‘ulama Makka (the Sufi path of the Makkan sages) – he authorised Shaykh Hisham as such. These classes that Dr Hisham held also included the works of the Malaysian polymath, Tan Sri Professor Sayyid M. Naquib al-Attas, who mentored him.

The classes went online at the request of students who wanted to continue their studies during the restrictions arising from the COVID19 pandemic, and are thus being made available to a broader circle of students.


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