“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). Following instructions from my own teachers to engage in ‘tadris‘ (teaching), it seemed to be a good reminder to myself, to any student, and to any would-be teacher. May God protect us from the temptations of our own ‘nafs‘ (lower selves), and baser instincts.
There are three English-language classes that I teach regularly, and prospective students should email classes AT hahellyer DOT com to enquire about joining them. In their email, they should include their WhatsApp numbers (as this is how notifications about the classes are regularly sent out), their full names, and how they came across the class. I will then send further information about the relevant class, including the conditions of attendance.
The classes are as follows:
- “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. 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)’
- “Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam” of the contemporary Malaysian polymath, Professor S. M. Naquib al-Attas. This is known as the magnum opus of Professor al-Attas, 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 I am a professorial fellow. The text is in English.
- “‘Ayub al-Nafs” (The Infamies of the Soul) of Imam Muhammad b. al-Husayn al-Sulami, the 10th century Iranian scholar. 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)’
As per the instruction of my teachers, a bio below for prospective students.
An author and scholar focusing on religion and politics, Ustadh Dr Hisham A. Hellyer was born to an English father and to an Egyptian mother of Sudanese & Moroccan heritage and Ḥasanī & ʿAbbāsī lineage. He was raised between London, Cairo and Abu Dhabi, before receiving degrees in law and international political economy from the University of Sheffield, and a doctorate from the University of Warwick. He began researching Islamic law, theology and spirituality in his teens, keeping the company of and studying under a number of classically trained-scholars in the UK, Egypt, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and elsewhere, receiving ijazat from a number of them. Among those he received permission to teach from include the Malaysian polymath, Tan Sri Professor Sayyid M. Naquib al-Attas, and Shaykh Seraj Hendricks (the khalifa (independent representative) of the Makkan sage, Sayyid Muhammad b. Alawi al-Maliki), who appointed Dr Hisham as Senior Scholar of the Zawiya Institute in South Africa. Ijaza ‘amma has also been given by Shaykh Muhammad al-Ninowy of the Madina Institute centres.
Dr. Hisham’s career has included positions at and affiliations with the Brookings Institution, Harvard University, the American University in Cairo, and the RZS-Centre for Advanced Studies on Islam, Science and Civilisation (CASIS). He is a frequent commentator and columnist in various media in the United States, Europe and the Arab world, and is included in the scholarly section of the annual global ‘Muslim 500’ list of Georgetown University (USA) and RISCC (Jordan). Among his written works are ‘Muslims of Europe: the ‘Other’ Europeans’ (Edinburgh University Press), ‘A Revolution Undone: Egypt’s Road Beyond Revolt’ (Oxford University Press) and “The Islamic Tradition, Muslim Communities and the Human Rights Discourse” (editor) (Atlantic Council). As Senior Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute & the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Professorial Fellow at Cambridge Muslim College, Dr Hellyer works between London, Washington DC, and Cairo.