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Hi-Tech Workshop for Young Ulema

By Abdul Bari Masoud New Delhi
For the first time in India, the Islamic Fiqh Academy of India, which has been striving to open the door of ‘ijtehad’ for contemporary issues, organized a five-day hi-tech workshop on the topic of “Research Methodology to Understand the Modern issues in the light of Islamic jurisprudence” here in collaboration with Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University, Riyadh. The basic aim of the workshop was to hone modern research skills and to broaden horizon of madrassa  graduates and scholars who are engaged in the field of Islamic jurisprudence on modern issues.  Experts and resources persons from Saudi Arabia and India taught them new research methodology, extracting required material from printed and electronic books and modern technique of research in the field of Islamic Jurisprudence.
Speaking at the inaugural session held at India International Centre, Dr. Eyaz bin Nami al-Sulmi, Director of Centre of Research Excellence in the Fiqh of Contemporary Issues, Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University, said that in today’s world, specialization is the hallmark of any academic activity and every branch of knowledge was striving in that direction.  Stressing the need for adopting new methods and modern technology, he said, Islamic jurisprudence cannot remain detached from this phenomenon. He reminded the scholars that it was their prime duty to find solutions for the contemporary problems due to new technological developments, changes in social, political, economic, spheres in the light of guidelines provided by the Qur’an and Sunnah. He said the Centre at the Saud University had organized such workshops in several countries during the last 60 years.
Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, General Secretary of the Fiqh Academy expressed hope that the workshop would provide a new paradigm of research as many problems of the past demand rethinking and research, in the changing circumstances, in keeping  with the principles  and methodology of Fiqh. He emphasized that scientific and technological advancement had led to new issues like cloning, transplantation, plastic surgery, DNA test, organ donations, use of gelatin, slaughtering machines, social and ecological issues that need special attention of the Islamic jurists and scholars in order to guide the ummah and the whole humanity.  He said the Fiqh Academy had so far organized 21 fiqhi seminars, 25 workshops and training camps and offered guidance in nearly 200 modern issues.
In his presidential remarks, Rector of Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow, Dr. Sayeed ur Rahman Azmi Nadvi insisted that Qur’an and Sunnah offered guidance in matters of all issues. An official of the Academy on the condition of anonymity told the Islamic Voice  that Islamic madrassas in India mainly depended on ten extant texts such as Fatawa Alamgiri compiled during the medieval period to arrive at solutions and has therefore lost touch with realities and lost dynamic approach. He said most of the madrassas were highly sectarian in their approach.     
The eight business sessions of the workshop were held at the India Corporate Centre, in which 60 selected young fazils of madrassas from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi and Rajasthan participated. Besides this, scholars and  teachers of  leading institutes and universities including  Jamia Milia Islamia, Nadwatul Ulema, Delhi University, Jamia Islamia Shantapuram Kerala, Kerala University, Aligarh Muslim University,   al-Mahadul Aali al Islami, Hyderabad, Mahadul Aali Lil tadreeb fil-iftata- wa qadha, Patna also  attended the workshop.
The workshop discussed topics such as (1) Research methods : Importance and style, (2) Aspects of research in modern issues, and (3) Methods of research and cyber world and principles of jurisprudence and their application. Dr. Saleh Al-Tayyar delivered two lectures on research technique. Dr. Eyaz bin Nami al-Sulmi spoke about academic research. Another expert from Saudi Arabia, Dr. Abdul Azeez Shibl and Dr. Fahad Turki provided tips about methodology and research for collecting information from the printed and electronic sources. The workshop was a rare opportunity for the ulema to have exposure to the new research techniques as they had so far followed only traditional and outdated methods for their academic works. All the participants were given laptop with net connection. Books on seven important subjects and CDs of Uloom-e- sharia were supplied to them. Many participants said it was a wonderful experience as they learnt new ideas about research. They pointed that Madrassas did not introduce modern methods of teaching and research.  One participant rued that madaris were still following old-fashioned methodology in the age of digitization and computerization. 
It can recalled that the Fiqh  Academy has carried out  a remarkable work in the field of research on jurisprudence and cultural issues during the last 20 years. Ulema and jurists from all parts of the world have participated at the various seminars convened by the Academy. Their deliberations in the light of jurisprudence and research have facilitated the solution of many issues. The Academy can also claim credit for bringing Ulema of diverse school of thought on one platform and also brought coordination between them and the modern scholars.