IOU - "The First Week" Course Review
I just finished the Islamic Online University ( http://www.islamiconlineuniversity.com/ ) course "The First Week", which is intended for new Muslim reverts after they have taken the course titled "The First Day". I will not say it was perfect, and there were things about it that I did not like, and some that I liked very much. It was said at the beginning of the course that it could possibly be used as a prerequisite for people to get their certificate of conversion to Islam, as such a course is required in some countries. I would agree with this and think that the course is quite sufficient for this purpose, especially if the person is also going to mosque regularly. If they are not going to mosque regularly, due to distance or other hardship, then I still think the course is sufficient but it could do with a few additions: primarily, a video of a full prayer is still missing, as it was from "The First Day" courses, and an emphasis on reading Qur'an in addition to studies as a person outside of the mosque will not get as much exposure to it.
Like "The First Day" courses, these are in no way intended to BRING people to Islam; they are intended for people who have already converted. They might be used as da'wah lectures for people who already have had an intense interest in Islam and would like clarification on certain points before converting, but that was not their purpose.
Each lesson consists of a written .pdf file, audio files, and video files. The audio files are exactly like the video files minus the video.
Lesson 1: Introduction and Salah
This first lesson includes a very general outline of the course, and goes much more in depth into the salah than they did in "The First Day". I quite enjoyed it, as it gave options to people who could not remember all of the parts of the prayer, as well as a step by step reading of Al-Fatiha and an overview of Al-Ikhlaas. However, it STILL did not include a video of a complete prayer, and I believe that these courses suffer from that, especially for those who cannot attend mosque. As I said previously, there are plenty of videos on how to pray online, but some are better than others and a "course approved" video would have been a great inclusion.
Lesson 2: Commentary on Surah Al-Fatiha and Al-Ikhlaas
This lesson goes over the suwars verse by verse, and is very thorough. I would love to see them do a course strictly on the Qur'an and review every surah in this fashion.
Lesson 3: The Natural Way
This lesson goes over the care of the body, such as growing the beard, not plucking the eyebrows, shaving the armpits and pubic area, trimming the nails, and circumcision. It should be noted to those sensitive to the subject of circumcision that they state it is not required for adult men, but that it is permissible for female children. Dr. Philips tries to go into the difference between female circumcision and female genital mutilation but I do not think he makes a very strong case. But this is my opinion.
Lesson 4: Toilet Matters
This lesson reviews much of the manners of going to the toilet, such as the supplication, how to wipe, hiding ones awrah, and other factors. It emphasizes how even an act such as relieving ones self can be an act of worship, which is a great point for the new revert.
Lesson 5: Major Muharramat Part 2
In this lesson other major prohibitions are discussed, including smoking, dogs, extreme sports and theme park rides (I have to admit I am a bit fuzzy on why things like roller coasters are prohibited on the basis that they can cause death when you are much more likely to die in your car than on a roller coaster), a more in depth explanation of riba, and female to male/male to female contact.
Lesson 6: Invalidators of Islam
A lesson on shirk. In my humble opinion they did not handle this chapter strongly enough, but the general theme of the course does tend to be one of gentleness toward the new convert. I still think there should have been harsher admonitions, but this is just me.
Lesson 7: Muslim Character
This lesson deals with righteousness and good character in dealing with God, all people, and the world around us. It also includes a brief section on recognizing sin.
Lesson 8: Muslim Character (Suspicion), Lesson 9: (Envy), Lesson 10: (Deception), Lesson 11: Muslim Dress
I believe that these lessons were added later as in the last videos the count for which lesson you are on is incorrect. The first three go over the evils of suspicion, envy, and deception as can be inferred by their titles, while the final lesson really does not belong in this set under "Muslim Character" as it is more on prohibitions on dress, such as no silk and gold for men, no earrings for men, no cross-dressing, and other more minor prohibitions.
Lesson 12: Muslim Dress Code Completion
This expands on the previous dress code lessons to include prohibitions against tattoos, piercings, how to wear the hair, dying the hair, nail polish, etc. A very short and very direct lesson.
Lesson 13: Eating Etiquette
A lesson on the basics of eating with the right hand and how to share plates. Another short lesson.
Lesson 14: Moral Principles Behind the Five Pillars of Islam
A very in-depth look at how the five pillars of Islam build strong moral character. Actually an excellent review for anyone feeling weak in their faith and feeling that what they are doing in the five pillars is not benefiting them.
Lesson 15: Moral Principles Behind the Pillars of Iman
Another excellent and in-depth lesson of how the six pillars of faith build a strong Muslim character. Again, a good review for anyone at any stage in their studies.
It should be noted that in one of the lessons, I do not remember which one, Dr. Philips briefly touches on homosexuality. He does say that it is prohibited in Islam, but he also says "keep it out of sight". While personally I agree with this opinion, I know not many will, so you should be aware that it is in there.
While I overall believe that this is an excellent course, I do have one complaint that will echo practically every student vs. teacher argument when it comes to test taking, and that is the issue of confusing answers when it comes to the course material. In several instances, the test answers either do not match the overall theme of the lesson while relaying just one part of the lesson, or contradict something explicitly stated in the lesson but later is given in a more generalized term. To give a couple of examples, in one test question it is asked when deception is allowed. It specifically said in the lesson first that deception was explicitly allowed in the case of a battle, to fool your opponent. It was later stated that it was "okay" to deceive when asked by your wife "How does my new dress look"? to make her feel good. On the test I selected that deception was permissible when deceiving your opponent, and was marked wrong, in favor of "when it does a better good". Another example was a question on when changing ones name is permissible: I marked that it is always permissible, because it is! There is never a case when they will say it is not permissible, though it is not always necessary. I was marked wrong in favor of the answer "when one's name is shirk".
Because of questions like this I got a 90% on my final exam, (5 wrong out of 50 questions) which is acceptable to me because after reviewing the answers I got wrong I knew that I still understood thoroughly the concepts being taught. Perfectionists might want to punch their monitors.
So yes, I would say this is a great course for new converts, and I would not personally hesitate to point them to it for instruction.
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