Sunday, April 29, 2007

COMMENT: On practising certificates and degrees ...

Recently, the Sydney Morning Herald did an excellent series of articles on Islam in Australia. Among them was one by Deborah Snow on the work of the al-Ghazali Centre based in Sydney.

Ms Snow made the following observation ...

Ali's standing as a religious teacher is not fully accepted in some parts of Sydney's Islamic community. Some question his knowledge of Arabic, and the nature of the religious training he has received abroad.
I am among those who have expressed reservations. Some days ago, I received a lengthy comment on a previous entry of this blog from an anonymous person. I reproduce that comment below ...

Assalamu Alaikum,

I hope this doesn't get wiped out...


As a student of Al-Ghazzali centre and advocate of Sidi Afroz Ali, I am deeply offended by the claims of Irfan Yusuf. I will begin with the facts... Sidi Afroz has been studying Islam since the age of 7. He was a qualified Imam in Fiji in 1984. I've seen the certificate. The reason I've seen the certificate is because I approached him directly and didn't make my first port of call a public forum. Show a little humility and respect for those who are somewhat more knowledgeable than ourselves. I've also seen his Ijaza to teach Hanafi Fiqh. The purpose of an Ijaza is not to have it hanging on a wall in an office, it is not a law degree in a lawyers office or doctors practicing certificate. A teacher should not have to justify his position to his students rather the Ijaza serves the purpose of being proof to another teacher that one is qualified to study at the next level. For example you cannot attend university unless you have completed your Higher School Certificate. Similarly, you can only further your religious knowledge with another teacher if you have an Ijaza noting your completion or mastery of the preceding level of that particular subject, be it fiqh, aqeedah etc.. As a result of this, his other two Ijaza's in Shafii fiqh and aqeedah are kept Zaytuna Institute where they will be required as evidence from him by from his future teaches.

Sidi Afroz openly says that he STUDIED in Medina at the Medina University. He does NOT say that he has any degree from that institution, nor does he rely on the knowledge gained there. He mentions his time there so as not to be accused of hiding anything. This is why he can't show documentation saying that he completed his studies there, simply because he did not. If you require proof, ask Professor Abdul Saeed of Melbourne University and stop slandering. He has studied in Pakistan, Mauritania and later this year inshallah, at al-Azhar.

This by the way is not an attack Irfan Yusuf. It is a memo/note to the doubters.

Irfan, you mention the names of sheikhs and elders that you would like Sidi Afroz to display his credentials to. Have you asked any of these sheikhs whether or not they are interested in sighting his credentials? Have you asked any of them if they have any issues with Sidi Afroz? I know for a fact that you haven't asked at least two because I have. They are neither interested in seeing his credentials nor do they have any issues with any of his teachings. The reason for this is that neither of the two sheikhs have heard anything negative from anyone noteworthy in the community regarding Sidi Afroz. The simple formula is 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.'

Regarding taking money for classes; Our community has to snap out the fantasy that everything should be free, mosques across the country are empty, community leaders holding onto ideas of yester year and being run by old boys clubs serving the interests of a select few and leaving the rest to fend for themselves. Al-Ghazzali centre does not charge you money to feed 400+ homeless every month, to do morning invocations, or to attend any of its classes (no one will be refused entry due to inability to pay) this does not apply to structured courses such as the Foundations Diploma or specialised workshops. For the money you do pay, you get undivided attention, all the time you want with the teacher, a quality product and at times as another brother succinctly noted an 'inconvenient truth'.

Please brothers and sisters, let us not cause fitna and spread bad words amongst ourselves about our teachers. Let us look at our own faults and diseases and if we have an issue, go to the source. Sidi Afroz is available at the Al-Ghazzali centre on Saturdays between 1pm and 3pm. If you would like to discuss anything that you have read, seen, heard, are unclear about, be a man and go ask the questions that I humbly confronted my teacher with.

Wassalam

P.S If this does not put to rest doubts, than go and see Afroz and have a chat. I urge you to do this and stop committing grave sins. May Allah purify all our hearts Inshallah.

My detailed response to this comment is reproduced below ...

“As a student of Al-Ghazzali centre and advocate of Sidi Afroz Ali,”

=> Are you claiming to be Afroz’s lawyer? In what sense are you an advocate?

“I am deeply offended by the claims of Irfan Yusuf. I will begin with the facts... Sidi Afroz has been studying Islam since the age of 7.”

=> I have been studying Islam since age 4 when I started learning the Arabic alphabet and memorising certain chapters of the Qur’an. So what?

“He was a qualified Imam in Fiji in 1984. I've seen the certificate.”

=> How does one qualify as an imam in Fiji? In what sense was he an imam? Did he lead prayers in a mosque? Does he lead the Friday service as I used to at Macquarie University for some years? Can I now claim to be an imam?

“The reason I've seen the certificate is because I approached him directly and didn't make my first port of call a public forum.”

=> Lucky you. I approached him directly as well, but never saw anything despite repeated promises. I’m not the only one to have approached him directly. Each time someone approaches him and seeks to view his qualifications, Afroz prevaricates and/or becomes abusive. Why? What can one say about someone who questions other people’s credentials, yet when asked about his own, becomes rude and abusive?

“I've also seen his Ijaza to teach Hanafi Fiqh.”

=> In which area/s of hanafi fiqh? Was it in the entirely of hanafi fiqh? Or in a selection of books? To claim to have ijaza in hanafi fiqh is a nonsense. Hanafi law is the broadest and most comprehensive of the four Sunni schools of law, covering a range of areas.

“The purpose of an Ijaza is not to have it hanging on a wall in an office, it is not a law degree in a lawyers office or doctors practicing certificate.”

=> You clearly don’t have much of an idea about the purpose of ijazas or university degrees. Both are means of accreditation. Standardised accreditation. You only get the accreditation if you go through a process which is standardised and which ou can only get if you go through a structured learning process and you pass certain assessment procedures. If you don’t have the accreditation, fools can still go to you for professional advice. If you claim to have accreditation but are reluctant to show it, one can infer that you are being less than completely honest.

“A teacher should not have to justify his position to his students rather the Ijaza serves the purpose of being proof to another teacher that one is qualified to study at the next level.”

=> Afroz is not my teacher. I have every right to ask him to prove his claims and qualifications.

=> My teachers at school had teaching qualifications. Had they not had any qualifications, they would not have been employed.

=> If people are happy to learn intricate and specialised areas of Islamic jurisprudence from a man who hides his qualifications, that is their choice. I choose not to do so. I also choose to warn others from doing so.

“For example you cannot attend university unless you have completed your Higher School Certificate. Similarly, you can only further your religious knowledge with another teacher if you have an Ijaza noting your completion or mastery of the preceding level of that particular subject, be it fiqh, aqeedah etc.. As a result of this, his other two Ijaza's in Shafii fiqh and aqeedah are kept Zaytuna Institute where they will be required as evidence from him by from his future teaches.”

=> This is the first time I have heard this claim. I will write to the Zaytuna Institute and confirm if this is in fact the case.

“Sidi Afroz openly says that he STUDIED in Medina at the Medina University. He does NOT say that he has any degree from that institution, nor does he rely on the knowledge gained there.”

=> Absolute rubbish. Afroz Ali has repeatedly claimed to have a degree in sharia law from Madina Islamic University. He has made this claim at an Affinity conference on September 11. He made this claim during a seminar organised by the University of Western Sydney. He has also made this claim during a series of lectures he delivered in New Zealand.

=> Further, the claim to holding degrees from Madina has been made in his presence or in promotional material. He knew full well this erroneous and false representation was being made about him, yet he at no stage corrected those making the claim. He was quite happy for those sponsoring his appearances to make this claim about him, yet never did he once correct it.

"He mentions his time there so as not to be accused of hiding anything. This is why he can't show documentation saying that he completed his studies there, simply because he did not."

=> So what did he do at Madina University? Did he complete even one single course? Did he do a summer course? Did he complete a non-award subject? Did he sell man’oush at the canteen? If he completed no systematic study there, why mention it?

=> I have been to Darul Uloom Korangi and Darul Uloom Binuri Town in Karachi. I’ve sat with some shuyukh there. I even gave a bayan in Korangi which was heard by a teacher from the Darul Uloom and whose contents he approved of. So?

"If you require proof, ask Professor Abdul Saeed of Melbourne University and stop slandering."

=> I did. Professor Abdullah Saeed says he doesn’t recall ever studying alongside a student named Afroz Ali. I guess you will say Professor Saeed is lying and slandering.

"He has studied in Pakistan, Mauritania and later this year inshallah, at Al Azhar."

=> A few years ago, he was claiming that his courses were receiving accreditation from al-Azhar. Now it seems he hasn’t even studied there.

=> I also studied in Pakistan. So what? I spent 9 months at the Madressa of the Masjid al-Falah in Karachi.

"Irfan, you mention the names of sheikhs and elders that you would like Sidi Afroz to display his credentials to. Have you asked any of these sheikhs whether or not they are interested in sighting his credentials?"

=> Yes, I have. One of them is a senior imam who was Mufti of an entire province in Turkey and has a Masters Degree from Madina Islamic University.

“Have you asked any of them if they have any issues with Sidi Afroz?”

=> Yes I have. Yes they do.

“I know for a fact that you haven't asked at least two because I have.”

=> I have no way of verifying this because you choose to remain anonymous. For all I know, you could be Afroz Ali yourself.

“They are neither interested in seeing his credentials nor do they have any issues with any of his teachings.”

=> Well, one of them has had his own spot of bothers of late, not to mention frequent overseas travel. Another has expressed serious reservations to me, as have a number of his students. A third has invited Afroz to teach at his sharia college on the proviso that he show his credentials and qualifications.

“If this does not put to rest doubts, than go and see Afroz and have a chat. I urge you to do this and stop committing grave sins.”

=> The best way for the doubts to be alleviated is for Afroz to be up front and open. Personally, I have no problems with the activities of the Ghazali centre in relation to its work with Just Enough Faith or other groups. I have no problem with its inter-faith or other works. I have no problems with its retreats. Even after I brought up these issues with Afroz personally and then publicly, I still participated in and supported certain Ghazali centre programs with no hesitation. My issue is with his attacks on others who express views contrary to his own. Let me give you an example. I once made a comment to the effect that I do not recognise Sheik Hilaly as my Mufti. Afroz Ali thereupon remarked that my refusal to regard Sheik Hilaly as my Mufti affected my aqida. When I asked him for proof of this, he made some reference to Tahawi and then proceeded to claim he had an ijaza in aqida. Despite repreated requests, I have not yet sighted his ijaza in aqida. Yet I am expected to take such an obviously wrong statement for granted on the bases that I must trust Sidi Afroz.

=> I have had other persons send messages to this blog concerning matters which I believe severely compromise Afroz’s credibility. I have deliberately not posted them because they appear to concern private family matters. However, there are issues beyond mere dishonesty concerning qualifications. If you are not Afroz, please feel free to inform Afroz and I will be happy to forward him these unmoderated posts.

=> I realise some will not believe this, but I seriously have no personal issues with Afroz. My concern is that the good work he does will suffer if he does not provide consistent explanations about the issues I have raised. We have already seen the damage done to our community by people making false claims. There are many young people who look upto Afroz as an elder and as a teacher. He owes it to them to be transparent and honest.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Irfan, maybe you should spend less time critising, slandering and causing fitnah against people who are trying to do good in this community.
Seriously, get a job...or a hobby, and maybe spend less time blogging and more time doing beneficial things.

Anonymous said...

Better still, Irfan, get a conviction, a few fake degrees and then start up your own religious institution!

Anonymous said...

He has recently clarified his qualifications. See
http://www.aussiemuslims.com/forums/showpost.php?p=201679&postcount=23

Anonymous said...

http://www.arabuni.co.nz/forums/index.php?showtopic=9290

"He graduated in Islamic Studies- Shari’ah after studying in Islamic University, Madina Saudi Arabia. He has also completed studies in Methodology of Islamic Law- Usool ul Fiqh, and Comparative Religions."

Who provided the organisers with this information? Why didn't Afroz contradict and correct this information at the time?

Similar claims were made by Afroz's NZ organiser, Aarif Rasheed (who is a lawyer by profession). These can be found here ...

http://www.nzmuslim.net/forumtid-589.html

The claim was also made in New Zealand by the scoop website.

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0506/S00251.htm

"The other speaker, attending from Australia, is Mr. Afroz Ali of Sydney, also well versed in inter-religious matters, holding degrees in Islamic Studies and Shari'ah from Islamic University, Madina, Saudi Arabia ..."

Here it says Afroz has NOT ONE BUT TWO degrees from Madina.

Surely Afroz would have been aware of these claims. Why didn't he correct them? Who provided them with this information?

Irfan Yusuf said...

Seriously, one has to be blind or deluded not to see the discrepancies.

If I was invited to give a speech and I was introduced as someone who had a Masters in Laws from ANU, and I knew I didn't, surely I would have to correct that on the spot at the time.

I'd be interested to see what Geraldine Doogue wrote about Afroz in her book.

Anonymous said...

As of 3:24pm, the following appeared at the Muslim Village forums in response to a comment on Afroz's alleged qualifications ...

http://forums.muslimvillage.net/index.php?showtopic=33923&view=findpost&p=552384

"I will get clarification from Sidi Afroz on your and Deborah's comments but in your response you have really missed the point. Just in regards to Al-Ghazzali Centre, your comments I believe are not what the article actually says! you have twisted to suit your misinterpretation ..."

So even now, Afroz is still wondering whether to tell the truth.

The Centre is getting positive media coverage for its positive work. This is great. But with Afroz telling porky pies about his degrees and academic credentials, it puts all that good work on the line.

When will he come out and clarify things? Why does he refuse to prove his qualifications?

There's only one possible explanation - that he has lied all along.

Irfan Yusuf said...

Anon@438, this might be a tempting conclusion. However, Afroz should be given further opportunities to explain the situation. Given that I've been waiting for these explanations since mid-2005, I really think waiting a little longer before reaching any firm conclusions won't harm anyone.

Irfan Yusuf said...

"One of them is a senior imam who was Mufti of an entire province in Turkey and has a Masters Degree from Madina Islamic University."

I have since been advised that he in fact has a Bachelors degree from Madeena and a Masters degree from Turkey.

Anonymous said...

Please leave brother Afroz alone. If he doesn't have the required qualifications either he will wither away (ala Khalid Yassine) or he will hurry up and get them. I do have a major roblem with him calling himself Imam Afroz Ali... what the ! how did he elivate from brother to Sidi to Imam in matter of a year or so?

Irfan, I think many Afrozites don't understand your line questioning that is quite valid. I suggest you focus on your health, welath and Iman. You can succeed by focusing your energies on these personal matters.

Abdullah said...

Leave Afroz alone!

How friggen dare anyone out there make fun of Afroz, after all he's been through! He lost his way, he went through a divorce. His Madinah degree turned out to be a fake, a scam, and now his other ijazas are in doubt.

All you people care about is... ijazas and qualifications.

HE'S AN IMAM!

What you don't realise is that Afroz is making all this money at workshops, and all you do is write a bunch of crap about him. He hasn't made sense in years. He affiliates himself with Zaytuna so all you people can call him SIDI SIDI SIDI.

LEAVE HIM ALONE!

You're lucky he even lectures to you BASTARDS!

LEAVE AFROZ ALONE!

Please.

Irfan Yusuf talked about professionalism, and said if Afroz was a professional he would produce his qualifications no matter what.

Speaking of professionalism, when is it professional to publicly bash an Imam who is going through a hard time?

LEAVE AFROZ ALONE!

Please.

Leave Afroz Ali alone RIGHT NOW!

I mean it!

Anyone who has a problem with him, you deal with me!

Because he is not well right now.

Leave him alone...

Irfan Yusuf said...

May God grant healing and speedy recovery to our brother.