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Ijaazah: What It Is And How To Get One

Ijaazah: What It Is And How To Get One

When it comes to Islamic topics, we hear a lot of Arabic words that sound familiar because we – or others around us – use them all the time, and we might even be able to translate those words in our native language, but when someone asks us “so, what is this exactly?”, we are just unable to respond, other than repeat the translation, hoping that it will shed some light! The word Ijaazah is a really good example. So let’s dive in!



What Does Ijaazah Even Mean?

When we try to understand something, even a word that is so commonly used and heard, it always helps to look at the meaning of the word itself. The Arabic word إِجَازَة [ijaazah] comes from the root letters ج و ز from which we derive the following meanings:

To pass, to travel, to come
To be allowed, permitted, permissible
To work, to succeed
To permit, to allow, to sanction, to authorize
To go or walk past, to go beyond
To cross, to leave behind
To surpass, to exceed
To overcome obstacles
It can also mean “holiday”.

The word ijaazah is generally translated as “license,” “certificate,” or “authorization” which gives permission – and even the right – to its holder to pass on their knowledge on a certain text or subject that they have studied. An ijaazah is given by someone who already possesses and masters this knowledge and is therefore in a position to pass it on to someone else; the individual must have taught the student (receiver of the ijaazah) directly, usually through direct teaching (no third-parties or unspecified giver of ijaazah!). The word and process is usually associated with the transmission of subjects or texts pertaining to Islamic knowledge and sciences, although we can also talk about an ijaazah in secular fields such as law, literature or history.


Is an Ijaazah is Like a University Degree?

Yes, and no. A university or college degree is usually sanctioned by a diploma which is given by an institution (such as a university or college, but other institutions also have the ability to give out degrees: schools, professional organizations, training centers, etc.) to a student after they have completed a certain course of study and met specific requirements. The diploma itself is signed by one of the highest authorities in the institution (head of school, dean, chair, president, etc.) who is usually not involved in the teaching process. Rather, the degree is given to the student on behalf of the institution, and instruction has usually been given by a group of teachers, tutors or trainers rather than one specific individual, as is the case with the ijaazah. With a degree, the emphasis is put on the place, the location rather than the teacher.

Another major difference between a regular degree and an ijaazah is the importance placed on the chain of knowledge: this is what is called سَنَد [sanad]. Because an ijaazah must be earned from someone who possesses and masters the knowledge that is being passed on to the student, it is crucial to know the chain of transmission of such knowledge. If this chain cannot be established, the ijaazah has no value and the student earning it cannot, in their turn, teach the knowledge to someone else. This is why you will find information about the transmission of knowledge when you read a Muslim scholar’s biography or introduction before a seminar – this is the traditional way of learning/teaching and it gives the credentials that the scholar needs to transmit their knowledge. Depending on the subject matter, the sanad could go all the way back to Prophet Muhammad .

Thirdly, an ijaazah usually focuses on a very specific topic or textbook, while degrees can remain very general in their scope, especially in some fields such as Liberal Arts or Humanities. It could be argued that an ijaazah would then be closer to a PhD or doctorate in terms of focus.

However, this brings us to our fourth difference. With an ijaazah, there is no notion of grades: the student either acquires the knowledge, in which case the teacher might give ijaazah (giving permission to transmit knowledge is done at the sole discretion of its holder: if they do not deem that the student should receive permission even if they have the ability to acquire it, they have the right not to), or the student does not acquire the knowledge, in which case the ijaazah is not even considered. With a degree, there is a gray area: the student might have failed a class and taken another one instead, their grades might be average, some could even be below what is required for one specific class but the final average will make up for it, or the student might be transferring from another institution and have received credits for previous classes they took, which doesn’t mean they would have succeeded on the program if they had started from the beginning.

Lastly, an ijaazah does not only attest or give proof that the student has become knowledgeable of the subject matter, it will also specifically give its holder the authority to, in their turn, transmit that text or subject to someone else. A university degree will not include that level of authorization because academic fields are not regulated this way. As a matter of fact, if you want to practice medicine, you will still need to pass board certification after graduating from med school and getting your degree. Similarly, if you want to practice law, you will still need to pass the bar exam in the jurisdiction where you intend to practice after having earned your law degree (although there are some exceptions to that rule, but these exceptions are actually pretty similar to the ijaazah process!).


The Ijaazah is NOT a Blanket License

Holding an ijaazah does not mean mastering every single aspect of that specific topic. For instance, someone who receives an ijaazah in Quran memorization might be able to recite the whole Quran but not understand its meaning or the context of revelation of each ayah (verse), whereas someone who hasn’t memorized the whole Quran might be able to. Similarly, someone who has received an ijaazah for memorizing a specific book of hadith might be able to recite a hadith and the chain of transmission of the hadith but they might not be able to derive the legal or spiritual implications from this hadith, whereas someone who is versed in fiqh (understanding of Islamic jurisprudence) or ‘aqeedah (theology and interpretation of creed) but does not hold that same ijaazah might be able to.

Narrated Zayd ibn Thabit: “I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say: ‘May Allah brighten a man who hears a tradition from us, gets it by heart and passes it on to others. Many a bearer of knowledge conveys it to one who is more versed than he is; and many a bearer of knowledge is not versed in it.'” (Hadith Sahih, Sunan Abi Dawud 3660)

The purpose of the ijaazah is really to try and preserve the specific knowledge being transmitted.


The Importance of Earning an Ijaazah in Quran Recitation or Memorization

Nowadays, so many Muslims study Tajweed (recitation rules) and work on memorizing the Quran, masha’Allah! Whether this is done individually, at the local mosque or Islamic school, or with a teacher online, we all know the importance of increasing our knowledge of the Quran, and this includes being able to read it properly, as mistakes in pronunciation can alter the meaning of the Words of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, and carrying it in our hearts through means of memorization.

But we also all know the famous hadith reported by ‘Uthman رضي الله عنه who narrated that the Prophet said: “The best among you is he who learns and teaches the Qur’an.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 5027)

What is knowledge if it is not shared, transmitted, taught to others, even if it is only our family members (and that is actually the best place to start!)?

Earning an ijaazah is a necessary step in ensuring that the knowledge of the Quran is transmitted properly and accurately.


Steps to Take Before Starting Your Ijaazah Reading

Working towards earning an ijaazah is a very long process that can take years depending on the student, their abilities, and the time they able to dedicate to this endeavor. While earning an ijaazah is one of the greatest achievements in one’s Quran learning journey, it is important to remember that what really matters is the journey itself as well as the intention and efforts you are putting in, because the results, as always, are with Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.

If you are interested in earning your ijaazah in Quran recitation and/or memorization, make sure to go through these steps first, thoroughly and sincerely:

Step #1: Learn how to read the Quran in Arabic: depending on where you are in your Quran journey, this might be the very first step that you need to undertake. Learning the Arabic alphabet will allow you to read the Quran and start this special connection with the Book of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.

Step #2: Learn and master the rules of Tajweed, even if you want an ijaazah in Memorization: now that you know the Arabic alphabet and can read the Quran easily and confidently, proper and accurate recitation is your next objective as it will allow you to read the Quran correctly and avoid making mistakes, which can actually change the meaning of what you are reading. This is necessary even if you want to get an ijaazah in Memorization, because if you don’t not memorize the Quran with proper pronunciation, you will not be able to read for your ijaazah.

Step #3: If you want to earn an ijaazah in Quran memorization, you will need to memorize the entire Quran prior to starting your reading for the ijaazah.

Note: Steps 2 and 3 can be done simultaneously.

Although these steps can technically be done on your own, we strongly recommend for you to find a qualified and experienced teacher who will guide you in your learning and correct your mistakes as you go along insha’Allah. Otherwise, you might find yourself in a situation where you think you have acquired the proper knowledge to read for an ijaazah, only to be told by the Shaykh or Shaykhah that you are making too many mistakes and need to start your learning journey almost from the beginning!


At Studio Arabiya, we offer various Quran courses for all ages to help you or your child prepare for our ijaazah Programs in Quran Recitation (Tajweed) and Quran Memorization (Hifz) insha’Allah, which have a strong sanad to Prophet Muhammad. We will also soon be offering ijaazah programs in the transmission of certain Islamic and Arabic texts insha’Allah. Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest updates! Fill out the form in the right column.

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