An Educational Institute Dedicated to Islaamic Ideals
Saudi Arabia is a nation blessed with abundant resources. It has vast reserves of oil, natural gas and minerals. Yet to the Kingdom, the nation’s most valuable resource is its people, and one of its principal tasks has been to build a quality educational system to enable citizens to develop their capabilities to their fullest and to contribute to the country’s continued development. Since its founding in 1932, Saudi Arabia has established eight universities that offer undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in Islamic studies, sciences and the arts.
The universities are Imam Muhammad bin Saud University, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, King Abdul Aziz University, King Saud University, the Islamic University of Madinah, Umm Al-Qura University, King Faisal University and the newest, King Khalid University. Starting with this issue, these universities will be profiled in a series of articles with a view to outlining their specialties, activities and contributions to Saudi society and its higher education system.
The Riyadh-based Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University is one of the oldest institutes of higher education in Saudi Arabia. Its roots go back more than half-a-century, to when the General Presidency of Colleges and Educational Institutes was established by the founder of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdul Rahman Alu-Saud. In 1947, the statutes of the university were formulated and the first steps were taken to set up a modern university. Established in 1950, the Scientific Institute of Riyadh formed the core of what in 1974 became the Imam Muhammad bin Saud University. The new university brought together under one umbrella the activities of a number of colleges and institutes of higher education in Riyadh.
Over the years, the university introduced a modern educational system in its Riyadh campus and established five faculties: the Higher Judiciary Institute, the College of Islamic Law, the College of Arabic, the College of Da’wah (Call) and Information, and the College of Theology. By 1975, some 4,000 students were enrolled at the university, studying Islamic, Arabic and social sciences.
As enrollment grew, reaching 12,000 in the mid-1980s and more than 15,000 a decade later, the existing faculties were expanded and additional fields of study introduced. Initially, the student body was largely made up of young people from the Riyadh area. As the number of applicants from other parts of the country increased, the university moved to establish colleges outside Riyadh. Presently, there are two colleges in Abha, two in Buraidah, one in Al-Hasa and one in Madinah. The various colleges in Riyadh and other cities offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in 23 disciplines.
In addition to providing quality education to young Saudis, the university’s other principal objectives as outlined in its charter include the promotion of a better understanding of Islamic sciences and Arabic language and culture outside the Kingdom. The university has sought to realize these objectives through establishing close working relationships with other institutes of higher learning throughout the world, conducting research and exchanging information.
The number of non-Saudi students enrolled at Saudi institutes of higher education has been increasing over the years due to the high quality of education and the affiliations Saudi universities have established with counterparts in other regions of the world. The Imam Muhammad Bin Saud University has welcomed this trend as a means of promoting advanced study of Islamic and Arabic sciences in other countries.
In addition to accepting foreign students at its faculties in Saudi Arabia, the Imam Muhammad Bin Saud University has established six institutes of higher education outside the Kingdom to enable a larger number of non-Saudis to study Islamic and Arabic sciences. Upon completion of these courses, students receive degrees issued by the internationally accredited Imam Muhammad bin Saud University.
The institute’s Arabic Language Department offers courses ranging from intermediate to advanced for non-Arabic speakers. Relying on an educational staff of native Arabic teachers and using modern audio-visual equipment and computers, the department offers a high-quality language program that enrolls some 600 students annually. The department is currently working with counterparts at American universities to establish a graduate program in teaching Arabic as a second language.
Enrollment in the courses offered by both the Department of Islamic Sciences and the Arabic Language Department is free of charge to students who meet the institute’s qualification requirements.
The institute has an extensive research department, where researchers conduct studies and collect information related to Islam and Islamic studies. They compile and translate information which is used to publish books in Arabic and English, thousands of copies of which are sent free-of-charge to libraries, educational institutions and Islamic centers throughout North America and the Islamic world.
The Department of Information Services provides computers used in the teaching programs as well as for the institute’s other activities. It also designs and develops educational and scientific software for use in learning and teaching Islam and Arabic.
The institute also has a large reference library that is open to students, visitors and researchers. It holds more than 20,000 books and thousands of publications on Islam and the Arabic language, social sciences, geography, history and biography. The Department of Seminars and Activities organizes specialized courses and functions, such as seminars and conferences, in the fields of Islamic and Arabic sciences.