Zaynab Institute: Classical Islamic Learning

Registration Status: Open

Please read the program overview below thoroughly before applying. 
Classes for new students begin September 7, 2020.  
The deadline for registration is September 21, 2020.

Students who want to register for this program after the deadline must email a request to for late enrollment. 


Program Overview

Classical Islamic Learning (CIL) is a 4-year degree program providing a holistic study of Islamic disciplines. Based on the Dars Nizami curriculum, CIL also focuses on contemporary issues relevant to Muslim women who want to develop a Quranic and Prophetic understanding of Islam. Some major subjects of the traditional alimah program (Islamic scholar course) are included as well as academic, spiritual, and practical subjects needed for educational positions, dawah efforts, and leadership roles in society. This program aims to provide an accessible way for Muslim women towards intellectual and spiritual growth with the purpose of increasing our connection to Allah.   

This program includes:

  • 7 subjects each year 
  • 12 hours per week of class time.
  • Teachers who have completed the Alimah course with most of them also holding other diverse degrees and experiences.  
  • Live classes with interactive sessions and discussion forums. 
  • Recordings available for those who cannot attend live classes with a requirement of a minimum of 80% total attendance of which at least half of the classes per semester are attended live. 
  • Online tests at the end of each semester as well as required midterm quizzes and assignments.
  • A Classical Islamic Learning degree granted upon the successful completion of the program which requires fulfilling attendance and exam requirements. 

Year 1 Calendar

Semester 1Semester 2
September 7 – December 18, 2020January 18- April 23, 2021 (10th Ramadan)
Winter breakRamadan/ Eid Break
January 4 – January 15, 2021May 24 – June 27, 2021

Classical Islamic Learning Curriculum Overview: 2020-2023

Subject(time/ week)Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4
Quran(2.5 hrs)Surah Furqan – Surah Naas
(Juz 19-30)
Surah Fatiha – Surah Araaf
(Juz 1-9)
Surah Anfaal – Surah Noor
(Juz 10-18)
Jalalayn: selections
Hadith (2.5 hrs)Forty Hadith Collection of Imam NawawiRiyadhus SaliheenRiyadhus SaliheenMishkat: Kitabul Iman Sahih Muslim: selectionsAbu Dawood: selections
Fiqh (75 min)Ascent to Felicity:Basics of Taharah, Salah, and SawmQuduri:Zakat, Haj, Nikah, Talaq, and CommerceUsul-e-FiqhContemporary Fiqh
Arabic hrs)Introductory Arabic 1Introductory Arabic 2Sharha Miata AamilHidayat-un-NahwHidayat-un-Nahw
History (75 min)SeerahSahabaHistory of Khulafa RashidunTopical modules on Muslim CivilizationFamous Historical Figures
Islamic Studies(75 min)Intro to Quranic StudiesIman and AqidahWomen and Gender  Knowledge and ScholarshipIslamic Legal Tradition   Prophecy and Usul-e-Hadith Contemporary Issues (society and economy)Comparative ReligionPhilosophy of Religion Religion and Science
Spirituality and Life Skills (75 min)Purification of the HeartUnderstanding Relationships and MarriageThe Book of Assistance by Imam al-HaddadSpiritual Parenting Asma-ul-HusnaIslam & PsychologyIhya ulum-ud- Deen by Imam al-Ghazali (abridged)

Subjects, schedules, and policies may change at the discretion of the institute.

YEAR 1: First Semester Details & Schedule

Qur’an 1: Translation and Commentary
Instructor: Ustadha Sobia Ahmed
Days: Monday & Wednesday
Time: 12-1:15 PM Chicago | 6-7:15 PM UK | 7-8:15 PM South Africa

Course DescriptionThis course covers word-to-word translation of the Quran with explanation and tafsir (commentary). The commentary is based on authentic Hadith, classical sources of scholarly tafsir, and the lives and teachings of the virtuous believers who were the embodiment of the Quran. The emphasis is on understanding the depths of Quranic wisdom and to highlight spiritual insights and practical advice from the meanings of the Quran, with the purpose of increasing our heartfelt connection with Allah.

Forty Hadith Collection of Imam Nawawi
Instructor: Ustadha Yumna Patel
Days: Tuesday & Thursday 
Time: 1:30-2:45 PM Chicago | 7:30-8:45 PM UK | 8:30-9:45 PM South Africa

Course Description: The Arba’een of Imam Nawawi is a famous collection of Prophetic narrations compiled by one of the most widely accepted scholars in Islamic history. It mainly contains hadith from Sahih Bukhari and Muslim. These fundamental narrations of the Prophet ﷺ will cover different subjects such as belief, worship, and spirituality, establishing a meaningful connection to our real world and existing way of life.

Introductory Arabic 1
Instructors:  Ustadha Somaiya Ansari and Ustadha Amenah Patel
Days: Tuesday & Thursday
Time: 10-11 AM Chicago | 4- 5 PM UK | 5- 6 PM South Africa

Course Description: This course lays the foundation of the fundamentals of the Arabic language with the aim of directly understanding the Quran and Hadith. Every week, one session covers grammar (nahw) and the other session covers verb conjugation (sarf) at a slow pace focused on absorbing the material. Textbooks include Arabic Tutor and Tasheel-un-Nahw. The first year focuses on analyzing Arabic words and sentences with examples from the Quran and Hadith. 

Ascent to Felicity: Basic Fiqh
Instructor: Ustadha Sanaa Rana
Day: Thursday
Time: 11 AM -12:15 PM Chicago | 5-6:15 PM UK | 6-7:15 PM South Africa

Course Description: Ascent to Felicity, a manual on Islamic Creed and Hanafi Fiqh, serves as the primary textbook of this course which covers the basic legal rules of purification, prayer, and fasting over the duration of one academic year.  The first term includes the rules of taharah (purification), wudhu, ghusl, and the fiqh of menstruation.   

Seerah: Makki Period
Instructor: Ustadha Mehreen Bawla
Day: Monday
Time: 10:30-11:45 AM Chicago | 4:30-5:45 PM UK | 5:30- 6:45 PM South Africa

Course Description: The beautiful life of our beloved Prophet (SAWS) begins with pre-Islamic Arabia, follows his early life, and then describes the challenging times in Makkah after prophethood. This course also discusses major questions and debates regarding certain topics about the seerah. 

Introduction to Qur’anic Studies
Instructor: Ustadha Farheen Farooq
Days: Friday
Time: 11 AM -12:15 PM Chicago | 5-6:15 PM UK | 6-7:15 PM South Africa

Course Description: This comprehensive course includes a history of the collection of the Quran, the miracle of the Quran, themes of the Quran, themes in tafsir, sources and styles of tafsir, science and tafsir, and more.

Purification of the Heart
Instructors: Ustadha Aisha Chaudhry and Ustadha Hafsa Teladia
Day: Sunday
Time: 12-1:15 PM Chicago | 6-7:15 PM UK | 7-8:15 PM South Africa

Course Description: This course covers the spiritual diseases of the heart and focuses on how to identify and practically treat them so we can become people with sound hearts and peaceful lives.  Problems such as anger, jealousy, malice, and arrogance are covered in detail in the light of the Quran, Hadith, scholarly texts as well as in the practice of psychology. Classes are enriched with interactive sessions and self-development worksheets.   

Note: Due to Daylight Savings Time followed in the US and UK, some classes may be pushed back one hour in November depending on the convenience of the teacher and student majority.

Instructors’ Profiles

Ustadha Sobia Ahmed was born in Baltimore, Maryland and raised in a small town near Chicago, IL. She received her BA with Honors in Sociology from the University of Chicago and has a Master’s in Education from the University of Illinois. During her university days, she became interested in an in-depth study of Islam through classical texts but was frustrated by the limited opportunities at that time. She promised to help others like herself if she ever had the chance to learn. In 1999, ustadha traveled with her husband to Pakistan for formal Islamic education and received her Alimiyya degree from Wifaaqul Madaaris in Lahore, Pakistan. Ustadha founded Zaynab Academy with her husband in 2005 as a means for university students in Pakistan to study classical Islamic learning in an accessible manner.  With time, Zaynab Academy grew into an online platform with a global reach. Over the past 15 years, ustadha has taught different subjects, conducted diverse workshops, and delivered motivational talks for women. She has been teaching the Quran class in CIL and the Quran Program for 7 years. She is the mother of four children. 

Ustadha Aisha Chaudhry was born and raised in Florida. In February 2001, while she was in university, she reverted to Islam. She holds a BA degree in Psychology from the University of Central Florida. Ustadha completed her 6-year Alimiyya degree at Zaynab Academy Online where she has conducted talks on mental health, mindful parenting, and on becoming better versions of ourselves. Currently, she is completing her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from a US-based university and works at King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre as a Psychologist trainee. Ustadha is the founder of Manara Institute and has been counselling women and children, helping them find contentment, meaning, and purpose as they draw closer to Allah.  She currently lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with her husband and five children.

Ustadha Amenah Patel was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. She completed the 6-year Alimiyya degree at Zaynab Academy Online where she has taught tajweed and Hayatus Sahaba (an Arabic literary text on the lives of the Sahaba). For the past 12 years, Ustadha has also been teaching Quran and Islamic Studies to girls at her local masjid, and recently received ijaza in Hafs Recitation (tajweed) through a local institute. Currently, she conducts monthly programs for women in her community and is a married mother of three children.

Ustadha Farheen Farooq was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She holds a BS degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics with a Didactics Certification, with a long career in health coaching and nutrition education. Ustadha recently completed the Alimiyya degree at Zaynab Academy Online where she has taught hadith for the past few years from Riyadh-us-Saliheen and has conducted workshops on topics like Ramadan and mindful parenting.

While pursuing her connection with hadith, ustadha also received her ijazah in the Forty Hadith by Imam al-Nawawi under the tutelage of Shaykh Salman Nadwi. For more than a decade, she has also been conducting inspirational talks to women via online platforms and onsite in the hope of spreading the message of this Deen. She is a married mother of three children.

Ustadha Hafsa Teladia was born and raised in Blackburn, UK and completed a National Diploma in Business Administration. She initially began her journey in Islamic knowledge at the age of 18 at the well-known Dar-ul Uloom, Jamiatul Imam Muhammad Zakariyya in Bradford (UK), where she ranked the highest in her 1st year exams. After marriage and relocation, she had to leave her course but continued teaching Quran and Islamic studies to children. Ustadha resumed her studies at Zaynab Academy Online where she has taught Qasas-un-Nabiyeen, an Arabic literary text, and recently completed the Alimah course. She is passionate about reconnecting creation to the Creator and teaching self-improvement. Currently, she resides in East Midlands, UK with her husband and children, and runs a local after-school program teaching women and children tajweed, Islamic studies, and Arabic. 

Ustadha Mehreen Bawla was raised in New York but has been living in Chicago for more than 2 decades where she is actively engaged in the work of the deen. She completed her professional degree at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been a pharmacist by profession since then. She is also the co-founder of Carriers of Light, a private Islamic school with a focus on hifdh of the Quran, in suburban Chicago. Ustadha completed her Alimiya degree at Zaynab Academy Online where she has taught advanced fiqh, inheritance law, and hadith. She is a married mother of 4 children.

Ustadha Sana’a Rana completed a BA Degree in Business Administration and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Resources from the National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences (affiliated with FAST University) in Lahore, Pakistan. During her university years, she pursued her Islamic learning at Zaynab Academy and completed the Alimiyya degree in 2015. Ustadha has been teaching introductory fiqh for many years and enjoys incorporating her interest in self-development in her classes. Currently, she resides in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with her husband and young child. 

Ustadha Somaiya Ansari was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, with a major in software engineering, and has worked as a software engineer in Telecom Projects. After moving abroad and becoming a mother, she underwent a career change and trained in early childhood education, computer education, and English as a second language. Ustadha studied Arabic, Quranic Arabic, tajweed, and fiqh at a local institute before joining Zaynab Academy Online where she completed her Alimiyya degree. She has been teaching tajweed, Arabic grammar, and Quranic Arabic in an accessible and easy manner. Ustadha aspires to learn and memorize more of the Quran and deepen her understanding of Arabic. Currently, she lives in Doha, Qatar with her husband and three children and likes to pursue her creative side as a home-based paper-crafter.

Ustadha Yumna Patel was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. She completed a B.Sc. in Health Sciences (majoring in Pharmacology) and received a post-graduate Certificate in Education. She studied the initial subjects of the alimah course locally before joining Zaynab Academy Online where she later completed the 6-year Alimiyya degree and taught Arabic and Usul-e-Fiqh. Ustadha aspires to bring women from all walks of life closer to Allah. Currently, she hosts weekly spiritual development programs in different areas of Johannesburg and also teaches Quran to groups of women onsite. She is a core part of Teen Talk South Africa where she mentors many girls and regularly holds Teen Tarbiyah. Ustadha is a single mom to 2 young children and proudly in the service of her parents.

How are Classes Conducted?

Classes are conducted via the online learning tool, Zoom. Some features of our virtual classroom include: 

  • Accessibility via desktops, laptops, and smartphones
  • Live Audio Streaming
  • Screen sharing with the instructor through slides and reference material
  • Chat box for live interaction with the instructor and other students
  • Availability of class recordings

Learning Management System—LMS

All teachers and students also participate in a user-friendly LMS with the following features:

  • Discussion Forums for interacting with classmates and Teaching Assistants
  • Announcement Board
  • Assignment Submission
  • Downloads for Class Presentations and Slides
  • Online Quizzes and Exams
  • Online Calendar
  • Resource sharing for a joint learning experience
  • Student Grade Cards

Online Examination Process

Students are assessed through tests with multiple-choice questions, short answers, and/or open-book essays at the end of each semester. Short quizzes and assignments are also given in the middle of the semester required to ensure students stay on track throughout the year. These assessments are all conducted online. Detailed guidelines on the examination process will be shared in the student handbook as the semester proceeds.   


Q: Is there a fee for this program?
A: All courses offered by Zaynab Institute are free of charge and run on donations.

Q: Is there an attendance policy?
A: Attendance is regularly marked for each class. To qualify for certification, students need to maintain at least 80% attendance each term. At least 50% of all the classes each semester must be attended live. Recordings are available when live attendance is not possible.

Q: How difficult is the CIL program?
A: Classes are conducted in college-level English but the content of most subjects can be understood by a moderately educated woman who can read and write at a secondary school level. With moderate effort and time, such a student can complete and pass exams.  

Q: Is there an age limit?
A: Students should be at least 18 years old.  

Q:  Do I need to know Arabic?
A:  Some basic ability to read Quran in Arabic is assumed at the beginning of this program. Basic Arabic grammar is covered at moderate pace with English explanations. All the books covered are in English along with Arabic in some of the advanced subjects.  

Q:  Is this an Alimah course?
A:  This is based on the classical curriculum of the alimah course (Dars-e-Nizami) and covers many of the subjects taught in the first few years of the full alimah course. So CIL is a partial alimah course. After successful completion of the CIL program, interested graduates can apply for admission for the final few years of a full alimah program at other institutes. 

Q:  How is it different from the previous CIL program offered by Zaynab Academy Online?
A:  This new CIL program is an abridged version of the previous CIL course offered. The previous course was 6 years long and included the subjects for the alimah degree. This course is shortened to 4 years and includes many of the same early subjects with the addition of other academic and personal growth classes.  

Q:  How is this different from the Quran Program (QP)?
A:  The Quran component of the CIL program is done jointly with QP. Some other subjects like History, Islamic Studies, Basic Fiqh, Islamic Spirituality and Life Skills are optional classes for QP students and held jointly with CIL students. However, advanced CIL subjects are not open for QP students. 

Q: What if I need to miss some classes during the year due to university exams, professional commitments, or family concerns?
A: Our courses are designed to cater to professionals, university students as well as stay-at-home moms. We do understand that there may be occasions when you may not be able to attend class for valid reasons. Recordings are available so that students may catch up with the classes they have missed after approval from the administration. 

Q: What equipment and tech capabilities are required?
A: A smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC, with a working internet connection is essential. Students are expected to have a basic understanding of web browsing, accessing emails, and typing short answers or assignments which are all necessary in order to access classes and to submit exams.