Interview on Impactful Inspirations – Huda TV

Bilal Philips


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Salam aleikum. Welcome to inspirations. I'm your host Hala Banani, a faith based counselor with over 25 years experience helping 1000s of Muslims around the globe live their best life Al Hamdulillah Bismillah was salat wa salam ala Rasulillah our guest today needs no introduction he is a living legend Allahumma biotic he's amazing life journey took him from Christianity to communism to not only embracing Islam, but earning a PhD in Islamic theology. This Jamaican Canadian was one of the forerunners in doing Dawa in the West. He has written translated and commented on over 50 published books on various Islamic topics, named one of the 500 most influential Muslim for founding the

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international online university, which has had hundreds of 1000s of students mashallah Tabata Allah. It's truly an honor to have Dr. Bilal Philips today As Salam Alikum and welcome to the show.

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Welcome, Salam Warahmatullah wabarakatuh and it's my pleasure to join you today. My salah, you have had a passion for education, you've invested years studying yourself, and now you've dedicated your life to educating the Muslim on Ma Ma sha, Allah Tabata Kala, where did this passion for education come from?

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It is something you could say inborn to some degree, both of my parents or teachers, or teachers, they're not alive anymore.

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I'm getting it out, you know, I grew up in a family of teachers, you know, and instructed me and, and they were constantly guiding me, you know, as I grew up, and after I graduated from

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from university, and began

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working in the field of education, you know, they invited me to be an Islamic Studies teacher in a school, which they were running in Riyadh.

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So they took you under their wings and showed you the path for education and encourage you, and what was the inspiration for the International Open University?

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Well, the International Open University, it used to be called the Islamic online university. But the International Open Universities, inspiration was, to some degree,

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a natural consequence of the path I was going on, in the sense that I taught in high school and junior high Islamic Studies, then I became an instructor in University in Dubai,

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in the American University of Dubai, then, in a German, I became the head of a department of Islamic studies. So I was constantly moving forward towards University.

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And by the 90s, thereby, by the early 2000s, when

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the Internet became much more popular, and education shifted to the internet, you know, I joined that shift, tried to set up a university initially, but didn't have the

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necessary knowledge and information accessible to set up and run completely so. So I set up University Grants one year and then had to shut down because we didn't have the technology to do it. But that moved on I, I became an instructor in an online university from Riyadh knowledge International University. And I set up the department for Islamic studies there and for the English medium. And then I was invited to India to set up the first Islamic University accredited, recognized Islamic University in India, you know, was set up in Chennai, and after that, after setting up that university and striving towards an International Open University, which was it could

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say, sabotaged by Indian security concerns. They they didn't renew my visa and the foreign instructors that I wanted to

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to bring into India, they did allow them and the foreign students that I wanted also to come and be a part of the whole project, they didn't allow them. So then at that point, I said, you know, I need to just go online myself, you know, so that's what took me fully online, it was in 20. Inshallah, that was a blessing in disguise. And that's so important for people to know that sometimes certain doors get closed, but it's a lot guiding you in a in a better direction. And so you took that opportunity to establish your own the International Open University. And you know, in the past, people had to travel to Muslim countries, they had to spend 1000s of dollars to get an Islamic

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education, and you have made it so affordable and accessible to all people around the globe. Mashallah. So, how easy is it to study in IOU?

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It's very easy. If one is patient, you know, because if one is familiar with the internet, then it's super easy. But if one is not permitted, you know, accustomed to studying online, then there are the difficulties of having to learn how to

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get into study online, the process of enrollment is relative is quite simple. But the study, the study process itself requires a level of, of, you could say,

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commitment, level, good sense of time management, that's probably the biggest factor. Most of the people that I speak to, you know, have been with me in IOU for years, you know, doing one semester, a couple of semesters, and then stopping and coming back after another year, you know, what I talked about what's stopping you from just fit going through and finishing it, they always say, It's time management is just managing guys. So so this is the this is the challenge, really.

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I'll just saying that in some, in some circumstances, like we have

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a charitable project, which is 1 million scholarships for African youth.

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Project, tell us where we, we have, you know, setup learning centers, for the students, you know, the learning centers, with with a manager who keeps track of their time, and it became a necessity to keep track, although studying online should mean you have your laptop, you can do it in your bedroom.

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You know, at night when or anytime you want to do it. But right, where people are not used to studying and managing their time, then they need to be in a in a more formal setting. So the learning centers became critical to help them

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feel as though they're in a classroom and feel as though there is somebody who was, you know, was going to be checking on them? Did you do your assignments? Did you do your tests? Did you do this? Did you do that checking like this. So where people are familiar, it's no problem. It's just smooth sailing. For people who are not familiar with online study, then it has its difficulties, and we need to provide supportive systems to help them manage their time, you know, and, and be consistent in this study.

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That's amazing. So when when someone has the background, it's very easy, it's self paced, you can arrange it, there's flexibility, so that that's very beneficial, especially for stay at home moms, they may have kids, they may not be able to go to the university. So you have provided that and I love the fact that you have provided this the 1 million scholarship to African youth I that is that's really phenomenal. May Allah reward you for that. Now, many people don't know the difference between Islam, Assize education and Islamic education. Could you shed some light on the difference please.

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Okay. Actually in IOU we have both. We have Islamic education, which is our Sharia, bachelor's, master's PhD in Sharia, and Arabic

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as a separate discipline. So those two we can say, represent Islamic education, because they're going to teach you about FIP. They're going to teach you about Hadith tafsir, al Qaeda, etc, etc, etc. Whereas the Islamist education, or Islam asides that you mentioned it, you know, that approach is is really a revival of the early hours.

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way of, of teaching and learning

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in the Muslim past in the golden era of Muslims, were Muslims, in Damascus, and in Spain and, and Iraq etc, were the centers of learning and people came to study under the Muslim scholars there and they had others also, but the Muslim scholars in the works which were written in those times, you can you can extract from the work that the the integration of Islam in the work, even though they may be talking about optics, or they're talking about aspects of mechanics, or, or chemistry or whatever, there would be Quranic verses, or Hadith from the Prophet SAW Salem, interwoven in the text that they're teaching, right. And even they took guidance in terms of directions to focus on

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from the Islamic sources. So this is integrated, really the, what we call the Islamic education is integrated education. So what we what we have done and what Muslims need to do in our times, is that we have to bring Islamic understandings and thoughts, etc, in the material that we currently are teaching in all of our schools. So, in our modern international schools, for example,

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the material which is being used as material produced mainly from US, UK, you know, Canada, Australia, whatever, which has been

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secularized. So religious teachings and concepts etc, we are totally removed from it, you know, and this is what they say we remove religion from education, education should be neutral. That's what, that's how it said. But for us as Muslims, that is not good. We are required to make whatever

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projects or, or systems that we operate with, they should be done from an Islamic perspective, we cannot remove Islam from the formula. So we need to bring Islam back into the lecture hall, back into the classrooms, back into the nurseries, you know, that students need to have Islam coming to them. Certainly, I mean, we don't want to go to an extreme where, for example, we turn, you know, biology class, into a Tafseer class, because there's a verse that is related to the topic we're covering, but now we're going to do a massive tafsir to the whole class just becomes tafsir of this verse, which talked about an aspect of science. No, no, no, we keep it the science that is there

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that is established and recognized and acceptable, we, we utilize that. But we also connect the students with the Quran, we connect the students with the Hadith, so that they realize and recognize the relevance as well as the historical contributions that Muslims have made over the centuries. You know, because now a grad students who graduate from the schools across the Muslim world, if you ask them about Sir Isaac Newton, everybody knows if you ask them about, you know, any major scientist of the West, they know but if you ask them about the major scientists of the East, from the Muslim world, they don't know who the people are, you know, I haven't lived in a height them you know, it

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was an optician or a specialist in optics, etc, you ask the average Muslim about hustling, highs them, you know,

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they will say a little easier football is

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have no clue that such an important point. It's about going back to that golden era, where Islam was integrated into the education where everything has that perspective, and the verses and the Hadith, or they come together. And they they support the science. It doesn't contradict the science, which makes it for a much richer education. So I think that's that's absolutely fascinating that you're doing that and I know from when I integrate, let's say psychology and the dean together, it has such a bigger impact. So and I love the fact that you are doing this because so many times in my own secular education you find that they attribute things to mother nature or the universe and it would

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be so refreshing to be able to speak about the creator and the blessings and become more familiarized with

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The amazing achievements of our predecessors. Mashallah, that's that's a wonderful clarification. And so tell us about the enrollment. When is the enrollment? I'm sure everyone is now excited. They want to get this Islam besides education at IOU, how do they enroll? And when is enrollment?

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Well, the enrollment process is relatively simple. You know, as I mentioned earlier, it's just a matter of going online to www, that takes you to your homepage, and from there, you know, you click for enrollment, and that takes you to the registration page, and you fill out the registration page. And in case, you know, there's a request for a zip code, the stumbles be some people, you know, if you don't have a zip code, you can put a number there and just carry on any Now much of the world know about don't know about zip codes.

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I think that's wonderful. Keeps you Yes, go ahead, is that after that, then it's a matter of uploading certificates. You know, after you've uploaded the certificates, which verify that you are a high school graduate, and you know, even if your marks are low, we don't have a standard that, okay, you need to have gotten at least 60% or 80%, or whatever to get in, no, you know, as long as you pass your high school, you know, you're eligible to enroll. And,

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and, you know, after that, then it's a matter of, you know, going to your desk, your, your desktop, and they have a special room that you enter as a student, and, you know,

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you have access to the various elements of the course. And it's something that we have, how to videos, you know, how to register how to enroll our study or classes how to how to access your, your written material, how to, so there's enough how tos there, that you just only have to go again, but it's a matter of familiarization. You know, for those who have never studied online, the how tos may be there, but it doesn't click in their mind. Okay, no, they say I need to find somebody, oh, yeah, we do have a help desk, we have screen time 24/7 They help test is functioning, you know, so they will end up telling you, you know, go to how to if it's not something they can just give you a one

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word or one sentence answer, then they'll tell you know, go to the how to. So. So it's been quite simplified. And there there, we have student committees, which are there to help students also, you can reach out to them or they will reach out to you, if they, if it's seen, the system sees that you're stumbling, you know, then people will reach out and try to help you that it really helps to have a supportive environment where your questions are answered, you have easy videos to make it simplify. And mashallah, you have a psychology department to that I was very excited to see that. And you did this, you are one of the first to establish the psychology masalas department.

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Yeah, the Bachelors of Science in Psychology. I mean, these were among the subjects which, you know, I, I offered in the, the Islamic Studies Department, you know, because University started as only Islamic studies in Arabic. So that's why we call it the Islamic online university. But what I did was, even though we were offering

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Islamic studies, I felt that there were areas which graduates from Islamic universities like myself, needed to be trained in, so that when they come back home to their communities, you know, they would have the necessary skills to provide for the needs of the community. So, you know, when a person graduates from Medina or from alasa, or from wherever, and they go back, you know, everybody calls you share, you know, and they want you to lead the community, you know, you should be the leader of the community. So, I know, they will put the chef up and he's the legal community, but he has not had any training in management, you know, and administration. So this is why I said no students in

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the Sharia must study some couple of courses in Business Administration. You know, I mean, business management. Also, when you come back as an Imam, you know, you're swamped by all of the problems of the community. They come, you know, help us we have these managed marriage problems. We have business problems with our people working for us or people are working over us.

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So, again, this requires counseling skills. But now if you've just been in Sharia studying your, your studies, you're you're dealing with counseling beyond seeing what the Prophet SAW Salem did and getting some ideas. But when proper counseling, you're not trained for it. So I said, No, every body has to do some courses in psychology. So that mashallah

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of counseling, and so on and so forth in education, because when you come back, again, as a chef, you've come back, you know, they want you to teach, we have an Islamic school, we want you to hit that Islamic school and teach his students che Islam. But you have learned how to teach Yes, you have the knowledge, but you know how to impart that knowledge. You take somebody who was graduated from Medina University, or from Azhar and you put them in a school, and they're going to be teaching, you know, primary level, grade one, grade two, grade three. And this is this is the teachers you know, head would start spinning, maybe it ends up taking the Quran and throwing it at

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they need training has become frustrated because they're not trained. Right, right. Well, this is so progressive, have you to think through this because many people you're right, they see the mom or the chef, and he has to wear so many hats, and he hasn't had training and it you know, the fact that you're preparing them mashallah, I think it's so exciting. What keeps you going? Is there a hadith? Is there something in your life that just keeps you pushing so hard? Mashallah.

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Well, the well known Hadith and Allah you have them in our head, they call me the army Romulan, and it becomes, you know, for me, the major motto, if you're gonna do anything, do it to the best of your ability. So this same principle is what we're applying in the Sharia program, which we started, you know, and then those subjects which were given, were evolved into actual separate departments. So the psychology courses that they took, became a psychology department, you know, Islamic banking and finance, it became a separate department and it because again, people graduate, they come back and they, they're cut off from the IT world, there's a whole generation of scholars, people who

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studied and they have no understanding of the of it, and an internet and all this kind of thing. So. So we included those areas, as separate disciplines, and education, again, a critical area, which Muslims neglect, you know, most people only go into education, when you can't get into anything else. You can't get into medicine, you can't get into engineering, can't get into, so on and so forth. At the end of the list is education. So

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but the reality is that this is destroying our society's because

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in the computer science world, garbage in, garbage out.

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If you take the worst of your graduates, and you make them the teachers of your next generation, what can you expect from that next generation? Dr. Bilal, is there anything else that you'd like to mention?

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Well, in closing, besides asking a lot to accept our effort,

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I just like to mention that the registration is going on right now. We have two semesters in a year intake in September, and intake in March. So we're coming up to the intake for September, we have a week remaining for registration, we encourage all students who are interested or others who are interested to take the opportunity now and join and there is a reduction for what we call early bird registration. So please, if you're interested, go immediately to the website and enroll. Mashallah, so the enrollment is going on right now. And if you enroll now, you get a special discount for the early bird so it does look a lot hidden. Dr. Pillai fellows, it was such a pleasure to have you here

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Baraka Luffy comes as I can unlock it. So it's like Hola, Hayden. It was a pleasure to have Dr. Belaz Phillips, such an inspiration in sha Allah. We've all been inspired to seek more Islamic education. May Allah reward your effort and the effort of everyone on International Open University. We will take a short break and we will be right back to meet the Vice Chancellor of international online University. Dr. Berry in sha Allah Salam aleikum.

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Welcome back to inspirations. I'm your host Hala Banani. We're back with our second guest from the International Open University, Dr. Cherno Omar Berry, who is the Vice Chancellor International Open University. He is an accomplished academic literary critic, editor and researcher. He has also served in the highest positions in Gambia including being permanent secretary to the office of the president mashallah Tabata Allah As Salam Alikum and welcome to the show, Wiley como Stella Warahmatullah wabarakatuh. Thank you so much for the invitation. It's a pleasure to have you my salah. So you know, many people do not know the difference between Islamize size education and

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Islamic education. Could you shed some light on that, please?

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Yes, I think it is important for us to make a distinction. I'm sure for most of us who have got a little history of Islam. In the early years, or, let's say a quarter century of Islam. Most of the research that has been done in education that has been done was done in all subjects, but from the basis of Islam, using the Quran and the Sunnah, to guide them. So I'm sure we've known of discoveries that have happened in in, you know, Algebra algorithm, a host of other things, that has all been inspired from the perspective of Islamist education, meaning that the education that was gained at the time has also taken into consideration the concepts of, you know, the dean, the dean,

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being something that is part of us, that is our daily life, that is our thinking, our philosophy, our understanding of the world. And therefore from that basis, then science was studied, from the business psychology was studied, philosophy was studied, and therefore it be brings much more understanding of how we live as people, but how we live also as Muslims, you know, with the guidance of Allah subhanaw taala. So that is what we will call Islamic education wise, Islamic education is probably just learning, you know, the understanding or like learning the Quran and knowing how to read and write, you know, Arabic because you are a Muslim and then learning the Quran, learning some

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some of the Hadees to understand better Islam knowing how to pray, knowing what are some of the fundamentals of your deen and practicing them. So this can be called Islamic education. You are learning Islam through a form of education, but Islamic education is learning any other thing geography, psychology, physics, chemistry, biology, but from an Islamic perspective, so that you understand that everything has an Islamic view of what you need to know in this world. And the Quran subhanaw taala has demonstrated in the Quran. Um, so a lot of miracles of science have been shown, you know, in the Quran to testify that in fact, Islam has always also accommodated revelation, it

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has accommodated innovation, it has accorded creativity to make our life much better. Mashallah, so it's about integrating Islam within every subject that is the Islam, Assize education, and then the Islamic education is just learning about Islam. So that is beautifully explained.

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I know that accreditation is very critical, if you could tell us first of all, is is the International Open University accredited, and how important is it to have accreditation?

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Alhamdulillah the International Open University which started in 2010, really started showing interest to many, many people, many students started you know, that Islam Islamic education that it was offering became a kind of an interest and naturally, the founder and Chancellor Dr. Bilal Philips found it necessary then to see for accreditation. Yes, as I speak with you presently, after about 12 years now, we are fully accredited in the Gambia and we also accurate in Malawi Alhamdulillah. And we also have a program accreditations. So we have what we call the license institution, but also have the program accreditation and Alhamdulillah. This is a great effort that

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has been done from the team of IOU but also for many well wishers who have supported the efforts. And also as I speak with you, we have not we have done the bachelors programs that have been completed reviews, curriculum reviewed and updated. And now what we are doing now we have we have decided to develop the master's program for all the other disciplines that we have. And they have been submitted for accreditation. So it's an ongoing process now. So we have

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that accreditation will will will be completed soon. And we will also have all our master's programs offered and we have also started working on our PhD

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For example,

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studies already offered already, and we are hoping that they will develop our PhD programs in the in the very short time, inshallah. That's amazing. So the accreditation has been established for some of the bachelors programs, you're working towards the masters and the PhD May I love good, put so much bad luck and all that you're doing. So I think a lot of people are very interested in being a part of this amazing institution. How can students enroll in IOU?

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Oh, that's very interesting. Because the IOU contract it so many institutions that you know, it's very unique, it's very unique in the sense that we are on entirely online, you offer our courses online. And therefore in as much as we need to also respect the fact that there is a cycle to do. So there are two cycles, there is what we call the fall, the fall cycle and the spring cycle. So naturally, courses will stop at some point exams will be done. And another program will also kick off for another cycle. So two cycles in the year, but then it does not stop enrollment enrollment is a continuous process throughout the year. In fact, as I speak with you now, there's some good news

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that people need to know, we do offer a very big discounts for students who enroll early, we call them the early birds. So in August, for example, from the first of August to the end of August, we do early enrollment, and anybody who enrolls during this period, you have you have about 10% discount on

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a lot inshallah. So, so we in fact, we are starting courses around mid April, I mean, second week of April, sorry. And the chances are, we might even extend it for an extra week, you know, in the first week of September, sorry. So the second week of September is when we start courses, but if people are really keen, they should now come on board, because they do have the earlybird offer still on board. And that will help them so enrollment doesn't stop it is throughout the process. And that is the nature of our operations. It allows people to be guided to this mentor to be prepared, so that any one of the courses kick off, they will start getting their courses in sha Allah. Mashallah,

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that's wonderful. Now, we were talking about it being tuition free. And could you please explain that, that I misunderstand the did I misunderstand that is tuition free?

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Yes, actually, when we say tuition free, when you come there are so many universities, you look at our fees, enrollment fees, that's what we call them enrollment fees, you realize that we, we have a serious discount already. And you have additional discounts like the early bird and all that. But we already have a serious discount. Let me just give you an example. Let's say for example, you are within Africa,

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you your purchasing power is very low, we have decided that for those who are within this context, the fees will be very, very low. So you pay $10 for the semester, rather than $10 for the whole semester for the people that whole semester. Yes, especially if you're within this zone. Now, let's assume now you are within a zone where maybe your purchasing power is much higher, still yet is very competitive. Because if you're in the US, for example, or the UK, you are probably required to pay only $350 for the for the semester. And that means you pay less than a you know, $1,000 in the year, maybe you have other kind of opportunity. And what that means is that you can get your bachelor's,

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if you're from a low developing country, or at least developed country for probably almost about $1,000 for a whole four year program.

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That is remarkable to make it so affordable. How many students have enrolled and in how many different countries?

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Well, presently we can boast off

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between 500 to 600,000.

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Helen, the law, what we have now is that we do have what we call those who are enrolling in our bachelors program that is a degree programs, which we are offering but we also offer certificate and what we call diploma programs. Now, these ones also offer a much less number of years. And you can also get in any of these disciplines, we offer a certificate or a diploma, you can even get what we call an associate degree. So this is very important to announce because people don't have to believe that they have to go to state for years to get whatever they need. So that as a result if you put all that figure together, you might probably get up to about 600,000 But if you go by the fingers

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actually now as we speak, we do have about 200,000 students who are enrolled, completely doing their bachelor's and you know doing their auto certificates

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for me

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sha Allah may Allah put Baraka dinette and may you educate millions and millions of students. And what is the future for International Open University?

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Well, we are still continuing our our most important objective, which is changing the nation through education. There are a lot of people, Muslims in particular, but we are not restricted to Muslims, we are to say to everybody who is willing to join us, we don't discriminate in religion. But we have a lot of people out there who are in need of education, who are in need of understanding maybe their Deen much better than they should, who are also in need of skills, the internet's Open Universities willing to take education to their doorsteps. And this is in the real literal sense, not that that concept that we say we bring to your doorstep by building schools, no, this actually within your

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bedroom, you can start there, you have to leave it there. And you can do any of those studies, bachelor's, master's and PhD soon to come. And we mean we mean it because we think if you study what will happen eventually is that you can get the skills well you can also get the knowledge that you that you will earn info. So yes, we have been expanded and Alhamdulillah we pray to Allah for the support that many people are giving us. And we are hoping that gradually we will reach out to those who are needed and who will benefit from the education we offer. That's truly amazing. Mashallah, just like Allah Hara and Dr. Turner, Berry, the Vice Chancellor of International Open University,

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you have really inspired us at the work that you and Dr. Bilal Philips have done in creating a very accessible and affordable way to gain Islamist size education, which is so critical. I pray that more and more people benefit from this. Make sure you look up that International Open University and enroll and educate yourself so that you can help change the nation in sha Allah, just like Allah hate on. Bad I can love people. All right.

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Well, I likoma Salam wa rahmatullah wa barakatu just like a lot Hayden for tuning in today. Join us next week with another episode of inspirations.

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