Education and Careers

Free online Islamic university attracts thousands of students


From the 1st of April, 2010, Dr Bilal Philip’s Islamic Online University (IOU) launched the world’s first tuition-free, Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Studies in English completely online. The IOU represents a major new step towards helping Muslims across the globe fulfill the Prophet’s command to seek knowledge of the religion and correct their understanding of its tenets.

After successfully running a collection of 24 free diploma courses since 2007, in which more than 50,000 students are currently registered from more than 202 different countries, Dr Bilal has taken the bold step of offering a BA in Islamic studies along similar lines.

World’s First Tuition-Free BA in Islamic Studies Online

This path-breaking initiative utilizes the worldwide presence of the internet and advanced open source online learning technology to bring tuition-free university level Islamic education within reach of virtually anyone on the planet that has access to a computer and the internet.

The program has recorded audio and video lectures and weekly live tutorial classes in a virtual classroom setting on the net and its syllabi are based on the BA in Usool ud-Deen (Religious Foundations) curriculums of Madeenah University, Saudi Arabia, Omdurman Islamic University, Sudan, Al-Azhar in Egypt and other similar reputable Islamic institutions. Six subjects are offered each semester. Each semester is 5 months, having an online mid-term exam after two and a half months and a supervised final online at the end of the fifth month. Students are free to access their classes whenever it is convenient for them, however assignments have to be turned in and exams (mid-term and finals) have to be taken at fixed times.

There are no fees for the courses. However, there is a fixed modest registration fee each semester which is calculated on a sliding scale (from $40 to $120) depending on the student’s country of residence. Enrolment for the spring semester (March 2012 - August 2012) has begun at and for further clarification or help, the registrar may be contacted at email:; Students in India may contact, mobile +91 90007-77950,,

It is worth noting that in 2010, the Islamic University of Madeenah celebrated its 40th year of operation during which some 30,000 students studied in its lecture halls. In contrast, that number of students has been achieved by the IOU in three and a half years of operation. Of course, Dr Bilal was one of the Islamic University’s graduates, so the IOU is ultimately one of its products, al-hamdu lillaah. Furthermore, study at Madeenah is superior to study in IOU from a language perspective and depth of courses. Also, AOU (American Open University), the oldest and most prestigious Islamic University offering distance learning from the USA, founded in 1995, after 15 years had 6,000 students and 600 graduates.

It is also notable that students in IOU are required to take courses in modern fields important to graduates when they return to their communities, like Islamic psychology, Islamic economics and banking, Islamic business administration, teaching methodology, information technology (computers), etc. Students also have the option to do an additional semester of study in which five of the core courses for those majoring in these fields are taken. Thus, IOU graduates can obtain BA in Islamic studies degrees with minors in psychology, or economics and banking, or business administration, etc.

The success of the Islamic Online University led to its founder, Dr Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, being mentioned in the media section of the first two editions (2009 & 2010) of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World produced by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Jordan.    The benefits of studying the IOU BA or Diploma courses:
  1. It provides a non-sectarian, authentic, Qur’aan and Sunnah based understanding of Islamic teachings.
  2. It clears up the many misconceptions which have led some Muslims into extreme views involving violence and terrorism.
  3. It gives those in various professions an Islamic perspective from which to practice their professions while maintaining Islamic values and limits.
  4. It empowers Muslim women who rarely get the opportunity to study the religion in depth and to address the contemporary contentious gender related issues.
  5. It facilitates easy access to Islamic knowledge, as all its courses are taught in English medium with the exception of Arabic.
  6. It offers a structured course for the study of Arabic enabling students to master the basics of the Arabic language and preparing them to be efficient translators in the future.
  7. It focuses on a well-rounded program of study by integrating in the syllabus modern subjects like, management, economics, psychology, educational methodology, etc. all taught from a comparative perspective.
  8. It is geared to produce upright, productive citizens through its focus on ethical teachings of Islam in all spheres of life.
  9.  It promotes religious tolerance among its students and graduates by introducing them to the historical foundations of multicultural societies which Muslims established around the world like those in Spain, Baghdad, Cairo, Palestine, etc.