As salaamu alaykum (Peace be with you and upon you),
Over the years I’ve received a number of questions from readers about studying in Damascus, and asking for suggestions, more information, and general advice. Here are the reasons why, if you’ve asked a question in the comments, I most likely did not answer:
1. I feel that a blog gives a very skewed picture, or just a few snapshots of the reality of living in a place, and I have intentionally left many things unsaid about the day-to-day struggles of living in Syria as a foreigner and about being a student there. To get a fuller and more comprehensive picture, one really must speak to someone in person about their experience, and get all the relevant information and details needed to make an informed decision about whether Syria is the right place for them. I just don’t feel comfortable sometimes giving a yes/no, short response to some of the questions asked, without the person having that proper background and fuller picture in mind.
2. Each person is different and I think Syria is not the best place for everyone, so my recommendations about it would differ depending on the person asking, their background, way of thinking, and their understanding of Islam. I remember very clearly meeting Western Muslims who were living in Syria solely because they could not get proper paperwork for ‘more Islamic’ countries. Many seemed to have a sort of bitter attitude towards being there, and really overlooked many of the blessings and good in the place that they were in, which I don’t think is healthy. Before going to Syria one really has to become familiar with the way Islam is taught there, and decide whether or not one is comfortable with learning and living in that environment. (Learning there does not mean one has to agree or absorb everything taught 100%, but that at the very least you are willing to humble and open yourself enough to be a student and learn and benefit from your time there). This preparation and information-gathering comes from, like I mentioned, talking to real people who have been there.
3. A big part of studying in Syria is through private teachers and shuyukh. Obviously, these are not things that I can advertise on the web and it’s a matter of finding good connections who can help you find teachers to sit with and learn from.
4. I have not been to Syria in more than three years now, so I really can’t answer questions about the current state of the schools there and the visa situation, etc. From what I’ve heard, it’s a challenge these days for Westerners to enter the country as students, and many institutes which were open to foreigners in the past have officially closed their doors to accepting new foreign students. Please note this and find out as much information as you can before going; I know people who actually traveled there and were unfortunately turned away when they tried to enroll in certain institutions. From what I’ve read the government in Syria (which was never particularly friendly to students) has become even more stringent with the Islamic institutions there and the enrollment process. I am not trying to discourage anyone, but please be prepared.
In conclusion, please forgive me for not responding to the comments made in this vein over the years. I pray that you all find what you are seeking.
Since I no longer live in Syria (you can visit my recently built blog about Cairo, where I now live, here) this blog is officially closed, though I am leaving the material in tact for whoever may benefit, bi’ithnillah.
wasalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullah