The Diploma in Contextual Islamic Studies and Leadership is a unique and demanding year-long programme that has been specifically designed to meet the educational and training needs of graduates from Dar al-Ulums in the United Kingdom.

The aim of the College is to introduce young ulama to science, history, literature, community development and the history of ideas so that they can become capable and confident ulama ready to serve the British Muslim community and wider society. We wish to invite you to consider applying for the Diploma in Contextual Islamic Studies and Leadership.

The Diploma Prospectus is updated each year and covers full details of the qualification – its purpose, content, testimonials and application procedure.

Click here – CMC Prospectus – to read the Diploma Prospectus for 2017-18.

The Diploma in Contextual Islamic Studies & Leadership is a one-year course designed to help those who already possess a significant training in the Islamic Sciences to develop, articulate and implement their knowledge effectively in Britain today. It is also aimed at helping students with a background in traditional Islamic studies to go on to join the mainstream of British further education. The course draws on Islamic sources for inspiration and guidance in all these aims, as well as providing the relevant skills and knowledge necessary in modern British society. It is taught by leading scholars and practitioners, from the University of Cambridge, the British Muslim community and elsewhere.


The Diploma course has three inter-related aims:

  • To enable students to understand and engage with contemporary debates about the role of religion in general, and Islam in particular, in modern society;
  • To encourage the students to be compassionate and reliable spiritual and pastoral advisors to Muslims and others;
  • To equip students with practical skills to make them more effective leaders of Muslim institutions and to enhance their career prospects in all fields.

The requirements for entry on to the programme are:

  • British citizenship, or permanent resident status (non–EU nationals cannot be accepted unless they already have relevant visa status)
  • Completion of an alim or alima course at a recognised institution of Islamic scholarship, or equivalent education in the traditional Islamic Sciences
  • Good GCSEs and A-levels (the College recognises that many students who would benefit from the Diploma course may not have mainstream academic qualifications)
  • Good references
  • Fluency in written and spoken English
  • Evidence of leadership qualities
  • Demonstrable good health
  • Most applicants are over 20 years-old

Applicants are expected to be intellectually curious, hardworking, and committed to the aims of the College. Like those of the University of Cambridge, the standards of the College are high and the work is challenging. However, what students put in they get back by being part of a rigorous, innovative and dynamic programme.

Term 1

British Islam Today

Adopts a historical approach by initially outlining the recent history of the British Muslim community and looking at early migration, the building of mosques, the Rushdie affair, the Northern riots of 2001 and the turn towards engagement. This is then followed by a series of classes which consider educational, health and employment outcomes and their effects on parts of the community.

Introduction to the Social Sciences

Introduces some major areas of the social sciences and enables students to apply them critically both to the situation of the Muslim community and to wider debates about religion and society. The course includes economics, sociology, anthropology and psychology and addresses their strengths and weaknesses in helping to understand social problems.

Introduction to the UK State

Introduces the various facets of the UK state, including an explanation of the parliamentary system, the courts, local government, social services, policing services and the health service. The module introduces the core functions of each part of the state and the organisations that deliver these functions. It also describes how personnel are employed in these organisations including at senior level and what outreach or participatory functions are required of these organisations.

Introduction to World History

Introduces the development of major world civilisations and the main trends of world history. Although this module naturally does not cover the details of events, it provides an overall appreciation of the chronology of human history as well as addressing theories of the development and interaction of civilisations over time.

Introduction to World Religions

Presents a general understanding of the major faiths and methods of religious dialogue appropriate to respectful, constructive and honest interaction. This course focuses partly on the religious history of Britain as the context for these questions.

Islamic Counselling

Introduces the theory and practice of counselling and dispute resolution with reference to Islamic models of addressing mental illness, distress and conflict. Students learn how to apply these methods and also when and how to seek further support to help those in need of advice or treatment.

  • The Learning Outcomes for Term 1 modules can be found here.

Term 2

Effective Community Leadership

Introduces the main dimensions of community development with specific reference to the Muslim Community. This includes the role of the Imam and the characteristics of a good community leader, the importance of relationality and examples of good community development. The module will also cover regulatory matters and styles of leadership that are effective in community organisation and development.

Introduction to Western Intellectual History

Covers the main trends of ‘Western’ thought from Ancient Greece to postmodernity. The aim is to help students gain a critical understanding of the intellectual background of the 21st century. Particular reference will be made to the points of convergence and divergence with the intellectual history of Islamic civilisations.

Islam and Religious Pluralism

Introduces and analyses normative Islamic understandings of religious pluralism. Beginning with a survey of how Muslim scholars have interpreted the canonical sources relating to non-Muslims, it also presents examples of how Muslims have historically organised themselves in multi-religious and multi-cultural societies.

Modern British Political History

Covers the rise and fall of the political parties through the 19th and 20th centuries. This includes the rise of the Whigs and the Tories in the 19th century, the arrival of the Labour Party in the 20th century and the decline of the Liberal party. The post-war era moves from Churchill to the recent coalition Government as a means of understanding current British politics.

Introduction to Science

This course covers the history of science and introduces the students to the development of and recent advances in science. This is achieved through examining the developments and advances in the physical sciences, life sciences and the medical sciences.

Modern Muslim History

Presents the major events and trends of the last two centuries with a focus on understanding contemporary debates surrounding religion, state and political participation in the Muslim world. Students will analyse the shaping of the Muslim world during the colonial period and the impact of reformist thinkers whilst relating these to the contemporary situation of the Muslim world, including the rise of the modern Islamic movements.

  • The Learning Outcomes for Term 2 modules can be found here.

Term 3

Islam and Gender

Analyses approaches to gender within traditional Muslim scholarship, referring to historical examples and contemporary questions about gender roles. The course encourages students to relate these theoretical considerations to social problems affecting the Muslim community today, such as domestic violence, forced marriage and increasing rates of divorce.

Modern British Intellectual History

Covers the key intellectual movements of the 19th and 20th centuries. It includes an examination of 19th century Romanticism, the rise of Victorian atheism, Anglican intellectuals of the early twentieth century and the emergence of the public intellectual in general. The module aims to give students an understanding of the major intellectual currents that have shaped modern Britain.

Modern Religious Thinkers

Introduces the main trends and figures in recent Western theology, examining the notion of a public theologian and how it differs from the Islamic classical roles of a scholar. Various Western theologians are considered, together with their responses to challenges from the Enlightenment and modernity. Figures discussed include Hans Kung, Martin Buber, Richard Niebuhr and Paul Tillich.

Religious Ethics in the Modern World

Analysing contemporary questions of scientific innovation, climate change and ethics, this module aims to view these issues through an engagement with Islamic thought and jurisprudence. Students will relate the concepts of ijtihad and fatwa, together with Islamic legal experts, to examine these contemporary discussions.

Sacred Art and Architecture

Introduces students to the history and meaning of sacred art. Within a comparative framework, particular attention is paid to Islamic art and Islamic theories of aesthetics.

Islam and Education

This course begins by exploring the theoretical basis for formal education and addresses the question of why there is so much emphasis on education in Islamic thought. It then surveys the historical development of education both within the Muslim world and in the west drawing on both the politics and the philosophical and theoretical movements. Following this contextualising discussion there are a number of seminars addressing practical elements of teaching including psychology, pedagogy, curriculum development, management and leadership with reference to both full time schools and evening maktabs. Finally it examines the historical development of British Muslim schools and the challenges the Muslim community faces in the education of their children whether they use Muslim schools or the mainstream state funded institutions.

  • The Learning Outcomes for Term 3 modules can be found here.

Teaching at the College is by world-leading scholars and guest lecturers from the University of Cambridge and elsewhere.  Recent lecturers have included:

Revd Dr Andrew Davison on Christian theology, Revd Michael Ward on CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, Tamir Rashid on the history of advances in medicine, Aysha Divan on biotechnology, Ghazala Mir on the health needs of the British Muslim community, Rabia Malik on systemic approaches to mental health, Susan O’Brien on Catholicism in the UK, Hakim Salim Khan on Islamic medicine, Shaukut Warraich on governance in mosques, Duncan Dormer on the sociology of religion, Ghulam Rasool on Muslim charitable institutions, Mufti Zubair Butt on medical-related fatwas, Professor Peter Mandler on Britishness, Douglas Hedley on Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Yahya Birt on George Orwell, Claire Chambers on British Muslims in fiction, Laura Zahra MacDonald, Shahien Taj and Shereen Williams on gender relations, David Grumett on Christian theologians, Daniel Weiss on Jewish theologians, Professor Muhammad Abdel Haleem on translating the Qur’an.

Comments from Lecturers

After having had the pleasure of teaching Diploma students at the College over two successive academic years, I’ve come away extremely impressed by the students’ sharp intellects and their desire to interact critically with different philosophical, theological, and cultural ideas

Daniel Weiss, Teacher on the Religious Thinkers Module

Every year, I am impressed by the passion and dedication of the CMC students. Many of them come with a mastery of traditional texts, and at the CMC they strive to link that knowledge with the issues facing the Muslim community and the British society as a whole

Sarah El Gazzar, Teacher of Communication Skills

The life science sessions forms part of the Introduction to Science module and introduces students to some of the major developments and recent advances in the field. The students rise to this challenge admirably and are a pleasure to teach.  During classes they are thoughtful, question ideas presented to them, and are themselves open to being challenged as they strive to understand the information and its applications in society

Aysha Divan, Teacher on the Introduction to Science Module

CMC has the familiar relaxed ambience of an English university college but with the perfumed undernote of a zawiyah or other place of traditional Islamic learning. There is an easy and creative interaction between students and exceptional Islamic scholars

Rasjid Skinner, Teacher on the Islamic Counselling Module

Comments from CMC Alumni

“Every breath taken here and moment spent learning, reading, researching, writing, contemplating, debating, questioning, reassessing and reinterpreting one’s knowledge in a safe environment has been a unique triumph of CMC, which has enabled me to grow in confidence, depth and breadth.”

“The experience has been wonderful, full of academic surprises with a steep and challenging learning curve.” 

“I don’t think that there was a single lecture where nothing could have been learnt.”

The College aims to ensure that students are able to make the most of the experience of studying and living in Cambridge. Students take part in activities which run alongside the Diploma to help provide valuable transferable skills, both academic and extra-curricular. These include:

A programme of regular supervisions offers individual support to hone and strengthen students’ academic writing and analytical skills.  One-to-one informal meetings with the programme’s Academic Director and group discussions with Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad are also offered.

Communication Skills
Work is done throughout the first two terms to help improve communication skills.  The course also covers public speaking and working with the media.

Literacy Skills
The students are introduced to Great Books in English Literature, from the 16th century to the present. This familiarises them with important literary works and introduces them to the various ways in which such texts can be read.

Life Skills
The programme may cover areas such as writing skills, time management, financial management, CV-writing and first aid skills.

The College recognises the importance of balancing mental activity with physical, and offers an opportunity for weekly exercise.  Male  students often pursue football, while for females a Tai Chi class is held at the College.

Weekly classes for males and females allow the students to practice and build on their memorisation of Qu’ran and hadith.  The classes, taught usually in Arabic, also keep their languages skills current.

Teaching Trips

As well as learning in the classroom, students benefit from a programme of teaching trips designed both to broaden their learning and to relate their study directly to its application in their communities. The trips present examples of excellence and innovation already at work in community development, religious leadership, inter-faith dialogue, and other relevant areas.  The programme of trips has included:

  • Muslim History Tour of London
  • Shah Jahan Mosque and Brookwood Cemetry
  • Willowbrook Farm
  • Holkham Bay (Norfolk)
  • The House of Commons
  • The Guardian
  • The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts
  • Greenwich Observatory
  • The British Library

An extended annual trip is organised to experience first-hand the history of faith on the European continent.  The trip is usually based in Rome, and includes lectures and discussions, visits to the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Coliseum, the Vatican Museum, St Peter’s and the Sistine Chapel, meetings with various monastic communities and lunch with the British Ambassador.

Our alumni have gained employment as Headteachers, Teachers, Chaplains, Youth Workers, Community Development Workers & Imams in mosques in the UK and abroad.

If you are involved in managing a mosque and would like to consider an alumnus of the Diploma in Contextual Islamic Studies and Leadership for the position of a religious leader, please contact Mustafa Edge:

A copy of the proposed contract of employment should be included in your correspondence.

The cost of the Diploma is £2,500 for the year, to cover tuition fees.  Additionally, students will require approximately £260 per month to cover their maintenance costs (travel, food and books).  However, there are no accommodation costs or utility bills for the students, as these are covered by the College.

All successful students are offered either a Partial Scholarship or a Full Scholarship for the programme.

Partial Scholarship

Those on a partial scholarship pay tuition fees, of £2,500 for the year.  These can be paid in full at the beginning of the year or in three equal installments at the beginning of each term.  These students will also need to cover their maintenance costs, which are calculated at approximately £260 per month.

Full Scholarship

Up to 10 full scholarships are awarded each year.  Those on a full scholarship do not pay tuition fees, and receive a monthly stipend from the College of £260 per month to cover maintenance costs.

Named Scholarships

Some scholarships at CMC are sponsored by external funders, and are therefore named. Students who are awarded a named scholarship will be notified during Term 1.

CMC is in partnership with Islamic Relief UK to provide a scholarship for the Diploma for 2017-18. This is a unique opportunity for those who are interested in the international development and humanitarian aid sector. The recipient of the scholarship will do a summer internship at Islamic Relief after completing the Diploma course. More information on how to apply is available on the Diploma application form.

The College welcomes applications from men and women seeking to apply their knowledge effectively in the service of the Muslim community and others. The Diploma is suited to those who want to work directly in mosques and Muslim organisations, and also those looking to gain higher-level qualifications.

The Diploma will not be running this academic year of 2019-20.

Prospective applicants should send in the application form and two references.

Please email to register your interest or for further information on the programme.

After considering the application form and references, the College will invite suitable applicants to an interview at the College.  The interview programme will usually include a group discussion, a timed essay and individual interviews.

Diploma Prospectus

Guidance Notes