To date, the Centre of Shia and Cultural Studies has had students from California, Arizona, New York, Washington, North Carolina, Mississippi, Houston, Toronto, Stockholm, London, Newport Wales, Bucharest, Mumbai, Gujarat, Dar al-Salaam Tanzania, Dubai, Tehran, Qom, Sydney, Melbourne, Buenos Aires, Casablanca, Singapore and Jeddah.
Both the online course “Esoteric Knowledge in Tashayyu”, and the book “Shi’i Spirituality for the Twenty-First Century’ by Rebecca Masterton were the doors through which I entered a more spiritual experience of Shi’i Islam. I had come to the Shi’i faith through study of historical events centered around the leadership of the Ummah after the death of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hf). I learned how to pray as a Shi’a and started wearing a ring on my right hand as a symbol of my faith, but I knew that the inner spiritual aspect of Islam was the true essence of Islam. Before, as a Sunni, I had explored Sufism and came to appreciate the purification of the heart through lectures by Hamza Yusuf and I came to appreciate the remembrance of Allah through Thikr and meditation through coaching by Emil Ihsan Alexander Torabi.
There are very few Shi’i resources in English available to converts to increase their knowledge and understanding of Islam from the Shi’i perspective. In my search for references I came across the book and the online course by Rebecca. These gems gave me an understanding of Wilayah and Walayah and how they are the essential bedrock foundation upon which Islamic spirituality can be built. I highly recommend both her book and the online course for anyone who is striving to develop and enhance their spiritual Islamic life.Mustafa McPherson, United States, Esoteric Knowledge in Tashayyu’, 2020
I have spent years trying to teach myself but reliable sources are not easy to find, and many of them are not translated into English, or the translations are not comprehensible. I’m sure that there are other followers of Ahlulbayt (AS) somewhere in the world who share the same frustration as I; my local Islamic centres lack educational resources and community members who have a passion for learning about the Ahlulbayt (AS). For this reason, finding the Centre for Shia and Cultural Studies was like discovering a gold mine; especially for a person who is academically inclined but cannot study at Howza or an Islamic college due to financial and circumstantial reasons.
Overall, the courses were phenomenal. It is obvious that the sources of information provided in these courses have been very carefully sought out, chosen, researched and integrated into the course materials. As an academic professional myself, I can attest to the fact that there are many accredited university course materials that have not been elaborated as well as these. The work that Dr. Masterton has done is a rare treasure, and is worth much more than these courses cost. The organization of materials is great as well. There is a reading and a recorded lecture for each class, which is very helpful as it enables students to review the material as many times as they want, even after the course has ended. The live lectures via Skype were amazing, as they come as close as possible to a face-to-face course; one can ask questions and form a rapport with the instructor, which is something that is becoming less common in online learning at present. In addition, Dr. Masterton’s lecture style is engaging and thought provoking. I feel so blessed to have been able to take these courses and interact with someone as knowledgeable and lovely as Dr. Masterton. I look forward to future courses with her.Emilia Gracia, Arizona, United States. Early Shīʿī History Part One; Tenets of Tashayyu’; Esoteric Knowledge in Tashayyu’, 2019
Dr Masterton has really done an amazing job in making this course so comprehensive and in depth, and as a self-study package I found everything easy to follow and very well structured.
The recorded classes are easy to listen to and explained systematically with frequent references to the previous modules which I found very useful from a pedagogic point of view. Highly recommended, both for people being part of a shi’a community or anyone with a general academic interest in the subject.Pieter Jan, Stockholm, Sweden. Tenets of Tashayyu’, 2019
Just want to quickly say, I’m listening to your third lecture of this course and I absolutely love it. The discussions and the explanations you provide, the historiography, the detailed background of the historians, to me its worth £1500! It’s worth years of research and trying to figure out historiography, history, historians, historians’ motives.Mo Mohsin, UK. Early Shīʿī History, 2018
I was very impressed with the impressive knowledge of the course instructor, as well as the extensive research that went into the compilation of the course materials. The face-to-face interaction combined with the rich written material provided a strong base for this important course.Lisa Kader, United States. Introduction to Islam, 2018
Objective and historical based teaching style. Wide range of sources used. Rebecca has an excellent manner, great personality and flare. You can really tell she is passionate about what she is talking about which is lovely. I have learnt things I would not have even heard about had I not taken this course, which I think is very important when it comes to Islamic development.Maryam, UK. Early Shīʿī History, 2017
This is one of the most humane course I have taken. Its format is so flexible that anybody can take it and complete it at his or her own pace. The teaching style is absolutely unpretentious, reminiscent of the sincere and dedicated style in which our holy Imams (Peace be upon them) taught the Ummah.Mujahid Husain Jafri, Gujarat, India. Esoteric Knowledge in Tashayyu’, 2017
The reference list and resources provided are quite exceptional. Ms. Masterton has an exemplary knowledge of the subject and her passion for the details is evident in her lessons.Stephanie, United States. Early Shīʿī History, 2017
I am just emailing to say hello and send my well wishes. I have been thinking of you lately. I am part of a discussion group at university and we have talked about topics such as the Imamate and traits and life of a Muslim. I have either lead or co-lead the discussions and have referred often to the readings you assigned or the discussions we had in your class. I am very grateful for both.H. G., Canada. Tenets of Tashayyu’, 2017
I would like to add that this is the second time that I have taken this course, and it was like I was taking it for the first time. Rebecca always manages to bring a freshness to these new lessons, and this is why the course keeps revealing itself to you. She provides excellent examples to illustrate a certain point or concept, and is responsive to the needs of her students in terms of helping them understand each topic area with insight and clarity. Thank you Rebecca.Fahmida Husain, London. Tenets of Tashayyu’, August 2016
Dr. Masterton is a wonderful teacher. If questions came up after class, Dr. Masterton made sure to include in her emails that she was always willing to answer them; question and answer wasn’t only blocked out for class time. Having the recordings to go back and listen to is a great help! The generic recordings are useful in that it covered anything that wasn’t discussed during class, and the actual class recordings are helpful to go back to in case I forget an author, or the name of a book that was mentioned, or just to go back and get a deeper understanding of something discussed during class.J’nelle Bob-Semple, United States. Tenets of Tashayyu’, December 2015
It was a truly inspiring and spiritually uplifting course. I thank you for designing and delivering it.Mohammad, London. Tenets of Tashayyu’, March 2015
Rebecca was a wonderful teacher. I still consider myself new to Islam and before the course I didn’t completely understand the Shia views and was beginning to feel lost. I’m so happy I took this course. It was a world of information that I had never thought about or knew anything about. It opened my eyes to my purpose on this earth and gave me a strong understanding of the imams and what their purposes are. I actually feel years older then I am because of this course. I am definitely not the same person and interestingly I can keep up with deep conversation and enjoy asking questions. I am very excited to continue my journey and I am very thankful of Rebecca’s class that helped me along the way. Thank you!!Theresa, Toronto, Canada. Tenets of Tashayyu’, December 2014
Coming from a non-Muslim background, I found The Centre for Shia and Cultural Studies to be a great platform for getting a systematic introduction into both the theological and sociological aspects of the Shi’a path. The course structure has the academic rigour and yet is designed to suit a general reader as well. Dr. Rebecca not only helps in putting history into perspective but also articulates the spiritual dimensions, which otherwise remain abstract in language and theory. This is one of the most intellectually challenging and spiritually enlightening courses I have done. I hope like me, all seekers of knowledge benefit from this online initiative.Shantanu, Melbourne, Australia. Tenets of Tashayyu’, November 2014
Really enjoyed the classes. Not only enlightening but most importantly, they stretch and challenge one’s thinking. I was initially slightly sceptical as to how well this would work via Skype and whether I would get as much as I’d hoped out of it. However, the system works well especially when the class engages in discussions. Thank you so much, your breadth of knowledge and expertise is evident and provides the extension needed during discussions and whilst going through the text.Safina Saadat, London. Esoteric Knowledge in Tashayyu’, June 2014
These two courses were very well structured and clear to follow from week to week. As a new convert to Shi’a Islam, the esoteric knowledge of tashayyu course was particularly useful. I also appreciated the approach that was taken with the Tenets of Tashayyu course. It wasn’t a cut and dry approach, i.e. going through the main five roots of Shi’i Islam, instead I found that the main theme underlying these five roots, aql, which is central to Shi’i spirituality helped me make the connections between all five roots of Shi’i Islam. As a result of taking this course, my understanding of the teachings of the Ahlul Bayt has deepened.Fahmida Husain, London. Tenets of Tashayyu’, March 2014 and Esoteric Knowledge in Tashayyu’, June 2014
The last recordings you sent were incredible, mash’Allah–Really enjoyed the topic.Imrul Mazid, The Athenian School, California, United States. Esoteric Knowledge in Tashayyu’, June 2014
I enjoyed the reading material that was selected, especially the ahadith. It gave me new information and opened my mind to issues that I hadn’t considered in the past. I enjoyed the interaction between the participants even though we were in different parts of the world. It was my first experience of distance learning and I think I will be doing it again at a later date.Hadia Saad, London. Tenets of Tashayyu’, January 2014