Twenty-seven women will be awarded their postgraduate degrees during Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development’s (QF) fifth annual convocation on Tuesday - and Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies (QFIS) is leading the way. This year it will award postgraduate degrees to 21 female students in various disciplines including Islamic Finance, Public Policy in Islam and Islamic Studies.
The centre, which is an integral part of QF’s educational community, was established in 2007 and is committed to enhancing understanding of Islamic culture through education and research. It has offered students like Maha Sultan Al-Sowaidi an avenue for higher education, and the 27-year-old is proud to be graduating from QFIS this year with a Master of Arts in Public Policy in Islam.
“I have a clear goal in sight. I want to serve the government and nation,” says the patriotic Qatari. “I want to be a productive member of the nation’s human capital by gaining the required knowledge and education. One of the ways I can ensure this happens is by completing my postgraduate studies, and in the future pursuing my PhD.”
Maha received her Bachelor’s degree in economics from Qatar University in 2007. She then secured a highly coveted job as a research economist at Qatar Central Bank and simultaneously enrolled as a part-time student at QFIS.
“Although my background is in economics, I joined the public policy programme because I felt I needed to fill an existing gap. We have a problem in economics where we focus solely on numbers or otherwise on theory,” she explains. “Merging the gap between the two thought processes through the application of policies and recommendations is critical to any economy.”
Although Maha was initially funding her own education, her outstanding performance prompted the university to offer her a scholarship for the duration of her studies, allowing her to pursue her postgraduate course.
“QF has given Qatari ladies the opportunity to complete their Masters’ degrees. It may be hard for some to travel abroad alone or they may be married, but now they have the chance to do so here. I would like to thank His Highness the Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and Her Highness Sheikha Moza for giving us an education with an Islamic approach, since it is part of our daily life,” says Maha. “There are also great societal benefits as we can disperse this knowledge within our community and use it in our jobs. I hope to establish a public policy and research centre someday.”
Another inspirational woman who places a high value on education and teaching others is Khadija Al-Qusaimi. The 40-year-old Omani has earned two undergraduate degrees, a BSc in Mathematics from Salford University in England, and a Bachelor of Arts in Sharia (Islamic law) from an Islamic institute in Oman. She went on to build a rewarding career as an educator before being promoted to a supervisory role at the private school where she worked. But she had always retained a desire to return to education.
When a friend emailed her an announcement about admissions for postgraduate degrees at QFIS, which announced that scholarships would be available to eligible candidates, Khadija was hopeful that she could qualify.
“I was happy when I received a scholarship and enrolled in the MA in Islamic studies with a specialisation in contemporary Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). Qatar is one of the Gulf countries and it is not far from Oman, so I could visit home often,” she says.
Her thesis, which explores reproductive health according to Islamic teachings, is an attempt to find solutions to critical questions. “Having a good health system is one of the major targets that we need to focus on, so I explore how we can integrate Islam and health in order to improve the overall system,” she explains.
Khadija especially appreciates the wealth of knowledge that is available to students within the programme, and cannot wait to share what she has learned with women back home.
“The Islamic studies library is digital. Everything is at the tip of your fingers. The database of books is massive and you don’t need to go to the library to find a book, which helps when you’re working on a thesis,” she says. “I would like to become a lecturer in Islamic jurisprudence and to educate as many Omani ladies as I can since I have broadened my own knowledge.”