Written by Ellen Keim
Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips was born in Jamaica, but grew up in Canada, where he converted to Islam in 1972. His whole life has been exemplified by his goal of seeking an Islamic education and bringing the same educational opportunities to others.
In preparation for this goal, he received his B.A. from the College of Islamic Disciplines at the Islamic University of Medeena (1979), his M.A. in Aqeedah (Islamic Theology) from the King Saud University in Riyadh (1985), and his Ph.D. in Islamic Theology from the University of Wales (1994).
After graduation from the University of Medeena, Dr Bilal spent ten years teaching Islamic studies in an Islamic high school in Riyadh, and another ten years lecturing in Arabic and Islamic studies in the American University in Dubai, UAE.
In 1994 he founded the Islamic Information Center in Dubai (now known as Discover Islam). He has served as the head of the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Preston University-Ajman, UAE; lecturer and director of the Da’wah and Education at Qatar Guest Center, Doha, Qatar; and the founder and head of the English-medium Islamic studies department of Knowledge International University, the College of Da’wah and Islamic Culture (English Section) at Omdurman Islamic University, Sudan, and Preston International College in Chennai, India. He is currently the Dean of the Islamic Studies Academy in Doha.
But perhaps his greatest achievement, and the one for which he was listed in the the Jordanian publication, The 500 Most Influential Muslims (rissc.jo/muslim500v-1L.pdf ), is the founding of Islamic Online University. Unlike the other educational programs he has founded and overseen, IOU makes it possible for any person from any location in the world to receive an Islamic education absolutely free.
IOU has been in the making for over a decade. It originally opened in 2001, but had to shut down for technological restructuring. It reopened in 2007 with its free diploma program and introduced its fully accredited tuition-free Bachelor’s program (BAIS) in 2010. Beginning in the Spring 2013 semester, in preparation for the opening of the Master’s program (MAIS), the “Higher Diploma” opened which is the bridge between a BA/BSc in other than Islamic Studies to the MAIS.
Dr. Bilal has served as IOU’s dean from the beginning. He travels extensively to bring the message of Islam and offer the prospect of Islamic education to the world. So far this year he has traveled to and spoken to IOU Students and those interested in IOU in Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Gambia and Sierra Leone.
Dr Bilal Philips has also written, translated and commented on over 50 published books on various Islamic topics. He has also edited and published the 56-book Eemaan Reading Series for children and presented Islamic programs for a number of years on Riyadh Channel 2TV, Sharjah TV, Peace TV, Huda TV, Islam Channel, UK, and the Deen Show, Chicago, USA.
His vision for the future is to spread the news about IOU all over the world. To accomplish this goal he relies heavily on volunteers and donations. Everywhere he goes he encourages people to search their hearts for ways that they can contribute to this worthy cause.
IOU needs representatives and liaisons in every corner of the world. It can use donations of computers and Internet access (some people are meeting in group classes around one computer!) and people who are willing to tutor prospective students in English (all the classes, except for advanced Arabic courses, are taught in English). And now that it has launched its online magazine, IOU Insights, it can also use people with computer, editing, and writing skills to make it a success.
But most of all Dr. Bilal needs others who share his vision to help spread the word about IOU. Anyone who has a blog, a Facebook or Twitter account, access to masjids and Islamic organizations, and writing and speaking skills can tell others about this unprecedented opportunity to learn about our Creator and the Islamic way of life.
May Allah be with Dr. Bilal, the faculty and the staff of IOU as well as everyone who contributes in any way to the growth of IOU’s programs as they carry out this important work.