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Abu Nour (Damscus, Syria)
The Abū al-Nūr Institute (commonly spelt 'Abu Nour') is a Muslim seminary located in Damascus, Syria. It offers two main programs for foreign students wishing to learn Arabic: The Ma'had al-Ta`hīlī Program and The Dawrāt.
Please note that the education offered to foreigners in Syria is currently being reviewed by the Syrian government, and, as such, the information below may not be current.
The Ma'had al-Ta`hīlī program is a three year Arabic and Islamic studies program for foreigners. Although it has a number of shortcomings, the most patent of which is the ridiculous number of subjects (seventeen!), many of which are of little or no benefit, both from an Arabic and from an Islamic studies perspective, it does provide a reasonable and simple overview of the Islamic Sciences, and gives students an immense amount of exposure to spoken and written Arabic.
In the first year, the focus is almost entirely on Arabic (through Immersion Textbooks, for which see the article How to Learn Arabic). In the second and third years, the focus shifts to studying the Islamic Sciences. The level at which the subjects are taught is still fairly basic, as the main objective is for the students to improve their Arabic, rather than gain any deep understanding of the Islamic Sciences.
Although the subjects are reviewed and changed year on year, the core subjects covered in the second and third years are the same. For example, the third year syllabus includes Ḥadīth (memorising most of Al-Nawawī’s 40 Ḥadīth and reading a modern commentary), Uṣūl al-Ḥadīth (the classical text Al-Bayqūniyyah), Fiqh (the modern Shāfi’ī text Al-Fiqh al-Manhajī) Naḥw (a modern summary of the classical text Qaṭr al-Nadā) and so on. There is also a fair amount of Qur`ān memorization involved.
The main benefit is being able to listen, for 6-7 hours every day, to reasonably good Classical Arabic from the teachers. As this program is for foreigners, all of the teachers invariably try to speak fuṣḥā, or Classical Arabic, unlike teachers in programs which cater for both Arabs and foreigners, whether at Abu Nour or elsewhere.
There is a challenging and almost non-stop exam regiment through the year, which means that you have to be fully committed to the course from the start (if you want to do well in your exams, that is!). The exams aren't difficult, but revision is very time-consuming.
The academic year for the program begins around early September, with a placement test to determine which year you can enter into.
Abu Nour also does a 6-level Arabic program, with each level (or dawrah) lasting 2 months (Level 1 is for complete beginners). The levels work through a series of immersion textbooks called Al-'arabiyyah li al-nāshi`īn.
The program runs all year round, with a few weeks' break over the summer period. The levels are taught concurrently, so after a placement test, you should be able to start studying in the level appropriate to you.
Although one is obliged to attend tajwīd lessons too, there is no Qur`ān memorization, so the focus is mainly on Arabic language acquisition.