This tour begins with the story of the Willow Tree, an image that beautifully encapsulates the inspiration, vision, and mission of Darul Qasim College. Sitting with Shaykh Mohammad Amin Kholwadia, the founder and visionary of the college, his voice is firm, clear, and full of reverence as he introduces us to one of the greatest scholars of the subcontinent, Mawlana Qasim Nanautavi (raḥmatu llāhi ʿalayh) (1832-1880).
You see, the story of the Willow Tree not only resides in the present, but it also reaches back into history approximately 110 years ago. It was during British rule in India that Mawlana Qasim sat underneath a tree in the masjid with his sincere and dedicated student, Mahmud Hasan. What brought both student and teacher under that tree was a deeply seated concern for the preservation of Sunni Islam as education became a key battleground under colonial rule. Ulamāʾ were grappling with questions of how to teach Islam in a land that was now under non-Muslim rule.
In the shade of that tree, sincerity, dedication, and creativity became the seeds that were buried deep into the earth of obscurity and what sprouted forth was the world-renowned Darul Uloom Deoband, one of the most important and influential schools of Islamic Studies in the world.
That particular species of tree is not found in North America, however, the closest tree to it is the willow tree. Shaykh Amin takes us into the present context with this reality, yet the past is not far removed. He explains: “When you’re looking for water in the wilderness, the willow tree is usually a landmark to show scouts where the water is. Because the willow tree is always around water. So water refers to knowledge. You find knowledge where the willow tree is.”
The symbolism of the Willow Tree and its shade in the American context offers a glimpse into the institution’s educational philosophy and approach. The need for sincere and dedicated faculty and students is centered in the Qasimi approach, above all else. Thus, the Willow Tree is symbolic in where it brings us and whom it brings us to. What better way to understand the Willow that grows, than to offer you a taste of the curricular and pedagogical approaches employed by our faculty that take refuge in its shade.
Darul Qasim’s first initiative was to distribute AlQasim Magazine which the shaykh edited from 1994 to 1999. On the cover of these magazines one finds the image of the Willow Tree.