Studying in Qaseem, Saudi Arabia

Many people are well aware of Saudi universities that offer scholarships to Muslims from around the world to study. These universities have become well known over the last few decades as they have graduated hundreds of thousands of students from almost every country in the world. The more famous of these universities are the Islamic University of Madeenah and Umm al-Qura University in Makkah. However, what most people are unaware of is that there are a total of 25 high-capacity universities in Saudi Arabia, geographically distributed in the various regions of the country. Furthermore, in 2010 the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education passed a mandate that required every Saudi university to ensure that 5% of the accepted students per semester are non-Saudi scholarship students. This would serve as an opportunity for many who are keen on studying the Islamic disciplines and have high aspirations, and have applied for the more well-known universities such as the Islamic University of Madeenah and Umm al-Qura University, but were not accepted.

One of these universities that has opened its doors to non-Saudi applicants is Qassim University, located in the region of Qaseem in central Saudi Arabia. Since 2010, Qassim University has been steadily accepting larger numbers of non-Saudi scholarship students, studying at various academic levels – from the pre-university Arabic Language Institute to post-graduate studies. Because the university and the region of Qaseem is not known to many outsiders, and perhaps many are hearing about it for the first time, I have decided to write a brief overview that can act as a guide for those interested in studying here.

The Region of Qaseem

Qaseem, also spelled as Qassim or Gassim, is one of the thirteen administrative regions of Saudi Arabia. It is located at the heart of the country, and almost in the center of the Arabian Peninsula, and is approximately 300 km northwest of Riyadh and 500 km east of Madeenah. It has a population of 1,016,756 and an area of 65,000 km². It has more than 400 cities, towns, villages, and Bedouin settlements, ten of which are recognized as governorates. Its capital city is Buraydah (population of 609,000), which is inhabited by approximately 49% of the region’s total population. ‘Unayzah (population of 163,000) is the region’s second largest city by population, followed by Al-Rass (population of 133,000) as the third largest city.

The region of Qaseem has a typical desert climate, known for its cold rainy winters, and for its hot and sometimes balmy summers with low humidity. Agriculture is the cornerstone of the region’s economy. Buraydah is one of the biggest dates producers worldwide. Each year (in September), a big “dates fair” is hosted by the city, at which a lot of people come from all over Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries to buy their yearly requirement of dates. It also has the biggest camel market in the world.

The region is served by schools in every city and town for all three educational levels (primary, intermediate, and secondary), and includes various types of school (public, private, Qur’anic, and international), with international and private schools mainly concentrated in the cities of Buraydah and ‘Unayzah. Although there are many private colleges in the region, there is only one university, Qassim University.

There are at least one or two general hospitals in every city of the region, in addition to the private health care sector, which has a stronger presence than the governmental one. Private hospitals are distributed everywhere in the cities of the region.

The People of Qaseem

It is well known that the people of Qaseem are some of the friendliest and most welcoming of Saudis. In general, the people of Qaseem are known for being more religious and conservative, as it is well established that the most conservative part of Saudi Arabia has always been Qaseem. One who lives in Qaseem for some time will begin to notice that many of the vices that have plagued the bigger cities of Saudi Arabia are not present, or are very minimal, in Qaseem. This, along with a cleaner environment (minimized pollution), allows a student to spend his time focusing on his studies rather than being distracted.

Over the last few decades, Qaseem has produced many prominent local and international figures. Several key government, religious and business positions have been held by people from the region. The following are just a few examples:
  1. ‘Abdullah bin Sulayman al-Hamdan – former Minister of Finance and the very first minister in Saudi Arabia
  2. Muhammad al-Hamad al-Shubayli – former Minister of Labour and Social Affairs and the former Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Iraq, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Malaysia.
  3. ‘Abdullah bin Salih al-‘Ubayd – former Minister of Education
  4. Ibrahim bin ‘Abdul-‘Aziz al-‘Assaf – current Minister of Finance
  5. Salih bin ‘Abdullah bin Humayd – former chairman of the Shura Council
  6. Salih bin Muhammad al-Luhaydan – former chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council
  7. Muhammad bin ‘Abdullah al-Subayyil – former Imam of Masjid al-Haram
  8. ‘Abdur-Rahman bin ‘Abdul-‘Aziz al-Sudays – current Imam of Masjid al-Haram
  9. Muhammad bin Sulayman al-Muhaysini – famous Qari and businessman
  10. Salih bin ‘Abdul-‘Aziz al-Rajhi – billionaire and founder of Al Rajhi Bank
Qaseem – The Land of Knowledge

Historically, the region of Qaseem is known to be a place that has produced many scholars in the various Islamic disciplines, whether it be in ‘Aqidah, Tafsir, Hadith or Fiqh (of the Hanbali madh-hab). The reason for that is the religious and conservative nature of the people, along with a special attention paid by religious people for their children to study the Islamic disciplines. And so children start at a very young age by firstly memorizing the Qur’an along with short concise texts in each of the Islamic disciplines. This helps them to build a strong foundation before moving on to the more advanced levels. Furthermore, all of this is done under the supervision of a local shaykh in small groups or one-on-one. After that, they move on to studying more intermediary and advanced texts. Apart from this method of learning, which usually takes place in the local masjid, the students are enrolled in day time Islamic schools and institutes, such as al-ma‘had al-‘ilmi, where they study their primary, intermediate, and secondary schooling before heading to university where they specialize in a particular Islamic discipline.

Hence, the region of Qaseem has been a beacon of light for many Saudis and outsiders who have come to learn in Saudi Arabia due to the many scholars it has produced, especially in the last several decades. However, although that is the case, many who have benefited from the scholars of Qaseem have never stepped foot in the region. Rather, they have benefited from the many scholars who traveled outside of Qaseem and settled in other regions to teach, whether it be in educational institutions or in famous masajid such as the Haramayn in Makkah and Madeenah. Yet there are other scholars from Qaseem who have never left and have always resided here, but have benefited many through their writings and recorded lectures.

The following are examples of many prominent scholars and academics that Qaseem has produced both from the past and present:
  1. ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Nasir al-Sa‘di [d. 1367 A.H.]
  2. ‘Abdullah bin Muhammad al-Duwaysh [d. 1409 A.H.]
  3. Muhammad bin Salih al-‘Uthaymin [d. 1421 A.H.]
  4. ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abdur-Rahman al-Bassam [d. 1423 A.H.]
  5. ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abdul-‘Aziz bin ‘Aqil [d. 1432 A.H.]
  6. ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Nasir al-Barrak (residing in Riyadh)
  7. Salih bin Fawzan al-Fawzan (residing in Riyadh)
  8. ‘Abdul-Muhsin bin Hamad al-‘Abbad (residing in Madeenah)
  9. ‘Abdullah bin Muhammad al-Ghunayman (residing in Buraydah)
  10. ‘Abdul-Karim bin ‘Abdullah al-Khudayr (residing in Riyadh)
  11. ‘Abdur-Rahman bin ‘Abdullah al-‘Ajlan (residing in Makkah)
  12. Yusuf bin Muhammad al-Ghafis (residing in Riyadh)
  13. Sulayman bin Nasir al-‘Ulwan (residing in Buraydah)
  14. Salman bin Fahad al-‘Awdah (residing in Riyadh)
  15. Nasir bin Sulayman al-‘Umar (residing in Riyadh)
  16. ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Salih al-Mahmud (residing in Riyadh)
  17. Khalid bin ‘Ali al-Mushayqih (residing in Buraydah)
  18. Khalid bin ‘Abdullah al-Muslih (residing in ‘Unayzah)
  19. Ahmad bin ‘Abdur-Rahman al-Qadhi (residing in ‘Unayzah)
  20. ‘Abdullah bin Muhammad al-Tayyar (residing in Buraydah)
Qassim University

Qassim University was established in 2004 by merging the Qaseem branches of King Saud University and Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University. Subsequently, its constituent colleges that were scattered in different cities of Qaseem became a part of Qassim University. At present, the university encompasses 28 colleges for both male and female students in different cities across the region of Qaseem. The number of male and female students registered at the university during the academic year of 2010-2011 approached 50,000 and the number of faculty members and staff reached well over 4,000.

The main campus of Qassim University is located in the middle of the region just outside Buraydah. That is where the main administration and various deanships are located. As for the College of Shari‘ah and Islamic Studies, it is situated between Buraydah and ‘Unayzah in the heart of the region. That is also where the College of Arabic Language and the Arabic Language Institute are located.

In 2010, Qassim University started accepting non-Saudi scholarship students from abroad. Most of these students were from the Balkans (Bosnia, Kosova and Albania) and a few other countries such as the Philippines and some African countries. Ever since, the university has seen an increase in applicants from around the world. The majority of these students are non-Arabic speakers, and as such they are required to complete a two year Arabic program similar to that of other Saudi universities. After that, the students have the opportunity to enroll in the College of Shari‘ah and Islamic Studies or the College of Arabic Language to complete a bachelors degree. The College of Shari‘ah and Islamic Studies consists of four departments: ‘Aqidah, Tafsir, Hadith and Fiqh. A student can choose from one of these for his specialization. Upon successful completion of the bachelors program, a student has the option to continue onto post-graduate studies in one of the aforementioned disciplines.

As for female students, Qassim University has a College of Shari‘ah and Islamic Studies for women which is located in the city of Buraydah. However, the college does not cater for non-Arabic speaking students and does not have an Arabic Language Institute like the one for male students. Hence, the university does not accept non-Saudi female applicants from abroad unless they already know Arabic and can enter the college directly and have a mahram with them in Qaseem.

Once accepted, a student receives the same benefits that non-Saudi scholarship students receive in all other Saudi universities. That includes, but is not limited to:

Application Process

Firstly, the requirements for admission to Qassim University, as a non-Saudi living abroad, are the same as for all other Saudi universities (maximum age of 25 years, high school graduate, etc.).

Secondly, the only way to apply to Qassim University is by sending one’s documents to the university by mail or fax. Hence, there is no online application process as there is for other Saudi universities such as the Islamic University of Madeenah. Furthermore, there is no official application form that the university provides for non-Saudi applicants. Interested applicants should send the following list of documents (translated into Arabic) to the postal address or fax number below:
Dr. Khalid bin ‘Abdul-‘Aziz al-Shareedah       د / خالد بن عبد العزيز الشريدة
Dean of Student Affairs                                                 عميد شؤون الطلاب
Qassim University                                                                 جامعة القصيم
P.O. Box 6620, Buraydah 51452                    ص. ب. ٦٦٢٠ – بريدة ٥١٤٥٢
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia                                         المملكة العربية السعودية

Fax number: +966 16 3801096
There is no official deadline for applying to the university. However, it is advisable for one to send their documents before January or February by the latest in order to be accepted for the following academic year.

Once the documents have been sent, there is no practical way of following up on one’s application with the university. One should just be patient and continue on with life until the university contacts them through the contact information they provided with their documents. Also, there is no official acceptance list that the university posts of accepted applicants like other Saudi universities.

Official site of Qassim University:

Buraydah, Saudi Arabia
7th of Safar 1434