Najeeb Ur Rehman Naz was only 17 when he moved to Bhera to study at DMG Bhera Institute, Zia Ul Ummah Foundation’s (ZUF), eventually earning a Master’s degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies. He had also previously studied at Jamia Al Karam in Milton Keynes, UK, a school associated with ZUF, where he excelled academically to complete a three-year course in under 18 months.
Naz, who had moved to Norway as a child, has now been appointed the first Field Imam in the Norwegian Armed Forces, at the rank of major. “My job involves tending to religious matters of the Muslim soldiers in the Norwegian army. Also, any theological and practical issues, such as provision of halal food for Muslim soldiers, looking after the prayers rooms, and leading jamaat. It is an honour,” he says.
He had previously served since January 2015 as the army’s first Muslim Advisor, initially a temporary appointment. The armed forces found they would benefit from a permanent appointment, and advertised for the position. “Many applied, but I secured the position purely on merit,” he says.
Naz credits the foundations of his education at Bhera with his professional success. “I was very fortunate as I had the chance to study under the supervision of Pir Muhammad Karam Shah, the founding member of the school. He died only two years after I left in 1998.
Naz still maintains relationships with the school at Bhera. “Whenever I go back to Pakistan, I go to Bhera Sharif, I go to the shrine, and I visit my old friends and teachers,” he says. Some of his friends are now teachers at the DMG Institute.
After completing his studies there in 1996, he spent some time teaching at Jamia Al Karam in Milton Keynes, before returning to Oslo to complete a diploma in a religious leadership course from the University of Oslo. He later served as an Imam and teacher at the Central Jam-e-Mosque World Islamic Mission in Oslo. In 2013, he joined the Islamic Council of Norway (ICN), an umbrella body of about 52 mosques and Islamic councils operating across Norway. As well as his role in the armed forces, he remains the chairman of the ICN.
Naz is a great example of what an education can help an individual achieve, says Arshad Ahmed of ZiaulUmmah Foundation. “He is an example that many students at our campuses today follow.”