The history of Sultan Kudarat Islamic Academy can be traced to a village Muslim institution located at Barrio Bulalo in the old capital town of Sultan Kudarat (not to be confused with the province by the same name) in Maguindanao. SKIA college primary service area is Muslim Mindanao and Cotabato City. It was initially developed as a family-administered madrasah, operated and registered under MECS Order No. 24, s. 1985. Pursuant to MECS guidelines and standards for recognition, this madrasah was later incorporated on September 2, 1991 as a non-stock educational foundation with SEC REG. ANO91-195240.

The Islamic Academy was conceived by lawyer Michael O. Matura, engineer Darwish Al-Gobaishi, and religious leader Salah Muhammad Ali Abdula who were inspired by the First World Conference on Muslim Education held in Mecca in 1977. Islamic Education is system that transmits the revealed and acquired knowledge in order to prepare learners for life and enable them to discharge their duties as kalifatul’Lallah  with the sole aim of achieving success here and in the hereafter. Founders of this Islamic academy who are residents of Sultan Kudarat believe in educating the whole person and in student learning as the goal of higher education.

Through the organized efforts of Mayor Datu Tucao O. Mastura of Sultan Kudarat, Datu Michael O. Mastura and Hadja Salma V. Mastura, SKIA was formally registered. Originally invited to join the organizational planning were Datu Armando Mastura, Datu Mantil Giok, Hadji Saleh Blah, Engr. Macmod Mending, Ustadza Sakina Hasan, and Ustadz Abdulhamid Ibrahim. The brothers Mastura purchased the adjacent lands to augment the wakaf properties of their grandmother as the permanent SKIA campus.

SKIA commenced its classes with an intake of 114 students at the Saiba and Lakeba wakaf buildings. Datu Armando Mastura and Datu Mantil Giok were designated Coordinators to hire a principal and ten pioneer teachers. Hadji Taha Husain who was appointed the first Principal and Mr. Manuel V. Mabalot as Registrar began to hire the pioneer nine teachers.

SKIA enrolled its first group of students on June 10, 1991 under the new Secondary Education Development Program (SEDP). At the start of its second year of operation, as Secondary Special Science Class (SSC) was introduced with the assistance of the Science Education Institute (SEI-DOST). The total enrollment was recorded at 247. School year 1992-1993 saw also the opening of the Kindergarten extension classes at the Burhan Center in Cotabato City. Hadja Bayancong A. Sulaik was appointed and concurrently principal of the Grade School Department.

It was in 1992 that the development plans for SKIA became a reality when Sheik Salah Muhammad Ali Abdula sponsored the officers of Al Khairiah to visit Abu Dhabi. Mayor Datu Tucao Mastura of Sultan Kudarat, Hadji Abdula Camlian and Atty. MAstura made the presentation. With the backing of Dr. Darwish Al-Gobaishi, the philanthropist brothers Matar and Abdula Al Muhairy decided to improve the campus site and erect new structures and facilities. Through the representation of Sheik Salah, additional buildings were financed with the generous support of another benefactor Rashid Al-Khalfan.

A new image brought about a steady increase in enrollment from 247 to 545 during the school 1993-1994 which was doubled between 1992 to 1996. The operation of the Faculty of Human Sciences and Islamic School of Jurisprudence was launched when the Teacher’s College was organized in 1992. The first commencement exercises for the College Department was held in March of 1996.

Evidence of excellence has brought prominence to SKIA scholarship examinations, government examinations and in co-curricular competitions. SKIA aspires to be fully accredited before the 10th Anniversary of its founding in the year 2001.

The Early Foundations

Small wonder the seal of SKIA bears the motto rendered: “Read in the Name of Thy Lord.” Contemporary research informed by evidence finds a learning community where mosques served as the school houses in past centuries. Qur’an reading gave grounding in Arabic and how to use language and numeral, while manuscripts were tiresomely copied for private study. The English navigator William Dampier who visited Magindanaw in 1687 provides an early account:

“They have schools, and instruct the children to read and write, and bring them up in their Mahometan (sic) religion.”  Spanish Jesuits describe in the early seventeenth century how Sultan Kudarat’s followers were devoted “to their vein rites and rubrics a seriousness of attention which we (the Spanish) ordinarily fail to give to those of our true religion.”  The prominence given to the Sultan’s scribe or copyist can only be called keeper of genealogies.

Salah Muhammad Ali Abdula who laid the memorial marker dabbed Al-Masjid Qudrat the hub of religious life on campus. Earlier roots of Islamic institutions resembled foundations of theological institutions, even though their importance has declined and no longer function in a royal court. The reign of Sultan Kudarat that marks the apogee of hereditary rule in Magindanaw could be rendered by typical religious edifices of memorial architecture assumed to express the accentuated value of the ensemble: the mihrab, the mimbar, and maqsur. In contemporary vision, the court is the principal element to draw inspiration for the campus model. So also is SKIA a modern campus where an architect’s re-conquest strategy is the human scale in buildings and edifices.

Engineer Darwish Al-Gobaishe saw the advantages of a quadrangle campus with ranges of building on four sides which were realized soon at the Islamic academy project to form the infrastructure of the institution. No traces of enclosed courtyard ruins remain intact to give an idea “concentric circle of mystic order” settled creating an environment of privacy for study or safety in case of troubles. Scottish explorer Thomas Forrest was the first to record a visit to the Raja Muda’s fort called “Cota Intan” (Diamond Fort) about six acres square strongly built with palisade of round trees twenty feet high.  Indeed, much like the urgent need for educated clerics, quarters for living and studying for learned persons were the start of institutional plans to provide rooms for lectures or teaching.

The more significant resemblance of institutional memory was earning credentials. Men of credited ability to read and interpret writings of authoritative commentators were known as “pandita” or “guro”; others were conferred title as judges (kadi and panglima). Pupils (murid) too were attracted to reside in villages near a langgar or surao.   So in modern times the tradition continues, though a certificate or diploma now takes a formality upon a student’s completion of courses of study. Students at SKIA Foundation College are bound by honor code at the start of the freshman year; albeit, no fraternity or sorority being exclusivist is allowed on campus. Faculty members conduct weekly usrah (small-knit-bond) of study group for a deepening of moral religious consciousness. SKIA honors the dominant aspects of its Muslim heritage with an independent Board of Trustees committed to a common intellectual experience.

Eventful Era of 20th Century

The forerunners of the Arabic school at the old town of Nuling (now officially renamed Sultan Kudarat) were considerably mindful that Moro educational system remained underdeveloped under American rule. During the Commonwealth era Islamic institutions retained much of their vitality under pandita schools.  Some guro tutors performed what teaching existed outside the school structure of modern Republican state. Along with a legacy of modern church-run colleges (originated to provide education for a specific religious community) SKIA competes for niche ranking to fill up the teacher shortage in Muslim Mindanao region. Appreciating diversity in today’s private campus poses challenge to value systems formed from culture, religion, or ethnicity.

The continuum of intercultural activities might have more intellectual side, for madrasah culture in Islam ensues from leadership to norms in community engagement. Najeeb Saleeby after completing a series of papers on Moro history, law, and religion consisting of original studies and translations from Moro texts written in jawi  script proudly gave tribute to these holdings. By 1913, Dr. Saleeby publicly pronounced in a testimonial: “Datu Mastura gave me access to his whole library most of which were religious manuscripts and books on law and magic”  (read: bearing in mind the literates and mystics link to tariqah wikipedia). Saleeby, at this time School Superintendent of the Moro Province, showed keen interest in Moro vernacular education as an instrument of their cultural development. It was far from clear what indigenous learning institutions at the old town of Nuling embraced the sense of problem as the mark of the scientific spirit in cultural context.

The story of panditas of the Rio Grande de Mindanao is that of “consummate calligraphers” who preserved “exemplary copies of the Koran”  dating back to the 16th century and 17th century. Over approximately the entire modern era of 20th century they still formed the nucleus of religious mentors. The orientation that has taken place endured throughout the period between two the World Wars. Significant factors in the growth of scholarship with postwar education system encouraged Muslim intellectuals to pursue the matter independently.

Simultaneously, notable changes from the tutorial system at home were utilitarian: such as formal classes, curricula offering and classrooms complete with desks, chairs and blackboards. A short-lived intermediate level institution “Al Kulliyatul Istihadiyah” opened its doors in 1950 at the coastal town of Malabang with Arab and Indonesian visiting professors.   Likewise, the Sulu Muslim College started with success but had a short lifespan. School problems during this period included lack of professional faculty with ability to teach Arabic and familiarity with Western literature in their fields of disciplines.  The Muslim Association of the Philippines  reciprocally sent students on educational mission to obtain the necessary training abroad.

Quite soon succeeding generations of ulama (scholars) returned during the 1960s-1970s from advanced schooling in prestigious universities of the Middle East. They took the first step in the structures of disciplines. The foundation stage tied to age and grade levels. Madaris (schools) and maahad (institute) were organized one after another in the predominantly Muslim provinces pioneering ibtidai-ya (primary) and sanawih-ya (secondary) levels; tahdiriya (pre-school) were added later.

And within twenty years or so there was already organization of Muslim educators and writers. But what was revitalized as jamiyah (university) began with no administrative buildings or lecture rooms of its own. The Kamilol Islam Institute  was the forerunner of Jamiatul Philippine Al-Islamia (JPI)  located in Marawi. Two leading educators Ahmad D. Alonto and Saleh Ututalum seized the first outward sign of integrative support in 1956 through grant-in-aid by the Filipino Muslim Education Board.  Wealthy Muslims began to independently pledge enduring contributions to create confidence of colleges of Islamic institution and Arabic formal instruction. The story is not over yet as the narrative strays into the next period.

The 21st Century Growth   

Around this time Nuling was already recognizable as Sultan Kudarat Municipality while its market town of Salimbao had grown from the Pulangi river trade. Educational planning directed trustees Datu Ahmad Tucao Mastura and Datu Armando Mastura to confront the constraints faced by defunct Muslim institutions of charity school. Widespread slums, some of them near the site of the maktab (Arabic learning center), got helping hands with resources from the corn and rice enterprises. Then a gravel road towards the riverside berth of lumber barges was built to dispel the reputation that nearby Bulalo milling town acquired. As elsewhere industrial progress was slow to come and change would not be completed until another generation.

Madaris system of teaching in former years has been quite inadequate, and for most of its history private missionary schools were favored. It merits notice that the situation of learning at religious institutes and secular schools side by side turned both informal and serious after the arrival of foreign missionaries. From the second half of the 19th century onwards an even briefer word agitating Muslim thinkers and prodding educators was the theme of backwardness. Reawakening of Asian intellectuals at the 1958 Bandung Conference impelled serious approaches to “economic growth” via educational system that promotes progress and cultural unity. But innovative ideas contained in it Western law, and it required new juridical institutions for governance of education.

Equally alive to institutional memory of the Islamic academy was that the American Governors of the Moro Province were highly divided on the issue of giving assistance to the “pandita” schools. Instead, they established agricultural schools like the land-grant junior colleges as model “Moro School”. The idea that a college should offer more than the usual academic subjects has shaped the service philosophy of land-grant community colleges.  Common features and functions of American early land-grant colleges stressed new kinds of subjects: technology, agriculture, and applied sciences. Vestiges of that era no longer mattered as segments of secondary education when in 1954 the Mindanao Institute of Technology (Cotabato) was chartered with 5,129 hectares for agricultural instruction and research.  There was impact of history once a Mindanao State University (Marawi) was established in 1962 just as there was impact of state martial rule in 1972 when nearly all madaris shut down. MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology acquired in 1975 its own charter.

Post-secondary education adapted to the changing conditions in the 1980s into forefronts of polytechnic colleges mentioned in passing here. Founding members of the Muslim Religious Board of Cotabato (MRBC) viewed the trend still as a phase of secondary rather than of higher education. This sketch cannot offer an exhaustive survey of Islamic curricula: what if MRBC administrator Lourdes V. Mastura outlined the essentials? Failure in past planning to deal adequately with issues related to duality generated supporters and opponents. Broadly, its replica represented a discernible effect of dual pattern of education for colleges of Islamic mission and vision. “Duality of education means having two types of education with two separate aims,”  starting at primary stage with special curriculum, and ending with College of Islamic and Arabic education.

Moving on MRBC renamed itself Al-Jumiyah Al-Khairia designing occupational programs to overcome the perceived dichotomy between “religious” and “secular” sciences. One option was “to match what a learner knows” to subject in the course catalog. At first a Carnegie unit method was found to establish a criterion standard to define “education” versus “experience” and “activity” versus “credit” for prior experiential learning credits. At Al-Khariah, this method that colleges use to determine how much credit to award a particular class was not pursued owing to cumbersome portfolio and limited funding. Actually, by 1960, the line between professional and nonprofessional had been drawn much sharply with deep impact on two-year post-secondary institutions. Pedagogical strategy was reflected broadly in the scope of these institutions with changing terminology as “open-door” colleges.

SKIA Foundation College

Advocates of duality were keen to keep abreast with progress, if not to attain parity in standards (e.g. by training specialists in such areas as industry, civilization and modern technology). Continuing appeal of white-collar careers had stunted efforts to channel students into vocational-technical training. Starting in 1991 the Islamic academy—a preparatory high school operating under the auspices of Al-Jumiyah Al-Khariah—enrolled 325 students with 15 faculty and staff tasked to teach a special science class.  The first term of Datu Michael O. Mastura as president inaugurated the four-year degree granting college in 1993. Thus SKIA transformed into a foundation College began with seven-person faculty focusing on teacher education, pedagogy and learning environment.  Current core features at SKIA today include not only remedial reading and coursework. Varied preparations for college readiness in the basic skills area, or stepping out into the workforce, and career readiness to follow up courses in the standard curricula are requisite competences to succeed in the workplace.

To keep pace, during the last ten years, renewed impetus for remedial Arabic teacher training was paving the way for Al-Jumiyah parallel efforts toward establishing minima-standards. The integrated approach to learning and school improvements yielded mixed results due to the bias towards academics thereafter inducing unneeded skills in rural education.  Questions surfaced then to define the content and structure of alternative route to revive the tradition of integrating religious values into social life. Collaboration as quality educational practice was pioneered at SKIA through Special Fund of the World Federation of Arabic Islamic International Schools (WFAIIS) headquartered at Riyadh partnering with MRBC and its constituent madaris in Mindanao.

Growth of the economic and business sector in Malaysia partly is seen as a spin-out of phenomenal growth of technology-industry. That spurred demand for higher education appropriate performance. SKIA took the lead to develop bridging program standards between “vernacular competences” and “coping competences” in local context and purpose to deliver its curriculum projects. Understanding of Islam—and its social sciences —furthered concerns on how to manage the development of an Islamic holistic approach to contemporary situation and social reality. Then following the recommendations of the First World Conference on Muslim Education in Mecca in 1977 the International Islamic University in Malaysia was established in 1983 with qualitative goals.

Administration is a very different role in a four-year college than it is in community colleges. SKIA adopts planning techniques for small college institutional model beyond initial teacher preparation. New program demands of the 21st Century aligned with K-12 are already articulated in the Standard Madrasah Curriculum.  Three levels of training make up the key components of professional development:

  • Pre-Service Training Level 1 LEAP (Language Enhancement and Pedagogy);
  • In-Service Training Level 2 ATEP (Accelerated Teacher Training Program); and
  • Professional Teacher (Entry Qualification for Competence to take the Licensure Examination for Teachers).

And if the Department of Education takes it to the next level, flexibility for distribution courses and transfer credits for a program of teacher education with majors in Arabic language and Islamic studies must lead to certification or licensure. Its goal eventually is to establish an Islamic Institute for Teacher Education.

Considerably the problem sketched in this section was the dual systems of education with two separate aims received by Muslims that shaped the design of the educational curricula and standards. This pointer builds on another far reaching influence constituting “professional landmark” that was directing libraries beyond their function (i.e. as repositories of books) to include all learning and teaching media regardless of form.  In this way the library’s base was extended to become comprehensive Learning Resource Center (LRC).

Co-Location Campus

Readers will find on Google maps co-campuses for the college, senior and junior high school sites. SKIA is located, just half-an-hour drive from downtown City of Cotabato toward the Municipal town of Sultan Kudarat, Province of Maguindanao. SKIA main campus where a river estuary runs through it is known for its rustic and year-round beauty of flowering trees and swaying bamboos. Proximity to the Great River means the campus falls within the Pulangi Basin flood zones from the southern edge and the Simuay River to the northern end of the campus property. Visitors can travel by motor vehicle across the Quirino Bridge or by boat ride along the scenic Rio Grande de Mindanao.


SKIA Co-campus buildings vary in age from the original madrasah and mosque construction for civic engagement with the local community. Al-Masjid  Qudrat is part of the campus. The entrance atrium leading to the quad of the campus connects the academic buildings and athletic arenas. The Islamic academy is not a residential college where students live on campus. SKIA faculty housing is college owned with limited room arrangements ranging from singles to quads and apartments. Because this Islamic academy began as a commuter college, the suburb needs to grow, if it is to prosper into a university town. Already the transformation has fast commuted it into a magnet for residences, shops and other business purposes.

Mixing old and new buildings on SKIA Co-Campus has brought a sense of visual design traditions and historical diversity. A technical-vocational skills training facility was built in 2011 under the Japan Grant Assistance for Grassroots Projects in keeping with the historical plant foundation. Erected in 2018, the newest renovated and expanded college construction is an outdoor-indoor study place that envelops the social hall environment with a double height ceiling and a scenic walkway. Educational and supportive spaces or places for work stations are wired for use of technology. Contemporary ways of learning and teaching with new technologies push student life at SKIA to switch from theoretical to practical in Basic Education and College Readiness personal goals.

Elementary Annex

The Islamic Academy’s Elementary Annex campus is located at Gen. Luna Street, Barangay RH-4, Cotabato City where Al-Burhan Mosque is situated in the same compound. It is easily accessible by means of public transportation. The campus does not have grassy areas convenient for team games. But it makes for attractive and modern buildings that use sustainable resources to preserve architectural traditions. Community leaders in this residential area neighborhood support SKIA Annex’s advocacy for environmental responsibility and sustainability of green space that may be lost for repurposing use.