Friday, October 31, 2008

Jamaat-e Islami Hind Amir on Terrorism in India

Syed Jalaluddin Umari is the President (amir) of the Jamaat-e Islami Hind, one of the largest and most influential Islamic organizations in India . In this interview with Yoginder Sikand he talks about the recent wave of terror attacks in India , attacks on Muslims and on moves to set up a Muslim political party in the country.

Q: What do you have to say about the recent wave of bomb blasts across India , which the media and the intelligence agencies have sought to blame Muslims for?
A: Soon after the deadly state-sponsored anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat in 2002 there was a sort of lull in communal violence and disruptive acts, but now, over the last year or so, suddenly blasts are happening in various parts of the country, causing widespread death and destruction and indiscriminate arrests, mainly of Muslim youths. The state agencies, the police and the media have sought to blame Muslims for all these disruptive acts, but, as the recent revelations about the role of Hindutva groups in the Malegaon and Modassa incidents clearly shows, this accusation appears to have little merit. In the wake of blasts across India , scores of Muslims have been targeted, picked up by the police and tortured, and the law has not been allowed to take its proper course. All that we have, in the vast majority of cases, are confessions probably forcibly procured by the police from those arrested, and this cannot be adduced as proof in any court of law. Yet, the media takes these confessional statements extracted under duress as gospel truth and has been engaged in a concerted campaign to brand Muslims as terrorists.
Q: So, do you mean to say that Muslims might not be responsible for these various blasts, contrary to what the media and the intelligence agencies allege?
A: I am not saying that there might not be even a single Muslim who could engage in disruptive activities. But I strongly feel, and this some sections of the media are themselves now saying, that these blasts might have been perpetrated by fiercely anti-Muslim groups, by radical Hindutva outfits or their activists, who seek, along with the media and the intelligence agencies, to blame Muslims for them so that Islam and Muslims get a bad name. They want to thereby divide the people of India against each other, widen communal polarisation, create anti-Muslim hysteria and consolidate a Hindu vote-bank, particularly keeping in mind the coming elections. Anyone with a bit of commonsense must certainly wonder why Muslims would engage in such activities when they cause grave harm and damage to Muslims themselves, because after these blasts it is inevitably Muslims alone who are arrested or gunned down in fake encounters and who have to suffer increasing suspicion and hatred from other communities. And then several of these blasts have taken place in Muslim localities, even in mosques, dargahs and Muslim graveyards, where those killed and injured have been wholly Muslims. Why on earth would Muslims target their own people? Why are the police and the media not coming out in the open about the evidence of militant Hindutva groups and activists being involved in several terrorist attacks and bomb blasts? Why is this not being branded or described as terrorism?
I must also state here that all Indian Muslim organizations and notable leaders have openly and forcefully condemned all these disruptive acts, no matter who their perpetrators might be. These activities harm our country, kill innocent people, Hindus, Muslims and others, and do the most damage to Muslims, because it is Muslims who inevitably bear the brunt of the wrath of the police, the intelligence agencies and the media in the aftermath of these incidents even when they are not behind them.
We demand a proper and fair investigation into all such incidents. But is this being done? I regret to say it is not. Take the case of the recent killing of two Muslim youth in Batla House in New Delhi . Muslim as well as secular human rights organizations are raising serious questions about the police’s version of the story, and they are demanding a proper investigation of the incident. This is a purely democratic demand, but why is it that this is not conceded? Are the authorities afraid that such an investigation might reveal the police’s version to be false? To claim, as those who oppose this sort of investigation say, that this would result in the lowering of the morale of the police is completely bizarre.
Q: What, then, do you think is the way out?
A: We want the law to take its proper course. We want the legal process to be allowed to properly function. Unfortunately, however, this is not happening in scores of cases. Muslims are being arbitrarily arrested and branded, by the police, intelligence agencies and the media, as terrorists, though the courts as yet have not delivered any judgment. Our point is that if any persons, no matter what their religion, or if any organization, irrespective of whichever community it is associated with, are proved, after proper investigation, to be indeed involved in these blasts, they must be punished according to the law.
Q: What do you feel about the charges about the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) being behind these blasts? After all, at one time, the SIMI was the youth wing of the Jamaat-e Islami.
A: It should be clear that SIMI was never a wing of the Jamaat. Jamaat has its own wing, the SIO (formed in 1982). In 1992, the Iqdam-e-Ummat conference was organized by SIMI in Mumbai. There the SIMI activists used intemperate language. Then the Jamaat-e Islami Hind decided that henceforth no Jamaat representative would attend any SIMI meetings. This was done to emphasize the Jamaat’s stand that the language used by Muslims must be proper and balanced. Prior to this, we had tried to make the SIMI realize that their immature approach was wrong, and under the circumstances it was unrealistic and impractical as well and not in accordance with the Islamic temperament.
However the ground reality is that even before the ban on the SIMI, its influence was rather limited. It was not the hugely influential movement that the media makes it out to be. Moreover as journalists such as Ajit Sahi of Tehelka have shown, no case of SIMI activists being involved in any illegal or disruptive acts has ever been proved in any court. If SIMI was really wedded to terrorism, as is being alleged, then why is it that when it was not banned it did not engage in such activities, and that after the ban, when its wings were clipped, its offices sealed, many of its activists arrested and others who had been associated with it closely watched by intelligence agencies, it was allegedly able to mastermind all these deadly blasts across the country? This question must be asked, but, of course, the media is not asking it.
Q: But surely the SIMI’s radical rhetoric was inflammatory and pernicious. Its call for armed jihad, its visceral hatred for and opposition to democracy, secularism and the concept of the nation-state and its appeal for establishing a Caliphate in India naturally made it seen by many Indians, including Muslims, as very dangerous. In this sense, it was akin to some extreme radical Islamist groups in the Arab world. What do you have to say about this sort of approach?
A: Any immature approach is of course wrong and completely impractical and, moreover, it is counter-productive. However, you must realize that much of the SIMI’s rhetoric was limited to raising slogans. Islamic movements across the world have increasingly begun to avoid empty rhetoric. They know that any immature action leads to harsh suppression. Islamic movements in various countries are clearly realizing that the only practical avenue before them is through peaceful mass movements which could engage in democratic politics and in elections to present their agenda and win public support. Well-known Islamic parties such as the Jamaat-e Islami of Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Ikhwan ul-Muslimin in Egypt, the Refah Party in Turkey and so on are routinely taking part in elections and seeking peaceful means to come to power. They de facto recognize the existing secular and democratic Constitutions, even though they may not be Islamic Constitutions. Seeking to gain public acceptance and support by participating in elections and using peaceful means is their method.
Q: So, are you suggesting that the radical approach of extremist groups such as Hizb ut Tahrir in the Arab world and Central Asia or the SIMI, which aimed to capture political power through violence to establish what they call an Islamic state, is wrong?
A: To shun peaceful mass movement and adopt coercion is entirely impractical and counter-productive, as I earlier mentioned. As I said, only through peaceful means one may seek to bring about the desired change. However your perception that SIMI aimed to capture power through violence is entirely wrong. Participating in democratic elections is certainly one possibility before the Islamic parties. It is a different matter that when in some countries an Islamic party wins the elections the West (which otherwise keeps harping about democracy) makes sure that such a party does not actually come to power. The instances of Turkey and Algeria can be seen in this context. But even if this happens, there is no practical alternative to the peaceful movement method. After all, how long can the West succeed in denying Muslim masses the regimes that they democratically wish to elect?
Q: In the wake of the terror attacks and bomb blasts across India and the growing hounding of Muslims, what political course would you personally and as head of the Jamaat-e Islami Hind suggest for the Indian Muslims to follow, especially with regard to the forthcoming Parliamentary elections?
A: I would advise Muslims to refrain from emotionalism and seek to struggle for their rights using all available peaceful and legal means. They must desist from any illegal or disruptive activity. In general, they should seek to create avenues of dialogue and build bridges with non-Muslims, including with the people in the media and in political field with genuine commitment to democracy and justice. The Jamaat, along with some other Muslim groups, has been trying to push a constructive agenda forward in the recent past. We have called a meeting that is to be convened soon of leaders of various political parties other than the Congress and BJP and social and human rights activists in Delhi to discuss such an agenda.
All this while, Muslims have been treated as a captive vote-bank of the Congress Party, but, as the ongoing repression of Muslims even in many Congress-ruled states shows, this party has done little for Muslims. In the wake of the disruptive acts and the consequent large-scale persecution of hapless Muslims, the Congress has taken no positive measures at all. It maintains a studious silence, for fear of losing Hindu votes to the BJP. It could have, if it had wanted to, prevented the targeting of Muslims, but it did not do so. Now it is making some feeble attempts to regain Muslim votes before the coming elections by talking of the Hindutva terrorists who are said to be behind the Malegaon and Modassa blasts, but all this while it has remained silent on the ongoing repression of Muslims. Because of this, many Muslims think that as far as Muslim issues are concerned there is little difference between the Congress and the BJP.
My advice to Muslims, and this is also what I think most Muslims would themselves do on their own, is that in states where there is a realistic alternative available to both the Congress and the BJP, Muslims should prefer this alternative, and where there is no such credible alternative they might consider the Congress. This would not be because of any great enthusiasm for that party’s record but simply a matter of compulsion.
Q: In this regard, what do you have to say about ongoing talk about setting up of a Muslim political party in India ? According to some sources, the Jamaat-e Islami Hind is also thinking of entering politics.
A: We feel that in today’s national and international context, particularly in the face of mounting anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim prejudice, when even legitimate grievances of Muslims are ignored, there is a pressing need for Muslims to make their presence felt in the political realm as well. This can take the shape of a lobby, an opinion-building group or a political party, and through this sort of effort Muslims might be able to talk more effectively with various political parties and present their views and concerns. As to the exact shape this effort will take, we do not really know for sure at the moment. It may well be in the form of a political party with its own agenda. It will work out how best to relate to other parties and to marginalized communities. I don’t think such a party may emerge before the coming Parliamentary elections early next year because the time left now is too short. I think that till then the Jamaat will continue with its present policy of seeking to present its views and concerns to various political parties. It will work for the cause of genuine democracy, for equal treatment by the state of all citizens, for social justice for all marginalized communities, such as Dalits, Christians, Sikhs as well as Muslims, and for countering communal fascism.
Q: All these years the Jamaat has stayed aloof from politics. How and why is it that now it wants to become actively politically involved?
A: It is not true to say that we have remained aloof from politics. We understand Islam to be a code of life, which talks about not only prayer and fasting but also about all social and collective affairs, including economics and politics. It is a question of how far existing conditions allow us to organize activities representing the collective aspects of Islam. In any case we have been always been open to change in the face of changing political and social conditions. We have always encouraged our members to seek to particularly interact with secular and democratic parties and convey the Jamaat’s views. In view of the mounting anti-Muslim prejudice and attacks on the community and of concerted efforts by powerful fascist groups to practically turn Muslims into second-class citizens by destroying their religious identity, Muslims need to be politically more active. This could take the form of a separate political party which the Jamaat might wish to help form.
Q: What sort of issues would this party take up?
A: As I said, we have not discussed this in detail so far, and it would take a while for things to finally crystallize. The main agenda for the party, if it comes into being, would be working for social justice and genuine democracy, not for Muslims alone but of all communities and sections who might be facing various forms of persecution. This party would not be associated with the Jamaat alone. In any case, the Jamaat would continue to engage in its primary work, of education, propagation and social change. We would like other Muslim groups and organizations to join the party if it comes into being, based on a common minimum agenda, although the Jamaat might have to play a leading role in establishing and guiding it.

Largest Female University

To be built in Saudi Arabia:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Here's a Cool Craft

For those of you with older children, you can make candles together! Read More...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Still here

It has been a few days since my last post, hasn't it? We're still hanging in there and we are getting ready for the baby, InshaALLAH. It's getting harder for me these days with the frequency of midwifery appointments and keeping the kids entertained and learning. I am the only one at home with the kids these days (mother-in-law is gone during the day), so the little one is really giving me work to do!

I am keeping my oldest busy with math worksheets and copywork pages from Worksheet works on those days when it seems that nothing can be accomplished.

Keeping the 4yr old Skills Sharp

It's funny how I still find time to knit though. Usually, it takes me forever to get something made, but I've been really productive lately.

DSCThe 1932 Soaker Pattern II

These little wool soakers are nice and snugly for the new baby and they take no time at all to knit. This one is "The 1932 Soaker Pattern".

This one is the Ottobre Design Pattern. It took about four hours to make.

Newborn Soaker #3/Ottobre Design Soaker I

I received our new phonics/reading programs some time ago, by the way. I will have to give you some feedback soon, InshaALLAH. Just a warning, they stick some non-Islamic dawah in the box as a "courtesy",so if you order from them, don't be surprised.

Take care!

Friday, October 17, 2008

88 Ways/Poverty

Tropical Fruit

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Save yourself from hellfire by giving even half a date-fruit in charity." - Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 498

This is a most excellent link from Sister Farhana. Read More...

Our Break is Almost Over

Just Open The Door

Well, we've been taking a break from classes (except for her UCMAS abacus homework) since Eid. We hadn't really taken a formal break the whole school year so I felt it was due.

spring tree in fall

The kids are trying to get outside as much as possible before it gets super cold here - the leaves are falling and changing colors,they have been for some time actually, so I didn't do anything productive. It's time for me to focus, especially Arabic lesson planning,InshaALLAH.

We have plenty of materials,AlhamduLILLAH, so now I need to organize and scan copies of the lessons for everyone.

Fun books for vocabulary

My daughter knows the Arabic alphabet and my son knows everything except 8 letters, so I think the first thing we need to do is make sure that she can write them all and that he can recognize them all.

I think he needs coloring pages for each letter and I will give her copywork pages.

Then, comes the recognition of the different forms of the letters (for her). We will take it slow for the first couple of letters - maybe one at a time and then I will see if we can do more. With her, I find that if we go slowly, she gets bored. The goal is to build her vocabulary so that she can use the Arabic readers. The Rosetta Stone Arabic should also help with her vocabulary.

There is a blog that I used to read (I think it hasn't been active for some time but it's still there),written by an Arabic student.There is some beneficial information there, you might want to check it out.

Also, here is how the Arabic Alphabet is mapped out on the keyboard. We have little stickers on ours to make it easier - you can get them on Ebay for about ninety-nine cents (US). Even with the stickers, I usually forget where the harakat keys are. Here is a list compiled by a participant in this forum:

shift + ~ --> ّ (shaddah)

shift + Q -->َ (fathah)

shift + A -->ِ (kasrah)

shift + E --> ُ (dammah)

shift + W -->ً (tanween - fathah)

shift + S --> ٍ (tanween - kasrah)

shift + R --> ٌ (tanween - dammah)

shift + X --> ْ (sukoon)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Went to the Zoo Again


We decided to give the kids one more chance to see the animals before the cold weather kicks in. We were able to get a few more shots of the animals and enjoy a nice Saturday afternoon, AlhamduLILLAH.

Dude and His Lady

Vivid Against the Fall Leaves

Now, I'm off to take care of my aching back! :p Read More...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ok, here's my attempt

My first crocheted sweater. It's Kelly's Sweater, by Kelly Kearney. It was a nice pattern for a beginner and very quick too.

First Crochet Sweater II

First Crochet Sweater I

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sneaky Eid

Gifts, that is. We were fortunate enough, AlhamduLILLAH that my husband got us a few homeschool items that we didn't expect.

Remember these? And these?

I hope that the readers will make us stronger in our Arabic, InshaALLAH. A word of caution: one of the books is called The Magic Bunny. We will omit it.

Scholastic Makes Arabic Readers

The other books look like they will be perfect for our Islamic social studies, InshaALLAH.

My Muslim Village

P.S. I know that there have been some blurry photos lately. I have a hard time holding still with this belly in the way sometimes and I am using manual focus most of the time, lol. Read More...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

List of Du'a

Authentic Supplications of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) Read More...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Struggling Against Sectarianism: Shia-Sunni Ecumenism

By Yoginder Sikand

In an unprecedented move, last week thousands of Sunni and Shia Muslims gathered together in Lucknow to collectively offer prayers to mark the festival of Eid at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Two men were behind this monumental effort, both Lucknow-based Islamic clerics—the noted Sunni scholar Maulana Khalid Rashid Firanghi Mahali and the well-known Shia scholar and social activist, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq.

I have had the honour of meeting and interviewing Maulana Kalbe Sadiq on several occasions. I have also visited the remarkable educational institutions that he runs in Lucknow and Aligarh. He strikes me as a firm champion of women’s rights, inter-faith harmony and Muslim education, and he argues for all these from an Islamic perspective, insisting that this is precisely what Islam itself mandates. He is also a passionate advocate of Shia-Sunni dialogue and unity, in this being somewhat of an exception for the Indian ulema community.

Some years ago, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq penned a slim booklet in Urdu arguing the urgent need for Shia-Sunni understanding. Titled Shia Sunni Mufahamat ki Zarurat wa Ahmiyat (‘The Need for and Importance of Shia-Sunni Understanding’), it is a summary of the arguments presented in a booklet bearing the same title written by the noted Pakistani Sunni scholar Dr Israr Ahmad. At the outset, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq admits that he differs with Israr Ahmad on some points but then adds that, overall, his book is ‘worthy of respect and is a sincere effort’, a major contribution to the cause of Shia-Sunni unity which, he writes, numerous contemporary Shia leaders, not least Ayatollah Khomeini, have also passionately supported.

Drawing on Israr Ahmad’s arguments, which he approvingly quotes, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq writes that since both Shias and Sunnis follow the same religion (deen), believe in the ‘Sovereignty of God’ and ‘obedience to the Prophet’, and also consider the Prophet Muhammad to be the ‘seal of the prophets’, they are fellow Muslims. Israr Ahmad, writes Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, admits that there are certain differences (ikhtilafat) in the ways Shias and Sunnis interpret Islam, but this does not mean, he says, that they are different communities. ‘Differences and communalism are two different things’, Israr Ahmad stresses. He adds that the Quran itself indicates that ‘differences in things are a reflection of a divine principle of creation’, for differences characterise various aspects of nature, including ‘people’s looks, languages and mentalities’. Such differences, including those between Shias and Sunnis, Israr Ahmad writes, must be accepted and tolerated, rather than being sought to be wiped out or destroyed by issuing fatwas of infidelity, for that, he says, leads to a form of communalism which is itself ‘not less than infidelity and polytheism (shirk)’.

The zeal to condemn others as infidels, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq quotes Israr Ahmad as writing, ‘stems from the urge to dominate others.’ ‘While differences in interpretation can arise out of noble motives, the former urge can never’, he adds. In other words, Israr Ahmad argues, Shia and Sunni clerics who engage in fierce polemical battles, seeking to brand each other as out of the pale of Islam, are not motivated by genuine religious sensitivities. He laments the fact that ‘Today, the situation is such that the mullahs of each Muslim sect do not agree to anything less than branding the followers of the other Muslim sects as kafirs’. Their actions, he says, can only prove detrimental to the greater interests of Muslims and the Faith, for ‘when such sectarian communalism erupts between religious leaders then people begin even to doubt God’s Book.’ This, he claims, is what is happening among many Muslim youth today, for, as he writes, ‘the youth say that the maulvis keep fighting among themselves and so they do not know whom to listen to’.

Differences characterise not just Shias and Sunnis but also the different Sunni groups, Israr Ahmad notes, although he admits that in the former case they may be, in some senses, greater. The Shias and Sunnis have different sources of Hadith, traditions attributed to the Prophet, and although this magnifies their differences further it does not mean that they can or should consider the other as infidels or out of the pale of Islam for both regard the Prophet’s practice or Sunnah as worthy of emulation. Israr Ahmad, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq approvingly notes, also critiques the argument put forward by some Sunni extremists who claim that the Shias do not believe in the present Quran and so must be branded as heretics. He insists that the vast majority of the Shias do indeed regard the present Quran as authentic. Israr Ahmad does, however, critique certain Shia beliefs as erroneous, which he does not find in accordance with Sunni understandings, but at the same time he insists, Kalbe Sadiq quotes him as saying, that ‘Error in matters of [these] beliefs cannot be used as an argument for declaring [Shias] as kafirs.’

Kalbe Sadiq believes that Shia-Sunni strife is actively fanned by half-baked ‘mullahs’ (whom he distinguishes from what he refers to as ulema or religious scholars) as well as politicians. He opines that ordinary Shias and Sunnis really have no fundamental problems with each other. Stoking sectarian strife is a means for mullahs to press their claim as representatives and leaders of their sects and, on that basis, to garner resources and prestige. In this regard, he quotes Israr Ahmad as referring to a Hadith report attributed to the Prophet, according to which a time would soon come when nothing of Islam would be left but its name, and nothing of the Quran but its letters. At this time, Muslims will have grand mosques but shall be bereft of guidance. Their ulema would be the worst of people under the skies, and they shall give birth to dangerous forms of strife (fitna) that shall, in turn, strike at them. Kalbe Sadiq approvingly quotes Israr Ahmad as announcing that this Hadith report is true, for, he writes, ‘Today we find that this is indeed the case, with our ulema having made religion a source of livelihood. They are interested only in producing divisions and fanning sectarianism in the Muslim ummah so as to promote what they see as their own interests. They know well that by doing so their position will be strengthened because then people will flock to them in order to engage in heated polemical battles with other Muslim sects.’

Echoing Israr Ahmad, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq claims that Shia-Sunni conflicts only help anti-Islamic forces, including advocates of Zionism and Western Imperialism, and that, in many cases, they might actually be produced and promoted by these forces, whose major concern is to weaken and divide the Muslims. The Quran, both of them write, calls for Muslims to dialogue with People of the Book. That being the case, they ask, is it not also an Islamic duty for fellow Muslims, Shias and Sunnis, to dialogue with each other? For this purpose, Kalbe Sadiq suggests that Shias and Sunnis abstain from actions that are known to hurt each other’s sensibilities. He also advises the ulema of both groups to ‘rise above their sectarian differences’ to work together to promote unity between the two groups ‘for the sake of the Faith and the entire Muslim ummah’.

Presumably, the recent joint Eid prayers in Lucknow were one step in that direction. Judging by the fact that a fairly large number of Shias and Sunnis heeded that call and, for the first time, prayed together shoulder to shoulder, it appears that growing numbers of Muslims might finally be waking up to the urgent need for intra-Muslim ecumenism.

Rearranged the Classroom - Again

I needed a solution to our cramped space, so we bought a banquet table from Staples and now I use the black table as my desk.

Classroom Rearrange II

The wall now has some shelving so that I can keep our other art supplies, books and math manipulatives off the main table.

Classroom Rearrange IV

I also got a new calendar from Staples because my homemade calendar was a bit too big. We still use the numbers from the homemade calendar for counting (with my son).

Classroom Rearrange V

Now, everyone has plenty of room at the table and I can keep my huge teacher's manuals and planners out of their way! I also moved the bookshelf to the front of the room.
Classroom Rearrange I

We also have another playpen for downstairs since my youngest "visits" the classroom from time to time. It is next to a small table which folds if we need to use the carpet. This is for painting and playing with clay - as you can see from the bits on the carpet!

The Painting Table

Busy Eid!

We had such a busy and fun time during Eid, AlhamduLILLAH. My husband was up with me until about three A.M. blowing up balloons with my mother-in-law.

Ready for Eid

Then, we had to decide where to go for the Eid prayer. There was a celebration in the local area so we went there and let me tell you, on the way there was much rain, thunder and lightning! SubhanALLAH. It stopped before we had to go outside again and the day cleared. We quickly grabbed some lunch,took naps and wrapped up the remaining gifts before giving them to the kids.

Bigger than her

Islamic Nature Books

Islamic Storybooks

Quran Stories Coloring Books

Afterward, we headed to the Fantasy Fair at the mall and mashaALLAH there were so many Muslims everywhere!

Busy Celebrating

I thought for a second that my daughter was dozing off on the train
Empty Train

Fantasy Fair Train

but they really woke up when they got to the planes.

Time to Fly

We finished up the festivities with the lovely ice cream cake that said 'Id Mubarak. Overall, we had a great but tiring holiday and we look forward to it again in a couple of months, along with the new addition to our family, InshaALLAH. Read More...

Math Help

First in Math

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Madrasa Curriculum and System and Modern Demands

By Maulana Rizwan ul-Qasmi (Administrator, Dar ul-Ulum Sabil us-Salam, Hyderabad, India)
(Translated by Yoginder Sikand)

The Quran is the last Divine revelation, and has been sent by God for all humanity. It will remain without any change or modification whatsoever till the Day of Judgment, for the Prophet Muhammad is the last of the prophets. The religion as represented in the Quran is eternal, and so are the Quran’s laws, its shariah, its knowledge and the need and the value of this knowledge.
But this does not at all mean that time has stopped forever and that conditions will never change. Rather, change is permanent. The demands of the age were subject to change in the past, and this applies even today. And just as in the past considerations were made to suit the then prevailing conditions, so, too, today in our interpretation of what God has entrusted to us those aspects that are subject to change must be kept in mind. Hence, madrasas must be mindful of contemporary conditions, needs and demands and keep the torch of the knowledge of the Faith burning in the light of all these factors. This, in fact, was the aim behind the founding of one of the first and, in many senses, unique madrasas in India following the collapse of Muslim rule in the country—the Dar ul Ulum at Deoband. This madrasa was not established simply to teach a few subjects. If its historical context is carefully studied, it appears that it aimed at addressing contemporary challenges as well, and that it had taken upon itself the task of the interpretation and expression of the Faith in the context of the changed conditions of the times in order to keep alive the torch of Islam in the face of fierce storm of Western atheism and materialism. Several other madrasas also soon emerged at this time that carried on with this mission.

There can be no doubt that these madrasas managed, with considerable success, to fulfill their duty of testifying to the Truth and communicating the teachings of the Faith. Many of the vestiges of religion that remain among the Muslims of the country today are a result of the dedicated work of these institutions. It is these signs of religious commitment that have become an eye-sore to Westernised, anti-religious forces. Madrasas need to carry on in this wise path of our elders and continue with the task, mandated by God and the Prophet, of demonstrating and witnessing to the Truth. For this, they must keep themselves in harmony with the changing needs and conditions of the times. They must seek to answer the new problems that the new times produce and to effectively face new challenges. When madrasa students step out of their institutions, which are sealed off from the outside world, they should not feel out of place and be led to think that they had spent much of their lives closed in a fortress that has nothing to do with the rest of the world. Rather, they should be in a position to guide society on the lines of the Faith, for today materialism and atheism are rife, and knowledge is framed and used in such a way as to take people away, rather than towards, God. Madrasas must provide their students with knowledge of contemporary developments so as to enable them to understand the objections against and criticisms of Islam and to effectively respond to them. Further, they must also train and inspire their students to effectively communicate the truths of Islam to others.
In advocating that madrasas be able to respond to modern challenges and suitably relate to contemporary demands I am certainly not arguing, as do some self-styled ‘progressives’, that Islam should be moulded according to the times, rather than the other way round, and that it be interpreted in the way the West wants it to be. It is absolutely erroneous to imagine that since the times and conditions have changed and so have many social and economic aspects of life, the Islam based on the 1400 year-old tradition of the Quran and Sunnah needs to be revised. It certainly does not mean that when we call for an Islamic Renaissance, for a new religious interpretation and for reforming madrasa education by taking into account the demands of the present age we are suggesting that Islam should be modified according to our own whims. Islam is the religion of nature and in its laws and commandments it has taken into account human nature. This, indeed, is the actual soul of Islamic law and the basis of Islam’s teachings. All the revolutions that the world has witnessed have had to do simply with external means and causes, while human nature and its basic demands and human feelings and emotions have remained the same and will always do so.

The Madrasa System of Education: Aspects in Need of Change and the Limits of Change
There is no doubt that the basic aims and objectives of madrasas have always been the same in the past, and shall remain so in the future, too. If Islam is an eternal religion and a guide for humanity till the Day of Judgment—as it indeed is—then the basic aim of the madrasas—that the path that God and the Prophet have prescribed for humanity, and which is the way to success, be taught and made known—cannot be altered. However, this certainly does not mean that the entire system and structure of madrasa education is beyond change, as if these are meant simply to serve as relics from the past, an archaeological curiosity for an age that has vastly changed. Study the history of the ulema, the renewers of the faith, the guides to the path, the history of people like Imam Malik and Ibn Shihab Zahri and down to Shah Waliullah, Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanotawi, Maulana Muhammad Ali Mungeri etc.. You will discover that the real spirit running through their work and their writings was the same—the protection of the Faith and its propagation and revival in the light of contemporary thought. But yet, for this same purpose the methods that these leaders used differed from each other, each suited to their own age and context.

In this regard, then, we must examine our madrasa education system and allow for necessary changes. In addition, we must also recognise that the general level of the graduates that the madrasas are today churning out is, unfortunately, not very satisfactory, and that their contribution and benefit to society is limited, and, indeed, quite disheartening. Certain aspects of the present system of madrasa education are in need of reform in order to make it more effective and more in accordance with contemporary demands. In this respect one can point to such troubling issues as stagnation in the syllabus, excessive attention being paid to certain subjects and the corresponding lack of adequate attention to certain modern subjects, the focus on mastery of certain specified books rather than certain disciplines, shortcomings in teaching methods, the absence of teaching important languages and the lack of co-ordination and co-operation between various madrasas.
Stagnation in the Madrasas Curriculum:
When I say that the madrasa curriculum has stagnated, I certainly do not mean to argue that all the books that are presently taught in madrasas should be discarded or that they are unable to provide proper religious and intellectual guidance and understanding or that teaching them is wholly useless. Not at all. But, yet, it is an undeniable fact that from the point of view of what the aims and objectives of a proper madrasa syllabus should be, the majority of texts currently used in the madrasas deserve to be re-looked at. Many of them can be removed from the list of prescribed books that are part of the syllabus and, instead, be made for the students to read on their own.

In order to counter the powerful waves of materialism and atheism flooding in from the West and the accompanying criticisms of Islam’s system and way of life, madrasas ought to have included the causes or the basic purposes of Islamic rules or what are called the ‘secrets of the shariah’ (asrar-e shariah) as a separate subject in their curriculum. For this purpose, madrasas could have used Shah Waliullah’s well-known book Hujjat Ullah al-Balagha, and sections of some books by Imam Ibn Qayyim and Imam Ghazali and so on. However, because the dars-i nizami syllabus as formulated by Mulla Nizamuddin Sihalawi, which is still used by most Indian madrasas, did not give any importance to this subject, it was neglected in most Indian madrasas. Recently, some madrasas have included this subject in their syllabus but even in these institutions it does not get the importance that it deserves.
Today, as a result of new inventions as well as a product of the present global socio-political system, new legal issues have emerged. It is necessary for Islamic law to address these issues. For this purpose, Islamic scholars require a deep understanding of the sources, principles and methods of reasoning of Islamic jurisprudence. Madrasas must give greater stress to these than at present. Unfortunately, only two or three books on the principles of Islamic jurisprudence are included in the present madrasa syllabus. And even these have their limitations, being, for the most part, limited just to the Quran as a source of jurisprudence, and not dealing with other sources of Islamic jurisprudence, such as the Sunnah or practice of the Prophet, ijma or the consensus of the scholars and qiyas or analogy. Several suitable books for these are available and they should be included in the curriculum. Furthermore, madrasa students should also be familiarized with texts on the principles of jurisprudence written by scholars belonging to schools of Islamic jurisprudence other than their own.
Likewise, the present madrasa curriculum does not do justice to such subjects as the principles of Hadith and the principles of Quranic commentary. In some madrasas, no books on these subjects are taught at all or else some small booklets are used, and that too in a very cursory manner. Further, it would not be wrong to say that madrasas have not given the Quran its due. Generally, in our madrasas only two Quranic commentaries are taught: the Tafsir-e Baidhawi and Jalalayn. The former is clearly insufficient for expressing the actual spirit of the Quran, and it only entangles the reader in verbal puzzles. Further, it does not deal with the entire Quran, being restricted just till the Surah al-Baqarah. As for the Jalalayn, it is like a rendering of the Quran in a different form of Arabic. So, this is all that is taught in the madrasas about the Quran, although there are numerous books dealing with the meaning of and commentaries on the Quran that can be incorporated in the curriculum.
Madrasas give no importance at all to the teaching of history and to the books abut the life of the Prophet, although this was once a major area of specialization of the ulema. It is a subject that can never lose its relevance and importance. One of the reasons why much of the fiercely anti-Islamic propaganda coming out of the West has gone uncontested is because the ulema have ignored and are ignorant of the history of Islam, and so cannot counter the wrong allegations being made about it. Leave alone the history of non-Muslims or of recent global developments, about which they know almost nothing, madrasa students have an extremely superficial knowledge of even the early history of Islam and the Muslims. It is absolutely necessary that books on the history of Islam, of India and of the world be included in the madrasa curriculum.
Today, subjects need to be studied in depth and from their original sources. Critics of Islam have established specialized Islamic research centres, and they have a deep knowledge of our history, our beliefs, our theology and our laws, which they use to seek to distort the image of Islam. Islamic scholars should also study other religions, and for this, certain books can be included in the madrasa curriculum that provide an introduction to the various religions, their basic beliefs, their social and economic principles and the lives of their leaders, drawing upon their original and reliable texts and sources. Further, madrasa students must also be made aware of modern social and economic systems and philosophies and theories. They must have at least a basic idea of the thought of such key modern thinkers as Karl Marx, Lenin, Freud, Darwin and so on. While studying Islamic jurisprudence, they must be familiarised with the position of modern international law on key issues in a comparative perspective. Without this, modern challenges cannot be effectively answered and met.
Finally, it should be remembered that all these suggested measures of reform in the madrasas can be successful only if what are regarded as the ‘mothers of the madrasas’ (umm ul-madaris)—the larger ones that have spawned many others that follow their system—take the initiative first.

*This is an abridged translation of an article by the author titled Dini Madaris Ka Nisab-o-Nizam Aur Jadid Taqaze, which appeared in the January 2003 issue of the New Delhi-based Urdu monthly Tarjuman Dar ul-Ulum (vol. 10, no.8, p.23-32)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Cloth Diaper Soaker

If you use them, This pattern is by Ruth Garcia.

Cloth Diaper Soaker I

It has very basic shaping and stitches.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Waris Mazhari: Madrasas and Allegations of Extremism

Madrasas and Allegations of Extremism
By Maulana Waris Mazhari (editor, Tarjuman Dar ul-Ulum, official organ of the Old Boys’ Association of the Dar ul-Ulum, Deoband)
(Translated by Yoginder Sikand)

Madrasas are a characteristic feature of Muslim societies the world over. They serve as centres for religious and moral instruction. As in other democratic countries, in India, too, all religious communities, including Muslims, are allowed by law to establish such institutions. Thus, there are many Hindu gurukuls in the country, in addition to which are the vast number of centres run by the RSS, where, in contrast to madrasas, training in the handling of weapons is openly given. Again, in contrast to madrasas, these centres propagate intolerance and hatred towards people of other faiths. It is thus distressing that while madrasas are accused of promoting terrorism, no one raises a finger against these Hindutva institutions. It seems that madrasas stand as the single major obstacle in the path of the Hindutva agenda of ‘saffronising’ the country and imposing Brahminical Hindu culture on all its inhabitants. That is why the madrasas have come under heavy assault by the fascist forces in India today.

The anti-madrasa propaganda is not a new development. However, it has rapidly increased in intensity in the recent past ever since the Hindu Right began to gain political power and strength in much of the country, first in some states and then at the national level. When the BJP came to power at the Centre, its Human Resources Development Minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, sought to impose the Hindutva ideology through the educational system, or what the media referred to as ‘saffronisation’. Then, in accordance with a carefully planned strategy, in 2001 a Ministerial Group was formed in the aftermath of Pakistan’s uncalled for aggression in Kargil. The Group submitted a report on internal security which falsely alleged that madrasas in India had turned into centres for promoting religious fundamentalism and thus had become a major security concern. It claimed, without supplying evidence, that madrasas were being used by terrorist, fundamentalist and anti-national elements, particularly in districts along the international borders with Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
As soon as the report was submitted the media began parroting the same lines. Interestingly, prior to the report the media had not made much of a noise about madrasas. The question thus arises that, if these allegations were true, where was the country’s investigative media prior to this? Why did they have to wait for the report to come out to cry hoarse about these allegations against the madrasas? To add to the absurdity, Lal Krishan Advani, senior BJP leader, in fact denied these allegations in Parliament when responding to a question by a Muslim MP, but the Group that prepared the report was formed under his supervision and came out with quite the contrary argument, which greatly boosted the anti-madrasa campaign, which still rages in the media. And, reflecting this frenzy that has been whipped up against the madrasas, numerous students and teachers of madrasas continue to be falsely accused of being behind terrorist acts. The authorities of the madrasas have been insisting that such allegations are almost wholly baseless and lacking in evidence. In actual fact, none of these allegations against madrasa teachers and students have as yet been proven based on standard and acceptable principles of evidence and justice.
Allegations against madrasas in the media and by certain political forces are routinely framed in such a manner as to target and attack not just these institutions but also Islam as a religion, in line with the fiercely anti-Islamic stance of these forces, who claim that Islam itself promotes intolerance and terrorism. This anti-madrasa propaganda has now become so pervasive that even many non-Muslims who do not have any prejudice against Islam have serious reservations about madrasas. They believe that the ulema of the madrasas deliberately distort Islamic teachings for their own political purposes and interests and, accordingly, are turning Muslim youth towards terrorism. This view is now widely held not just among non-Muslims but also among several Muslims themselves. For instance, in an article published in several newspapers in May 2000, the governor of Goa, Muhammad Afzal, levelled the same sort of allegations against the madrasas.
An influential section of the media is now employing the anti-madrasa campaign as a means to attack Islam itself. A good illustration of this is an article that appeared in the India Today magazine in June 2001, titled ‘Crescent Classroom’. The writer, Sumit Mitra, visited a madrasa in the Muslim-majority Murshidabad district in West Bengal and filed a report, from which I am quoting some excerpts below:
‘Murshidabad is more of a fanatic oddity in a state not much given to stand-offs along communal lines. This is evident in a religious-educational movement that demands "Islamic education" for children. The drive to "purify" education is spearheaded by the Barua Rahamani Education Society (BRES) [which...] has already opened 109 madarsas in the state [...] [T]he Barua Ahle-Hadis Education Society begins Arabic lessons at the prep level. But more interesting is the society's publication of the book on the Bengali alphabet, replacing the age-old Barna Parichay of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar. The traditional textbook introduces the first letter aw with the word ajagar, Bengali for python, but [the] Salafi Barna Parichay says after aw: awju korey pak haw-o (wash yourself to be pure before namaz). The second letter of the alphabet, aa is dinned into the child's ears with the exhortation Allah-r naam law-o (Take the name of Allah)". The third letter, ee, goes with the line Embrace Islam.
The Talibani twist to such unorthodox alphabetic drill frequently surfaces. For the letter "dh" the book has a picture of dhol, the percussion instrument, with the line dhol tabla-e khodar lanat (God's curse be on music). For r, it is rasool (the Prophet)...For sh, it is shirk, [the crime of] of comparing anyone with Allah....’

According to the writer, all this is evidence of what he calls ‘Talibani’ education. He claims that this sort of education promotes intolerance and extremism. This single example reflects the fierce hostility of a certain section of the media. If teaching ‘A’ for Allah and ‘R’ for Rasul is branded as ‘fundamentalism’, then no Muslim of this country can be exempted from this charge of being a ‘fundamentalist’. Nor, too, can the followers of other religions, who seek to provide their children with knowledge of their own faith. Is the constitutional provision and guarantee of secularism to be interpreted in such a way that children are not to be given religious education or that they should not be brought up according to the teachings of their faith? Is teaching about God, morals and the purification of the self, all of which religion talks about, anti-national and tantamount to so-called ‘Talibanisation’?
In the heat and fury of the hate-driven anti-madrasa campaign, the actual roles and identity of the madrasas have been completely ignored. In India, Hindu Right-wing forces, and, at the global level, senior American leaders and defenders of American Imperialism, have left no stone unturned in their effort to project madrasas as centres for training terrorists. To back the claim about madrasas in India being allegedly engaged in promoting terrorism, the Ministerial Group report prepared when the BJP-led government was in power at the Centre refers to—and this is repeated by large sections of the media—the recent rise in the number of madrasas in certain districts in the country along its international borders. This is misleading. In actual fact, the number of madrasas has increased not just in these districts but all over the country in general. One reason for this is the heightened sense of insecurity and defensiveness about their religion and identity among Muslims across the country caused by the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992 and the developments that took place thereafter. Another factor is undoubtedly economic—the scope for collecting donations for madrasas has now become wider. This is a result of the woeful neglect of the economic dimension in the present system of madrasa education. The increase in the number of madrasas simply as a means for collecting donations is an unfortunate development. But this increase must be seen against the findings of the recently-released Sachar Committee Report, according to which only 3-4% of Muslim children study in full-time madrasas.
There is no doubt that the anti-madrasa campaign as well as widely-held negative views about madrasas have been strengthened by on-going political developments in neighbouring Pakistan. The aggressive and totally stupid actions of some madrasas and self-styled ‘Islamist’ groups in Pakistan have only further contributed to the negative image of the madrasas, as have statements and actions against madrasas by pro-American Pakistani leaders in order to curry favour with their American bosses. These have given further impetus to the propaganda against madrasas being spearheaded by anti-Islamic forces in India. It is, however, incorrect to equate Pakistani madrasas with their counterparts in India, because the contexts in the two countries are vastly different. It is as erroneous as equating Hindu institutions in Sindh, Pakistan, or in Bali, Indonesia, with Hindutva outfits in India.
A well-planned, organised policy and campaign is required to counter the false charges of Indian madrasas being engaged in fanning terror. For this, madrasas need to be more open to the wider, including non-Muslim, society and must also address their internal weaknesses and shortcomings.
*This is a translation of a chapter by Maulana Waris Mazhari titled Madaris Par Intihapasandi Ke Izam ki Haqiqat in Yoginder Sikand & Waris Mazhari (ed.) Dini Madaris Aur Dahshatgardi: Ilzam Aur Haqiqat (‘Madrasas And Terrorism: Accusations and Realities’), Global Media Publications, New Delhi, 2008, pp. 113-20.
*Waris Mazhari can be contacted on


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Waris Mazhari: Madrasas and Sectarian Conflict

(Editor, Tarjuman Dar ul-Ulum, official organ of the Old Boys’ Association of the Dar ul-Ulum, Deoband)
(Translated by Yoginder Sikand)

Among the various internal challenges facing madrasas today is the pressing problem of sectarianism and sectarian conflict. Some people claim that in the last ten or fifteen years there has been a decline in the sectarianism actively promoted by madrasas. God knows better, but I feel that if indeed this is so, it is still not very significant. A glance at the sort of literature being churned out by madrasas and a general survey of the mentality of madrasa students and graduates of madrasas make this claim appear doubtful.
The problem of sectarianism among Muslims, including within the madrasa system, is, of course, centuries old. But in present times it is no longer restricted to ideological debates in scholarly circles. It has now taken the form of organised communalism, undermining all efforts to promote Muslim unity and making a complete mockery of the notion of Islamic brotherhood. The manifold problems facing the Muslim ummah today cannot be addressed and effectively solved until the idea of Islamic brotherhood and unity, which every Muslim holds dear, is actually put into practice. Sectarianism and sectarian conflict are the single biggest hurdle in this path, and, unfortunately, our madrasas are playing the leading role in keeping these alive and further exacerbating them.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that nine-tenths of the literature produced by our traditional madrasas and the speeches of their ulema are devoted simply to instigating ideological war against other Muslim sects in order to further boost sectarianism. These self-styled ‘devoted followers’ of God are forever on the look out for ideological enemies, not missing a single opportunity to whip up hatred against them. Many madrasa magazines survive mainly on drumming up opposition to other Muslim sects. Some such magazines are devoted entirely to this cause, which they regard as ‘noble’. The most saddening and unfortunate aspect of this entire situation is that most supporters of every Muslim group and sect have been made to believe that they are literally at war with the followers of other sects. They are made to imagine that the beliefs, interpretations and the reputation and respect of the founders of their own sects are all under threat from others. To protect all these, they believe, they must leave no stone unturned, and because they believe that they are in a state of war with other Muslim sects they think that for them every means is permissible.
Shockingly, all this continues unchecked, even in a country like India, where Muslims are an increasingly beleaguered minority, where their very existence and identity are under grave threat, and where Hindu extremists have now started demanding that the government take over the madrasas. What is even more distressing is that these madrasas depend on funds provided by the public, and most members of the public do not approve of these sorts of activities that promote hatred and conflict. Instead, they are simply concerned that in the prevailing anti-Muslim and increasingly irreligious climate the community’s future should be provided with proper Islamic education. It must not be forgotten that the conditions of education and literacy among the Indian Muslims continue to remain pathetic. The money provided by the community should be spent on addressing these fundamental problems instead of on instigating hatred against other sects. After all, if a person is left completely illiterate, uneducated and pathetically poor the chances of his or her abandoning religion altogether are even greater.
Causes of Sectarian Strife in the Madrasas
As I mentioned earlier, sectarian differences among Muslims are not a new thing. Nor is it limited just to India or the Indian sub-continent. But it is a fact that intra-Muslim sectarian conflict has assumed a far more menacing form in India and, particularly, Pakistan, than elsewhere, and is now even more severe than in the past. Today, in our part of the world it has taken the form of a distinct social phenomenon.

What are the causes for this? Without identifying the causes, the problem cannot be solved or, at least, reduced in severity. In my view, this mounting intra-Muslim sectarian strife promoted by the madrasas in South Asia has three major causes: (a)The syllabus and methods of education used in the madrasas (b) Blind faith, personality worship (shaksiyat parasti) and the resultant emotional extremism and (c) The quest for power and wealth, whether out of greed or compulsion.
Much has already been written about the drawbacks in the curriculum and teaching methods used in the madrasas. Unfortunately, these have been devised so as to discourage the students from thinking for themselves, and, instead, to fit them into a particular sectarian mould. Subjects such as Hadith, jurisprudence, Quranic commentary and allied disciplines are all taught from this sectarian perspective. Examination questions also reflect this. This is why the mentality of the madrasa students is so heavily shaped by sectarian concerns and understandings. Consequently, their identity is primarily defined by their being Hanafi, Shafi, Ahl-e Hadith, Deobandi, Barelvi scholars, and only then as Muslim scholars.
The second major cause for sectarian strife in the madrasas is personality worship. Personality worship is a characteristic of the majority of those who are associated with madrasas, whether as managers, teachers or students. The tradition of teaching religious commandments and perspectives directly from the primary sources of Islam—the Quran and Hadith—came to an end a very long time ago. Now, all these things are taught through reference to the writings of certain individuals belonging to one or the other particular sect. The views of these individuals are now regarded as the means to understanding what Islam is all about, and are even considered as the criterion and source of such understanding. Earlier, the views of individuals were judged according to certain external standards provided by the scriptures, but now these views have become the standard, to back up which, suitable evidence is sought to be marshalled from different sources. Naturally, this also assists and promotes a sectarian mentality.
Every sect now has its ‘holy’ personages, and all of these have their own views, which the followers of their respective sects seek to defend at all costs. They refuse to accept the fact that an intellectual critique of a person’s views and arguments is certainly not tantamount to disrespecting him. Muslim history is replete with instances of great scholars who sharply differed from their teachers on many points and even critiqued some of their views but they never disrespected them. But, unfortunately, this tradition is now almost extinct in our madrasas, where students are made to believe that the elders of their sect alone were right and that all that they said or wrote is inerrant.
The third major cause of the sectarianism associated with the madrasas is purely economic. The leaders of every sect want that their circle of followers should expand, and this prompts them to stress the separate identity of their sect and the boundaries which set it off from the others. Sectarian strife is a tool to promote this agenda, and it helps bind the followers of a sect to its leaders even more closely. To use a commercial analogy, if people come to know that they can find a cure for their ‘disease’ from a cheaper shop they would not continue to patronise the shop that they had earlier been doing their purchases from. The same holds true for the different sects.
Fanning sectarian hatred is the source of livelihood for many of those engaged in this business. If all the massive amount of literature produced by madrasa-related scholars that is geared to fanning sectarianism and sectarian conflict is destroyed or is banned from being sold, what will happen to those many writers, publishers and distributors who have been making a living out of this sort of business for decades? Their predicament is no different from those publishers of text books who simply change a few words in an existing book and then bring it out in the market, presenting it as a completely new text, or from those useless writers who pen books on unimportant subjects. Delivering thundering public speeches against other sects has now become the sole source of income for some people, as also churning out hate-filled sectarian literature. The situation is so dismal today that the vast majority of madrasa students with average capabilities and skills who wish to write can do so only by producing such sectarian literature, or by penning commentaries on existing texts or compiling and publishing speeches—either their own or of some other person belonging to their sect. Only those madrasa scholars whose aim is not simply to earn money or to acquire name and fame write on any other sort of topics.
Another aspect of this economic angle to the problem of mounting sectarianism in madrasa circles is that of foreign funding, mainly from the Gulf, but from some other countries also. This began some three decades ago, and now even many smaller madrasas have entered the race to garner such funds. People and organisations associated with some sects are now desperately seeking to win over their foreign funders by trying to present their own ideology and understanding of Islam as identical with those of their would-be foreign patrons. In order to get funding from them and to prevent others from doing so, they paint the other sects in lurid colours, presenting them as wholly opposed to the sect that their foreign funders are associated with. This further exacerbates existing sectarian rivalries.
What is the Solution?
How can this menacing problem be tackled? In my view, the most important step that should be taken is to bring about certain basic changes in the methods of teaching the Islamic sciences, particularly jurisprudence and Hadith. For this we can adopt the same approach as is followed in certain universities in some Arab countries. For instance, in the teaching of jurisprudence, students should be first taught only the meaning or import of commandments or laws on various issues, and only later, say after a year or two, should they learn the various proofs or arguments for these, because by this time they can apply the capacity for independent reasoning (ijtihad) to understand these issues more dispassionately. Presently, however, students are not encouraged to engage in ijtihad. Instead, they are made to believe that on every issue (masla) their own particular sect or school of thought is best and is superior to all the others. This is not the right approach. Teachers should not insist that students must always abide by the view and position of their own particular sect under all conditions. Instead, students must be able to freely think for themselves and decide, on the basis of intellectual arguments, whether or not to accept or reject the position of their own school of thought on any matter. Arguments for preferring one school of law over the other can be taught at the level of specialisation, not, as at present, when students are still doing their basic course.

Likewise, the method of teaching Hadith presently employed in the madrasas is unsatisfactory. Presently, Hadith is taught by presenting it within a particular sectarian framework. This is wrong, and must be rectified. The present method of teaching Hadith does not allow for students to develop the capacity for deduction and independent reasoning. Instead, students should be encouraged to study Hadith in such a way as to enable them to understand their actual import and to develop their own perspectives accordingly.
Besides changes in the methods and approaches of teaching these subjects, certain existing texts in the madrasa curriculum can be excised and others included in order to help reduce the differences between the different sects.
Almost all madrasas are affiliated to one or the other sect. It is very rare for a student belonging to a particular sect to study in a madrasa associated with another sect. In many cases, madrasas refuse admission to students associated with a sect other than their own. Further, the environment in the madrasas generally is such that a person belonging to one sect would find it virtually impossible to study in a madrasa associated with another sect, for he would have to face considerable ridicule, fierce opposition and immense suffocation. If the doors of madrasas are opened to Muslims from all the various sects and schools of thought, and if the madrasa managers make sincere efforts to promote a climate of tolerance, it is likely that the raging sectarian strife and conflicts could, to some extent, decline. In the same way, allowing people from other sects to become members of the managing committees of madrasas would also have a positive impact. Madrasas can also invite scholars belonging to other sects to their functions. In addition, madrasa managers should make sincere efforts to ensure that their students do not exceed the acceptable intellectual boundaries when writing or speaking about other sects.


In critiquing certain aspects of the madrasas I do not, of course, wish to negate their importance. Rather, my intention is simply to open these issues for discussion so that madrasas can play a more effective and meaningful role in promoting the welfare of Muslims, in particular, and of humanity, in general.
*This is a translation of a chapter by Maulana Waris Mazhari titled Maslaki Kashmakash Aur Dini Madaris in Yoginder Sikand & Waris Mazhari (ed.) Dini Madaris Aur Dahshatgardi: Ilzam Aur Haqiqat (‘Madrasas And Terrorism: Accusations and Realities’), Global Media Publications, New Delhi, 2008, pp. 143-50.
*Waris Mazhari can be contacted on

New Urdu Book on Madrasas and Terrorism--Allegations and Realities

Name of the Book: Dini Madaris Aur Dehshatgardi: Ilzam aur Haqiqat
Authors: Waris Mazhari & Yoginder Sikand
Publisher: Global Media Publications, New Delhi (
Year: 2008
Price: Rs. 125 (hardbound)
Pages: 171

This book is a collection of articles, the first of its sort in Urdu, on the much-debated issue of madrasas and allegations of terrorism. It is divided into two broad sections. The first section contains seven articles by Yoginder Sikand on the subject; and the second contains ten articles by Waris Mazhari, editor of the Delhi-based monthly Urdu journal Tarjuman Dar ul-Ulum, the official organ of the Old Boys’ Association of the Deoband madrasa.
The Western Intellectual and Cultural Challenge and the Responsibilities of the Ulema
By Dr. Mahmud Ahmad Ghazi (Former Director, International Islamic University, Islamabad)*
(Translated by Yoginder Sikand)

Today, the world of Islam is passing through a very difficult phase. Perhaps the Muslim ummah has never been faced with such difficulties before. In one sense, the entire history of the Muslim ummah has been a history of crises. From the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) till today no period of our history has been without some great difficulty. But there is one big difference between all the difficulties of the past and those that we face today. In the past the difficulties that we were confronted with were generally restricted to just one or the other aspect of our life. On some occasions, Muslims had to face enemies on the battlefield and accept defeat. The political power of some Muslim governments weakened and Muslims in some places came under the rule of others. And so on. Such types of challenges, which were basically political, economic or military, emerged in almost every age, but yet the institutions of the Muslim family, education, system of nurturing and training—the internal fabric of Muslim society—generally remained untouched by external dangers and assaults.
Today, as indeed has been the case for the last one hundred and fifty years, every new day brings with it new dangers. Now no aspect of Islamic life remains insulated from these challenges—be it the individual’s character and nurturing, the attitudes of women, the system of education, relationships between husbands and wives and between parents and their children and so on. All these are now faced by assaults from the West. This is in contrast to the many challenges that we faced in the past. The invading Tatars probably never inquired as to what was taught at the Jamia al-Azhar, or what was written in our textbooks or in our books of jurisprudence. Likewise, when the British came to India they did not bother about these issues. This is why despite the fact that the British stayed in India for more than one hundred and fifty years the internal fabric of Indian Muslim society remained, by and large, free from Western influences. Consequently, the lives of a vast number of Muslims were untouched by the Western impact.
An elder in our family, Hafiz Muhammad Ismail, a great Islamic scholar, was one such man. He had never seen a single Englishman in his life. He never uttered a single English word and strictly forbade anyone in his household from doing so. Before the British came to India, tomatoes were unknown in the country. When this vegetable was introduced into India, it was given the name tamatar in Urdu, a corruption of the English word ‘tomato’. So fiercely opposed was Hafiz Ismail to the British and their culture that he never once uttered the word tamatar, and if anyone used that word he would express his displeasure. He invented the term ‘red brinjal’ (lal baingan) to refer to the tomato so as to avoid using the word tamatar, because it was derived from the English ‘tomato. My father related to me that once Hafiz Ismail inquired what vegetable had been cooked that day, and when somebody replied ‘Tamatar’ he flew into a rage, saying that Christianity had invaded his house, and demanded to know why the vegetable was not referred to instead as a ‘red brinjal’.
Obviously, this story seems like a joke today, but if a hundred years ago some Muslims had not opposed Western influences so forcefully then Western culture would have swept into people’s homes in the same way as it is doing today. There are probably hundreds of thousands of instances of such Muslims who sought to oppose Western cultural influences and to insulate Muslims from them. Some people say that these people also opposed the good things coming from the West. Yes, it is true that there were some such good things which Muslims were prevented from benefitting from. It is easy today to accuse some people in the past for keeping Muslims away from the positive aspects of the West, but we cannot judge them today. Those who made such decisions in the past were themselves responsible for them. We can talk about the results of these decisions, but to sit on judgement on them is pointless.
The zeal that enthused people like Hafiz Ismail to protect the Muslim ummah from Western influences has today weakened considerably. Today, the windows and doors of every Muslim home are so open to both negative as well as positive influences from the West that they cannot be closed. Many people think that we should allow and accept the positive Western influences and keep out the others. Undoubtedly, this is a correct approach and all Muslims will agree to this. Accepting the good things from other cultures has always been a characteristic of Muslim intellectual history. But many of us do not ask the question if this is truly the agenda of the West—that it should offer us on a platter those things and influences which are beneficial for us and keep the rest shut in a cupboard. The truth is that the West wants to impose its entire agenda on us as a complete package.
Some years ago I attended a workshop in Germany, in which a large number of European scholars also participated. I was the lone Muslim participant. The subject of the workshop was, ‘Is Islam a Threat to the West?’. I was asked to speak about the attitudes that Muslims have adopted towards the West. In my presentation, I said that ever since Western influences began making themselves felt among Muslims—some two hundred years ago—the Muslim world had adopted, broadly speaking, three different approaches. Of these, two approaches are now weakening considerably or appear to be, and the third seems to be gaining in strength, especially over the last fifty years.
The first approach, which is now increasingly vanishing to the point of virtually dying out completely, was represented by the story of the tomato and the ‘red brinjal’ that I referred to earlier. Perhaps there are no longer any Muslims in the world who would adopt such a strict approach. Indeed, perhaps no one even believes that this sort of opposition is at all beneficial. If there are indeed some such people left, their influence on society is so little as to be unmentionable. This attitude was once very strong but has now, over the years, completely vanished, as I said.
The second approach, which in the beginning appeared to be gaining strength but still did not appeal to the majority of Muslims, is also increasingly weakening today. Advocates of this approach wanted Muslims to become wholly Westernised, in the belief that in this way they could solve all their problems. This approach was characteristic of several nineteenth and early twentieth Muslim intellectuals and political leaders as well as many others, but today it appears to be declining.
The third approach, which in its inception appeared unpopular, has now firmly established itself in the world of Islam, and today a large number of Muslim scholars represent this perspective. This reflects our tradition of benefitting from the good things of other cultures. It advocates the acceptance of the positive aspects of Western culture, including the West’s science and technology, while avoiding its negative aspects, such as certain notions of morality and culture, secularism and irreligiousness, the free mixing of the sexes and so on. This approach is now gaining increasing strength among Muslims the world over.
When I elaborated on this third approach in the workshop, the Western participants tried to controvert me. They said that the West was not willing to share its science and technology with Muslims under these conditions. This was the first time that this realisation hit me. I had never thought of it before. They said that Western culture comes as an entire package and that others have to accept it in its entirety. Others would not be allowed to pick and choose from it as they liked or accept it with any conditions attached. At that moment I thought that these intellectuals did not represent the Western mainstream and that they did not speak for those in decision-making positions in the West. Perhaps, I thought, they were just being prejudiced and that was why they had so vehemently opposed the third approach that I had discussed and which I felt was the perspectives that Muslims should adopt. However, after that, in the years that followed, I met with numerous other Western scholars and carefully read the writings of many others, and have now come to the conclusion that it is their carefully-planned policy that the West must seek to completely mould the Muslim world in its own image, and that it must make the Muslim world follow the West’s agenda entirely. If the Muslim world refuses to do so, then, the West insists, it must not be allowed to benefit from any positive Western influence or contribution. As time passes, my conviction that it is the unanimous policy of the West to completely impose its agenda on the world of Islam that has become even stronger.
The West’s agenda is all-pervasive, and it includes in its orbit every aspect of life and culture. Some people think that the negative developments in the Muslim world are entirely caused by the fault or mistakes of Muslims themselves. Undoubtedly, there are weaknesses among Muslims and their concern for their religious honour has declined. But, alongside this, there are some powerful external forces that are advancing in accordance with a clear-cut mission to mould the Muslim world in a particular direction. Now, to what extent Muslims will go along with this agenda, to what extent Muslim intellectuals are willing to borrow from the positive aspects of the West and negate those aspects that they consider negative, and as to what will happen in the future, God knows best. But all this depends on the approach, insight and determination of Muslims themselves. For this, what is required first of all is for Muslims to be deeply immersed in and aware of Islamic culture and the various branches of Islamic learning. Without this basic foundation it will not be possible to construct any firm edifice in the future.
The Unified Notion of Knowledge in Islam

At one point in history, the basic pillar of Islamic sciences was the Quran. It was from the root of the Quran that various other disciplines flowered. Around a thousand years ago, the famous Quranic commentator and Maliki scholar Qazi Abu Bakr bin Arabi wrote that Muslims possessed some seven hundred branches of learning, and that all these were, directly or indirectly, related to and were an elaboration on the Sunnah, the practice of the Prophet. In turn, the Sunnah was an elaboration and commentary on the Quran. This is why the Quran is the foundation on which all the educational, intellectual and cultural developments of Muslims should be built and on the basis of which these should be judged. This was the situation for almost twelve hundred years, and it produced an educational system that was based on the Quran, the Sunnah and various sciences that developed from these. This system fulfilled all the needs of the Muslim community, including their religious as well as worldly requirements. The notion that religious and secular education are separate is not an Islamic one. It is a product of Western secularism. I can say with confidence that as long as the religious and secular systems of education remain separate, secularism will continue to flourish in the Muslim world, for the ideology of secularism is based on the understanding that religion and the secular occupy two separate domains, with no overlap between them.
When political power was snatched by the Western colonial powers from Muslims, they had no choice but to create an exclusively religious system of education to protect the Islamic sciences. This was a defensive approach and was probably the only way then to protect what had remained of their religious heritage and their association with their faith. Prior to this, there had been no such division between ‘religious’ and ‘worldly’ education among Muslims. Thus, in the Mughal period the same madrasa system produced a great Islamic scholar such as Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, also known as Mujaddid-e Alf-e Thani (‘The Renewer of the Second Millennium’), Nawab Sadullah Khan, Prime Minister at the Mughal court during the reign of Shah Jahan, and the master architect Ahmad Ma‘mar, who designed the Taj Mahal. All three of them studied together in the same madrasa and under the same teachers. They were class-fellows and studied the same syllabus.
I believe that re-creating this unified Islamic system of education and doing away with the existing dualism will herald a new beginning for the Muslims of the world. It will be a step towards a new age. I regard this as being even more important than the setting up of the Dar ul-Ulum at Deoband was. It will be the revival of a lost Islamic tradition. The establishment of the Dar ul-Ulum was a temporary and defensive measure in the face of changed conditions. It was not the ideal situation and nor were the conditions under which it came into being ideal. It lacked resources and government patronage and its graduates were unable to assume positions of authority. Society was not ready to accept their guidance and leadership. Their influence remained limited to mosques and madrasas. May God reward them for what they did, and we must accept that they played a central role in preserving the tradition of Islamic learning. But today the need is to relate whatever remains of this tradition to issues and concerns of daily life, and to enable the ulema to attain a position whereby they can provide positive leadership to the society. For this religious scholars require specialised religious knowledge as well as deep and critical awareness of the world and of the society for which they should provide leadership.
Madrasa Reforms
When I make this point, some ulema think that I am advocating that madrasas should be converted into centres of secular knowledge such as medical and engineering colleges. A leading scholar once angrily said to me that just as engineering colleges do not produce maulvis, there is no reason why madrasas should produce engineers. This complaint is not quite justified, because madrasas do not aim at producing engineers or medical doctors, but, rather, ulema. But the ulema that they produce must have an understanding of the world around them, like, for instance, Nawab Sadullah Khan, the Prime Minister of Shah Jahan, whom I mentioned above.

Each age has its own particular idiom and language. The Quran and the Sunnah are valid for all times and so too are their idiom. Their idiom cannot change. But the Islamic jurisprudents, expounders of the Hadith and commentators on the Quran all related the commandments of the Quran to their own times and contexts and employed the idiom of their age to develop various disciplines. These idioms can change according to the times. They changed in the past and will do so in the future as well.
The ulema have access to various religious sciences but because their idiom is different from that of ‘modern’ educated people, the latter cannot benefit from their knowledge. Let me cite an instance in this regard. Some twenty-five years ago Pakistan’s Federal Shariah Court came into being. The late Justice Salahuddin was its first Chief Justice. At my suggestion he appointed some 30 or 35 ulema as advisors to the Court. I suggested that he should call all of them for a meal. During the meal, he sat down with a leading Islamic scholar, who was well-known for his erudition. In the course of their conversation, Justice Salahuddin asked the scholar what the minimum requirement of an Islamic state was. The scholar could not reply to this question. Justice Salahuddin asked him the question again after some changes, thinking that he had not understood him. Still, he could not reply. I was standing close by. I thought that if this leading scholar was unable to answer Justice Salahuddin, the latter would have a negative opinion of the ulema. I interrupted their conversation and said to the scholar, ‘Perhaps Justice Salahuddin wants to ask you the meaning of the concept of dar ul-islam’. At once the scholar replied, and in such a manner as to satisfy Justice Salahuddin. At that moment it struck me that the ulema possess knowledge but not the appropriate idiom that is needed to express it in today’s age.
Terms of discourse and styles of expression are different in different historical periods and are influenced by intellectual changes. Greek logic had not made itself felt at the time of Imam Shafi, and so there is a considerable difference of style in his writings and that of a later scholar, who was himself a Shafi, Imam Ghazali, who wrote at a time when Greek logic and philosophy had become very influential. The idiom and styles of expression that they used were very different. Likewise, Imam Khatabi wrote a text on Hadith, and so did Shah Waliuallah, considerably after him. The latter was heavily influenced by Greek logic and philosophy, as is evident in his writings. He wrote on the same subject as Imam Khatabi, but had the latter seen what Shah Waliuallah had written perhaps he would not have understood a word of it, because his idiom and style of language were entirely different. That is also why Chief Justice Salahuddin and the traditional scholar could not understand each other, although their subject was the same.
If you have a radio set but it cannot access the wavelength on which radio messages are broadcast, then it is useless for you. Until your radio is adjusted in such a way as to be able to access the correct wave-length you cannot hear the broadcasts. In the same way, it is necessary for the ulema, who possess religious knowledge, and ordinary people who want religious guidance and whom the ulema desire to guide, to have the same wave-length. For this the ulema will have to familiarise themselves with modern idiom and forms of discourse. This is not an argument for madrasas to be turned into secular institutions, as is sometimes claimed. What this actually means is that the ulema must be appropriately aware of those sciences and disciplines that have framed and produced contemporary civilisation and on whose basis the affairs of the world today are conducted, even in Muslim countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran. In the past, Muslims divided the various branches of learning in their own particular way. Some were considered basic or ‘real’ subjects and others had the status of ancillary subjects, being a means for the acquisition of knowledge of the former. But today, in practical terms this division does not exist. The divisions and classifications of the various branches of knowledge are different now. Subjects other than the hard sciences are classified as social sciences and humanities, and each of these is further divided into various subjects and specialisations. So, today when our Muslim youth talk, they do so not from the perspective of the Islamic sciences as those were traditionally classified. They do not use Islamic terminology or the idiom of classical Islamic jurisprudence. Rather, they use the categories of modern Western social sciences. Various modern social and other sciences are tools that aim at improving peoples’ lives and have no direct relationship with religious sciences. It is thus incumbent on the ulema to be familiar, to the required extent, with the modern social sciences and humanities.
If you go through much of the literature produced in the third Islamic century, when Greek works on logic and philosophy began being translated into Arabic, you will notice that Muslims adopted the same three sorts of attitudes towards this development as they presently do in relation to Western knowledge and culture, about which I mentioned earlier. Many ulema considered these Greek disciplines and influences as wholly impure, so much so that some of them even condemned those who advocated these as almost outside the fold of Islam. They even raised the question if it was permissible to wipe one’s private parts after urination or defecation with the pages of books on logic! But, gradually, this vehement oppositional approach softened and a time came when logic and philosophy were incorporated in the system of Islamic education.
Take the case of Shah Waliullah, whom I regard as the leader of Hadith studies in the Indian subcontinent. Unless one has a good understanding of Greek logic and philosophy one will not be able to understand his magnum opus on the secrets (asrar) of Hadith, Hujjat al-Balagha. The Greeks were idol-worshippers and polytheists, and not very refined in terms of morals, but without understanding their thought you cannot understand this very fine book on the secrets of Hadith.
Shah Waliullah was a product of later times. Before him was Imam Ghazali, who wrote al-Mustasfa, a brilliant text on the principles of Islamic jurisprudence. If you do not have a good understanding of Greek logic you cannot comprehend this book, too. It is so full of arguments from Greek logic that one can learn this form of logic by carefully studying it. Likewise, Imam Ash-Shatibi’s al-Muafaqat, another fine text on the principles of Islamic jurisprudence. I regard this as the best book ever written on the subject. But you can understand it only if you know Greek logic and philosophy. Yet, it is important to note that it was written in Spain and north-west Africa, where the tradition of Greek logic and philosophy among Muslims was relatively weak. Despite this, the book draws heavily from the contemporary rational sciences.
This was an instance of a Muslim response to such a culture that did not pose any military threat to Muslims. Nor was it in a position to forcibly overwhelm Muslims if they did not study or understand it. Muslims began to study and translate these disciplines on their own. The Greeks did not rule over the Muslims, nor were they any sort of challenge to them. Muslims, simply out of their own intellectual interest, studied and adopted their sciences and benefitted from them. But today, a powerful, ruling force—the West—has imposed its ways of thinking on all others, including Muslims. In this situation, is it not necessary for Muslims to seek to understand Western thought? The need for this today is a hundred thousand times more urgent than it was for our scholars of the past to study and understand the Greek sciences.
It is true that several Muslim scholars who came under the heavy influence of Greek logic and philosophy expressed views that were not in accordance with Islam. For instance, al-Farabi, who wrote a book titled Mabadi Ara Ahl al-Madinat al-Fadliah. It can be said to be the first Muslim treatise on political thought. It contains several things that are not in line with Islamic teachings, but in one sense it is a unique book. It reflects the author’s close study of Aristotle’s Politica and, possibly, Plato’s Republic. It reflects the author’s attempt to express Greek political thought as harmonious with Islamic teachings. In my view, this was the first effort at what is today called ‘Islamisation of Knowledge’. Why did al-Farabi want to present Greek thought as in conformity with Islam? He must have had some concern or enthusiasm for Islam that he did so. This enthusiasm for Islam prevented him from presenting Aristotle’s views before Muslims without any modification, and to that extent his understanding of Islam is noteworthy. He developed the basis of a form of thought that later provided guidance to people. He outlined and elaborated on Islamic political thought and its constitutional vision in such a way as to conform both to reason as well as to revelation. That is why I greatly respect him, as also Ibn Sina, despite the fact that many of their views were opposed to Islamic beliefs.
Today, those who have the capacity to provide intellectual leadership to the Muslim ummah, or who want to do so, must have a deep and critical understanding of contemporary Western social sciences and humanities. Thus, Islamic jurists today need not also be specialists in Western law, but they should know about the basic philosophy of Western law, and its central concerns and issues. After that, they can analyse these critically, examine their positive as well as negative dimensions, and study those aspects or methods of reasoning of Western law that can be employed in order to express the philosophy of the principles of Islamic jurisprudence. As I mentioned earlier, unlike several earlier scholars who wrote on the principles of Islamic jurisprudence, Imam Ghazali heavily used Greek philosophy and logic to express Islamic concepts in such an expert manner that no scholar of Greek philosophy and logic could counter his arguments. In this way, he presented the subject of the principles of Islamic jurisprudence in a way that was intelligible to the experts of Greek logic and philosophy, and they, in turn, came under its influence. He accepted that the science of the principles of Islamic jurisprudence was fully in accordance with both reason and revelation. This is the work that we must do today, too.
Today, our ruling class has no idea of the principles of Islamic jurisprudence. This class is influenced by British notions of law. There are two ways out of this dilemma. One way is for the ulema to force them to learn the principles of Islamic jurisprudence. But, of course, this is impractical and cannot happen. They will naturally not abandon all their work to spend years studying Islamic literature that uses ancient terminology. This is why resorting to agitations and making forceful demands will not compel our judges to become experts in Islamic law. That can only happen when the ulema teach them what Islamic law is all about. And for that the ulema will have to take into account their mentality and their ways of viewing the world. There can be no short-cut routes here. It cannot be that today some Islamic party or religious organisation organises a demonstration and the next day all the literally thousands of judges and lawyers in the country suddenly become experts in Islamic law. This cannot happen. Instead, one has to think of a long-term plan. And for this it is essential that the principles of Islamic jurisprudence should be presented or expressed in such a way that people whose understandings of jurisprudence are heavily shaped by Western notions can also understand the subject. Muslim scholars thus must have at least a basic understanding of contemporary Western social sciences and humanities so that they can use the methods of reasoning and argumentation of these disciplines to present Islamic beliefs and teachings, just as Imam Ghazali did when he used Greek logic to explain the principles of Islamic jurisprudence. For this we need appropriate experts.
This can come about in two ways. One way is for experts in modern, Western law to be trained in the principles of Islamic jurisprudence. The second, much easier, way is for experts in the principles of Islamic jurisprudence to be trained in modern Western law to the required extent. This should be the case not just for the subject of the principles of jurisprudence but also for subjects such as politics, sociology and other such social sciences and humanities. Our ulema must acquire sufficient and critical understanding of these subjects. But, at the same time, they must also have expertise in the corresponding Islamic disciplines. Otherwise, they will not be in a position to decide what is right or wrong, or in conformity with or in opposition to Islam, in the Western sciences that they study. A person who does not have the required expertise in the relevant Islamic discipline and attempts to study Western thought might face the danger of being misled, as has happened in the past and still happens today. This is probably why many ulema are wary of this–because of the several cases of people with little training in the Islamic sciences who studied the Western sciences and, on the basis of this, came up with such interpretations of Islam as were not in accordance with the Islamic tradition. Consequently, they failed to maintain and protect the continuity of the Islamic intellectual tradition. Hence, till our scholars gain a firm foundation in the Islamic sciences they cannot acquire a critical understanding of and perspective on the corresponding contemporary Western sciences.
Re-Thinking the Aims of Madrasa Education: Going Beyond the Dars-i Nizami
What are the aims of our present system of religious education ? We should be clear in our minds about this. When the Dar ul-Ulum was established at Deoband, Muslims were faced with the reality of British imperialism. The onset of British rule badly hit the traditional system of Islamic education. The British confiscated properties endowed to the madrasas, closed down several madrasas, shut down shariah-based courts, replaced Persian with English as the official language, appointed Hindus in place of Muslims in government jobs and reserved top posts for their own people. All this affected the Muslims, particularly the ulema, very severely. These were the harsh conditions in which the founders of the Deoband madrasa felt that they should adopt a curriculum of education that could more easily be accepted at that time. This was the dars-i nizami, which, by then, had become fairly popular in large parts of India. The dars-i nizami is not something that came down from the skies. It is not mentioned in the Quran or the Hadith. Nor does it have any relationship with the present or future of Islam. Admittedly, it is a good and useful thing, and that I do not deny.
When the British established their rule in India, there were some four of five different curricula in use by Muslims in different parts of the country. One curriculum was used in eastern India, in places like Jaunpur, which was known as the ‘Shiraz of India’, because, like the city of Shiraz in Iran, it was a great centre for various ‘rational’ sciences, including logic and philosophy. A second curriculum was influenced by trends in Afghanistan and was popular in the present-day North-West Frontier Province and Punjab. It gave particular stress to the intricacies of Arabic grammar. A curriculum was prevalent in western India and Sindh, and it focussed especially on Hadith. A fourth curriculum, known as the dars-i nizami, associated with the Firanghi Mahal family of Lucknow, combined aspects of the other three curricula. Variants of these four curricula were popular in various other parts of India.
When the English East India Company managed to gain large swathes of territories from the Mughals, they needed judges and officers to man their bureaucracy. For this purpose they relied heavily on scholars who had gone through the dars-i nizami. Prior to 1857, scores of ulema who had studied the dars-i nizami were employed by the East India Company in high posts. As a result, gradually, this curriculum became more popular. So, when Maulana Qasim Nanotawi established the Dar ul-Ulum at Deoband, he adopted the dars-i nizami as the curriculum for the institution. He himself had studied this curriculum, as had several other pioneers of the Deoband madrasa. He had no choice but to adopt this curriculum. But the dars-i-nizami had just one book on Hadith, and so the founders of the Deoband madrasa added a few more texts in the curriculum and modified it slightly so as to meet the religious needs of the Muslims of India of that time.
But, the question to ask is: Have the demands and needs of the madrasas remained the same after the creation of Pakistan? I do not think so. Following the creation of Pakistan, madrasas have before them three basic demands or objectives. Firstly, we need trained imams for our mosques. This is the first requirement and the most necessary demand of the religious life of Muslims that must be fulfilled. I believe that there is no need for an imam of a mosque to have to study the dars-i nizami. Even if he does not study various books of logic and philosophy that are contained in the dars-i nizami, he can still be a good imam. And if he studies these books it will not help him to become a better imam. Studying these various subjects will make absolutely no difference to the sort of imam he will become. To do so might actually be a waste of time and resources. There are several hundred thousand people who have spent eight to ten years in madrasas learning these various subjects and memorising these texts, and who then spent fifty years as imams in mosques but who have never been approached by people with questions related to the complicated texts that they had studied. On the other hand, while studying in the madrasas they did not learn about those day-to-day issues which people consult them about and for which the people need proper religious guidance. People ask them about share markets and if it is permissible to invest money in them, but most of them do not even know what shares are. This means that the present system cannot produce good imams. What are the actual requirements of a good imam? This issue must be carefully considered.
I personally feel that students should be admitted to the madrasas only after completing at least a basic minimum level of regular education, say till the matriculation level. I also feel that all madrasa students must be made to memorise the entire Quran. Following this, madrasas should have a three year course, in which students should learn enough Arabic as would enable them to read and comprehend commentaries on the Quran, and books of Hadith and Islamic jurisprudence. Alongside this, students should be trained in oratory and in properly reciting the Quran. Those who complete this course would be considered capable of becoming imams in mosques. Those who wish to study only till this level should be encouraged to become imams at this stage. By not going on for higher learning, they would save the precious resources of the madrasas.
It is a bitter truth, but till we accept reality we cannot build our future. Today, many of our imams, when exposed to the wider society, begin to think that whatever they had learnt in the madrasas is irrelevant, and that they have no answers to the questions that people ask them. So, in order to make the things they have studied in the madrasas appear as relevant to the public they project and impose their own problems as those of the wider society. So, when these are made to become peoples’ problems, people will approach them for answers which they can supply. What are these problems? These are sectarian problems. So, for those innocent people who have no knowledge of sectarian polemics, who have never debated about whether the Prophet was an ordinary mortal (bashr) or ‘light’ (nur)—issues that are hotly debated between the religious scholars of different sects—the imams introduce and present these issues as the peoples’ problems. The imams seek to draw their followers behind them by raking these sectarian differences and, in this way, secure their jobs, from which now no one can remove them. This is a very unfortunate development which requires careful analysis and consideration. It should not be seen simply as a critcism. Till the disease is diagnosed properly you cannot cure it. This is why imams have to be trained to address issues that are actually relevant to society. And when they are made aware of these issues they will not rake up unnecessary controversies.
After this three year basic course for mosque imams that I suggest a second stage of madrasa education that would be geared to those who wish to work as teachers of Religious Studies. Today, in Pakistan Islamic Studies is compulsory in all schools, and teachers are needed for this. However, much of what students learn in madrasas is of no use for this, particularly many texts on Greek logic and philosophy. Unfortunately, the madrasas do not meet with the basic requirements needed for Islamic Studies teachers in schools. Hence, I would suggest, madrasas should have a separate course for training would-be teachers in Islamic Studies in regular schools and colleges.
We also require specialists in various branches of religious learning to teach at the higher levels. We need good scholars of Islamic jurisprudence, Hadith and Quranic commentary, and we also need well-trained muftis. For this purpose madrasas should arrange for a separate course of four or five years.

Making the Quran the Centre of Madrasa Education
Unfortunately, the most neglected subject in the dars-i nizami is the Quran itself. It receives the least attention. Recently, some madrasas have introduced the teaching of the translation of the Quran. They teach the translation from beginning to end, but this is no different from ordinary religious instruction as given in mosques and which is attended by worshippers. In such religious instructional circles, a scholar gives a lesson, and people listen to it out of reverence. They remember a bit of it and forget the rest. In the same way, most students in madrasas do not remember what they have learnt in their lessons.

For Quranic commentary, most madrasas teach al-Baidhawi’s commentary on the Surah al-Baqarah. I do not regard al-Baidhawi’s commentary as a good one. I say this with full respect to Imam Baidhawi. It is not a good representative of Quranic commentary. Why did Imam Baidhawi write this commentary? He was actually a theologian and a scholar of the principles of Islamic jurisprudence. As a theologian, he noted that the Quranic commentary of al-Zamakhshari, who had some Mutazilite views, was becoming increasingly popular. So what he did was to take the fine points of rhetoric from al-Zamakshari and replace his Mutazilite views with Ashari beliefs and prepared a commentary in this way. And all those points on which he wanted to refute al-Zamakshari he included in his commentary on the Surah al-Baqarah, because of which this portion became very lengthy. The rest of his Quranic commentary consists mainly of marginal notes (hawashi) which nobody reads. Consequently, in actual practice madrasa students are not really taught Quranic commentary. I know many senior ulema who are not well-versed in Quranic commentary and who are unaware of the contributions of Muslims to the Quranic sciences. Many madrasa teachers do not know even the names of the larger Quranic commentaries.
So, if the Quran is the foundation of all our sciences and branches of learning, it should also be the foundation of our madrasa education system. But madrasas today teach their students various subjects and mould their minds in a particular way, and then they teach them the Quran in a manner calculated to suit a particular mould. I feel that this is an injustice to the Quran. The Quran is the real mould. The other branches of learning must be judged according to the mould that is the Quran. It should not be the other way round—that the Quran be judged according to the mould of the other disciplines. The Quran is the criterion, the standard, on the basis of which jurisprudence, the principles of jurisprudence, beliefs and all other matters should be inspected. But, sadly, what we presently do is that we first teach our students about the beliefs and juridical opinions (fatawa) of the later ulema (mutakhirin) and frame their minds in a particular way, and then seek to adjust the words of the Quran accordingly to fit this mental framework. I feel this is a misuse of the Quran. This is why I personally feel that a new system for the teaching of the Quranic sciences should be developed. It is clear that specialisation in the Quranic sciences is not possible through the existing dars-i nizami. If some scholars who are studying this curriculum manage to gain such a specialised understanding on their own, inspired by their own personal interest, it is a different matter, but as such the system does not facilitate this.
The same holds true for Hadith studies. Some individual scholars who are studying, or have studied, the dars-i nizami might acquire specialised knowledge of the Hadith on their own. But, as such, the dars-i nizami does not itself provide for this. Students of the dars-i nizami are merely made to memorise some Hadith reports related to certain juridical issues. Madrasas waste enormous time on teaching minor issues. They are often concerned not with what the Prophet said but, instead, with seeking to prove the views of their religious leaders on the basis of some sayings of the Prophet. And then several months are spent on Hadith reports relating to issues on which the different sects are at odds with each other, such as whether or not one should recite the opening verse of the Quran behind the imam at the time of congregational prayers (fatiha khalf al-imam) or whether or not one should lift one’s hands up while praying (rafa‘a yadain). After this, the teacher asks the brightest student in the class to read out forty pages a day. The teacher does not discuss what the student reads, and nor do the students understand anything of it.
So, as I mentioned earlier, madrasas, as they presently are, cannot produce specialists in Hadith. The same is true as concerns Islamic jurisprudence. That is why I suggest that new syllabi should be devised for specialisation in the Quranic sciences and Hadith. The syllabi can include all the books that are part of the dars-i nizami and should be supplemented with several others so that such specialists in these disciplines can be produced as would later go on to become expert teachers.
Beyond this, I would suggest another level of teaching in the madrasas. This would focus on the teaching of Western sciences and disciplines from a critical perspective so as to sift out from them what is useful and in accordance with Islam. At this level, for instance, specialists in Islamic jurisprudence would engage in critical study of Western law. Experts in Islamic jurisprudence related to social issues would critically examine Western economics. And so on.
How long all this will take God knows best. But till this is done the future of the Muslim ummah cannot be moulded in the direction that we desire.

*This is an abridged translation of a speech delivered by Dr. Mahmud Ahmad Ghazi at a seminar on ‘The Need for and Importance of Teaching Civilisational Sciences in Madrasas’ organised by al-Shariah Academy, Gujranwala (2nd January, 2005) and published under the title Maghrib Ka Fikri-o-Tehzibi Challenge Aur Ulema Ki Zimmedariyan (‘The Western Intellectual and Cultural Challenge and the Responsibilities of the Ulema’) in Shabbir Ahmad Mewati (ed.) Dini Madaris Aur Asr-e Hazir (‘Madrasas and the Present Age’), al-Shariah Academy, Gujranwala, 2007 (pp.137-70).