Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Oldest and Youngest

Oldest/Youngest V

I just love that bald head, MashaALLAH.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

The Importance of Shia-Sunni Dialogue

By Maulana Waris Mazhari

(Translated by Yoginder Sikand)

Historically, there have been few efforts among Muslims to address and reform the ways in which the different Muslim sects, particularly Shias and Sunnis, consider and relate to each other. In part, this is because the tradition of ijtihad has been largely lost and Islamic thought has fallen prey to stagnation and rigid taqlid or blind conformity to past precedent. Had Muslim scholars cared to revisit much of their inherited intellectual tradition, we would have been spared some of the horrors of intra-Muslim, particularly Shia-Sunni, rivalries and conflicts that have, over the centuries, taken a terrible toll.

In its origins, the Shia-Sunni split was a product of a particular political context and a particular political conflict, which should have been addressed and solved. However, this did not happen, and these differences were magnified by taking on a religious colour. No serious efforts were made to reduce or to put an end to these differences. Instead, they were allowed to further widen over the centuries. Today, in many places, Shia-Sunni conflicts have become acute, taking a heavy toll of precious human lives. Lamentably, some extremist forces among both groups are fired by a fierce hatred for each other, and see each other as veritable infidels.

Certain misunderstandings on both sides have helped build a massive wall between Shias and Sunnis. So, for instance, many Shias wrongly believe that Sunnis are enemies of the Ahl-e Bayt, the family of the Prophet, and that they respect the murderers of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet. Likewise, many Sunnis erroneously believe that Shias regard the existing Quran as having been tampered with, that they abuse the companions of the Prophet and that they engage in sexual license in the name of muta or ‘temporary marriage’.

In actual fact, these views are baseless, exaggerated or else taken completely out of their contexts. Shia scholars have repeatedly stressed that they do not believe that the Quran was modified or tampered with. The number of Shias who openly abuse (tabarra) the companions of the Prophet is relatively very small. And muta or temporary marriage is regarded by the Shias as permissible only under certain conditions. It must not be forgotten that according to Sunni scholars permission for muta was given in the early period of Islam. Ignoring all this, many Sunni scholars wrongly use arguments that applied to some ancient extreme (ghali) Shia groups in the past that upheld some extreme and clearly un-Islamic views and attribute these views to the present-day Ithna Ashari or Jafari Shias, who form the majority of the Shia population. This is very unfortunate. Likewise, it is also lamentable that some Shias accuse Sunnis of hating the Ahl-e Bayt or Imam Hussain. This is completely wrong. The way the Sunnis express their love for these personages may be different from that of the Shias but certainly no one can accuse the Sunnis of hating them.

It is not easy to remove negative stereotypes that different social and religious groups have of each other. Generally, most people are unwilling to come out of the narrow grooves into which they are stuck and seek to understand others dispassionately. In this regard, one also has to take into account certain political factors responsible for further widening mistrust between Shias and Sunnis. The Islamic Revolution in Iran gave a major boost to anti-Shia sentiments in Sunni quarters as many Sunni Arab rulers feared that it might inspire similar revolutionary anti-regime and anti-imperialist movements in their own countries. Lamentably, they and influential organizations allied to them played a major role in fanning hatred and promoting propaganda against the Shias. They produced a massive amount of anti-Shia literature which they widely disseminated, and in this some of our Indian Sunni ulema were also involved.

Today, a fairly large number of socially conscious Shias and Sunnis are seriously interested in promoting Shia-Sunni dialogue and understanding. It must be admitted that Shia leaders are taking much more interest in this regard than their Sunni counterparts. The Iranian Government has even set up a special organization, called Al-Majma al-Alami Li’t Taqrib Bayn al-Mazahib al-Islamiya, for precisely this purpose, something that no government of any Sunni country has done.


The only sensible and proper way to approach the question of Shia-Sunni relations and to seek to improve them is through dialogue. Such dialogue must be predicated on both groups working with each other on issues on which both of them are agreed, and on searching for points for discussion and exchange with regard to issues on which they differ. Shia-Sunni dialogue, it must be recognized, is indispensable for the project of wider Muslim unity, solidarity and ecumenism. Through this sort of dialogue both groups can benefit and learn from each other. And yet, throughout the centuries, this work of dialogue has been almost wholly neglected. It is necessary, therefore, to take up Shia-Sunni dialogue not just as a political necessity but also as a religious imperative. Both Shias and Sunnis believe in the same Quran, which exhorts believers to hold fast to the rope of God and not to split into sects. It is precisely because the issue of Shia-Sunni dialogue has not been seriously taken up by the Shia and Sunni religious leadership that imperialist forces inimical to Muslims and Islam have taken, and continue to take, advantage of these sectarian differences to weaken both of them. It is intriguing in this regard to note that while today various Islamic groups are talking so much about inter-religious dialogue—something that, of course, is very welcome—they continue to completely ignore the pressing need for intra-Muslim sectarian dialogue, such as between Sunnis and Shias and between the different sect-like groups among the Sunnis.

It is urgent that socially conscious Shia and Sunni ulema seriously take up the issue of Shia-Sunni dialogue. In this they must be inspired by a genuine concern for the other. They must seek to understand each other. They must desist from heated polemics. They must also stop thinking that dialogue can only happen when the supposedly rival party gives up the views that the other party does not agree with. Obviously, no dialogue can at all happen if this is the case. It is also imperative that Shias and Sunnis refrain from promoting hate-driven propaganda against each other. Instead of seeking to discuss their differences in a serious and academic manner, often these are brought out into the streets by rabble-rousers who have a vested interest in stirring Shia-Sunni strife. This is precisely what has transformed Pakistan into a living hell of sectarian hatred and war. Such elements must be sought to be socially ostracized and marginalized.

This year, on the occasion of Eid, Sunnis and Shia jointly offered prayers in Lucknow . This was a very welcome development. It was a result of the initiative taken by two leading Islamic scholars of the city, the Shia leader Maulana Kalbe Sadiq and the Sunni scholar Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahali. Steps towards dialogue and unity like this are a very encouraging portent and must be promoted.

While talking about Shia-Sunni ecumenism, one must also raise the question about the possibility of Sunnis accepting the Shia Jafari school of Islamic jurisprudence or fiqh as a legitimate one, a fifth school in addition to the existing four schools followed by most Sunnis. The Jamia Al-Azhar, one of the largest and most influential madrasas in the Sunni world, recognizes the Jafari school, in addition to the Ibadi and Zaidi schools, as legitimately Islamic. Half a century or so ago, Shaikh Mahmud Shaltut, rector of Al-Azhar, had even advocated the inclusion of the Jafari school in the madrasa’s curriculum. Unfortunately, no such efforts have been made in the madrasas of South Asia . The chances of this happening in Pakistan are very slim, but if some notable madrasa in India does this it can have a wide-reaching impact. A prominent feature of the Ithna Ashari Jafari school of fiqh is that it has kept the doors of ijtihad open, in contrast to most Sunni schools. This is why it has more flexibility and capacity for change than its Sunni counterparts, and this aspect can be made use of by other schools of fiqh. Likewise, if Shia scholars accept the logic, as the Sunnis do, that the basis of accepting or rejecting a Hadith report should be the truthfulness or otherwise of its narrators, and not that the narrator must necessarily be from the family of the Prophet, they can, at least to some extent, benefit from the more well-preserved corpus of Hadith traditions of the Sunnis. In this way, too, the yawning gulf that separates Sunnis and Shias can be addressed to a considerable extent.

‘Ordinary’ Shias and Sunnis must also seek to work together on common issued at the social level. They, as well as their religious leaders, can participate in each others’ religious and social gatherings and even admit them into their organizations. This can serve be a means for them to share their views and for their views to come closer. As of now, unfortunately, in India there is just one notable Muslim organization that has a mixed Shia-Sunni membership. This is the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, whose Vice-President is the noted Shia scholar Maulana Kalbe Sadiq. The Board needs to further increase the number of its Shia members. Other Muslim organizations in the country that claim to speak for all Muslims should do the same. At the social level, too, consistent efforts must be made to seek to reduce the Shia-Sunni divide. In this regard, I would like to cite the instance of Iraq , where mixed Shia-Sunni unions account for almost a third of all marriages. In India , in contrast, such marriages are very rare. According to some broad-minded Sunni scholars, such as Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, such marital alliances between Shias and Sunnis are indeed permissible.

In other words, Shia-Sunni dialogue needs to proceed on two broad fronts: at the level of socially conscious and broad-minded ulema of both groups, as well as the level of ‘ordinary’ Shias and Sunnis. This sort of effort at promoting intra-Muslim dialogue must also go along with moves to promote dialogue between Muslims and people of other faiths. As I mentioned earlier, this is not simply a political or social necessity, but, more importantly, it is something that Islam directs its followers to do.

A graduate of the Dar ul-Uloom Deoband, Maulana Waris Mazhari is the editor of the Tarjuman Dar ul-Ulum, the official organ of the Delhi-based Deoband Madrasa’s Graduates’ Association. He has written extensively on issues related to contemporary debates about Islam, including on inter-faith relations, women’s issues, peace and terrorism, from a distinctly progressive perspective. Some of his articles can be accessed on the Internet. He may be contacted on mazhariwaris@gmail.com


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Going Home Photos

We came home yesterday and it is taking some time to get used to being immobile. We are still doing little bits of school here and there - nothing major, I'm too full of medication for that. Just alphabet things with the younger two and keeping up with abacus homework for the oldest.

Here are some more (blurry) pics of the baby and one of the staples that they removed, can you tell that I was bored? It's funny because I used the point and shoot camera for these so they shouldn't be blurry but they are.

I started off with Demerol, then the epidural, morphine, Percocet, and now Oxycodone. Medication perhaps? LOL. I only have a limited amount and so far, I seem to be naturally weaning myself, Masha'ALLAH. I was so scared during the cesarean all I could do was make du'a. I could feel every pull and tug and cut but without the pain of course. I was freezing cold and shaking and felt like I had so much pressure on my chest. My shoulders and neck hurt afterward and I needed a massage and a heat pack. My last birth was natural so this was certainly a test and SubhanALLAH what a test it was!

Some of my staples


Napping

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Free Book Log for Girls

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Khadijah is here, Masha'ALLAH

8lb 2oz Saturday at 4AM. She was a c-section! I dilated all the way to 8cm but her little head would not drop down into the birth canal. I'm tired and sore so I'll post more later, InshaALLAH.

Trying to eat her sleeves

Monday, December 15, 2008

Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani on Madrasa Reforms

Based in Hyderabad, Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rehmani is one of the leading present-day Indian ulema. Author of some 50 books, mainly on Islamic jurisprudence, he is a senior member of numerous important Islamic organizations, including the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, the Islamic Fiqh Academy, the Bahrain-based Association of Islamic Banks and the Council for Inter-Sectarian Dialogue, Tehran, Iran. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand he talks about various issues related to madrasa education in India, particularly the question of madrasa reforms.

Q: Could you tell us something about your academic background?
A: I was born in Darbhanga in Bihar in 1957. I received my basic Islamic education at the renowned Jamia Rahmaniya in Munger, after which I went to the Dar ul-Ulum at Deoband for higher Islamic learning. Thereafter, I went to Phulwari Sharif where I completed the ifta course to become a qualified mufti under the well-known Islamic scholar Qazi Mujahidul Islam Qasmi. I was greatly influenced by Qazi Sahib's approach and thinking. He was among the few enlightened and broadminded Indian ulema of his times, seriously committed to dialogue between the different Islamic sects and also open to adopting the benefits of modern knowledge for expressing and interpreting Islam.
From Phulwari Sharif I came to Hyderabad and taught Quran, Hadith, Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh) and Quranic commentary (tafsir) at the Dar ul-Ulum Hyderabad and the Dar ul-Ulum Sabil us-Salaam, two leading Deobandi madrasas in the city,. This I did for more than twenty years. Then, in 2000 I established the al-Mahad al-Ali al-Islami, a centre for higher Islamic learning in Hyderabad, which I still manage.
Q: What exactly are you trying to do through this centre?
A: The centre was conceived of as a means for promoting certain much-needed reforms in madrasas. As of now, it offers a two year course for senior graduates (fazils) of madrasas, where they study a host of disciplines that they might not ever have had to in their madrasas, such as English, Current Affairs, Comparative Religions and Computer Applications. Students are also made to engage in research work, something that is missing in almost all madrasas. Till now, over a hundred theses have been submitted by our students, many of them seeking to develop Islamically appropriate responses to various modern issues and concerns. The students are also taught the importance of working for communal harmony and how to properly relate to people of other faiths and to explain to them what Islam is actually about.
Q: Almost every madrasa is associated with a particular Islamic sect, and sectarian strife is rife among the ulema. What do you think is the way out?
A: I think the ulema have to realize, as indeed many already do, that these sectarian differences cannot be wished away. Each sect offers its own arguments and proofs for its position. God has given humans the capacity to think differently, and so obviously such differences will always exist. The point is to accept these differences and, despite them, to cooperate with them on common issues. This applies as much to intra-Muslim sectarian relations as it does to relations between Muslims and Hindus. We must learn to respect people of other sects and religions and to work together jointly with them on issues of common concern.
Q: What do you feel about the on-going debates on the question of madrasa reforms?
A: To properly understand the question, one has to keep the basic aim of the madrasas in mind: to produce good, learned, pious and committed Islamic scholars. It is not to produce graduates for the market whose main aim in life is to make money. So, naturally, moral training and Islamic subjects should remain the centre of the madrasa curriculum.
At the same time, we live in this world and so cannot afford to be ignorant of its issues, problems and concerns. This is why I strongly believe that madrasas need to familiarize their students with at least the basics of various forms of modern knowledge, such as English, Computer Applications, Indian History, the Indian Constitution, and natural and social sciences. Madrasas must conceive of ways to incorporate a basic modicum of these disciplines in their curriculum without this being allowed to harm its basic religious core.
Q: And how do you think this should happen? Perhaps through the Madrasa Boards?
A: I am opposed to the government interfering in the madrasas through government-appointed madrasa boards, which exist in some states. But I do admit the need for some sort of mechanism to bring about greater cooperation between the madrasas as well as to facilitate reforms. In this regard, some private madrasa boards, set up by the ulema themselves and totally independent of the government, have come up in some states. For instance, the Tahhafuz-e Madaris Committee in Gujarat and the Wafaq ul-Madaris in Bihar. In 2001 we set up the Andhra Pradesh Dini Madaris Board, of which Maulana Hamiduddin Aqil Husami of the Dar ul-Ulum Hyderabad is the President and I the General-Secretary. Through this board we are trying to bring about some changes in the madrasas in the state.
Q: What exactly are the activities of this Board?
A: The Board has basically two aims. Firstly, to preserve the autonomy of the madrasas. And secondly, to promote reforms and the moral and intellectual environment of madrasas. Around 150 madrasas in Andhra Pradesh are now affiliated with the Board. We organize teachers' training workshops and also regular meetings where we impress upon the ulema to introduce a basic modicum of modern subjects in the curricula of their madrasas, to properly register themselves and maintain proper accounts and so on.
Q: A major part of the existing curriculum in almost all madrasas consists of the teaching of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh). Many of these detailed rules and laws were devised centuries ago and may have lost their relevance in today's context. As someone who has written extensively on modern fiqh issues (jadid fiqhi masail) what do you have to say about reforms in this sphere?
A: I feel madrasas must give much more attention than they presently do to the principles of jurisprudence (usul-e fiqh), because while several minor fiqh details (juzuvi masail) can and do change over time, and hence require new interpretations, these basic principles are unchanging. Knowledge of these principles is essential for engaging in ijtihad or creative reflection with regard to a host of contemporary issues that were obviously unknown to the early Islamic scholars.
In addition to this, our students, as would-be ulema, also need to have a basic knowledge of modern subjects in order to provide adequate and appropriate fiqhi perspectives on them. For instance, we don't want to make them doctors, but surely for them to engage in ijtihad in modern medical matters they must have at least some knowledge of the human anatomy and physiology. Or, to respond to modern economic developments, they must have a basic understanding of the way modern economies function.
Another way to promote awareness of the need for ijtihad and for reflection on new jurisprudential issues within the madrasas is by promoting cooperation between the ulema of the madrasas and 'modern', university-educated intellectuals who are experts in particular fields. Thus, in the conferences of the Islamic Fiqh Academy, with which I am associated, we invite modern experts and professionals to provide their views and share their knowledge with the ulema, and both learn from each other. This is a way for promoting 'collective ijtihad' that benefits from the different forms of knowledge that these two classes of scholars possess. A large number of books on new and more contextually-relevant fiqh issues and perspectives have been printed by the Islamic Fiqh Academy as a result of this sort of joint effort.
Q: Madrasas have been given a bad press in recent years, being branded as 'dens of terrorism'. How do you respond to this charge?
A: I would say that almost all this propaganda about the Indian madrasas at least is completely false, and has not been proved in the courts. But if you look at parts of the world where terrorism is rife, no matter what the religion of its perpetrators, you will notice that very often it is denial of justice to vulnerable and victimized groups, often by the state itself, that breeds terrorism. Obviously, then, terrorism cannot be stamped out without also working to ensure justice to people who are pushed to the wall, who are oppressed by the police and agencies of the state and who do not get any justice from the courts. Of course, I do not at all mean to condone terrorism, even as a reaction to injustice, for the Quran itself says that the enmity of any community should not lead one to swerve from the path of justice. It also says that to kill a single innocent being—and here it does not specify the religion of that person—is such a heinous crime as to be akin to slaying the whole of humankind.
I think the time has come for people of all faiths—Muslims, Hindus, Dalits, Christians, Sikhs and others—who sincerely believe in peace and justice to join hands in a joint struggle against terrorism, which threatens to destroy our beloved country. I am glad that leading Indian ulema have realized the need for this, and are, accordingly, organizing huge public rallies to condemn all forms of terror, including that engaged in by self-styled 'Islamic' groups that are misusing and misinterpreting Islam for their sinister purposes.
Muslims in India face numerous challenges, including mounting Islamophobia. My advice is that we should not respond to hatred with counter-hatred, but, rather, with love and concern and through sincere efforts to reach out to people of other faiths.

Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rehmani can be contacted on ksrahmani@yahoo.com

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

EID/'ID Mubarak!

Baby is still not coming so I get to enjoy a little of this:

'Id Mubarak

Take care!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Maulana Waris Mazhari: Tackling Terrorism

(Translated by Yoginder Sikand)

The recent assault on Mumbai is the most deadly terrorist attack that India has witnessed so far, and it has shaken every Indian. Every one of us is asking how it is that we have become so vulnerable and what it is that we must do to confront this situation. It has become a sort of fad to blame politicians for all our ills and problems. This is a very superficial and limited approach to understanding and tackling the menace of terrorism. Obviously, the problem cannot be solved simply by blaming politicians and ignoring various other causes that lie behind it.

The media has characterized 26/11 as India’s 9/11, and it is true that in its seriousness this deadly assault is very similar to the dastardly events of 9/11 that struck America. It clearly appears to be the handiwork of some Pakistan-based outfit. Given the sort of evidence that is emerging, this appears to be undeniable. However, I think that we should also explore the possibility that some other forces, such as the Pakistani, American or Israeli secret services, might have used some self-styled Islamist jihadist elements, which are notorious for their extremism and anti-India hatred, for this purpose. The very psyche of these self-proclaimed jihadist groups has been fashioned in such a way by their extreme emotionalism and simplistic approach to the world that they can easily be manipulated by such agencies to promote their interests. This is precisely what one version of the story of 9/11 seeks to argue—that the role of powerful intelligence outfit using certain elements within ultra-jihadist outfits in the Arab world to perpetrate the attacks cannot be ruled out. In this regard it is crucial to note that these self-styled jihadists are now not restricted to just jihadist outfits. Because of very strict controls on and actions against these groups them throughout the world, many self-styled jihadists have been scattered all over and are floating around, and so can easily be trapped and used by others as well for their own nefarious purposes.

The threat posed by self-styled jihadist outfits to Pakistan itself is very real. Influential sections of the Pakistani state as well as many ordinary Pakistanis are simply sick and tired of these groups and the deadly gun culture that they have fomented. Many Pakistanis feel very insecure in the face of these groups and their activities. There is thus no doubt that there is an element of truth in the Pakistani Government’s admission that terrorism has become a major problem for both India as well as Pakistan. But for the Pakistani Government to put an end to terrorism in the country or for Pakistani secular civil society groups and serious-minded Islamic clerics or ulema to marginalize them is as difficult as it is for the Indian state to clamp down effectively on Indian Hindu extremist groups or for secular-minded Hindus to galvanise public opinion to marginalize, politically and socially, Hindu extremists. In both Pakistan and India, despite the vocal or tacit opposition of the vast majority of people, extremists who have adopted the guise of religion have been able to strike very deep roots. Just as ardent supporters of Narendra Modi and his likes have millions of supporters in India, self-styled jihadist groups have a large number of backers in Pakistan. This fact alone should suffice to make us realize that both Islamist and Hindu extremists feed on each other and collectively pose the gravest danger to the people of South Asia as a whole.

Terrorism and religious extremism have assumed the form of deep-rooted social phenomenon in our part of the world, and so obviously cannot be countered simply through a law-and-order approach alone. Merely banning terrorist groups, sealing their bank accounts and arresting their activists is not enough. Such steps can only work in the short-term and that too not very effectively. Wee must realise that terrorism in South Asia is not an issue that concerns just one country or community, and that all forms of terrorism are inter-related. It is a common problem that concerns all the countries of the region and all the different religious communities that reside therein. We must also seek to understand the factors other than just political that are also responsible for generating terrorism, such as illiteracy, poverty, social inequality, unemployment and violation of human rights and moral values. Hence, and obviously, to seriously tackle terrorism from its roots a mere political approach would be inadequate. We also need to address these other underlying causes as well. This points to the need for civil society groups, in both India and Pakistan, to take a leading role in social activism against the menace of terrorism. Terrorism must be viewed as a social phenomenon, and, accordingly, must be sought to be countered through a strong and effective social movement, besides at the level of the state.

For this purpose, we need to chalk out a non-political programme that would bring together civil society groups as well as serious-minded religious leaders from the different communities in the region in a joint struggle against all forms of terrorism that are causing such havoc all across South Asia today. Perhaps this could take the form of a ‘South Asian Forum Against Terrorism’. Through such a forum it would be easier for us to appeal to Hindus and Muslims throughout our region with our message against terrorism. The most important role in this forum, I feel, should be that of responsible and right-minded Muslim ulema and Hindu religious personages such as dharmacharyas.

Some months ago, the Dar ul-Uloom Deband organized a massive rally, bringing together clerics from different Muslim sects to jointly issue a declaration or fatwa condemning all forms of terrorism and declaring these to be anti-Islamic. This was a very welcome step. Such mass rallies can be organized throughout South Asia by the Forum that I have suggested, wherein Hindu and Muslim religious leaders can jointly denounce terrorism and call upon Hindu, Muslims and others to join them in the struggle against it. If the leading responsible Muslim ulema and muftis of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh can jointly directly address jihadist Muslims and explain to them the errors of their views, it can have a very big impact on their thinking. They can thereby underline the gross misuse of the concept of jihad, which is now causing such pain, destruction and strife not just for non-Muslims but for Muslims themselves. Likewise, if the Hindu religious leaders of the countries of South Asia get together and declare that the fiercely anti-Muslim activities of extremists in a Hindu garb constitute a grave violation of the Hindu religion, it can certainly impress many Hindus. This sort of effort can play a major role in bringing Hindus and Muslims closer and solving many of their problems and conflicts. It can help build confidence and trust between Hindus and Muslims and between Pakistanis and Indians and in marginalizing the religious extremists on both sides.

Two weeks ago more than 60 Pakistani Muslim ulema from different sects issued a joint fatwa, through the United Ulema Council, condemning the spread of terror and strife in the name of jihad. They denounced the wave of suicide bombings that are now occurring with such frightening regularity in that country. They also declared that it was not permissible for non-state actors to declare jihad. From this, one can gauge how major a menace and threat to their country and to Islam many serious-minded Pakistani Islamic scholars and leaders regard the ‘New Taliban’ and other such crazed fanatics as. If such serious Pakistani religious leaders can be made part of a joint Indian-Pakistani civil society mass movement against terrorism it can make a very great impact.

I have another suggestion to make. In recent years, Saudi Arabia and several other Arab countries have imposed a very strict ban on jihadist literature. Just last week, the Saudi government banned the keeping of some books by Syed Qutb, a key Egyptian Islamist ideologue, and some other such writers in schools. Can we not, with the help of some governments, seek to exercise pressure on the Pakistani Government to ban completely the massive amount of jihadist literature that is freely available in that country? But, of course, for this we would also need to look within, at our own selves, to the freely available and equally venomous sort of literature that is being produced by some fascist Hindutva outfits in India.

I wish to cite the example of two notable Indian religious leaders—one an Arya Samajist, the other a Muslim—who have been playing a leading role in promoting communal harmony and inter-community dialogue as well as struggling against all forms of terrorism. The first of these is Swami Agnivesh, whom I had the good fortune to meet some days ago at his office in New Delhi. He passionately spoke about how he was working together with some Muslim ulema for communal harmony and had participated in their mass rallies to condemn terrorism unleashed by both Hindu and Muslim fanatic groups. He sharply berated fascist Hindutva forces for unleashing a reign of terror in India, and condemned this as anti-Hindu. The other Indian religious leader whose efforts I would like to cite here is the noted Delhi-based Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, with whom I had the honour of working for some time. He has been consistently denouncing so-called jihadist tendencies, branding this form of terrorism as wholly anti-Islamic. I am sure there must be many other such Hindu and Muslim religious leaders in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. An effective, well-organised anti-terrorism forum bringing together such people can make a major breakthrough in our joint struggle against the terrorist menace.

Maulana Waris Mazhari, a graduate of the Dar ul-Ulum Deoband and the Nadwat ul-Ulema madrasa, Lucknow, is the editor of the Delhi-based Urdu magazine Tarjuman Dar ul-Ulum, the official organ of the Deoband madrasa’s Graduates Association. He can be contacted on ws_mazhari@gmail.com

Thursday, December 4, 2008

India’s First-Ever Training Centre for Madrasa Teachers

By Yoginder Sikand

No reliable estimates are available of the number of madrasas in India and of their teachers and students. India probably has the largest number of traditional madrasas in the world, employing literally tens of thousands of teachers and with many times that number of students on their rolls. Despite this, no modern facilities exist anywhere in the country for training madrasa teachers. Most madrasa teachers simply enter madrasas after finishing a lengthy course in a madrasa that takes several years. Bereft of any sort of skilled training, many madrasa teachers, so the complaint is often heard, are not will equipped to deal with students or to introduce badly needed reforms in the curriculum and pedagogy of traditional madrasa education. This is one of the major reasons for what, besides others, even many clerics or ulema who run the madrasas themselves readily admit is the overall stagnation of India ’s traditional madrasa system.

It is in this context that the work of the Centre for the Professional Development of Urdu-Medium Teachers at the Hyderabad-based Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) assumes particular importance. Established two years ago, and funded the University Grants Commission, the Centre has been working with heads and teachers of Urdu-medium madrasas in southern India to seek to promote reforms in teaching methods in madrasas as well as to help broaden the scope of traditional madrasa education.

Says Dr. Mazheruddin Farooqui, noted educationist and Urdu scholar who heads the Centre, ‘We don’t want to impose anything on the ulema of the madrasas from without. Change has to come from within. For this, it is crucial that we dialogue with them, and this is what we are trying to do. Madrasas must reform, but only with the consent of the ulema and in such a way as to enable madrasas to better fulfill their basic purpose of promoting good and effective religious and community leaders.’

Working with the ulema of the madrasas has not been easy. ‘Initially, many of the ulema we approached to come to our programmes were reluctant and suspicious,’ relates Farooqui. ‘They felt that the government wants to interfere in the madrasas in the name of reforming them. It was with considerable difficulty that we managed to convince them that our Centre has no such intentions and that we only want to help improve their teachers’ skills.’ ‘And now’, he adds, ‘the response is quite enthusiastic.’

So far, the Centre has organized eight madrasa teachers’ orientation workshops, in addition to eight others for heads and teachers of Urdu-medium schools. More than 400 teachers from madrasas in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Kerala have participated in these workshops, where they have been exposed to such issues as modern teaching methods and teaching aids, inter-personal skills, students’ psychology, institutional organization and management and the need for expanding the scope of madrasa education to take into account contemporary needs and challenges.

Farooqui and his team of four have major plans for the Centre with regard to the madrasas. These include preparing, with the help of madrasa authorities, textbooks on new teaching methods for madrasa teachers, commissioning in-depth studies about madrasas and their problems, and conducting long-term orientation programmes, up to a month’s duration, for madrasa teachers. The University Grants Commission has provided a generous grant to the Centre to build a hostel which will be used by madrasa teachers attending these programmes.

Farooqui tells me excitedly about the proposal that his Centre has just submitted to launch a one-year diploma course in teaching especially for madrasa teachers. This would be the first such initiative in the country. In order to make it easily accessible to madrasa students, most of whom come from poor family backgrounds, the fees have been kept nominal—a mere three hundred rupees for the entire programme.

‘We have structured the course in such a way as to provide students with an basic understanding of crucial issues subjects that they would need as would-be teachers, but which they get little exposure to in the madrasas’, Farooqui says. These subjects include the history of the development of madrasas in India , their role in promoting knowledge of Urdu, the interface between madrasas and the wider society and important facets of Indian society, besides more technical aspects of modern pedagogy and relations between students and teachers.

Unbeknown to and unappreciated by many, reforms are gradually underway in numerous madrasas across the country. If approached with sensitivity and in a spirit of genuine dialogue, many of them are indeed willing to work together with other, well-meaning institutions active in the field of education, as the example of this Centre shows.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

False Start?

Still here. Just running here and there, getting ultrasounds and walking in the mall..... I spent the afternoon counting regular contractions that aren't getting stronger and figuring out what the children need/want for Eid, InshaALLAH. I'm almost finished with the quilt (AlhamduLILLAH), the binding is taking all the fun out of it, lol.

I fell asleep in the homeschool while the kids were working on various things, (AlhamduLILLAH they weren't painting, lol). I was really snoring and everything. I guess that means it's time to take a break. I feel like things are getting close and now, we'll have to wait and see. Make du'a that everything goes well - I will try to keep you posted. Take care and Eid Mubarak if I don't post anything before then. Read More...