Monday, November 30, 2009

What Parents Need to Help Children Learn to Read

Moms and Dads want the very best for their children. They want them to be happy, healthy
and well educated. Did you know that education
starts in the home? Have you ever really sat down to think about What Parents Need to Help Children Learn to Read?

You may have a myriad of questions going through your head about how you can help your child with reading. Thinking about the educational future of your children is one thing; taking action is another. Why not put pen to paper and write out your concerns as a parent about teaching your children to read.

Ask specific questions that you would like answers to. For instance you may want to know:

• At what age should I start helping my child learn to read?
• Are there products for reading readiness available that will get me started?
• Is there a parental guideline to follow that will assist me when teaching my child to read?

This is just a brief sampling of questions that you may be asking yourself. Each family and each child for that matter is different. Approaches you used with an older sibling may not seem to be working with a younger child.

Adjustments may need to be made to accommodate the needs of each individual learner. We all have our own learning styles so when helping a child learn to read there is not a “one method fits all” manner of assisting in the process.

Take your time to discover which reading tactics seem to work best for each child. Your children will appreciate the individual attention they are receiving and in return you will learn a good deal about your child. The key is finding out What You as a Parent Need to Help Each of Your Children Learn to Read.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Educational toys best for kids

For the 5 years old children, this is the right age when the decisions about their formal education should take place. Although some children start going to schools or start taking pre-school classes at this age, yet this can be quite scary for the others, because until this age majority of the children have been spending their time with their parents or with close relatives and could not have a chance to spend the time with the complete strangers. This, no doubt is a major and important step in the life of a child that provide the foundation for learning levels that are still to come.
Whether your child is in school or at home, there are a number of toys, or rather, educational toys that can help it have fun and that educate it as well. Making your young ones play with such educational toys can make wonders in their learning process. When it is about learning process, no doubt reading plays the most significant role, and in order to make your child learn the grammar, pronunciation, or spellings in an accurate way, these toys can play an amazing role. In order to make your child acquainted with the words and phrases, some magnetic poetry word kit is the best toy to purchase. This would help the children to learn new words and phrases while having fun. By playing with these toys the children learn
about right orders of the alphabet, recognition of the letters and about the logical thinking.
An age of 5 years is also best for learning the foreign language. This is so because as we become older, it becomes rather difficult to absorb new words or adopt new patterns of languages, but at age five we have greater ability to absorb and adopt more and information. Taking benefit of this greater learning ability, you can help your child to learn any of other language as it is learning the English language. The magnetic poetry can also help your child in learning any other language in the same way as it does in learning the English language.
No matter whether you choose the magnetic poetry, building blocks or any educational toys of this kind for your children, the fact is that they truly help creating and polishing the analytical and creative skills in your children. You may find the best deals on educational toys here

Methods To Discipline A 7 Year Old Kid Without Punishment

Is your 7 year old kid out of control and you are simply struggling to control his/her behavior at home, school or anywhere out in public ? Well, you are not alone, 7 year old kids are hard to control and many parents simply struggle. Maybe some of you simply don't have the time to discipline your 7 year old the way you would like to simply because you are working flat out, or maybe you are just not sure what to do to discipline and control your 7 year old kid.

Disciplining your 7 year old can be a battle, 7 year old kids actually seems to be another trouble age that comes before teens and i beleive that the 7 year olds are the toughest to discipline and control. But, there are ways to control 7 year old kids and there is an excellent system developed and aimed at disciplining and controlling children aged between 7 year old and 14 year olds and it's called Get Control Of Bad Child Behaviour

I tell you what, i have a 7 year old boy myself and he was quite a hand full! Whenever we went out shopping there would always be tantrums after tantrums that we had to deal with, he wanted everything in the store just like any 7 year old kids do! And the winding and tantrums never stopped no matter what we tried so eventually we used to give in. Now, since we tried this child control system we slowly worked trough it and without even realizing it our 7 year old now obeys everything he is told and there are no more tantrums and no more whinging and embarrasment in public and getting told to control your kid! It's such a relief having all this stop. This child control system has taught us methods of controlling young 7 year old kids that we would never have even thought of before we used this system!

If you are a parent of a child between 7 year old and 14 years old we highly recommend you try this system, you will appreciate the relief of having your child finally under full control and dealing with bad behaviour and tantrums will no longer be needed as your child will obey everything you say! Thank god for this system!

You Can Visit Control Of Bad Child Behaviour System Here

Interview: Maulana Wahiduddin Khan on Islam and Women

Director of the New Delhi-based Centre for Peace and Spirituality, editor of the monthly Al-Risala journal and author of almost two hundred books, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan is one of India’s best known Islamic scholars. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand, he talks about issues related to Islam and women.

Q: You have written extensively on the issue of Islam and women. Contrary to many traditional ulema, you argue the case for gender equality in Islam. How does your approach differ from that of most traditionalist scholars?

A: The approach of the traditionalists is based largely on the corpus of medieval fiqh, while my understanding is based on a direct reading of the principal or original sources of Islam—the Quran and the authentic Hadith. The former, by and large, uphold what can be called the Muslim cultural tradition that developed in the medieval period of Muslim history. So, I would call mine a scriptural approach and theirs a cultural approach.

Take, for instance, the institution of the burqa, which many traditionalists stress as essential for Muslim women. The burqa is part of Muslim culture, but is not mentioned or advocated in the Quran. Another example is the traditionalist ulema’s insistence that women and un-related men cannot, or should not, talk to each other, on the grounds that, so they say, a woman’s voice is aurah, or something to be kept concealed from such men. This notion is absent in the original sources of Islam. In fact, there are many hadith reports that tell us that there was considerable intellectual exchange between men and women at the time of the Prophet. For instance, Ayesha, one of the wives of the Prophet, regularly spoke to or addressed many of the Prophet’s Companions, on a vast range of issues. They used to come to her for guidance and discussion. According to one report, whenever the Companions faced a problem to which they could find no answer they would approach Ayesha. So, how, then, can it be said that a woman’s voice is aurah?

I am not aware of any authentic hadith that describes a woman’s voice as aurah. If the traditionalists have any such proof of their claim, they must offer it. But even supposing, hypothetically, they are able to come up with such proof, we need to redefine or reinterpret it in the present context, and also by taking account the accepted principle, recognised by Islamic scholars, that sometimes ‘necessity makes the unlawful lawful’. We are living in a vastly different age today, where there is simply no escape from hearing the voice of women!

Q: Many traditionalist scholars often cite a Quranic verse that describes men as the qawwam of their wives to argue that this means that men are their superiors and that women must be subordinate to them. How do you interpret the term qawwam?

A: It is a universal principle that everywhere—in government, in a business, in a school or whatever—there has to be a manager to handle practical affairs or else there will be chaos. This applies to the family also. This role of manager of affairs is what is actually meant by qawwam. It does not at all imply subordination or degradation, or any sort of hierarchy. Rather, it is simply a formula for overall management and administration of the family. In my own home my daughter is the qawwam. She runs the affairs of the house. She is the manager of the house. So, it does not mean that a woman cannot be the qawwam of her house.

Unfortunately, many scholars translate the term qawwam to mean that the man is the hakim or ruler of the house, as if he can be some sort of dictator. Many Quranic commentaries give a completely wrong interpretation of the term. Some go to the extent of describing husbands as the majazi khuda or ‘symbolic god’ of their wives. This is really a sign of deep-rooted patriarchy and deviation from Islamic teachings. It is a biddat or wrongful innovation

We have the model of the Prophet Muhammad to explain the correct meaning of the term qawwam. His first wife Khadjiah looked after him when he was in distress. He worked for her, in the business that she ran. He took the advice of another of his wives, Umm Salamah, on many issues, contrary to some Muslim scholars, who argue, without any convincing proof, that a Muslim man may take the advice of his wife but must do precisely the opposite of what she recommends. The Quran also approvingly mentions the case of the Queen of Sheeba, who was the ruler of Yemen.

One can cite several other examples to suggest that the Quran does not call for women’s subordination to men, unlike what some traditionalist Muslim scholars as well as critics of Islam claim, and contrary to what their rendering of the term qawwam suggests. Thus, for instance, although the Caliph Umar issued a fatwa calling upon women not to pray in mosques, his wife refused to listen to him and he could not stop her because that was her Islamic right. Barirah, the wife of Mughis, a Companion of the Prophet, once came to the Prophet in order to seek a divorce from her husband. The Prophet advised her against this, to which she responded by asking him if that was his personal opinion or the command of God. When the Prophet replied that it was his own view, she told him that she did not agree, and so the Prophet arranged for her to be separated from her husband.

Q: Traditionalist scholars (as well as critics of Islam) contend that the Quran allows husbands to beat (dharaba) their wives if they are disobedient. How do you respond to this argument?

A: The dharaba that the Quran refers to is simply a token pat, not wild hitting. One hadith report suggests that this should be done with a tooth-stick (miswak), which implies that it is not meant to be any sort of serious beating. According to another hadith report, contained in the Masnad of Imam Ahmad, no prophet ever beat his wives. Sometimes, the Prophet Muhammad had problems with some of his wives but yet he never beat them.

Q: The Deobandi-dominated All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) projects itself as the sole authority as regards Muslim Personal Law matters (most of which impinge on Muslim women) in India. What do you feel about this organization, particularly its stance on Muslim women’s issues?

A: The claim that the AIMPLB is the spokesman of all the Muslims of India is completely false. In fact, it does not have any mass base. It is, to my mind, just a bunch of maulvis who have put a stamp on themselves, projecting themselves as leaders while they have little contact with the masses. They might represent just themselves, but certainly not all or most of the Indian Muslims.

Permit me to say this, but I regard the traditionalist maulvi class as, to a very large extent, responsible for the backwardness of the Muslims of this country—and not just as far as women’s issues are concerned. They have little knowledge of the complexities of the contemporary world and so cannot address modern problems or interpret Islam in a manner that would appeal to modern minds. But, I see signs of change all around now. Increasingly, Muslims are refusing to listen to those fatwas of theirs which they find outlandish, and are marching ahead in the race for modern education. Even the sons of leading maulvis are choosing not to become traditional maulvis but, instead, are entering universities. I hope that augurs well for the future and that modern-educated Muslim scholars would be in a better position to interpret Islamic teachings, including about women, in a proper manner.

Several English writings of Maulana Wahiduddin Khan are available on the Internet. See and Read More...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Educational Revolution in Mewat

By Yoginder Sikand

Lying to the immediate south of Delhi, straddling the rocky outcrops of the Aravalli range, is the region known as Mewat, named after the Meo Muslims, the principal community living in the area. Mewat covers large parts of the Gurgaon and Faridabad districts in Haryana and Alwar and Bharatpur in Rajasthan. Recently, a separate district was carved out of the Meo-dominated parts of Haryana and also given the name of ‘Mewat’.
Two decades ago I used to regularly visit Mewat—for my Ph.D dissertation, which was about the history of the global Islamic revivalist Tablighi Jamaat, now the world’s largest such movement, which had its roots in the humble hamlets of Mewat in the 1920s. It was the Tablighi Jamaat that put Mewat on the map of the world. Some months ago, I returned to Mewat, after a gap of fifteen years, curious to learn how much, if at all, the region had changed in this period.
Despite its proximity to Delhi, Gurgaon and Jaipur, Mewat is one of the most impoverished regions in northern India. When I did fieldwork in the region in the 1990s, the literacy rate among the Meos, more than a million-strong community, was estimated at less than 10 per cent, and that of Meo females at lower than 5 per cent. This was attributed to extreme poverty (most Meos being small peasants) as well as the influence of the ultra-conservative Tablighi Jamaat, which was seen as being opposed to education imparted in regular schools, particularly for girls, believing that this would lead the Meos astray from Islam.
Two decades later, the Mewat is still characterized by endemic poverty. The villages and towns I visited this time seem to have hardly changed in terms of looks since I saw them last. But for a couple of recently-constructed large, brightly-painted mansions and a few new shops (only a few of which were Meo-owned), Nuh and Ferozepur-Jhirka, the two largest towns in Mewat, seemed to be no different from what I remembered of them from my earlier visits. In fact, they only seemed to have become even more filthy and chaotic. The villages I travelled to seemed to have remained frozen in time—the same squalid mud huts, the same visible signs of neglect by the state, the same scene of Meo women labouring in the fields while their menfolk squatted on cots sunning themselves or sucking away at their hukkahs at roadside eateries. But one change struck me forcefully throughout my trip: a distinct thirst on the part of many younger Meos for ‘modern’ education—nothing short of a revolution in terms of demands, hopes, and expectations.
This was quite in contrast to what I had witnessed on my first visit to Mewat, in the late 1980s, when there was not a single Meo-run school, when there were hardly a dozen or so Meo girls in government-run schools throughout the region, and when many local ulema or Muslim clerics, mostly affiliated to the Tablighi Jamaat, openly condemned ‘modern’ schools as dens of irreligiousness and licentiousness, insisting that the Meos should send their children only to madrasas instead. Today, however, literally dozens of ‘modern’ schools run by Meos have mushroomed all over Mewat; girls are enrolling in these and in government-run schools in rapidly increasing numbers; many ulema are in the forefront of promoting ‘modern’, in addition to religious, education among the Meos; and scores of madrasas have begun teaching English and Hindi, with some of them having actually transformed themselves into regular schools.
Located on the outskirts of Ferozepur Jhirka town is the sprawling 15-acre campus of the recently-established English-medium Aravalli Public School, the largest Meo-run school in Mewat. Founded by a retired Meo engineer, this residential school has some 600 students on its rolls, 60% of whom are Meos, and roughly 10% Muslims from other parts of India, the rest being from other religious communities. 60 of the school’s 70 girl students are Meos. The costs of studying here are exorbitant by average Meo standards, but tuition fees are waved for girls in order to encourage more Meo girls, whose overall literacy rate is less than 15%, to enroll. The schools’ principal is a Hindu. Most teachers are non-Meos, including Muslims from other parts of India as well as non-Muslims from Mewat.
It is late in the afternoon, and the students pour out of their hostels and onto the playing field, forming teams to play football and cricket. They are dressed in jeans or shorts, and brightly-coloured T-shirts or jackets and sneakers. None of them sports the almost mandatory Tablighi-style beard that almost every Meo male in their fathers’ generation does. These students are nearly all Meos—I can hardly believe that at first, for hardly any Meo boys dressed like this when I last visited the area. A dozen girls, Meos all, take a sprint around the playing field, brandishing their badminton rackets. Needless to say, that would have been considered sheer anathema two decades ago.
I stare, dumbstruck, at the students, stunned at what I see before me. When I first visited Mewat, the parents of most of these students would almost all have been un-educated peasants—their fathers dressed in long kurtas, tahmats and ponderous turbans, their mothers, wholly illiterate, kept carefully cloistered in their homes when they were not compelled to work in the fields.
That a major section of Meo youths are today defying deep-rooted traditions by clamoring for ‘modern’ education is undeniable, and signs of this are today visible all over. I am not sure if this is an entirely positive development, though. Need ‘modernisation’ necessarily be equated with ‘Westernisation’? Does it have to also necessarily imply ‘secularisation’, in the sense of focusing wholly on worldly knowledge and ‘success’, consequently trivializing religion and moral values? These crucial questions are being raised by many Meos themselves, who fear that the irrepressible desire on the part of Meo youths for ‘modern’ education might seriously erode traditional, religious values and promote crass consumerism. This is summed up in a complaint of a maulvi attached to a Deobandi madrasa located adjacent to the Aravalli Public School—‘The school has no facility for teaching Islamic Studies. All that they are taught is about this world (duniya)—how to gather more information and degrees so that they can get highly-paid jobs and lead a life of ease and comfort.’

Devising an educational system that balances the needs of the duniya and the deen or religion has been a longstanding concern for Muslim educationists. When I first visited Mewat, I came across almost ulema who were supportive of, leave alone actively engaged in, promoting ‘modern’ or ‘secular’, in addition to religious, education. In contrast, on this trip, I met with numerous maulvis, all graduates of what are commonly considered to be ‘orthodox’ madrasas, who have set up their own schools that impart a healthy mix of both sorts of learning.
One of these ulema is an old friend of mine, 33 year-old Qari Sirajuddin of Bhadas village near the town of Nuh. The last time I met him was when he was 18 years old. He had just completed his religious education at the Jamia Sanabil, a madrasa in Delhi, and had returned to his village, where he had started a small maktab in a two-room tenement to provide basic Islamic education to girls. Today, what started off as the Madrasat ul-Banat Ayesha Siddiqa is now the Al-Falah Model Senior Secondary School. Affiliated to the Haryana Educational Board, it provides education till the twelfth standard. It has almost 700 students on its rolls, of whom almost a hundred are non-Muslims. Girl students number some 125, of whom 25 are Hindus, and the rest Meo Muslims. The school supplements the government-approved syllabus for modern subjects with compulsory Islamic Studies, Urdu and Arabic for Muslim students and Sanskrit, for Hindu students.

What, I ask Qari Sirajuddin, made him transform what began as a girls’ madrasa into a co-educational secondary school? ‘There are scores of madrasas in Mewat’, he answers, ‘but what we lack are sufficient general schools, for which there is now increasing demand’. Further, he adds, ‘I did not want to keep depending on people for donations, which I would have had to had I continued to run it as a madrasa. As a school it can generate funds for itself through the fees that it charges’.
Several other small madrasas across Mewat might, too, like to make the shift and become regular schools, albeit with provision for Islamic education for their Muslim students, Qari Sirajuddin tells me. However, a major hurdle in this regard are the government’s stringent norms for providing recognition to private schools that most such madrasas fail to meet. As per the existing rules, to qualify for official recognition an institution must possess a basic minimum plot of land (half acre for primary schools, one and a half acres for middle schools and two acres for high schools)—which effectively rules out most madrasas. Likewise, an institution must possess a certain number of rooms of a particular size, a library with a basic specified number of books and so on, which many smaller madrasas, that run small budgets based on donations, simply cannot afford. Were the government to lower these requirements in the case of madrasas, Qari Sirajuddin suggests, several small madrasas in Mewat might well transform themselves into regular schools. ‘That’, he says, ‘would be a much less expensive and controversy-free way to modernize madrasas.’
Qari Sirajuddin’s own family, whom he introduces me to over a hearty meal at his home, exemplifies the rapid transformation that the Meos are today undergoing in terms of their approach to education. Although himself a madrasa graduate, none of his children is training to become a traditional alim or Islamic scholar. The first two of his six children, including one girl, study in modern, privately-run ‘public’ schools, and the rest in his own school. His brother, also a graduate of a traditional madrasa has just finished a degree in Social Work from the Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, and hopes to join the civil services.
His support for ‘modern’, in addition to religious, education, Qari Sirajuddin assures me, is something that he shares with increasing numbers of ulema today—not just in Mewat, but across other parts of India, too. ‘Even some very conservative Deobandi Meo ulema, who traditionally frowned on modern schools, have opened such institutions, fearful that otherwise Muslim children would study in non-Muslim schools, because of which they might, as they see it, go astray’, he tells me. Madrasas throughout Mewat, he says, have now introduced basic English, Hindi and Mathematics in their curriculum, mainly because they realize that this is what parents of most Meo children now also want. At the same time, he laments, few of these madrasas take the teaching of these subjects seriously. ‘Some of them claim to be teaching English and other such subjects simply to keep the mouths of their critics shut and to stave off criticism that they are not giving their students a well-rounded education’, he says. ‘The managers of most madrasas do not know English or other modern subjects themselves, and so are not in a position to prescribe a proper syllabus for these subjects and to supervise the teachers they appoint for teaching them.’ Many of them also feel, Qari Sirajuddin goes on, that if they were to deviate from the traditional Deobandi-style curriculum by giving more than just a basic attention to modern subjects they would be criticized by their religious ‘elders’. Typically, he says, the staff they employ for teaching these subjects are simple high school graduates, with no training at all, and with a very poor command of these subjects.
Be that as it may, the very fact that Mewat’s madrasas, once known for their visceral opposition to what they saw as the baneful influence of ‘Western-style’ education imparted in schools, are increasingly willing to incorporate these ‘Western’ subjects into their curriculum is ample proof, Qari Sirajuddin assures me, of the veritable revolution in the demands and expectations of vast numbers of Meo parents as regards the education of their children.
The last time I visited the Madrasa Arabiya Dar ul-Ulum Subhaniya, on the outskirts of Ferozepur Jhirka town—in 1992—it was housed in an ancient, crumbling mausoleum—said to have once hosted the grave of a Shia nobleman who died some 400 years ago. Today, the madrasa has undergone considerable expansion. The sprawling tomb-structure is cemented and neatly whitewashed, a number of low-lying buildings have come up around it, and the madrasa is now surrounded by a well-trimmed lawn with plenty of trees and flowering plants.
The founder of the madrasa, the amiable, 60 year-old Maulana Ilyas Qasmi, a graduate of the Dar ul-Uloom at Deoband, India’s largest madrasa, has aged considerably since I last saw him. Yet, he still recognizes me as I step inside, and rushes up to envelop me in a warm embrace. He seats me down on a mattress on the floor and tells me excitedly about the progress his madrasa has made in the years since I last visited it. It now has some 150 students—almost all Meos. In addition to regular Islamic subjects, it now also teaches English, Hindi and Mathematics, till the fifth grade level. Those who teach these subjects are themselves maulvis, though, the Maulana admits, they are not well-qualified for the task. ‘We wish we could appoint better qualified teachers for these subjects, but such teachers demand high salaries, which we cannot afford’, he says.
Maulana Ilyas is a passionate advocate of ‘modern’ education, as well as education for girls. ‘When Islam has forbidden neither of these’, he says, ‘who are some so-called maulvis to forbid them?’ No reliable maulvi has ever issued a fatwa against modern education, he hastens to tell me. All that they are opposed to is blind Westernisation and loss of religious faith, commitment and identity that often characterizes students who study in regular school. Islam and modern education, he says, must go together. The Meos need both, he insists. That is why, he says, madrasas, too, need to reform. ‘Often, madrasa students cannot read English or Hindi, which not only causes many practical problems for them but also causes them to feel inferior, forcing them to depend on others in situations that require knowledge of such languages’, he rues.
Lamenting what he describes as the rapid ‘Westernisation’ of the Meo youth, particularly, he points out, under the influence of television, the Maulana admits that the process appears unstoppable. ‘When people begin to regard something bad as good, it become very difficult to stop it’, he explains. This is another reason, he says, why madrasas must teach their students—would-be ulema—the basics of ‘modern’ subjects. ‘By familiairising themselves with these subjects, they can understand and speak in the language and idiom of the educated classes and explain Islam to them in an appropriate manner’, he points out.
In order to ‘modernise’ Mewat’s madrasas, the Government has instituted a special scheme, Maulana Ilyas tells me. But, he laments, this have made little progress. He cites reports of endemic corruption as one basic cause for its failure. ‘A number of people set up fake madrasas simply to siphon off funds from the scheme’, he says. And, he adds, government servants administering the scheme were said to demand a hefty ‘cut’ before sanctioning money to madrasas that applied to avail of it. To make matters worse, he says, those administering the scheme were not too serious about them—perhaps they were loathe to see the Meo Muslims progress.
Yet another reason why the government-funded scheme for madrasa ‘modernisation’ found few takers in Mewat was because some larger madrasas, in Mewat and elsewhere, vociferously denounced the scheme as an alleged conspiracy against Islam and the madrasas. Maulana Ilyas dismisses this charge as unfair. ‘Some such larger madrasas simply want to maintain their supposed superior position and keep the smaller madrasas below them. Hence their opposition to the scheme. Some of them even went to the extent of announcing a social boycott of the smaller madrasas that wanted to avail of government funds under the scheme’, he relates.
Like a few other madrasas in Mewat, the Madrasa Arabiya Dar ul-Ulum Subhaniya brushed aside the opposition of some maulvis and decided to avail of the Government’s madrasa ‘modernization’ scheme for a period of two years. Under the scheme, the madrasa received a sum of three thousand rupees per month as salary for one teacher appointed for ‘modern’ subjects for every forty students, plus an annual grant of eight thousand rupees to buy equipment. ‘Contrary to what many maulvis had claimed’, Maulana Ilyas stresses, ‘there was no effort on the part of the Government to interfere in the madrasa’s curriculum and system of functioning through the scheme.’
Maulana Muhammad Husain, Maulana Ilyas’ eldest son who helps him run the madrasa, exemplifies a new sort of ulema that is today fast emerging in Mewat—socially-engaged and supportive of ‘modern’, in addition to religious, education for Meo children, both boys and girls. Two of his four sons study at the English-medium Aravalli Public School near Ferozepur Jhirka, and they also attend religious classes in the madrasa after class hours. ‘They are babus during the day and maulvis at night’, Maulana Husain’s friend Qari Sirajuddin jokes. Maulana Husain has high ambitions for his sons. Strikingly, he does not want them to become maulvis like himself and his father. ‘I hope they will become doctors, engineers, lawyers or government officials. But, at the same time, they must have a good grounding in religious education’, he tells me.
Another institution that I visit on this trip is the Muhammadiya High School, in the village of Sakras, not far from Ferozepur Jhirka. When I saw it last—in 1992—it was a small madrasa. Now transformed into a regular co-educational school, it caters to almost 400 children, a fourth of who are girls. A little more than a tenth of the students of this Meo-run school are Hindus, the rest being Meos. The school follows the syllabus prescribed by the Haryana Board, to which it is affiliated, but it also has facilities for Urdu, Arabic, and Islamic Studies. Although its medium of instruction is Hindi, it arranges for its senior students to take the examinations conducted by the Jamia Urdu, Aligarh.
At the school I met a maulvi—whose name I forgot to ask—who teaches Islamic Studies to students in the primary and middle classes. He opines that it is imperative that the madrasas modernize by introducing at least a basic modicum of modern subjects in their curriculum. This, he says, is crucial especially since in Mewat the ulema continue have a very strong influence, and if they are seen as supporting modern (in addition to religious) education, it can have a very powerful and positive impact on the wider Meo society, inspiring Meo parents to seek modern, in addition to Islamic, education for their children.
At the same time, the maulvi is critical of some maulvis, associated with the larger madrasas, who are vehemently opposed to any sort of modernization, including the government’s madrasa modernization scheme. ‘They are financially strong, so they feel no need to take advantage of this scheme. They fear that through the scheme the government might interfere in their finances’, he surmises. ‘They continue to spread rumours that the government is engaged in a conspiracy to interfere in the madrasas and, thereby, to destroy them in the name of reforms. In this way, they want to keep modern education out of the madrasas’, he continues. He is clear, though, that madrasas must not balk at teaching their students the basics of ‘modern’ subjects—with or without the financial assistance of the government—because, otherwise, he warns ‘madrasas will find themselves anachronistic, being unable to keep up with the times.’ ‘Madrasa students who don’t know a word of Hindi or English feel terribly ashamed when they have to seek the help of others for even such small matters as filing in railway reservation forms or for writing an address on a letter. Being forced to be helpless in such matters is quite contrary to the stature that one expects of the ulema’, he bemoans.
Another man I meet at the school is 68-year old Maulana Kamaluddin Nadwi, a Meo graduate of the renowned Nadwat ul-Ulema madrasa in Lucknow. Uncle of the director of the school, Abdul Ghaffar, he is, in some sense, the main inspiration behind it. ‘Over time’, he tells me, ‘many Meo ulema have changed their position on modern education. Only a few of them—maybe just a fifth—remain somewhat opposed to it in its present form. They fear that the sort of education that is imparted in general schools will impact negatively on the religious identity and commitment of Meo children. At the same time, they realize that the demand for modern education is immense. That is why they have been forced to modify their views.’
Maulana Nadwi comes across as a passionate advocate of what he calls ‘a balanced and holistic Islamic concept of education’, combining both modern as well as Islamic subjects. He does not conceal his differences with those maulvis, such as some very staunch activists of the Tablighi Jamaat, which still remains strong in Mewat, who argue that modern education is opposed to Islam, a claim, he argues, that they assert simply to promote their own vested interests that depend on keeping people ignorant. He recites an Urdu couplet to stress his point:
Mudda tera agar duniya mai hai talim-e deen
Tark-e duniya qaum ko na sikhlana kabhee
(‘If you want to promote religious education in the world, do not teach the community to renounce the world’)
It is not simply out of practical considerations that Maulana Nadwi argues for a healthy mix of both ‘modern’ and Islamic subjects in the madrasas. Rather, he says, his appeal is based on his understanding of Islam, which, he says, countenances no division between religion and the ‘this-worldly’, unlike Christianity. ‘Muslims pray to God for success in both this world and in the life after death’, he reminds me, ‘so how can we, especially our ulema, ignore knowledge of this world?’ ‘The Quran refers to those who have truly submitted to God as the best community, which has been created for the welfare of people’, he poignantly asks, ‘but what welfare can we present-day Muslims provide others when we ourselves have no knowledge of the present world?’
Maulana Nadwi passionately argues the case for Meo girls’ education, lamenting that the Meos have one of the lowest rates of literacy among all the various communities that inhabit India. ‘Islam insists that education is a duty binding on all Muslims, men as well as women’, he says, ‘and hence those who oppose girls’ education, ironically in the name of Islam, adopt a completely anti-Islamic stance.’ In sharp contrast to most other Mewati maulvis, Maulana Nadwi argues that Islam does not prohibit Muslim women from seeking suitable employment outside their homes, if the need so arises, or from playing roles in the public sphere. ‘While abiding by the rules of Islamic decorum, Muslim women must participate in public activities and take up suitable careers. In this way, they can have a salutary impact on people of other faiths who have negative views about Islam, based on serious misunderstandings and on wrong interpretations of the faith on the part of many Muslims themselves’, he stresses.
The winds of change blowing across Mewat have not left even traditional madrasas unaffected. Many of these have now included a basic course in ‘modern’ subjects while continuing to focus mainly on traditional Islamic learning. One such madrasa is the all-girls’ Madrasat ul-Banat Khadjiat ul-Kubra at Patparbas, near the town of Nagina. Established in 1994 by Maulana Syed Muhammad Sulaiman, it is one of Mewat’s only two girls’ residential madrasas. Associated with the Deobandi school, the syllabus it follows is ‘traditional’. Texts penned by numerous Deobandi elders specifically for women, most notably Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi’s Bahishti Zevar and Bahishti Sumar, form the core of the madrasa’s five-year maulviyat course, after which students are encouraged to shift to the Jamiat us-Salehat, a large girls’ madrasa in Malegaon, Maharashtra, to train for an additional three years in order to become full-fledged religious scholars or alimas. Presently, some sixty Meo girls, aged between six and fourteen, study and stay at the madrasa. Education is free, but a monthly fee of three hundred rupees is charged for boarding and lodging, but only from those girls whose parents can afford it.
In addition to the core religious or traditional subjects, students at the madrasa now also learn basic English, Hindi and Mathematics, besides practical skills such as tailoring, embroidery, cooking and first-aid. Says Maulana Sulaiman, ‘The Prophet made education a duty for all Muslims, including women. It is as important as food is. The real ulema have never opposed girls’ education or modern education, unlike what is often alleged. Instead, what they are against is immorality, un-necessary intermingling of the sexes, and licentiousness. Otherwise, they have no problem with them.’
That statement I am to hear from almost every Meo maulvi I meet on this trip—a clear indicator of the veritable educational revolution underway quite unnoticed in Mewat today Read More...

Jamiat’s Call for Muslim Girls’ Education: Is There More Than What Meets the Eye?

By Yoginder Sikand

At its recently-held 30th convention held at Deoband, the Jamiat ul-Ulema-e Hind passed a significant resolution on girls’ education which, surprisingly, received little attention in the media. The original Urdu version of the resolution calls upon Muslims to establish ‘non-residential institutions for providing religious and modern education to girls, for which an appropriate syllabus should be prepared.’ ‘Their education’, it goes on, ‘must be fully in accordance with the limits set by the shariah and the rules of pardah. Co-education must be fully avoided, or else it is feared that more harm than good would result.’ The English version of the resolution reads somewhat differently. It appeals to Muslims to ‘establish non-residential modern educational institutions for girls’ education’ that would be based on a ‘special syllabus for them, which should be completed within six years.’ ‘On completion of 10 years of age,’ it adds, ‘complete shariah norms should be observed while continuing their education.’

The Jamiat’s encouraging, though belated, appeal for modern education for Muslim girls is indeed laudable. However, on critical examination, it might not actually amount to much, and there may be more to it than what actually meets the eye. The actual import of the Jamiat’s endorsement of modern education for Muslim girls appeal hinges crucially on two issues. Firstly, the contents of the ‘special’ syllabus that it recommends for girls, which, it lays down, they should complete within six years, by which they would reach the age of ten (regarded by many as the age of puberty or balaghat). And, secondly, the practical implications, in terms of rules, regulations and restrictions, of the Jamiat’s own understanding of ‘complete shariah norms’ (or, as the Urdu version of the translation puts it, the ‘limits set by the shariah and the rules of pardah’) that it insists Muslim girls must observe if they wish to continue their education after the age of ten.

It is significant to note in this regard that the resolution—probably deliberately—remains silent on what exactly the Jamiat understands as ‘complete shariah norms’ or ‘the limits set by the shariah and the rules of pardah’. These terms are, in fact, vague and deeply contested among Muslims themselves. Some Muslims regard the shariah as sanctioning a whole range of rights for women, and, indeed, as being fundamentally opposed to women’s subordination and patriarchy. In contrast, other Muslims understand the shariah in a contrary, indeed sternly patriarchal, manner. Being a body of leading Deobandi ulema, it is but to be expected that the Jamiat’s understanding of what it calls ‘shariah norms and limits’ and ‘the rules of pardah’ corresponds to the general Deobandi interpretation of these concepts. In practical terms, this might well mean restricting women to domestic roles and spaces (allowing them to step out of their homes only in cases of extreme necessity, provided they cover up entirely); considering not just women’s bodies but even their voices to be ‘awrah’ or to be concealed from ‘strange’ (ghayr) men; prohibiting any sort of interaction between women and ‘strange’ men, even in workplaces and educational institutions; and so on. These rules and restrictions reflect the particular Deobandi understanding of the shariah—one, it is crucial to recognize, that is fiercely contested by other Muslims, who interpret the concept and content of the shariah in a strikingly different manner. It is thus to be expected that when the Jamiat calls for shariah norms to be fully observed while providing education for girls above the age of ten it would want these rules, upheld by the Deobandis as normative and binding, to be strictly imposed on them. Needless to say, this would greatly constrain and limit what, and how, Muslim girls can actually learn. Precisely what the Jamiat would want Muslim girls to learn would be reflected in the ‘special’ syllabus for them that it calls for. Yet, the resolution does not go into the details of what this ‘special’ syllabus should be.

A good illustration of the Deobandi position on girls’ education is provided in a recently-published book by a Deobandi scholar from Bihar, Maulvi Abdul Basit Hamidi Qasmi, a graduate of the Dar ul-Ulum at Deoband. The book, a collection of the author’s speeches delivered at various religious gatherings, boasts the pompous title of Nayab Taqreeren: Asr-e Hazir Ke Taqazon Se Hamahang Sulagte Masail Par Mubni Chand Inami Taqriron Ka Majmua , which translates roughly as ‘Rare Speeches: A Collection of Some Prized Lectures on Burning Contemporary Issues’. The book contains short forewords and notes of appreciation by numerous leading Deobandi ulema, including teachers of the Deoband madrasa and the Jamia Rahmani, Munger, one of the premier Deobandi madrasas in Bihar. Presumably, therefore, the contents of the book reflect a widely-shared shade of opinion among numerous Deobandi ulema.

One speech included in the book, titled Talim ul-Niswan Ka Nizam (‘The System of Girls’ Education’), deals specifically with the issue of what Qasmi believes to be the ‘Islamically’-appropriate form of education for Muslim girls. The author argues that Islam stresses the acquisition of ‘knowledge’ (ilm) for all Muslims, males as well as females. However, in contrast to many other Muslim scholars, who take this to mean sanction for both religious and secular knowledge, Qasmi claims that here ‘knowledge’ refers only to ‘religious knowledge’ (ilm-i din), or, as he puts it, ‘that knowledge through which one’s religious beliefs and prayer are perfected’. He argues, contending with critics who assert the contrary, that when the Prophet insisted that all Muslims should acquire knowledge as a religious duty, what he meant was specifically ‘religious knowledge’. He critiques other Muslims who include ‘worldly’ subjects under the rubric of Islamically-appropriate knowledge, arguing that subjects like ‘English, History and Geography are not ilm, but, rather, skills (hunar)’.

Restricting compulsory knowledge simply to ‘religious knowledge’ as narrowly defined, Qasmi opposes the teaching of ‘non-religious’ education for Muslim girls. He regards those who advocate this sort of education for girls as ‘blindly imitating Europeans’. He sees ‘non-religious’ knowledge as good only for enabling people to work outside the home, and argues that this is un-necessary for Muslim girls because Islam, as he understands it, is against this practice. Earning a livelihood, he insists, is the duty of men, not women, and it is binding on women to observe pardah or seclusion. ‘Worldly knowledge cannot be had while observing pardah’, he claims, thus ruling out such education for Muslim girls. However, he adds, under conditions of ‘severe necessity’ there is no absolute prohibition on a woman learning modern subjects, but this must be done in pardah and only after completing her religious studies. For this purpose, he lays down, she must study only from another woman, or, if this is not possible, then from a mahram male, that is a male relative whom she is forbidden by Islamic law from marrying. In case a woman has no male relative to support her financially, he grudgingly says, it is permissible for her to learn some ‘worldly crafts’ so that she can earn her livelihood, but still, he warns ‘she should be an expert in religious, not worldly, knowledge’.

Qasmi insists that ‘worldly knowledge is not good for women, and, in fact, can be destructive for them’, adding that ‘all the problems of women can only be solved through ‘Islamic education’, by which, presumably, he means such education as is narrowly interpreted by most Deobandi ulema. He appears to equate modern education with Westernisation, and condemns the latter outright. ‘Western culture is blind’, he says, and so, he asks, ‘how can it provide light to others?’ To bolster this claim he quotes some obscure Western writers, who, he claims, are ‘great intellectuals’, who argue that the right place of women is the home and that women must not be allowed to gain higher education. Interestingly, he does not provide any references for these quotes. Thus, for instance, he refers to a certain ‘Samuel Samails’, whom he describes as ‘the greatest writer in England, and possessor of lofty morals’, who says that ‘a respectable woman is one who stays at home and spins thread’, lamenting that women today refuse to do so. ‘Samails’ is also approvingly quoted as saying that women should learn ‘only that modicum of chemistry that will help them remove the froth from food cooking in vessels, and that amount of geography that will enable them to learn the usefulness of windows and ventilators’. As if this were not enough, Qasmi quotes another Western scholar, a certain ‘Lord Brain’, whom he describes as a ‘Jew’, who reportedly insists that woman’s library should possess no book other than the Torah and the Bible, and who bemoans the fact that today ‘besides their biological differences, all other differences between males and females have been erased’. To further reinforce his argument, Qasmi refers to yet another Western writer, described as an ‘American scholar’, a certain ‘Losan’, who argues that ‘women have no capacity for higher education’, because such education is ‘against their nature’.

Qasmi’s opposition to ‘modern’ education for girls stems essentially from the argument that such education must necessarily be defined as ‘Western’, and, therefore, as immoral and irreligious. Seeing traditional Deobandi-style education as normative, he cannot conceive the possibility of a harmonious combination of Islamic and ‘modern’ ‘worldly’ knowledge. ‘Modern’ education, as Qasmi sees it, is bound to lead Muslim women away from the path of Islam. All ‘modern’ educated Muslim women are painted with the same brush. Thus, Qasmi claims, making no room for any exceptions, that all such women ‘care nothing about religion; do not distinguish between the permissible and the forbidden; know nothing about the angels; and do not know which angels used to deliver the Divine revelations or how many famous angels there are and what their names are, or the details of the life after death, or the number of heavenly books, and which prophet received which book and who the first prophet was, or the reality of faith and disbelief’. ‘Modern’ educated women, he goes on, ‘have no love for Islam’. ‘They use magic and spells to subjugate their husbands; very few of them know the Prophet’s mothers’ name; they are not observant of prayers; and are ignorant of the rules of religious purity’. ‘Women today’, he claims, ‘are interested only in fighting, abusing, lying, backbiting, going to the cinema, watching television, and cooking’. ‘They move around without caring for pardah, and engage in adultery’. He describes Muslim women who study in colleges and universities as doing so simply in order to ‘become European and English’, and accuses their male relatives who arrange for them to take admission in such institutions as ‘sellers of their conscience’. In short, he says, these women have begun to ‘follow Satan’. ‘All this’, he argues, ‘is because they lack religious education’. Due to this, he claims, ‘their actions are not good’.

To remedy this situation, Qasmi says, Muslim girls must be educated only in religious madrasas. This is also crucial, he contends, because if women lack religious education their children and the future generations of Muslims might be tempted to stray in the direction of disbelief and immorality. Ideally, he lays down, Muslim girls should study in their own homes, from older female relatives or, if this is not possible, then from mahram males who have some knowledge of Islam. Brighter girls can be given higher religious education, and for the others it is enough to teach them ‘basic religious rules’ and encourage them to observe these. This, Qasmi argues, approvingly quoting the Deobandi scholar Ashraf Ali Thanvi, is the ‘best method’ of girls’ education. If this is not possible, then girls can be allowed to study in all-girls’ religious madrasas in their own locality. They should not be sent to co-educational madrasas under any cost ‘because these are bereft of shame and modesty’. In the madrasas girls should observe strict pardah. They should not study with non-mahram male teachers and must not have any contact with male employees. In addition to religious subjects, Qasmi says, they should also be taught various domestic skills. Significantly, he makes no reference at all to the teaching of non-religious disciplines, thus suggesting that he is opposed to girls learning anything other religious subjects.

Mercifully, Qasmi does not speak for all Muslims or even for all ulema, although his views find a powerful echo among many traditionalist Deobandis. As numerous studies have shown, many Muslim families in India today are increasingly seeking to educate their daughters, providing them with both religious as well as secular education. It remains to be seen if, in the face of this, the conservative Deobandi ulema, including those associated with the Jamiat, are willing to relent or, as seems equally likely, will continue in their obdurate opposition to anything but a very traditional education for Muslim girls, thereby further reinforcing Muslim marginalisation. Read More...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Kid-Friendly Speech and Occupational Therapy Materials

There are many items here. I am interested in the Echo microphone because my son tends to mumble a bit and it's a bit on the annoying side. It irritates him when I say words the way that he says them so I know that he understands how they should sound. If he hears himself enough, I hope that he corrects his speech on his own and with the microphone, he surely will have fun, InshaALLAH. Also, since they are so inexpensive, I had better get some for the others as well, lol. Read More...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Learning Quran Recitation Online

The Quran, the last revealed word of God, is the primary source of every Muslim's faith and practice. It deals with all the subjects that concern human beings: wisdom, doctrine, worship, transactions, law, etc., but its basic theme is the relationship between God and His creatures. At the same time, it provides guidelines and detailed teachings for a just society, proper human conduct, and an equitable economic system.

The Qur’an is a surprisingly sophisticated scripture which is the essence of Islam. It advocates monotheism, sodality, love for one another and various methods to improve our beingness in this world. It explains various facts most clearly and makes comments accordingly. Thus, the holy Quran is an important book that challenges the reader to think, ponder and examine for himself. It has the power to convince, motivate and influence.

The Quran Recitation is essential in the life of all Muslims and needs to be passed on to our children right from an early age. The holy Quran has the remedy to all human afflictions. Quran education guides us in all our activities and helps us associate our entire self with God's name and attributes. With Quranic education we can copiously understand that Islam is both a religion as well as a complete way of life.

Quran education made uncomplicated, simple and advantageous in online Islamic Schools. With the right path to Quran education, you can maintain a religion of peace, mercy, forgiveness complete with wisdom and insight. And this can happen only with appropriate guidance from knowledgeable and skillful tutors who can pass on various facets of Quran education to others.


Self-Guided First Aid and CPR and Free Manual

In the 5th grade, Mr Randolph would have us read these little first aid and cpr booklets if we finished our work early and now that I look back, I'm glad that he did.

Self-guided first aid and cpr and first aid manual. Read More...

First Aid Coloring Book

This is available on scribd for free.

Also, there is a disaster preparedness coloring book.

Monday, November 23, 2009

An Emerging Generation of Socially-Engaged Ulema

Yoginder Sikand

Reforms in India’s madrasas are a much talked-about subject today. In discussing the issue, the media tends to give inordinate attention to the views of the older generation of ulema, particularly those who are associated with certain large madrasas or Jamias, especially those that are known to be particularly conservative. Consequently, the voices of younger-generation ulema, particularly those who have also had a university education, tend to be completely silenced. But, given that these men will, in due course, form a significant section of the Muslim religious leadership, it is crucial to listen to what they, too, have to say. Their views can be quite surprising for those who imagine that the ulema are wholly opposed to reform or ‘modernisation’ of madrasa education and to reviewing some deeply-entrenched and controversial understandings on certain religious matters. In fact, these young ulema are among the most passionate advocates for madrasa reform and for more relevant and socially-engaged understandings of Islam in the contemporary Indian context.

Recently, I had the good fortune to meet one such young Islamic scholar, the Lucknow-based Maulana Yahya Nomani. I had been in touch with him for almost a year through email after I had translated a fascinating book that he had penned in Urdu on the subject of jihad. Although I had read numerous books on jihad before, I had not come across such a penetrating and deeply-satisfying analysis. Maulana Yahya was kind enough to let me translate the book for the benefit of those who cannot read Urdu.

The book, simply titled al-Jihad, provides an incisive critique of the arguments about the Islamic concept of jihad put forward by both hardened Islamophobes and radical Islamists alike. ‘Jihad is often seen by non-Muslims as anti-human, as akin to terrorism, and as a cover-up for imperialist conquest. I wanted to critique that impression’, Maulana Yahya explains. ‘At the same time’, he adds, ‘many Muslims are opposed to ijtihad, to reviewing some of the rules of classical fiqh that were developed in a totally different historical context, including in matters related to jihad, some of which are not in accordance with the Quran. Consequently, Muslim youth in many countries, inflamed by the oppression suffered by Muslims, have taken to indiscriminate violence, wrongly claiming it to be jihad. I wanted to counter their arguments, too’. ‘I wanted the book to appeal to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike’, he explains.

Some of the salient arguments that the book makes is that terrorism, proxy war and the targeting of non-combatants is un-Islamic, as is launching war by any entity other than by an established state or government. Likewise, war for the sake of worldly conquest and power cannot be termed a jihad. That is to say, a war does not become a jihad simply because those who engage in it claim it to be so. Furthermore, the book argues while denouncing the claims of some extremists, Muslims can, indeed must, befriend people of goodwill belonging to other faiths and deal kindly with them.

‘Some radical ideologues claim that armed jihad is a struggle to end rule of kufr or infidelity, and insist that Muslims must always engage in such a struggle if they are in a position to do so. By this they also mean that even if a non-Muslim government allows Muslims religious freedom they still must engage in violent jihad against it. What they believe is that non-Muslims have no right to rule any bit of God’s earth’, Maulana Yahya explains. But he does not agree with this formulation at all, which he terms ‘bizarre’, ‘extremist’, and as not warranted by his reading of the Quran. ‘The real purpose of jihad’, he points out, ‘is defence or establishing justice, and not to end non-Muslim rule in any country. If a non-Muslim government is just and does not oppress Muslims or suppress Islam, there is no justification to launch armed jihad against it.’

Maulana Yahya is also critical of some aspects of the received juridical or fiqh tradition with regard to rules governing jihad that were formulated by the medieval jurists or fuqaha. ‘For instance, there is no concept of permanent peace with non-Muslims in the corpus of medieval fiqh’, he notes. Since that position corresponded to the then-prevailing historical conditions, he says, there is an urgent need to revise and change this understanding in today’s context, where permanent peace is something that is not just a widely-accepted concept but is something that Muslims, along with others, should actively strive for.


In his early 40s, Maulana Yahya is the grandson of the well-known (and, for some, controversial) scholar Maulana Manzoor Nomani. His father, Maulana Muhammad Zakariya, was a teacher of Hadith at Lucknow’s renowned Nadwat ul-Ulema madrasa. Having completed the fazil course at Nadwa in 1993, Maulana Yahya did a Bachelor’s course in Islamic History at Madinah University, after which he joined the monthly al-Furqan, an Urdu religious magazine based in Lucknow founded by his grand-father. Besides working as associate editor of this magazine, he holds regular Quranic classes in mosques and dawah camps for youth. Recently, he set up al-Mahad al-Ali lil Dirasat al-Islamiya (‘Institute for Higher Islamic Studies’) in Lucknow, which provides a two-year course to madrasa graduates to, as he puts it, ‘make them aware of modern issues, concerns and challenges’.

The Institute seeks to familiarize madrasa graduates with subjects that they have had little or no exposure to in the course of spending several years studying in madrasas. These include research methodology, English, computer applications, and basic sociology, political science, law and economics. Till date, almost fifty students have completed the course. Some of these have gone back to teaching in madrasas, where they are expected to impart their new knowledge and thereby promote change in the madrasas from within. Others have enrolled in universities for higher education.

Maulana Yahya argues that the ulema must have a good grasp of contemporary issues and conditions in order to express Islam in a relevant manner, to provide the community with a socially-engaged leadership, and to come up with contextually-appropriate Islamic responses to various questions and challenges. This is why his Institute places particular focus on developing its students’ research skills, something that is left ignored in most madrasas. Students are expected to do research not just on theological or legal or fiqhi matters but also on issues related to Muslims’ social, economic and educational conditions and problems.

The Institute, Maulana Yahya tells me, has set for itself an ambitious publishing programme. It plans to assign particular topics of contemporary concern on which there is paucity or complete lack of well-grounded published works to its students to work on as projects, which would later be brought out in the form of books. So far, the Institute has published two books, one Maulana Yahya’s book on jihad, and the other a classic historical treatise by the late Maulana Abdul Majid Dariyabadi. A third book is due to be out soon—on women and Islam, critiquing the views of both some ultra-conservatives, who completely rule out any public role for women outside their homes, as well as ultra-liberals, who argue for complete sameness between men and women.

Like Maulana Yahya, I have met scores of other young ulema over the years who are engaged, in their own ways, in promoting inter-communal harmony, in articulating more relevant understandings of Islam (including on a host of controversial issues such as jihad and women’s rights), and in facilitating reforms in the madrasas. Their voices cry out to be heard. They can no longer continue to be ignored.

Maulana Yahya Nomani can be contacted on

A Maulana Appeals For Madrasa Reform

The Message of the Madrasas: By Maulana Muhammad Asad Qasmi

(Editor, Urdu Fikr-e Islami, Dar ul-Ulum Islamiya, Basti, UP)

(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)

Children studying in madrasas and training to become ulema fulfill the collective duty (farz-e kifaya) that is mentioned in the Quran in the following words:

Nor should the Believers all go forth together: if a contingent from every expedition remained behind, they could devote themselves to studies in religion, and admonish the people when they return to them,- that thus they (may learn) to guard themselves (against evil) (9:122).

These students are among those who are indicated in a hadith report, in which the Prophet is said to have declared, ‘The best among you is he who learns the Quran and teaches it’. They are also indicated in another such report, according to which the Prophet declared that ‘The ulema of my ummah are like the prophets of the Children of Israel’. According to yet another hadith, the Prophet is said to have mentioned that for he who walks in the path of seeking knowledge God makes easy for him one of the paths to heaven; the angels, pleased with him, cover him with their wings; and the creatures of the skies and on earth and the fish in the sea supplicate for him. The superiority of a scholar over a worshipper, the Prophet is said to have remarked, is like that of the full-moon over all the stars. According to the Prophet, the scholars are the inheritors of the prophets, who have left behind as their inheritance not dinars and dirhams but knowledge (Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Abu Daud, Ibn Maja and Dirami).

He whom God wishes well He provides with knowledge and understanding of the faith. According to a narration reported by Hazrat Anas, the student who travels in the path of knowledge remains on the path of God until he returns (Tirmidhi, Dirami).

Given this great importance of madrasas and the ulema, it is obvious that their responsibilities, too, are immense. They need to provide guidance not just Muslims alone, but to the whole of humanity. This is why madrasas need to introduce, to the extent necessary and possible, the teaching of modern subjects that are indispensable in today’s society. Of course, the centrality, importance and superior place that religious subjects should occupy in the syllabus of the madrasas is undeniable, but madrasas must also keep in mind the contemporary salience of modern subjects and the demands of today’s age. In the absence of this, Muslim society will continue to remain backward and marginalized, and, leave alone being able to guide or lead others, we will not be capable of even walking at par with them. This is why it is indispensable that madrasas introduce the teaching of subjects such as Hindi, English, Science, History, Geography, Economics, Politics and so on, till at least the high school or intermediate level.

Till recently, the syllabus used in the bigger madrasas in India used to take into account the prevailing social and economic needs and demands. Accordingly, they would regularly update their curriculum. This provided madrasa education with expansiveness and made it holistic. As a result, madrasa graduates had a well-rounded learning that enabled them to provide leadership in various spheres of society. However, over time their curriculum began to narrow down and become increasingly stagnant till they began to restrict themselves simply to religious education. This resulted in growing backwardness and marginalization of the wider Muslim society, which, on the whole, remained cut off from, and ignorant of, modern knowledge. To remedy this state of affairs it is now essential for the madrasas to seriously ponder on and review their stagnant and limited stance so as to widen the scope of their curriculum and make the education they provide more holistic. In this way, they can better serve not just their own students and graduates but even the general Muslim society as well as people of other faiths and be a source of welfare, benefit and inspiration for all.

It is essential that the administrators, ulema, teachers and students of madrasas all be characterized by sincerity of intention, the readiness to engage in introspection, and a firm consciousness of their responsibilities. Without these, madrasas cannot be a source of benefit and welfare, and nor will they be fit to receive God’s blessings and assistance. Nor, too, would they be able to have a positive impact on society.

The madrasa system of education is based on sincerity, purity, dedication to God, consciousness of the Hereafter and on placing the demands of the faith over worldly desires. It aims at providing religious education and training to members of society and working for their reform and welfare. On the other hand, the principal aim of the Western-style system of education is material acquisition or accumulation and improving economic standards. This is why it focuses so heavily on job-oriented learning. One consequence of this sort of education is that students and teachers often miss out the higher and loftier aims of education, and focus, instead, simply on the economic factor. Islamic education is certainly not about world-renouncing monasticism. Nor is it blind to the need for human beings to earn their livelihood. But, yet, it does not make economic development or material accumulation its primary concern. Rather, this concern is secondary, though it permits working for this purpose to the necessary extent.


In recent years the Government of India has been trying to implement schemes to introduce the teaching of modern subjects in the madrasas, to help improve the conditions of the madrasas, and to increase the salaries of madrasa teachers. As a matter of principle, no one has any fundamental differences with these measures. Yet, those associated with the madrasas must keep in mind the implications of the setting up [by governments] of madrasa boards, one of these being the declining standards of many madrasas affiliated with such boards. Many teachers and students in these affiliated madrasas are no longer concerned about their principal duties, but, instead, like staff and students in regular colleges and universities, they, too, have joined the materialistic rat-race. This has caused them to deviate from the basic and fundamental aims and purposes of madrasa education. That, needless to say, is a major tragedy. As a poet very aptly puts it:

Oh bird that soars in the higher realms!
Death is better than that food, eating which your flight is impaired.

Aye tair-e lahuti us rizq se mat acchi
Jis rizq se ati ho parwaz ki kotahi

This is translation of the editorial titled ‘Madaris-e Islamiya Ka Maqam Aur Paigham’ (‘The Position and Message of the Islamic Madrasas’) written by Maulana Asad Qasmi, in the September-October 2009 issue of the bi-monthly Urdu magazine Fikr-e Islami Read More...

The Story of the Prophet Ibrahim A.S. & His Wife Hajar

AlhamduLILLAH.

The superiority and virtues of the first 10 days of the month of Dhul-Hijjah and the deeds legislated in those days

Find it here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Jamiat ul-Ulema Calls for Modern Muslim Schools—But Why?

Yoginder Sikand

Blotted out by the din raked up by the media over a statement about the Vande Mataram song issued by the Jamiat ul-Ulema-e Hind at its recently-held convention at Deoband was a significant resolution passed at the same meeting of leading Deobandi clerics dealing with modern education among Muslims. Resolution Number 16 of the 30th session of the Jamiat declares, ‘The Muslims of India are highly backward in the realm of modern education. It is the main cause of their socio-economic backwardness.’ Hence, it stresses, Muslims must to take to modern education, along with religious education. It appeals to Muslims to set up schools and colleges—‘as many as possible’, it advises—as well as professional and technical institutions. For those who imagine that the ulema, particularly the conservative Deobandis, are viscerally opposed to modern education, this should come as a major—and welcome—surprise.

While the Jamiat’s exhortation to Muslims to set up modern educational institutions is indeed heartening, the rationale that it proffers for this purpose might not quite be so, and, indeed, has evoked some harsh criticism in the Urdu press. The English translation of the resolution, hosted on the Jamiat’s website (, explains that Muslims must set up their own schools and colleges because ‘A section of Muslim students who get admission in the government and semi-government common institutions for modern courses get isolated and sometimes become unaware about their Islamic values.’ The Urdu original, also available on the same website, expresses the rationale somewhat differently. ‘That section of Muslims which takes admission in government and semi-government institutions [to acquire modern education]’, it reads, ‘generally becomes neglectful of Islam because of the anti-Islamic environment therein.’ (musalmano ka jo tabqa sarkarai aur ghayr sarkari idaron mai in ulum wa funun ki tahsil ke liye dakhila leta hain un idaron ke deen dushman mahaul mai bilumum deen se ghafil aur bezar ho jata hai’).

There are significant differences of meaning and nuance between the English translation of the resolution and the Urdu original. This might be an inadvertent error, due to poor translation perhaps. On the other hand, the difference might well be deliberate, with the Jamiat seeking to soften and suitably shape its arguments for an English-knowing audience, while passing on a different message to its largely Urdu-knowing followers. The English translation speaks only of a ‘section’ of Muslim students who study in government and semi-government schools, while the Urdu original appears to speak of all Muslims who study in such institutions. In contrast to the former, the latter terms the environment in such institutions being unambiguously deen dushman—which can be translated as. ‘anti-Islamic’ or even as ‘fiercely opposed to Islam’ or, more literally, as ‘enemy of Islam’.

It is not that the Jamiat’s depiction of the environment of many government and semi-government educational institutions as inappropriate for Muslims is not wholly without any basis, however. In many states of India, school textbooks and school-related practices (such as prayers) in government educational institutions remain heavily Hindu-oriented. As numerous studies have shown, school texts often contain derogatory statements and claims about Islam and Muslims. In large parts of India where Muslims speak Urdu, government schools—even in areas of heavy Muslim concentration—have no facilities for learning the language, thus denying these children their Constitutional right to receive primary education in their mother tongue. Instead, they are often forced to learn highly Sanskritised Hindi as well Sanskrit, both of which are taught through a heavy dose of Hindu-oriented texts. All this, very understandably, is a source of considerable—and legitimate—resentment on the part of many Muslims, who see the educational system as geared to subtly (and, in some cases, brazenly) promoting (Brahminical) Hinduism. The lack of sufficient separate girls’ schools and colleges, especially in Muslim-dominated areas, is also another factor of concern for many Muslims (as well as others), who are reluctant to send their girl children to co-educational institutions. Similarly, a perceived lack of moral training in government educational institutions—their focus simply being on what is seen as ‘worldly’ knowledge and training children for ‘worldly’ careers—is another reason for why some Muslims, particularly a large section of the ulema, have their own reservations about them. These concerns merit attention and cannot be summarily dismissed as the ravings of incorrigible ‘obscurantists’.

That said, to characterize, as the Jamiat seems to have, the ‘environment’ of all government and semi-government educational institutions across the country as ‘anti-Islamic’, and to appear to brand all the Muslims who study in them as ‘generally becom[ing] neglectful of Islam because of the anti-Islamic environment therein’ is quite far-fetched, to put it mildly. At the very least, it betrays a fundamental lack of sufficient familiarity with such institutions, with the modern world, and with the complex demands of living in a religiously plural society. To be fair, the Jamiat’s appeal to Muslims to set up modern educational institutions is, in itself, laudable, but if the intention driving the appeal is to isolate Muslims from their non-Muslim fellow Indians, and, thereby, to further ghettoize them, it is bound to receive little support across the Muslim community itself, raising questions about the very credibility of the Jamiat. Further, and needless to add, what could also be seen as an appeal for Muslim educational apartheid can only help facilitate the agenda of right-wing and viscerally anti-Muslim Hindu chauvinists, who would like nothing more than Muslims being banished completely from the ‘mainstream’ of Indian life. If the Muslims are undertaking this task themselves, they must presumably be thinking, the better for them, saving them the trouble of doing so!

The Jamiat’s rationale for Muslims to set up their own educational institutions in order to insulate them from the allegedly ‘anti-Islamic’ environment of government and semi-government schools and colleges has, mercifully, not gone unchallenged in Muslim circles. India’s leading Urdu daily Rashtriya Sahara recently (14th November, 2009) devoted two whole pages on the subject, hosting articles by leading Muslim educationalists decrying the Jamiat’s characterization of government-funded educational institutions as ‘anti-Islamic’.

‘Muslims Must Make Full Use of National Educational Institutions’ is the title of an article by the former Dean of the Faculty of Education at the Aligarh Muslim University, Professor Ali Akhtar Khan. Terming the Jamiat’s resolution as ‘unfortunate’, Khan explains that the Jamiat can hardly expect government schools to provide Islamic education to Muslim students studying therein simply because provision of any sort of religious education—and not just Islamic—in government-funded institutions is forbidden by the Indian Constitution. Hence, he caustically remarks, ‘there is no question of not only anti-Islamic education in such institutions but also of pro-Islamic education.’ To label such institutions as ‘anti-Islamic’, he comments, reflects nothing but ‘ignorance’.

Rebutting the Jamiat’s suggestion that government educational institutions generally lead to Muslim students straying away from Islam, he cites the instance of government-funded universities such as the Aligarh Muslim University, the Jamia Millia Islamia, and the Maulana Azad National Open Urdu University, which, he says, ‘have a large number of very religious Muslim teachers and students, besides many others who, while they may not be called ignorant of Islam or distanced from it, might more appropriately be called non-practising Muslims.’ The credit for the former and the blame for the latter, he explains, cannot be attributed to the government institutions they are associated with. Such institutions, he explains for the benefit of the ulema of the Jamiat, who might be unaware, ‘are not meant to have anything at all to do with either promoting or opposing religion, their mandate being limited simply to providing secular, modern education, to training good doctors, engineers, economists and so on, and not religious education, which is the duty of maktabs and madrasas.’ Hence, he suggests, for the Jamiat to accuse these institutions of being ‘anti-Islamic’ and of causing Muslim students to stray from Islam, is, quite simply, absurd. To appeal to Muslims to avoid them on account of their being allegedly ‘anti-Islamic’, would, he insists, ‘not be wise’. Rather than these institutions, it is the parents of Muslim students who have ‘strayed’ from Islam who are at fault by not providing them proper religious guidance at home, he argues.

Another objection that Khan raises with regard to the Jamiat’s resolution is that, as he puts it, ‘while the appeal to Muslims to set up their own modern educational institutions that also provide religious education might be a noble and laudable idea, given the pathetic economic conditions of the Muslims in general this seems quite impossible.’ He cites the instance of some Muslim organizations that have set up large professional educational institutions, but notes that they charge exorbitant fees, thus effectively keeping out poor Muslims, who form the vast majority of the community. The quality of many of these institutions also leaves much to be desired.

Appealing to Muslims to avoid government educational institutions would, Khan stresses, ‘would be entirely counter-productive’ for Muslims themselves. It can only result, he explains, ‘in further accelerating Muslim marginalisation’. Far from avoiding such institutions, he advises, efforts should be made to mobilize as many Muslim students as possible to benefit from them. Besides, he suggests, Muslims should presssurise the Central and state governments to set up more primary and secondary schools and colleges in Muslim-dominated areas—instead of police stations, as is now the case.

In a similar vein, Professor Hamida Ahmad, former Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Aligarh Muslim University, argues that the Jamiat’s claims about government educational institutions being allegedly ‘anti-Islamic’ are ‘a reflection of Muslim apathy’. The Jamiat’s stance completely ignores, she suggests, the great educational awakening among Muslim youth today who, she says, ‘are demanding quality education. They are going in for new professional courses that were earlier unimaginable for Muslims, and are studying in numerous government and non-governmental educational institutions.’ Hence, she says, ‘to debate about whether these young Muslims are thereby straying from the faith seems somewhat inappropriate.’ Marshalling Islamic arguments to claim legitimacy for Muslims’ studying in government and other non-Muslim educational institutions and to counter the Jamiat’s argument, she cites a statement attributed to the Prophet Muhammad that exhorts Muslims to even travel all the way to China to acquire learning.

Responding to the Jamiat’s statement, Siraj Husain, IAS officer and former Vice-Chancellor of the Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi, writes, ‘I do not agree with the view that general education is in any way harmful to the Muslim community. In fact, this is not an issue that is at all discussed among most Muslims’ Probably indicating a section of conservative ulema, he notes, ‘only a certain class keeps talking about this’. At the same time, he adds, ‘ordinary Muslims have realized the fallacy of this argument, and know that they can secure good employment opportunities only through modern education.’ Hence, disagreeing with the Jamiat’s argument, he appeals to the government to expand educational opportunities for young Muslims.

As regards the Jamiat’s contention that Muslims should set up their own modern educational institutions because Muslims who study in other schools and colleges are generally left ignorant of their faith, Husain argues that ‘this work is very difficult and costly and full of problems.’ He advocates, instead, that Muslims should study in general schools and colleges that are open to all, irrespective of religion, and points out that relatively few of them actually do study in Muslim-run institutions. At the same time, he concedes that this does not mean that Muslims should not open their own educational institutions.

In his article, Bangalore-based writer Asjad Anwar argues that the Jamiat’s appeal is impractical, unrealistic and implausible. He berates the likes of the Jamiat for what he regards as absurd fatwas that are completely inappropriate. ‘Fatwas must be contextually appropriate and practical or else they become an object of mockery’, he warns. Critiquing the Jamiat for appearing to advocate that Muslims should study only under Muslim teachers, he argues that this argument has no Islamic sanction. To back his point, he cites the instance of the Prophet Muhammad, who agreed to set free non-Muslim opponents who were taken as prisoners of war if they would educate a certain number of Muslims. Hence, he stresses, ‘it is not necessary that teachers of Muslim children be only Muslims who strictly abide by the shariah’, which is perhaps what the Jamiat would ideally want.

A major reason why a large numbers of Deobandi ulema are opposed to Muslims studying in non-Muslim modern educational institutions is that in such institutions they generally (out of choice or compulsion) do not abide by what the Deobandis regard as appropriate ‘Islamic’ dress—hijab and burqas for girls, beards, topis and kurta-pajamas for boys. An oft-heard complaint in Deobandi circles about madrasa graduates who enroll in universities is that most of them get so influenced by the environment therein that they adopt Western clothes and shave off their beards. This, they ardently believe, is wholly ‘un-Islamic’. This factor is possibly one of the major reasons why the Jamiat chooses to describe the environment of such institutions as ‘anti-Islamic’ and, by appealing to Muslims to set up their own institutions, implicitly warns Muslims to avoid them.

In a hard-hitting article titled ‘This Stress on External Appearance Seems Meaningless’ Dr. Aslam Parvaiz, Principal of the Zakir Husain College, Delhi University, and editor of a widely-circulated Urdu scientific magazine, critiques this argument and laments:

‘Today, a section of the Muslim community gives inordinate stress to external appearance and dress. I am of the opinion that our deeds, work and performance should form our identity. Sometimes, it seems that the external appearance that we keep harping on is simply a fa├žade and a contradiction. We are trying to hide our own inner weakness behind external dress. It is those whose faith is weak who fall into this obsession with externals. External appearance by itself is of no use. The real thing is our character, our words and our deeds. This is what the Quran actually teaches. Without these, external appearance is useless. That is why strengthening our character is much more important than stressing our dress and external appearance. People should recognize us by our character, our work, our morals, our tolerance, and our commitment to peace, and not by our dress. Only a person who is hollow within would obsess about external identity. Clothes are for our protection and in order to look nice, but the best dress [as the Quran says] is the garment of righteousness (libas al-taqwa)’.

If these biting critiques are any indicator, then, it appears that the Jamiat’s advice to Muslims might well fall on many deaf ears, threatening it with increasing irrelevance even in Muslim circles. Read More...

Ten Gifts That Encourage Reading

Scholastic again.

Signs of Progress in Your Emerging Reader

Reading Milestones via Scholastic

Guys Read and Guys Listen

Guys Read (books) and Guys Listen (books on tape) Read More...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tiny Thumbnails Full of Ideas

Go to Preschool Fun and click on the pictures. They are self-explanatory and it looks like some of them can be used for older children as well, InshaALLAH.

There are more on this page with explanations. Just click to enlarge. Read More...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Have You Been To Islamic Playground?

You can find it here. Do you know of any other fun spots? Add them to the comments and I will add them to the side, InshaALLAH. Read More...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Interview: Islamic Scholar Farida Khanam on Muslim Women

Muslim women are still not taken seriously: Farida Khanam

By Yoginder Sikand,

Farida Khanam is Associate Professor at the Department of Islamic Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Daughter of the well-known Islamic scholar, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, she has translated more than sixty of her father’s books into English, besides being the author of several books on Islam. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand for, she reflects on issues related to Islam, Muslim women and patriarchy.

Q: Almost all well-known Indian Muslim scholars who write on Islamic issues, including on matters related to Islam and women, are men. As one of the very few Indian Muslim women who write on Islamic issues, how do you account for this?

A: You have a valid point here. Very few Muslim women writers have received the attention they deserve. Most of them write fiction. Among them there are hardly any of note who write on Islamic issues, including on matters related to Islam and women. One reason for this is, quite simply, that Muslim women writers do not receive proper encouragement and appreciation from their men, their families and from the wider society. Generally speaking, women continue to be looked upon as commodities, not as life partners of equal worth and capacity. They are still seen, and defined by, what are expected to be their domestic roles, as wives and mothers, and as having no public role. There is still this deep-rooted belief that education for women is simply a means to get a ‘good’, wealthy husband. In fact, many Muslim women continue to be conditioned to believe that being subjugated by their husbands is their fate, that faithfully serving their husbands, no matter how they are treated, is their path to salvation. Given all this, how can you expect our women to be intellectually productive?

Muslim women and their intellectual abilities and development are still not taken seriously. The situation is particularly pathetic in north India, where Muslim elite culture continues to remain steeped in medieval, backward-looking, feudal traditions. In my view, this has to do with culture rather than with Islam per se. The dominant interpretations and understandings of Islam here have been heavily moulded by the deep-rooted patriarchal, feudal culture and mind-set. This has also to do with the heavy influence of traditional, patriarchal Hindu culture on most Indian Muslims. But, while patriarchy has been forcefully challenged by educated Hindu women, Muslim women, on the whole, remain much more backward because, compared to the Hindus, the Muslims in India lag considerably behind in terms of modern education.

Q: You, too, come from a feudal family. How is it, then, that you were able to overcome that barrier?

A: In this my mother had a special role to play. In traditional Muslim families, mothers begin to prepare dowries for their daughters when they are young—a reflection of the belief that marriage is a woman’s ultimate destiny in this world. But, my mother did not do that. She, as well as my father, insisted I should continue my studies. My parents were a constant source of support in my education.

Q: What is your educational background?

A: I did my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Delhi University, and then did a PhD, which I completed in 1990, in Islamic Studies from the Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, where I have been teaching since 1994. For my thesis, I worked on a critique of the theological vision and politics of Maulana Syed Abul Ala Maududi, the founder of the Jamaat-e Islami. My thesis was recently published as a book.

Q: Maulana Maududi’s views on women have influenced Islamist thinking in the sub-continent. How do you look at his approach to gender relations?

A: Maulana Maududi remained trapped within a patriarchal mind-set. For instance, he insisted on women wearing the burqa and the naqab, the face-veil. Interestingly, neither his own daughter nor his daughter in law followed his advice in this regard!

Women are generally more tender, spiritual, sincere and dedicated, and so they can, and should, play a central role in social movements and efforts for social welfare. But the traditional scholars continue to oppose this, even though at the time of the Prophet, women, including the Prophet’s wives and those of his companions, played important social roles and were very active in imparting religious education to Muslim children. At the same time, however, Islam does not allow for permissiveness and uncontrolled intermingling between men and women.

Q: Besides yourself, there are hardly any women teachers in the few Departments of Islamic Studies that exist in universities across India. How has your being a woman affected your experience of working in the Department of Islamic Studies at the Jamia Millia Islamia?

A: In the beginning I did feel somewhat alienated, being the only female member; but gradually, by dint of hard work and the spirit of adjustment, I surmounted the hurdles. God has been very gracious to me. He was always by my side.

Q: A fairly sizeable proportion of students in your Department are girls. In addition, in recent years a number of girls’ madrasas have been established in different parts of India. Do you think this rise in the number of trained Muslim women Islamic scholars might lead to the articulation and popularization of more gender-sensitive interpretations of Islam?

A: I really don’t know. To be honest, most students in our Department, both boys and girls, are graduates of madrasas or of traditional Muslim schools, because of which they have few alternatives other than to study Islamic Studies, History, Political Science, Arabic and Urdu, etc. Frankly, the intellectual output of these students is far from encouraging. The situation in the traditional girls’ madrasas is hardly better. In most of these madrasas, girls are reared on the same outdated syllabus and are not taught to be critical, innovative or to think for themselves. They insist that women cover-up completely and even teach their students that a woman’s voice is aurah or something to be concealed, thus effectively silencing and invisiblising them.

Q: The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), which projects itself as the principal body of the Indian Muslims, has been critiqued for its defense of patriarchy and certain laws that, while militating against gender-justice, have also been condemned as ‘un-Islamic’, most notably the practice of triple talaq in one sitting. What do you feel about the Board and its claims of speaking for the Indian Muslims, including Indian Muslim women?

A: It is not true that the Board represents the Muslims of India. The vast majority of Indian Muslims do not even know who its members are! Muslims in India are so diverse, divided on the basis of fiqh, school of thought, ethnicity and language, that it is impossible for a single body to represent the entire Indian Muslim community.

Most of the leaders of the AIMPLB have received education in traditional seminaries. They have little understanding and appreciation of modern realities. They keep fighting among themselves on sectarian lines over minor details and even non-issues. In the madrasas they learn little or nothing at all about the modern world. How can one expect such people to represent the entire Muslim community?

Q: How do you think modern educated Indian Muslim women respond, or react to, the traditional ulama, many of who continue to uphold a deeply patriarchal understanding of Islam? How does this affect the way such women relate to Islam itself?

A: It is an undeniable fact that a number of educated Muslim women do, indeed, feel distanced from Islam because of the conservative and patriarchal understandings and interpretations of Islam by traditional religious scholars. There is no doubt about that. Unfortunately, a large section of them do not want any change as far as gender relations are concerned. They are also unable to interpret and convey Islam in a modern, contemporary idiom, which also alienates many educated people, including Muslims themselves. They continue to talk simply in terms of halal and haram, do’s and don’t’s, while today’s educated youth are looking for reason-based arguments, which the traditional scholars are unable to supply. Traditional Islamic scholars focus simply on the duties of women, not their rights, and so, obviously, educated women feel completely alienated. No wonder then, that some Muslim women go to the other extreme and advocate radical forms of feminism.

Farida Khanam can be contacted on or