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Islamic Society ( 8 Aug 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Winds of change: English enters madrasas

The madrasas have woken up to the significance of English language

Abantika Ghosh ,TNN


8 Aug 2008


NEW DELHI: It is difficult to make sense of the rows of arcane symbols Md Talha is poring over. The young man - teacher in Madrasa moinul Islam in Wazirabad and a madrasa pass out himself - is brushing up his Urdu shorthand skills. He has also learnt English, mainly on his own initiative and now, as more and more of his students in the madrasa express an urge to learn the language, he does give them some lessons.


'' It is the ardent desire of every madrasa student to not just acquire the religious training that he has been sent there for but also get trained in other subjects which are of essence in trying to eke a livelihood in the real world. I felt that too, that's why I teach English to my students even if my madrasa does not give permission for it.''


People like Talha and institutions like the one for girls in a dingy by-lane of Ghonda that is impatiently waiting to lay its hands on the first computer are a symbol of how the purdah is slowly but surely lifting in madrasas across the city. Responding to a recently-announced Delhi government scheme to give aid for starting computer education in madrasas, 100-odd of the close to 350 madrasas in Delhi have already applied to the Urdu Academy.


But lurking underneath is also a fear that taking aid from the government could also entail a risk that a '' change of dispensation'' would result in a '' takeover' ' bid over madrasas - something that the academy and its three-member team that is assessing madrasas on their computer readiness are actively trying to dispel. Voicing the concerns of many madrasa teachers, the principal of the Faiz-e-Azam Madrasa in Seelampur said: '' It is okay if the government is giving us only computers because their giving us teachers or starting to pay the salaries of our teachers makes us vulnerable to any future overtures by the establishment to hinder our religious education.''


But the community's supposed opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal notwithstanding, Queen's English is the latest addition in the syllabus of many prominent madrasas in the city. In fact, says Maulana Md Sajid Rashidi, president of the Kul Hind Imam Association and member of Urdu Academy, English is increasingly becoming one of the parameters on which the standard of a madrasa is judged.


The Madrasa Misbah-ul-Quran in New Seelampur is one of those new age institutes - the location of the building and its facade belie this - that teach the 26 alphabets of the English language along with the same number of Arabic Quaida (alphabets) to its students because, as Hakeem Ataur Rehman who teaches in the madrasa during the time he can spare from his thriving Unani practice says, modern skills, like proficiency in English or knowing the basics of the computer are as important as becoming a hafeez (one who knows the entire Quran by heart) or a maulana (title after eight years of madrasa education) or a mufti (title after ten years).


English is officially not a part of the curriculum in the historic Madrassa Aminia Islamia near Kashmere Gate. One deadline past and the madrasa has not even applied for the computer programme either and the head clerk Md Imran, slightly reticent when it comes to questions about English, is clear that computer education if given at all can happen only after the students have acquired the entire gamut of religious courses that are necessary. But the aged Md Idris, religious teacher in the seminary is emphatic. '' Computer knowledge is essential for our students to survive in the world outside. And if for that English needs to be taught, we will do so.'' And students like Md Arshad who is due to complete his education in Arabic, Nau, Fiqa, Hadees, Manthik and Falsafa (subjects in his curriculum) has already started taking lessons in English in private and has his eyes set firmly on a university seat. '' Jamia jana hai, JNU jana hai. Computer to sikhnahi hai,'' he says shyly.


Mufti Atatur Rehman Qasmi, chairman of the Shah Waliullah Institute who heads the Urdu Academy, inspection committee is not sure how many of the 350 Muslim seminaries in the city would finally apply for the programme and how many of them would qualify, but he is clear that his team will clear only the ones who are deserving.


Source: The Times of India, New Delhi