By Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef, New Age Islam
11 November 2021
Who Can Bring About A Reform In The Madrasa Education System?
1. Appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to remedy what ails Madrasa system seem to me a bizarre one.
2. Madrasa Education gives its graduates an irrational mentality, a thinking style devoid of logic
3. Its curriculum having roots in political Islam creates extremism and hatred.
What Khalid Umer says about Madrasa system, in his recent article at newsintervention.com, sounds like a sweeping statement, but has an element of truth. He has headlined it 'Scrap the derelict institution of Islamic Madrasas in India'. This article is available at: https://www.newsintervention.com/scrap-the-derelict-institution-of-islamic-madrasas-in-india . However, his hope and appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to remedy what ails Madrasa system seem to me rather a bizarre one. It is indeed hoping against hope. Yes, to be honest, Madrasa system is a derelict one. I agree that it gives its graduates an irrational mentality, a thinking style devoid of logic, and makes them unfit to live a normal modern life in consonance with the demands of 21st century values. Its curriculum having roots in political Islam creates extremism and hatred indirectly not only towards Secular modern liberal values, and contempt towards other faith communities but also towards fellow Muslims belonging to other sects and different schools of thought.
However, I strongly feel that there are some useful aspects of this religious education system also, which could be summarized as such:
1. It is the largest educational network of Muslims that works like an NGO that makes a large number of Muslim children literate who cannot afford to go to a good school or college.
2. They cater to the religious needs of Muslim society.
3. Muslim National organizations and community institutions get workers from them.
4. They help to maintain the Muslim identity of the community in a rather hostile environment.
However, this education system has its own shortcomings and fault lines too, which many intellectuals have been pointing out for a century but to no avail. And when it comes to reforming or modernizing the madrasas, the madrasa administration and the ulema make lame excuses. It is very strange that there are so many in the community who are ready to buy this lame excuse, that only three or four percent of the Muslim children go to these madrasas and so why bother about this minor number? They should rather be left to their own devices and the rest of 96 percent must be cared about instead. I ask, if there are 4% victims of Eye diseases in society then what would be done? No measures would be taken to cure the lot of the poor 4%? If so, wouldn’t it be cruel to keep them in the dark? Yet it is another story that will be discussed some other day. Here I am dealing with the appeal to PM Modi for reforming this ill system. The point is whether its remedy lies in asking the prime minister, the stalwart of Hindutva, to scrap that rotten system of education out rightly?
The question is if the madrasa system is gone, then from where does the community fulfil its theological and religious needs?
I think for the remedy an Ataturk is required and PM Modi cannot be one for obvious reasons. In this context, some words are due about Ataturk and how he built modern Turkey. Turkey in the twentieth century’s beginning was at a crossroad. It was called by European scholars and historians the Sick man of Europe. The old Ottoman Caliphate system was in a stalemate, corrupt, rotten, sluggish, and bankrupt. It was handicapped by the traditional thinking of Sufis, Ulama, and selfish political class. All these elements combined made Turkey unable to go forward and face the challenges ahead. The last caliph Abdul Hamid with all his supposed capabilities, piety, love of prophet, and caring to the Muslim Ummah, was an autocrat and dictator, who ruled Turkey for 31 years with an iron hand. He made it a police state where the secret agents were ruling the roost.
The Shaikh ul Islam (chief of the Ulema) and other Ulema were so rigid, narrow-minded, and incompetent that there was no room for any reform. Then Turkey was invaded by colonial forces. Arabs rose against the Caliphate in connivance with Allied forces in the Second World War, resulting in the defeat of Germany and her ally Turkey. Then Turkey as a defeated and fractured country went into chaos and was rent asunder. At that point in time Mustafa Kamal Ata Turk came forward to rescue his nation. He abolished the caliphate and opted for a secular political and educational system. This is why Mustafa Kamal is the most hated and most abused person in the Islamist circles all over the world today.
Yet it should not be ignored that the main hurdle in the way of reform was traditional Ulama and Sufis. They had been giving fatwas against using new techniques, new inventions, and even against new scientific training of army cadres, which was so much needed at that time as the county was besieged and invaded by her enemies from everywhere. Against this backdrop, Mustafa Kamal came to rescue his people and abolished the old political and educational system. Yes, in his reform drive he did some blunders also. For example, he changed the Turkish script from Arabic and Persian into Roman letters, cutting the new generation from its enriched past altogether. Likewise he decreed for Azan to be recited in Turkish. And so on. So we can safely say that Ataturk’s ultra-secular dose was excessive, but it was needed at that juncture.
I cited the reference of Kamal Ataturk because Kahlid Umer argued that:
“Islamic teaching and modern education can’t coexist.” Here Khalid is very harsh and rash in his opinion. Contrasting to his point I must say that not only does Turkey show the way for adopting a model wherein Islamic teachings and modern education coexist but there are other experiments also for example in the Malaysian model or Indonesian model. Why is he fully ignoring this fact?
Now when some of us are requesting PM Modi to intervene in this system or scrap it from India it is imperative to think how this hope is a flawed one. Simply because with all his faults and shenanigans Mustafa Kamal was a man from our ranks. He could do what he did because after all he was a Muslim leader leading a Muslim country.
Madrasa system of education cannot be scrapped wholly: there is a need for madrasas. So this system cannot be abolished altogether and yet there is an urgent need for reforming this system too. No government can do it, as when Education Minister Kapil Sibbal of the UPA merely suggested a central madrasa board comprising of ulema from all schools of thought, we rejected that angrily as an interference in our religious matters.
So the question is who can bring about a reform in the madrasa education system?
I think the community itself should do this on its own. And since it is already very late now, we have to take immediate steps for this reform. At the very least a process of introspection and brainstorming should begin right now. All schools of thought should be involved. We should at least be together on the need for reform.
Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef is an Associate, Centre for Promotion of Educational and Cultural Advancement of Muslims of India, AMU, Aligarh
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