Reform madarsas for better education
Central Madarsa Board Bill is an opportunity Muslims must grab to move ahead
N Jamal Ansari, October 13, 2009
Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal’s efforts to evolve consensus on setting up the Central Madarsa Board merit serious attention of Muslim leadership and intelligentsia. Recently, Mr Sibal convened a meeting of MPs to discuss the issue but the Bill failed to get full backing of Muslim MPs. On his part, Mr Sibal has declared, “We will go ahead only after a consensus.”
According to the Sachar Committee report, Muslims are lagging behind in all developmental processes. Now it is time those addicted to vote-bank politics must wake up to the need for sustainable remedial actions. It should not be forgotten that it is possible for madarsas to impart religious education along with basics of modern education and yet retain their essence. Reformation of madarsas is sensible and desirable as it works on existing infrastructure and is the need of the hour. Keeping in mind all these aspects, the HRD Minister took step in the direction of evolving a consensus. It is very unfortunate that even Muslim MPs did not show inclination to address one of the major issues concerning the community. Surprisingly, the BJP, the CPI(M) and the CPI supported the move. Why the RJD and the LJP failed to participate in the meeting is a matter for analysis.
No doubt, madarsas are an integral part of Islamic culture. At the same time one should not forget that when religion is correctly understood it would be a power of liberation but if misunderstood, it drives people backwards.
However, madarsa education system has been misunderstood in India. madarsas are considered breeding grounds for terrorists when the reality is that they are imparting education to the poorest and marginalised people. Present generation is totally oblivious of the role played by ulemas and madarsas in our freedom struggle. They even opposed division of India on communal lines. It will be interesting to learn that Mohammed Ali Jinnah failed in enlisting support of ulemas . Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madni, Nazim Al-Umur (Vice-Chancellor of Darul Uloom, Deoband) opposed two-nation theory in his book, Muttahidah Qaumiyyat Aur Islam. Maulana Qasim Ahmed Nanotvi issued fatwa urging Muslims to drive out Britishers from India as it was their religious duty. However, it will be equally unjust to blame anyone else for the downfall of madarsas. Muslims are also to blame as they opposed the move to bring madarsas at par with modern education system. The vast network of madarsas could have provided a sustainable infrastructure for job-oriented education.
The Central madarsa Board Bill 2009 has provision for inclusion of one member each from Deoband, Barelvi and Ahl-e-Hadith schools, a scholar each from Shafai, Shia and Bohra sects and one scholar from madarsa system. Some MPs like Asaduddin Owaisi, Shafiq-ur-Rehman Burq and Ahmad Saeed Malihabadi opposed the move. Even Rajya Sabha member Ali Anwar commented, “What is the motive behind such a move?” Division of Muslims in sects and school of thoughts is a harsh reality and one must accept it. Muslims have become habitual to see dangers in every policy that is aimed at their amelioration. It is proving counter-productive for the community. Mr Sibal has already declared that there will be “no interference in theological education” and I see no reason to disbelieve his words.
In a telephonic conversation, UDF chief and MP, Badruddin Ajmal, said, “Today only four per cent children study in madarsas. The Government should pay attention towards education of 96 per cent children. As far as Government-aided madarsas are concerned, the Government may implement its policies on them but community-based madarsas should be left free to decide their own path. Badruddin Ajmal’s thoughts are clear on the issue while he emphasised upon major changes in the Central madarsa Board Bill, 2009.
Spirit behind three-language formula should be restored not only in the modern education system but also in madarsas. Mother tongue as first, the main language of the State as second and English as third language should be taught to children. This will instil communication skills in the students and help develop a new vibrant culture.
This is an era of scientific researches and acquisition of superiority in technology. Acquisition of knowledge about all material sciences is also part of Islam. How Muslims can claim equality with others without achieving distinction in material sciences? The Muslim community must seize the Bill as an opportunity for better education and this will also change the way people look at education being imparted in madarsas.
The writer is on the staff at Aligarh Muslim University.