Have contemporary ‘madrasas’ forgotten their own legacy?
Robert Briffault, French surgeon, anthropologist and novelist in his book “The Making of Humanity” writes “Europe’s real renaissance was not created in the fifteenth century but under the influence of cultural revival initiated by Arabs and Moors. The cradle for Europe’s rebirth was Spain not Italy. This continent falling into the abyss of barbarism, had reached the depths of ignorance and degeneration, through the cities of Arab world like Baghdad, Cairo, Cordoba and Toledo had become important centers of civilization and intellectual pursuits by that time. It was there that the way of life appeared which later had to assume the form of human evolution in the future. A new life started appearing as soon as the influences of this new culture were felt”. He further writes, “European civilization would not have existed if Arabs would not have existed”. Ragor Bacon, Father of Modern of Experimentalism, writes, “Muslims have been the pioneers and founders of experimental research and many great fields like Mathematics, Logics, and Chemistry etc.” One of the world’s best event as per Science Historian, A.I Sabra in his book ‘The Appropriation and Subsequent Naturalization of Greek Science in Medieval Islam’ is “meeting between Muslims work and Greek work” which contributed immensely to the world. Such great was Arab and Muslim civilization.
In Arab world, the great intellectual learning centers were established like Bayt ul Hikmah, Nizamiyah, Dar ul ‘Ilm and Fatima Al Fehri’s university which was world’s first university to give degree certificates in medieval times. They contributed immensely in the fields of Science, Social Sciences, Medicine, Logic etc. Great Scientists, Philosophers, Mathematicians, Logicians and other field experts were produced by Muslim civilization and these learning centers. They translated world’s best work so that they can contribute and understand things better. As father of History of Science, George Sarton in his book “Introduction to History of Science” writes, “Muslims not only translated best work or manuscripts but gave new thought to the world. Some scientists and writers like Al Tamin and Al Harith wrote thousands of manuscripts each on medicine.
Unfortunately, in present times Muslims have hardly produced any great scientist, Philosopher, Logician or other experts in any field. Tan Ander, a Turkish based Physicist two years back said, “If all muslim scientists will die hardly world scientific community will feel or notice.” Nobel Laureate Physicist Steve Weinburg is believed to have said, “In astrophysics I have hardly read any good paper on astrophysics by any Muslim in forty years.” Not more than five Nobel Laureates in Science or literature Muslims have produced. Less number of papers whole Muslim world universities than Harvard. Such is the condition of Muslims in these great fields. Muslims hardly have any university in top hundred World university rankings. Even Muslims are colonized because of greatness of science and other fields in West. Till they don’t have excellence in Science and other fields they will be subjugated and powerless. Science is neither Islamic, nor western, Indian, Hindu, Christian nor Jewish but it is universal. In modern times, Muslims focused more on Madrasa education than on Universities and other learning centers. However madrasas are also important at their own place as Philosopher and Poet of East Dr. Mohammad Iqbal in his letter to a friend during the foundation Dar ul Islam writes, “If we don’t have Madrasas, same will happen to us what happened to Muslims in Spain.”
Some Muslim intellectuals started few organizations to contribute and excel in science and other fields like International Institute of Islamic Thought by American-Palestinian academic Ismail R. Farooqui, Centre for Studies on Science by Zaki Kirmani who in early 1980’s was president of Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), Muslim Association of Advancement Of Science by Aligarh Muslim university graduates. However the need of the hour is to focus on Madrasas as they have bulk and huge human resource which can produce world’s brilliant minds, experts, leaders and human resource.
Madrasa literally means to study and in present times means institution where Islam is taught to students. In contemporary Madrasas only Aqeedah,Quran, Hadeeth, Jurisprudence is taught. Most of the Muslim Ulama are of the view that focus of Madrasa should be to deal with Islamic knowledge not worldly or modern knowledge. They think and care more of life hereafter than world affairs. Madrasas play an important role in maintaining moral and ethical fabric of society, as Qari Mohammad Tayyib Qasmi former Vice Chancellor Dar ul ‘Uloom Deoband and grandson of founder Deoband Mohammad Qasim Nanatovi, insisted, “When people criticize the Madrasa syllabus they forget that the main aim of Madrasa is different from a modern school. The only way to pass judgment on the members is to see how far they have been able to achieve their own aims, such as inculcating piety, promoting religious knowledge; control over base self which goes against these aims is acceptable.”
One the other hand critics of madrasas have their own reasons. As quoted by sociologist and author Yoginder Sikand in his essay “Voice for Reforms in Modern Madrasa’s” Ashraf Ali, a critic of Madrasa education, says, “The mushroom growth of Madrasas has caused a great setback to the spread of modern education among Muslims. Madrasa preach hatred for worldly progress, and misinterpret the spirit of Islam and the teachings of Islam and Prophet, who actually insisted on the need to acquire knowledge. They preach poverty to the Muslims by insisting that the true knowledge is acquired in Madarasas only and science, technology is un Islamic and against shariah.” Most academics in social sciences Humanities, Islamic studies say Madrasa need reforms as noted Scholar, author, thinker Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in one of his letters in Ghubar-i-Khatir (a collection of letters written from Ahmednagar Fort prison between 1942 and 1945, one of his best work) writes “Madrasas have an outdated system of education which had become barren from every point of view-teaching methods, defective, worthless subjects of study, defective way of reading and calligraphy.” This is what Azad felt about Madrasa reforms some 72 years ago. Now we can understand and feel the necessity of reforms in present times.
There should be reforms in curriculum of Madrasas. Since ages the syllabus has not been changed. They should include science, Logic, Mathematics, Current affairs to have look on present world and understand world better in curriculum like Muslims had in medieval times. Prophet Mohammad (saw) is an epitome of reasoning and intellect as He laid emphasis on worldly knowledge also. It is an established and historical fact reflected in tradition that “The captives or prisoners of Badr will be released if they teach to Muslims.” It is quite obvious that Non Muslims cannot teach Quran or Hadith and had hardly any knowledge of it which simply proved Prophet laid emphasis on worldly knowledge also by directing those polytheists to teach muslims. Commenting on their curriculum, Iqbal Ahmad once wrote, “Their curriculum reduces Islam to a penal code, a ritual of prayers and a litany of crimes and those harsh here-and-now punishments. Thousands of energetic and motivated youth who graduate from these institutions are men abandoned in the middle of the ford, cut off from their real past, totally unprepared to meet the challenges of future and fevered by the dreams of a theocratic state in which they shall be assigned their merited roles.” Imam Ghazalli, whom many scholars called Mujadid and about whom Philosopher, Historian and Author Will Durant in his book “History Of Civilization” in volume ‘Age Of Faith’ writes, “If Ghazzali was not born, Muslims would not have been able to answer Greek thought and there would have been no Islam” could write against Greek Philosophy only when he had studied it. It is important to read and understand argument before rebutting it which can be done this way only. It will elevate their critical understanding and reasoning also which lacks in Madrasa students. There should be certain maturity age at which students should be allowed to get admission in Madrasas which will make their understanding of world affairs better and will not allow much indoctrination done in some Madrasas. Languages should be taught so that they can read original manuscripts of many texts. Though scholars like Shibli N‘umani and Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad had supported and started but after their death it ended. Many of these institutions promote sectarianism which is most problematic for the unity of Ummah. As Kashmiri researcher and author Mushtaq ul Haq Ahmad Sikandar in his book “Bridging The Divide ,Call of a new Dawn’ quotes Shabir Usmani’s conversation with Anwar Shah Kashmiri in which later regrets for having promoted sectarianism. They should not promote particular thought as most of these do but prepare Muslim students to present and promote a socially engaged, democratic and critical understanding of Islam. They should not only produce Imams, Scholars but Scientists, Philosophers, Logicians, Social Scientists as used to produce in medieval times. Fortunately, recently Aligarh Muslim University which was earlier started by Maulana Azad university also, came with Bridge Course under the leadership of controversial scholar and iconoclast Rashid Shaz. Earlier Maulana Azad National Urdu University had also started it. Otherwise in conventional madrasas after finishing their educational courses extending from 7 to 20 years very less amount of salary is paid to them for their work in which it is difficult to meet daily needs. Thus, only lower middle class students get admitted in these institutions.
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