Does Scraping the Madrasa Education Solve any Problem? 

By Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef*

What Khalid Umer (in reference to his article: Scrap the derelict institution of Islamic Madrasas in India published on says about Madrasa system, though sounds like a sweeping statement, but has an element of truth. Yet his hope and appeal to Narendra Modi to remedy what ails Madras 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 makes its graduates illogical mentally, and unfit to live a normal modern life in consonance with modernity. Its curriculum having roots of political Islam creates extremism and hatred indirectly not only towards Secular modern liberal values, and contempt towards other faith communities but 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 go to a good school or college.

2. They cater to the religious needs of Muslim society.

2. Muslim National organizations and community institutions get workers from them.

3. 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 madrassas, the madrassa administration and the ulema make lime excuses, and very strange is that there are so many in the community to buy this lime excuse, that only three or four percent of the Muslim children go to these madrasas so why bother about this minor number? They should rather be left to their own conditions and the rest 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 4% poor lot? 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 Narandera Modi for reforming this ill system. The point is whether its remedy lies in asking Narendra Modi, the stalwart of Hindutva to scrape that rotten system of education out rightly?

The question is if the madrasa system is gone from where the community does fulfil its theological and religious needs?

I think for the remedy an Ataturk is required and Modi could not be one. 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 and numb situation, 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 Shaikhulislam(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 it in connivance with Allied forces in the Second World War resulting in the defeating Germany and her ally Turkey. Then Turkey as a defeated and fractured country went to chaos and asunder. At that point in time Mustufa 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 Mustufa Kamal in the Muslim religious circle and among Islamists is the most hated and most abused person 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, Mustufa 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 decreed for Azan to be told in Turkish etc. etc. So we can safely say that Ataturk’s ultra-secular dose was unnecessary 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 you are fully ignoring this brazen fact?

Now when some of us are requesting 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, contrasting to Modi, being an outsider and deeply Muslim basher and a staunch follower of Hindutva.

So what is Hindutva ideology all about? What does Narendra Modi and his political mentors want to do with this country? To be brief Hindutva Ideology in its core is based on revival or mythological Hindu (read Brehmenical) hegemony. A part of that grand project essentially is either to get rid of minorities in general and Muslims in particular and wipe out all the impressions of Muslim culture and composite civilization from India and make this country a100 percent Hindu Rashtra.

What I claimed is not based on a conspiracy theory or enemy propaganda, rather it is based on facts and figures.(see for that Shashi Tharoor’s book; Why I AM A Hindu, chapter 2 Hinduism and Hindutva politics P:140 ALEPH 2018)

In this context how can we expect any good for the Muslim community or its institutions from this anti-Muslim dispensation? If any other dispensation, say, leftist, secularists socialists do try to bring about some good and drastic changes in Madrasa system and even use coercion of Mullahs for that matter, I will welcome the move because this ill institution of Muslims can’t be reformed and cured without a decisive action. 

I question the credentials of Modi since the main argument of Khalid is:

 “One country, one curriculum is the recipe of communal harmony and peace in India. Before the Uniform Civil Code, India needs a uniform Education Code. One secular curriculum for all”. I ask how you can hope somebody who is not believing in secular liberal values to bring about one secular curriculum for all?

A divine operation is direly needed for that, yet we have to have to think about who could possibly be a Masaya in this regard? To me, Modi is not and cannot be one.

The question is that there is a need for madrassas, this system cannot be abolished but there is an urgent need for changes in this system too and no government will do it, then who would do it?

I think the community itself should do this on its own. And since it is too late now, so we have to take immediate steps for this reform.

 **Research Associate Centre for Promotion of Educational and Cultural Advancement of Muslims of India AMU Aligarh


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