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Modern education in Madrasas – Muslims and the Government!

Madrasa education is very common among the Muslims in India. Hundreds of thousand Muslim children acquire their primary, and perhaps the only formal education in these madrasas. First we need to decide on the outcome which is expected out of these Madrasas. Is it Islamic academic scholar we are looking for? Or is it community leader we are expecting from it?

Answer to both the outcome would be different. If it is academic scholar that is expected then obviously specialization is required, there might be other debate on number of experts needed. If it is community leader which is expected then that leader should be well equipped with modern world requirements besides Islamic knowledge.

Unfortunately, instead of making distinction between the requirements, we have divided the need itself. Islam which didn’t divide knowledge or education into materialistic (Duniyawi) or divine (Deeni) but the followers did it.

Prophet Muhammad (saw) asked the prisoners of battle of Badr to educate10 Muslims and secure their freedom without ransom, now a question arises which education that Makkan prisoners gave to Muslims? Was it Quran and hadith knowledge or was it the general reading and writing skills? This is high time that we should stop discrimination of education system.

Currently, there is so much brouhaha around the implementation of NCERT books in Madrasas after the UP Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma in a tweet, said, “Madrasa board is planning to implement NCERT syllabus in Madrasas”. So let’s try to understand the Madrasa education system little bit.

Types of madrasas in India

Madrasas in India are mainly of two kinds:

  1. Madrasas affiliated to state governments:
  • Some Indian states like Bihar, Bengal, Jharkhand and Assam have Madrasa board setup through which these madrasas draw salaries and collect grants from their respective governments. Although madrasas getting govt. grants are less in numbers.
  • The curricula of these madrasas are by and large similar to those of state sponsored schools or colleges in addition to Islamic subjects.
  1. Madrasas run independently through community funding:
  • The community based Muslim religious educational institutions are again of four types- (1) Maktab (2) Darul Qura’an (3) Madrasa and (4) Jamia which are institutions corresponding to schools, high schools, colleges and universities in modern education system.
  • Common people call all these four types of Islamic educational institutions as madrasas.

The syllabus of later kind of Madrasas has always drawn attention from some section of society because of their backwardness in modern education. Many scholars held madrasa education responsible for the poor socio-economic condition of Indian Muslims.

Although reforms have been pushed lately but lack of centralization has limited the widespread reach. Several madrasas have implemented modern education till some extent. For example, Islamic Educational Board of India (IEBI) which manages education system for 10000 odd madrasas across India where approx. 15 lakh students are studying in those madrasas. IEBI’s Karnataka chapter has adopted CBSE form of education last year which manages almost 1000 madrasas across the state.

Now let’s come to the first kind of Madrasas which are affiliated to state governments, they are part of central system under state’s respective Madrasa board. As they get somewhat financial aid from the state government, they are bound to state government’s recommendations.

NCERT books being mandated in UP is a recommendation by a state government in which Madrasas have little role to play. Although at first glance the recommendation demands the applause because it will make the Madrasa student equivalent to school or college educated kid in terms of modern education which will open many doors of jobs for them.

Urdu media has shown some reservations as the recent controversies surrounding the saffronisation of education. But that is of little help as the state government has the authority over the education system which also includes govt. aided Madrasas.

NCERT books are almost implemented in all types of education system be it CBSE or ICSE and some state boards as well. The Muslim children who are studying in the modern education system are already following these books in their syllabus.

In my humble opinion, Urdu media and Madrasas should stop this fuss about the NCERT books implementation. As a last resort, if Madrasas suspect foul play then they can opt out of government aid and make themselves free from the government bound.

We should not let our ancestor feel betrayed who fought very hard to educate our children because the absence of modern education in madrasa trained person leaves them without any option to improve their own material prosperity or to provide proper leadership to their own community.

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