Maulana Wahiduddin Khan on Madrasa Education and the Ulema
A Question and Answer Session with Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
September 4, 2013
Q: How do you look at the madrasa system? There is much talk about the need for reforms in the system?
A: Unlike some others, I am not critical of or opposed to the madrasas as such. Muslims need both types of education—religious as well as secular. Muslim children should have knowledge of both their religion as well as secular subjects. There is, of course, no need for all Muslim children to go to full-time madrasas to train to become Ulema. However, some children must do so in order that the tradition of religious learning can be carried on. We need madrasa-trained Ulema who have knowledge of the Quran, Hadith, Islamic jurisprudence and Arabic.
As far as the question of madrasa ‘reforms’ is concerned, I really don’t believe in this talk of ‘modernisation’. You certainly cannot ‘modernise’ the Quran and the Hadith. So, I think the word ‘modernisation’ in this context is uncalled for.
While on this subject of ‘reforms’, I must say that the ‘modern’ schools and universities are also in urgent need of reform, a point often neglected by vociferous advocates of madrasa ‘reform’. In the Psychology departments of many Indian universities they continue to teach the outdated Conditioning Theory and the Illusion Theory, for instance. What I mean to say is that no syllabus can be perfect. What is more important than the formal syllabus are good teachers, because it is teachers who teach, and not books.
Some people argue that madrasas teach some outdated centuries-old texts on Greek philosophy and logic and hold that against them. But we must also note that departments of English in universities also teach English classics, written centuries ago, which have no value in the outside world. For me, these texts are a minor issue. The basic issue is the need for good, committed teachers.