By S. Arshad, New Age Islam
30 December 2019
Madrasas are the centres of Islamic education that have served the purpose of the propagation of Islam. Ulama produced by madrasas have promoted the cause of Islam the world over. Great Islamic jurists, exegetes and scholars were the products of madrasas.
In the initial period of Islam in the Islamic countries, the madrasas included sciences also in their curriculum. As a result, many great scientists, geologists, mathematicians came out from madrasas and contributed to the growth of science in the world. But after the western countries emerged as world powers and spread their political clout in the orient, including Muslim majority countries, they imposed their own education system which was devoid of religious education. Therefore, in those countries, the education system was divided in two categories: modern schools and madrasas. The wrong conception was spread that modern sciences taught in western schools were un-Islamic and so they should not be taught in madrasas.
When Geography, History, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry etc were drawn out from madrasa system, there remained very few subjects to be taught in madrasas. So, such subjects that had less or no use in practical affairs of Muslims were included in madrasa curriculum. The opinions and personal deductions of ulema were made a part of Islamic Shariah and a parallel theology came into being. The Quran and hadith were ignored and the opinions of ulema and their fatawa assumed centre stage.
Another damage it did was that the madrasa graduates found themselves cut off from the larger society and the world. The degrees they possessed were of no use in the industries or in a multicultural and multireligious society. They were confined to madrasas and mosques and worked as preachers, muftis and imams. As result, the Muslim community sunk in the mire of educational, economic and political backwardness.
However, during the twentieth and in the current century, some modern Islamic scholars started raising their voices against the obsolete and outdated madrasa curriculum and Islamic jurisprudence and questioned their relevance in the modern global society. But they faced criticism from the madrasa circle and were branded ignoramuses devoid of true understanding of Islam.
But of late a new and positive trend is being witnessed. Some madrasa educated ulema have started to raise questions on the relevance of madrasa system and Islamic jurisprudence. They have been demanding that the madrasa curriculum and Islamic jurisprudence be reconstructed and reformed to make them relevant in the modern social and political milieu. Two ulema that have assumed prominence in this regard are Maulana Waris Mazhari and Maulana Syed Salman Hasani Nadvi. The latter is more vocal and is being criticized, even abused for his reformist ideas. Maulana Waris Mazhari does not give fiery speeches but presents his views with the help of solid arguments. Recently, he advocated reforms in and reconstruction of madrasa curriculum and Islamic jurisprudence during a discussion on Muslim affairs with Mr Sultan Shahin on Doordarshan. Here is an excerpt from the discussion:
“The situation is that madrasas exist in India in large numbers. They exist in every street, every village of the country. But modern schools were not opened in large numbers. There may be only 5 percent modern schools. This resulted in intellectual backwardness which affected the community in a big way. This intellectual backwardness gave way to hollow emotionalism among Muslims. Universal education should have been included in madrasa curriculum and the students should have been taught the same subjects at least upto the 10th standard so the students could have understood the needs of the modern age and could have assimilated themselves in the society (as had happened in the old days). For example, the architect of the Taj Mahal, Ahmad Memar, Shah Jahan’s minister Sa’dullah and Mujaddid Alf Sani (Sheikh Sirhindi), all three studied in the same school (but earned name in different fields). But the madrasa system today teaches such subjects that have no use or relevance in modern society. So, students coming out from madrasas do not understand their society or the need of the modern age. In the modern global society Islam faces different theological challenges. So, our present political theology and our Islamic jurisprudence need a complete overhaul and reconstruction because this has been creating problems. For example, they talk about Dhimmis etc. This jurisprudence had been prepared when Islam was a dominant political power. The age has gone by. We are now living in a modern, secular age. Islam is no longer a political power. But still the same jurisprudence (fiqh) is being taught. The books of fiqh that are being taught in madrasas have been prepared in the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries. This is creating contradictions. For example, in Muslim majority societies Muslims say that secularism is anti-Islam but where they are in a minority, they say that secularism is a boon for them. So, this fiqhis at the root of our problems. Until our religious outlook changes, we cannot expect much progress.”
Maulana SalmanHasani Nadvi is one of the prominent Islamic scholars of the sub-continent. He has been in controversy for his out of box views on Islamic fiqh and madrasa curriculum of late. He has also been demanding reform in Islamic fiqh. Here is an excerpt from his video speech on YouTube:
“Muslims have lost contact with the original sources of the Islamic system, that is, the Quran and Sunnah. It is unfortunate that during centuries, gradually a Shariah parallel to the Quran and Hadith came into being. Such a Shariah or Deen came into being in which the malfuzat, opinions, practices and customs of individual personalities assumed religious importance and these practices and malfuzat came into vogue in Khanqahs, institutions and circles. The more people found new sources, the farther they drifted away from the Quran and Hadith.
“The most unfortunate part of this development was that people did not realize it. They held on to these practices and customs so strongly that a parallel shariah came into being. Today, we are all aware that Deobandis and Barellvis have been at loggerheads with each other and have been declaring each other Mushrik and Kafir. And the results of these hostilities are very prominent in the subcontinent. In other parts of the world too, similar sects came into being which gave the opinions of their ulema and religious figures the importance they should have given to the Quran and Hadith. One general argument was being presented: “There is the consensus of the majority of ulema” (Ye Jamhoorki rai hai) and the opinion of the Jamhoorwas put before the hadith. Maulana Manazir Hasan Geelani, Maulana Abdul Hai Hasani and other ulema have given accounts of this situation. They said that when during a discussion, someone would quote a hadith in support of his argument, he would be told, “We don’t want hadith, tell us what the fatawa say on this issue, or what is the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifa?” You will come across such accounts in the books of history. From this you can understand how far even the ulema can go away from true knowledge and original sources.”
Although, few modern ulema have been raising their voice against the obscurantism and outdatedness of the Islamic thought, their criticism is a positive step. It is hoped that more and more madrasa educated ulama will come out and demand reconstruction of madrasa curriculum and Islamic jurisprudence to make it relevant to the demands of the modern society and lead their community on the path of social, intellectual and economic development.
Related Video: Sultan Shahin and Dr. Waris Mazhari discuss the Supreme Court's Ayodhya Verdict on Doordarshan
S. Arshad is a regular columnist for NewAgeIslam.com
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