By Sana Munawwar Shaikh
Seeking and acquiring knowledge is an obligation on every living Muslim, male or female. There are many people who have followed this one of the Quranic verses and came up as the reformers of the world. Starting from the ages of medieval times, there stood a multifaceted scholar named Ibn Sina from Persia, who is known to be a scientist as well as an astronomer, an astrophysicist, alchemist and neurophysicist. The innumerable discoveries made by Muslims around the world haven’t been propagated like that of scientists from the west. However the work of Muslim scientists can be seen in the books written on medicine, surgery, physics, astrology, geometry and many other fields.
Studies related to imparting education were mainly done in the religious institution named Madrasas. The word Madrasa has been derived from Arabic language, which literally means a place where something is done such as preaching and imparting education. It simply means same as schools. However, the term Madrasa in English, usually refers to specifically Islamic institution. Basically madrasas offer two courses of study. First, the Hifz course leading memorization of Quran, and second, an Aalim course leading a candidate to become as an accepted leading scholar in the community. A regular curriculum includes courses in Arabic, tafseer (Quran interpretation), shariah (Islamic law), hadiths (recorded saying and deeds of Prophet Muhammad (SAWS)) mantiq (logic), Muslim history and many more. These institutions are open for all age groups of people. They function by mainly aiming at helping poor kids and mostly the orphans and are mainly run on donations from the community. They also ensure separate sections for female students too. These madrasas also resemble colleges where people take evening classes, where students often move on to become Imam and Aalims which requires approximately study of 12 whole years.
A look into the history of madrasas conveys that the very first madrasa is said to have its own syllabus, which included Islamic education i.e. teachings from the Quran, the hadiths, tajweed, and genealogy. The treaties of first aid, training of horse riding, art of war, handwriting and calligraphy, athletics, martial arts etc., were also imparted too. These types of curriculum and syllabus have produced scholars and reformers such as Abbas bin Firnas, who was the first scholar to design wings for flight. He was a polymath physician, inventor of device called metronome. From among many of the Muslim scholars Ibn Battuta from morocco whose being considered as the greatest traveller of the world around 14th century. Muhammad Ibn Musa al Khwarizmi developed the concept of algorithm in mathematics which is the reason he is being called as the grandfather of computer science.These scientist can be no wonder greatly have acquired knowledge, their contribution to the world in today’s scenario is indeed incomparable.
During the 19th century in India, due to the emergence of British government, English as a language of education was made compulsory at every educational institution and gained its popularity which made the other religious institutions like gurukuls and madrasas grow slower in pace like they used to do it earlier. Scholars in the then known madrasas like Dar ul Uloom and Manaz e Islam Barielly left India and established these organizations in the rest of the world.
The deplorable condition of Indian Muslims, particularly in the areas of education highlight the pressing needs of contemporary ‘’self-proclaimed’ leaders of the community to focus on their priorities. Unfortunately those who have been considered as ‘savior of Muslims’ spend more time on the non-concerning issues, instead of focusing on addressing issues on discrimination in employment. Reports related to graduation attainment rates (GAR) and mean years of schooling, highlighted the state of concern related to Muslims education, which sow a declining graph and inclination of dropout rates. In the GAR gap between Muslims and other socio religious communities, it is estimated that one out of 25 students enrolled for an undergraduate program and one out of 50 enrolled for a post graduate program is a Muslim, about 25 percent Muslim children between the age of 6 to 14 never attend school or end up as dropouts.it is clear that the greatest hurdle faced by Muslim community is the completion of primary and secondary education.
Most of the Muslim families residing in India regarded mainstream education as essential for their children’s future. Adhering religious education is mainly done by the scholars of madrasas who already have perceived doctrinal certificates and degrees. But one cannot neglect that people have perceptualised madrasas as a place of dwelling where education and beliefs are asserted in a superior or a doctorial way. The syllabus of students is getting confined within religious teachings and religious education and it doesn’t include the studies done in the mainstream of contemporary universities and colleges. Most of the parents think better to get their children admitted in schools and colleges, which emphasize more on academics, and provide them with degrees so as to compete the world with best of their abilities, however madrasas of nowadays are said to have lagging behind in the matter of mainstream education. Students come up with very less job opportunities as compared to the degree holder student who have completed its education from universities teaching formal education. Eventually it can’t be said as the whole truth, as there many organizations and Muslim universities across India which impart religious as well as formal education. Namely universities like Jamiatul Falah in Azamgarh, Nadwatul Ulma in Lucknow impart both the stream of education be it religious or contemporary and organizations such as Jamaat e Islami Hind, Nadwaltul Mujahedeen in Kerala,, Jamaat Ulema e Hind, and many more which are also accredited by the state government. They provide degrees of bachelor’s masters and others. At all levels the instruction is co-educational with many women professors and instructors. Islamic education boards are independently run by the prescribed organizations which has implemented their branches all over India.
In 2005, it was estimated 6000 Muslim teachers taught in single state government schools and with over 500,000 Muslim students, state like Kerala has appointed a committee to determine the curriculum and accreditation of new schools and colleges having primary education in Arabic and Islamic studies. However, there are barriers which relatively show the lessened link between south Indian madrasas and the north Indian madrasas, the other barrier can be said as the rigid syllabus which has to be modified and include mainstream education that should be equally imparted to students so as to make them ready to compete with the world around them. These all barriers which affect the child should be vanished and the main objective should be remarked to educate the students of madrasas with the correct knowledge of the religion and best of education as the contemporary world, this will definitely ensure us to produce many Ibn Batuta (astronomer, astrophysics, pioneer of neuropsychiatry, chemist alchemist) and Kohinoor like APJ Abdul Kalam (aeronautical engineer, nuclear scientist, late ex-president of India)
[Sana Munawwar Shaikh is a student and writer based in Maharashtra. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org]