History of modern education among Malabar Muslims

By Kashif-ul-Huda, TwoCircles.net

TCN Malabar series: Part 5

Not unlike Muslims of north India, Mappilas also lagged behind when it came to modern education. While there were some attempts made, some as early as a hundred years ago, it was not until a generation ago that major effort was made to link the community to modern education without losing the religious and cultural identity.

The reasons for distrusting western education were same as in the north. English was “the language of hell” and western education a “passport to hell.” As a result of this attitude Muslims were slow to adopt the new system of education and therefore their employment opportunities were also limited. Realizing that they were lagging behind, an effort was made with the establishment of Malabar Muslim Educational Association in 1911. Famous social reformer Vakkom Abdul Qadir Moulavi started the “All Travancore Muslim Mahajana Sabha” around the same time. The result of the leadership and awareness led to the opening of many schools by Muslims where there were no government schools in their areas. Madarasthul Muhammadiya in Parappil, Kozhikode is an example of one such school that was established by the Muslim themselves.

Madrasthul Muhammadiya was established in 1918 in Kozhikode which offers modern education

In 1948 Farook Colllege was established in Kozhikode, which played a valuable part in encouraging the Muslims towards higher education. Farook College was the first degree college established by the Muslims of Kerala.

Kerala had led all the Indian states in making its population 100% literate. Obviously, Muslims have also benefitted from this campaign. In recent years, Muslims have made progress in leaps and bounds in the field of modern education. Until recently, this picture was not that rosy. In the 1940s only 42.5% of school-age Muslim boys and 23.3% of girls were enrolled.

The Kumara Pillai Commission in 1960s found that Kerala held the highest number of Muslims who have not completed primary education. Also, only 2.83 Muslims among per 1000 population were enrolled in Class 10th, this was lowest in the state. In 1970s, 13.3% of students who passed 10th class were Muslims, a big improvement but still much below their share in the population. This figure improved to 17.8% in 1990s.

Mappilas were recognized as a backward caste as early as 1894. The reservation benefit because of their backward status helped them get to the opportunities that were not available to Muslims of north India. This combined with the awareness about the importance of modern education led by social reformers has helped the community march forward and not be too far behind the rest of the state. But the problem of higher education is still there, because of the lure of easy gulf money, adequate numbers of Muslim students are still missing from higher education and professional courses.

Of course, the enlightened Muslim leadership of Kerala is aware of this problem. The organization that manages the largest number of madrasas in Kerala has also launched an engineering college. Samastha Kerala Jammiyyathul Ulama also runs a self-financing engineering college called MEA Engineering College named after the Muslim Educational Association. College is a co-educational institution with separate hostels for girls.

The Ernad Muslim Educational Association established the Mampad College in 1965 in Malappuram district. Later on, after the Muslim League came to power in the state and began to handle the education department, many Muslim colleges came to be established after 1967. The Calicut University was established in Malappuram district in 1968 due to the efforts of the Muslim League leader late CH Muhammed Koya who later became the one and only Muslim Chief Minister of the state for a brief period.

The Tirurangadi Orphanage was founded in the 1920s as an abode for the Mappilas orphaned by the great revolt of 1921 against the British. Later it became an important centre of education which now comprises of a first grade college, training school, hospital etc. The Jamiyathu Dawathul wa Tabligh Islami (JDT Islam) was established in Calicut in the early 1920s also for helping the orphans of the Revolt of 1921. This also has now grown into a centre of learning which includes Polytechnic College, Industrial Training Centre, Orphanage, etc. The JDT also runs a multi-specialty hospital. The Mukkam Muslim Orphanage near Calicut also is one of the pioneer centres of education which now includes a first grade college, training school, higher secondary school, orphanage etc. Since then a number of orphanages and associated other educational institutions have sprung up in various parts of Malabar.

A number of these young kids told me that they want to be police officers. This you will never hear from Muslim kids in north India. I was surprised and was told by Zubair bhai that this is because police here is held in high esteem.

The Muslim Education Society founded on 1964 by a small group of educated Muslim officials at Calicut is now the leading Muslim educational organization in the state as well as outside. The MES now runs a Medical College, an Engineering College, a number of first grade colleges affiliated to almost all universities in Kerala, schools affiliated to CBSE, ICSE and state syllabi, many unaided women’s colleges, training colleges and schools, paramaedical colleges etc not only in Kerala but other states and abroad.

The Kerala Muslim Educational Association based in Kochi runs an engineering college, a polytechnic college and other institutions. The Unity Women’s College, Manjeri, run by the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association is the one and only aided Muslim women’s college in Kerala affiliated to the University of Calicut. It was established in 1991.

Several educational trusts like the Association for the Welfare of the Handicapped (AWH), the Kunhitharuvai Memorial Charitable Trust (KMCT), etc run many institutions including engineering, medical and paramedical colleges.

Throughout Malabar, wherever there is Muslim concentration, one can see educational institutions from kindergarten to post graduate level run by various organizations and trusts.




(with inputs from Najiya O. in Kerala)