Challenges before Madrasa education

By Tanvir Salim,

One important factor of the educational backwardness of Muslims in India is the system of Madrasa education, which has its own advantages and disadvantages. Most of the students of socially, economically and educationally backward sections of the Muslim community begin their education from these madrasas and maktabs, where education is relatively cheap and in some cases free. The students and teachers of these madrasas also get an euphoric feeling that they are performing their religious duties by learning Quran by heart, no matter whether they understand it or not.

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It is sad that these madrasa education system doesn’t follow the message of Islam, which clearly states that one can go to China for seeking knowledge. They tend to stay local and avoid peeping to the outside world for knowledge. It is unfortunate that they limit the scope of learning and acquiring knowledge only to the religious education and that is why their knowledge about Science, Art, Engineering, Business, and Administration and even of humanities is generally poor. Madrasa graduates, who can recite Quran by heart, mostly remain ignorant, of not only of the modern education but also of the essence of the Quran.

Madrasa education is organized sect-wise. The network is organized throughout India on these lines. It mostly depends on the contribution from the followers of their sect in different states of India and abroad. The persons going throughout the country and around the world for fund collection are called “safeer” which means ambassador. All contributions from India and abroad are generally not accounted for. These safeers generally get commissions on these collections, from a minimum of 25% up to 50%. The contributions received from India and abroad are mostly from Zakat fund, and hence they have to follow the restrictions in the use of these funds as per the norms of the Zakat. Most of the funds collected by these safeers from abroad violate the norms of Foreign Contributions Regulating Act (FRCA). Generally, these contributions may not be utilized for modern education as per the Zakat norms.

The need of the hour is to reform the madrasa education system to the extent it is possible. But the strong network of sectarian ulemas (religious cleric) will not allow major reform in the setup. So the well-wishers of Muslim cause should find some way out without disturbing the madrasa setup. One of the ways out is to organize one or two year’s refresher courses for the students coming out of madrasas.

I hear that in the earlier days, there was a system of special class for the students, who come to school after passing “Urdu” or “Hindi” Middle school. These students were generally admitted to the Class VI which they call “special class”. A network of special classes should be organized by the organizations of Muslims in India and abroad. To encourage and attract the students from madrasas, arrangement of hostels should also be made.

Students of madrasas who learn Quran by heart are generally more intelligent than the general students, and if opportunities are provided to them, they may be able to compete with not only their Muslim brethren, but the students in general also. But to arrange the special classes for madrasa students, is not an easy task. Forward looking organizations should come forward in organizing at least a center at the district level, or at least ten in Uttar Pradesh (UP) begin with. This way the madrasa students will get a head start and will be able to move forward in their quest for knowledge.