Why the Madaris in India have failed to interact with fellow Indians

By Amir Hussain for TwoCircles.net

When the British took over from Mughals in India, one of their most important moves was to slowly replace Persian court language by strategically promoting English. For this, they promoted a chain of convent schools, in which along with local language English was also introduced. Coincidentally, that phase was of physical science and it was prevalent in Europe and in the English language which created eagerness among Indians and in other colonies of British to learn English. For the same reason, champions of the freedom movement in India visited Britain and received mastery in English and wrote extensively in English to converse with a world audience. From Gandhi to Nehru, Jinnah and Ambedkar, all eminent leaders of India wrote, conversed and expressed using English.

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Contrary to this, most Muslim personalities of this age stood firmly for preserving Urdu, and the general feeling was that if Urdu is lost or subjugated, it will be the loss of Deen (Islam). This sentiment was backed by religious scholars and chain of small and big Madaris were ensured for protection of Deen, but it seems it was more concerned with Urdu. And this is also the one dominant reason for the creation of Pakistan. This cultural nationalism of language was also promoted by Allama Iqbal and by satirist poet Nazeer Allahabadi.

There is nothing wrong in protecting one’s language, and foreign imposition is seen with suspicion which is quite natural. But the matter of the fact is for last two and a half centuries, the West pursued democracy for the political system and industrial development for promoting economic interest and succeeded dramatically. This played important role in promoting English as a scientific language and world were left with no option but to accept it. Russia, China, Germany and many tried to protect their language and failed partially to do so.

We have also learnt that if one dominates in science, technology, economics and other fields, their culture too is promoted. A good example of this is how Western attire and living style is accepted in oriental societies. Right-wing organisations like the RSS and various Ulema organisations try to keep them at bay, and this creates friction between modern and traditional (sanskar) as we recently witnessed in BHU, JNU row and in Muslims countries.

Here I’m concerned about the Muslims who opted to stay in India instead of Pakistan. As against popular view that Islam prohibits discriminatory social structure, Muslims of India is extremely divided on caste line same as fellow Hindus. This was ensured by Mughals by assigning a particular name to those who performed special social service, for instance, those who painted curtains and other royal belongings were referred as rangrez, which still exist. And same as Hindus, every section in Muslims were not provided with education, specific ritual words were made to learn by heart without knowing the meaning, which still continues. After catastrophic vivisection of India, Muslims in India were left stray and the only source of education was Madaris barring few modern institutions. Due to gradual globalisation, traditional crafts in which Muslims engaged were rendered useless and owing to Information Technology, expansion of Urdu became almost useless for economic life.

Madaris in India are still reluctant to teach in English language, now they teach very simple English, by which Students fails to comprehend the current affair and social issues magazines, and hence ill-informed regarding the world. And in Urdu only standard source is BBC Urdu to which Madaris are unease to trust.

In the recent past, political Islam has been dominated by Jihad and with relation to archaic laws, and the Ulemas of Indian sub-continent have failed in countering this narrative The lack of English language and media access can be seen as one of the reasons. Particularly in Indian Muslim, public intellectual are very limited, Imtiyaz Ahmad, Asgar Ali engineer are prominent but they are no more in mainstream media.

In this situation, it is time for Madaris to come forward and to interact with fellow brethren in Hindi, English and in other regional languages other than Urdu. Islam is not just for Muslims and it doesn’t limit to rituals for life hereafter. It talks of justice extensively but doesn’t convey to masses. Recent triple talaq case was poorly handled by Ulema, and through T. V debates message conveyed to brethren is that Islam is anti-women. One could hardly find any writings from Madaris in English and Hindi newspapers.

A present political dispensation is committed to dividing the society on religious line and if Madaris still remains in their shell and limits them to Urdu this will be the greatest disservice to the Muslims of India and to secular fabric of Indian society. Islam has nothing to do with particular language. Yes, the original text is in Arabic but Arabic is not mandatory and can be translated to any language. The case of Pakistani Muslims is altogether different with us, in India we must preserve Urdu as our culture but to interact with fellow brethren we must open to Hindi and English. Ulema has the ability to write voluminous books in Urdu now they need to turn to English, Hindi and other regional languages.

The author is Research Scholar, Department of Social work, AMU, Aligarh.