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INTERVIEW: Maulana Muhammad Yusuf Islahi
‘Our girls are equipped to face the challenges’

Maulana Muhammad Yusuf IslahiMaulana Muhammad Yusuf Islahi, the rector of the Jameatus-Salihat is a busy man. He can be credited with giving a facelift to Jameatus Salehat the great centre of Muslim women education in the country established more than a quarter century ago by Maulana Abdul Hai, the famous writer and owner of the famous publishing house Maktaba Alhasanat that published some of the best Urdu magazines including Al-Hasanat, Noor, Batool and Hilal besides Hadi, a Hindi monthly for children. Though the Jamea takes a substantial time of twenty-four hours of his day, there are other activities that take a large chunk of his time too. He is the editor of well-known Urdu magazine, Zikra and also a member of Jamaat-e-Islami's Markazi Majlise Shura. The Maulana is a renowned author and has authored a number of highly-read and publicized books on a number of topics, like Asan Fiqh, Syed Ubaidur Rahman of The Milli Gazette met him in his office at the Jameatus Salehat in Rampur and talked to him on a number of issues including women education and Salehat. Excerpts:

What Jameat-us-Salehat aims for?
When Salehat was established in 1972, it was thought to give only theological education to the women. There were and there still are thousands of madrasas imparting religious education to men, but there was not a single such institution for women. Now we have broadened our aim. We have added a number of other subjects taught to the students here. Besides theological education we give great emphasis on modern subjects.
After consultation with experts we have prepared a balanced syllabus for Jamea. NCERT syllabus is followed till standard eight. English is an integral part of our curricula and till the final classes we follow NCERT books of English. Computer is an integral part of our education too. We have an impressive computer lab and from standard five onwards it is an integral part of our curricula.
We believe that if we have to provide religious education and inculcate deeni shu’oor in the community we will have to educate mothers (women) for this purpose. They are the most important segment of the society equipped to fulfil this purpose. We are giving complete attention to fulfill this need.

Do you see your aim being fulfilled?
We do not say that we have been hundred percent successful, but even if we are able to produce fifty to sixty percent of the students as we have targetted we believe that it is a great achievement. We have not failed in our efforts.

How is the response from the community?
The community (millat) has great potential. It responds to every constructive work very positively. It also comes forward and appreciates every positive work initiated by anyone if the people doing the work are selfless.
We were told that the people who come out of madrasas cannot do any good work. There was also a perception that people with good family backgrounds will not send their wards in our Jamea. But all this proved to be wrong. When we launched the Jamea, people who came forward and sent their children here were some of the most influential people of the community. The well educated and well-to-do people sent their children here. They were also prepared to pay whatever fee we charge. We certainly do not charge too much.
Community's response is so much overwhelming that we have to return hundreds of girls every year for want of residential facilities. We are consistently trying to increase the number of seats in the hostels but meeting the demand is proving to be very difficult. We are still trying to do our best in this regard.

Do you believe that the girls graduating out of your Jamea are as excellent as you and other founders had imagined?
All people cannot be equal. There are a few excellent people who make difference in any set up. Here too all cannot be as excellent as some of their more endowed peers. Fortunately our students have never let us down. They are giving excellent results and it is the only reason that you see the mad rush of parents trying to admit their wards to our institution.

What are in your views main problems of the women and particularly women in our society?
Every society over the ages has exploited the women and has denied their lawful rights to them. The exploitation may be on a larger scale in other religions and societies but it has also not left untouched the followers of Islam. We did not allow the women equal or to be true any opportunity to get education. We rarely give our women their rightful share of inheritance or other areas. We also listen now horrific news of our burning newly wed women for dowry.

Do you believe that your graduates can be an answer to the feminist's propaganda?
We will have to concede that we have exploited our women to the hilt. A lot of feminist propaganda is based on our own mistakes and shortcomings. We will have to correct our mistakes. We equip our students with not only traditional theological education but also try to prepare them for the modern challenges posed by the incessant western onslaught. Our girls are equipped to face these challenges and respond to the complicated questions being raised by the feminists from time to time.
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