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Madrasah education in India

Jamia Cultural Committee in collaboration with Iran Culture House and Institute of Advanced Studies in Education held in Ansari Auditorium, Jamia Millia Islamia, a three-day seminar on madrasah education in India from October 18 to 20. Participants illuminated the various ups and downs in madrasah education from 11th century down to the 21st century. The seminar also focused attention on the present system of madrasah education in India and reached the conclusion that certain changes were imperative in madrasah syllabi in view of the upcoming challenges before Muslims in India and also to bridge the widening gap that existed between madrasah graduates and products of colleges and universities.

In his introductory speech Prof. SM Azizuddin Husain, coordinator of the seminar said the destruction of Baghdad in 1258, helped Delhi to emerge as the main centre of learning in the Muslim world. He quoted Ziauddin Barni, "now the ulama of Samarqand and Bukhara etc, were consulting the ulama of Delhi for guidance." He also said that a galaxy of Iranian ulama made Indian madrasahs the leading centres of rational sciences in the 16th century. He described how the products of madrasah were pioneers in every field. He said that Ahmedi-i-Mimar of Lahore who designed the Taj Mahal and Lahore Fort and several other historical buildings was a product of madrasah. 

In his welcome address, Issa Rezazadeh, cultural counsellor, Embassy of Iran said that madrasahs were the only source of Islam’s survival. He said that there were two groups of people. One of them had a very negative idea about Muslims and madrasahs or their products. They thought that they were a global threat. They linked every evil to Islam. He called it "an outward notion". While the other group represented the extreme "positive" thinking. However, the latter group was "relaxed" and thought there was no further need for doing anything to meet new challenges. He termed the latter group as "inward" and said that there was need for a comparative study to draw up an action plan.

Prof. Iqtidar Husain Siddiqui, former chairman Department of History, Aligarh Muslim University, presented a well-researched keynote address dealing with historical background of madrasah education. He said the foundation of education in Islam was the Quran. He maintained that madrasah teachers contributed a lot to meet the social and cultural needs of the country. Delhi emerged as a centre of madrasah education in the 12th century and Shaikh Bahauddin Zaki Suharwardi, his sons and grandsons worked on modern subjects while being in madrasah. Persian remained a dominating language of science and technology in several phases of history.

In his presidential address, Saiyid Hamid, chancellor Jamia Hamdard reminded the three minority universities – Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Jamia Hamdard – to come forward to solve the important issue of madrasah education. He said that a meeting of ulama and intellectuals was called by Jamia Millia in this regard some 30-35 years ago which was a good step. He said that changes in the system of madrasah education were more necessary than change of syllabus. Steps were taken in this direction by the present Jamia Millia V C but the project was almost rejected. He further said that Jamia Hamdard was going to hold a 10-day seminar in December for this purpose. He requested Jamia Millia authority to extend support to this programme. He warned the community to wake up from their deep slumber and said that Indian Muslims were in such a critical situation that neglect of madrasahs could prove fatal. He felt that an appropriate representation of Muslims in politics and media was a great need. The subjects to be introduced in madrasahs should be left to students, he said, adding that social sciences and mathematics should compulsorily be introduced as these two revolved around day-to-day human needs. There is no denying the fact that religious education was necessary but how to provide it to school going children was a matter of deep concern, he said. Parents should themselves manage this and should take the services of those who can impart religious education at their home, or else their children would be deprived of it. The right to speak about making certain changes in madrasah syllabi related only with people who thought that they too should acquire religious education. Dr Zafarul Islam Khan highlighted the qualities of madrasahs during the Delhi’s Sultanate. Dr Farhana Siddiqui presented an article on Arabic and Islamic madrasahs in north India and their contribution in imparting education to women. 

¯ Manzar Imam

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