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What are the madrasas?
By Fazlur Rahman Faridi

To Western countries, religious madrasas appear to be the biggest handicap in the transformation and modernization of Islam. According to them these madrasas are ‘centres of violence and riots, terrorists and militant organisations. They are obscurantists. In addition to these madrasas, preachers in mosques preach conservatism and fundamentalism. Taliban were the students of these very madrasas’. The Sangh Parivar of India is also a party to these accusations. Praises showered in America on Gen Musharraf’s recent speech were not without reasons, one of which was his determination to tighten his government’s grip over these madrasas, to selectively destroy the criminals, and crimes which provide succour to ‘jehadi’ groups and to gag the speakers and preachers who preach terrorism.

The politics of cheating, falsehood, dishonesty, perfidy and anti-Islamism has neither the time nor the desire to see what sort of education is provided in Islamic madrasas and what men of character are prepared there and on what a large scale these institutions are engaged in providing welfare and education facilities and services in poor and backward countries. If any one or a few of these become misguided, is it necessary to annihilate all madrasas and such other institutions? There are innumerable terrorist and militant persons and groups in America, Europe and even in our own country whose members have received education in modern colleges, universities and other such institutions. In which religious institutions or madrasas have the Naxalites, responsible for loot and massacre in India, received their education? In which madrasas had the militant tribes of North-eastern states of India received their education? Most of them must have received their education in colleges and universities (which are certainly not Islamic).

Recently, Maoist groups murdered hundreds of people in Nepal. Before that, Nepal’s king and many of his family members were killed by his own son. He was the product of a modern educational institution. In Kosov and Bosnia, thousands of innocent people were murdered and thousands of virgin girls were molested and raped. Those responsible for such crimes were educated people not belonging to madrasas. Do we conclude from the terrorism of these people and organizations that all educational institutions, universities and colleges are centres or breeding grounds of terrorism? Why then these Islamic madrasas only are being singled out for this? Please go through the following extract of a letter written by Khalid Al Muhanna, chief editor of Arab News which he wrote in reply to President Bush’s letter to Saudi Arabia’s minister for education that educational institutions of Saudi Arabia breed terrorism.

‘If the syllabi of schools directly breed violence, USA too should give top priority to completely change the syllabi of its schools.

Charles Whitman was a university student who had murdered his class mates and teachers and had injured many. He was not a student of any Saudi school. School children who had not received their primary education in any school of Riyadh had committed massacres in a Columbine school.

Charles Manson had not received his education in any of Dharama school who believed that Lenin was God and who had resorted to large scale murder in blind obedience and pursuit of his orders’.

Timothy Mcviegh and UNA Bomber had not received their education in madrasas. Thousands of those people who had committed suicide in Guyana in November 1978 in blind obedience of the orders of Rev. Jini Jones were also not the students of religious madrasas. David Koresh, founder of ‘Children of God’, Moses David, L. Ron Hubbard created such groups and classes who indulged in blind faiths, terrorism and suicide etc. None of them had received education in any religious madrasa.

The agents of violence and cruelty in Palestine had never received education in any religious madrasa. Can the activities and facts about these misguided persons be falsified? Should the colleges and universities be closed down because of their such activities and their syllabi should be abolished? The truth is that criticism and attack on madrasas is because of enmity towards Islam. Our enemies and evil wishers know that religious education and religious madrasas are the back bone of Muslims’ religious life and cultural and religious identity and if these are abolished or if these are modernized their religious and cultural identity will be gradually lost.‘They played all their games and used all their tactics but God foiled all their attempts, though their tricks were dangerous and powerful enough to shift mountains’.

Whatever has been stated above should in no case be taken to mean that no healthy and constructive modifications are required in religious madrasas and their syllabi. Islam is a dynamic religious, an eternal movement. It does not preach and promote stagnation and blind obscurantism. Rather, it respects worldly facts. Healthy and constructive changes in religious madrasas is one thing and their comparison with modernity is another thing.

(Translated excerpts from editorial, 
Zindagi-e Nau, March 2002)

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