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A hi-tech madrasa
Madrasa Jamiatul Hidaya of Jaipur
By Firoz Bakht Ahmed

Poor madrasas have become the butt of suspicion following a series of investigations by the state government, after the September 11 terrorist strikes in the US. They end up proving their secular credentials besides providing the authorities with certificates of loyalty. This has now become important, not just at Darul-Uloom but at all the madrasas of western Rajasthan. "We are quite used to being made the subject of an investigation every now and then," says Mohammed Naeem who is in charge of the publishing unit of the Madrasa Jameatul Hidaya near Indira Bazaar in Jaipur. "It needs very little actually to begin these investigations and then we are asked questions on everything from our teachers to where we get our funds from and what we teach our students," he adds. 

Set amidst the peaceful sylvan surroundings of Jaipur’s Ramgarh, encircled by a tranquil valley and cool lake, you will find a completely new experiment with the traditional madrasa education system. Usually the madrasas are termed by the media as ghettos of antiquity, orthodoxy and obscurantism languishing in dark and ill-ventilated dungeons where one feels asphyxiated but can you imagine a madrasa with computers, electronic labs, cricket and volleyball teams and debating societies in English and Hindi? Jameatul Hidaya is one such institution where the maulanas work on computers. The institution is an apt example of how a madrasa must be in the age of science and technology.

Jameatul Hidaya happens to be the only madrasa where deeni taleem (religious education) has perfectly been blended with the modern and technically advanced system of education in such a way that the students passing out from here can even join the general institutions. Madrasa Jameatul Hidaya is a symbol of liberation from that dogmatic precept that the traditional ulema (Islamic scholars) have always thrived on to present a lopsided view of the Islamic heritage. According to Syed Hamid, a Muslim scholar, there is a bright flicker of hope for the Indian Muslims in this completely new but viable concept of modern education at Madrasa Jameatul Hidaya that is a complete overhauling of the antidiluvian and outmoded pattern. Noted Islamic scholar Dr. (Mufti) Mohammed Mukarram points out that the government ought to be more encouraging because madrasas provide a "modicum" of education to millions of youngsters who - because of extreme poverty and inaccessibility - slip through the cracks of the formal school system.

It has been a tragedy with the Muslim community that owing to some myopic and politically motivated ulema and their unpragmatic and impractical attitude and interpretations, the other communities have started to have a jaundiced view of the community as a whole. It has been a difficult journey of survival for a Muslim layman in India. But the introduction of computers and science and the related paraphernalia pertaining to advanced education in a madrasa like this, can go a long way indeed not only providing what is best in education but also the right kind of perspective of Islam. If at all there is something to be enlightened regarding the communities' educational status, it is Madrasa Jamiatul Hidaya doing a yeoman service.

The difference between a common madrasa and Jameatul Hidaya is that the former's curriculum consists merely of the Dars-e-Nizami that is purely a theological one in nature with Mantiq (logic), Fiqh (jurisprudence), Tasawwuf (spiritualism), Ilm-ul-Kalam (Islamic polemics), Balaghat (linguistics), Sarf-o-Nahw (Arabic grammar) and Hadith (Prophet Mohammed's traditions). Poor students who pass out from these madrasas quite unfortunately become misfits in the practical world since they can't decipher numbers on the buses or stations' names while travelling in a train. They are unable to read or write or fill simple forms. Thus they become maulvis (theologians), muaezzins (those who recite five-time prayers), khateebs (preachers), imams (those who lead prayers) and katibs (calligraphers). 

Fortunate ones are adjusted in these trades while the unlucky ones are deprived of even this and are left to the mercy of the community to feed them. Whereas the maulanas (teachers) of Jameatul Hidaya are in fact very well placed as in addition to these theological courses. Other courses include various diplomas and degrees in Computer Application, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Accounts and Business Management, Communication, Refrigeration, Leather/Footwear Technology, Air-conditioning and Offset Printing besides others that include Pharmacy, Opticals, Journalism And Automobile Engineering.

The latest feather in the cap of Madrasa Jameatul Hidaya is the Aligarh based Al-Hidaya Study Centre meant to train students for the Indian Civil Services, State Civil Services, State Judicial Services and other competitive exams. Besides, the Maulana Abdur Rahim Educational Trust has also started running full-fledged English medium schools in Jaipur. There is also the Al-Hidaya Islamic Research Centre that provides answers to all the queries on Islam and has a massive collection of books---rare and new. Under the Maulana Abdur Rahim Charitable Trust, scholarships are granted to deserving and meritorious students not only for completing the courses at the Madrasa but even later according to Prof. Ziaul Hasan, retired principal of A.M.U. polytechnic and the honorary director of Al-Hidaya Study Centre. 
Maulana Mohd. Fazl-ur-Rahim Mujaddedi, an Islamic scholar and the Ameer-e-Jameatul Hidaya (proctor) of the Madrasa states, "For Indian Muslims, it's a dream come true. About 20 years ago Hazrat Maulana Abdur Rahim Mujaddedi gave the practical shape to what is most enlightened centre of learning for the community today." All the courses of Jamiatul Hidaya are affiliated to the Aligarh Muslim University. So far as the theological courses are concerned, these are related to the three most renowned centres of Islamic learning in the world i.e. Darul Uloom (Deoband), Nadwatul Ulama (Lucknow), and Mazahir-e-Uloom (Saharanpur).

Maulana Mohd. Zia-ur-Rahim Mujaddedi, the senior administrator and the younger brother of Maulana Fazl-ur-Rahim, reveals that there is no dearth of cultural activities for the students. The Anjuman-ul-Hidaya caters to promote zeal amongst the students for oratory in various languages. Bazm-e-Hidayat is a platform that steeps the students in the art of organization via orientation programmes conducted by renowned professors from the comity of Indian universities. To master the art of writing, Bazm-e-Rahimi is the ideal platform. For sharpening various skills in English there is the Jauhar English Club. The vast sprawling lawns with green and glossy plush grass are most sought after as the students love playing and participating in cricket, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and table tennis tournaments. The classrooms, dormitories and the huge kitchen are located in low buildings in front and to the left of the main one. To the right is the mosque. Besides, the Madrasa has its own post office, dispensary with qualified doctors, a library with thousands of books on a vast variety of subjects and a hostel and a big guest house for visiting dignitaries..

Another salient feature of the Madrasa is its Arabic-Turkish architectural style. The building at the entrance is very dignified and impressive and appears to be the lobby of Al-Azhar University! Mode of admission is very simple and fees are nominal. The Madrasa has a renowned publication centre that also publishes the Urdu and English monthlies Al-Hidaya, besides printing umpteen books on various topics under the aegis of Hidayat Publishers. 

It won't be an exaggeration if we call it an oasis in the desert and the Oxford of the madrasa education in the country. Its students are finding prestigious jobs in places like Citibank, Kuwait Embassy, Luxor Pens, Escorts, Indian Railways, Rashtriya Sahara etc.
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