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Published in the 16-28 Feb 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Curriculum of Indian madrasas: need for reform

The Milli Gazette Online

Madrasa, an Arabic term for school or college is no longer a strange word in today’s world. The word which derives its origin from Al-Dars i.e. to teach or to learn has become synonymous with the traditional seats of Islamic learning today.

Types of madrasas in India
Madrasas in India are mainly of two kinds: Some madrasas are affiliated to state governments like in Bihar, Bengal, Jharkhand and Assam. Though small, these madrasas draw salaries and collect grants from their respective governments. Thus, the curricula of these madrasas are by and large similar to those of state sponsored schools or colleges in addition to Islamic subjects. 

The community based Muslim religious educational institutions are again of four types- (1) Maktab (2) Darul Qura’an (3) Madrasa and (4) Jamia which are institutions corresponding to schools, high schools, colleges and universities in English language. Common people call all these four types of Islamic educational institutions as madrasas. Therefore, our subject of discussion here is the second types of ‘madrasa’, which are funded and run by Muslims. 

Curricula of madrasas in India
It is impossible to make any general statement about present curriculum of madrasa, as some Jamiaat follow their own pattern. So we will have a look at the curricula of a few famous Islamic institutions. Most of the remaining non-governmental madrasas in India are, some how or the other, affiliated with them or following their system and curricula.

  1. Darul Uloom Deoband: Deoband’s Darul Uloom has a comprehensive syllabus that is not exactly Dars-e-Nizami, as people wrongly understand, but a mixture of three educational institutions that existed in the recent past. The three are ‘Madrasa Rahimia’ of Shah Waliullah in Delhi, ‘Ferangi Mahal’ of Mulla Nizamuddin in Lucknow and Madrasa of Allama Fazl-e-Haq in Khairabad.

    Darul Uloom Deoband’s present syllabus is for four stages — primary, middle, high and specialization. In the primary (and pre-primary 5 years) syllabi students are taught Urdu, Persian, Hindi, English, Mathematics, Geography, Arabic Grammar and Composition. 

  2. Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama Lucknow: Nadwatul Ulama of Lucknow also brought about certain far-reaching changes in the traditional curriculum of the Qaumi Madrasas of India in response to the changed circumstances and needs of the time. The primary five years cover complete primary education as prescribed for general schools besides giving a sound religious base to its students. Higher efficiency in Arabic literature and the knowledge of English equivalent to the Intermediate standard of the U. P. Board of High School and Intermediate Education are the special features of Alimiyat course at Nadwa.

  3. Jamiatul Hidaya at Jaipur: To face and deal with the realities of life and take on the modern challenges, in 1986 a new institution at Jaipur- ‘Jamiatul Hidaya’ was established. Education in this madrasa begins at the upper primary stage i.e. from class VI and continues for a period of nine years divided into two levels of Sanwi and Aali. The syllabus of Jamiatul Hidaya includes Hindi, English, Social Sciences and intensive technical training besides Islamiyat. In the Jamia the standard of teaching of modern sciences is equivalent to a graduation level course and that of technical education to a certificate level course.

    At present all these three distinct patterns of curriculum are being followed in the madrasas of the country and each pattern is being separately headed by Deoband, Lucknow and Jaipur.

Subjects in madrasa curriculum 
Generally people think that madrasas impart education on pure theology and they do not teach secular subjects. Madrasas are repeatedly blamed to be centers of dogmatism, orthodoxy and intolerance where a particular brand of human creatures is nurtured, which is very untrue, wrong and painful and this perception needs to be corrected on individual basis. One third of the aforesaid three categories of madrasa curricula includes purely secular subjects. For instance, all Languages, Logic, History, Elocution, Philosophy, Scholasticism, Geography, Metaphysics, Arithmetic, Biography, Anthropology, Civics, Rhetoric, Philology, Calligraphy and all sciences are completely secular and are taught in modern institutions too. The only difference is that in madrasas these subjects are taught in Arabic that has been taken for granted as the language of Muslims. 

Deficiencies in madrasa system 
There is no gainsaying the fact that madrasas have played a very important role in the spread of education as well as Islamic teachings in the Indian sub-continent. Had there been no madrasas, the very identity of Muslims in India would have been in doubt. Therefore, the contribution of madrasas towards Muslims in particular and to the national movement of Sarba Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE) in general can in no way be negated.

At the same time, madrasas have to realize that they are in the twenty first century — here new issues unfold rapidly. There are deficiencies in the entire madrasa system and the sooner these are looked into and adapted to the changed situation, the better it would be for the community. To name a few of them, for instance:

  1. Absence of a centralized agency to exercise control on all madrasas or at least on those within a particular state. Some madrasas follow their own designated syllabus which is a hindrance for smooth functioning and standardising of quality education. All small madrasas should be affiliated to one Jamia or at least a major madrasa of the state and should adopt its syllabus.

  2. Lack of modern teaching methodology in about all big madrasas. Every invention is not harmful; thus trying useful new techniques of teachings is a crying need for madrasas.

  3. Absence of the ability to cope with the challenges of modern world in its alumni. Meaningful research and discovery have become a thing of past for madrasas. Present Ulama must do things their counterparts have undertaken in the past to meet the challenges of time before it is too late. 


Modern education and ulama
In 1853 AD when Lord Macaulay decided in a meeting that English would be the medium of instruction for British subjects in India, the Ulama strongly opposed the general resolution to apprise the people of the British propaganda to destroy India’s cultural heritage and religious spirits. On the other hand, the same Ulama who issued Fatwa of Jihad against the English had never prohibited people from learning English language and modern sciences. Shah Abdul Aziz (1746-1823 AD.), son of Shah Waliullah, who issued the first Fatwa approving armed struggle against British rule in 1803 AD. said, "go and learn English, it is allowed." Sir Syed himself quoted this sentence in his book ‘Asbab-e Bagawat-e Hind’. 

M. Burhanuddin Qasmi 
MMERC, Mumbai

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