The good that madrasas do goes unnoticed

By Kaneez Fathima
Muslimaat, more familiar than its full name, Jamiatul Muslimaat, is located in the heart of the city, Hyderabad, known for its rich culture. It was established in the year 2004, by a social activist named Mr. Asif Ali, in a small room at his residence, whose profession was tailoring. Even though he was not highly educated nor had any Islamic education as such, he had great desire to make each and every girl educated, whether it is Deeni taleem or the secular education. This zeal of his emerged in the shape of a madrasa. He passed away in July 2009, leaving behind his wife, 5 daughters and 4 sons. His eldest daughter carries forward this work with great enthusiasm, who herself is educated in a madrasa, and is pursuing PhD in Arabic.

Even though the madrasa is established very recently, the works that are done here are commendable. The main aim of this madrasa is to educate the girls who work as housemaids, girls who cannot afford education because of financial problem, the girls who are dropouts from the secular schools, and those who cannot go to regular madrasas because of various responsibilities at home.

If girls are educated, it would ensure that the future generations are educated and well behaved. It would bring awareness among the community through these girls, and help erase the bad practices followed in the name of culture, which are regarded as social evil practices in the community.

Open School
It is basically an open school, promoting education while working, wherein girls come on their own time i. e. after completing their household chores, after working at homes of people etc. There is no fee structure as such for these girl students. Those who can afford to pay can pay and those who cannot afford are taught free. The principal of the madrasa says, ‘if we start taking fees as other madrasas, then the girls may not get educated at all, which is against our aim’.

Most of the girls come here to learn Urdu and Quraan. Some of the girls of 15-16 years of age have never been to school before. There is no systematic way of learning. As and when the girls come, they are taught according to their interest. Even though the strength of the madrasa is about 120, only 45 of them are regular. Rest of them are private students. The number of teachers altogether is four, including principal. The students are also taken to picnic once in a year so that they also can enjoy life. Every year instead of doing annual function, the principal arranges for iftar party in Ramzan, and prior one month of this party, exams are conducted and certificates are given at this party, by inviting any experienced teacher or Principal from other deeni madrasas.

The categories of girls coming to learn various courses to this madrasa can be divided into seven categories roughly: The girls coming at 8.30 am to 10 am from nearby areas (these girls have to go back and do the miscellaneous work at home), the girls coming at 10am (these are the girls working as house maids in different houses), the girls coming after 10am (these are the girls who have the house hold responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning vessels, washing clothes etc.), the girls who are dropouts or failed in 7th, 10th, or Inter come to learn just Urdu or Quraan, the girls, whose marriages are settled and have time of two to three months, come to learn Urdu and Quraan, the college and school going girls come to learn Arabic and Urdu, and the women of nearby areas whose husbands work in foreign countries or whose children are grown up also come to learn Urdu and Quraan.

Course Details
Madrasa is run in two shifts. First shift is from 10 am to 1.30 pm for the girls, who come after completing their house hold works, girls who work as home maids. The courses offered in this shift are Aalima (under graduate), Hifz (memorising Quran by heart), 10th to MA Oriental Arabic, Computer, Hifz + Oriental, Aalima + Oriental, and whatever the girls want to learn. The girls who come for this shift are mostly from the poor and uneducated background, there are girls from well-to-do families as well. Almost all the girls are from old city of Hyderabad itself. The families who do not want their daughters to study further after completing 10th or Intermake them  either sit at home or are married off. Such type of girls are sent to this madrasa, so that they learn Urdu and Quraan. These are the girls from nearby areas of the madrasa, and the girls who come from other parts of old city are those who work as housemaids. Few among them are of the age of 15, 16 years, who haven’t been to any school. The other category of girls is of those who are school dropouts and make bangles, zari work at homes. Such girls do not come to madrasa for 8-10 days in the work season i. e. Ramzan. These girls are never given homework because most of them have to go for work straight from the madrasa. The students are also taught how to perform Namaz. This shift ends with the Zohar Namaz, i.e., after doing afternoon (Zohar) prayers. The daily routine is every one is asked whether they have performed all the prayers five times or not, and if anyone missed any of the Namaz, they are told about the importance of namaz and of the punishment from the Allah for not praying.

The second shift is from 4.30 to 6pm for the girls who undergo secular education, come here after their school or college timings, to learn Urdu and Arabic. Some girls come to learn translation of Quraan as well.

University Enrolment
Now coming to the Oriental College degree courses of the department of Oriental Arabic of Osmania University: The Madrasa students are enrolled in Oriental College of Osmaina University. They can appear for exams from Entrance class (which is equal to SSC) to MA from this college. They should have passed Aalima course to appear for the 10th exam or if the girls are school dropouts after sixth or seventh class from English medium and if they are of 13 years of age, then they are eligible to appear for 10th class exam. They have six papers in 10th class. English, Urdu, and four Arabic papers. Among the four Arabic papers, first is Islamic Science which covers ‘sure’ (chapters from Quraan) its translation, summaries, and Hadiths (sayings of Prophet) and Fiqh (Jurisprudence). Second paper is Arabic prose and poetry. Third is History of Arabic i.e. of Arabic language, prophet’s life, about four imams and fourth paper is Arabic Grammar.

A number of girls from other madrasas prefer to enroll themselves for the above degrees through this madrasa. These girls are mostly from various big madrasas; even the teachers of other madrasas also enroll themselves from this madrasa for BA and MA courses because, they get readily available notes from this madrasa. Most of the girls doing Aalima course (which is considered as very tough) and teachers from other madrasas and lecturers from colleges do not get time to prepare notes. Therefore, they depend on this madrasa for the notes. The principal started this facility because her madrasa students do not get time to prepare notes, and if these notes are provided they learn and write exams easily. Only the neediest students of other madrasas are provided with this facility. The other important reasons for preferring to enroll from this madrasa are that some of them cannot pay fees, and for those kinds of students, this madrasa pays fee, for whichever course i.e. 10th to MA. Few of them also prefer to write from this madrasa because they get scholarships. This madrasa does not give admission to more than 10-15 students from other madrasas. Another big facility provided by this madrasa is that the students are picked up from their homes to the exam centers and dropped back.

The notes are prepared by the principal, Ms. Bader Fatima herself. On one side she gives important questions and answers from the guides, so that they can read by themselves, and on the other side, the answers which are important are made short, and instead of dictating, they type and give printouts to save time and energy. For the students who have not gone to school before, English becomes a problem. Therefore, for such students, summaries are made. Basic English grammar is taught. This method enables the students to come out with 50% marks in English. This way all the courses are taught with ease. In addition, the girls do not feel burden of studies.

Other Facilities
The other kinds of works done through this madrasa are, many Madrasas (almost more than 200 Madrasas) were enrolled under Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan by Mr. Asif Ali through the Siasat Urdu daily. In addition, these Madrasas get salaries of teachers and mid-day meal under this scheme. Mr. Asif, a social activist, did lot of work for the upliftment of the community especially in the field of education. He was also a member of Deeni Madrasas Board of A. P. He enrolled the students, who were dropouts from the schools and deeni madrasas, as Vidya Voluteers, which comes under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan Scheme. Computers were distributed by the Urdu Academy to various deeni madrasas thanks to the efforts of Mr. Asif. He helped the students of various deeni madarasas in getting scholarships both from the Urdu Academy as well as from Minority Welfare Board of A. P. He also helped in getting loans for the development of Madrasas, building the hostels for the students etc. Some 60-70 girls (non-madrasa girls) have appeared for Urdu exams from this center, the certificates of which are awarded by Abid Ali Khan Educational Trust. Some students of secular colleges with poor economic background are recommended by this madrasa for concessional fee at their college. The other things done by this madrasa are tailoring classes, teacher training to Aalima students of various Madrasas under SSA, Principal training from Moulana Azad National Urdu University, cookery classes, Mehendi designing etc. which are part of the summer classes arranged by Siasat.

In Hyderabad, there are Madrasas of different sects and this Madrasa maintains friendly ties with all of them. For teachers training and for picnic, this madrasa goes along with two important Madrasas namely Jamiatul Bannat and Jamiathul Mominaat. The principal of this madrasa says, “girls from different sects such as Ahle- Hadiths, Ahle- Sunnat, Wahhabis, etc come here for learning and every one thinks that this Madrasa is of their ‘sect’ itself.” She further says, ‘I am very happy with the kind of work we are doing, and both the girls and the teachers enjoy in this method of learning and teaching. “The life of these girls is very tough, and if the learning process is also made difficult, then no one will come forward to learn, says the principal.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-28 February 2010 on page no. 2

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