It is a
universally accepted truth that education is a means to achieve empowerment. It
is considered as a tool that enlightens the society and acts as a catalyst in
the process of social change. Due to these reasons, the modern state lay great
emphasis on the universalisation of education as it has become a necessity and
a matter of governance. Education in contemporary times has become an important
marker of human development and is included in the widely used human
Recent trend towards
education for all has evolved gradually, as a result of the efforts of various
activists against ancient and medieval practises when education was considered
to be a luxury, available only for the elites of the society. In India, it was
meant for the upper two varnas: priestly class (Brahmins) and the warrior class
(Kshatriyas) in order to teach them the skills of their specific professions.
Similarly, in western society, education was for the elites only, as it was
firmly based on the distinction between the citizen and the serfs. Even
Rousseau, the great protagonist of egalitarianism and freedom talked of
education as a privilege meant for the lucky few (Jhingran, 2010).
During the 18th century, the
discourse on education shifted from being a privilege for a lucky few to a right
of every human. Immanuel Kant, an eminent sociologist, proclaimed that all
humans are essentially rational and autonomous beings; there is no basis to
educate a few, leaving out all the others. These proclamations led to a
rejection of all social distinctions and led to the rise of 19th century
liberalism rooted in the right to equality, freedom and happiness of every
individual. John Stuart Mill was another champion of liberalism and proposed
for the first time, the radical idea of universalisation of education. The
current idea of universalisation of education then is based on Mill’s
philosophy. He understood that education is of utmost importance that could
lead to human perfection and also prepare law abiding citizens of the state(Mill, 1989).
A functional pre-requisite
Emile Durkheim, a
well-known sociologist outlined the major functions of education and viewed
educational institutions as an important actor for ensuring a sense of
belongingness and argued that such institutions must lay greater stress on the
social roles, duties and responsibilities of individuals within the schools(Filloux, 1993). He elaborated that
education helps in transferring the norms and values of the society from one
generation to another. Schools and other educational institutions play an
important role in instilling common values and norms within the minds of the
children. The emphasis is on ‘common’ values as it results in homogeneity which
is an important ingredient towards achieving societal integration and
pre-requite therefore focuses on ‘homogenising the culture and norm which must
be transferred from one generation to another’. However, this functionalist aim
seems difficult to get fulfilled in context of India which has a diverse
population with different cultural orientation. The drafting committee of the
constitution was aware of this diversity because of which they included the
provision for different groups to preach and preserve their culture, which is
often associated with a group’s identity. It is also to be understood that
freedom for preserving culture is seen under a common umbrella of Indian
nationalism, often termed as ‘unity in diversity’. In this regard madrasas have
played an important role of imparting education, preserving Muslim culture and
instilling in its students a sense of belongingness towards the Indian nation.
The very first
verse of Quran that was revealed on the Prophet (PBUH) explains the extent to
which Islam attaches importance to education. It exhorts people to learn in
order to teach and spread knowledge. Much before the concept of
‘universalisation of education’ initiated by Mill in the 19th century, the
Prophet (PBUH) had started to propagate the importance of education for all
during his lifetime. The Prophet (PBUH) himself delivered speeches related to
the ‘importance of education’ to his companions with Quranic references along
with its meaning that set the foundation for Islamic jurisprudence.
There are various
hadiths (the tradition of prophet) as well that explains the importance of
education in Islam. It has been mentioned by Prophet (PBUH) that “acquiring
knowledge is an obligation for every Muslim man as well as woman”(Sunnah Ibn Majah). So, education in
Islam is a right of every individual irrespective of gender and encourages both
to go to any extent in order to gain knowledge. As a result, Muslim world during
the 7th and 8th century not only had great male scholars
but also female scholars. Amongst them was Hazrat Aisha (wife of the Prophet
(PBUH), often considered to be one of the most famous women in the history of
Islam who had made outstanding scholarly contribution in the transmission of
prophet’s knowledge and practice to the Muslim world. Her quest for knowledge, zeal
to address the issue of women’s status in the society and stance towards
education for all makes her a prominent figure in the history of Islam.
reference and examples mentioned above indicates that seeking knowledge in
Islam is important as it is considered as the command of the almighty and
people must strive hard to achieve education. Learning and spreading knowledge
as per Islamic traditions is one of the most pious acts and a learned person
achieves an exalted position in the society as well as before the Almighty.
and its evolution
attainment, the Muslims established a teaching learning system that came to be
known as Madrasa. The term ‘Madrasa’ has etymologically originated from an
Arabic word ‘Al dars’ which means to ‘teach’ or to ‘learn’. The meaning is same
as that of the word ‘school’ in English. ‘Dars’ which means to tell something
or to teach something, Mudarris means ‘the one who does
‘dars’ or teaches. Therefore, madrasa means a place for teaching and learning
and is visualized as an institution meant to fulfil the orders of the almighty
and follow teachings of the prophet (sunnah) of a ‘lifelong education’.
According to Encyclopaedia of Islam – Leiden E. J. Brill “Madrasa is an
institution of learning, where Islamic sciences including literary and
philosophical ones are taught”
It has been
explained by Qasmi that historically, the structural form of madrasa that
exists today was not present during the period of the prophet (PBUH). Earlier,
a strong system of teaching
and learning was present which was informal in nature. Initially, the thrust of madrasa was on dissemination
of the knowledge revealed to the prophet (PBUH). The process continued later on
and helped in preserving the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet (Qasmi, 2005).
In terms of
infrastructure, it was Khalifah Motasim Billah, who built the first building
for the philosophers. This building was an epitome of modern educational
institution comprising of large rooms and sections for different sciences and
arts and prominent teachers were appointed. However, the building was only
meant for the philosophers and not for the Muhaddaitheen
(Collectors of Hadees).
As per Maulana Sayyed
Abdul Hayee Nizam of Nadwat Ulama Lucknow, the first organized step for the
establishment of madrasa was taken by the people of Nespur (Hayee, n.d). According to him
“the first attempt to bring the study of different branches under a systematic
way was made in the fourth century of Hijra, when several madrasas were
established in Nespur. The first two institutions to achieve everlasting fame
were madrasa Nizamiah and Madrasa Mustansariyyah in Baghdad”. However, these
madrasas were not Islamic in nature.
In India, origin
of Madrasa dates back to the pre – Muslim period. The foundation of the madrasa
education was laid by Arab traders initially in the form of Maktabs in south
India in Malabar region in later part of the 7th century as they
started residing with their families in their newly
established colonies. The formal shape of madrasa however, came into existence
during the Arab rule in Sind (8 – 10th centuries), when several
madrasa had sprung up as centres for Islamic culture and civilisation. Eventually,
they became institutions specialising in the training of the ‘ulema’ (Scholars
of Islamic law and theology), not only in India but also in Southern Europe,
Africa and other South Asian countries as a result of the spread of the Muslim
Education by way
of madrasa received a major fillip with the establishment of Delhi sultanate in
the beginning of the 13th century. During this period, a large
number of madrasas were established in different parts of the country. The
tradition of madrasa based education was furthered during the Mughal rule (1526
– 1857) and followed curricula designed by Mulla Nizamuddin known as ‘dars – e
– Nizami’. Till this point, madrasa education was largely influenced by the
Islamic ethics and values along with a tone of scientific temperament. The
turning point in madrasa education came with the emergence of British Raj.
During this period various madrasas were shut down and ‘modern’ schools were
established. The damage was caused to the madrasa education but muslim leaders
continued their efforts to protect and preserve it. Establishment of Madrasa – I – Aliya in
Calcutta and the rise of Aligarh movement, initiated by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan,
lead to the revival and renaissance of Muslim education as it saw a blend of
‘western’ education with that of the religious one.
education: contemporary scenario
The pattern with
regard to growth and progress of madrasa education gives an impression that the
contemporary madrasas might have made substantial progress.However, the picture
is far different from the perceived notion. Instead of moving forward after its
revival by various advocates of education, the current Muslim educational
system has not been fully revitalized. Madrasa education is still rooted in the
traditional syllabus (Dars – e – Niami) which is 300 years old putting a
question on its credibility of catering to the needs of the modern society.
modernising madrasa education emphasise on the need to bring about a change in
its syllabus in order to keep pace with the changes in society along with
preserving its culture, values and norms. Pupils passing out from madrasa than
could contribute in the development process of the Indian society. Rather than
dichotomising madrasa as per vision of teaching either the Deeni (religious) or
the Dunyawi (worldly) Taleem (education), a curriculum is needed that strikes a
balance between both.
This fact that
madrasas must be modernised (blend of Dunyawi and Deeni taleem) is also
accepted by the Ulemas and is evident from an extensive survey conducted by
Abdul Hamid Syed. Under this project, 576 madrasas were surveyed out of which
538 were boys madrasas and 38 were of girls. The study revealed that out of 576
madrasas, 553 i.e. 96.01% favoured the introduction of modern subjects in the
nisab (curricula) expressing their desire to make the madrasa education
purposeful and for a better future for its students. (Syed, 1988)
It is also to be
understood that in modern times, the Madrasa educational system is a valuable
source of providing free or in some cases subsidised education with the
provision of boarding and lodging facility to the Muslim population across the
country. This form of education may not be the most sought out one for the Muslim
elite but is still very popular amongst the poor as well as the middle class
Muslims. Hence, correcting the various flaws in its structure will certainly
benefit those who are at the periphery of the society.
education and Muslim girls
Muslim girls was at its zenith during the era of Muslim rulers in India. There
were various prominent women who themselves were not great scholars but
provided assistance to scholars. Amongst them was a renowned lady of the Slave
dynasty, Razia Sultana who flourished education for girls under her reign. Chand
Bibi of Deccan was another learned woman and an expert in the art of governance
and war. Sati Khanam, wife of Hakeem Naseer Uddin Kashi, was fluent in oration.
Aurangzeb’s daughter Zaibunnisa Begum learned calligraphy, creative writings
and wrote many books. Khadeeja, the daughter of Umar Bin Salahuddeen Punjabi
was one of the Indian Queens who explored her knowledge in the field of Quranic
sciences (Malik, 2008). The name of these
women is evidence that education was available to women but the opportunity was
provided only to girls belonging to royal and noble families. There were no
madrasas for the girls belonging to the commoners.
colonial era as well, the education of Muslim girls remained unnoticed completely.
They were confined within the four walls of the homes. It was during this
period that the calls for gender reforms and girls’ education came, especially
from the male reformers. ZahirBilgrami in 1873 argued that the girls should
also read the same religious text as that by the boys.
Abdul Rahim Khan’s
writings in 1874, talks about the importance of girls’ education and elaborate that
education will transform girls into women who can better manage the household
economy and relations with the in – laws after marriage (Aftab, 2007). Rashid Jahan,
another outspoken writer of the urdu writer’s progressive movement, criticised
the middle class ideas of respectability which allowed oppression of women (Minualt, 1998).
As a result,various
madrasa were established for girls with a purpose of empowering them and
improving their status in the society. Some of the madrasa that got established
Jamiatus Salihat, Malegaon
Jamiatus Salihat, Rampur
Kulliya Aisha, Malegaon
Jamiatul Banaat, Jianpur, U.P
JamiatulFalah, Azamgarh, U.P
Jamiatul Banat, Hyderabad
Jamiatul Shamsul Uloom, U.P
Al Jamiat uz Zahra, Malegaon
and reform movements since colonial era, the plight of Muslim women has not
changed much. They remain one of the most impoverished groups in terms of
educational attainment. The census report of 2001 (first report on religious
data) mentioned that the literacy rate among Muslim female is as low as 50.01%.
The latest Census report of 2011 also portrays that the educational status of
Muslim women has not changed drastically and there has been an improvement of
only 1.8% in their literacy rate.
educational status of the Muslim girls is often attributed to its ignorance by
the Muslim intellectuals. This can be one of the reasons why out of
approximately 35,000 madrasas in India, only 8 -10% are open for girls (Winklemann, 2006)
disparity within the madrasa educational system can further be substantiated by
the study of Usha Nayar. She mentions that there are approximately 3, 00,000
madrasa, big and small, in India that holds a total of 10, 35,384 students, out
of which 4, 75,559 are for girls (45.9%). She further explains that the share
of girl students is lowest at the higher secondary level with 29.3% only as
compared to primary (46.1%), middle (46.5%) and secondary (45.6%) levels. The disparity has resulted in high
dropout rate of adolescent girls at the higher secondary level. (Nayar, 2007)
Studies show that the educational arenas are
open for Muslim girls till the point she is ready to take up the stereotypical
roles and fit into the patriarchal structure. Her education is not a mean to
achieve enlightenment or empowerment but a mean to further strengthen the
patriarchal ethos. The process is then justified in the name of the religion
and backed by the ‘divine command’.
7. Discussion and Analysis
Ghafoor in his
book ‘Muhammad the educator of mankind’ elaborates the contribution of Muslim
women in every sphere and in every field. The girls during the Prophets’ time
(and even after that) were inclined towards education that helped them to evolve
into an empowered woman capable of participating in the development of the
community. They, maintained domestic affairs but also contributed heavily
towards the education of the masses. Um Sharik Dawsiyyiah was one of these
women whose residence was the rendezvous of the visitors coming to learn about
a new religion (Ghafoor, 1993). Such instances act
as evidences that the position of the women in the society was prestigious and
were not performing mere stereotypical roles. However, the situation of the
present day Muslim women is not that exalted one as that of their predecessors.
At present, very
few madrasa for the girls exist as mentioned in the previous section. The
reasons for such low levels are something that needs to be deciphered and
addressed. Poor educational attainment could probably be responsible for the
decline in their position, as it has been evidenced from various national level
statistics. Other reason attributed for the low educational attainment is the
ignorance of the Muslim intellectual towards the education of girls and women.
Even if the education is provided, then it is either not acknowledged or
provided at partial levels that do not really augments the social position of a
women. Some of the structural reasons for a lag in girls’ education are listed as
Discrimination:patriarchy, a macrostructural
problem has become the main reason for ignoring Muslimgirls’right to education.
Patriarchal attitude breeds gender bias as a result of which emphasis is given
to the madrasas for boys’.
Domestication of curriculum: Ignoring Muslim
girls’ in provision of education simply doesn’t mean unavailability of madrasas
for them but include a difference in objective for providing education to both.
Accordingly different curriculums are framed for boys and girls madrasas
wherein for the latter, emphasis is mostly on ‘Adab’ and performing household
activities. This point is well explained by Sikand when he mentioned that “Even
in the madrasa for girls, the agency provided to them through its education is
circumscribed within the limits of the family” (Sikand, n.d). Hence, the poor
quality of education and training that the madrasa provide to girls do not
really help to move upwards in gender hierarchy but equips them simply to deal
with the household chores rather than helping them to operate in the modern
Convenience based interpretation of Shari’ah: Patriarchal mind
set have even played with Quran and Hadiths as their interpretation is done
through a male’s perspective. The point has been argued by Jhingran (2010) in
her book ‘Madrasa education in modern India: A study, where she argues that “Shari’ah
cannot be put into the category of divine as these are merely misinterpretation
of the divine word to suit the patriarchal structure in different social
context”. The misinterpretation, she argues, is acknowledged even by several
learned Ulema as being wrong and based on ignorant interpretation of Hadith and
as per the convenience to suit the patriarchal social order.
lines, it needs to be taken into consideration that poor number of madrasa for
girls, discrimination and ignorance in providing education and outdated
curriculum being followed are the gaps that needs to be paid attention to link Muslim
girls with mainstream education. Probably, this could also help in reinterpreting
the true light and essence of Islamic traditions which accord equal treatment
of both the sexes and uphold gender based equality. These measures will then
ensure a system of madrasa education for the Muslim girls that is comprehensive
and deals with their holistic development.
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