By JAWED ANWAR
This is a series of columns for the understanding of the history of centuries old Madrasah and Islamic Education System in South Asian perspective published in Muslims Weekly, New York, USA, in 18 series of the weekly column “Personal Notes.”
First Published: August 13, 2004, Issue #233
NOW I will discuss in brief the more intelligent and refined efforts in India.
Nadwa tul Ulema, Lucknow
In the annual ceremony of Madrasah Ila’hiyat in 1892, an organization of Ulema (scholars), Nadwatul Ulema, was formed. The president of the organization was Maulana Muhammad Ali Moongeri Khalifa Hazrat Shah Fazlur Rehman Gunj Moradabadi (1895).
Maulana Abdul Lateef Aligarhi, Maulana Abdullah Tonki, Maulana Habib ur Rehman Khan Sherwani, Maulana Shibli Nomani and other Shia and Ahle-Hadith ulema were the members. This organization’s main success was the establishment of the educational institution “Madrasah Nadwa tul Ulema,” Lucknow. The first meeting was held in Kanpur on Shawwal 15-17, 1310 (April 22-24, 1893), and all the members of Nadwa agreed to establish a Madrasah, but to finalize and agree on the curriculum and syllabus was the most difficult task, taking five more years to finalize. Darse Nizami had already become an old and gradually dried curriculum. After a long struggle, Nadwatul Ulema (the organization) developed a new curriculum. Tafseer and Hadith got the right status in the syllabus, and the education of logic and philosophy were given a lower priority. New books were prepared in modern style. Arabic was taught as a living language. English and some modern education were also incorporated into the system. Social sciences, especially history and geography, were ranked high in importance. Ulema accepted the amended syllabus and broke the “idol” of Nizami Syllabus (Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulvi Muhammad Ismail Meerathi criticized the Nizami Syllabus in very strong words) and opened the door of reform.
Maulana Shibli Nomani started a magazine Al-Nadwa to publicize the ideas of the Madrasah. The Madrasah got its final shape in 1908, and Maulana Shibli, who was teaching in Aligarh College, left Aligarh to join Nadwa as a chief. Maulana Shibli was gifted with diversified qualities. Under his leadership the Madrasah Nadwatul Ulema progressed tremendously. There were three stages of education: Ibtadaiya (pre), Aalmia (secondary), and Faazlia (higher).
Ustaad Taqi uddin Hilali wa Al Marakashi (Moroccan) developed a true taste for the Arabic language in students. Alumni of Nadwa got a reputation not only in India but also in the Arab world. Nadwa got an excellent position in this field and also in the field of writing research papers and books. Darul Mussanifin (the house of writers), an academic and research organization of the Muslim intellectuals of the time, was the by-product of Nadwa. This Madrasah produced many men of letters.
Unfortunately, Nadwa did not have the impact on society as Deoband and Aligarh had in their circles. This institution failed to reform the Muslim society from stagnation and is not known to have made any major achievements. It did, however, produce some individuals who contributed great services to Islam and Muslims.
Except Jamia Abbasia, Bhawalpur, no other institution followed the pattern of Nadwa.
Madrastul Islah, Sarai Meer
The founder of the famous Anjuman Islah ul Muslemin (foundation in 1903), Maulana Muhammad Shafie, led the foundation stone of Madrasahtul Islah in a barren field of Sarai Mir, a suburb of Azamgarh, U.P., India. Disheartened with the situation of Nadwatul Ulema, Maulana Shibli Nomani also joined this Madrasah in 1912. The initial sketch of aims and objectives of this Madrasah was also drawn by him. He found the environment of this Madrasah to be more suitable for him to serve the purpose.
Maulana Shibli Nomani, the most prominent Islamic scholar of his time, was disturbed because of the Munazra (religious debate) of Hindu Arya Samajis. Grukul Kangri (Adjacent Hariduar) was the religious and residential educational institution of Arya Samajis. Maulana Shibli Nomani in a letter to his cousin (maternal) Maulana Hameeduddin Farahi wrote, “I advise you to manage this institution in the pattern of Grukul Kangri.”
Maulana Shibli Nomani didn’t have much time to implement his ideas and died in 1914. His cousin Maulana Hameeduddin Farahi, disheartened with the situation in Jamia Osmania, Hyderabad, left the Jamia and started living in his home Azamgarh. He spent most of his time for Madrasahtul Islah till his death in 1930. Maulana Hammeduddin Farahi was a brilliant person. He, graduated from Aligarh, had a deep knowledge of Islam and modern education. He was an expert in various languages including Hebrew. He spent forty years in thinking over the meanings of the Qur’an. He is known as a founder of a new school of Tafseer (commentary and description of Qur’an). He proved that every Ayah (sentence) and every Surah (chapter) is connected with next Ayah and next Surah. It is in sequence, and they confirm and complement each other.
He declared that the Qur’an will be the main source of knowledge in understanding any knowledge. He designed a wonderful syllabus, approved the explanatory books, and discarded the difficult-to-understand and complicated books. He approved only two to four books on Sarf, Nahoo, and logic. As far as teaching methods, he started one field of knowledge in one year and with extensive practical workshops. Vocational training of technology and industry were included in the curriculum so that Ulema could work independently.
Independence, self-respect, commitment, and sincerity were the main characteristics of the Madrasah. The bad impact of the tradition of door-to-door collection of funds established by Aligarh and Deoband was already revealed, and Maulana Farahi was extremely against this type of fund collection and donations. Some people had given some property in Bombay and Rangoon, and a few people were donating by themselves regularly. Teachers and students were living and learning in huts and eating simple foods. However, the survival of any Madrasah without donation became difficult in newly established traditions, and ultimately this Madrasah had to start collecting donations.
The designer of the curriculum claimed, “Neither in India nor in any Islamic country was there ever implemented a better curriculum than this.” Maulana Ameen Ahsan Islahi, Maulana Akhtar Ahsan Islahi, Maulana Abul Lais Islahi, Maulana Sadruddin Islahi, etc were the products of the Madrasah and experts in the understanding of the Qur’an. The deep understanding and in depth knowledge of the Qur’an were specialties of the Madrasah.
Some of the Madrasahs were established in the pattern of Madrasahtul Islah: 1. Jamiatul Falah, Balaria Ganj, Azamgarh; 2. Dersgaah Islami, Mahmoodabad, Rampur; 3. Islamia College Shantapuram, Malapuram, Kerala, South India; 4. Darul Uloom Port Billiard, Island of Andaman, India.
After the independence and creation of Pakistan, the old Indian pattern of education (dominant Aligarh and Deoband) was implemented in Pakistan without realizing that they are now living in a completely new situation.
The present effort of General Musharraf and his team to change the system of Madrasah and all the schools to make them more compatible as required by his master in the West have an evil and nefarious design. No wise Muslim is going to accept such changes. Only Allah-loving educational experts can change the system to make it more relevant and to place the Muslim Ummah in a leading role.
Jawed Anwar can be reached at: jawed@http://www.dailymuslims.com/