Jihad and the Role of Madrassas
Atif Suhail Siddiqui
Media plays crucial role either for bottlenecking or widening the rifts between the civilizations. Any biased or maneuvered attempt of media against a particular system or group of persons or organization causes serious damages and mutilation of the facts leads towards a mayhem.
Unfortunately, Islamic institutions associated with Islam or any organization apart from its nature are acrimoniously attacked by the Western media mostly after the 9/11 horrific terrorist attacks in the United States. The Islamic seminaries or ‘Madrasas’ in Indian subcontinent have come under strident criticism by the engineered reporting of the print as well as electronic media. I have been surprised on a report done by Miranda Kennedy on April 4, 2004 at the website of Boston Globe under the title of ‘Rumors of Jihad’. Unlike other bias reporting, she tried a healthy debate on the roles of the Islamic seminaries with some misconceptions either willingly or because of scant understanding of the subject.
There is no doubt, the US foreign and defense policies are being hijacked by the strong Jewish lobbyists who are dreaming for a ‘greater Israel’. For achieving the desired goals of the Zionists, the US military might is being exploited in their interests. This is a conspicuous fact that the hindrance between Israeli dreams and bringing them in reality, the biggest challenge comes from the Islamic world and their strongest ideological powers. The seminaries, which had been founded in a series after the failure of revolution in 1857 against the British occupiers, had the aim to retain the Muslim identity based on religion, belief, and strong ideology of the supremacy of God within the belief of absolute monotheism. The seminaries in the entire movement of independence in Indian subcontinent continued to play a crucial role for uprising the Muslim morale, thus, they were the epicenters of the Muslim revolt against the British Imperialist regime. Therefore, in the inaugurating period of the freedom struggle, the leadership of Indian freedom fighters was in the hand of Islamic clergies (ulama). These seminaries proved an axis of political as well as religious guidance for the Muslims.
Despite explicitly emerging challenges on material and economic fronts from non Islamic countries the Western powers are deliberately ignoring them. The West is continuously targeting materialistically and militarily dead Islamic world. Though ahead are several challenges on the fronts of economy, military and diplomacy from the non-Islamic world; but the West believes that the ideological as well as spiritual powers of the Islamic world are much powerful than any challenge from the non-Islamic world. They know that the spiritually and ideologically dead Indian, Chinese and other non-Islamic communities despite their strong material and military infrastructure may be tackled with easy tasks on any of the fronts; but the ideologically and spiritually enthusiastic and ambitious Muslim community cannot be brought down on the knees unless they lose their link with their sprit and ideology. These ideological and spiritual powers rest in the faith of Islamic religion and the seminaries are the best preservers and promoters of these ideologies and spirit. Therefore, as one of the conspiracies to cut off the Muslim masses from their spiritual resources the seminaries have been attacked with the slogan of reforms and a harboring place of terrorists. A state of suspicion is trying to be created even amongst the huge general masses of Muslims against the ‘Madrasas’. The Western media is trying to prove their uselessness in the 21st century without the inclusion of the so-called modern scientific knowledge. According to Western media, these seminaries are not giving anything creative to the Muslim communities. These seminaries are cutting off the students from the main stream because of their very old educational system, which is outdated and incapable for handling the sophisticated and modern world. The students after educating from these madrasas feel themselves isolated from rest of the world because of the lack of the appropriate modern knowledge; they finally choose the path of fundamentalism and extremism because of their frustration and become a warrior for ending their lives ‘in the path of God’.
Of course the above mentioned allegations against the madrasas are absolutely absurd and one sided without the appropriate and fair analysis. The madrasa system which was ‘systematically’ introduced in the last 19th century had the intentions of preserving and defending the Islamic faith and each religious community has the right to do so. Secondly, even in the modern educational system the frustration lies amongst the students after getting graduated. The numbers of the suicide attempts are in ample numbers only amongst the graduates of the modern educational system, conversely none of the suicide example could be presented amongst the ‘frustrated’ madrasa students. Speaking with Times of India in Oct 2001 on the issue of employment the deputy Rector of Darul Uloom Deoband Moulana Abdul Khaliq Madrasi said, “Like the modern University graduates the Madrasa graduates at least do not become a burden on the government for providing them employment in government enterprises where the severe scarcities and uncertainties prevail. Thus we make capable and self responsible graduates who adjust successfully in the mainstream society, who make later an ideal community.” Certainly, in these poor countries the madrasas are the basic sources of lifting the ratio or percentage of the literacy rate where they serve free those who even are incapable to sustain themselves and their families twice in a day. Finally, after graduating in madrasas the importance of education clearly reflects in their lives and we see them striving hard for a good future of their progenies.
Secondly, about the issue of so-called modernization of Madrasas, it is quite embarrassing to target them. The system of Madrasa education since their emergence was drafted for the Islamic religious sciences for preserving the Islamic identity of Muslims. Several modern institutions like Jamia Millia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University etc. are the subject for fulfilling the needs of modern education to the Muslim community. The same rhetoric may be raised against such modern institutes, why do they not include pure Islamic religious sciences in their modern educational curriculum? Of course, we systematically have the rational answer; the two are the basic needs of Muslims. For elevating Muslim social status in the field of science and technology, we need modern institutes with their ultra-modern infrastructure. As well as to protect the faith and religious identity, we need pure Islamic religious sciences taught in the pure fundamental environment. This fact is patent that the Muslim community in Indian subcontinent emerged as one of the most successful Muslim communities amongst the entire Islamic world because of the madrasa movement in the last 19th century a separate Muslim identity is established. This sense never could be established without the strong ideological as well as spiritual bases. Further the worst experience of Balkans and Central Asian Islamic world, we had witnessed, what had happened to them? Because of the alienation with their spiritual and ideological bases the Muslim community either was eliminated or was being deprived of religious rights, a dark age in the lands of Bukhari, Ghazali, Tirmizi, Minghinani etc. (the statesmen of Islamic jurisprudence) prevailed until the fall of USSR. The right reason behind this decline of strong Islamic civilization was the decline of pure Islamic religious sciences from the then educational curriculum of those Muslim societies.
From the perspective of the Western media rhetoric, I would like to conclude; the need is not for the reformation or reviving madrasa system except some infrastructural developments. Despite declaring them inferior or outdated, a parallel approach of understanding is immense need for the sake of our successful attachment with the religion and our spiritual sources. The only need is to propagate and implement the concept of Islamization of the modern institutes prescribed by several Islamic-com-modern scholars. It will help Islamize the modern rational scientific education amongst Muslims.
(Atif Suhail Siddiqui, based in International Islamic University of Malasia, can be accessed at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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