IntroductionIt is auniversally accepted truth that education is a means to achieve empowerment. Itis considered as a tool that enlightens the society and acts as a catalyst inthe process of social change. Due to these reasons, the modern state lay greatemphasis on the universalisation of education as it has become a necessity anda matter of governance. Education in contemporary times has become an importantmarker of human development and is included in the widely used humandevelopment index. Recent trend towardseducation for all has evolved gradually, as a result of the efforts of variousactivists against ancient and medieval practises when education was consideredto be a luxury, available only for the elites of the society. In India, it wasmeant 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 wasfirmly based on the distinction between the citizen and the serfs. EvenRousseau, the great protagonist of egalitarianism and freedom talked ofeducation as a privilege meant for the lucky few (Jhingran, 2010).
During the 18th century, thediscourse on education shifted from being a privilege for a lucky few to a rightof every human. Immanuel Kant, an eminent sociologist, proclaimed that allhumans are essentially rational and autonomous beings; there is no basis toeducate a few, leaving out all the others. These proclamations led to arejection of all social distinctions and led to the rise of 19th centuryliberalism rooted in the right to equality, freedom and happiness of everyindividual.
John Stuart Mill was another champion of liberalism and proposedfor the first time, the radical idea of universalisation of education. Thecurrent idea of universalisation of education then is based on Mill’sphilosophy. He understood that education is of utmost importance that couldlead to human perfection and also prepare law abiding citizens of the state(Mill, 1989).
Education:A functional pre-requisite Emile Durkheim, awell-known sociologist outlined the major functions of education and viewededucational institutions as an important actor for ensuring a sense ofbelongingness and argued that such institutions must lay greater stress on thesocial roles, duties and responsibilities of individuals within the schools(Filloux, 1993). He elaborated thateducation helps in transferring the norms and values of the society from onegeneration to another. Schools and other educational institutions play animportant role in instilling common values and norms within the minds of thechildren. The emphasis is on ‘common’ values as it results in homogeneity whichis an important ingredient towards achieving societal integration andsolidarity. The functionalpre-requite therefore focuses on ‘homogenising the culture and norm which mustbe transferred from one generation to another’. However, this functionalist aimseems difficult to get fulfilled in context of India which has a diversepopulation with different cultural orientation. The drafting committee of theconstitution was aware of this diversity because of which they included theprovision for different groups to preach and preserve their culture, which isoften associated with a group’s identity.
It is also to be understood thatfreedom for preserving culture is seen under a common umbrella of Indiannationalism, often termed as ‘unity in diversity’. In this regard madrasas haveplayed an important role of imparting education, preserving Muslim culture andinstilling in its students a sense of belongingness towards the Indian nation. Educationamong Muslims The very firstverse of Quran that was revealed on the Prophet (PBUH) explains the extent towhich Islam attaches importance to education.
It exhorts people to learn inorder to teach and spread knowledge. Much before the concept of’universalisation of education’ initiated by Mill in the 19th century, theProphet (PBUH) had started to propagate the importance of education for allduring his lifetime. The Prophet (PBUH) himself delivered speeches related tothe ‘importance of education’ to his companions with Quranic references alongwith its meaning that set the foundation for Islamic jurisprudence. There are varioushadiths (the tradition of prophet) as well that explains the importance ofeducation in Islam. It has been mentioned by Prophet (PBUH) that “acquiringknowledge is an obligation for every Muslim man as well as woman”(Sunnah Ibn Majah). So, education inIslam is a right of every individual irrespective of gender and encourages bothto go to any extent in order to gain knowledge. As a result, Muslim world duringthe 7th and 8th century not only had great male scholarsbut 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 ofIslam who had made outstanding scholarly contribution in the transmission ofprophet’s knowledge and practice to the Muslim world.
Her quest for knowledge, zealto address the issue of women’s status in the society and stance towardseducation for all makes her a prominent figure in the history of Islam. The incidences,reference and examples mentioned above indicates that seeking knowledge inIslam is important as it is considered as the command of the almighty andpeople must strive hard to achieve education. Learning and spreading knowledgeas per Islamic traditions is one of the most pious acts and a learned personachieves an exalted position in the society as well as before the Almighty. Madrasaand its evolution For educationalattainment, the Muslims established a teaching learning system that came to beknown as Madrasa. The term ‘Madrasa’ has etymologically originated from anArabic word ‘Al dars’ which means to ‘teach’ or to ‘learn’. The meaning is sameas that of the word ‘school’ in English. ‘Dars’ which means to tell somethingor to teach something, Mudarris means ‘the one who does’dars’ or teaches.
Therefore, madrasa means a place for teaching and learningand is visualized as an institution meant to fulfil the orders of the almightyand follow teachings of the prophet (sunnah) of a ‘lifelong education’.According to Encyclopaedia of Islam – Leiden E. J.
Brill “Madrasa is aninstitution of learning, where Islamic sciences including literary andphilosophical ones are taught” It has beenexplained by Qasmi that historically, the structural form of madrasa thatexists today was not present during the period of the prophet (PBUH). Earlier,a strong system of teachingand learning was present which was informal in nature. Initially, the thrust of madrasa was on disseminationof the knowledge revealed to the prophet (PBUH). The process continued later onand helped in preserving the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet (Qasmi, 2005).
In terms ofinfrastructure, it was Khalifah Motasim Billah, who built the first buildingfor the philosophers. This building was an epitome of modern educationalinstitution comprising of large rooms and sections for different sciences andarts and prominent teachers were appointed. However, the building was onlymeant for the philosophers and not for the Muhaddaitheen(Collectors of Hadees).
As per Maulana SayyedAbdul Hayee Nizam of Nadwat Ulama Lucknow, the first organized step for theestablishment 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 systematicway was made in the fourth century of Hijra, when several madrasas wereestablished in Nespur.
The first two institutions to achieve everlasting famewere madrasa Nizamiah and Madrasa Mustansariyyah in Baghdad”. However, thesemadrasas were not Islamic in nature. In India, originof Madrasa dates back to the pre – Muslim period. The foundation of the madrasaeducation was laid by Arab traders initially in the form of Maktabs in southIndia in Malabar region in later part of the 7th century as theystarted residing with their families in their newlyestablished colonies. The formal shape of madrasa however, came into existenceduring the Arab rule in Sind (8 – 10th centuries), when severalmadrasa had sprung up as centres for Islamic culture and civilisation.
Eventually,they became institutions specialising in the training of the ‘ulema’ (Scholarsof 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 Muslimrule. Education by wayof madrasa received a major fillip with the establishment of Delhi sultanate inthe beginning of the 13th century. During this period, a largenumber of madrasas were established in different parts of the country. Thetradition 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 theIslamic ethics and values along with a tone of scientific temperament. Theturning point in madrasa education came with the emergence of British Raj.During this period various madrasas were shut down and ‘modern’ schools wereestablished. The damage was caused to the madrasa education but muslim leaderscontinued their efforts to protect and preserve it.
Establishment of Madrasa – I – Aliya inCalcutta 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. Madrasaeducation: contemporary scenarioThe pattern withregard to growth and progress of madrasa education gives an impression that thecontemporary madrasas might have made substantial progress.However, the pictureis far different from the perceived notion. Instead of moving forward after itsrevival by various advocates of education, the current Muslim educationalsystem has not been fully revitalized.
Madrasa education is still rooted in thetraditional syllabus (Dars – e – Niami) which is 300 years old putting aquestion on its credibility of catering to the needs of the modern society.Advocates ofmodernising madrasa education emphasise on the need to bring about a change inits syllabus in order to keep pace with the changes in society along withpreserving its culture, values and norms. Pupils passing out from madrasa thancould contribute in the development process of the Indian society. Rather thandichotomising madrasa as per vision of teaching either the Deeni (religious) orthe Dunyawi (worldly) Taleem (education), a curriculum is needed that strikes abalance between both. This fact thatmadrasas must be modernised (blend of Dunyawi and Deeni taleem) is alsoaccepted by the Ulemas and is evident from an extensive survey conducted byAbdul Hamid Syed. Under this project, 576 madrasas were surveyed out of which538 were boys madrasas and 38 were of girls. The study revealed that out of 576madrasas, 553 i.e.
96.01% favoured the introduction of modern subjects in thenisab (curricula) expressing their desire to make the madrasa educationpurposeful and for a better future for its students. (Syed, 1988) It is also to beunderstood that in modern times, the Madrasa educational system is a valuablesource of providing free or in some cases subsidised education with theprovision of boarding and lodging facility to the Muslim population across thecountry. This form of education may not be the most sought out one for the Muslimelite but is still very popular amongst the poor as well as the middle classMuslims.
Hence, correcting the various flaws in its structure will certainlybenefit those who are at the periphery of the society. Madrasaeducation and Muslim girlsEducation forMuslim girls was at its zenith during the era of Muslim rulers in India. Therewere various prominent women who themselves were not great scholars butprovided assistance to scholars. Amongst them was a renowned lady of the Slavedynasty, Razia Sultana who flourished education for girls under her reign.
ChandBibi of Deccan was another learned woman and an expert in the art of governanceand war. Sati Khanam, wife of Hakeem Naseer Uddin Kashi, was fluent in oration.Aurangzeb’s daughter Zaibunnisa Begum learned calligraphy, creative writingsand wrote many books. Khadeeja, the daughter of Umar Bin Salahuddeen Punjabiwas one of the Indian Queens who explored her knowledge in the field of Quranicsciences (Malik, 2008). The name of thesewomen is evidence that education was available to women but the opportunity wasprovided only to girls belonging to royal and noble families. There were nomadrasas for the girls belonging to the commoners. During thecolonial era as well, the education of Muslim girls remained unnoticed completely.They were confined within the four walls of the homes.
It was during thisperiod that the calls for gender reforms and girls’ education came, especiallyfrom the male reformers. ZahirBilgrami in 1873 argued that the girls shouldalso read the same religious text as that by the boys. Abdul Rahim Khan’swritings in 1874, talks about the importance of girls’ education and elaborate thateducation will transform girls into women who can better manage the householdeconomy and relations with the in – laws after marriage (Aftab, 2007).
Rashid Jahan,another outspoken writer of the urdu writer’s progressive movement, criticisedthe middle class ideas of respectability which allowed oppression of women (Minualt, 1998). As a result,variousmadrasa were established for girls with a purpose of empowering them andimproving their status in the society. Some of the madrasa that got establishedpost-independence were:· 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 Despite effortsand reform movements since colonial era, the plight of Muslim women has notchanged much.
They remain one of the most impoverished groups in terms ofeducational attainment. The census report of 2001 (first report on religiousdata) 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 ofMuslim women has not changed drastically and there has been an improvement ofonly 1.8% in their literacy rate. The loweducational status of the Muslim girls is often attributed to its ignorance bythe Muslim intellectuals.
This can be one of the reasons why out ofapproximately 35,000 madrasas in India, only 8 -10% are open for girls (Winklemann, 2006) The genderdisparity within the madrasa educational system can further be substantiated bythe study of Usha Nayar. She mentions that there are approximately 3, 00,000madrasa, big and small, in India that holds a total of 10, 35,384 students, outof which 4, 75,559 are for girls (45.9%). She further explains that the shareof girl students is lowest at the higher secondary level with 29.3% only ascompared to primary (46.1%), middle (46.5%) and secondary (45.6%) levels.
The disparity has resulted in highdropout rate of adolescent girls at the higher secondary level. (Nayar, 2007) Studies show that the educational arenas areopen for Muslim girls till the point she is ready to take up the stereotypicalroles and fit into the patriarchal structure. Her education is not a mean toachieve enlightenment or empowerment but a mean to further strengthen thepatriarchal ethos. The process is then justified in the name of the religionand backed by the ‘divine command’. 7. Discussion and AnalysisGhafoor in hisbook ‘Muhammad the educator of mankind’ elaborates the contribution of Muslimwomen 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 evolveinto an empowered woman capable of participating in the development of thecommunity. They, maintained domestic affairs but also contributed heavilytowards the education of the masses. Um Sharik Dawsiyyiah was one of thesewomen whose residence was the rendezvous of the visitors coming to learn abouta new religion (Ghafoor, 1993). Such instances actas evidences that the position of the women in the society was prestigious andwere not performing mere stereotypical roles. However, the situation of thepresent day Muslim women is not that exalted one as that of their predecessors. At present, veryfew madrasa for the girls exist as mentioned in the previous section. Thereasons for such low levels are something that needs to be deciphered andaddressed.
Poor educational attainment could probably be responsible for thedecline in their position, as it has been evidenced from various national levelstatistics. Other reason attributed for the low educational attainment is theignorance of the Muslim intellectual towards the education of girls and women.Even if the education is provided, then it is either not acknowledged orprovided at partial levels that do not really augments the social position of awomen. Some of the structural reasons for a lag in girls’ education are listed asfollows: Discrimination:patriarchy, a macrostructuralproblem has become the main reason for ignoring Muslimgirls’right to education.Patriarchal attitude breeds gender bias as a result of which emphasis is givento the madrasas for boys’. Domestication of curriculum: Ignoring Muslimgirls’ in provision of education simply doesn’t mean unavailability of madrasasfor them but include a difference in objective for providing education to both.Accordingly different curriculums are framed for boys and girls madrasaswherein for the latter, emphasis is mostly on ‘Adab’ and performing householdactivities. This point is well explained by Sikand when he mentioned that “Evenin the madrasa for girls, the agency provided to them through its education iscircumscribed within the limits of the family” (Sikand, n.
d). Hence, the poorquality of education and training that the madrasa provide to girls do notreally help to move upwards in gender hierarchy but equips them simply to dealwith the household chores rather than helping them to operate in the modernoperative structures. Convenience based interpretation of Shari’ah: Patriarchal mindset have even played with Quran and Hadiths as their interpretation is donethrough a male’s perspective. The point has been argued by Jhingran (2010) inher book ‘Madrasa education in modern India: A study, where she argues that “Shari’ahcannot be put into the category of divine as these are merely misinterpretationof the divine word to suit the patriarchal structure in different socialcontext”. The misinterpretation, she argues, is acknowledged even by severallearned Ulema as being wrong and based on ignorant interpretation of Hadith andas per the convenience to suit the patriarchal social order. ConclusionFollowing theselines, it needs to be taken into consideration that poor number of madrasa forgirls, discrimination and ignorance in providing education and outdatedcurriculum being followed are the gaps that needs to be paid attention to link Muslimgirls with mainstream education. Probably, this could also help in reinterpretingthe true light and essence of Islamic traditions which accord equal treatmentof both the sexes and uphold gender based equality.
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