CABE Report on textbooks and schools outside the government system
MADARSAS: There are a large number of madarsas in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Particularly since 9/11, 2001, madarsas have found themselves the focus of hostile attention. They are accused of obscurantism, criticized for teaching mainly religious texts and of failing to equip Muslim children with credentials and skills necessary in today’s labour market. Apart from imparting religious knowledge a large
number of madarsas are teaching Arabic, Persian and Urdu.
There are three main division of madarsa education in the state of Bihar: (a) Bihar State Madarsa Board: Tahtania- Primary level, Wastania- Middle level, Foukania- Secondary level. (b) Imarat-i-Sharia Madarsa Education: Imarat-i- Sharia approved by the Bihar Rajaya Madarsa Board, Imarat-i- Sharia (not recognized). (c) Regional Madarsa Education: Madarsas run by volunteer organizations and regional leather business guilds.
Bihar State Madarsa Education Board recognizes both the government and private publications. Socio-religious organizations and private organizations also publish textbooks on their own initiative. Even after the establishment of Bihar State Madarsa Education Board textbooks have not been printed for many years. Only private publishers publish some guess papers and additional materials for the purpose of getting through the exams.
The report from Bihar gives a brief history of madarsas in India, from their establishment in mosques set up in the eighth century. It refers to the egalitarian principles of the Sufis, similar to those from which our Constitution takes inspiration, according to which people from different cultural contexts and of different religions would sit and dine together.
Coming to the contemporary context, after alluding to the fact that free and compulsory primary education was the price we paid for investment in higher education in the years after Independence, it argues that the free education provided by madarsas gives them a significant role in India today. Madarsas have structures in place for the transmission of knowledge, and they have institutional credibility in the community. Teaching is carried out with commitment. Although the vision behind this commitment is religious, it should not preclude the possibility of madarsas rising to the challenge of meeting the new
expectations of them from society. All that is necessary is that this vision be renewed, which would provide them fresh impetus to carry on their work.
For example, Delhi has around 40 madarsas.126 Some of these madarsas follow the NCERT syllabus (Urdu medium), while others teach only manqulat (religious education). But the madarsas following the NCERT syllabus are handicapped by having to deal with poor translations of English textbooks.127 Those teaching religious education follow a curriculum dating back to the eighteenth century. It includes the Quran, Fiqh
(Jurisprudence), Sarf and Naheu (Arabic Literature and Grammar) and Tarikh (history from the Prophet to Khilafat-I-Rashida, 610-661 CE). The Delhi and Uttar Pradesh reports note that madarsas are using NCERT texts but most of them are still using medieval texts, which make no contribution to the education of children, in fact these can only help in the self-perpetuation of madarsas as they can only produce for madarsa teachers. As the qualifications provided by these madarsas are not recognized elsewhere,
they prepare students only to become teachers themselves in these schools or to become Imams, Moazzins, Imams, Khatibs, Qazis and Muftis.
Like Vidya Bharati, the Darul Ulum Devband and Nadvatul Ulema produce their own textbooks. Deeni Taleemi Council publishes for certain subjects (mainly religious education) but follows the recommendations of the State Board regarding others. The Council of Anglo-Indian Schools provides a curriculum and leaves the choice of books to school principals in consultation with teachers.
For Uttar Pradesh, the following Madarsa books were examined: Kissalauumbia for children, Islam Ki Taleem, Khilafat-e-Raashida, Misaali Hukmaran, Ashraful Noori, Husn-e- Muasharat and Uski Takmeel Me Khwateen Kaa Hissa, Ummat-e-Musallima Ki Maen, Akhlaaqi Kahaaniya, Urdu language books (from Class I to V), Hindi language books (from Class I to IV), Aaina-e-Taarikh.
The books do not say anything negative against any other religion and do not slander non-Islamic religions or people. But the books related to Islam glorify everything Islamic to a point of sharpening the religious identity of students. Blind faith, rather than critical and scientific thinking, dominates these books. The most troubling aspect is that children are deprived of alternative viewpoints. In some books, while talking of ideal persons, mostly Muslim characters are included and there are very references to non-Muslims. Thus, the discourse in these books is heavily Muslim-centric and worse still it becomes
But in some books (like Hindi language books and Urdu language books) large number of non-Muslim personalities are presented in an affirmative manner making these books impartial and open-minded.130 Some of the books emphasize the positive values of communal harmony, objectivity, simplicity, honesty, and mercy for animals, equality, sacrifice and integrity. The Hindi language books, for example, focus on the importance of patriotism.
On gender issues the books are totally uncritical and status-quoist. While the domestic roles of women are highlighted their social roles are by and large given no space in these texts. Men's domestic responsibilities are almost absent. Promoting such retrograde impulses do not bode well for efforts to enhance consciousness of gender equality. The books Husn-e-Muashrat and Ummat-e-Musallima Ki Mae are only for girl’s madarsas. The madrassas do not feel the need to tell girls about other good women or about good
men or fathers or to tell boys about good women. These books mention only Muslim women, which narrows the students' ethos and horizon, and would undoubtedly hinder a sense of being part of the mainstream.
These books are confessedly written from an Islamic viewpoint and not from a scientific viewpoint. Even historical events are treated as God-created thus making an understanding of history totally theistic and irrational. Some of these positions are shared with the RSS viewpoint. For example the reference to pre-Aryan cultures as extremely degenerate and describing the Aryans as great and gentle. Thus Aryans are praised in highest terms.
On Buddhism also there is some similarity between Jamaat's and Vidya Bharti's (RSS) perspectives. Both are uncomfortable with the Buddhist principle of non-violence and regard it as an impediment in putting curbs on wrongdoers. On the whole the books are replete with religious and theistic prejudices and superstitions.
Occasionally Hindu kings are maligned and Muslim kings are praised. The Bhakti period is presented within a very narrow and communal framework. The report noted that the communal bias of these books is obvious, but the tone is not aggressive and number of such references is small compared to the Saraswati Shishu Mandirs books.
But the Islamic viewpoint is so dominant that even the coercion on Muslims to follow Islamic rituals is mentioned with praise. But the coercion of non-Muslims is not praised. Overall the framework of these books is communal and extremely narrow and this can be seen in the criticism of Akbar's Deen-e-Ilahi.
Certainly, madarsas provide very limited education, and they are not an alternative to formal schooling. However, recent studies have pointed out that the choice of madarsas is a matter of inadequate alternative educational provision and it is a feasible recourse for those whose lack of resources leaves them little room for manoeuvre.132 In rural areas and poor urban areas, madarsas are much more significant in Muslim formal education. They are meeting the unmet demand for schooling in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Nevertheless, madarsa education does have problematic implications. The special curriculum for girls exemplifies the problems of madarsa education. For example, madarsa students in Bijnor town in Uttar Pradesh are initially taught to read Urdu primers and simple extracts from the Quran.133 The most commonly used Urdu textbooks include Dini Talim (Religious Education), Talim-ul- Islam (Islamic Education), Fazail-e a mal (Virtuous Actions). Larkiyon ka Islami Course books “contain 20-25 on topics ranging
from recipes to dowry, and from embroidery to poems, questions and riddles with a theological bent.”134 Most of them detail religious practices or stories criticizing harmful un-Islamic practices or deal with a woman’s domestic competence. It’s often in the form of advice literature for women and girls: Muslim women are to follow adab (etiquette) and akhlaq (moral virtues).
Contrary to stereotypes, one recent study found that of the 576 madarsas 553 i.e. 96.01 percent favour introduction of modern subjects to make the madarsa education more purposeful in ensuring a better future for the students.135 The ability of madarsas to modernize by introducing subjects such as science, Hindi and English is constrained by finances. Arabic, Persian and Urdu and Islamic subjects occupy prominent positions in most madarsa curricula.
Several kinds of state intervention have been proposed: to regulate and inspect madarsas, to oversee their curricula and insist that they are registered with the government. Establishing Madarsa Boards is one form of regulation that some states have followed. This has also helped the process of modernization of curriculum. While modernization and regulation of madarsa curriculum is needed, it is ultimately a defensive strategy that poses no challenge to the structures that perpetuate Muslims’ educational backwardness. The danger of educating significant numbers of Muslim children separately from those of
other communities provides few opportunities for interaction and dialogue and minimizes social contact between them and others. It creates the space for the escalation of prejudices and stereotypes and the reinforcement of particularistic and distinctive identities on both sides of the Hind-Muslim divide.
Full report: http://education.nic.in/cabe/textbooks.pdf
Curriculum in the average Madrassa
The general curriculum followed in a madrasa is based on theology known as Dars-e-Nizami running for
about 15-17 years. In India, there are about fifteen pivotal seats of learning with the supreme one being
Darul Uloom Deoband. The present curriculum includes fiqueh (jurisprudence), mantiq (logic), falsafa
(philosophy of religion), hi’yyat (trigonometry and geometry), balaghat (linguistics), aqueedah (faith), faraiz (duties), tafseer (interpretation of Quran), Hadees (Prophet Mohammed’s dictates) and Hikmat-e-Shariah (personal laws).
The scope for a student who has passed out from a madrasa is quite limited as he is oblivious to the
world around him. He can either become an imam, a katib (calligrapher), a muazzin (one who recites azaan
from the mosque), a wai’iz (sermonizer), a khateeb (preacher) or an aalim (theologian).. Over the past 300
years, the Dars-e-Nizami has become anachronistic since there are no alterations to accommodate the
changing needs of time. 12
There are schemes and funds allocated by the union government for modernisation of madrassa curricullum
Note: (I) Madrassa curriculum needs to be rationally examined
(2) National stock and monitoring needs to be taken of the scheme announced by the government every
year to modernise madrassa education and it’s effective implementation. These need to be publicised.
The content of the syllabus of the Deoband madrasa represented a firm commitment of the founders of
the school to the classical Hanafi tradition. The Dars-i-Nizami of the early eighteenth century Mulla
Nizamuddin continued almost intact, except for the excision of certain “rational sciences” (maqulat) such as Greek philosophy, which were deemed to undermine faith in the divine nature of the Quranic revelation.
In addition, more books of Hadith (narrations about the sayings and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad) and
fiqh were introduced. The overwhelming focus of the curriculum was on Islamic jurisprudence, so much so
that, in the minds of the Deobandis, Islam was seen almost as synonymous with the shariah, while the rich
tradition of classical Islamic theology (kalam) was almost completely ignored. Unlike the Muslim modernists
of their time, as represented by Sir Sayyed Ahmad Khan and the Aligarh school, the Deobandis saw no
room for ijtihad or interpreting the demands of the shariah in the context of modern conditions. The “gates
of ijtihad” (bab-ul ijtihad), were, they insisted, “firmly closed”.13
Following 9/11, several nationwide seminars on Madrassa education were held where papers were
presented in the context of the efforts to malign madrassa education. The acute need to modernise the
curriculum as well as the need for institutions like the Aligarh Muslim University, the Jamia Millia Islamia and the Jamia Hamdard to make special efforts to spread education among the Muslims as well as to assist madrasas to modernise their syllabi and methods of teaching was made strongly by former AMU Vice
Chancellor Dr Saiyed Hamid.
The Firanghi Mahal madrasa, established in the late 17th century in Lucknow, played a leading role in the
development of madrasa education in India.
The syllabus prepared by the founder of the madrasa, Mulla Nizamuddin Sihalwi, and named as the darsi-
nizami after him, is still used in the vast majority of Indian madrasas. In his paper, Dr. Mohammad Tazeem
of the Jamia Millia Islamia traced the history of this madrasa, noting the great stress that the syllabus that it taught placed on the ‘rational sciences.’ This syllabus was essentially geared to the training of qazis and muftis and other administrative officers in the Mughal court.
However, since the times have changed and the traditional ‘rational sciences’ included in the dars-i-nizami
are now of little relevance, Dr. Tazeem suggested the need to replace them with their modern equivalents
while placing greater stress on the understanding and teaching of the Qur’an and the Hadith. He criticised the tendency in many madrasas of teaching commentaries upon commentaries of old books, and suggested the
need for developing a new understanding of Islamic jurisprudence in accordance with the times. 14
Even where the madrasa authorities are open to change, issues of implementation remain. Maulana
Muazzam Ali Khan, principal of Madrasa Darul Uloom Rehmania in Sangam Vihar, Delhi, says no one
came to him with the madrasa modernising scheme. “The 1994 scheme for modernising madrasas failed
because the officials never consulted the madrasas — the people concerned — for ground realities and basic
requirements”, he says.
Funding of Madrassas
In India, the number of madrasas is now estimated at some thirty to forty thousand, with a similar figure
for Pakistan and probably a slightly smaller number in Bangladesh. Most madrasas share a common system
of administration. At the apex is the sadr mudarris (the head teacher), who is assisted by a team of fellow
ulama. The teachers are themselves products of madrasas, few having had any access to modern education.
Funds for the running of the madrasas generally come from public donations, from earnings from properties
controlled by the madrasas, from endowments (awqaf), from sale of skins of animals sacrificed on the day
of Bakr Id, and, in some cases, from organisations based in Arab countries. In Pakistan and Bangladesh,
several madrasas also get funds from the government.34
Government Schemes and Failure to Monitor Fund Disbursal
The Central government allocated Rs 9,568.68 crore in the ninth five year Plan (1997-2002) for the
‘empowerment’ of the 145.31 million Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zorastrians. The ministries
of human resources development and social justice and empowerment also administer a number of welfare
schemes for them. The Maulana Azad Foundation, with a corpus of Rs 30.01 crore, exists for promoting
education, so does the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC) for providing
concessional finance for setting up self-employment ventures.
Note: Reports of how these monies are disbursed and used need to be publicised. Does the State encourage
liberal and modern elements within the religious community that further secular, Constitutional values?
If you are prepared to introduce sciences and mathematics in your curriculum, apply for government
funds for modernising your ‘maktab’ and ‘madarsa’. If you live in one of the 41 minority-concentrated
districts, take advantage of the community polytechnics and the industrial training institutes. If you require pre-examination coaching, look out for the 380 NGOs that would train you to compete for various jobs.
The news is that 27,770 candidates are said to have already benefited from this scheme. The NMDFC,
for example, claims to have disbursed credit worth Rs 114.70 lakh, but nobody knows whether the
funding has been extended fairly and judiciously. It would appear that government agencies are keen to
dole out monies and not monitor the impact of various development measures on the minorities and
suggest remedial measures.
Full report: http://www.sabrang.com/khoj/CABEReport.pdf