New Delhi: The Yogi government of Uttar Pradesh is conducting a 12-point survey on unrecognized madrassas. According to UP Minority Affairs Minister Danish Azad Ansari, the government has taken this step to improve the condition of madrassas. According to the order, after completing the survey by October 15, the report should be made available to the government by October 25. With this exercise by the state government, the history and present of madrassas is being discussed again.
What is the Madrasah?
In the simplest language, the meaning of Madrasa is: the place of teaching and learning i.e. school. Like any other government/private educational institution, there is a madrasa. Just as schools differ, their prayers differ, so do madrassas.
Madrassas are generally known for teaching Islamic law and theology. But history says that training in arithmetic, accounting, gematria, etc. has also been given in madrassas. Many madrassas still teach subjects such as science, mathematics and English.
UNESCO has described madrasas on its website as a universal center of education and culture. The Medina Mosque, built in the 7th century, is considered the first educational institution in the Muslim world. This mosque was built by the Prophet Muhammad. Madrassas emerged as independent institutions separate from mosques in the 10th century. In some reports, the Prophet is credited with running the world’s first madrassa.
Madrasas started in India
UNESCO traces the beginning of the madrassa in India to the 13th century. For example, there is the Gwalior Madrasa, whose architectural structure is similar to that of some Buddhist viharas. Another report mentions the beginning of the madrassa in India in 1192 AD. During the Mughal period significant changes took place in the madrassas. Madrasahs were secularized during Akbar’s reign. Therefore, children from non-Muslim communities were also enrolled. It was Akbar who made Persian the official language of the Mughals.
Later the influence of Persian increased so much that even the Sikh king Maharaja Ranjit Singh made it his court language. Guru Nanak Dev learned Persian at an early age in a madrasa. Guru Gobind Singh has used Persian extensively in his writings. A report in The Hindu suggests that Shivaji spoke pure Persian. He also ordered the compilation of a dictionary of Persian and Sanskrit during his reign. The elite of Bengal in the 19th century was bilingual. He spoke Persian and Bengali.
There was a time when the elite of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs used to send their children to Madrasa for education. Social reformer Raja Ram Mohan Roy, India’s first President Rajendra Prasad, one of the architects of the Constitution of India, Satchidanand Sinha, history and novel Samrat Premchand, etc. they received their early education from madrassas.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy knew Persian and Arabic well. He also did editing and writing work in a Persian newspaper. Farsi was the official language until the introduction of English by the British East India Company in 1835. Premchand wrote many of his stories first in Urdu, which he later translated into Hindi. All this was the effect of madrassas running in India.
Secular traditions were followed in madrassas until the end of the 19th century. From the establishment of Darul Uloom Deoband in 1866, madrassas were gradually confined to Islamic education. However, it took a long time. Darul Uloom Deoband was founded by Mohammad Qasim Nautanvi. Nautanvi is said to be influenced by the 18th century Islamic scholar Shah Waliullah Dehlavi.
Sachar Committee and Madrasa
In 2005, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh formed a committee to examine the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community in India. The seven-member committee was headed by former Delhi High Court judge Rajendra Sachar. The report of the committee is popularly known as ‘Sachar Committee Report’.
This committee broke many myths related to madrassas. The report dispelled the notion that Muslims attend madrassas in large numbers, stating that only 3-4% of school-going Muslim children attend madrassas. The report had noted that Muslim parents are not against mainstream education or sending their children to cheap government schools.
Apart from this, the report also suggested a distinction between madrasa and maktab. Unlike a madrasa, a Maktab is a school attached to a mosque. In other words, it happens in your neighborhood. Maktabs are considered essential by Muslim families who see “normal” schools as providing inadequate knowledge of Urdu. Thus, maktabs are used to impart religious education to children studying in formal educational institutions. Knowledge of the Persian script is essential for reading the Qur’an. In the Maktab, young children are mainly taught to read Persian.
The Sachar Committee report on madrassas says:
Efforts should be made to find such avenues so that madrassas can link up with higher level education boards. With this, students studying in madrassas will be able to leave there and enter mainstream education. Steps should be taken to give ‘equal’ status to madrassa certificate degrees so that they can enter higher education institutions. Madrasa degrees should be recognized as qualifications for competitive examinations such as civil service, banking, security services and other similar examinations.