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Archive for the ‘Madrasa Graduates’ Category

Another Argument: The curious case of the Indian Secularism

Posted by arshadamanullah on April 16, 2011

“The argument here is not that concern for them is misplaced. The argument is that by focussing on the Muslim ‘Other’ alone, what these secular Indians do is reaffirm the central place of the Hindu in the national imagination. The problem with Indian secularism is not the Muslim, it is the central place of the Hindu in the national imagination. This problem can be rectified only when we start realising that India is more than Hindu and Muslim, but includes tons of other minorities as well, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Adivasis, Dalits to name just a few. Displace this binary relationship, recognise the pluralism of the Indian reality, and we would have progressed multiple steps towards combating the problems confronting Indian secularism.

The question that remains unanswered in all of this however is why does the ‘secular’ establishment in India fail to grasp this seemingly obvious fact? Why does it persist in this obsessive focus on the Muslim and reaffirm the central place of the Hindu? The answer is once more hinted at by Subrahmaniam (in her piece in The Hindu on 3 March 2011 )in her observation that ‘The Congress and the secular media wanted the Gujarati Muslim forever to fight Mr. Modi but neither was there to protect him.’ In her formulation of the problem, Subrahmaniam falls into the regular trap of identifying the Congress as secular, and the BJP as communal.” Read more


Posted in Caste, Deoband, Governmentality, Madrasa Graduates, Mindsets, Representation | 1 Comment »

Generation Islam : A CNN Documentary on the Madrasas

Posted by arshadamanullah on August 12, 2009

A Documentary on the Madrasa Education System

A Documentary on the Madrasa Education System

CNN is suppose to air this Thursday (13 August 2008) a documentary  titled “Generation Islam” by Chritiane Amanpour, where she will take the consumers on a trip from Ghaza to Afghanistan and show them what these young muslim children , boys and girls are being taught in the madrasas. Some clips of the documentary are available  on the official website of CNN. For the clips, follow the link:

Posted in Encounter, Inside a Madrasa, Lived Islam, Madrasa Graduates, Madrasas In Media, Mindsets, Representation | Leave a Comment »

Madrasas in South Asia: Teaching Terror?

Posted by arshadamanullah on April 27, 2009

Title: Madrasas in South Asia: Teaching Terror?

Edited by: Jamal Malik

Publisher: Routledge, New York.

Year: 2008

Pages: 190

Review : Arshad Amanullah

Erfurt (Germany) played host to an international workshop on “Islamic Learning in South Asia” from 19 to 21 May 2005. The under-review volume is an anthology of the revised papers presented on the occasion.

The volume departs from the popular literature on the South Asian madrasas in the sense that it does not allow the securitization point of view to overshadow other vantage-points and concerns with reference to the madrasa-scape of the region. The institution of madrasa has been the ‘master institution of the Muslim society’ (to borrow a term from Clifford Geertz), however, it will be erroneous to assume it the sole channel of the Islamic learning in any Muslim settlement. Informed with this comprehensive understanding of the socialization of a Muslim individual, Jamal Malik, in his illuminating introduction to the volume, situates the madrasas on the timeline of the intellectual history of the Muslim community. Though the division of knowledge into transmitted (naqliyya) and rational (aqliyya) has its precedence in Ibn-e Khaldun’s (1332-1406) “science of the classification of the sciences”, Malik is not sure when and how terms like dini madrasa and ulama-e-din surfaced. Hence, it would be interesting to explore their ‘genealogy and career’ [p 7 and 21].

The introduction further elucidates the trajectory of the politics of the madrasas vis-a- vis the colonial and post-colonial states. The civilizing mission of the colonial state to transform a European Enlightenment tradition into a “global ethic” met stiff resistance on the part of the madrasas in South Asia. This effort to arrest the homogenizing character of the colonialism was instrumental in determining the social location of the madrasas as an antithesis to the ‘domestication’ of Islam through modern education system. Despite the territorial decolonization, this nature of the madrasas continued to be the same till date, as has been discussed by many contributors.

The volume which is comprised of eight papers excluding the introduction and conclusion penned by Malik, exemplifies the employment of two different approaches, namely objective and intersubjective, to study the contemporary realities of the madrasa space. The former’s primary concern lies in the political economy of the madrasas while the latter approach stresses the role of ideas in this respect.

The non-economic aspects of the madrasa economics have a political dimension as well. It will be manifest if one ponders on the relation among the tax, the citizen and the state on the one hand and the religious donation, the believer and the madrasa on the other. While fear and coercion lies at the core of the first, social recognition, belief in an unseen world and compassion for the co-humans categorize the other. With the latter quotient, the political of the madrasa economics turns to be a complex of ethico-political considerations of a non-elite tax-paying citizen of a post-colonial state. A comparison between his/her feelings while paying the tax and those while donating to a madrasa, communicates something. Can it be explained in terms of his/her frustration at the failure of the state to act as the sole arbiter of fate? Does the frustration carry similarity/contradiction to the same when he/she comes to know about the corrupt usage of the donated resources by the madrasa authorities? Papers of Tariq Rahman and Saleem H. Ali seek to engage some of these issues.

Both the contributors correlate the increasing influence of the madrasas to the infrastructural underdevelopment which symbolizes the failure of the post-colonial state in meeting the expectations of the citizens of Pakistan. Though the public angst finds articulation in the idiom of sectarian violence, it should also be seen as the Sunnite proletariat’s crusade against the Shiite bourgeoisie. However, the class-character of such violence does not exclude the role of the larger politics of the madrasas in instigating sectarian outbreaks [p 73 and 93]. It should be borne in the mind that the cooption of the madrasas by the global and local players has resulted in catapulting the ulama in active politics of the country.

Difficulty in providing correct figures of madrasa demography has many reasons. In this regard, Christopher Candland aptly remarks that “establishment-based surveys are more trustworthy than statistical adjustment of household surveys” [p 103]. It is in this context that the discussion regarding the possibilities of numerical errors in the report of International Crisis Group (ICG) on the madrasas of Pakistan assumes importance. It suggests that the attention the scholars pay to the data-collection methods about the madrasas, is on increase.

With regard to the application of the intersubjective approach, contributions of Nita Kumar and Arshad Alam stand out as they are marked with thick description of the space and subject they studied. Through ethnography of three madrasa-going children from the Ansari/julaha community of Madanpura, Varanasi, Kumar demonstrates the actual share of the madrasa within their ‘total learning experience’. She regards the madrasas as a microcosm of the larger problem of schooling in India. Any strategy which aims at overcoming the problem has to ‘fore-front’ the interests of the child, not those of the state/society, defined in terms of pro/against an imagined modernity. According to Kumar, Umahatullah Ulum is the name of the madrasa Sabina, one of her case-studies, attends. Writing elsewhere on “History at the Madrasas”[i], she mentions a madrasa with identical name: Umahatul Uloom. Are they two different madrasas or the same madrasa which she has given two different names in two of her papers? To the best of my knowledge, the correct name of the madrasa is Ummahatul Mominin.

Alam’s paper on Jamia Ashrafiyya, Mubarakpur, the biggest Barelwi madrasa in India, successfully navigates the madrasa space and allows the reader to observe there the interplay of dars-e-nizami, pedagogy, non-dars (also known as kharji kitaben–books which are not part of the curriculum– in the madrasa lingo), and the performance of the knowledge by talaba in making of a Barelwi identity. He finds out that the debate inside the madrasa is ‘an internal one’ which is more concerned with teaching the difference between the ‘true’ and ‘false’ Islam, rather than ‘othering’ of non-Muslims. Related to the Barelwi denomination is Usha Sanyal’s contribution which makes a study of the historical evolution of Madrasa Manzar-e Islam, Bareilly (established by Ahmad Raza Khan, the founder/reformer of the Barelwi tradition in 1904)and Jamia Ashrafiyya, Mubarakpur.

Sanyal’s exploration of the career-trajectory of Yasin Akhtar Misbahi, one of the Ashrafiyya graduates, is marked by a sort of linearity. Had she compared his biographical details to those of other graduates of the same madrasa who rose to fame, it would have been added more to the scholarship on the subject. For example, Obaidullah Khan Azmi was nominated to Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament of India, thanks to Arshadul Qadri who encouraged Azmi to join active politics. As a fiery and eloquent public speaker, he made his presence felt during the agitation against the Shah Bano Case. It would be interesting to explore how his location as an Ashraffiyya graduate and a Member of the Parliament has negotiated to shape Azmi’s political behavior and career. Sanyal’s uncritical reproduction of Misbahi’s claim that the ‘jagir’ system was unique to Mubarakpur, is problematic (p 34). The reality is that irrespective of denomination, it was prevalent in almost every locality which had a residential madrasa.

The saga of resistance against the homogenizing nature of colonialism, post-colonial state, language and religion in the context of Bangladesh constitutes the core of Zakir Hossain Raju’s paper. Unlike other contributors to the volume, he explores cinematic texts, including Tareque Masud’s The Clay Bird (Matir Moina, 2002) to analyze how, according to Bangladeshi art cinema films, Islamic learning contributes to the process of the identity formation of a Bangladeshi Muslim. Interestingly enough, Masud finds the madrasa as a special place where “…you unlearn all the notions of homogeneity and prejudice that life otherwise teaches you…” [p 138].

Irfan Ahmad’s paper on the educational ideology of Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi (1903-79) argues against the dominant mode of understanding of Islamism that the latter is a revolt against modernity. Though he brilliantly situates Maududi’s philosophy on education within the ideational framework of the fermentation brought about by colonialism, it is not clear why the latter was in favor of an Islamic state ruled by ulama [p145]. It runs contrary to the Maududi’s image as a bitter critic of the traditional ulama. Moreover, absence of any reference to Jameatul Falah, Bileria Ganj, UP, from Ahmad’ narrative is conspicuous. The madrasa is the prime institution established by the Jama’at-e Islami, India to translate Maududi’s educational philosophy into reality.

In short, providing balanced accounts about the madrasas of South Asia, the volume strongly contests the popular understanding of the madrasa politics. Moreover, its role in stimulating further interest in the encounter of global and local forces at the madrasa space and thus expanding the horizon of the scholarship on the subject, is commendable.

(The review-article has been published in Third Frame, Vol. 2, No. 1, Jan-March, 2009, pp 162-165. Third Frame: Literature, Culture and Society is a quarterly journal devoted to concerns in literature, culture and society. This issue of the journal is a thematic issue devoted to Islam as observed in a local or particular context.)

[i] Kumar, Nita (2003), History at the Madrasas, in Seminar ( on Rewriting History), February 2003 ( visited on 14 January 2009)

Posted in Book Reviews, Inside a Madrasa, Lived Islam, Madrasa Graduates, Madrasa History, Mindsets, My Writings | Leave a Comment »

A Reading into the Theological Construction of Caste Practices in South Asian Islam

Posted by arshadamanullah on December 2, 2008

Book: Hindustan Me Zaat Paat Aur Musalmaan (Caste System In India And The Muslims)
Author: Masud Alam Falahi
Year: 2007

Pages: 640

Publisher: Al Qazi, New Delhi.

Review: Arshad Amanullah

“Bhai saheb! My village is completely Pakistan which is surrounded by India”. “What do you mean by India and Pakistan?”, I asked. Only Sheikhs and Syeds live in the village and on the periphery, there are settlements of  Kunjras (Green-grocers), Qasais (Butchers), Jolhas (Weavers), Dhuniyas (Cotton-carders), Nais (Barbers),etc”, he replied.
(An excerpt from the book, p: 453).

The discourse (secular/ religious/ both) on the South Asian Muslims has been so ashraf-driven that either it hardly engages, in a pragmatic fashion, the issues of social equality as a tool to put an end to economic and cultural exclusions, or whenever it tries to address them(the issues of social equality), it does so with great rhetoric. Mohammad Iqbal’s verse “Ek Hi Saf Me KharHe Ho Gaye Mahmud-o-Ayaz / Na Koi Banda Raha Na Koi Banda Nawaz” very aptly exemplifies the extent of simplicity and rhetoric the ulama and the Islamists have reduced such a complicated question to. Another limitation which categorizes their narratives on the theme is that they do it to woo the ummat-i-da’wah to embrace Islam, not to radicalize the behavioural aspect of the concept of equality among the believers. Being a narrative of an Islamist alim, though the book under-review also carries some of these limitations and biases, it offers fresh information on the theme and throws a host of questions to ruminate on.

In the light of the insights obtained from years of ethnography on the caste demography of the Indian Muslims, the present volume problematizes the social equality project of textual Islam, especially when the latter negotiates with the strong local societal institutions. That process of theology manufacturing is marked by a constant reproduction of the local societal institutions and hence their perpetuations, is another motif of the book. What enhances its complexity is the academic and ideological location of the author and his approach to the politics of jurisprudence production. To put the book in perspective, one needs to explain briefly the dominant discourse about discrimination and forms of social exclusion among Indian Muslims, before delving into the genealogy of the volume and the saga of its several rejections from the publishers.

Apart from social intercourse, the caste-based discriminatory praxis among Muslims find expressions in at least five forms: khilafat, imamat, kufu/kafa’at, employment and education. Majority of the ulama consider khilafat a prerogative of the descendents of the Prophet while it is only ashrafs who jurisprudentially qualify for the imamat (to lead the prayer in the mosque). Further, the ulama deem the observance of ‘Kufu” mandatory for the islamicality of a marital alliance. Literally meaning eligible/suitable/equal, the kufu in its hermeneutical sense, stands for the following: four castes of the ashrafs (Syeds, Sheikhs, Mughals and Pathans) are generally considered suitable marriage partners for each other, making it a complete endogamous affair while the ajlaf (communities based on professions) can marry only among themselves, not the ashrafs. The arzals (the untouchables) form the socially and physically excluded lot of the Muslim society. Moreover, no Jadidul Islam (new converts to Islam) can marry a Qadeemul Islam (a person whose family has been within the pale of Islam for more than a generation), due to the temporal distance which comes to characterize their association with Islam. The textual Islam (the Qur’an and the Hadiths) does not conceive social organisation of the Muslims in terms of these stratifications however majority of the Indian ulama have been justifying the same in the jurisprudence, through interpretations of the Qur’anic verses which serve their purpose and also with the help of concocted ahadith.

Due to several factors like socio-democratic programmes of the Constitution, secular character of the Indian polity, industrialization-led-intense process of urbanisation, etc, have reduced the occurrence of other discriminatory praxis, however, the institution of Kufu is still violently in practice. It has, thus, continued to come under criticism from the backward caste ulama time and again. In this regard, among others, Mufti Habibur Rahman Azmi’s monograph Ansaab Wa Kafa’at Ki Shar‘i Haisiyat and Maualana Abdul Hamid Nomani’s tract Masla-i-Kufu Aur Isha’at-i-Islam as critiques of the dominant narrative of the Kufu deserve mentioning here. Though Masud Falahi’s book comes to signify the most recent effort in this series of protest writings, it marks a departure from its predecessors in several ways.

A graduate of Jamiatul Falah, Azamgarh, the central madrasa of Jama’at-i-Islami Hind, Masud’s has an insider’s take on Jama’at’s realpolitik and work-culture. In fact, one of the important reasons which prompted him to write the book is the casteist behaviour of the cadres and office-bearers of the Jama’at. (P373). In addition to engaging the issue in normative fashion, he quotes instances from real life of the predominantly ashraf leadership of the Jama’at. “Personal histories, interviews, observations and incidents which the author has been a witness to”(P27-28), thus, constitute a major chunk of the book. On a much larger plane, he applies the same strategy of data-collection to the outstanding ulama of all denominations and prominent religious bodies of Indian Muslims. That is why potential of his book to critique the agenda and vision of the present Muslim religious establishment and Islamist leadership is simply unmatched.

It is against this backdrop, one needs to understand why Jama’at-i-Islami Hind, after three years of dilly-dallying discovered that it could not publish Masud’s monograph and why an Ahl-i-Hadith publisher from the city of Maunath Bhanjan, Uttar Pradesh demanded to remove those portions of the book which offered insights about the caste-driven writings of the Ahl-i-Hadith ulama and practical politics of the present establishment of Markazi Jami’at Ahl-i-Hadith Hind. Interestingly enough, before he found his publisher, Jamia Asaria Darul Hadith, an Ahl-i-Hadith madrasa of Maunath Bhanjan, had started a serial reproduction of some portions from the book in each issue of its monthly magazine Aasar-i-Jadid (from February 2007).

Divided into ten chapters, the timeline of Masud’s narrative starts with the Aryan invasion on India and comes down to the current period. His hypotheses is that the Muslim intellectuals (religious/secular), instead of discouraging the caste-based discrimination among the Indian Muslims, have consciously or unconsciously projected it as an Islamic concept and tinkered with the classical Islamic texts to lend it a jurisprudential sanction. Consequently, it has caused an irreparable damage to the process of Proselytization of Islam in the country. Having realised the gravity of circumstances, some contemporary ulama and intellectuals, in their individual capacity, tried to challenge the islamicality of the caste discrimination. India has yet to witness a movement which has had at the core of its programme: struggle against Caste-discriminations among Muslims.

Masud sees the caste-system of the Muslims as a Brahmanical Conspiracy to indianise Islam (Islam Ka Bharatiyakaran) (P109). This formulation presupposes an egalitarian Muslim society without any element of social exclusion. It also assumes that all of the Indian Muslims at a certain point of history came from outside to this land. Moreover, this reading of the nature and genealogy of the caste praxis among Muslims relegates its association with the power politics within the Muslims to the oblivion. This is a fallacious argument to say the least.

As a logical extension of the Brahmanical Conspiracy Theory, comes Masud’s fascination with the Pollution Theory. The latter posits a binary opposition of the Arabs vs Ajams (Non-Arabs) where Arabs get credit for all merits of Islam/Muslims while Ajams stand convicted for all demerits that crept in the Muslim society. For example, he considers all those Arab invaders who came to India and established their government in the coastal regions of Sindh, as Khalis Musalman (Pure Muslims) and personification of “Islamic egalitarianism”.(P114). This formulation runs contrary to the Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class. Moreover, it is well documented that Arab society was highly stratified along the lines of tribes, some of which were considered superior to others. The correspondence between Abu Ja’far Mansur, the Abbasid Caliph and Muhammad bin Abdullah Nafs Zakiya (one of the descendants of Ali) which Masud cited in the book (P 133-134), demonstrates how Arabs had used paternal and maternal lineages to justify their claim to the political power.

One can easily discern from the works of medieval historians like Ziauddin Barney, Qasim Farishta, etc that caste discriminations were widespread during the reign of the early Muslim rulers of India. Masud has reproduced a couple of them to show the role of ulama in providing theological sanction to various forms of exclusion. Interestingly, Fatawa Alamgiri does not offer any critique of the popular understanding of Kufu, despite the fact that it has a detailed discussion on the issue and was compiled at behest of Aurangzeb, the darling of the ulama and Islamists. Likewise, a decree of Bahadur Shah Zafar to recruit 500 men in the Mughal army, clearly specifies that the soldiers should be from only ashraf castes of Sheikh, Syed, Mughal and Pathan “. (P226).

As the book progresses on the timeline, the reader comes to know about Abdul Haq Dehlavi (1551-1645) who interrogated islamicality of the concept of dishonour related to professions (manual), perhaps for the first time in the history of Hanafite Islam in India. He painstakingly researched asaneed (chains of verbal transmission) of the ahadith which were prevalent in disrespect of certain professions and castes, especially Julahas (weavers) and found them concocted. He was followed by several ulama who, though, rose to prominence at different points in the 18th and 19th centuries, they were against the concept of popular Kufu and other forms of caste discrimination.

It is interesting to note that Shah Waliullah (1703-1762) was an ardent advocate of the popular Kufu. He, in his magnum opus Hujjatullahil Baligha, resorted to an athar (a saying of a companion of the Prophet) of Umar, the second caliphate, to substantiate his position and offered a weird interpretation of a Hadith to avoid the latter’s clash with his take on the issue. In a situation like this, it is the hadith which gets preference, rather than an athar. The Deobandi ulama and some of the Ahl-i-Hadith ulama subscribed to the Shah Waliullah’s views on the caste-discrimination as he is supposed to have inspired these two of three denominations of the modern South Asian Muslims.

Nihayatul Arab Fi Ghayaatin Nasab by Mufti Muhammad.Shafi Usmani and Risala Tabligh by Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi are two works which caused a lot of controversy in the early 20th century due to their derogatory remarks against the non-ashraf castes. They, especially Ansaris and Qureshis, staged demonstrations and organised a host of meetings in 1932 in the length and breadth of the country, to register their resistance against creation and publication of the theology of discrimination and hatred.  Interestingly enough, classical anthologies of the Hadith like Kanzul Ummal (by Allauddin Muttaqi) from where Thanawi and Shafi have extensively quoted, are replete with ahadith which are all praise for professional groups/communities. The selective amnesia theory alone may furnish the best explanation of this phenomenon.

Masud has shown that efforts to lend theological legitimacy to discriminatory praxis like Kufu have not been monopoly of the Deobandis. The fatawa of Ahmad Raza Khan Barelwi (1850-1920) exude sheer biases against the non-ashraf demography of the Muslim community. Ahl-i-Hadith ulama like Syed Nazir Husain, Siddiq Hasan Khan, Syed Abdul Samee Jafari, etc. have been no different from their counterparts from other two denominations in reinforcing caste-discrimination through their praxis and writings. One wonders that even the backward caste ulama like Mohammad Amjad Ali Ansari, Mufti Kifayatullah Salmani (the first President of Jamiatul Ulama-i-Hind), etc. have issued fatwas in support of the enforcement of Kufu!

What may really come as a shocking discovery to a reader of the book is the following line by Khwaja Syed Hasan Nizami: “Though there is a provision for equality within Islam, Allah has created Julahas to serve the higher caste groups”. Sufism is regarded as the most liberal expression of the proselytizing Islam which has done its best to accommodate local traditions, with due respect to their autonomy, within the master-narrative of Islam. Sufism in India thus, due to its accommodative character, does not only reproduces the social biases but reinforces them as well, as is evident from the advocacy of a form of social exclusion by one of the doyens of the Sufi traditions in India.

In Masud’s narrative-design, theological insights enrich the findings of social scientists so that a wider picture of the dynamics of the caste praxis in the Muslim society can emerge. His borrowings from Ali Anwar, Imtiaz Ahmad, Aijaz Ali, V.T.Rajashekhar, etc, are not just reproductions or paraphrasings, he differed from them or critiqued them on several occasions. Moreover, he also shows occasionally the upfront confrontation between the ulama and the secular intelligentsia. For example, Hasan Ali has studied in his paper “Elements of Caste among the Muslims in Districts in Southern Bihar” the dynamics of caste discrimination in two Muslim-majority localities of Ranchi, Jharkhand. Masud has quoted a statement of Qazi Mujahidul Islam Qasmi, a veteran Deobandi alim, who, differing from findings of Hasan Ali, observed: “The village is familiar to me. I know that so-called backward castes are not discriminated against there while serving the food, making them to sit in different rows”. (P 446-47).

Some ulama question the popular concept of Kufu while they consider the caste location as a deciding factor for other rituals/praxis like imamat, etc. Masud has considered it as a criterion also to understand the casteist undercurrents of the jurisprudence creation. Another interesting theme the book indirectly deals with is the relationship between the caste, the denomination and the region. One can easily discern from the incidents he has mentioned that the caste identity supersedes when it negotiates with denominational and regional identities during the process of forging matrimonial alliances. However, the institution of marriage in the Muslim community as a site for contestations among three levels of social exclusion is an area which needs proper sociological exploration. Another area which calls for the attention of social scientists is the extent to which the observance of Kufu can push the boundary of endogamy. It is doctrinally permissible in Islam to marry first/second cousins however frequency to tie nuptial knots among the first cousins tends to be higher among the ashrafs. The empirical information regarding the dynamics of this aspect of Kufu and its variations across castes, denominations and regions is really thin.

While surveying a couple of apex Muslim organisations of the contemporary India, Masud finds out that despite their claim to be “Islamic” in their social behaviour, the caste has come to categorize their practical politics in a very overt style. As an insider to the Jama’at-i-Islami Hind, he informs that it has been a hostage in the hands of some ashrafs who are extremely castiest in their social outlook (P392). Likewise, content of “Compendium of Islamic Laws”, a volume compiled and published by All India Muslim Personal Law Board recently, betrays an effort on its part to project Kufu and other manifestations of the caste discrimination as intrinsic sections of Muslim theology. The other side of the coin is that this volume is full of passages and references of jurisprudential sources but it does not have citations from the classical texts of Islam (P410).

In short, Masud’s first book makes an interesting reading on the issue of the caste discriminations. One may differ from him on several points he makes and conclusions he draws but the disagreement neither undermines the utility of the tons of information he provides for the future scholars nor does it overshadow the relevance of the questions he raises in the book.

(The review-article appeared in Contemporary Perspectives, Volume 2, No.2, July-December 2008, pp 374-381.).

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Madrasa teachers in Bihar to get 300% DA, govt issues notification

Posted by arshadamanullah on July 11, 2008

Patna: The Bihar government issued a notification yesterday to give 300% dearness allowance (DA) to madrasa as well as Sanskrit teachers. The notification was signed by Anjani Kumar Singh, Principal Secretary of Department of Human Resource and Development.

The government of Bihar had decided to give 300 percent DA to madrasa teachers from 1st April which got final nod yesterday. Madrasa teachers are very happy with this decision and have welcomed this move.

Maulana Zaheerul Haque, president of All India Madrasa Teachers Association, and member of Bihar State Madrasa Board, has thanked Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for the move.

He demanded the state government to pay the teachers of 92 madrasas for girls, which are fulfilling all criterions and where official enquiry for their fulfillment of criterions has been completed, like other madrasa teachers. He also demanded that those madrasas for girls which could not fulfill the required conditions should be given one year time to meet all conditions. A memorandum comprising these demands was handed over to Naushad Ahmad, chairman of the State Minority Commission, Haque told to media.

He has also demanded to provide infrastructure to impart modern education in madrasas.

Meanwhile, Madrasa Teachers Welfare Association has demanded immediate implementation of the DA hike notification.

It should be noted that payment of madrasa teachers is due from April 2008 to till date.



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Madrasa degree valid for railway jobs: Lalu

Posted by arshadamanullah on July 8, 2008

The Indian Railways have decided to accept Madrasa (Islamic seminary) degrees as valid for its job requirement, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad said in Patna on Sunday.

”Now students of Madrasa, like any educational institution, will be able apply for jobs in the railways,” Lalu Prasad said.

”All the necessary official formalities in this regard will be finalised soon by the railways,” Lalu Prasad said.

The move is seen as part of Lalu Prasad’s political strategy ahead of the parliamentary elections to woo Muslim voters.

Early this year, the minister promised to increase the percentage of Muslim employees in the railways.

But a latest report of a review meeting of the group of secretaries of central government last month found the railways were still lagging in recruitment of Muslims.

Last year acting on the Rajinder Sachar Committee recommendations, the government issued directives to all ministers to improve participation of minorities in government jobs.

Till February 2008, of the 67 departments and ministries under the central government, the railways had nearly three percent Muslim employees, which is well below the average five per cent mark. (IANS) [Web-source:

2674 ]

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The Intellectual Growth of the Madrasa Graduates

Posted by arshadamanullah on March 30, 2008

Islamic Fiqh Academy which was established in 1988 in New Delhi as a dynamic platform of the Islamic theologians of India by Qazi Mujahidul Islam Qasmi, a veteran Deobandi alim, has organised fourteen major Fiqh seminars to conduct a national consultation of the leading ulama and muftis of the country. In this regard, the Academy has successfully endeavoured to reach at a sort of consensus on seventy issues which are contemporary in their nature. Important decisions of theses seminars have been published and are available in Urdu (Aham Fiqhi Faisle) and English ‘Important Fiqhi Decisions’. Later on a selection of these resolutions and decisions, with thematic re-arrangements, was compiled under the title of ‘Juristic Decisions on Some Contemporary Issues’. It is from the latter volume I am here reproducing those resolutions which are directly related to the madrasa education.

“It is common observance that in the institutions of religious (Madaris), generally speaking, the process of ideological development is not founded on the right track. The educative process, to impart students of these institutions with the skill and ability to appropriately deal not only with the interschool differences but also with the treasure of moderns knowledge needed wise treatment. Therefore, in the Fifth Seminar the issue was debated and the seminarians had appealed to the management of Arabic Madrasas that:

  1. The ideological growth of students of Madaris should be held to promote among the students the capability to correlate the principles of Shariah with modern conditions and to acquaint them with present problems and also the problems coming for consideration before the Fiqh and other contemporary problems. The Islamic Fiqh Academy, on its part, offers to request any of the prominent theologians to participate and cooperate in such debates, if so desired.
  2. This Seminar thinks it also desirable for the Islamic Madrasas to arrange for periodic lectures by experts on economics and other modern sciences so that the students may be able to acquire an elementary knowledge of these sciences and become able to correlate them with the principles of Shariah. The Islamic Fiqh Academy offers its cooperation in this regard.
  3. The Seminar thinks it necessary that the students and scholars from educational institutions of modern sciences be invited to workshops and camps for imparting them the basic knowledge of fundamentals of Islam, the basic principles and history of Islamic laws and for increasing their capability to provide guidance in every age, and of the necessary terminology. The Seminar calls upon the Islamic Fiqh Academy to take necessary steps in this regard.” (See: Juristic Decisions On Contemporary Issues,p 213-214, Islamic Fiqh Academy (India), New Delhi, 2007).

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Maulana Kalbe Sadiq on Indian muslims, the US imperialism and Iraq

Posted by arshadamanullah on August 15, 2007

Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, a leading Shia Muslim scholar, is the Vice-President of the All-India Muslim Personal law Board (AIMPLB). He has a Ph.D. in Arabic from Lucknow University and runs a chain of schools and colleges in Uttar Pradesh. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand, he talks about his vision for the Muslims of India and reflects on crucial international developments.

Q: What do you feel about the government’s proposals for intervening in the madrasas in the name of ‘reform’?

A: Muslim opinion on this is divided. Some Muslims favour this and others oppose it. So, I can’t really give any opinion on the matter. But the point is that merely installing two or three computers in a madrasa and teaching basic English and mathematics will not lead to any substantial change. Madrasas need to change their basic approach. They need to adopt modern ways of approaching a host of issues. We urgently need to exercise creative reflection (ijtihad) in order to meet contemporary challenges.

Q: In the Jafari Shia school of jurisprudence, which you represent, ijtihad is allowed for, while many Sunni ulema argue to the contrary. What do you have to say about this?

A: Yes, in our school ijtihad has always been open, so our leading clerics or mujtahids are able to creatively respond to contemporary issues through ijtihad. But even among Sunni scholars today many are calling for the ‘gates of ijtihad’ to be re-opened. This will probably happen soon, if not today, then tomorrow, because it is not possible to have a stagnant jurisprudence (fiqh) for a constantly and rapidly changing world.

Q: In India today, a growing number of ulema are setting up ‘modern’ schools, which provide both ‘modern’ as well as Islamic education. How do you see this?

A: I think it is a very positive development. However, many of these schools are of mediocre standard. A person should do what he or she is trained for or capable of. But many of the ulema who run these schools seek to tightly control them even though they do not have any ‘modern’ education themselves. This, I think, is wrong, and only results in poor standards. In my own case, I have been associated with the setting up of numerous schools and colleges, and even a medical college in Lucknow, but I have left the management of these institutions to a professional team and do not interfere in their day-to-day functioning. Unfortunately, many top-ranking mullahs who control institutions are victims of enormous egoism and that is why they want to treat their institutions like their own private properties.

Q: What role do you feel the ulama could or should play in promoting inter-sectarian and inter-communal harmony in India?

A: I think that in this regard their first responsibility is to refrain from inciting Muslims to take to violence under any condition. They must also seek to promote dialogue and unity between the different Muslim sects. In this they must focus on the things that the different Muslim sects share in common—which, if I have to quantify it, would be over 97%–and refrain from using the 3% things on which they differ in order to divide them.

As for inter-religious dialogue, I think the Muslim ulema and religious scholars from other religious traditions need to take it up with great seriousness and urgency. This is the only way to solve inter-community disputes. I have read about other religions and have come to the conclusion that while they differ in matters of ritual, if one goes to their core and studies them in-depth, one finds that many of them share the same spiritual basis. We need to build on that shared spirituality.

Q: What efforts are being made to promote inter-sectarian dialogue, especially between Shias and Sunnis?

A: Although this is very important, in India there are no organized efforts to promote inter-sectarian dialogue between the ulema of different sects. I think this is really very unfortunate. However, despite this, the demand for dialogue and unity is being voiced from various quarters, although some extremist, false mullahs might oppose this. In India, groups like the Jamaat-e Islami, the All-India Muslim Personal law Board and the Milli Council have repeatedly stressed the need for unity between the different Muslim sects.

Q: In your speeches, you constantly refer to the need for the ulema to be more socially engaged. You yourself are engaged in a number of community projects, especially in the field of education. What role do you envisage for the ulema in this regard?

A: The Holy Quran tells us to leave aside those things that don’t give any benefit to people. So, we need to develop a socially engaged understanding of Islam that enables us to help people in concrete ways. Otherwise, the youth will ask us why we are building fancy mosques but doing nothing for the poor, when the essence of Islam is to help those in need.

This means that the ulema must be more socially engaged than they presently are.. They must come out of their mosques, madrasas and khanqahs and move among the masses, understand their economic and social problems and seek to solve them in practical terms. They must raise their voice against oppression, no matter what the religion of the oppressor is. However, unfortunately, most ulema have forgotten this responsibility and restrict themselves to leading prayers and giving fatwas.

Q: What are your views about sectarian conflicts raging there, between Shias and Sunnis?

A: This sort of thing never existed in Iraq before the American invasion. There was never any sort of terrorism there before the Americans invaded. My mother was from Iraq and I know the country and its people well. There was never any Shia-Sunni problem in Iraq, and even though Shias are in a majority there relations between Shia and Sunni Iraqis were cordial. It is true that Saddam persecuted Shia leaders and arranged for many of them to be killed, but he also persecuted many Sunnis and caused their deaths, too. Before the Americans invaded, Iraqis rarely thought of themselves as Shias and Sunnis or as rivals on the basis of sect. There was never any communal riot there. All this started and flared up after the Americans invaded Iraq in the name of bringing ‘peace’ and ‘democracy’ to that country. And I think the Americans are deliberately trying to stoke sectarian rivalry in Iraq and prolong the civil war so that they can divide and rule.

Q: Some Muslims argue that America is anti-Islam or anti-Muslim, and see its invasion of Iraq, among other developments, as proof of this. Do you agree?

A: One has to distinguish between the American people and the current American government. I am not saying that all Americans are anti-Islam. This is not true. However, the Bush administration certainly is anti-Islam. This owes, in large measure, to the power of the Zionist lobby in America. Pro-Zionist Jews control large banks, many industries and much of the media in America, and if they leave America, the country will collapse. And it is this lobby, in addition to the extreme right-wing Christian lobby, that is behind the clearly anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim policies of the Bush government.

On the other hand, I must also say that many Americans are indeed open-minded. However, they are easily swayed by the media, and the dominant Western media, as I mentioned earlier, has a vested interest in whipping up anti-Muslim hatred. I strongly believe that if we are able to reach out to the American people with the truth, many of them will indeed listen to us and will also agree with us.

Q: There is much talk now of America allegedly planning to attack Iran. What do you think the Iranian, or general Shia, response would be if this happens?

A: I don’t think the Americans will be so foolish. Hizbullah taught the Americans and the American-backed Israeli army a fitting lesson in the defeat it inflicted on the Israelis in Lebanon. The Shias are a different people. We are not terrorists but we will not run away if challenged. The Americans managed to get some traitors in Iraq to collaborate with them. The history of Iraq is full of tales of such betrayal and intrigue. But in Iran things are very different. All Iranians, even those who have differences with the regime, will solidly unite to oppose any American aggression. And the price of an American attack will be borne not just by America but also by its client regime, Israel.

(Maulana Kalbe Sadiq can be contacted on

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Regarding Recent Supreme Court verdict in the Iqbal Bano case

Posted by arshadamanullah on July 13, 2007

Waris Mazhari, a renowned Muslim scholar in the Deobandi tradition, is the editor of Tarjuman-e-Darul Uloom, an Urdu mothly magazine from New Delhi. In this interview with Arshad Amanullah, he tries to put in perspective the knee-jerk reactions of the ulama in the recent Supreme Court verdict in the Iqbal Bano case.

Q: How do you react to the recent verdict of the Supreme Court of India in the Iqbal Bano case?

A: The Muslim clergy of India lost the battle it had won two decades ago in the Shah Bano Case, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986. Given the present political equations in the country and the general mood regarding the Muslims across the world, I do not think that the history of the Shah Bano Case will repeat itself. They cannot go beyond criticizing the verdict and issuing statement against the same.

Q: Why the ulama tend to see the verdicts of the secular courts at odds with the Islamic jurisprudence?

A: Issues like illiteracy, poverty, diseases, corruption, violence, etc are very much a quintessential part of the present reality of the community. I am at loss to understand why the ulama never take the nation by storm regarding these problems. They are yet to launch any movement to help the community in its crusades against the above-mentioned problems. Whatever fuss they create in the name of the protection of the Shariah, is in reality aimed at preserving that interpretation of the Muslim jurisprudence they base their sectarian identity on. Fall in this very category all the issues taken up by the ulama, whether it is the issue of Imrana, of the pronouncement of triple talaq in one sitting, of the forced talaq, or of the marriage without the conformity of the guardian. Issues of this sort call for ijtehad to find out their amicable solutions, without tinkering with the soul of Islam. The same can be easily achieved through the application of maqasidush-shariah, ‘istehsan’ and ‘maslaha’, tools of the Muslim jurisprudence, so that people should no longer suffer due to these problems in future.

Q: Does the Islamic paradigm offer any way out of this impasse?

A: of course. If the claim that Islam is practical for all times and spaces, is true , one needs to re-interpret the injunctions of its basic texts, without tinkering with the soul of the religion. The Muslim jurisprudence that is the outcome of the tradition of ijtihad, has to be dynamic, not static. This tradition used to provide vitality to the jurisprudence in the early centuries of Islam while the same has no longer in vogue for long. Imam Muhammad, a great scholar of the Hanafi school of jurisprudence, had differed in more than 70 percent inferences from his teacher Imam Abu Hanifa, also the founder of the school. Responding to a question, he once said that had Imam Abu Hanifa been alive in our age, his inferences would have resembled those of mine. It will be very naive to assume that the present body of the Muslim jurisprudence is immune to the changes of different sorts occurred along centuries.

Q: Then why do the ulama not see the point?

A: They are not familiar with the disciplines of the Human and Social Sciences, resulting in their failure in understanding the nature of new political order as well as the cultural core of the modernity. It forces them to live on the margins of the society. The ulama, on the other hand, suffer from the spiritual arrogance. They think themselves as the sole interpreter of the Shariah.

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Observations on the madrasa education and the salafism

Posted by arshadamanullah on June 8, 2007

Excerpts from an interview by Yogi Sikand with Arshad Amanullah on madrasas and their role in Islamic education:

Q: There has been some talk about the need for introducing social science teaching in the madrasa syllabus. How do you respond to this proposal?

A: I think it is very important. Madrasa students, as well as most of the ‘ulama, simply do not think in the parameters of the social sciences. They seem to imagine that if you internalise the Qur’an and the teachings of your maslak all your personal and social problems will be automatically solved. And then, to make matters even more complicated, there is a certain trend among many ‘ulama to attribute all the problems of the Muslims to what they insist is a Zionist-Hindu-Christian conspiracy, without carefully analysing the real roots of the problems, and thereby absolving Muslims of any responsibility in the matter.

This approach of looking at all questions and offering solutions simply in terms of theology and jurisprudence, divorced from empirical social realities, is also reflected in the writings of many ‘ulama. Thus, for instance, some Indian Ahl-i Hadith scholars are translating and publishing the fatwas of Saudi Arabian ‘ulama and seeking to impose their views on us, although we live in a very different context, which calls for different responses on a range of issues. Blindly following the fatwas of a certain scholar just because he is Saudi is silly.

Q: You mention the moderates among the Ahl-i Hadith being somewhat sidelined by hardcore elements. Is it really possible to make such a distinction?

A: Yes, indeed. In the Jami‘a Salafiya, for instance, we had some teachers who were rather liberal and others who were really hardcore. There were some teachers who were very conservative, most of whom had studied in universities in Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, the rector of the madrasa, Dr. Muqtada Hasan Azhari, was a moderate, in the tradition of the Egyptian Salafis such as Muhammad Abduh. He received an award from the President of India for his services to the Arabic language, and he has also been involved in dialogue efforts with Hindus and Christians. I recall a small incident that took place when I was a student in the madrasa. Just across the madrasa is a graveyard belonging to the Barelvi sect. One day some Barelvis were lighting candles on some graves and some students of our madrasa began pelting them with stones, shouting out that this practice was an ‘unlawful innovation’ (bid‘at). When Dr. Azhari came to know about this he scolded the students, and told them that even if they believed that the practice was un-Islamic, throwing stones was not the way to make their point. He told them that they should seek to convince the Barelvis through dialogue rather than through violence or extremism, or else their efforts would be counterproductive. I think this principle ought to govern relations between the different Muslim maslaks and between Muslims and others as well.

For the full interview:



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