The Madrasas Lost the Battle for Survival
By: Mufti Gulzar Ahmed Naeemi
On September 4, 2019, the federal minister for education and professional training announced through the press conference that the national curriculum will be taught in national educational institutions. According to media news the examination of Eighth class will be held according to national curriculum while the students of Madrassas will take the exams of 8th and 10th class according to aasri syllabus. Twelve centres would be established for the registration of Madrassas. The federal cabinet has also approved 2 Billion rupees for the integration of Madrassas into national mainstream. In the meeting held on August 29, 2019 the Ulemas held that the Madrassa students would also take the exams of 8th, 10th and 12th class according to national curriculum. And they should also be issued degrees of Matric and Intermediate. The federal minister has called is an ice broker. According to the minister, the Madrassas have demanded 4 to 5 years’ time period for the implementation of new syllabus.
I have been writing since long about the modernization of Madrassas curriculum to keep pace with the changing needs of the world. The present syllabus of Madrassas is not at par with the modern system of multiple-choice questions (MCQs). The need for a change has been felt by the governing members of the board of Madrassas. Now they are compelled to sign a document that is beyond understanding. In my opinion the Madrassas have lost the battle for their survival. A realistic analysis of recent history suggests that the madrassas lost their battle when they indulge themselves in Afghan jihad as a frontline jihadist. Though the Ulemas of Ehl-e-Sunhat refused to join that movement and in retaliation they have to bear sufficient loss, but they made a wise decision.
See, the job of the scholars is not to jump in the battlefield by calling off their learned things. Their field is the propagation of knowledge and spiritual traditions. If the nation’s intellectual and spiritual foundations are strong then that nation is stronger than rocks of the mountains, and of those foundations are weak then they are weak and helpless nation, despite having the same force as atom bomb. Knowledge and self-reflection are the real strength of a nation. The enemy cleverly makes Afghanistan a corrupt and dysfunctioning state, lit the fire of war there and used the Madrassas as the fuel for the fire there. On one hand they achieved their goals and on the other hand they defamed Madrassas and made them the basis for terrorism and extremism.
Whenever there was blame on Madrassas regarding terrorism, our leaders walked with dignity that no Madrassa is involved in such an activity. Sahabzada Fazl-e-Kareem was live on ATV when the anchorperson asked that your Madrassas have been involved in terrorism. During these days, Taliban movement was at its peak in Pakistan. Sahabzada stopped the anchor at this point and challenged him to point out anyone Madrassa of Ehl-e-Sunnah and said, ‘’I will take you with me tomorrow there, if that was involved in any illegal activity I will put an end to that Madrassa at once. Alhamdulillah, no Madrassa of ours is involved in terrorism.’’ Similar questions were being asked from my teacher Dr Sarfraz Naeemi and his answer was like ‘’tell me anyone Madrassa?’’ but the audience remained silent. Maulana Shah Ahmed Nourani also replied in the same words when asked about terrorism. These leaders constantly demanded from the government that both peaceful and extremist Madrassas must not be dealt with same policy. Even, when the movement of unity of Madrassas was in process, Sarfraz Ahmed Naeemi was made its secretary-general, he still managed to maintain a separate identity of Madrassas of Ehl-e-Sunnah. Resultantly, our Madrassas remained in good books of the government and the security institutions. Although we became exposed to terrorism we never became part of this extremism ideology.
Some time ago, when the president our tandem ul Madrassas became president of the unity of the Madrassas movement, he was trapped in such a way that he was portrayed as a spokesperson of extremist Madrassas and not of his own Madrassas. This led to the mixture of both Madrassas, the peaceful one, and the one which is involved in terrorism (this is my personal opinion, anyone can disagree with me and can even make enmity, as he has the right to do so).
If the president would concentrate on the revival of the curriculum of Madrassas then the situation would have been different. The civil bureaucracy in Pakistan does not want to see the students of Madrassas in national service. If they wanted to mainstream these Madrassas, they would have struggled for the success of those two Madrassas, Sukkar Model Madrassa and Haji Camp Madrassa Islamabad, that were made on the policy line of the government. But the civil bureaucracy did not let these two Madrassas succeed. They feared the future of their idiot children against the intelligent children of the poor. I am of great fear that if this huge change remained unsuccessful then the future of religious education and of Madrassas would be bleak. Pakistan had been a proponent of eastern and Islamic culture, but now it seems that the proponent of western ideology is dominating the policymaking in Pakistan. And, our eastern and Islamic culture is in grave threat from these elements. The future, perhaps, is away from Islamic culture and we are constantly adopting western styles. Maybe the remaining some eastern traditions would also be replaced by the west and ultimately secularism would dominate the Islamists.
Apparently, religion and culture have been defeated and Madrassas have lost the battle of survival. The planning of men is indicating in this direction, but let us wait for the Deity.
Our scholars did not make a sincere struggle for unity, promotion of religious traditions, and implementation of the Islamic system. Our forefathers gave a religiously strong country but we remained unable to protect our religious traditions. Consequently, a stronger religious state is going to transform into a secular state. I must not attach this change to this or the previous government. It is a constant process and has been evolved over time. We did not pay heed to this but remain entangled in our own problems. In our brotherly Islamic neighbor Iran, Ulemas turned the table of secularism and made the country a religious one. The only difference is sincerity. Here are religious political parties in the team of secular political parties but there was secularism vs. religious and the religious won.
Iran has been under the severe economic restrictions of the US but still, it has become a strong economic power of the region. In the last days, it shot down an American spy plane that was a flagship technology of the US. They have enriched their universities with modern technology. Even in their academic fields, knowledge is flourishing. We did not work at this level, so our society is moving very fast towards secularism and atheism.