Reformation of madrassa in the age of enlightenment

Madrassa reform has been a bone of contention between the government, religious and political elite in Pakistan.


The concept of madrassah was initially emerged in 1067AD in Baghdad; it was utilized as a proper institution for obtaining knowledge. Both secular and religious educations were taught simultaneously in the madrassas. The conception of separation in secular education (science-oriented education) and Madrassa education (religious based education) is hardly ever debated in the history of Islam. After the age of colonization this strict division between secular and religious education remained under discussion through-out history of sub-continent. If we make analog of old and contemporary madrassa’s curriculum one would come to the conclusion, that the previous madrassa education was based on authentic and extensive scholarly research while contemporary madrassas’ center of gravity lies on memorization of Quran, Tafseer, Hadith, fiqah, and usul e fiqah.
Intriguingly, in Pakistan madrassas are representing the third largest graduates. After the creation of Pakistan, the numbers of madrassas were mere 200. However, the growing growth of madrassas has now crossed the figure of 40000. Majority of them played the role of non-governmental organization (NGO) by feeding and teaching the orphan and poor children. The syllabus followed by most Madrassah was standardized by Mulla Nizamuddin known as Dars-e-Nizami. This syllabus has been altered over time nonetheless holds that basic essence.
In the initial stages of Pakistan, no such steps were taken for Islamic education, conferences were convened by the leaders of Pakistan to improve the education system, but conferences remained ineffective due to the early demise of founding father of Pakistan. In order to improve madrassas’ education, in 1959 a commission was constituted, in 1969 proposal was presented for the reformation of religious education but efforts once again went into vain. Zia-ul-haq also wanted to reform the madrassas but he faced strong resistance from religious parties. Meanwhile, the Afghan jihad was commenced; the concept of jihad prevailed in madrassas paradigm. Civilian governments also desired to regulate and reform the curriculum of madrassas education, but their wishes were no more then wishful thinking and political rhetoric.
In post 9/11 scenario, the reformation about madrassas reforms was consolidated. America allocated $100m for the reformation of madrassa’s curriculum in Pakistan. Pervez Musharraf regime also sought to reform the curriculum of madrassa but confronted with strong resistance from religious parties which made an alliance (Ittehad Tanzimat Madaris-e-Deeniya) to counter these reforms.
The current government of Imran khan is also obsessed with madrassa reforms, wishes to see the pupil of madrassa to learn secular education and diversify their professionalism. The incumbent government has established a directorate, having their headquarters and 16 regional offices across the country. Ittehad-e-Tanzemaat Madaaris Pakistan, an umbrella organization of seminaries, has already announced their support for mainstreaming of these religious seminaries.
However, JUI-F chief who runs the largest networks of madrassas denounced the idea of directorate. JUI-F chief initiated long march in November last year to topple the Khan’s government and had four major demands one of the demands was related to religious education’s reform in which he wanted the representation of religious political parties. JUI-F again threatened government of Imran khan for another march to Islamabad the purpose is to not alter the curriculum of Madressa.
Prevailing curriculum, by and large, needs reformation making it to the 21st century demands is essential for the following reasons; books taught in madrassas are outdated and have their linkages with 15th and 16th century. Hardly any book has included an advanced education in its curriculum. It focuses merely on religious education.. To bear in mind, nobody can negate the significance of religious education. It has to diversify their scope so that the graduate of these madrassas have different professional alternatives. Another loopholes of madrassa education is that it mainly emphasis on books not on knowledge this would pay the way for exploitation of these pupils.
Bringing home international politics is essential for the statecrafts. International politics is shifting overwhelmingly from reliance on military and militancy to effective diplomacy. State with robust economy has a great say in international politics. Ostensibly, madrassas were used as jihadi factory in Zia regime to counter the hostile USSR. Arguably, 20th century policies cannot be crafted in 21st century. To conclude, madrassah reforms are the need of the hour, producing 3rd largest graduates in Pakistan but they are not contributing to the economy of Pakistan. Binging reforms will enable madrassah students contributing in political and economic sphere of Pakistan.

Musavir Hameed Barech
Student of M.Phil Political Science at GCU Lahore