Why everyone should attend madrassas

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Why take media’s opinion on madrassas when you can visit one a few blocks away from your neighborhood?

The love for the Holy Prophet (pbuh) that was displayed by our people on Friday was unprecedented and one has to laud the government’s decision to officially announce a National Day of Hooliganism. Normally, state, like a mother, should nurture goodness, promote peace and acceptance between people, be they religious, secular, socialists, leftists, rightist, upper, middle, lower class or confused. But over the years, successive governments have fuelled differences and have taken actions that have only increased the number of people that belong to the ‘confused’ section in the society. However this article is not meant to highlight our society’s utter failure at coexistence. What happened on Friday was just the tip of the iceberg.

Islamiyat is a core subject in our public and private education systems and nearly everyone, by the time they are in grade 5, knows that there are five prayers in a day, that we have to perform Haj once in lifetime, that we have two Eids and we give Zakat every year. Surprisingly, the subject matter remains the same, beginning from class one to BA/BSc, especially in the public sector institutes. The same five prayers, the same Haj once in lifetime, the same two Eids and the same Zakat.

Meanwhile, the same children begin studying science from the basic living and non-living things to cells, atoms and electrons to string theory and by the time they reach university, some even know how to make a nuclear bomb.

The same children, if they are pursuing subjects in humanities and social sciences, start with A-B-C and go onto Jack and Jill and onto the Radiant Way and then Good Bye Mr Chips and read essays from Milton and excerpts from Virginia Woolf and poetry from Sylvia Plath and the Bronte sisters and plays from grandmaster Shakespeare. Their expertise in core subjects such as English and Urdu is much more advanced in comparison to their expertise in Islamic studies. Islamiyat though isn’t something that stays in the books. It becomes the rationale behind everything a Muslim does. As Alama Iqbal says in his Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, ‘Islam emphasises deeds more than the idea,’ action cannot be separated from knowledge in the Islamic framework. The BA/BSc level Islamiyat, too, has nothing new to offer.

Come Friday, the National Day of Hooliganism.

It was obvious that religion and love for the Prophet meant a lot to the protesters. They had a sense that Islam entails of them to love the Holy Prophet but they did not know that loving in this context necessarily implies becoming like him or maybe they did not know how to do it.

Of course they will go out and kill and burn. They were never told what religion asks of them in this situation. Their characters were not moulded, they were never taught courses on how to be kind like the Holy Prophet, how to forgive and forget like his companions, what scholars and sufi teachers do in the years they spend in helping people cleanse their heart of negativity and hatred. They were taught that it is a sin to be angry, but nobody’s ever shown them how not to be angry. All theory, no practical demonstrations. All they know of Islam is through ill-informed televangelists who come from the same background as theirs or from TV actors who perform live exorcism and ask people to stop watching ‘fahash movies’ in which they act themselves.

Don’t blame them, blame our system.

When our knowledge of Islam remains well below a sane lower limit, when people keep ignoring the role madrassah education can play in filling the blanks in character building that the formal public education is leaving behind, of course our youth will spew hate. They are hurt and nobody has taught them how to channel their pain productively. Some of our pseudo liberal secular extremist brothers and sisters go on to say that if we become secular all these problems will go away. Their throw-away-baby-with-bathwater argument is so irrelevant that it amuses me how lost their cause is. Maybe the elite 0.2 percent wants to and can be irreligious but it would take others a few hundred more years to be on the same plane as them.

There are many students, even from private institutes, who find that what is taught in universities does not give them a complete picture of how Islam functions in a society and they have chosen to pursue classical Islamic learning being taught in madrassas. There is no reason why students should not be open to studying books by Imam Ghazali, Imam Taimiya and Ibn Jawzi, by our own Shah Wali Ullah, Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi and Mufti Taqi Usmani in either madrassas or in formal education system so that they can reconcile the world and religion within them and can become vessels of peace. Discontent in hearts leads to what happened on Friday.

A combination of madrassah and formal education enables students to engage formal and Islamic scholarly tradition in their lives and their understanding of both is drastically better than someone who takes the either/or approach. They are able to get a whole picture of reality and in practice, this is what eradicates extremes from the society. Even if they are studying it only to reject and disagree afterwards, they will at least know what they are talking about. If anything, this will definitely improve the quality of editorials that are written in our mainstream pseudo liberal secular newspapers and they will, for once, go beyond ‘talibanization’ and ‘extremism’ and ‘mullah’ and ‘dars aunty’ while talking about madrassas which are an integral part of our society, history and culture, whether we like it or not.

Isn’t that the kind of young men and women we are looking for?

If we go beyond making fun of our countrymen and saying ‘yeh kahan ka Islam hay’ ‘jahil’, ‘mullah hotay hi aisay hein’, ‘niqabi ninjas danday hi utha sakti hein bas’ etc, we will see potential. It hurts to see all that misappropriated love being channelled into hate – just because we are too caught up in appearances to admit the good madrassas can do to our society. No doubt there are problems in the madrassah system as well, but if the majority gets to know what is being taught in madrassas, it would become easier to weed out the rotten eggs there. It is a win-win for all. When religion is such an integral part of our society, I wonder why no effort is being made to improve people’s knowledge of it.

Why take media’s opinion on madrassas when you can visit one a few blocks away from your neighborhood?

The writer is a staff member, a LUMS graduate and is currently pursuing a Dars-e-Nizami Aalimah degree in a women’s institute. She can be reached at [email protected]

20 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent! The author has said what I wanted to – in better words than I could have dreamt of.

  2. This is soo true! I wish people realize the importance of these religious madrasahs which play a key role in the character building of our youth.

    • I am still unable to understand that what you people are trying to say.we are not upbringing in christian our communist society.The day we are born our religious practice starts with Azaan heard in our ears.Then before going to normal school we start reciting quran along with moral training lesson like don't speak lies, don't cheat others, respect your elders, etc which are all as per teaching of Islam and then start learning prayers with other basic rituals so it all depends on quality of family life what we have there.
      If mother would send her children to your prescribed eduction but herself pick dormant life styles by seeing Indian or Pakistani dramas or father practically negate all moral lessons then outside education will not help a child to grow like good human being or good religion knowing person.Religious understanding needs maturity of minds so it should be poured when person become quite mature to understand basic theme of obligation and restrictions in one's life.
      An early age moral lessons are enough as strict measures can turn a child into fanatic and this is common method we are seeing all around in Pakistan where immature minds are picked to brainwashed as per game plans of west

      • Dear Nazia, we pre-assume that "strict measures" take place in madrassas. Institutions where true Islamic Learning is taught will only act upon the Sunnah; and the Sunnah teaches us to love, not hate. Outside of these institutions there is no true Islamic knowledge- the O level Islamic studies syllabus does not teach anything new, as the author has pointed out. It is empty of knowledge. And it is also sad to see that in a store like READINGS (correct me if I'm wrong) in Lahore, one can't see any of the following books that you can find abroad or on AMAZON: Imam Ghazzali's book on the NINETY NINE beauitful names of ALLAH, or "the Alchemy of Happiness" by the same author or Imam Nawawi's book of forty ahadith, or Imam Haddad's Book of Assistance… We are deprived of our inheritance – no supply cuz the demand is so low!!! It is sad. We should make an effort to get to know our deen so that there can be no instances of brainwashing as you have mentioned, inshaAllah.

      • There is far more to Islam than the few things you mentioned. If you agree that learning secular studies doesn't make one extremist, what makes you think that learning Islam makes one extremist? This is the whole point of the article. Get educated before you talk about things you don't know about. If you knew about Islam, you wouldn't think that studying Islam would make immature minds become extremist. Islamic studies are far vaster, more intelligent, more objective, more practical and more comprehensive than any secular studies I have ever come across in my life, and I've been abroad through one of the best graduate schools in the world.

        It is not the Madrasa's fault that aunties watch dramas and fathers are corrupt. They should go to Madrasas too.

        • When you talk about any social reform kindly consider the past and present values of your system that you want to improve by new ideas.Your past about religion is quite based on rotting or without reasoning of following religious norms and that is basic reason of our hypocritical attitude which we are facing for many generations. I am again firm that religious beliefs should be taught to mature minds that is why for revelation of Quran Prophet was picked by Allah when he was 40 years of age .that is why this age is said age of Revelation and human minds start thinking into different logic near or beyond this age.

          • Yet by forcing students to learn a one-​​sided approach to religion and ethics is inhibiting the rights of a child( as it is termed as brainwashed) and the responsibility and rights of the teachers too, who are simply trying to do their duties as per given and in medressahs it is obvious that religious instruction should be left to those who have dedicated their lives to faith based studies  and that the process of doing so should be of the individuals own choice at mature age, not just because they are made to do so.

  3. In Pakistani society, we are not learning Islam. As the article pointed out – whats the difference between our knowledge of Islam in primary school versus university? Almost no difference.

    You can only think we are an Islamic country and not living like communists or Christians because you haven't been exposed to Islam enough to see how close we really *are*, in reality* to Christian or communist ideologies. Islam is an entire worldview, and Pakistanis are not being taught 1% of this worldview, our worldview remains what we adore in the foreign-inspired media.

    • There should curriculum for each professional specially for lower class to tell them rules and obligation of Islam but it all is failed if ruling class, or rich or parents are first to defy the basic principles of Islam

  4. Spot on Tajwar! MashaAllah, food for thought for everyone. I'm also studying in a "madrassa" and trust me if I had known before joining that it was a "madrassa", I would never be studying in it, thanks to media's portrayal of it. Join a good madrassa (and there are lots of them out there Alhamdulillah!) and you'll see just whatt it is that those molvis with non-fake accents have fallen in love with! =)

    • true, but ignoring ALL of them because there are a few 'rotten eggs' would be foolishness. if more people from the elite class studied in madrassas, maybe we will have people who will present good articles like the one here to help us fix what is wrong with madrassas.

  5. Finally we have someone trying to bridge the gaps instead of accentuating them! it is a shame that such attempts aren't made often. for me, this is the first of its kind. hopefully more will follow.

  6. "If we go beyond making fun of our countrymen and saying ‘yeh kahan ka Islam hay’ ‘jahil’, ‘mullah hotay hi aisay hein’, ‘niqabi ninjas danday hi utha sakti hein bas’ etc, we will see potential. It hurts to see all that misappropriated love being channelled into hate – just because we are too caught up in appearances to admit the good madrassas can do to our society."

    its very interesting,the more we ourselves don't want to be judged by the mere appearances we carry 'how can you judge me by my clothes'? the more we are caught up in appearances or 'judging the images' specially as this 'elite' habit now trickles down into the masses.

  7. MashaALLAH. nice articl. May ALLAH be happy with you. Am a doctor and used to face all the sarcastic comments on daily basis because of the sunnah getup. our society is drifting apart with gaps widening and people becoming polarised. my cousin who came from usa was astonished that people here are more degrading than the people in usa. nobody cares of your getup in USA but its opposite in our so called Islamic republic

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