Too many madrassas in UP and Bihar; Divert your charity towards modern education

Bangalore is currently the hub of donation collectors of madrassas from all over the country, mainly from UP and Bihar. Soon after the prayers are over, the Imams come up with an appeal for a madrassa (may be Bahrul Uloom, Mambaul Uloom, Kashiful Uloom, and so on) from Saharanpur, Benares or Sitamarhi (or name any city in those two states).

The wordings are standard: “Madrassa Kashiful Uloom (or whatever) in Bareli has 300 students doing maulvi course. Of these 168 are inmates for whom lodging and boarding arrangements are made. Annual expenses come up to Rs. 78 lakh (so on and so forth). There is no source of permanent income. The building is under construction and requires Rs. 2 crore for completion. Pls donate your sadaqath, zakath, charity for the same. Kifalat (sponsorship) of one yateem (orphan) will entail annual expense of Rs. 34,000 (or so). A mosque is also coming up on a piece of land bought for Rs. 89 lakh. A musalla (space needed for one person to do namaz) would cost Rs. 13,000 (or so). Reserve your place in Jannah by making a generous donation.”

One can see two safeers (agents) of the madrassa collecting the instant donations within the premises of the mosques. Some local madrassa would have certified them of being genuine.

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All through the Ramazan, the announcements to this effect can be heard after every namaz and invariably in each and every mosque. Schedules are prefixed and they have charts for the entire month.

People of Bengaluru (Bangalore) and Karnataka and generally South Indian states, generously donate money for them, given the attestation done by some local madrassa. Not alone this. Several maulvis from those two states have set up madrassas in Bangalore and elsewhere in South India. They also bring children from those two states and from Assam and West Bengal as local Muslims mostly prefer modern education for their own kids.

This whole business of madrassa has assumed proportions of a racket. UP and Bihar madrassas overproduce maulvis who are employed as imams, muezzins and khateebs on petty salaries. They possess no skill to earn their livelihood. Nor are they trained in any language other than scriptural text’s. Even the Arabic they would have learnt is archaic. After serving for five to seven years, they prefer to have a madrassa of their own rather than being a salaried imam. They set up some Behrul Uloom in say Kunigal, Hassan or Krishnagiri and pool all the zakath, fitrah, sadaqath and charm-e-qurbani (sacrificial skins) and designate themselves as Muhtamims (rectors) of the new outfit. They too bring poor kids from those four unfortunate states, often severing the little kids from their parents. They are forced to memorise the sacred text. There are no affiliating bodies, no syndicates, no syllabus committees, no exam control authorities, no accreditation board, no certifying agencies for their degrees. The 400-year old Dars e Nizami is pushed down the throats of these innocent kids. Lo and behold! They are imams in waiting after seven or eight years of a course where entire stress is on memorization, not on intelligence, not on reasoning, not on deduction, not on wisdom, not on contextual relationship of the medieval text, not on analysis or inference.

And what do you expect from such imams and khateebs who utter things without any contextual relevance?

This is a sorry state of affairs. Our charities need better avenues such as modern education, spiritual training, value orientation, family counseling, media building, social media for articulation of current thoughts, libraries, publications on modern issues, legal aid, funds for helping students being trained to be professionals in medicine, law, media, chartered accountancy, business, social sciences. Modern education and training in human values (which also include Islamic values) are the game-changers in the current world. But our charity is being drained out for preparing run-of-the-mill maulvis in madrassas of UP and Bihar or their likes in south India. What an irony?

It is time to wake up. It is time to engage in self-scrutiny and introspection. Let us not waste our resources like this.

Bihar has nearly 1,400 madrassas attached to Bihar Madrassa Exam Board. But Muslims there run only 71 high schools. A survey of three districts of UP, namely Basti, Gonda, Bahraich, reveals that they have nearly 370 madrassa (with lodging and boarding facilities) but only six primary schools managed by the Muslims.

And all madrassas in UP and Bihar are run on the pattern of mauroosi jaidad (ancestral property). Three generations of Madanis have been rectors of Darul Uloom Deoband. The very same Madanis have led the Jamiatul Ulema Hind. The Darul Uloom Waqf Deoband which came up after the split in the management of the Darul Uloom too has all the rectors from the family of Taiyab Qasimi. So, now one can discern the religio-political nexus and the umbilical cord that ties them together.

We Muslims in South India somehow believe that UP Islam is the mainstream Islam just as the world thinks that Arab Islam is the authentic Islam. It is time we came out of this delusion and stop wasting our charities in such institutions which are run as family properties. Maulana Ghulam Vastanvi, an executive member of the Darul Uloom Deoband was thrown out of the executive once he pleaded for introduction of modern courses. Vastanvi runs medical, engineering, law and arts and science colleges in Akkalkuwa in Maharashtra.

It is time we understood the entire structure of madrassa education in India and demand transparency from them and insist on modernization of syllabus. It is too late in the day. Our charities need better investment for more purposeful and productive objectives.

Maqbool Ahmed Siraj is a veteran writer, researcher and journalist based in Bengaluru.

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