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Madrasas in the Age of Islamophobia

Madrasas in the Age of Islamophobia

First Edition

November 2019 | 208 pages | SAGE Select

In the age of Islamophobia, Madrasas are at crossroads—infamously labelled as ‘dens for terrorism’ where the ‘youth are misguided, motivated and recruited to resort to anti-Indian activities’. It is little known that in the golden past, Madrasas schooled reformers and personalities such as Rajendra Prasad, Motilal Nehru, Raja Rammohun Roy and many other noteworthy Islamic scholars.

Through bonafide stories of products of Madrasas, the authors narrate the decline of the madrasas from being centres of excellence to institutions of restricted learnings with dark clouds of stigma surrounding them. Short of resources, rejected by the well-heeled, and condemned by politicians, will they be able to turn the corner? The answer is blowing in the wind.

Madrasas under a Cloud
Reminiscences of a Utopian Past
The Deoband Conundrum: The Madrasa That Stood Still in Time
Madrasas in Modern India: Sorry State, Lofty Principles?
Inside a Madrasa: A Painting of a Teacher and His Pupils
Nurturing Lives
Stepping beyond Their Usual Role
Madrasas in Dystopia
The Need for Modernization
Future Perfect

What is the role of a madrasa? Should it concentrate on imparting Islamic instruction only and memorizing the Quran in Arabic without understanding the meaning or imbibing the values enshrined? Or should it produce a complete aalim (scholar) ready to take his place in the changing world with knowledge of modern science and technology?

The answer to this question is provided by Ziya Us Salam and M. Aslam Parvaiz in Madrasas in the Age of Islamophobia.

The book addresses two key questions: How madrasas are falsely accused by some politicians of producing radicalized students who pick up arms and indulge in militancy. And, how some madrasas are trying to find ways to stay relevant in contemporary times by imparting modern knowledge alongside Islamic teachings. The book shall remain relevant for those seeking to reform madrasa education.

Swami Agnivesh,
Former Minister of Education, Haryana and social reformer activist

Ziya Us Salam and M. Aslam Parvaiz have jointly ventured into the territory that many would consider contested. But the authors have historical facts to back them in their lucid presentation.

The book delves into the history of evolution of madrasas in medieval times in India and elsewhere in the Islamic world. Extending patronage was considered a pious act as learning was valued, which in return earned rulers’ legitimacy. Many madrasas emerged as centres of scholarly exchange and medium of carrying forward certain schools of thought. The Madrasa-i-Rahimiyah in Delhi and Darul Uloom in Deoband, Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, are examples of these acting as centres of learning as well as upholders of certain worldview. Maulana Azad had established the Madrasa-i-Islamia in Ranchi with help from many non-Muslims as the largest donor for its establishment was one Rai Saheb Thakor Das, a prominent personality of Ranchi.

In the late 20th century and early 21st century, these institutions were subjected to undue scrutiny for acting as hubs of extremism. Scholars failed to point out inadequacies of their antiquated syllabus and curriculum. Graduates of these institutions have not been abreast with the contemporary realities in the world of knowledge. Instead of removing baggage of backwardness, they are politically targeted and poor man’s learning spaces are seen with coloured vision.

The book is the outcome of serious scholarship as it illuminates dark corners of our understanding about madrasas. 

Rizwan Qaiser
Professor, Department of History and Culture, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

Lack of familiarity breeds contempt. In the age of the short-cut and of simplistic connections, many of us do not even realize how ill-informed we are about traditions and institutions in the multiverse that is India. This book is an essential reading for all citizens, addressing as it does the richness of an alternative system of education. Madrasas vary as much as do government schools, in terms of facilities and rigour of courses. Perceived as essentially religious seminaries, their strengths—such as the grounding in logic and their multi-language richness—are forgotten. These chapters are timely—covering madrasas of different vintage in different regions of India and of different branches of Islam, their intellectual achievements, and their principled stands on political issues and on matters where Islamic law is at odds with the civil law. The chapters are not all feel-good, soaked in nostalgia. On the one hand, they point out the shortcomings of madrasas, their often outdated syllabus and method of teaching; on the other, they expose as hollow claims of madrasas being the nurseries of terrorism. The book is a must-read.

Narayani Gupta
noted historian and author

The book touches a very important topic that the Muslim community is facing in India rather than all over the world. It would be appreciated by all sections of the society. Some very important and sensitive issues related to madrasas have been dealt with: their infrastructure, contents/syllabus, methods of teaching, resources, management, etc. As far as madrasa syllabus is concerned, surely it is in immense need for updating. The need of the hour is to study both old and new tafsirs.

The authors have taken up the issue of terrorism levelled against the madrasas and proved their point in a well-documented way. They advocate reform of madrasa system and their syllabi in the light of modern-day requirements. The language is simple, lucid and attractive. The authors deserve all appreciation.

Ubaidur Rahman
Associate Professor, Centre of Arabic and African Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi

“Madrasas in the Age of Islamophobia is undoubtedly an interesting and easily accessible introduction to madrasa education in India.”

The Book Review, December 2020

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