Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Maulana Tariq Rashid Firangi Mahali on Dars-e Nizami and Madrasa Reform in South Asia

Expand Messages
  • yogi sikand
    39-year old Maulana Tariq Rasheed Firanghi Mahali is a ninth generation direct descendant of Mulla Nizamuddin Firanghi Mahali, who framed what is known after
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 1, 2008
    • 0 Attachment
      39-year old Maulana Tariq Rasheed Firanghi Mahali is a
      ninth generation direct descendant of Mulla Nizamuddin
      Firanghi Mahali, who framed what is known after him as
      the dars-e nizami, the basic syllabus that continues
      to be followed by the vast majority of Islamic
      madrasas in South Asia even today. He is one of the
      few remaining members of the renowned Firanghi Mahali
      family of Lucknow who carry on with their family's
      centuries'-old tradition of Islamic scholarship. A
      graduate of the Nadwat ul-Ulema madrasa in Lucknow, he
      is presently Director of the Islamic Society of
      Greater Orlando, Florida, in the United States. In
      this interview with Yoginder Sikand, he talks about
      his family's scholarly tradition and its decline and
      reflects on the dars-e nizami and madrasa education in
      South Asia today.

      Q: Could you briefly describe your family's tradition
      of Islamic scholarship?

      A: We trace our descent from a companion of the
      Prophet Muhammad, Hazrat Abu Ayub Ansari , in whose
      house in Medina the Prophet stayed following his
      migration from Mecca. Our family has, over the
      centuries, produced leading Islamic scholars. In the
      early eighteenth century, the Mughal Emperor granted
      Mulla Qutubuddin, one of our ancestors, a mansion in
      Lucknow, the Firanghi Mahal, which was earlier used by
      a European or firanghi merchant, and hence its name.
      Mulla Nizamuddin, son of Mulla Qutubuddin, prepared an
      outline for studies, which came to be known after him
      as the dars-e nizami or the 'Syllabus of Nizamuddin'.
      This was, for its time, a very relevant syllabus, and
      soon became so popular all across India that almost
      all the madrasas that were later established adopted
      its pattern. And even today most madrasas in South
      Asia claim to follow the dars-e nizami and so are
      called Nizami madrasas.

      Q: What was so special about the dars-e nizami?

      A: For its times, the dars-e nizami provided a
      well-rounded education. It included subjects such as
      Mathematics, Astronomy, Medicine, Philosophy, Logic,
      Geography, Literature, Chemistry and so on, as well as
      the Quran, the Prophetic Traditions or Hadith, Islamic
      Jurisprudence or Fiqh and Sufism. Those who passed
      through this course of study went on to assume a
      variety of careers, not just as imams and qazis, but
      also as bureaucrats in the courts of various princely
      states. And this is why even Shia and Hindu students
      studied with the ulema of the Firanghi Mahal family.
      It was not like today, when, in a climate of
      increasing sectarianism and narrow-mindedness,
      madrasas are associated with one sect or the other,
      and often play a key role in fanning inter-sectarian
      conflicts. They are now unwilling to tolerate each
      other. What a contrast this is to the ecumenism that
      characteristic of the early ulema of Firanghi Mahal!

      The dars-e nizami, as Mulla Nizamuddin developed it,
      was not intended to be a hide-bound, fixed and
      unchanging syllabus, as it is sometimes made out to be
      today by some maulvis. This is evident from the fact
      that although Mulla Nizamuddin authored several books,
      he did not include even one of these in the syllabus
      that he framed. The syllabus was flexible enough to
      allow for the inclusion of new or better books. In
      place of bookish learning, which is characteristic of
      many madrasas today, Mulla Nizamuddin did not teach
      entire books to his students. Rather, he taught them
      only some chapters of each book, and encouraged them
      to study the rest of these books on their own, so that
      they could thereby enhance their critical capacities.
      This was unlike in most madrasas today, where
      questioning is strongly discouraged.

      Q: How did the tradition of learning based in
      Firanghi Mahal develop after Mulla Nizamuddin?

      A: Mulla Nizamuddin did not establish a madrasa in
      Firanghi Mahal. Rather, students would come to him
      from different parts of India to learn from him in his
      house in the Firanghi Mahal. There was no regular,
      fixed course of study or examinations, as in the case
      of madrasas today. Students would stay in mosques in
      the neighbourhood or else rent a place close-by and
      regularly meet with and study various books from Mulla
      Nizamuddin or other members of his family. He was also
      a spiritual instructor for many of them, because he
      was a Sufi, and a disciple of the noted Qadri saint
      Shah Abdur Razak Bansavi.

      This system of informal learning at Firanghi Mahal was
      then carried on by several generations of our family.
      Basically, students came from Muslim elite or ashraf
      families. The system was a product of the feudal
      period, and our family, like many other scholarly
      families of that time, was patronised by the Muslim
      feudal elite. It was only in 1906 that Maulana Andul
      Bari Firanghi Mahali, who was a noted Islamic scholar
      of his times and one of the founders of the Jamiat
      ul-Ulema-e Hind, established a madrasa, the Madrasa-e
      Nizamia, inside the Firanghi Mahal. The madrasa
      continued to function till the Partition, in 1947,
      when Maulana Abdul Bari's son and successor, Maulana
      Jamal Miyan, migrated to Pakistan.

      Q: The once-grand Firanghi Mahal structure is today in
      a state of almost complete ruin, despite the fact that
      several members of the family are well-off. Why this
      neglect?

      A: Partition hit our family very badly. Around half of
      the Firanghi Mahali family migrated to Pakistan. From
      there, many of them settled in Europe and America.
      Most of them, like the rest of the family who remained
      in India, gave up the tradition of Islamic scholarship
      and took to Western learning. The family was bereft of
      feudal patrons in the new set-up, and that was also a
      major cause for the decline of our scholarly
      tradition. And then those who are the legal heirs of
      the structure where the Madrasa-e Nizamia once stood
      are not interested in refurbishing it, although I
      tried to do so some years ago. Consequently, the
      structure is now in ruins, in a state of complete
      neglect.

      The various branches of the Firanghi Mahal family had,
      over the centuries, accumulated several thousand books
      and manuscripts. Many of them were taken to Pakistan
      by those of our family who shifted there. We were
      unable to preserve the rest, so we donated them to the
      Aligarh Muslim University's library, where they are
      safely kept.

      Presently, only a few members of our family are
      carrying on with our centuries'-old family tradition
      of Islamic scholarship. These are Maulana Hasan Miyan,
      my cousin, who studied at the Nadwat ul-Ulema,
      Lucknow, and is now teaching there, my younger brother
      Khalid Rashid, who has established a new Madrasa-e
      Nizamia and an Islamic Centre at the Eidgah in
      Lucknow, and myself.

      Q: Some traditionalist ulema argue that the dars-e
      nizami does not need any change. They claim that it
      produced good scholars in the past and so can do so
      today, too. As a descendant of Mulla Nizamuddin and
      one who knows the tradition well, how do you react to
      this argument?

      A: I strongly disagree with this argument. It reflects
      a very strange mentality. So rigid are those who argue
      this way that they easily brand anyone who calls for
      change as an 'apostate' or an 'agent' of this or other
      'un-Islamic' power. Mulla Nizamuddin did not
      certainly intend that the syllabus he formulated
      should remain unchanged forever. The point is that
      the ulema must be kept abreast with contemporary
      developments, which is not possible if one argues that
      the dars-e nizami should remain unchanged. How can you
      be considered to be a real scholar, an alim, if you
      study books written eight hundred or five hundred
      years ago, which is the case with the dars-e nizami,
      and totally leave out modern books? Of course, the
      Quran and Hadith texts and so on remain the same. They
      cannot be changed. But the dars-e nizami is overloaded
      with books on antiquated Greek logic and philosophy,
      or what are called ulum-e aqaliya or 'rational
      sciences', much of which is quite irrelevant now. They
      should be replaced by modern 'rational' subjects, such
      as English and social sciences, so that would-be ulema
      know about the present world. Without this knowledge
      how can they provide appropriate leadership to the
      community, as 'heirs of the Prophets'? How will they
      be able to answer the questions that people in the
      streets are asking? How will they be able to properly
      deal with new jurisprudential issues (fiqhi masail) if
      all they learn are issues that the medieval ulema
      discussed in the books that are still taught in the
      madrasas that claim to follow the dars-e nizami?

      So, this argument that the dars-i nizami should not be
      revised, on the lines that I have suggested, is
      completely absurd. I think it should be revised every
      thirty to forty years in accordance with changing
      conditions if it is to retain its relevance.

      I think a certain hostility to change is deeply
      ingrained in the mentality of many of our
      traditionalist ulema. For instance, when I was a
      child, loudspeakers had just been introduced in India
      and Mufti Atiq ur-Rahman Firanghi Mahali issued a
      fatwa declaring their use to be unlawful. Some other
      ulema also reacted the same way, but later the ulema
      were forced to change their position. Many
      traditionalist ulema somehow automatically assume that
      anything new is haram or forbidden, but, actually, in
      Islam the right attitude is that everything is
      permissible if it is not forbidden.

      The hostility of some ulema to any significant change
      in the dars-e nizami has also to do with a fixation
      with a certain understanding of what Muslim culture
      is. So, even in North America, many madrasas that have
      come up insist on keeping Urdu, rather than English,
      as the medium of instruction, although few young North
      American Muslims know Urdu, their language now being
      English. As if Urdu has some special sanctity attached
      to it! The ulema who run these madrasas might fear
      that if they were to use English instead, the students
      would lose their Islamic identity or be secularised,
      but this attitude is wrong because, needless to say,
      all languages, including both Urdu and English, are
      ultimately from God.

      Some ulema might feel that including English in the
      madrasa syllabus will cause their students to be
      attracted to the delights of the world and to stray
      from the path of the faith, but I do not think so.
      English is now the global language of communication,
      and if the ulema are to address the younger generation
      or people of other faiths they must know the language.
      And if they include English and the basics of modern
      subjects in their curriculum, they may succeed in
      attracting students from economically better-off
      families, too. At present, however, madrasas are
      largely the refuge of the poor, while middle-class
      parents prefer to send their children to 'secular'
      schools because there they learn subjects hat would
      help them get a good job in the future. If the
      madrasas were to include such subjects in their
      syllabus, at least to a certain basic level, they
      would attract these students too. And then, after
      they finish a basic course that includes both
      religious as well as 'secular' subjects, their
      students can choose which line to specialise in.

      Q: Some maulvis dismiss even the most well-meaning
      suggestions for reform as a reflection of what they
      claim is an 'anti-Islamic' conspiracy, alleging that
      these are a means to secularise madrasas and rob them
      of their Islamic identity. What are your views on
      this?

      A: Different people might have different motives when
      talking about madrasa reforms, but surely the sort of
      reforms that some younger generation ulema like us,
      who are genuinely concerned about improving the
      madrasas, are calling for cannot or should not be
      branded as a 'conspiracy'! We are not calling for the
      secularisation of the madrasas or suggesting that they
      should teach secular subjects to such an extent that
      their Islamic identity is threatened. Far from it. But
      surely there should be a revision of some aspects of
      the dars-e nizami that are no longer relevant and the
      inclusion of basic English, Social Sciences and so on,
      while making the Quran and the Hadith the centre of
      the curriculum, which they were not in the case of the
      traditional dars-e nizami, which gave more stress to
      the then current 'rational' sciences. Surely, even
      many ulema themselves recognise the need for this sort
      of change or else they would not be sending their own
      children to English-medium schools or even abroad to
      study if they can afford it.

      Q: The 'mainstream' media often depicts the ulema in a
      very negative light. Ulema such as yourself are
      rarely, if ever, mentioned by the media. Why is this
      so?

      A: Yes, unfortunately, there is this tendency on the
      part of large sections of the 'mainstream' media to
      portray the ulema as if they were some archaic,
      monstrous creatures. Part of the reason lies in
      deeply-rooted historical prejudices. And then there
      are weird people in every community, and the media
      often picks on some weird mullah who issues some
      sensational and irrational fatwas and presents him as
      speaking for all the ulema, which is, of course, not
      the case. So, part of the fault also lies with such
      mullahs. I feel that one way to solve this problem is
      to encourage what is known as collective ijtihad,
      through which ulema and experts in various 'secular'
      branches of learning work together to provide proper
      responses to people's questions. Only then can the
      problem of outlandish fatwas, which have given the
      whole class of ulema such a bad name, be put an end
      to.

      I strongly think that reforms in the curriculum and
      methods of teaching are essential to help madrasas
      relate better to others, including non-Muslims, the
      media and the government, and also to counter
      misunderstandings that many people have about them.
      Only then will people come to realise that madrasas
      are constructive, not destructive, institutions. For
      that we also need to encourage tolerance for other
      points of view, for other understandings of Islam and
      for other religions and their adherents.

      Q: There is also considerable debate about the need
      for introducing vocational training in the madrasas.
      Some traditionalists are fiercely opposed to this.
      What do you feel?

      A: I think vocational training is very important.
      Ideally, although this is not always the case, one
      should choose to become an alim not for the sake of a
      job but as a religious calling. In other words,
      ideally, imamat in a mosque or delivering sermons
      should not be a paid profession. It should be an
      honorary, voluntary thing. This is how it was in the
      distant past. For instance, Imam Abu Hanifa, whose
      school of law most South Asian Sunni Muslims follow,
      was not a professional alim—he earned his livelihood
      as a businessman. Today, however, the general feeling
      is that large sections of the ulema live off the
      donations of others. If one is dependent on others how
      will one earn the respect due to him? The ulema can
      gain proper respect only when they are seen as
      providing benefits, in terms of proper leadership and
      guidance, to others, rather than, as now, benefitting
      from them. And, for that, financial independence of
      the ulema is a must, and hence the need for
      introducing vocational training in the madrasas.

      Q: As the head of an important Islamic Centre in
      America, what do you see as the major challenges
      before the ulema in thepost-9/11 world?

      A: The most pressing need today is for the ulema to
      act as a bridge between Muslims and other communities,
      rather than to add to on-going conflicts. We have
      tried to do this in our own small way in the United
      States. After 9/11, in a climate of increasing
      hostility towards Muslims and Islam, we began outreach
      programmes with Christians and Jews, speaking on and
      answering questions about Islam in colleges,
      universities and other public places. We also helped
      establish a group to promote dialogue between Muslims
      and Jews, which is called "Jews, Arabs and Muslims",
      or JAMS for short. We plan to have our first big
      gathering this coming February, and expect some 10,000
      people, Muslims, Jews and others, to attend it. Our
      purpose is to state that the American Muslims are
      indeed willing to live peacefully with their Jewish
      compatriots, despite the differences they have.

      I think 9/11 came as a major wake-up call for us in
      America. We are much more active now in inter-faith
      dialogue and outreach work than we ever were before.
      Earlier, we adopted the same approach that the ulema
      in India continue to adopt—we were satisfied living
      in own little cocoons and not making the effort to
      reach out to people of other faiths, to listen to them
      and to speak to them. This is what 9/11 forced us to
      wake up to. And, based on my own experiences in the
      field of dialogue in the last few years, I must say
      that the vast majority of Americans are indeed
      tolerant and willing to listen to what we say, if
      approached properly.

      Q: Some Muslims argue that America is an 'enemy of
      Islam'. How do you react to this?

      A: I think this is pure hypocrisy. Many of those who
      make this claim would be the first to migrate to
      America if they were provided with an American
      passport or visa! There are numerous fiercely
      anti-American Muslims, including even some mullahs,
      whose own children live comfortably in America! I may
      not agree with some aspects of the foreign policy of
      the present American government or the attitude of
      sections of the American media, but nor do millions of
      non-Muslim Americans. You cannot equate the American
      government with the American people. The average
      American on the street cannot be said to be
      anti-Islam. We have over three thousand mosques in
      America and enjoy freedom to practise our faith.

      I think all of us, Muslims and others, urgently need
      to shed our parochialism, and seek to reach out to
      each other if the world is to be saved from
      catastrophe in the name of religion. Needless to add,
      there are well-meaning people in every community and
      in every country, America included, and our task is to
      work together with them for the sake of our common
      humanity.
      ==========================================


      Maulana Tariq Rasheed can be contacted on
      imamtariq@gmail com

      The website of the Islamic Society of Greater Orlando,
      of which he is the Director, is www.isgo.info

      Sukhia Sab Sansar Khaye Aur Soye
      Dukhia Das Kabir Jagey Aur Roye


      The world is 'happy', eating and sleeping
      The forlorn Kabir Das is awake and weeping




      ____________________________________________________________________________________
      Never miss a thing. Make Yahoo your home page.
      http://www.yahoo.com/r/hs
    • Faizan Ahmed
      Maulana Bilal Ali Ansari has responded to some of points that are made by Maulana Tariq Rasheed here,
      Message 2 of 2 , Jan 3, 2008
      • 0 Attachment
        Maulana Bilal Ali Ansari has responded to some of points that are made by Maulana Tariq Rasheed here,

        http://attalib.blogspot.com/2008/01/on-mawlana-tariq-rashid-nadwis-comments.html

        Faizan


        On Jan 1, 2008 11:39 PM, yogi sikand <ysikand@...> wrote:

        39-year old Maulana Tariq Rasheed Firanghi Mahali is a
        ninth generation direct descendant of Mulla Nizamuddin
        Firanghi Mahali, who framed what is known after him as
        the dars-e nizami, the basic syllabus that continues
        to be followed by the vast majority of Islamic
        madrasas in South Asia even today. He is one of the
        few remaining members of the renowned Firanghi Mahali
        family of Lucknow who carry on with their family's
        centuries'-old tradition of Islamic scholarship. A
        graduate of the Nadwat ul-Ulema madrasa in Lucknow, he
        is presently Director of the Islamic Society of
        Greater Orlando, Florida, in the United States. In
        this interview with Yoginder Sikand, he talks about
        his family's scholarly tradition and its decline and
        reflects on the dars-e nizami and madrasa education in
        South Asia today.

        Q: Could you briefly describe your family's tradition
        of Islamic scholarship?

        A: We trace our descent from a companion of the
        Prophet Muhammad, Hazrat Abu Ayub Ansari , in whose
        house in Medina the Prophet stayed following his
        migration from Mecca. Our family has, over the
        centuries, produced leading Islamic scholars. In the
        early eighteenth century, the Mughal Emperor granted
        Mulla Qutubuddin, one of our ancestors, a mansion in
        Lucknow, the Firanghi Mahal, which was earlier used by
        a European or firanghi merchant, and hence its name.
        Mulla Nizamuddin, son of Mulla Qutubuddin, prepared an
        outline for studies, which came to be known after him
        as the dars-e nizami or the 'Syllabus of Nizamuddin'.
        This was, for its time, a very relevant syllabus, and
        soon became so popular all across India that almost
        all the madrasas that were later established adopted
        its pattern. And even today most madrasas in South
        Asia claim to follow the dars-e nizami and so are
        called Nizami madrasas.

        Q: What was so special about the dars-e nizami?

        A: For its times, the dars-e nizami provided a
        well-rounded education. It included subjects such as
        Mathematics, Astronomy, Medicine, Philosophy, Logic,
        Geography, Literature, Chemistry and so on, as well as
        the Quran, the Prophetic Traditions or Hadith, Islamic
        Jurisprudence or Fiqh and Sufism. Those who passed
        through this course of study went on to assume a
        variety of careers, not just as imams and qazis, but
        also as bureaucrats in the courts of various princely
        states. And this is why even Shia and Hindu students
        studied with the ulema of the Firanghi Mahal family.
        It was not like today, when, in a climate of
        increasing sectarianism and narrow-mindedness,
        madrasas are associated with one sect or the other,
        and often play a key role in fanning inter-sectarian
        conflicts. They are now unwilling to tolerate each
        other. What a contrast this is to the ecumenism that
        characteristic of the early ulema of Firanghi Mahal!

        The dars-e nizami, as Mulla Nizamuddin developed it,
        was not intended to be a hide-bound, fixed and
        unchanging syllabus, as it is sometimes made out to be
        today by some maulvis. This is evident from the fact
        that although Mulla Nizamuddin authored several books,
        he did not include even one of these in the syllabus
        that he framed. The syllabus was flexible enough to
        allow for the inclusion of new or better books. In
        place of bookish learning, which is characteristic of
        many madrasas today, Mulla Nizamuddin did not teach
        entire books to his students. Rather, he taught them
        only some chapters of each book, and encouraged them
        to study the rest of these books on their own, so that
        they could thereby enhance their critical capacities.
        This was unlike in most madrasas today, where
        questioning is strongly discouraged.

        Q: How did the tradition of learning based in
        Firanghi Mahal develop after Mulla Nizamuddin?

        A: Mulla Nizamuddin did not establish a madrasa in
        Firanghi Mahal. Rather, students would come to him
        from different parts of India to learn from him in his
        house in the Firanghi Mahal. There was no regular,
        fixed course of study or examinations, as in the case
        of madrasas today. Students would stay in mosques in
        the neighbourhood or else rent a place close-by and
        regularly meet with and study various books from Mulla
        Nizamuddin or other members of his family. He was also
        a spiritual instructor for many of them, because he
        was a Sufi, and a disciple of the noted Qadri saint
        Shah Abdur Razak Bansavi.

        This system of informal learning at Firanghi Mahal was
        then carried on by several generations of our family.
        Basically, students came from Muslim elite or ashraf
        families. The system was a product of the feudal
        period, and our family, like many other scholarly
        families of that time, was patronised by the Muslim
        feudal elite. It was only in 1906 that Maulana Andul
        Bari Firanghi Mahali, who was a noted Islamic scholar
        of his times and one of the founders of the Jamiat
        ul-Ulema-e Hind, established a madrasa, the Madrasa-e
        Nizamia, inside the Firanghi Mahal. The madrasa
        continued to function till the Partition, in 1947,
        when Maulana Abdul Bari's son and successor, Maulana
        Jamal Miyan, migrated to Pakistan.

        Q: The once-grand Firanghi Mahal structure is today in
        a state of almost complete ruin, despite the fact that
        several members of the family are well-off. Why this
        neglect?

        A: Partition hit our family very badly. Around half of
        the Firanghi Mahali family migrated to Pakistan. From
        there, many of them settled in Europe and America.
        Most of them, like the rest of the family who remained
        in India, gave up the tradition of Islamic scholarship
        and took to Western learning. The family was bereft of
        feudal patrons in the new set-up, and that was also a
        major cause for the decline of our scholarly
        tradition. And then those who are the legal heirs of
        the structure where the Madrasa-e Nizamia once stood
        are not interested in refurbishing it, although I
        tried to do so some years ago. Consequently, the
        structure is now in ruins, in a state of complete
        neglect.

        The various branches of the Firanghi Mahal family had,
        over the centuries, accumulated several thousand books
        and manuscripts. Many of them were taken to Pakistan
        by those of our family who shifted there. We were
        unable to preserve the rest, so we donated them to the
        Aligarh Muslim University's library, where they are
        safely kept.

        Presently, only a few members of our family are
        carrying on with our centuries'-old family tradition
        of Islamic scholarship. These are Maulana Hasan Miyan,
        my cousin, who studied at the Nadwat ul-Ulema,
        Lucknow, and is now teaching there, my younger brother
        Khalid Rashid, who has established a new Madrasa-e
        Nizamia and an Islamic Centre at the Eidgah in
        Lucknow, and myself.

        Q: Some traditionalist ulema argue that the dars-e
        nizami does not need any change. They claim that it
        produced good scholars in the past and so can do so
        today, too. As a descendant of Mulla Nizamuddin and
        one who knows the tradition well, how do you react to
        this argument?

        A: I strongly disagree with this argument. It reflects
        a very strange mentality. So rigid are those who argue
        this way that they easily brand anyone who calls for
        change as an 'apostate' or an 'agent' of this or other
        'un-Islamic' power. Mulla Nizamuddin did not
        certainly intend that the syllabus he formulated
        should remain unchanged forever. The point is that
        the ulema must be kept abreast with contemporary
        developments, which is not possible if one argues that
        the dars-e nizami should remain unchanged. How can you
        be considered to be a real scholar, an alim, if you
        study books written eight hundred or five hundred
        years ago, which is the case with the dars-e nizami,
        and totally leave out modern books? Of course, the
        Quran and Hadith texts and so on remain the same. They
        cannot be changed. But the dars-e nizami is overloaded
        with books on antiquated Greek logic and philosophy,
        or what are called ulum-e aqaliya or 'rational
        sciences', much of which is quite irrelevant now. They
        should be replaced by modern 'rational' subjects, such
        as English and social sciences, so that would-be ulema
        know about the present world. Without this knowledge
        how can they provide appropriate leadership to the
        community, as 'heirs of the Prophets'? How will they
        be able to answer the questions that people in the
        streets are asking? How will they be able to properly
        deal with new jurisprudential issues (fiqhi masail) if
        all they learn are issues that the medieval ulema
        discussed in the books that are still taught in the
        madrasas that claim to follow the dars-e nizami?

        So, this argument that the dars-i nizami should not be
        revised, on the lines that I have suggested, is
        completely absurd. I think it should be revised every
        thirty to forty years in accordance with changing
        conditions if it is to retain its relevance.

        I think a certain hostility to change is deeply
        ingrained in the mentality of many of our
        traditionalist ulema. For instance, when I was a
        child, loudspeakers had just been introduced in India
        and Mufti Atiq ur-Rahman Firanghi Mahali issued a
        fatwa declaring their use to be unlawful. Some other
        ulema also reacted the same way, but later the ulema
        were forced to change their position. Many
        traditionalist ulema somehow automatically assume that
        anything new is haram or forbidden, but, actually, in
        Islam the right attitude is that everything is
        permissible if it is not forbidden.

        The hostility of some ulema to any significant change
        in the dars-e nizami has also to do with a fixation
        with a certain understanding of what Muslim culture
        is. So, even in North America, many madrasas that have
        come up insist on keeping Urdu, rather than English,
        as the medium of instruction, although few young North
        American Muslims know Urdu, their language now being
        English. As if Urdu has some special sanctity attached
        to it! The ulema who run these madrasas might fear
        that if they were to use English instead, the students
        would lose their Islamic identity or be secularised,
        but this attitude is wrong because, needless to say,
        all languages, including both Urdu and English, are
        ultimately from God.

        Some ulema might feel that including English in the
        madrasa syllabus will cause their students to be
        attracted to the delights of the world and to stray
        from the path of the faith, but I do not think so.
        English is now the global language of communication,
        and if the ulema are to address the younger generation
        or people of other faiths they must know the language.
        And if they include English and the basics of modern
        subjects in their curriculum, they may succeed in
        attracting students from economically better-off
        families, too. At present, however, madrasas are
        largely the refuge of the poor, while middle-class
        parents prefer to send their children to 'secular'
        schools because there they learn subjects hat would
        help them get a good job in the future. If the
        madrasas were to include such subjects in their
        syllabus, at least to a certain basic level, they
        would attract these students too. And then, after
        they finish a basic course that includes both
        religious as well as 'secular' subjects, their
        students can choose which line to specialise in.

        Q: Some maulvis dismiss even the most well-meaning
        suggestions for reform as a reflection of what they
        claim is an 'anti-Islamic' conspiracy, alleging that
        these are a means to secularise madrasas and rob them
        of their Islamic identity. What are your views on
        this?

        A: Different people might have different motives when
        talking about madrasa reforms, but surely the sort of
        reforms that some younger generation ulema like us,
        who are genuinely concerned about improving the
        madrasas, are calling for cannot or should not be
        branded as a 'conspiracy'! We are not calling for the
        secularisation of the madrasas or suggesting that they
        should teach secular subjects to such an extent that
        their Islamic identity is threatened. Far from it. But
        surely there should be a revision of some aspects of
        the dars-e nizami that are no longer relevant and the
        inclusion of basic English, Social Sciences and so on,
        while making the Quran and the Hadith the centre of
        the curriculum, which they were not in the case of the
        traditional dars-e nizami, which gave more stress to
        the then current 'rational' sciences. Surely, even
        many ulema themselves recognise the need for this sort
        of change or else they would not be sending their own
        children to English-medium schools or even abroad to
        study if they can afford it.

        Q: The 'mainstream' media often depicts the ulema in a
        very negative light. Ulema such as yourself are
        rarely, if ever, mentioned by the media. Why is this
        so?

        A: Yes, unfortunately, there is this tendency on the
        part of large sections of the 'mainstream' media to
        portray the ulema as if they were some archaic,
        monstrous creatures. Part of the reason lies in
        deeply-rooted historical prejudices. And then there
        are weird people in every community, and the media
        often picks on some weird mullah who issues some
        sensational and irrational fatwas and presents him as
        speaking for all the ulema, which is, of course, not
        the case. So, part of the fault also lies with such
        mullahs. I feel that one way to solve this problem is
        to encourage what is known as collective ijtihad,
        through which ulema and experts in various 'secular'
        branches of learning work together to provide proper
        responses to people's questions. Only then can the
        problem of outlandish fatwas, which have given the
        whole class of ulema such a bad name, be put an end
        to.

        I strongly think that reforms in the curriculum and
        methods of teaching are essential to help madrasas
        relate better to others, including non-Muslims, the
        media and the government, and also to counter
        misunderstandings that many people have about them.
        Only then will people come to realise that madrasas
        are constructive, not destructive, institutions. For
        that we also need to encourage tolerance for other
        points of view, for other understandings of Islam and
        for other religions and their adherents.

        Q: There is also considerable debate about the need
        for introducing vocational training in the madrasas.
        Some traditionalists are fiercely opposed to this.
        What do you feel?

        A: I think vocational training is very important.
        Ideally, although this is not always the case, one
        should choose to become an alim not for the sake of a
        job but as a religious calling. In other words,
        ideally, imamat in a mosque or delivering sermons
        should not be a paid profession. It should be an
        honorary, voluntary thing. This is how it was in the
        distant past. For instance, Imam Abu Hanifa, whose
        school of law most South Asian Sunni Muslims follow,
        was not a professional alimâ€"he earned his livelihood
        as a businessman. Today, however, the general feeling
        is that large sections of the ulema live off the
        donations of others. If one is dependent on others how
        will one earn the respect due to him? The ulema can
        gain proper respect only when they are seen as
        providing benefits, in terms of proper leadership and
        guidance, to others, rather than, as now, benefitting
        from them. And, for that, financial independence of
        the ulema is a must, and hence the need for
        introducing vocational training in the madrasas.

        Q: As the head of an important Islamic Centre in
        America, what do you see as the major challenges
        before the ulema in thepost-9/11 world?

        A: The most pressing need today is for the ulema to
        act as a bridge between Muslims and other communities,
        rather than to add to on-going conflicts. We have
        tried to do this in our own small way in the United
        States. After 9/11, in a climate of increasing
        hostility towards Muslims and Islam, we began outreach
        programmes with Christians and Jews, speaking on and
        answering questions about Islam in colleges,
        universities and other public places. We also helped
        establish a group to promote dialogue between Muslims
        and Jews, which is called "Jews, Arabs and Muslims",
        or JAMS for short. We plan to have our first big
        gathering this coming February, and expect some 10,000
        people, Muslims, Jews and others, to attend it. Our
        purpose is to state that the American Muslims are
        indeed willing to live peacefully with their Jewish
        compatriots, despite the differences they have.

        I think 9/11 came as a major wake-up call for us in
        America. We are much more active now in inter-faith
        dialogue and outreach work than we ever were before.
        Earlier, we adopted the same approach that the ulema
        in India continue to adoptâ€"we were satisfied living
        in own little cocoons and not making the effort to
        reach out to people of other faiths, to listen to them
        and to speak to them. This is what 9/11 forced us to
        wake up to. And, based on my own experiences in the
        field of dialogue in the last few years, I must say
        that the vast majority of Americans are indeed
        tolerant and willing to listen to what we say, if
        approached properly.

        Q: Some Muslims argue that America is an 'enemy of
        Islam'. How do you react to this?

        A: I think this is pure hypocrisy. Many of those who
        make this claim would be the first to migrate to
        America if they were provided with an American
        passport or visa! There are numerous fiercely
        anti-American Muslims, including even some mullahs,
        whose own children live comfortably in America! I may
        not agree with some aspects of the foreign policy of
        the present American government or the attitude of
        sections of the American media, but nor do millions of
        non-Muslim Americans. You cannot equate the American
        government with the American people. The average
        American on the street cannot be said to be
        anti-Islam. We have over three thousand mosques in
        America and enjoy freedom to practise our faith.

        I think all of us, Muslims and others, urgently need
        to shed our parochialism, and seek to reach out to
        each other if the world is to be saved from
        catastrophe in the name of religion. Needless to add,
        there are well-meaning people in every community and
        in every country, America included, and our task is to
        work together with them for the sake of our common
        humanity.
        ==========================================


        Maulana Tariq Rasheed can be contacted on
        imamtariq@gmail com

        The website of the Islamic Society of Greater Orlando,
        of which he is the Director, is www.isgo.info

        Sukhia Sab Sansar Khaye Aur Soye
        Dukhia Das Kabir Jagey Aur Roye


        The world is 'happy', eating and sleeping
        The forlorn Kabir Das is awake and weeping

        __________________________________________________________
        Never miss a thing. Make Yahoo your home page.
        http://www.yahoo.com/r/hs




        --
        IMAN - Indian Muslim Aid Network - www.imanhub.org
        Networking Indian Muslim NGOs with donor/volunteer community worldwide.
      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.