At the launching ceremony of Urdu translation of Notre Dame University Professor’s book on madrasa scholars deliberated on the need for making madrasa education relevant to contemporary challenges and suggested to introduce certain change in the curriculum, reports Manzar Imam
New Delhi: If ulama fail to introduce Islam to non-Muslims in a non-Muslim majority country, it will be partial following of Islam and seerah of the Prophet and his companions. These views were expressed by Prof Mohsin Usmani Nadwi. He was speaking at the releasing ceremony of Urdu translation of Prof Ebrahim Moosa’s well-received book What Is a Madrasa? (2015, University of North Carolina Press).
The book launch programme was organized by Zakir Hussain Institute of Islamic Studies and Department of Islamic Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia at the University’s FTK-Centre for Information Technology on 31 October, 2017. The Urdu translation titled Deeni Madaris: Asri Manwiyyat aur Jadid Taqaze has been done by Dr Waris Mazhari, a faculty of the Department of Islamic Studies, JMI.
Emphasizing on the need for Madrasa graduates to learn modern languages to connect and communicate with people, Usmani questioned whether Madrasa graduates were able to speak in “Lisan al-Quam”, an Arabic term used in the Quran which can be translated as the “language of the nation and community”.
Elaborating on that he said that the mistake primarily was in failing to understand the historical fact that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions had, both in Makkah and Madinah, better relations with other communities which our ulama do not have. He termed it as a problem of “mindset”.
JMI Vice-Chancellor Prof Talat Ahmad described the book as an “important contribution” and suggested that the controversies and weaknesses in Madaris should be discussed and removed. This is with the fact that whatever work Madaris do is “great”, he said.
Eminent scholar and Chairman of Delhi Minorities Commission Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan commended the Urdu translation as being ‘done beautifully’ which “shows the translator’s academic depth”. He said while the book dealt with madrasas, it was also about the author’s own journey of madrasas.
Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan also pointed out to some of the drawback of the book, for example, not including the Shia madrasas or for offering no clear design how the author desired change in madrasas that he discussed in the book.
He further said that there were two kinds of madrasas: ones that received government aid and others that did not. If you received government aid you will have to follow its rule. He was referring to the incumbent government’s statements from time to time about introducing some new subjects in the madaris syllabi.
As the book is set against the backdrop of allegations against Madaris, Dr Khan said that the Madaris linked with Taliban and some other groups were actually different from the Madaris which were established in the Undivided India.
"They are still there in India and Pakistan and, they don’t have any link to any militant organization, he affirmed. Other than the need for certain changes in the syllabus, what madrasas are missing now is the “moral education and training”, he said adding that the students being prepared in madrasas were not useful for today’s society.
Dr Ebrahim Moosa, a Professor of Islamic studies at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA said that the reason for his writing the book was the ‘enormous backlash especially in the West’ about the Madaris in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.
"My interest in it, however, is the “intellectual tradition” of Madaris", said the author of the prize-winning “Ghazali and the Poetics of Imagination."
Moosa criticized the heads of Madaris for focusing more on how one looked and dressed, whereas they (ulama) should be “the translators of Islam’s moral and ethical message”.
Prof Mohammad Ishaque, Head of the Department of Islamic Studies and Director of Zakir Hussain Institute, JMI, called Prof Moosa a “friendly critic of Madaris”. Teachers and students from different universities attended the programme. Later on, Prof Moosa also gave a talk at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Earlier on 30 October, the Notre Dame University professor delivered Prof. Muhammad Mujeeb Memorial Lecture – 2017 on “Recovering the Ethical in Shari’a: Practices, Politics and Tradition” at Tagore Hall, JMI which was attended by academicians, intellectuals and media persons.
(Manzar Imam is a Ph.D. student at the Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia and is also doing an online programme “Contending Modernities” of the University of Notre Dame, USA.)