|Religious Education Institutions (REIs): Present Situation and the Future Strategy|
|Written by Khalid Rahman, Syed Rashad Bukhari|
Madaris have been the focus of Western media in general and the intelligentsia’s attention in particular since the last over three decades. This focus has intensified after 9/11. Madaris are now openly linked to terrorism and reforms are thus demanded as the only viable option if these institutions are there to stay. Pakistan government has prior to 9/11 been engaged in reforms but the outcome has never been encouraging. On the other hand, the religious institutions eye government measures with suspicion terming the measures as western onslaught on Muslim culture and civilization, and the government of Pakistan as Western stooge. The approaches of the West and those at the helm of affairs at Madaris are thus poles apart. This study is an effort to bridge the gulf. At first, it analyzes western apprehensions towards the role of madaris in breeding terrorism. Secondly, government of Pakistan’s reform efforts have been discussed with a view to know the overall impact of these reforms on madaris and their reaction towards these measures. At the end, the study gives viable policy guidelines and specific recommendations not only to alleviate the posed threat (if any) but also to integrate the religious education with mainstream systems thus raising the standard of education as a whole.
The Western policy makers, intellectuals and scholars have focused the Religious Education Institutions (REIs) of Pakistan since the last over three decades. This is the same period that witnessed major developments on the international political horizon that always had something to do with the REIs in Pakistan. First, it was the Soviet threat in 1980s. The strategy prepared by the Western policy makers to counter the emerging challenge of Communist expansionism revolved among others, round the REIsstudents in Afghanistan and adjoining areas. The REIs had already started resisting Soviets, viewing them a threat not only to their independence but also to their ideology. The Western policy-makers were aware of these students’ love for Islam, their spirit of Jihad and determination to fight against the forces of evil. It was, therefore, decided to lend support to the Mujahideen and the Taliban (REIs students).1
Soon after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989 the United States started looking at Mujahideen as a threatand withdrew its support. US approach towards Taliban government in Afghanistan and the present US pressure on Pakistan to crackdown on madaris can also be viewed in the same context. In fact, it started to pressurize Islamabad in this regard even well before the incident of September 11, 2001. According to Jessica Stern of the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University: “The United States has asked Pakistan to crack down on the militant groups and to close certain Madressas, but America must do more than just scold. After all, the United States, along with Saudi Arabia, helped create the first international ‘jihad’ to fight the Soviet Union during the Afghan war.”2
Then follows the incident of September 11, 2001 which is viewed as one of the most horrific events in the US history. Usama Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda Organization are held responsible for this tragedy because of his call for Jihad against US and the Western countries and their eviction from the holy land of Saudi Arabia. With this perspective, all acts of terror in the world are being viewed today in the religious context and the Muslims and their concept of Jihad are being held responsible for the growing anti-US and anti-West sentiments.3 As to the causes for the phenomenal rise in anti-American and anti-West sentiments, the accusing fingers rose at once towards the REIsof the Muslim countries, whose basic objectives remain promotion of religious learning. 4
In the same context, the targets of the US attack of Oct. 7, 2001 on Afghanistan as part of its International War against Terrorism were defined as to launch direct military action against Islamic Militants and Jihadi Organizations to decimate them once for all, and simultaneously put pressure on the Muslim countries through a policy of carrot and stick to close REIsnoted for their anti-US character. These REIswere seen as centers of military training where the students were brain-washed to fight as Jihadis.5
Interest in Academic Reforms
Finding it impossible to totally eliminate the institutions of religious learning spread throughout the length and breadth of the Muslim World, it was stressed to introduce far-reaching reforms in their operation. The purpose was to alter the education system in such a way that the REIs may remain neither religious nor ‘extremist’ in character, but become modern, liberal and secular. That is how it was decided to forestall the growing anti-US and anti-West threat.
Apparently, the principal objectives of these reforms were: 1) to modernize the Muslim societies in a way that these no more remain a threat to the West and the Western systems 2) to bring the West and the Muslims closer, and eventually 3) to assimilate them into the Western culture in such a way that, according to some Orientalists, the ‘Civilizing Mission’ of the West may be achieved.
This reforms’ strategy was put in action on two levels. Firstly, to pay special attention to help strengthen Pakistan Government’s educational system on secular grounds and set up new schools. And secondly, to make efforts to deal with religious extremism and introduce reforms in Madaris through government as well as non-government intervention. At the same time, efforts are being made to make it impossible for any financial, administrative, manpower and ideological support from Madaris to reach the Muslim resistance groups.6 In addition, various donor agencies are making large sums available for educational reforms in REIs.7
Recommended Reforms Program
As to the demands for reforms in REIs, the International Crisis Group’s 8 Asia Report No. 36 may be of special interest. For any real transformation and its desired results, the report submits its recommendations and demands calling upon the Government of Pakistan, international donor agencies, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, G-8 countries and the US to take practical steps. The ICG recommendations are given separately as recipes for the government of Pakistan, for the international donors, to the Middle Eastern countries and to the G-8 countries, especially the UK and the USA.
For the Government of Pakistan, the set of suggestions briefly included: establishing a madrasa regulatory authority to be headed by the interior minister; Instituting curriculum reforms for REIs within six months; immediately closing down REIs affiliated with banned militant organizations and prosecuting their leaders if involved in incitement; Requiring all REIs at the time of registration to come up with their annual income, expenditure and audit reports while declaring their assets and sources of funding; creating a nation-wide Financial Intelligence Unit to prevent money laundering; keeping strict tabs on foreign instruments to seek admission in Pakistani Madrasas; ensuring that Madrasa Reform is not confined to urban areas but also covers small towns and villages.
The recommendation for the International donors were to hold the Pakistani Government to its commitments to Madrasa Reform; to provide financial assistance to help Pakistan upgrade its secular education sector at all levels; to provide financial assistance to government Programs to reform the madrasa education sector only if the government closes madrasas affiliated with banned groups; training new Madrasa teachers to teach a wide range of secular subjects; producing Madrasa textbooks for modern subjects; and supporting civil society monitoring of document performance in madrasa reform and on other education issues.
To the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States, the ICG proposal was to publicly identify charities and NGOs suspected of links with militants. The G-8 countries, especially the United Kingdom and United States were asked to implement fully the eight special anti-terrorist financial recommendations of the internal governmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Money Laundering and urge Pakistan to adopt legislation that meets these standards. They were advised to launch, with the help of domestic Islamic Organizations, a public awareness campaign to dissuade expatriate Muslims from funding Jihadi Madrasas and to dispel misperceptions that Islamic Education per se is a target of the anti-terror financing laws.9
The tone and tenor of these recommendations and the nature of the desired steps reveal how the West is looking at Madaris in Pakistan and the exact nature of their concerns. They are keen to ensure that the Government of Pakistan should be put under so much pressure as to make its approach towards these Madaris as rigid and hard as they would like it to be.
The situation demands looking deeper into the root causes and the main factors behind such Western apprehensions. Such a review is needed not merely in the context of the current political developments, but also in the overall historic and civilizational perspective.
Western Apprehensions: Causes and Concerns
Apart from the apparent cause of the alleged involvement of REIsin terrorism, as also extremism, any attempt to understand the West’s apprehensions in a wider perspective, leads in discovering three major causes. The first is the basic difference between the Islamists and the secularists in their concept and vision towards life.
Islamists seek guidance for their objectives in life and overall conduct from their religion, which they regard not merely as a set of rituals, but also a way of life. According to this approach, no sphere of life, both individual and collective, is free from the Islamic guidance. Religious education has, therefore, been an obligatory requirement for their society in which intervention of any sort, especially from external quarters, at once becomes an extremely sensitive matter. It seeks to define the role of man in the context of his relationship with his Lord the Creator.
On the other hand, religion occupies a secondary place in the largely secular Western society. The life has been divided into two separate compartments; the individual and the community, and the role that religion has to play, if at all, has remained confined to personal spheres of the individual. This Western approach towards religion has its roots in the Europe of Middle Ages10 when the religion in the form of Papacy emerged as a strong institution and in collusion with the feudal system of the day tried to promote coercion, suppression and extremism in the society. In reaction to this, various strong movements arose in Europe, somewhere in the name of ‘Renaissance’, at another place as ‘Reformation’, and somewhere else as ‘Modernism.’ The religion and its role in human society and for the human potentials were regarded as ‘deadly.’ According to the men of learning and intellectuals in the West, God has long been dead 11 and if any society or a nation talked of remolding their lives and the lives of the coming generations in the light of religious injunctions and the Divine Guidance, it posed a grave threat to the future of the world and the humanity, and it has to be countered either by waging war or reforming that particular society and the nation.
The second reason is the deeply rooted concept among the Western mindset that the gulf between the East and the West cannot be bridged. This concept further got its ideological nutrients from the latest theory of “The Clash of Civilizations?”12 The US historian and scholar Samuel Huntington in his famous treatise has declared Islam as a jingoistic philosophy and civilization. According to him, Muslims whether in Islamic countries or elsewhere are the cause of conflicts with the non-Muslims. Following the demise of Communism, Islam is being viewed as the modern day’s greatest challenge, posing a threat of a ‘civilizational world war’ between Islam and the West, for which the West will have to be ready with its strategy to meet that threat.
Huntington’s theory has influenced a large segment of thinking minds and the governments both in the West and the East and the people have started talking in terms of the hypothetical clash of civilizations. The 9/11 Commission Report has also noted: “The enemy is not just the common evil like terrorism, but the actual threat is from the Islamic terrorism.” 13
A number of Western intellectuals are of the view that: “The religion has the central role in this conflict.”14 Thus, if Islam is a threat, it becomes a logical requirement and an inevitable priority to do away with all those institutions, which promote Islamic learning, or at least reform them in a manner as to change their mission and character.
The foregoing analysis show how the REIsand other stakeholders in the country perceive and identify the causes and basic motives of the Western concerns. Appreciation of this should help in evolving a balanced vision about reforms in these institutions. The need for change is felt among all quarters. But this too remains a fact that no change can be lasting and fruitful under pressure, nor any refusal to accept the need for change just in reaction can produce positive results. There is a general consensus particularly among religious scholars that the apprehensions being expressed by the US and the Western Governments have no foundation and these are due mainly to either the non-availability of facts, or their willful misinterpretation. The reservations of REIsconcerning the reforms and the motives behind these cannot possibly be overlooked altogether.
The scholars representing Madaris nevertheless, acknowledged that in spite of rendering important service for the society from the religious and educational perspective, the REIseducation system suffers from the shortcomings which have made it difficult for them to produce the desired manpower. This, they believed, due mainly to the persistence of some historic factors of the colonial era, Madaris’ indifference towards modern arts and sciences and the lack of resources. The Madressa system, it is also acknowledged, gave rise to the sectarian biases and narrow-mindedness and neither the students nor the teachers of these institutions had a proper awareness about the academic, social, political and cultural needs and demands of the contemporary times. Moreover, they are also of the view that the present state of affairs might rightly be a source of concern for the Muslim societies, but the West had no reason to deem it as a threat for its cultural identity. 15
REIs and Terrorism
According to the ICG’ above-mentioned Report, 10-15% of Madaris in Pakistan are considered to be involved in sectarian violence or in acts of international terrorism.16 The report also cites the Government’s admission that it does not have the complete authentic data, the absence of which is a great hurdle in the introduction of reforms. As far the involvement of Madaris in terrorism, or terrorism being part of their curricula, the hypothesis is based entirely on the media reports that Taliban were mostly the students of Pakistani Madaris.
While it is a fact that many students from Afghanistan have traditionally been graduating from the religious seminaries of the neighboring Pakistan, this is also a well known fact that all the freedom movements of the world, past and present, have always had their roots in their national aspirations, quest for self-identification, the right of self-determination or their national or factional interests. It would, therefore, be too simplistic to take the education in Madaris as the motivating force behind the ‘Taliban Movement’, or the complex issue of international terrorism.
Religious scholars and the REIs representatives, who took part in IPS’ series of Seminars, were quite categorical in their condemnation of terrorism in all its forms. Their stance against sectarian violence and militancy was equally firm. While expressing their desire and keenness for reforms, they however, voiced their disappointment over the extremely distorted image that is being projected about REIs. Dr. Sarfaraz Naeemi , President, Tanzeem Al-Madaris, speaking at the Islamabad Seminar proposed the following strategy to dispel the wrong notions about the madaris:
Ambassador Chamberlain went round the Jamia Campus. She saw the students attending classes, reviewed the system of education, visited the computer lab and also noticed how small children were taking lessons in reading and committing to memory the Holy Quran. She was so impressed by whatever she observed that her spontaneous reaction was that whatever she had been told and whatever she herself saw were two entirely different things.17
Reforms in REIs: An Appraisal of Government Measures
One can hardly undermine the importance of reforms in REIs of Pakistan. Yet, it is neither fair to link the efforts to reform merely with the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001 in the USA or to consider them the consequence of the global pressures, nor it is correct to change the character of these religious institutions just because of this incident. It may be noted that in the sub-continent during the last three hundred years many of the voices calling for Madressa reforms and appropriate changes in its syllabi were raised from within the Madressa itself.
Within a few years of the establishment of Deoband (one of the pioneering and mother REI in the Sub-continent) in 1866 several Muslim religious scholars started realizing the need to introduce modern disciplines along with specializations in traditional religious sciences. Voices were raised to enable these institutions to produce scholars combining sound religious learning, practical knowledge of the contemporary world and high linguistic proficiency that would enable them to communicate effectively the teachings of Islam. 18
After the creation of Pakistan, the need for such an educational structure was strongly felt both at public and private levels.
Precisely speaking, the history of the efforts for Madressa education reforms in Pakistan can be traced back to the period of Ayub Khan (1958-69). The subsequent governments also followed the process with similar measures that were initiated by Ayub Khan.
Without going further into the details of the historical background of reforms in religious education in Pakistani Madaris, it may suffice to point out here, that the educational policy of 1979 had explicitly recommended, for the first time, to establish religious institutions where modern subjects be taught together with specialization in religious disciplines. In order to materialize this recommendation, the then President of Pakistan appointed a Madressa Reform Commission19 under the chairmanship of (late) Dr. Halepota with distinguished educationists and religious scholars from representative boards of Madaris (Wifaqs) as its members. The Commission, in its comprehensive report, proposed a number of changes in the curriculum of the religious institutions. Some of these institutions (Madaris) at that time not only welcomed the proposed changes but also practically adopted them20 .
Similarly, the draft ninth five-year plan 21 includes a special chapter on Madressa education in which the financial, administrative and educational aspects including the matters related to the award of degrees by Madressa were elaborately discussed. Likewise, the education policy of 1998 contains recommendations for establishing Model Madaris where students would receive instruction in some modern disciplines together with specialized studies of the traditional subjects. To implement this, the Ministry of Education appointed, in collaboration with the Ministry of Religious Affairs, a committee in 1998 under the chairmanship of Dr. S. M. Zaman (later served as Chairman, Council of Islamic Ideology). The Committee submitted its report to the government in early 1999. This report contains comprehensive outline of such a model curriculum, which was jointly prepared by Ulama and leading educationists of the country with vision and insight into contemporary problems. However, the process discontinued after the dismissal of government by Gen. Pervez Musharraf in October 1999.
Model Madressa and Pakistan Madressa Board
In compliance with the recommendations of the Working Group appointed by the National Security Council established by Gen. Musharraf in 1999, the Cabinet decided on March 21, 2001 to establish one model Madressa each in Karachi, Sukkur and Islamabad, which can serve as model for other similar Madaris in the country. And to oversee and regulate these Madaris, “Pakistan Madressa Education Board’ 22 came into existence through an ordinance issued on Aug. 18, 2001. A grant of thirty million rupees was also allocated for this purpose. The Board has its offices in Islamabad and all the four provinces. Thus, the impression as given by certain quarters, that the idea of a model Madressa emerged as a result of external pressure by foreign countries or that it has any connection whatsoever with the events of September 11, 2001 is erroneous and contrary to facts.
However, when the leading Ulema were consulted on the question of model Madaris, they expressed three major concerns over this initiative: First, freedom and autonomy of the Madaris should not be compromised and that no government official should be allowed to interfere on any pretext into their internal affairs. Secondly, revision of syllabi and curricula are purely professional subjects and must be left to the relevant experts and teachers and should at no cost be influenced by temporary interests of the government. Thirdly, that private Madaris should not be compelled to affiliate with the said Madressa Education Board.
The government officials agreed in principle to these observations. They gave assurances and the ordinance promulgated later, has taken into consideration all these observations.23
On November 3, 2001, the Board finalized the curriculum of model Madressa and proposed that all the Wifaqs of Madaris (Boards) be invited to affiliate with this Board and adopt this curriculum. The curriculum proposed that the students shall study, in addition to Islamic disciplines, English, Mathematics, Social Sciences, Pakistan Studies and General Sciences at primary and secondary levels; and Computer Sciences, Economics, Political Science, Law and Pakistan Studies at intermediate level. The government expressed its hope that by accepting these changes, Madaris will usher into a new world. The government also devised a formula for the grant of university status to some major Madaris, who will be entitled to hold examinations and award degrees. While these developments were in progress, the catastrophe of September 11 changed the environment. Tension and general mistrust about various government moves lead to doubts and apprehensions about the intentions of the government behind these measures.
Notwithstanding the reservations expressed by the Madaris on these proposals, three model Madaris have already been established in Karachi, Sukkur and Islamabad under the Model Madressa ordinance and teaching has also started there since December 2003. Classes up to secondary level have been initiated while the planning is in progress to launch the higher secondary (11th and 12th) classes from the next academic year. As regards the affiliation with the Board, applications were invited from interested institutions through an advertisement published in national dailies in July 2003. The Application Form comprising 33 questions seeks information on various aspects of the institutions. According to the Madressa Board, it has received so far (May 2004) 492 applications, of which 105 Madaris have already been awarded affiliation. According to the ordinance, all these institutions offer education at least up to middle level. The details are as follows:
Total number of students enrolled in these (105) affiliated institutions, is 24784. Of these 4900 students are enrolled at post-graduate (M.A) level. While granting affiliation to religious institutions, no discrimination is made on the basis of sectarian background or leaning. The affiliated institutions are entitled to maintain simultaneously their affiliation with the respective boards. The students, however, are required to take examinations conducted by the Pakistan Madressa Board, after qualifying which the Board shall award them the degrees that would be recognizable all over the country. 24
Registration and Regulation Ordinance 2002
On June 19, 2002, draft Deeni Madressa Registration and Regulation Ordinance 2002 was issued to elicit public opinion and discussion. The aim was to persuade and convince the religious institutions to register voluntarily with the government. According to this ordinance, no new Madressa could be opened without prior permission of the district administration while the existing ones were being asked to register voluntarily. The ordinance became controversial as the government and international agencies were of the view that registration should be mandatory and not voluntary, while the religious institutions were opposing mandatory registration and also the financial audit. Madaris maintained that such official interference is contrary to their autonomy.
As regards the background of the proposed registration law, it may be pointed out that religious institutions at the moment are registered under various laws and for quite sometimes there was virtual ban on the registration of new institutions in the country. In this background, when the Ministry of Religious Affairs raised, after persistent demands of the religious circles, the issue of lifting ban on registration, the government came with the proposal to enact a new registration law that would cover all important issues related to registration on the principle that all institutions should be registered under the same law. But while drafting the proposed law, the authority encountered three questions on which consensus could not be reached. These were: (a) should the institutions already registered under previous law/s be asked to register once again? The government was of the view that they should while religious scholars opposed it. (b) Will the registration authority be entitled to refuse registration? And if so, what will be the status of the institution that is refused registration? Will it be closed down? This was a sensitive issue of which no satisfactory solution could be worked out. (c) How should the financial assistance received from foreign donors - whether individuals, organizations or governments be regulated? There were divergent views on this question also. Due to these differences, the finalization of the said law has been lying in abeyance.25
Upgrading Madaris as university
Another proposal put forward by the Ministry of Religious Affairs in the recent past was concerning upgrading such Madaris as fulfilling the requisite conditions of the Higher Education Commission to private universities. Some initial progress in this regard was made on the basic requisites of the charter such as minimum number of students, sources of income, financial status, management etc. but the process was also disconnected in the middle.26
Official Assistance/ Privileges for Madaris
An objection that was raised by the madaris on the question of introducing the teaching of modern sciences in the curriculum was about the use of their funds on teaching of disciplines other then Qur’an and Sunnah. They maintained that they could not divert the funds collected through public donations in the name of teaching of the Qur’an and Hadith to spending on other disciplines. To this, the government proposed, with the agreement of the Ministries of Education and Religious Affairs, in April 2002 that financial assistance would be provided by the government to Madaris for the payment of the salaries of computer sciences’ and modern disciplines’ teachers as well as for the purchase of the text-books. It was also agreed that no institution would be compelled to accept such financial assistance and that it will be granted only to the interested ones applying for such grant.
As regards the appointment of teachers for computer and other disciplines, it was also observed that the religious institutions are very sensitive about their particular school (Maslak) and that they would not accept any teacher not subscribing to their religious views. It was, therefore, agreed in principle that the government should not have any role in the appointment of such teachers except ensuring that only such teachers are appointed who fulfill the requisite professional qualifications and standard. The issue of salaries of such teachers also came under discussion and it was agreed that it would be in the range of 5-7 thousand rupees (approximately $90-120) per month to ensure that the gap between the salaries of religious and modern subjects’ teachers is not too conspicuous. In this background, the Ministry of Education has chalked out a Program of Rs. 5.759 billion to persuade the Madaris to adopt the new curriculum and register with the government Madressa Board.27
The implementation aspect
The government measures, though appear to be attractive and alluring, have not produced the required results so far. This is partly due to the world scenario which emerged as the aftermath of the 9/11, leading to general apprehension and mistrust in the sincerity of these government initiatives. Then there is lack of coordinated and all-round efforts on the part of the government. This has further strengthened the impression that the government measures were merely the result of external pressures and temporary political expediency. Consequently, the reform program has not been successful in narrowing down the gap between the government and Madressa.
Similarly, at the time of preparing the financial aid package for Madressa reforms the Government ignored the factor of sectarian division, their relative strength and capacity and importance and needs of such assistance – a factor that further augmented the difficulties of implementing this Program.
Besides, at the operational level there is considerable ambiguity and overlapping between various ministries and departments in the implementation of the reform initiatives. The Ministries of Education, Religious Affairs and Interior are simultaneously engaged in various activities related to the Madressa. Autonomous organizations such as National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) are also taking initiatives and participating in this reform process. This is in addition to the activities of law and order agencies and their contacts with Madaris. There is not a single central agency to coordinate the activities of various departments after defining their exact jurisdiction, powers and area of activities – which only can end confusion and ensure smooth implementation of reforms.
There is even ambiguity and overlapping regarding the role of the Ministries of Education and Religious Affairs on the issues of registration and curricula. The provincial Auqaf department, which is supposed to be responsible for the registration of mosques and Madaris and ‘keep the record of their income’, seems completely unaware of what is going on in this regard. Unless such ambiguity and lack of coordination is removed and true representatives of Madaris are taken fully into confidence in developing and implementing an integrated reform policy, one can hardly expect any real change or improvement in the situation.
Future Approach: Suggestions and Recommendations
The suggestions and recommendations can be divided into two parts. First, those which are dealing with the principles and key initiatives that are important to appreciate the on-going debate on Madressa reform in its true perspective and evolve a viable reform policy. Second, those which focus on specific practical measures to improve the existing Madressa educational system.
Policy-making: Guiding Principles
Evolving a balanced strategy: There is need to clearly understand and analyze the thinking that is being presented by the West, particularly the USA and to formulate a balanced strategy to respond to it. It is one of the basic rights of every human being and every nation to protect and defend its national and cultural identity. This requires not being apologetic to anyone. Apologetic approach has neither been of any help in the past nor will it be so in future. At the same time it should be borne in mind that it is neither realistic nor pragmatic nor expedient to treat all ‘others’ as enemies. Any one who has a message no doubt makes distinction between friends and foes, but avoids confrontation in order to seek an opportunity to call them to the Truth and appeal their mind. One should not, therefore, miss any opportunity for constructive dialogue as and when it is offered while continuing efforts to preserve one’s identity. With this approach, one should also be vigilant about one’s internal weaknesses and should think how to bring own house to order and in this should not be swayed by prejudice.
Keeping the demand and supply phenomenon in view, the need of Madaris shall not parish, since religious education is high on demand. The only option is to integrate the REIs and improve their conditions.
As to the specific measures and initiatives to improve the religious education institutions in Pakistan following suggestions are noteworthy:
Lack of necessary knowledge and skill of library science is another major problem. Libraries in Madressa not only require expansion but also re-organization on modern lines. For this purpose, the services of trained librarians shall be required at least in the initial phases of reforms. Besides, the principals of library science should also be included in the Madressa curriculum. During the zenith of Muslim history, the collection, preservation and management of books in libraries had reached such perfection that elicited admiration from the whole world. Knowledge seekers flocked from all around the world to these libraries to benefit form their rare collection and the Muslim scholars as well. Contemporary Muslim scholars need to do their best to revive this old academic tradition and on the other hand utilize internet, CDs and other IT related facilities for research and educational purposes. However, this should be borne in mind that Madaris cannot do such work with their limited resources; other interested individuals and organizations should come forward to help achieve this goal.
While introducing different reforms, the government must also take into account the sensitivities and autonomy of the madaris. A benevolent government can help madaris introduce certain reforms in their internal system to shift the focus from sectarian education to the teachings of Islam in a broader framework. Similarly, it can equip them with the skill and techniques to prepare a lot well-versed in religious education as well as the mundane affairs. Further more, reforms are long over-due to bridge the widening gulf between different kinds of education systems prevalent in the country. Last but not the least, Madaris must also realize that rejecting all government proposals for reforms out of nothing is never desirable. They need to judge things on merit before accepting or rejecting them. In the same vein, the government has to make it clear by its words and deeds that the real objective behind these reforms is not to appease foreign and domestic critics but to introduce an integrated education system in the country.
Armanios, Febe. “Islamic Religious Schools, Madaris: Background.” CRS Report for Congress, Oct. 29, 2003, p.2. The Report reads: “In the 1980s madrasas in Afghanistan and Pakistan were allegedly boosted by an increase in financial support from the United States, European Governments, and Saudi Arabia, all of whom reportedly viewed these schools as recruiting grounds for the anti-Soviet Mujahedin fighters.”
Zakria, Fareed. “The World’s Most Dangerous Ideas.” Foreign Policy, Sep-Oct., 2004. The writer says: “In this post-ideological age, anti-Americanism fills the void left by defunct belief systems. It has become a powerful trend in international politics today—and perhaps the most dangerous. In 2000, for example, 75 per cent of Indonesians identified themselves as pro-Americans. Today, more than 80 per cent are hostile to Uncle Sam.”
Barber, Ben. “Pakistan’s Jihad Factories.” The World & I, Dec. 2001. p.68. The story reads: “Thus the system of Madressas has become a hatchery for tens of thousands of Islamic militants who have spread conflict around the world. Incidents in the Philippines, Indonesia, Russia, Central Asia, and at New York’s World Trade Center have always been linked to graduates of the Madressas. Indeed, Pakistan is terrorism’s fertile garden.”
Op. cit. Armanios, Febe. “Islamic Religious Schools …” The report says: “… some argue that a small group of radicalized madrasas, specially located on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, are spawning a militant form of Islam and calling on Muslims to fight nonbelievers and stand against what they see as the moral depravity of the west …”
“Madrassas breeding terrorists, says Powell.” Daily Times, March 12, 2004. The report reads: “US Secretary of State Colin Powell has denounced madrassas in Pakistan and several other countries as breeding grounds for “fundamentalists and terrorists”. Mr Powell was responding to a statement by Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur in the House Appropriations Subcommittee that unless modern education is imparted in these institutions, they would cause multiple cloning of militants throughout the region…We have talked to the countries that were the principal source of funding for madrassas - such as Saudi Arabia and others - and their support for these madrassa programmes that do nothing but prepare youngsters to be fundamentalists and to be terrorists, and are not preparing them with an education that would be useful.” Also, Dawn, Islamabad, Aug. 19 2004 – Special Report from Washington reads: “Thomas Kean, Chairman of the 9/11 Commission told the Special Session of the House Committee on Homeland Security, on 17th August 2004, that the war against terrorism can not be won by killing terrorists and the US was required to review its policy to counterterrorism. He regretted that Pakistan’s aid package for Madaris reforms contained a very meager amount of thirty million US dollars only …” The same report says: “Referring to the Madressas, Lee Hamilton, Vice Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, similarly told the Congress Committee that $30 million given to Pakistan for Madressa reforms were “like a drop in the bucket”. He felt that it was “in their own national interests” for Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to reform their (religious) school systems. He added: “… if the two governments decide not to make those reforms, then United States should let them know ‘that their life is pretty miserable. If they do not begin to deal with those problems, they are not going to be in charge over the long-term …” See also: USAID issue paper no. 2, “Strengthening Education in the Muslim World.” June 2003 which says: “Supporters of a state educational system have argued that the improvement of existing schools or the building of new ones could offer a viable alternative to the religious-based madrasas. Others maintain that reforms should be institutionalized primarily within Islamic madrasas in order to ensure a well-rounded curriculum at these popular institutions”. The report goes on to express the apprehension that “access to quality education alone cannot dissuade all vulnerable youth from joining terrorist groups …”
According to CRS Report RS21457, “The Middle East Partnership Initiative: An Overview,” by Jeremy Sharp: “The USAID in September 2002 committed $100 million assistance over five years for education reform in Pakistan. The Research Triangle Institute (RTI), a US-based, not for Profit Corporation, has received a USAID contract for $60 million of this aid to implement the Education Sector Reform Assistance (ESRA) project in Pakistan. The United States has also committed additional resources through the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), which received $29 million in 2002 and $90 million in 2003.” The Middle East Partnership Initiative Programming Guide, USAID/Asia & Near East Bureau and Department of State/Near East Affairs, June 2003 says: “One of MEPI’s goals is to encourage improvements in secular education throughout the Arab world. It has also expressed concern over the growing trend in the Muslim World of the rising enrollment in Islamic schools (madaris).” Also; CRS Report for Congress, October 29, 2003, “The Bush Administration requested $145 million for MEPI in 2004. The House Committee on Appropriations recommended $45 million for MEPI and for the “Islamic Outreach” Program in 2004 Foreign Operations Bill. The Committee cited the “importance of education, training and exchanges” but stated that “these funds must be apportioned more equitably between Arab Muslim and non-Arab Muslim nations.”
International Crisis Group is a private international organization that issues research papers and analytical reports and recommendations on the major conflicts and crisis in the world. Its Chairman is Finland’s Former President Martti Ahtisaari and its President/CEO former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans. Headquartered in Brussels with offices in Washington DC, New York, Paris and London, it has around 11 local offices in around 30 countries of the four Continents, engaged in conflicts.
Ramadan, Tariq. (2001). Islam, the West and the Challenge of Modernity. Leicester: The Islamic Foundation. p.3. The author says: “The hold of religious power, the unjust traditional order of feudal society and the numbness of thought are a few ideas which will serve to characterize the European Middle Ages.”
Hofmann, Murad Wilfried. Dr. (2001). Modern Islamic Polity in the Making. Islamabad: Institute of Policy Studies. p.18. The author says: “After Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Nietzsche, religion was relegated to the realm of myth, legend, superstition—something for the less than intelligent–to fade away as humanity progresses in its successful quest to unravel the last mysteries of our existence. By the end of the 19th Century, Nietzsche was able to declare God dead!”
Dresher, Rod. “Religions role is Central to this Conflict.” The Dallas Morning News, Aug. 3, 2004. The story reads: “The enemy is not just terrorism, some generic evil,” says the 9-11 Commission Report, “It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism.”
A comment from Hafiz Muhammad Salafi of Jamiah Sattariyah Islamiah of Karachi at an IPS Karachi Seminar on “Deeni Madaris: Towards Formulation of a National Policy,” held on July 29, 2004: “Life means change. If the curricula fall short of fulfilling the spiritual and material needs of the time, it would all be in vain. The change in curricula, obviously in line with its basic moorings, is the need of the hour. This important process can be accelerated if the government functionaries and the educationists and those responsible in various boards of religious education cooperate with each other in all sincerity and earnestness.” It may be of interest to add that Hafiz Muhammad Salafi represents the Salafi Board of Religious Education and it is the same school of thought which to the West has all along appeared as the extremist, reactionary and militant because of its ‘Wahhabi’ approach. Similarly, at the IPS Lahore Seminar on “The Role of Deeni Madaris in Research Work and Journalism,” held on July 21, 2004, another eminent religious scholar and director of Shariah Academy, Gujranwala, Maulana Zahid Al-Rashidi in his paper said: “The first thing in this context is the psychological environment of intellectual and ideological superiority which has erected insurmountable hindrances around the teachers and students of Madaris. We will have to move out of this environment and realistically acknowledge that there are others as well in this world who are equally endowed with intellect and knowledge. We have the right to differ from their standpoint but we have no right to deny their existence.”
Stressing the need of integrating the two streams of education, Allama Shibli Numani (1857-1914), a Muslim scholar of repute, had remarked that our religious scholars “need exquisite linguistic proficiency as much as they need high academic scholarship.” It is with this aim that Nadvat al-Ulama was founded in 1893. This was the first serious attempt by religious scholars of the Sub-continent to make the traditional religious educational system more meaningful and compatible with the requirements of the modern age. Since the establishment of Nadvat al Ulama, a number of similar experiments were made with the primary aim of evolving an educational system and curricula that would ensure that religious experts also acquire fairly good knowledge of modern disciplines. The establishment of Jamia Abbasia (University) at the then state of Bahawalpur in 1925, with the active participation of prominent Ulama of the Sub-continent, was the first attempt of its kind in the areas now forming parts of Pakistan. The aim of this institution was to produce religious scholars specialized in their fields of interest as well as fully conversant with the pressing problems and issues of the contemporary age. However, a yet more primary objective of such efforts in the past was to preserve the cultural identity of the Muslims and prevent the western influence on Muslim civilization.
The Board comprises the following distinguished members: Secretary to the Ministry of Education ii) Secretary, Ministry of Religious Affairs iii) Chairman, University Grants Commission (now Higher Education Commission) vi) two members of the Council of Islamic Ideology to be nominated by its Chairman v) Director General, Da’wah Academy vi) Secretaries to four Provincial Ministries of Education vii) Directors of Wifaq al-Madaris, Tanzim al-Madaris and Rabita al-Madarir.
Mr. Sibghatullah, Deputy Education Advisor. GoP in his paper presented at IPS seminar in Karachi referred: “The Program has two parts. Under the program, during a period of 3 years, the Ministry would provide lump sum grant for the purchase of textbooks on Islamic Studies and other disciplines and ten almarahs for library books. The second part deals with the appointment and financing of the teachers of modern subjects, payment of their salaries, purchase of five computers with printers for each Madressa and teachers’ training. Under this Program, the Ministry will appoint 16,000 teachers in 4,000 Madaris at primary level for an initial period of three years and provide salaries of 12,000 teachers in 3,000 Madaris at middle and secondary level. Besides, the Ministry will appoint and pay for 3,000 teachers in 1,000 Madaris of intermediate level for teaching contemporary disciplines.
The participants of IPS seminars while fully agreeing to the need of reforms in Madaris educational system and curricula have unanimously laid stress on introducing uniform and integrated educational system throughout the country.
In his paper presented in an IPS seminar at Islamabad, Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi mentioned that the number of female religious institutions registered only with Wifaq al-Madaris reaches 1720. Maulana himself is the executive head of a female madressah at Islamabad where over 3,000 students are enrolled and some 175 female teachers are engaged.