hardly find schools of religious education of the calibre which we encounter in
history. The high character which was the trade mark of our scholars has become
a story of the past now. The intellectual ability and the standard of character
of scholars is on the decline for a long time. There can be many reasons for
this. The most important, however, is the low standards of institutions that
produce scholars. There is no doubt about it that whatever remains of religion
in our country, it is because of these religious schools, but we will also have
to admit the fact that these schools are victims of stagnation for a very long
time and we should not expect more service than what they are providing.
The system of
religious education which is in vogue in our country has serious flaws because
of which graduates from these schools do not come up to the required standards.
Although these flaws are discussed in the intellectual circles and sometimes
planning to bring a change is also done but every change gives rise to more
problems and doubts. Man actually possesses a nature that resists change and
with the ageing process this resistance to change becomes more and more strong.
Moreover, it is also a fact that sometimes reasoning and logic do not convince
people, instead it is success that convinces them. Experience tells that in
existing circumstances no drastic change can be expected from the administrators
of religious institutions. The only way to reform these schools is to establish
religious schools of such high calibre under the supervision of the government
which set examples for these existing religious schools. In this regard
universities should be set up for higher education just like universities for
other specialised fields. At the same time the existing religious schools should
be encouraged to bring about the required changes and reforms.
But the most
important question is what are the flaws in the current system of religious
education that need to be eradicated? What are the types of reforms that should
be encouraged? Any step taken to reform these schools without first locating the
flaws in the system would not produce the desired results.
Here we shall
try to suggest some positive changes in the system of religious schools, but
first it is important to have a full knowledge of the short comings present in
this system. After doing so it will become easier to suggest changes.
Every year a
lot of doctors, engineers, architects, lawyers and business managers graduate
from different universities in our country. All these people are masters of
different fields of study which differ from each other a lot. These are based on
various faculties like medicine, law, economics etc. Although masters of these
faculties are important need of the society but despite this need it does not
happen that children are admitted to special schools for say medicine and
engineering at the beginning of their academic life. To the contrary we notice
that up-till class eight all the children study the same subjects and after that
the division between science and arts take place. A child decides according to
his/her aptitude. At this level some specialised courses are introduced in each
group apart from the common basic courses. This trend continues till class ten.
On the intermediate level students are further divided into special fields. For
example in the field of science the division between medicine and engineering
takes place. Again at this stage a child is not pressurised by the society to
take certain courses. He/she chooses freely. At this level some courses are
taught to both student of Arts and Science. Similarly irrespective of the
division of medicine and engineering some courses are studied by all the
students of Science. After Intermediate the students seek admission in their
different specialised institutions. At this stage students of Medicine and
Engineering study totally different courses according to their respective
departments. In reality this is the point from where actual division starts.
whether a child wants to become a Doctor or an Engineer, a Scientist or a
Lawyer, up till class twelve all the students study the same courses with the
exception of a few specialised ones. It is because of this common ground that
masters of these different faculties share common intellect, thinking process,
language and way of living. They can talk to each other and explain their
thoughts easily. They can comprehend each other’s problems and share happiness.
They actually seem to be people of the same society.
these people, masters in the field of religious education are also an important
need of the society. In reality these scholars should be the brains of the
society. But the method adopted for producing religious scholars is the one in
which a student is admitted to a totally different system of education from the
beginning. He lives in a different atmosphere, speaks a different language.
Infact he becomes totally different from the society in his style of living,
appearance, dress code, ideals and emotions. It is because of this separation
that the doctors, engineers, lawyers etc. can talk to each other freely but
these religious scholars can neither convey their message nor understand what
the society says. In their eyes the whole society is on the wrong track while in
the sight of the society these scholars are incapable of understanding the
realities of the world. In this way these religious scholars cannot perform the
important task of guiding people.
dilemma of this system is that most of the people who study religion do not have
the aptitude for it. So neither they become proper religious scholar nor they
can pursue a career in other fields because of the difference in the two
education systems. In this situation they remain unable to provide their
services to the nation.
It should be
kept in mind here that according to Qur’ān it is the duty of religious scholars
to call the whole nation towards the religion of God and warn them of His wrath.
A religious scholar is supposed to answer questions of people from all walks of
life. He has to communicate with doctors, engineers, lawyers, philosophers,
economists etc. at their level of understanding. In this regard a scholar should
have basic knowledge about all the related fields and in that sense the area of
operation of a scholar becomes wider and wider.
demands that people with highest calibre should excel in the field of religious
education. An ordinary person cannot do so. Contrary to this fact in the
existing system of education only those people excel who are not capable of
doing anything else.
remedy for all these ills is that students joining these religious schools
should first pass the intermediate exams spending their first twelve years of
academic life in ordinary schools. As a result of this, the distance between our
religious scholars and the society will gradually disappear. Only then it can be
hoped that our scholars will be able to play their positive role in the society.
Moreover, the condition for compulsory F.A., F.Sc education will only bring
those people towards this line who have the aptitude for it.
To raise the
standard of religious scholars it is necessary that only those people should be
selected who are of the highest calibre intellectually. The concept that a
person unable to do anything else becomes a religious scholar, should be
completely uprooted. Contrarily the idea of religious and intellectual
leadership of these scholars should be strongly inculcated in the society. There
is no doubt about the fact that maintaining high admission standards would cause
a decline in the number of people taking admission in these religious schools,
but it does not matter as such. Infact producing one scholar with high calibre
and intellectual prowess is far better than producing hundreds who are misfits
the Curriculum of Religious Schools
Some of the
main drawbacks in the curriculum of religious schools are as follows.
Indifference towards the Qur’ān
Qur’ān is the
basic book of our religion. Every person, whether a Muslim or not realises it
fully that Qur’ān holds the ultimate position in Islam. This is the book which
the Almighty has declared as the criteria for judging good and bad. This is the
book which Almighty has declared as ‘the rope of Allah’. This is the legacy of
Holy Prophet (sws), and the Ummah has been made its custodian. Naturally then,
this status of Qur’ān demands that it should be the focal point in religious
education. Any person who is not well-versed in the subject of Qur’ān can not be
a scholar of Islam.
should therefore secure the central position in the curriculum of religious
schools, but in reality the situation is quite opposite. Qur’ān, almost, does
not enjoy any position in the curriculum of our religious schools.
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi:
are religious schools but they could never realise the actual position of Qur’ān
which it enjoys in Islam. In Islam Qur’ān is the criteria for distinguishing
between good and bad, revealed by Allah. The natural outcome of this reality
should have been that it should be the pivot in these schools also. The teaching
process should have started from and terminated at Qur’ān. Student should have
leaped forward in its guidance, exploring the world of knowledge. Whatever is
taught would be to have the understanding of the meaning of Qur’ān. Fiqh, Hadith,
Philosophy, Literature, everything should have been tested on its basis and it
should have served as the distinguisher between right and wrong. All the
discussions related to beliefs and doctrines should have started and ended on
it. Students should have undergone a thought provoking process for each of its
verses. They should have been told that only Qur’ān rules on Abu Hanifa and
Shafa’ee, Bukhari and Muslim, Junaid and Shibli, and anything contrary to Qur’ān
present in these works should be rejected.
This is the
true position of Qur’ān in Islam and it should have enjoined the same position
in the system of these religious schools. But every knowledgeable person is
aware of the fact that in the first phase, the students of these schools devote
themselves only to memorise Qur’ān, and in the last phase they only have a
glimpse of it in the pages of Jalalain and Baidawi. No other privilege has ever
been given to it.
towards Qur’ān has resulted in the fact that now we have nothing as the Divine
will to guide people’s deeds and thoughts and all that remains are conflicts and
controversies. These sources of light have been turned into realms of darkness.
(Pas che bayad kard 22)
betterment of these affairs it is inevitable that the curriculum of the
universities of higher religious education should be set up in a manner in which
the focus should be on Qur’ān. It should be the criteria for Fiqh, Haidth,
Philosophy and Literature, and the decision to accept or reject something should
be made in the light of its verses. All the discussions about beliefs and
doctrines should end on it. Students should be made aware of the fact that all
the jurists and scholars are ruled by Qur’ān, and anything contrary to it cannot
be accepted as religion.
in the Teaching of Different Disciplines
If a student,
who is not capable of speaking, writing and understanding the English language,
is taught subjects like Science, Geography, History and Mathematics in English
then it does not make any sense; and this is the basic defect in our existing
system of education. It is because of this trend that instead of deciphering,
the students start cramming. They infact are not capable of understanding
something and then explaining it into their own words. Obviously, it is
meaningless to teach a student, different disciplines in a language with which
he is not fully familiar.
defect present in the existing system of education, is very much there in the
system of religious education. At the religious schools the curriculum is taught
in either Arabic or Persian. For a student, who is usually not even well versed
in Urdu, it is very difficult to grasp disciplines like Logic, Philosophy,
Literature, Rhetoric and Oratory in foreign languages like Arabic and Persian.
So the students only remain to the extent of solving the problems of language
instead of actually focusing on these disciplines.
prescribed books included in the curriculum of these schools have the tendency
to explain even a simple matter in a difficult style.
The passage of
time has brought about such a drastic change in the literary style, that today
when we read these books, we feel that the authors did not have the purpose of
communication, with their readers, before them. Simple statements have been made
complex, and commonly understood facts have been written down in an intricate
and difficult manner. As a result one has to consult commentaries on these books
to comprehend them; and ironically, the commentaries are also written in the
same evasive style. Thus the student is lost in the labyrinth of the complicated
sentences of these books and instead of understanding the concept given in the
books, he wastes his time in parsing and revealing the intricacies of the
construction of the sentences.
It is the
consequence of studying these text books that on graduation, when these
religious scholars assume the responsibilities of services in a mosque,
delivering sermons from the pulpit or teaching and thus try to carry the
message of faith to common man, their style of speaking is identical to the one
found in their text books. As a result the common man needs commentators to
decipher their language and style.
The Rector of
the celebrated religious University of Deoband, Maulana Marghoob-ur-Rehman,
while delivering a speech on this subject, says:
curriculum, despite some changes, largely consists of the books which were
selected by Mulla Nizamu-ud-Din Sihalvi (d. 1161 A.H.). These books were
compiled by the scholars of later age. Despite their brevity, they were meant to
encompass all the topics and contents of the subject so that the student is
informed on all aspects of the subject. These brilliant writers have succeeded
in their objective but as a result of the brevity these books suffer from
frequent ambiguities and errors. This difficulty created the necessity of
writing commentaries and study aids for these texts. It became necessary that
while explaining the texts the principles of lexicon, grammar, morphology, and
the art of communication should be applied so that the brief sentences become
intelligible. This approach does not allow the student to attend to the entire
picture of the issue. In other words this pedagogy has failed in helping the
students to grasp the issues in totality, to develop the thought on these
issues, or to reach the required stage of clarity of concept. But on the other
hand, this pedagogy has helped tremendously to impart the abilities to analyse,
critically evaluate, and resolve textual difficulties. When these students study
the voluminous commentaries which explain the issues in detail, they gain a lot
and they attain heights of scholarship.
There is a
parallel method of education that is prevalent in our times. It prefers to
select simple and easy books where difficult analyses of the text is not
required, and the subject matter and concepts are absorbed easily. This pedagogy
has definitely proved successful in helping the student attain command over the
subject. However in the light of their experience, the experts on education
think that this method has failed to enable the students to comprehend, analyse
and overcome the difficulties of a text. (Monthly ‘Dar-ul-Uloom, July 1994,
It is clear
from the above discussion that the purpose of teaching on the basis of these
books is not to produce scholars of high calibre but to train students to
understand the meanings of difficult sentences. Even the Mulana admits, that
these books are not very useful as teaching material. For this purpose, books
written in simple language would be more useful.
So the above
mentioned situation would be tantamount to teaching students of class seven,
books of Advanced Science. Doing so, with the concept, that at least they will
learn how to read these books, will be totally absurd, and this logic will not
It should be
kept in mind here that these books were written in a certain time period in
history, and so they are only helpful in solving the problems of that certain
age and its literary style. Students do not acquire the capability of solving
the problems related to the understanding of Qur’ān by reading these books. In
this way tremendous effort is wasted and students are only forced to understand
a difficult sentence. It is not the correct way to produce scholars of high
In our opinion
the simple solution for this problem is that only those books should be included
in the curriculum which are written in easy and simple language and in the
contemporary modern styles. As a result, it will be easier for students to
understand different disciplines. After teaching these disciplines a course on
the study of the writing styles of different early scholars can be included in
the curriculum in the later years.
There was time
when our scholars were fully prepared to counter any intellectual and
philosophical attack on Islam. With the advent of Greek philosophy, a new round
of discussions started concerning beliefs and thought. Had our scholars ignored
this situation at that time, the whole structure of Islamic beliefs and
disciplines would have transformed according to Greek philosophy. But the
scholars of Islam took up this challenge and presented the Islamic belief in
such a way that it automatically wiped out the effect of Greek philosophy. The
specimens of this period can be found in the works of scholars like
Ibn-e-Taimiyya, Ibn-e-Rushd, Razi and Ghazali.
For the past
many years the Ummah is facing the same situation. The only difference is that
this time the West has taken place of Greece. Instead of doctrines and beliefs,
laws and Shariah are being criticised. But today we do not have scholars of the
calibre of Ghazali, Razi, Ibn-e-Rushd and Taimiyya. Although the scholars of
today are also fighting against this invasion but their endeavours are directed
towards their own people and not the real enemy. Our scholars are entangled in
charging each other of blasphemy, declaring each other infidel, dishonest and
past fifty years Islam was criticised on every field of life ranging from
politics and penal laws to social and economic laws. A systematic struggle is
being carried out to up root the Islamic concepts of slavery, equality between
sexes, interest and insurance, democracy, human rights, crime and punishment,
polygamy and divorce etc. As a result, a large section of Muslims has started
eyeing teachings of Islam with suspicion. They do not allow Islam to take a step
forward but want to confine it to the discussions of doctrines and beliefs. They
do not allow the interference of Islam in collective matters, rather they brand
all the laws mentioned in Qur’ān and Sunnah as temporary and hence try to show
that these laws are non-practical.
scholars are fighting among themselves. They are neither aware of the principles
of economics nor they are interested in the social laws. They do not know what
politics is and are unaware of the logic of Penal laws in different countries of
the world. They are not interested in any field of modern study and knowledge
such as Philosophy, Psychology or Physics.
We think that
the cause of this ignorant behaviour on the part of our scholars towards the
western invasion is the curriculum of religious institutions. Students are not
even introduced to the modern disciplines. It is because of this curriculum that
the scholars from these schools are not capable of answering the questions,
related to Science, Economics, Sociology, Politics, Penal laws, Psychology and
Philosophy, which are posed not only by non-Muslims but also by the Muslim.
Mr Javed Ahmad
Ghamidi writes about this curriculum as follows:
of these schools is totally out dated and not at all sufficient for our
religious and intellectual requirements. This curriculum is generally believed
to have been prepared by Mulla Nizam-ud-din or on the opinion of the Saint of
Phulwari Sharif, Mulana Fatah Ullah Sherazi was the one who prepared it. It is
the product of that period when we were indifferent to the real sources of
knowledge. We have already discussed the position that Qur’ān was given in this
curriculum. Although Hadith was included in it but the way it was done, it could
never promote the interest of Hadith in either the teacher or the student.
Literature of the pre Islamic period was never considered at all. So students
are unaware of the language, rhetoric of the Qur’ān. The text books on rhetoric
and eloquence included in the curriculum give more importance to logic than to
eloquence. If a student has the taste for classy discussions in these arts, it
is likely that he will lose that interest after studying these text books. The
portion in the curriculum reserved for logic, philosophy and theology has more
hazards than utility. Law is only taught from the Hanafi view point. The
architects of law never had any concept about its pedagogy. Jurisprudence, as
evolved by the Muslims, is a matter of pride for us. Even on this subject no
text book that could motivate free thinking was included. Even after two
centuries, but this curriculum has not been able to incorporate the progress
achieved in secular sciences. The progress achieved in subjects like Philosophy,
Psychology, Economics, Astronomy, Physics, Political Science and others, have
not been allowed access here. It is mere figment of the love for Maibazi and
Sadra that their books have become immortal in the curriculum of our religious
schools. Our religious scholars consider them so holy, that it is not
permissible to bring about any change in these books. New disciplines are now
ruling the world but the students of this curriculum are not even aware of their
existence. During the last two centuries, the world accepted and then rejected a
number of things, but these people are neither aware of the acceptance nor has
the news of the rejection reached them as yet. (Pas che bayad kard 23-24)
In our opinion
this problem can be solved by giving due importance to, Hadith, Jurisprudence,
Fiqh, Literature of the Jahalya period and higher study of grammar in the
curriculum. Contrary to the existing curriculum, students should be taught
ancient Philosophy and Logic to an extent that they should get familiar with the
key terms so that they do not face difficulty in reading books related to these
disciplines. As far as modern disciplines are concerned, Philosophy, Psychology,
Economics, Physics, Political Science should be taught in such a way that
students should actually grasp these disciplines in a way that they can explain
the point of view of Qur’ān while comparing it with these disciplines. A short
course of International Literature should also be included in the curriculum, so
that students can fully enjoy the literary style of Qur’ān. Similarly a book
related to modern Law should be part of this curriculum. All the schools of
jurisprudence should be taught and the ability to distinguish between right and
wrong in the light of Qur’ān and Sunnah should be inculcated in the students.
of the Arabic Language and Literature
evident on a study of the Qur’ān that it is a masterpiece of literature. It is a
matchless piece of work in the Arabic Language. There are many ways of
communication in the world. An expert in the field of Logic would explain a view
very differently compared to the explanation of the same view by a writer or a
poet. The style of a mathematician is totally different from a historian. But
every person who has some awareness of the history of knowledge of the world
will agree that out of all the styles, the literary style has always been
considered the best one. The main characteristic of this style is that a view
expressed in it does not seem flat. It not only appeals to the brain but
penetrates into the soul of a person and affects his / her emotions. Therefore
in Qur’ān we find many examples of all the literary techniques and instruments.
So all the
techniques, which have always been used in the great literary works of the
world, have also been used in Qur’ān. Because of this literary style of Qur’ān,
it is necessary for every person who wants to become a scholar of Qur’ān to have
a good literary taste. He/she should know how a particular view is expressed in
this style and how is it distinguished from other styles of communication.
Although an ordinary person lacking this taste for literature will receive
guidance from this book if he/she consults it honestly, but for a person,
wanting to make Qur’ān the focus of his/her research, it is absolutely necessary
to foster a good taste for literature. Without this qualification if a person
tries to work on the Qur’ān he would be like a guide who is himself blind.
But even in
the presence of this fact no effort is made to stimulate the literary interest
of the students of our religious schools. Students are taught all those books
which familiarise them with the writing style of the scholars of the past, but
no step is taken to familiarise them with the style of Qur’ān.
Mr Javed Ahmad
Ghamidi writes about the language of the Qur’ān in the following words:
student should understand it clearly that this Arabic is not the one written by
Hareri or Razi nor is the one which is printed in newspapers and magazines of
Syria and Egypt of our times, neither it is the Arabic of their poets and
writers. But the Arabic in which Qur’ān was revealed is different in its words
and idioms and style in the same manner in which the Urdu and Persian of our
times is different from the times of Ghalib and Sadi. So it is a fact that the
present Arabic language does not help in developing a taste for the language of
Qur’ān, rather it makes a person positively ignorant of it. And if some one
makes this present language the order of the day he sometimes even misses the
whole philosophy of Qur’ān.
So it is
absolutely necessary to master the language in which Qur’ān was revealed in
order to have the full understanding of Qur’ān. Mr Javed Ahmad Ghamidi writes
about the sources of this language as follows:
To master this
language the basic source is Qur’ān itself. It is a fact that when Qur’ān was
revealed in Makkah and its divine origin remained under discussion, nobody ever
challenged its language. The Qur’ān itself claimed that it can never be the work
of an Ajmi, because it is revealed in Arabic. It considered itself a miracle of
literature and oratory and challenged the Quraysh to bring even a single Sūrah
like that of Qur’ān’s. Even to the extent that it gave them the permission to
seek help from their writers, poets, orators, diviners and even jinns and their
gods and goddesses. But it remains a fact of history that the Arabs could
neither deny the superiority of its language nor could take the challenge.
Out of the
authors of the Seven Hanging Odes, Labeed was alive. He was the poet to whom all
the poets of the Fair of Ukkaz paid homage by lying down prostate before him
when he read out the famous stanza. But even Labeed, when he listened to the
Qur’ān, assumed such a silence, that when Umar (ra) asked him to recite his
poetry, he replied, ‘Poetry after the chapters of Baqara and Aal-e-Imran?’ It
was not the admission of an individual. It meant that the eloquence of the
entire Arabia had bowed down before the Qur’ān.
Then it is a
fact that this miracle of language and style has reached us through history
verbatim, without even the slightest corruption or variation in a single letter.
Thus it is now an established fact that the Qur’ān is not only the sole
authority of faith on this earth, but is also the final and definite authority
for the language of that age.
After the Holy
Qur’ān, this language is found in the corpus of sayings of the Holy Prophet (sws)
and the sayings of his companions (ra). No doubt, since this material has not
been communicated to us verbatim, therefore only a small part of it can be
invoked as authority to determine the meaning of any part of the classical
Arabic language. However, whatever original language has survived through these
means, is a precious material for those who have the taste for the classical
Arabic. It is the language used by the Holy Prophet (sws) who was the most
eloquent of all Arabs, and the language of his companions (ra) who were
prominent people of their age in the matter of eloquence. In its words, idiom
and style, it is the masterpiece of the language in which the Holy Qur’ān was
revealed. The examples of this language are mostly found in the Prophet’s
prayers (sws), allegories, and dialogues with his companions (ra), because the
exact words of the Prophet (sws) have been usually retained while communicating
them. Therefore if the students of Arabic language dare to dive into this deep
sea, they can gather a lot of pearls from there, and they can get tremendous
help in solving the difficulties of Qur’ānic words and meaning.
source of classical Arabic is the classical literature. It includes the poetry
of Imra al Qais, Zuhair, Amar bin Kulsūm, Labīd, Nābigha, Turah, Antara, A’shā,
and Hārith bin Halza and the speeches of orators like Qass bin Sā’ada. Scholars
know that a major part of this literature has been collected in the works of
poets and Asma’iyat, Mufadaliyat, Hamasah, Sab’ Mu’lāqat, and the works of Jāhiz,
Mubarrad and other writers like them. The collected works of a number of
poets, which were not available since long, have recently been published.
Caliph Umar (ra)
has underlined this fact when he said:
literature, you will not go astray. People asked: What is our literature? He
replied: The poetry of classical poets; because it contains the explanation of
your Holy Book and the meaning of your language. (Baidawi: Anwaar ul Tanzeel
vol. 1 p. 459).
Jurist of Muslim Ummah, Abdullah bin Abbas (ra) advised:
If you face
difficulty while interpreting the Qur’ān, search for the answer in the verses of
classical poets, because this poetry is actually the literature of the Arabs.
(Al Suyuti%: Al Muzhar fi Ulūm il Lugha, v 2, p 302)
Amar Ellahi Lone)