Madrassa education Curriculum can change the extremist trends in Pakistan: Dr. Farooq Khan
In a homage to a close friend Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan we intend to publish his article on the madrassa education system in Pakistan which can build bridges of encounter between religions and cultures. Dr. Farooq Khan has been killed at his clinic with the assistant by the taleban group. He was a visionary and humanist who believed in values emanating from human conscience.
He was an islamic scholar with a moderate interpretation of Islam. He strongly believed that Education, Democracy, Justice, Peace and dialogue are the Penecea for the glory of Muslim Ummah. He was also a political anaylist, who had analysed contemporary issues relating to the Muslim Ummah in the light of his unique ideology.
Dr. Farooq, in the quality of Vice-Chanceller of Swat University, was invited in Rome by Prof. Mobeen Shahid to attend an international university seminary in the Vatican. The main theme in discussion at this seminar was the Papal Enciclical “Caritas in Veritatis”. Being an islamic scholar from Pakistan participating in such a conference was an event itself along with it the personal contact between Dr. Farooq and Prof. Mobeen gave room for further collaboration for the promotion of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue.
Dr. Farooq personally confessed to Prof. Mobeen that several of his misunderstandings about christianity have been clarified after the participation in this conference.
In the following is the critical analyses by Dr. Farooq on Madrassa Education’s future in Pakistan’s educational system:
A sound approach to Madrassa Education
The religious medrassas of Pakistan are, in reality, a parallel education system having little relation to the needs of this country and true Islamic knowledge. There are around 20 thousand madrassas under this system in which 2 million students are enrolled. 70% of these students are Pushtoons including those from Afghanistan. The main drawbacks of the madrassas are:
1. It is not necessary to have any form of normal education before take admission in these madrassas. Therefore, more than 95% of madrassa students have not even passed matric. It is agreed upon by everybody that the first twelve years of normal education is imperative for sound personality. Lack of this education creates weaknesses in personality. Resultantly, students of these religious institutes are not exposed to worldly information. They receive education in a closed shell so their personalities become close minded and limited. They live in a self-created reality having nothing to do with the real world. When their maddrassa education finishes, they have no other option but to become an imam in a mosque. Their education does not help them in any way as it is totally cut off from the ground realities of society.
2. The basic curriculum of these madrassas was written 800 years ago for the beurocracy and judiciary of that time. This curriculum encompasses all the subjects of that era e.g. logic, philosophy, law etc. In this curriculum, main importance was given to jurisprudence esp. Fiqah-e-Hanfi because all the decisions of that time were taken on basis of this law. Many examples cited in books of that era are concerned with slaves and masters which have very little or no relation to present times. This is not actually a religious curriculum so Quran has not been given basic importance. Direct study of Quran is hardly given 5% of the time. In comparison, much more importance is given to fiqah and ahadees relating to discussions of fiqah.
3. The present day madrassa are actually institutes of different sects where the education revolves around the teaching of that specific sect. In Pakistan, every sect has a certain physical appearance and students of these religious institutions dress up according to their sect. These institutes have 5 categories : deobandi, brailvi, ehl-e-hadees, ehl-e-tashee and jamaat-e-islami. All these institutions have their own recognized boards of examination. Other sects are also discussed in these madrassas but this is done only to prove that all other sects are wrong. Therefore, students do not develop any objectivity in their views. After 8-9 years of living in these madrassas, students become totally engulfed by their sect. They become partial and hateful. They consider all other sects wrong and sometimes even non-islamic. When these students become imams in mosques, their ultimate goal is to fan sectarian differences. In reality, we are dividing Pakistan into 8 water tight compartments through our education system. The biggest divide is between worldly and religious education. Worldly education is further divided into government institutes, normal private institutes and elite private institutes. On the other hand, religious education subdivides into the 5 sects mentioned above. In this way, we are dividing our society in different groups.
4. According to an estimate, there are about three hundred thousand mosques in Pakistan. Pakistan needs a few thousand new mosques every year for its needs. While in comparison, one hundred thousand students graduate from madrassas. These students have to settle somewhere so many new mosques and madrassas are constructed. Mosques and madrassas need money for which sectarian differences are exploited. As a result, we see a mushroom growth of madrassas and increased hatred.
Due to these reasons, Madrassas are playing a very minimal role in the advancement of our society. Of course, there have been some exceptional scholars who came from these madrassas but that was mostly due to their own God gifted talents.
For comparison, we should also discuss the characteristics of a good religious madrassa. In my view it should have the following points:
1. Madrassa students should first have basic 12 years normal education like all other students. After that they should enroll in a madrassa. This will make a madrassa student relate to his society in a more mature way and with a depth of thought.
2. Madrassa education should span 4 years, I have designed a curriculum for these 4 years which is attached herewith document. Through this curriculum, a student can understand both religion and society. This curriculum will make a student broad minded, objective and moderate. This degree should be equal to B.A. honors. If a student wishes to study further, he can do M. phil or Ph.D. After application of this system, the current B.A. and M.A. Islamiat system will not be needed. After completing Bachelors, these students will be ready to enter any field.
3. We need 10 to 15 thousand imams in Pakistan every year. For this, we should have one year imamat course at specific institutions. A criteria can be fixed for enrollment to these institutions. Retired people will be specially encouraged to join because they are most suitable to be imams. These institutions should be built on district level.
Now I come to the question whether the current private madrassa system can be reformed. In my view, this is very difficult. This is because the political awareness, commitment and dedication necessary for such a change is not present in Pakistani society and politics. However, the following initial steps can be taken by the state to facilitate the situation:
1. The Islamiat curriculum from 1st to 12th class be changed. The new curriculum should focus on teaching Quranic Arabic language. It should be noted that Arabic is a tough language while Quranic Arabic is much easier. If students are educated under this course, they will not want to go to madrassa.
2. In Public Sector Islamic studies B.A. honors and imamat courses be introduced as soon as possible in every province on the above mentioned grounds. In this way, some students will enter them and we might see a positive development in current madrassas.
3. The current degree of madrassas be accepted equal to B.A. honors only if the student has further studied a prescribed course and passed a government exam. This course should be such that the student’s religious canvass is broadened. It is not difficult to make such a course. For this purpose, such experts will be needed who have finished madrassa education and have also excelled in normal education. The passing of this exam should be mandatory for any government job. In this way, the current madrassa students might also show some improvement.