In the contemporary world, the word ‘Madrassah’, undoubtedly, has been associated with terrorism, extremism, sectarianism and religious fundamentalism. The religious clerics, in Pakistan, received huge sums of funds from the United States and Saudi Arabia to build Madrassahs in the FATA region and across Pakistan, after the soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The tactical and strategic support to these Madrassahs and their students was provided by the ISI and CIA. Since 2001, the Madrassahs have been playing a huge role in the terrorist activities across Pakistan, and the ‘monster’ unleashed to have strategic gains, has been difficult to control. According to the Ministry of Education report of 2015, a large number of Madrassahs, roughly estimated 11,000, are either unregistered or unreported across the country. The students in these Madrassahs, mostly, are from a weak financial background. According to Zubeda Jalal, “Madrassas often crop up where there is little government and few private schools, and the poor can only afford madrassas in order to educate their children.”
The Madrassahs only impart education of pure theology and are unaware about the subjects of social and natural sciences. Even the teachers, on whom these students are depending, have no idea of the realities and complexities of the contemporary world. The main focus of the education in the madrassahs is on Jihad, but the students are not told about the most significant type which is ‘struggle with oneself’, Jihad bin Nafs, rather the simple meaning of Jihad explained to the students is that of battles and wars. The west or the United States are depicted as the cause of all the problems which the Muslim countries are facing in the current era, and the anti-West feelings are sown in the young and fertile hearts of the young students. In short, in the Madrassahs in Pakistan the students are not taught the subjects needed to not only to have good living but also to play a key role in the development of the society.
It is extremely important to know the instances where it all went wrong. The first instance can be traced back to the year 1866, when Darul Uloom Deoband was established on the ideology of Anti-Imperialist and Islamic revivalist. The solution of the problems of the Muslims of the Indo-Pak subcontinent was sought in the theological teachings of Islam and the modern education was called a trap by the British Raj to deviate the Muslims from their culture and religion. So, the focus was on the theological education rather than the modern education of the students. The seeds of contemporary Madrassah system were sown during that time, as the modern education of science was forbidden. The second instance is significantly the Afghan War, 1979, when a large number of Madrassahs were established with a special focus on the education of Jihad (Holy War). The policies of Pakistan during that time phase have been haunting the state and the society till date.
It is extremely important to know that Madrassah is an Arabic word which means ‘school’ and it does not indicate a religious affiliation, but in Pakistan Madrassahs are the religious schools. In the early Madrassahs, the knowledge of Natural and Social sciences was taught to the students, as in the times golden period of Islam, there were different subjects taught such as logic and intellectual sciences, first aid, history, genealogy, Arabic language, rhetoric but ironically in today’s world one can’t even imagine teaching these subjects in the Madrassahs. Tariq Rahman, Dean at Beaconhouse National University holds“The madrassas create their own social studies books that divide the world into Darul Islam (land of believers) and Darul Kufr (land of disbelievers).”
It is extremely important to revive the old concept of a ‘Madrassah’ and to free the real Madrassah from the clutches of the extremists posing as ‘Religious Scholars’ and bring the children of the Madrassahs to the mainstream life. This can only be done through abolishing the heinous and the fake Madrassahs in the country. Every student must be enrolled in the schools so that they can learn the subjects of sciences and have the modern education. The education should be made compulsory and free of cost, at least, up to the intermediate level, across the country. After the secondary and the intermediate education, every student must be allowed to pursue his career in whichever field he/she wants. Same as like a student wants to pursue MBBS, a student must also be allowed to choose the specialization in the field of Theology or Religion. These steps will serve five major objectives. First, the monopoly of the a ‘Religious Elite’ over Madrassahs would be broken and they would be in no position to dictate the state. Second, the students will have modern education and instead of indulging them in religious studies from a very young age, they themselves will choose their career. Third, the future religious scholars would be learned people of the society, equipped with modern knowledge spreading the message of peace and tolerance. Fourth, inter sectarian harmony can be achieved. Fifth, the students of the religious studies will not have to worry for the jobs, as they will also be placed in the Mosques and other religious institutions same as like the doctors are placed in the hospitals. Hence, the Madrassahs of today’s era were born out of false policies of the state and they should not be regarded as the torchbearers of the Islamic concept about education. The real Madrassah is not the one which is only focusing on the pronunciation of Arabic language, rather the one which is equipping the students with modern tools of science significant to have an honorable life.