Despite the presence of thousands of Madrasas in India and passage of more than 60 years of Independence, there is a low level of literacy rate among the Muslim community, which is a matter of grave concern. In fact, the social, educational and economic status of the community is worse than that of the General Hindu, OBC Hindu, and other socio-religious groups and it is only marginally higher than Hindu SCs and Hindu STs, as the high level Prime Ministerial Sachar Committee Report has revealed.
The report shook the nation by revealing the abysmal condition of the Muslim community in the light of authentic data collected from government offices and Universities and NGOs. The low literacy level of the Muslim community is well documented in the report. According to the report, “The literacy rate among Muslims in 2001 was 59.1 %. This is far below the national average (65.1 %). If the SCs/STs, with an even lower literacy level of 52.2% and Muslims, are excluded, the remaining category of ‘All Others’ shows a high literacy level of 70.8 %. In urban areas, the gap between the literacy levels of Muslims (70.1%) and the national average is 11 percentage points and in relation to the ‘All Others’ category it is 15 percentage points.
About 25 per cent of Muslim children in the 6-14 year age group have either never attended school or have dropped out. This is higher than that of any other SRCs. The incidence of drop-outs is also high among Muslims and only SCs/STs have a marginally higher drop-out rate than Muslims. About 62% of the eligible children in the upper caste Hindu and other religious groups (excluding Muslims) are likely to complete primary education followed by Muslims (44 %), SCs (39%) and STs (32%). However, once children complete primary education, the proportion of children completing middle school is the same (65%) for Muslims, STs and SCs but lower than ‘All Others’ (75%).
The next transition also shows a similar pattern; about 50% of Muslim and SC/ST children who have completed middle school are likely to complete secondary school as well, which is lower than the ‘All Other’ group (62%). Interestingly, in the transition from secondary to college education, Muslims perform somewhat better than SCs and STs; while only 23% of the SC/ST students who complete secondary education are likely to complete college education, this percentage is 26% for Muslims and 34% for other groups.
HIGHER ENROLLMENT OF SC/ST THAN MUSLIMS
The report shows that only 80 per cent of urban Muslim boys are enrolled in schools, compared to 90 per cent in SC/ST communities and 95 per cent among others. Just 68 per cent of Muslim girls go to school, compared to 72 per cent of Dalit girls and 80 per cent of girls from other communities. Consequently, Only 3.4 per cent of the Muslim population has completed graduation where as the corresponding figure for non-OBC, non-SC/ST Hindus is 15.3 per cent. In the case of the IITs, out of 27,161 students enrolled in the different programmes, there are only 894 Muslims. The enrolment of Muslims in the regular streams of science, arts and commerce, only one out of 25 students enrolled in Under Graduate (UG) courses and only one out of every 50 students in Post-Graduate (PG) courses is a Muslim. In short the educational condition of the Indian Muslim community is worse than other socio-religious groups including general Hindu and OBC Hindu and marginally higher than S.C. and S.T. in some cases and less than these two groups also in some cases.
As we all are aware of this fact that since the Independence of India, the Indian Muslim community has been the victim of discrimination. The most glaring evidences of discrimination against the community are all those studies which were conducted, before the Sachar Committee report, by several governments to examine the social condition of the Muslim community with the aim of merely appeasing the community. For example, in the beginning of the 19th century, Monstuart Elphinstone, the legendary British administrator put it on record that special measures were required to uplift the backward section of the Muslim community. The study conducted by the British administration led to the passage of a Government Act in 1935 offering Dalit Muslims reservation along with Dalit Hindus. However after independence, the Dalit Muslim Reservation Act was revoked.
In 1983, the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi constituted a 10-member high power panel on Minorities, SCs and STs and other weaker sections, headed by Dr. Gopal Singh. In its report submitted on June14, 1983, the committee maintained that “there was a sense of discrimination prevailing among the minorities and that it must be eliminated, root and branch, if we want the minorities to form an effective part of the mainstream.”
Despite the fact that all these studies indicated to the abysmal condition of the Muslim community and gave special recommendations for the development of the community by providing them with special packages, granting reservation in the educational institutions and in public sector employment and opening schools and colleges for the minorities. However, none of the previous governments took these recommendations seriously. Rather, they have practically closed the doors of some public sectors for Muslims. In this regard we can cite the name of Research Analytical Wings (RAW) as an example. In short, the discrimination against the Muslim community played very important role in bringing about social, educational and economic backwardness of the Muslim community to such an extent that now the community is lagging behind all other religious groups in every sphere of life.
ULEMA AND BACKWARDNESS
It is believed that conservative Ulema too are responsible for this abysmal condition of the Muslim community. As they are averse to the introduction of any reforms in the Madrasas and are opposed to any move to modernise them. The negative attitude of conservative Ulema to the inclusion of modern subjects in the Madrasa syllabus is one of the great obstacles in the way of linking the madrasa education with mainstream.
The conservative Ulema are opposing the move of reform in the Madrasa syllabus, because they believe that science and its principle of “causes and effects” are hostile to Islamic basic tenets. The theory of conflict between religion and reason was laid down by Imam Ghazali in his famous book Tahafut-Al-Falasfah written against Islamic philosophers. In this book he regarded the reason hostile to basic tenets of Islam. Since then, the Ulema preserved this theory of clashing reason with religion, theoretically and practically till the Napoleon attack on Egypt in 1798.
After this attack, the Islamic world came to direct contact with the western culture. The western observers like E. Renan and Sir William Muir recorded the social economic and educational backwardness of the late Medieval Muslim society and contented that the backwardness of Muslim community in the field of education and economy was due to inferior character of Islam and Islamic civilization (sic) and raised the problem of conflict between religion and reason and severely criticized Islam.
In response to this severe criticism of Islam, Jamaluddin Afghani, a genuine reformer of Islam, wrote an article in a French research magazine, declaring the fact that there was nothing in the basic principle of Islam that is incompatible with reason or science. Then this issue was dealt in depth by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Shaikh Mohammad Abduh. In this connection Shaikh Mohammad Abduh cited all those numerous Quranic verses which enjoin upon human being to think intelligently about the nature of God and to study it as Sign of God. This thinking intelligently about nature contributed a lot to the remarkable development of philosophy and science during the Abbasid period. The cause and effect are nothing but “Qawanin-Al-Kaun” namely the law of universe, which was created by Allah. So there is nothing in the basic principle of Islam that is incompatible with reason, but this is the Quran, which speaks loudly about the cause and effect.
However, in India, the Ulema constantly opposed Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and his vision of compatibility between reason and religion, and still they believe that science is hostile to the basic tenets of Islam. Therefore, they are averse to any amendment in the Madrasa syllabus. No doubt, this attitude of Ulema paved the way for the social, educational, and economic backwardness in the Muslim community.
SACHAR REPORT AND ISLAMIC MADRASAS
In view of this abysmal condition of the Muslim community, the Sachar Committee presented a number of recommendations in order to uplift the Muslim community and to make them an integral part of the mainstream. Among these recommendations is the recommendation of linking Madrasa education with the mainstream. Before giving the suggestion of linking Madrasa education with the mainstream, the study recognises that the Madrasas have played a very important role in providing religious education and stresses the fact that Madrasas have not to do anything with terrorism. It is relevant here to quote the text of the report in this regard, as it says:
“Madrasas, through which the community ensures that its future generations acquire the knowledge of Islam, have become a symbol of Muslim identity in India. Often they are looked upon with suspicion by the wider society, despite the fact that they are involved in providing religious education to the Muslim community. Labelling of Madrasas as a den for terrorists is extremely worrisome for the Muslim community. Even though there has been no evidence to suggest that Madrasas are producing terrorists, they are constantly under scrutiny. This exercise, even as it is insulting to the community, has a detrimental and traumatic impact on the children studying in the Madrasas. It has been pointed out that the existence of Madrasas (though not as a substitute for regular schools) is necessary for Muslims as, apart from providing basic education, they serve as an important instrument of identity maintenance for the Community. Many a time Madrasas are the only educational option available to Muslim children, especially in areas where no schools have reached the Muslim masses. Very often children go to the Madrasas not out of choice but due to non-availability and inaccessibility of other schools, and a near absence of education in their mother tongue. Madrasas, where they operate are rendering useful service as far as literacy is concerned. However, there is an urgent need to recognize that a very small percentage of Muslim children actually attend Madrasa education.”
LINKING MADRASAS WITH MAINSTREAM
There has been a growing demand for greater flexibility in allowing Madrasa students to transition to regular mainstream education in a variety of subject areas. In this connection, as the Sachar Committee recommends, the following steps seem desirable:
“Work out mechanisms whereby Madrasas can be linked with a higher secondary school board so that students wanting to shift to a regular/mainstream education can do so after having passed from a Madrasa.
Provision of “equivalence” to Madrasa certificates/degrees for subsequent admissions into institutions of higher level of education. Flexibility should be introduced so as to enable Madrasa graduates to move across to regular mainstream education after graduating from these institutions, if they so wish. In other words the opportunity should be made available to them, especially in courses where admission is done through an entrance test/ competitive examination.
Recognition of the degrees from Madrasas for eligibility in competitive examinations such as the Civil Services, Banks, Defence Services and other such examinations. The idea is to facilitate a process whereby Madrasa graduates too have a choice and an incentive to participate in these employment streams. This should, however, remain within the existing framework of these competitive examinations.
In the 1990s the government introduced a scheme for modernisation of Madrasas. This was a step in the right direction but it was robbed in part of its utility because of some deficiencies relating for example to choice of subjects, quality of teachers, accommodation of the modern subjects in a time-table intensely packed with traditional subjects. The government will be well advised to review and revamp the scheme before embarking on its expansion”.
In the light of this study, we can conclude that the Madrasas can play an effective role in promotion of education and their products too can pick the benefits from the government sector, by qualifying in comparative exams and occupying higher posts if Madrasa education would be linked with mainstream, as the Sachar Committee Report intensified on the need of working out mechanisms for linking Madrasa education with mainstream
Therefore, the Muslim community should welcome the step of the government of forming the Central Madrasa Board on the pattern of Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which would link the Madrasa education with mainstream, and would grant the Madrasa certificates equivalence to the CBSE and will affiliate it to the council / board of school education. Now it is up to Ulema either they are ready to take the benefit from this step of government by allowing a little change in the Madrasa syllabus as par the need of hours and that will be achieved by introducing modern subjects like English, Political Science, History and Mathematics from class 6th to class 12th as per the syllabus of NCERT or they let it go in vain and miss the opportunity once again.