, by DR. SYED AHMED
The Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government in Assam has decided to modernise the madrasa education system in the state, and sought Rs 50 crore from the central government for it. The Chief Minister finalised the plan after several rounds of discussions were held with the Directorate of Madrasa Education and the State Madrasa Board. The government makes it clear that the plan for modernisation of madrasas is aimed mainly at making the madrasa education system job-oriented. An official source said, “Students from madrasas find it very difficult to get jobs. Students are forced to remain in jobs related to Islamic teachings at mosques and madrasas. The government has planned that apart from Islamic studies, students will now be taught subjects necessary for a bright career.”
Under the programme for modernisation of madrasas the state government plans to bring all the madrasas recognised by the State Madrasa Board under its annual financial scheme starting from the next financial year (2010-2011). As per the plan, general subjects like Science, Mathematics, English and Computer will be introduced in the syllabus of all the madrasas of Assam from the coming academic session. Secretary of State Madrasa Board, Abdul Qayam Al-Ameen said the state government wants to give special priority on computerisation of all the madrasas and training of teachers and students on how to use computers.
Ameen said, “Computers have opened a new world of knowledge. The study of mathematics, science and computer application will be included in the syllabus at all categories of madrasas. We are also trying to introduce other technical, vocational and job-oriented courses.” Directorate of Madrasa Education has already started a training programme for madrasa teachers in modern teaching methodology. Various organisations, including the NCERT, are engaged for the training programme.
Interestingly, through this programme for modernisation of madrasas the Congress government hopes to win back the loyalty of the Muslims. A source in the Congress said, “The prime objective of the move was to “attract and earn” the loyalty of the young voters from the minority group by upgrading the education imparted through the madrasas.” The state government has decided to start the plan for modernisation before the 2011 assembly elections.
The plan is also an attempt to respond to the rising clout of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) among the minority communities of Assam since the last assembly elections. AIUDF, erstwhile AUDF, formed by the perfume baron-cum-politician Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, claims to represent the minorities and deprived sections of the society. Ajmal is an MP from Dhubri parliamentary constituency. Interestingly, Ajmal’s brother Sirajuddin Ajmal is the sitting MLA of Jamunamukh assembly constituency. Ajmal has nominated his eldest son 27 year-old Abdur Rehman Ajmal as the party candidate for the November 7 by-election of South Salmara assembly constituency, the seat vacated by Ajmal after he was elected to the Lok Sabha. Rehman Ajmal’s main rival will be Congress’ candidate Wajed Ali Chaudhury, who had lost to Ajmal in the 2006 assembly election. Rehman Ajmal is a post-graduate in Islamic Law from Darul-uloom Deoband. He is at present pursuing his graduation in Economics from Jamia Millia Islamia, N. Delhi.
Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) admits that the performance of the AIUDF in the recently held 15th Lok Sabha elections was a cause of concern for the party. In the elections AIDUF won just one seat (out of 14), however, the party was responsible for the defeat of Congress candidates in at least five seats. Silchar parliamentary constituency, which was held by Congress heavyweight and former Union Minister Santosh Mohan Dev, was one of the seats. As Congress fails to bring AIUDF within its fold, the ruling party has reasons to worry about its prospects in coming assembly elections. So the minority cell of APCC has put strong pressure on the government to take up the madrasa modernisation programme to win back the minority votes, the official source expressed.
As of now 633 madrasas in Assam are recognised by the State Madrasa Board. Out of these recognised madrasas, 325 get annual financial assistance from the state government. However, just 74 madrasas have been taken over by the Assam government, or are affiliated to the State Madrasa Board, and receive funds annually like the general schools in the state.
There are two types of madrasas in Assam – government-funded madrasas, and the non-government aided madrasas (Qaumi). The government-funded madrasas are of four categories – Arabic College, Title Madrasa, Senior Madrasa and Pre-senior Madrasa. A pre-senior madrasa has classes from Std V-VII, an Arabic College has classes from Std V to Mumtazul-Muhaddithin (post-graduation). A pre-senior madrasa has classes from Std V-VII, an Arabic College has classes from Std V to post-graduation. A title madrasa offers two post-graduation classes and the senior madrasa has 10 classes from pre-senior to Fadilul-Marif (graduation).
At the Fadilul-Marif level Quran, “tradition” of Prophet Muhammad (Hadith), Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh) and Logic (Mantiq) are the main courses of study. At the post-graduation level Hadith, interpretation/commentary of the Qur'an (Tafsir) and history of Islam (Tareekh-i-Islam) are the main courses of study. Computer education and vocational courses are also introduced in the curriculum of many of the madrasas.
The number of non-government madrasas is much higher than the government-funded madrasas. Non-government madrasas are of two types – Almiya and Fazilat Madrasas and Hafizia Madrasas. The first type of madrasas offers syllabus that consists of commentary of the Qur'an (Tafsir), Hadith (sayings of the Prophet), Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh), introductory Islamic History along with languages like Urdu, Arabic, Assamese, etc. The course of Hafizia or memorisation of Qur'an is imparted both in the Almiya and exclusive Hafizia madrasas.
The informal kind of madrasa education system was developed in Assam in the 14th century. Shah Ziauddin, a close disciple of the renowned saint Shah Jalal, is said to have established a madrasa-type of institution at Badarpur (Karimganj District) in Assam. In the 16th and 17th century Assam many learned Muslims opened religious seminaries on the lines of Sattras (religious institutions of the Vaishnavites) where Islamic education was given in an informal way. The British surgeon, J. P. Wade, who stayed in Assam from 1792 to 1794, writes in his book, An Account of Assam, that 10 to 12 houses of Muslims in Gauhati, and more than 20 houses in Rangpur were offering private instructions on Islamic studies to the Muslim children.
M. Martin writes in his book, The History, Antiquities, Topography, and Statistics of Eastern India, (Vol. VI), that in the early part of 19th century Muslim teachers, called akhuns, instructed the young zamindars and wealthy Muslims to read Qur'an and Persian (Farsi), and to understand the business of the government, especially legal proceedings. Persian was then a “cultured” language that every gentleman, irrespective of religion and class, should understand. Martin further writes that children started learning Persian from the age of 5-7 and the course took 10 years.
Martin further observed, “In Kamrup district a learned Muslim scholar named Sa’adutullah instructed students in Arabic and Persian literature and the students were lodged at his own expense. He instructed Hindu students too, free of cost, but their customs did not permit them to live in his house. His only reward was his reputation, and when his pupils got job, it was expected from them to make presents to him under the name of rateb. The students studied Allami Zulikha and Bahardanesh, and also the texts of Molla Hafez.”
B. C. Allen wrote in his Assam District Gazetteers (Vol. VI), that the Khalifa community of Kamrup district was believed to be the descendents of religious teachers who migrated from Bengal. By the late 19th century the Khalifas gave up their vocation as it was no longer lucrative and took to cultivation works.
Darul Uloom Baghbari in the Karimganj district was one of the early formal madrasas established in Assam. It was established in 1873 just a few years after the Darul-Uloom Deoband was established (1866). Darul Uloom Bashkandi, another old madrasa, was established in 1897. Maulana Abdul Jalil Choudhury, a Congress leader and a freedom- fighter played a significant role in the institution of the State Madrasa Board and affiliation and categorisation of madrasas (as ‘Title’, ‘Senior’ and ‘Pre-Senior’ madrasas), also called provincialisation. Jalil is said to have even disassociated himself from Jamiat-ul Ulema-i-Hind for the latter’s opposition to the move.