Light Trough The Thicket
Jamia Zia Ul Uloom, Confluence of Tradition and Modernity
Jamia Zia Ul Uloom- in Poonch, a border district of Jammu and Kashmir has established itself as a center of Islamic and modern educational learning. With the introduction of modern education this Madrasa institution has created conditions for promoting scientific outlook among its students and empowers them to participate as equal partners in an inclusive society. Madrasas across the subcontinent have definitely contributed in keeping alive the faith but have unfortunately withdrawn from the tide of the life. They have largely failed in producing the kind of human capital Madrasas created in the era of Islamic golden age in the form of chemists, astronomers, mathematicians, physicians, historians and philosophers.
Zia ul Uloom was first established as a Madrasa in a desolated mosque in 1974 and like thousands of other Madrasas across India, Pakistan and Bangladesh it offered free religious education to underprivileged children. It was the time when partition of British India and subsequent wars over Kashmir between the two newly born dominions of India and Pakistan had sapped the region of its economic and cultural strength. Destruction, despondency, deprivation and illiteracy had engulfed this naturally beautiful Pir Panchal mountainous area and in this somber atmosphere Maulana Ghulam Qadir, a simple but visionary man established Zia Ul Uloom, the small religious school in Baglian Mosque of the Poonch Township.
Demographically Poonch is a Muslim majority district but its abysmally poor and illiterate social index pained the Maulan and he could foresee a great loss to the strife torn region if endeavors were not made on a war footing basis in the educational arena.
With courage, foresight and perseverance of Maulan Qadir and his associates made this small Madrasa graduate in to a Jamia. As an institution it is now recognized as one of the major centers of cultural and educational life of Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir. It is a contrast of the madrasas that merely produce a “lumpen mass” unable to contribute to the civilizational life.
The Jamia is grounded in traditional Islamic teachings and at the same time it seems to be conversant with the challenges of modern life. It has an English medium High School. Some 1400 students are admitted here. The school is affiliated with J&K Board of School Education. Every year scores of children from this school bag meritorious positions in the Board examinations. A good number of the pass outs from the school after acquiring advanced education have qualified all India level competitive examinations and are serving the state and the nation as doctors, engineers and civil servants.
Jamia Zia Ul Uloom Madrasa for Boys has more than 450 students who are provided with lodging and boarding facilities and a token amount honorarium too. There is also a separate Jamia Tu Tayibat, a Madarsa for Girls which has an enrollment of 350 girls from all over the erstwhile state.
Various students of Jamia have excelled in Islamic education. Some have earned for themselves various positions in All India Musabqatul Quran and some have even the privilege of teaching at Darul Uloom Deoband, an Islamic seminary that emerged during the Muslim revival period of British India in 1866.
The Jamia has a Department of Anjuman Ahya Us Sunnat which is specifically designed to train students in mastering their speaking skills. There is also a Department of Lajnatul Qirat where undergraduates are good at reciting Quran and are trained to be excellent reciter’s of the God’s Book.
‘Islam does not content itself with merely establishing acts of worship and abandon the needs of society’, is one of the mottos and teachings of of Jamia Zia ul Uloom. It has tried to inculcate in its inmates ways of conduct, relationships, rights and obligations for the individual vis-à-vis members of his family, the nation and for the nation vis-à-vis other nations.
The institution has a full fledged Department of Imdaad-Ul-Mustahiqeen. The chapter of duties towards the society was initiated in early nineties of the past century in the form of relief works at times of natural and manmade disasters.
It offered assistance to 2001 earthquake victims of Gujrat and 2014 floods in Kashmir. Tariq Ali Mir, a fellow journalist from Kashmir, told me that Jamia Zia Ul Uloom was the major contributor to the relief work through a local Gurudwara for the victims of Chittisinghpura massacre in Kashmir in 2000. Thirty five villagers of the Sikh community were killed by unknown gun men on 20 March 2000 in the Chittisinghpora on the eve of the then US president Bill Clinton’s visit to India.
Situated on the line dividing Kashmir in two parts, administered by perpetually fighting Pakistan and India, Poonch has been paying a heavy human and material costs due to the intermittent exchange of gun fire between the two countries. Jamia with its scanty resources has since its establishment been reaching out to the Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and other victims of this skirmishing.
The primary objective of the Zia Ul Uloom, I was told by its administrator, is to provide ethical standards to the society and make an individual God conscious. Islamic learning centers and mosques are the main institutions to create enlightened dutiful citizens for the nation. In this respect Jamia Zia Ul Uloom has constructed 26 mosques in different districts of Jammu province and more than 50 makatibs have been established in rural areas. Here school going students are taking morning and evening classes at their doorsteps.
A Nuris Type movement is required to take the Madrassas across the subcontinent out of the academic stagnation. The process of memorizing the text without understanding it needs to be put to a permanent end.
Nuris, the great Kurdhish thinker of the past century, was accurate in saying that Quran is a living document and needs to be constantly reinterpreted.
Why shall we not refashion our institutions of Madrasa and mould them according to the genuine aspirations of the time.