The challenges faced by the students acquiring Islamic education

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Islam insists on acquiring education for all  

By: Ishfaq Khaliq, Insha Jan

A famous Hadith of the prophet of Islam states that ‘acquiring knowledge is binding on all Muslims’ and this indicates that there is no preference based on sex in getting access to education in Islam. However, there is a growing misconception among the people of other religions that Islam constrains Muslim girls from getting an education. There are two authentic sources of Islamic scriptures- The holy Quran and the Hadith to position the girls’ education in the purview of Islam and both do not restrict girls from getting an education. The reasons for the projection of distorted images of Islam on women’s education can easily be seen as it has been misinterpreted at various levels. Islam is a religion of peace, justice and equality.

However, there seems to be a growing distorted image of Islam around the globe. Among many other issues, Islam is viewed as a religion in which women are restricted from many basic rights, including education because of the persistent low girls’ literacy rate among Muslim societies but it is all baseless. The first verses of the Quran begin with the word ‘Iqra’ which means to ‘Read’.

In chapter 39, Qur’an says, “Are those who know equal to those who do not know?” (Verse 9). The analysis of the verses reveals that Allah ordains the responsibility of acquiring knowledge to human beings regardless of their sex, age, or race. Moreover, Allah says in the Qur’an, “And Allah has brought you out from the wombs of your mothers while you know nothing. And He gave you hearing, sight, and hearts that you might give thanks (to Allah)” (An-Nahla, 78).

The link of the keywords (knowing nothing and giving thanks) in the two sentences above is a clear indication of exploration and seeking knowledge. It may be noticed that there is no preferred sex indication in the verse to be educated but it indicates everyone has a right to education. Similarly the Prophet of Islam has also emphasized upon the significance of seeking knowledge on various occasions. For example, the prophet said, “seeking knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim…” (Saheeh al-Jami’, 3914). Another Hadith, which is not authentic but highly referred to in Islamic discourses, commands to “seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave” (Mutlaq Ahl al-Hadeeth). Hence this rules out the span of a period for seeking knowledge. “Seeking knowledge even if it is in as far as China” is equally famous and important.

Seeking and giving Islamic education to a girl is obligatory but there is a perception gap between the Madrasa going students who mainly focus on Islamic education and the students taking the education in general schools. This gap is particularly seen in the context of girls who are studying Aalima courses (Islamic jurisprudence courses) and Fazila Courses (Islamic theology courses).  Although there is good future for such students in Islamic education and yet these students are compared with students acquiring education in schools and even looked down upon. This fact is largely becoming a hurdle in their way as they may not be competing with other students and yet they face tremendous hardships in pursuing their religious studies.

There is no doubt that women have been maintain homes in the best possible manner and have been contributing to a household in more than one way but they have largely remained dependent upon men and education is one such thing that will surely change this trend once forever. So, to eradicate the mess certain steps are to be taken by the owners or the management of the girl’s institutions. the curriculum should be designed in such a way that with Islamic education they should have a good hold over other subjects as this will ensure that a girl passing out from a madrasa can also become a doctor besides being an Aalima and Fazila. Girls passing from such Madrassa’s should undoubtedly become professors, engineers, lawyers, teachers etc and should have the competency to compete in the world that will make her life significantly better. The inclusion of girls within the Madrasa schooling system has the potential to bring about a major social transformation with direct implications for several of the millennium development goals: child health, maternal health and gender equality and financial balancing.

However, a common critique of state-led modernization efforts levied by both sides, i.e., advocates and detractors, is the lack of attention in policy formation to the processes that would translate Madrasa modernization into practice. The government is responsible for the modernization of madrasa education as well. Like in June 2014, following the announcement of the Rs.100 crore budgetary allocation for madrasa modernization, the Deoband school rector publicly stated that there was little clarity on ‘what the government wants to do’ as a part of the moderation programs. Academic scholars who support madrasa modernization have expressed similar concerns arguing that one of the biggest lacunae in present policy is the lack of cognizance to the processes that would operationalize modernization. For instance, how will the inclusion of secular syllabi in the so-called modernized madrasas be achieved in terms of actual time allocated to the teaching of different subjects; ensuring training and competence of teachers teaching school subjects in madrasas; integration of the differences between religious knowledge and the ‘modern’ knowledge of subjects into a unified whole in madrasas and so on?

So, at last, we can say Islam does not forbid girls from getting an education, instead, it insists on education. However, the flawed madrasa education system and seeing the deteriorating condition of madrasa going students is a growing concern that needs to be addresses immediately.

Ishfaq Khaliq is Sr.Engineer and Insha Jan is Islamic education student.

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