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Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama: Time for a change in Curriculum

India’s Muslim population lags behind their non-Muslim counterparts when it comes to formal education. The gap further widens in case of higher education. Even as they comprise nearly 13 percent of India’s population, their enrolment rate at the primary school level (Class 1-5) was a meagre 9.39 percent of total enrolment figures for 2006. However, when this data is compared with those who were enrolled in Madrassas for the same period, the percentage is much higher. Madrassas form an integral component of the educational structure of India with more than 90 percent of Madrassa students in India belonging to poor families. Why poor Muslim students opt for Madrassas and what is reason behind such huge enrolment percentage in Madrassas when compared to formal education system? Is there a need to revamp the Madrassa education system? A case study of Darul Uloom Nadwa would answer the questions raised above.

Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama and Darul Uloom Deoband are two of the largest Madrassas presently imparting religious education to thousands of Muslim youth from different parts of India. Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama caters to the relatively backward region of Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Eastern Bihar. Every year, many students graduate from the seminary and are known as “Nadwis” in the social circles of Muslims. A look at the type of education system and Structure of education system of Nadwa would reveal that the seminary is totally devoted to impart spiritual/religious education and lacks severely in the field of scientific/formal education. The Aalim/ Shariah course in Nadwatul Ulama broadly deals with Arabic Language, Hadith and its Usool (Science), Fiqh and its Usool, translation of the Qur’an and Tafseer and its Usool. The condensed five-year course (for college graduates) consists of:

YearCourse Content
1st YearPurely Arabic (Nahw, Sarf, Conversation etc.)
2nd YearMore Arabic literature, starts translation of Qur’an, starts Fiqh (Qudoori for Hanafi students and there is provision for Shafi’i students), Hadith (Riyadhus Saaliheen)
3rd YearHadith (Mishkath parts 1&2), Usoolul Hadith (Muqaddimah Mishkath), More Translation/Tafseer, Fiqh (Hidayah parts 1&2), Aqeedah (As Sunniyah), Some literature and Balaghah.
4th and 5th YearAfter 3 years, students join the 7th and 8th years (called Aaliyah Thalithah and Aaliyah Raabi’ah) of the regular Aalim course in which they are taught the remaining Mishkath. Further books are taught in Usool Al-Hadith (e.g. Nukhbah) and Usool Al-Fiqh (e.g. Usool al-Shashi), the remainder of Hidaayah, Usool Al-Tafseer (Alfawzul Kabeer), Tafseer, Aqeedah Tahaawiyah. Finally the Sihah Sittah (6 books of Sahih Hadith) are taught.

Though English has been introduced in the course and students are enthusiastically responding to it, work needs to be done to get modern education like Science, Maths, philosophy and many more incorporated along with the religious education system. This will not only help them in getting jobs but will also help them in assimilating with the modern society.

An analysis of the financial background of students coming to Nadwa would reveal that upper class Muslims/ affluent Muslims do not like to send their kids to Madarsa and get their children enrolled in school and colleges. Those coming to Nadwa mostly belong to backward families representing small farmers, labourers, masons etc. They trace their roots to remote villages in Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh with limited option for better education.

The case of Nadwatul Uloom clearly points towards two important aspects. Firstly, lack of resources forcing a lot of Muslim youths from poor background into Madrassa education system and secondly, absence of formal scientific education system in Madrassa curriculum. The first issue can be addressed by opening more government funded schools in the backward areas with sizeable Muslim population and creating awareness amongst the Muslim populace about the need and benefits of scientific education system. The second aspect can be addressed by regulating the Madrassa education system and making it mandatory for the Madrassas to introduce formal scientific education in their curriculum. Lack of resources in Madrassas can be addressed by providing financial incentives and by creating awareness amongst affluent Muslims about the need to promote scientific education in Madrassas.

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