From memorizing the verses from Quran to working in multinational corporations and from studying Islamic law to delivering lectures in national varsities, madrassa students are slowly breaking the moulds of tradition.
For years, these students from the world of Islamic pedagogy, after graduating, found their calling in prospects limited to that of a neighbourhood maulana, travelling from house to house and teaching children the naazira, or the recitation of the Quran.
While some served as imams, others who graduated as muftis, sought employment in the bigger seminaries, and often served as deputies of a sadar (chief) mufti, concerning themselves primarily with interpretations of the texts and their application.
But there are others like 30-year-old Muhammad Mukhtar-uz-Zaman Ansari, a graduate of Jamia Darussalaam and now a PhD scholar at the Arabic department at Eflu, who have different priorities. “I am employed at Cognizant Technologies as a senior process executive. I have worked on the Google maps platform for West Asia, translating Arabic documents to English and vice versa. My PhD thesis topic is Translation of English Journalistic Expressions in Arabic: Problems and Solutions,” he says.
Ansari, who spent his formative years in a seminary, realised that it was not impossible to have the best of “both worlds” – the traditional and the modern. “Though I have the highest respect for imamat (serving as imam) and khitaabat (delivering sermons), I wanted more which is why I strove for a university education. The future of my field is bright and now I find myself in a position to guide other madrassa students who want to make the transition,” Ansari says.
For Syed Abdul Rasheed, another 30-year-old madrassa graduate, teaching has always been a passion. After completing his masters from Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), Rasheed, a resident of Malakpet, qualified the National Eligibility Test (NET) last year. He now teaches Islamic Studies at his Alma mater. “I studied at a madrassa in Malihabad, after which I decided to pursue modern education. In today’s world, modern education is very important. Madrassa students are slowly realising this and all they need is encouragement and direction,” he said. His friend, Ilyas Hashmi from Nizamabad, another madrassa educated youth, is a government servant working in Osmania University’s Dairatul Maarif, he adds.
While the stories of Ansari and Rasheed seem promising, experts opine that madrassas in general should open their gates to modern education. The fact that English, mathematics and the sciences largely remain absent from classrooms, is a handicap for students, they admit.
“More than half of the 200 students in the Arabic department are from madrassa. If madrassa management is unwilling to accept government intervention, they should find common ground and integrate these subjects in the curriculum. The problem is that concrete steps have not been taken yet,” says Syed Rashid Naseem Nadvi, head of the Arabic department in Eflu.