(Muhammad Amir Siddiqui)
The nuance of madrasa (Seminaries) has kept changing through the ages from the early days of Islam, and considered an institution of knowledge both religious and secular. The Madrasa tradition has been established and it is prevailing since the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), its emergence has been intrinsically related with state activities, policies and patronage. In the formative period of Islam, madrasas acted as supporters of the Islamdom and played decisive role in aiding the administrative machinery. But unfortunately, not much effort has been generated to understand the true nature and the reasons for its continued existence.
Madrasas have evolved from an all encompassing educational institution to a centre of religious knowledge. Russian attack on Afghanistan shaped madrasa’s dimension in different direction when US and Saudi Arabia provoked Muslims emotionally and convinced the people Pakistan for so called jihad in Afghanistan against Russian forces. During the Afghan war religion was the dominate force of Zia regime and Islamic laws and education became the state policy. After the demise of USSR a sizeable number of jihadis who returned to Pakistan not only involved in violent activities and started to preach the same.
The first and foremost purpose of education is to enlighten the people not only about the society but sharing religious practices as well. It gives them a sense of understanding on the social sphere in such a way so that they can distinguish between good and bad. But the problem started in the understanding of simplistic notion of Islam as a monolithic, ideological and violent faith when West propagated against Islam as most of the madrasas do not teach secular subjects and teaches what has been revealed from the life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and is contained in Quran. This is not a big deal as secular education doesn’t ensure what west propagates against Islam. Every individual has a liberty in choosing and practicing a religion of own choice.
Pakistan, a country with disruptive political structure, elite and affluent families are unaware about the problems that common masses facing. That is why teenagers are more inclined towards earning bread for their families than acquiring formal education. Madrasas playing vital role in shaping the social structure of the country as a large number of Pakistani population lives in small towns and villages. The lack of proper educational institutions funded and managed by state as an alternative in rural areas has also intensified popularity of religious education. Poverty, feudalism, illiteracy and lack of awareness leave the people with two choices: either to abandon the education of their children or to induct them in religious schools.
In Pakistan, such religious schools have not been controlled and administered properly at governmental level. As they are working as Non Government Organization providing free education, food, shelter, cloths, discipline and social security to the deprived children. They do not receive any aid from the government fund and fulfill their needs with the help of different donors. This kind of attitude is cause of rift within government and Madrasa administration arises.
Pakistan has been experiencing a wave of madrasa reform, unfortunately, government has failed miserably to regulate and streamline the madrasa education. Pervez Musharraf regime extensively elaborated madrasa policies in 2001 & 2002; Pakistan Madrasa Education Board (PMEB) and Deeni Madaris Ordinance respectively to reform and cracking down on them they are preaching violence, pushing the remaining ones towards modernized Islamic institutions. In 2009 government established a Madrasa Regulatory Authority under Interior ministry but stubborn attitude of Ulema that it should be under the Religious Affair ministry and went in vein. There is a state of mistrust between the government and the madrasa establishment. The failure of these Ordinances lies in poorly designed administrative structure.
An agreement inked between government and Itehad Tanzeemat-e-Madaaris Pakistan to introduce the contemporary subjects in madrasas in their metric and intermediate courses effort appreciated. Government should regulate Islamic education and help madrasa administration to convert it to modern Islamic knowledge centre as millions of the people getting education from these madrasas instead of becoming the puppet of foreign elements to malign Islam and Islamic practice. This practice will give them sense of responsibility that they are equally stakeholders in shaping Pakistan’s future with secular setup.