| What Really is a Madrassah?|
These days we are hearing a lot about the Madrassahs (a.k.a. Madarasa,
Madrasa, from Arabic). They are labeled as terrorist training camps that harbor hatred and intense
religious fervor. Unfortunately that's what has happened to the great Islamic institution
of Madrassah today.
A Madrassah is simply a traditional Islamic school of higher learning. Till
the western forces destroyed (18th Centuty) the indigenous systems of education like the Gurukuls, the
Ghatikas, and the Madrassahs, they were the only formal means of education in
the medieval sub-continent. A Maqtab (a.k.a. Makhtab ) was a primary school in
the Islamic world while a Madrassah was like a high-school or college of today. In the medieval Islamic world, there were many Madrassahs as big as the universities of the twentieth century, complete with libraries, display museums, and visiting scholar programs.
Great scholars and teachers devoted their lives in the Madrassahs for the study
of Islam, the Farsi language, and most importantly, to spread knowledge among common people. Prophet Mohammad is to have said "a scholar’s ink is superior to a martyr’s
blood", and the thought of the period (10th to 18th centuries) took upon itself to propagate Islam
though advancement of arts, sciences, and devotion. Royalty as well as commoners were educated in the Madrassahs.
Here is a picture of a great and historical Madrassah in Southern India.
15th Century Madrassah of Mahmud Gawan
The Madrassah was to find a renewed strength and survival in the post-Soviet Union Afganistan and Pakistan. As the inflow of foreign money dried up, the people resorted to low cost, Islamic schools where the Maulvis (clerics) shared their wisdom. As those nations turned more fanatical, and fundamentalistic, the lessons also reflected the mood of the people. Although today the Madrassahs are branded as breeding areas for hatred of the West, they are the only means of education available to a large number of Afghan, Palestinian, and Lebenese children whose lives have been torn by civil (and non-so-civil) wars.
ABCNews: Visit to a Madrassah
NYTimes: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Sciences
Reference: A forthcoming book on the History of Education in India by my mother.
Indya.com is Dead. Long Live India.
This just in. Indian portal Indya.com that started with
mega backers, media blitz, and hype panaroia has fired
all its employees.
|First Written: Wednesday, October 31, 2001|
Last Modified: 1/29/2003