Saturday, 9 February 2019

Critical Role of the Madrassa

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
والصلاة والسلام على رسوله الكريم
وعلى اهل بيته الطيبين الطاهرين المظلومين
والعاقبة للمتقين
Nearly a year ago, I wrote concerning the critical role of the madrassa as a means to safeguard and perpetuate the faith among the youth and future generations of Muslims. Ultra-Orthodox Jews, known as Haredim, live a lifestyle that centers around the yeshiva, to the point of making their wives earn the daily bread while they study Torah day and night. Of course, Muslims should not go to that extreme, as Islam enjoins us to live in this world and labor for our daily bread as long as we do not neglect frequent and consistent worship of Allah. The study of our own Scripture, the holy Quran, and those sciences which facilitate its understanding, must be a lifelong pursuit. Tragically, the majority of Muslims these days are intent on sending their children to study in secular schools to obtain modern, secular education, at the expense of their required basic religious education – learning to read the Quran al-Karim. The fact of the matter is that the secular system of education, imparted through the public schools of the government, is turning our young people away from religion, and in many cases, into outright atheist disbelievers. This crisis of apostasy is sufficient reason for every Muslim parent to enrol his or her child in a madrassa, or at the very least, in a private Islamic school. The fraction of Muslims who are committed to becoming fully qualified Ulama by studying the religion full time has drastically decreased. In many places there is an acute shortage of not only fully qualified Ulama, but also of Qurra and Huffaz who are wanted to lead the five daily prayers in the mosques. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him & his family) prophesied:
يُقْبَضُ الْعِلْمُ، وَيَظْهَرُ الْجَهْلُ
“Knowledge will be taken away and ignorance shall appear”
(Sahih al-Bukhari)
This is truly an amazing prophecy because it is counterintuitive yet has indeed been fulfilled. Despite the digital revolution that has radically facilitated access to information for ordinary people, the Muslims have declined in terms of their possession of religious knowledge, largely because of the proportional shortage of Ulama. Instead, there are many pretenders who wear the gown of knowledge while in reality they are ignorant, and due to their woeful ignorance are leading their blind-followers down the wrong path. In some places, like Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, there is an abundance of madaris, but the quality of religious education is lacking. The result is that the madaris in the Indian subcontinent largely churn out individuals who are only capable of reciting the Quran for the five daily prayers, and completing its recitation during the Tarawih prayers in Ramadan. They do not possess competency in any other field for which scholars are desperately needed in our community. Furthermore, even their recitation of the Quran is speedy and not heartful, and otherwise substandard in terms of correct pronunciation.
I truly believe that our madaris, though focused on training the youth to become qualified Ulama, should be open for older people too and encourage their attendance at lessons, so as to spread greater religious literacy among the community. The elders of our community are sadly among the most ignorant because their generation was completely dismissive of the need to acquire basic religious education. Most of them cannot properly read the Quran and have little knowledge on how to correctly discharge the obligated acts of worship like Salat and Zakat.

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