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The History of Madrasa in India

The History of Madrasa in India

These days Madrasas often remain in controversy they are mostly labeled as a ‘hub of terrorism’ where youths are misguided.  It can be seen that madrasas are being demolished in BJP-ruled states like Uttar Pradesh and Assam in the name of terror. But very few people know that in the golden past, madrasas groomed intellectual personalities such as Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Raja Rammohun Roy, and many other famous people. Let us now look at the history of madrasas in India.

NCERT syllabus, dress code in madrasas coming soon - India Today
                                            Image Source: India Today

Madrasa institutes in the Islamic community were not formed based on any historical event or emergency situation. The Madrasa system is considered an essential system for gaining knowledge which is one of the fundamental pillars of Muslim society. Madrasas can be considered a system that has its presence in the Muslim community, since the start of Islam and has continued consecutively throughout centuries.

Dar al- Arqam, the place where Prophet Muhammad started his Islamic teaching, the mosque built in Madinah where Prophet lived, the Ashabussuffa on its slope, and the knowledge distributed by the disciples in different countries can be considered as the initial forms of the madrasa system.

Maktabs, established for basic Islamic learning, and the large education system that unfold from the mosques in Muslim centers which includes Medina, Mecca, and Cairo were various forms of the madrasa system. Historical records say in Faz and Morocco, the first systematic madrasas were established way back in 859. Madrasa of various schools in India was established over time by taking basic inspiration from all the above models.

The Concept of Madrasa and its establishment in India

The meaning of the word Madrasa is ‘school’, and the word ‘dars’ means teaching. The Muslim community refers to madrasa as higher learning at the college level. The system of madrasa in India is thirteen centuries old. The growth of Islam in the 7th century led to the establishment of  ‘Maktabs’ they were established in Malabar in South India. Maktabs can be considerthe primary version of madrasas which gives knowledge about religious learnings. It was established by Muslim traders and a few intellectuals of Islamic society.

In later years, madrasas began at the initiative of learned preachers, Sufis, and administrators from different parts of the country. During the period of Muslim rulers from Arab when they used to rule Sindh that is in the 8th-10th centuries, Madrasas started taking formal shape as a marker of Islamic civilization and culture and they started growing in important areas.

But the system of Madrasa progressed toward development only in the 13th century after the rule of the Delhi Sultanate started. With the establishment of various states, the idea of Madrasa started to spread in various parts of the country. One of the earliest Madrasa started in Ajmer of Rajasthan. 

When the Mughals came in the concept of madrasa spread further and was institutionalized. It was a key focus of the Muslim rulers to build madrasas and mosques in the areas under their authority. Some records say that there were more than 1500 madrasas in Delhi only during the Tughlaq era.

After Akbar sat on the throne of Delhi, he started modernizing the madrasas and included science subjects. Later in the 15th century Mir Fathullah a member of Akbar’s court introduced subjects like mathematics, medicine, astronomy, and natural science which help the madrasas to grow further.

There is also a type of Madrasa that is informal in this type of madrasa scholars from the Islamic community, take classes in their homes or mosques in the locality. Rooms can be found on two sides of the mosque which are spacious that were located in major cities during the Muslim rule in India.

There was also a third type of madrasa and those were run by an individual known as Mualliam and Mu’ addib.  They took the responsibility of giving education on themselves and tried to educate their own generations in homes or mosques. Many of them did it voluntarily without getting paid. There were some people who worked somewhere else but they give education to people in the Madrasas when they get free time.

The present scenario of madrasas in India 

These days Madrasas often remain in controversy they are mostly labeled as a ‘hub of terrorism’ where youths are misguided.  It can be seen that madrasas are being demolished in BJP-ruled states like Uttar Pradesh and Assam in the name of terror. But very few people know that in the golden past, madrasas groomed intellectual personalities such as Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Raja Rammohun Roy, and many other famous people. 

But it is being reported that today also students from non-Muslim backgrounds also study in madrasas in North India. There are three madrasa schools in Chandigarh where non-Muslim students study, the parents of those students said they admitted their children to madrasas as it is near their home and they get quality education like modern school in those madrasas. There were also reports of children from Hindu families studying in madrasas of West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.

The education minister of Bengal in 2017 said that 60% of the 1,400 students in a madrasa of Bengal were non-Muslims. The interesting fact is that out of 32 teachers there, eleven were non-Muslims. The participation of non-Muslims in Madrasas helps to know the culture of each other group and to get lessons of social coexistence practically.

But more changes are required in the madrasa system the authorities need to include more modern subjects and should keep an eye on individuals inside the madrasas who try to spread communal ideas. The students of madrasas should be taught that people of all religions will be punished equally for their misdeeds and will also be rewarded accordingly.

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