LUCKNOW: In a large room at the Islamic Centre of India on the premises of Aishbagh Eidgah in Lucknow, dozens of young men are sitting on the marble floor, bent over books learning the ayats of the Holy Quran and Hadith.
Founded by famous Islamic Scholar Allama Nizamuddin Farangi Mahli, who was the author of Dars-e-Nizamia, the syllabus followed by nearly all madrasas in the Indian subcontinent, this madrasa has over 500 students – 300 boys and 250 girls-- enrolled at a time. There is a hostel for outstation students as well.
A few kilometers away, there is a government-aided madrasa with decrepit infrastructure. The government aid on which it runs reaches once in six months.
Despite the stark difference in their status, there is a common undercurrent of tension running in the two seminaries. Ever since the Yogi Adityanath Government has announced that NCERT books would be introduced in the madrasa curriculum and subjects like mathematics, science and social science would be made compulsory, the authorities running the madrasas in Uttar Pradesh have been worried and confused.
Well-known Muslim cleric Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahli, who is the Chairman of the Islamic Centre, said it would put too much pressure on the students to study modern subjects like mathematics, physics, chemistry, geography etc. alongside the Holy Quran, Hadees, Islamic law and history, Arabic and Persian.
The general feeling is that the government has failed to understand the purpose of madrasa education, which is to impart religious training. Maulana Abdul Lateef, a teacher at the Islamic Centre, said after graduating from there, the students joined higher centres of Islamic studies such as Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama in Lucknow or Darul Uloom Deoband.
“Many others also take admission in institutions like Aligarh Muslim University, JNU and Jamia Milia Islamia where avenues for Islamic studies are available,” he said.
“The government must realise that these centres of education have been opened for imparting education in the field of Islamic learning to produce religious teachers and maulvis. Only those students who want to go into the field of religious teaching study in madrasas in higher classes. Other Muslim children who want to become doctors, engineers etc. join general schools. There is no mix-up. So, why is the government trying to create this confusion? Will it allow a paper on ‘Deeniyat’ (Islamic religious studies) in a medical college?” asks a madrasa teacher in Old Lucknow, requesting anonymity.
Maulana Farangi Mahli as well as other clerics and madrasa teachers said the government should first focus on improving the infrastructure of madrasas in the state as most of the madrasas across the state are in crying need for basic infrastructure. Teachers are not being paid regular salaries.
“What to talk of modernisation, teaching even the basic curriculum becomes difficult with irregular flow of aid,” said the manager of the madrasa in the neighbourhood of Islamic State. He said most of the staff had left because of payment delays and the madrasa was left with just four teachers, besides the principal who was facing threats of legal action from teachers whose dues were unpaid.
However, Mohammad Tariq Ahmed, registrar of the UP Madarsa Board, justified the go vernment move. “Hindi and English are already compulsory while subjects other than Islamic theology and religion, Urdu, Arabic and Persian are optional. When we compared our syllabus with other education boards, there was a gap,” he said. The decision to introduce NCERT books came after the state government recently started the process of online registration of madrasas.