Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

Dhu'l Qadah 1424 H
January 2004
Volume 17-01 No : 205
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OPINION


Are We Getting Complacement?
Islamic Education goes hi-tech in Kashmir

Are We Getting Complacement?

By Shahnawaz Khan

Unemployment among its youth, is a problem faced by societies and countries across the globe. The Muslim community should be especially concerned about this due to the allegations implying that unemployed youth are prone to joining Terrorist outfits. This may not actually be true, nevertheless, a focus on this issue at all times would not be without benefit.
I believe we should categorise our unemployed youth into 3 segments.
1. The uneducated or illiterate.
2. Those educated professionally.
3. Those educated through the Traditional Madrasas.
Category I - The Uneducated or illiterate:

It goes without saying, that our collective lack of effort and emphasis on Education, is now coming back to haunt us. Allah s.w.t. has made it a duty upon every parent to ensure that they educate their offspring, yet we have paid little attention to this fact. At least now we should wake up to this call. Funds are required to be pumped into opening schools in every small village and town. We also need to reach out to those who are the poorest among our community and cannot afford to put their children in school. The community needs to fund the education of the downtrodden people. Much of the Zakat, Sadaqah and Fitra, could be put to good use, in ensuring the education of the poorest of poor among us. For this we need to be active enough to go deep inside and search out for such people and not wait for them to come out. It is our duty, as the blessed ones, to be able to spend our time and effort in reaching out to those people, as we shall be answerable to Allah s.w.t. towards the fulfillment of our duties. We cannot simply close our eyes and say that we were ready to help, but nobody came and asked for it.

Building more Schools and Colleges is the long-term solution to this problem, but we have to start early, to reach early. There are many established organizations who seemed to have taken active interest in the opening and running of schools in the past, but we do not hear of any progress today. We need to feature such organizations in our Community discussions, Newsletters and Awareness campaigns, to be able to know more about their current programs and arouse fresh interest in their workings and activities.

Schools situated in the villages, wherein Agriculture and related activities are the core of their employment and earning spheres, can also include programs which are more suitable to their environment. Courses on Agriculture, Animal-Husbandry, Drip Irrigation, Goat Farming, Medicinal & Aromatic Plants, Bio-gas and Food Processing should be included in the curriculum. Even parents should be invited and convinced to join such programs.
Category II - The Educated

There is a feeling among many educated persons that being a Muslim, we are at a dis-advantage in getting jobs. We would like to believe in this blindly, without analyzing the reasons further. Every business and organization needs good people. Persons who excel in their field of choice, are always in demand, whatever may be the rate of unemployment. We must have seen many families who have individually laid emphasis on education. They have highly educated children in their family. If we talk to them, we will realize, that being a Muslim has never been a deterrent to their working and growth. Excellence in Education and in fact, in anything we do is the key to overcoming the problems of being left in the lurch. If we feel that we are dis-advantaged, then it should be all the more reason that we work harder and better. We should make ourselves in such a way that we cannot be ignored and we shall attain what is rightfully ours.

Any mediocre attempt at anything we do, will never guarantee its success. We should not expect to receive special considerations just because we are Muslims. We should try to be the best in whatever we do, so that people want to employ us for our excellent skills and track record. This should be the emphasis of those who are fortunate enough to be educated and also provide education to their children.

On a community level, laying more emphasis on opening schools, colleges and institutions will help in providing employment opportunities to the educated unemployed within our community. Hence this activity has a Dual advantage and should be all the more important. But we should not neglect the proper Training of Teachers and Administrators. I feel that simply putting people from within our community on important positions, without properly training them in the required skills, is more damaging, as it tends to make us complacent.
Category III - The Madrasa Educated


The Madrasas and Maktabs, will always remain an integral part of our Islamic Education system. Ulemas who have devoted their entire lives to the learning and teaching of Islam are a necessary part of our community. Of course, we should never consider them to be a separate section of our society (as in Hindu Brahmins) as we are well aware that Islam does not advocate the need of special category of people for fulfulling any of our obligations towards Allah s.w.t.

But today we find, especially in the Northern States, that these Madrasas are becoming a place, wherein children are sent not for their exclusive teachings of Islam, but simply because they provide free food and accomodation. Not that I object to this, community welfare can come in many forms, shapes and methods and this may be considered as one of them. But I am sure we can do better than this, and provide them with additional tools to become productively employed in the real world.

I can appreciate the fact that we simply cannot expect children from a very weak background to suddenly jump onto the Corporate ladder, but there are hundreds of useful skills which can be taught to these children, whereby they can usefully employ themselves in addition to providing the much needed Islamic teachings. Skills such as Carpentry, Gardening, Welding, Tailoring, Electrician, Plumbing, Masonery, Driving, Weaving, Cycle Repair, Watch Repair, Automobile Mechanics, Fabrication and many more.

Hence I am of the opinion that our Madrasas should combine the courses on various vocational skills as an integral part of their curriculum. This will provide a much -needed opportunity to those who pass out from these Madrasas to stand on the own two feet and become self-employed. This in turn, should be able to provide us with scholars who are much more balanced in giving their opinions and speaking about the true teachings of Islam.

I am not in favour of closing any Madrasa or Maktab simply because some people think these are breeding grounds for terrorists. This, because we should recognise the fact, that these Madrasas provide a source of employment to thousands, if not lakhs of people and they are engaged in the Learning of the Quran and Islamic Teachings. Closing down Madrasas would create an even bigger problem which I am sure none of us can handle. They have come up in the first place, because there is a demand for such institutions and has been for the past many centuries, we cannot simply ignore that. We only need to lay more focus on the improvement in these institutions, maybe organise them under a single umbrella and provide them with better Management and Administrative skills.

The writer can be reached at mnfarms02@vsnl.net

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Islamic Education goes hi-tech in Kashmir

Srinagar:Religious education in Kashmir has always been in the clutches of conservative Islamic scholars. But with changing times, young men and women are taking to computers to impart education in the revolt-racked region. A computer-aided Quranic centre has been imparting religious education against all prejudices of time and experience. Dar-u-Tajuveed or the School of Orthoepy Quran and Theology Education in Srinagar is aimed to utilise the facilities made available by the IT revolution for the dissemination of religious education. The school, set up in 1995, imparts teachings of Quran in Tajweed. The school has got an overwhelming response, especially from the youth who find the system interesting and better than the traditional sub-culture. We go to a traditional place, we learn Quran from a mullah, they only teach the Quran, its something like us just mugging it up, read it, mug it up. They dont teach the real value, how to pronounce it, then you have waqfs, stops in Quran. After saying a verse, you have to stop... its a complete system over here, they teach everything, so its better to learn the best way, said Akhtar Hussein Lone, a student. Twenty-year old Rizwana Khan said after initial hiccups, her family encouraged her to study. At times we have to spend entire days, sometimes half days over here and at that time the families definitely did not support us. But now after they have seen the results, they have seen how much we have gained, so now we have complete encouragement, there are no obstacles. They want us to come here and learn, said Khan. The owners of the school, who run it out of voluntary donations, feel this modern means of communication can be helpful and cost effective in spreading the message of religion. Ahmed Nazir, in-charge of the institute, said the new way of teaching helped students learn Arabic apart from the verses in Quran. To read Quran with a better understanding with better meaning, it is neccessary to have read the Arabic language. That concept was missing in our moulvis and the religious teachers where Quran is being taught. This idea was very much neglected there that we should emphasise on Arabic language, but this institute helped the students in that manner, that they learn the Quran and simultaneously they learn Arabic language, which has helped them a lot, said Nazir. Besides explaining the nuances of Arabic pronunciation, the institute also teaches Quran recitation and Kashmiri translation of Quran. The school, a twin centre of religious teaching and computer learning, also distributes free CDs and software packages among the interested learners.

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