Interview : Maulana Rabe Hasni Nadwi
"Madrassas Do not Represent Maslak"
Maulana Rabe Hasni Nadwi is the new Rector of Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow having taken over after the death of its patriarch Maulana Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi on December 31, 2000. An excellent Arabic writer and author of over a dozen books, Rabe is nephew of Maulana Ali Miyan. A well-known figure in Arabic literature, he is founder-member of several literary bodies in the Arab world as well as the Oxford University Centre for Islamic Studies. He is currently the head of the Rabita Adab e Islami and a member of the Rabat based World League of Islamic Litterateur.
Maulana Rabe was recently in Bangalore. MAQBOOL AHMED SIRAJ spoke to him on changes in madrassa curriculum.
Q:What changes can be anticipated in Nadwatul Ulama while you are at the helms?
A: Nadwa had had a forward-looking leadership from the beginning. When it was being set up in 19th century, the Muslim opinion was against British, hence they intensely disliked English. Yet it was introduced in the Nadwa curriculum just because the founders saw in it the potential of being the language of future developments. Nadwa also creates awareness of civilizational issues among its students. Therefore its alumni were always ahead of all other madrassas. People like Syed Sulaiman Nadwi were invited by the government of Afghanistan to formulate a modern curriculum. Currently we have three concerns before us. First we are urging the government to either maintain secular syllabus or allow all communities to introduce their own religious curriculum in the syllabus. Second we are concentrating on media. Media prepares the minds of the educated people. We would like to train mediamen who could uphold the values of objectivity. Third front where we need to work is political front. We would like Muslims to rise above party based politics and contribute to the national development.
Q: The plea for modernization of madrassa syllabus is almost a century old. Nadwa heralded this movement. But the pace of modernisation seems to be much slow. Even Nadwa graduates prefer not to think beyond being Arabic announcers, Arabic translators in foreign missions or taking up Unani Tibb course. Islam puts us in the role of epoch makers. The gap seems to be very wide.
A: Nadwa has introduced Hindi as well as social sciences in its curriculum. Our graduates have ability in English upto plus two level. Nadwa had always dearth of resources. Whatever we could do with economy we did. Nowadays education and employment have developed an inseparable bond. So we have few students who enroll in madrassas with the aim of being scholars. Most of them study to seek employment. Even the West is realizing the mistake of making the two integral to each other.
Q: The madrassas have not agreed upon formulating a common syllabus. They pursue narrow sectarian outlooks. Titles such as Nadwi, Salafi, Qasimi, Mazahiri and Umri are not only considered degrees but have also come to represent the sectarian divide in the Muslim society. Your comment.
A: We must seek a solution for sectarian divide in the millat. Tolerance of others’ opinion is an essential condition for unity. The ulema should keep the community’s interest before their own opinion. Titles such as Nadwi and Qasimi are merely for introduction and serve as index of one’s alma mater. These do not represent maslak. Personally I would like the madrassa graduates to shed these titles.
Q: Arabic is an international language. But since madrassa curriculum has not been modernized for long, even the Arabic language suffers from this handicap. Even geographical closeness with the Arab world and increasing economic ties have not been able to popularize Arabic in India. Madrassa curriculum in Arabic is still dominated with classicism while Arabic used in Arab media, research, communication and market has altogether changed.
A: Nadwa has done enough to keep pace with Arabic as it is used in the Arab world. It is why Nadwa receives a higher rating in the Government of India jobs. Madrassas must do something to enhance the standard of Arabic to be on par with market needs of the Arab world too.
Q: The Muslim community in India had looked towards the Ulema for leadership for long. But they are no longer considered fit to lead now. As it is evident from Moon Sighting controversies, it seems the lack of modern knowledge has rendered them unfit to lead the community. The very fact that a single individual leads the Muslim Personal Law Board as well as the Milli Council, also shows that there are serious gaps between the demands of the age and the kind of products madrassas produce.
A: We need to raise the educational and understanding level of the entire millat. It is very true that the leaders rise from the millat. Madrassas should also contribute in this.
Q: One expected that Dawah should be the concern of the madrassas. But current experience shows that dawah workers such as Dr. Zakir Naik or Ahmed Deedat now come from modern educational institutions, and not from madrassas. Is it not necessary that we make the madrassa student more aware of the Hindu society, religion, history and Indian languages in order to make them better dawah workers?
A: Nadwa teaches subjects such as Hindi, Sanskrit, Indology etc. Other madrassas should also follow this curriculum. The dawah workers you have mentioned have gained name and fame because of their English background. However, several of our students are working silently in Hindi areas.