By Amir Suhail Wani
DARUL Uloom – the centres of Islamic learning, have lately earned criticism from both the insiders and those outside the fold of Islam for various reasons. On the one hand, these institutions are being blamed for regression, parochialism and anti-progressive outlook and on the other hand they are held responsible for fostering extremism, misosophy and causing conflicts and clashes among people. They stand on the margins of our imagination and at times serve the purpose of the “other”, the other with which to associate all forms of backwardness and intellectual lag.
The selfless and invaluable services rendered by these institutions for the promulgation and preservation of religious sciences can’t be ignored or undermined easily. But the fact is to be accepted that our institutions of traditional religious learning have failed to read the pulse of the era and their absolute disconnect from contemporary sciences and sources of knowledge has not only removed them farther away from the affairs of common man but their entire raison d’etre has come under scrutiny. The youth trained in secular sciences and educated from colleges and universities find a total disconnect with the institutions of religious learning and the knowledge gap separating the two is only widening with time. This disconnect has the consequence that the message and teachings of religion fail to be delivered to the younger generation and this launches them into the orbit of confusion and rebellion.
Seminaries prepare their students to dispense religious knowledge among people and help them run their affairs as per religious scruples. They are well-versed in religious sciences and are at the same time expected to be aware of the pulse of the era. But what we witness instead is a double irony – the religious sciences taught in seminaries are based on curricular structure popularly known as Darsi Nizami which is no less than seven centuries old. One can gauge for oneself the changes world has gone through during this time, but these changes nowhere reflect in the curriculum being taught by seminaries. In addition to this stagnation in core curriculum, an attitude of total indifference has been adopted towards normative and positive sciences and this ignorance from modern episteme has at times made religious scholars fall for non-sense and at other times turned them into mediocre. This is evident from the religious rulings (Fatwas) we have been witness to at one time or the other because these Fatwas are usually passed in absence of the proper knowledge of human affairs – the affairs these Fatwas pertain to.
With their incompetence in mundane worldly affairs growing by years and the relevance of their scholarship being questioned, seminaries and the people involved have a dual role to play. They must equip themselves thoroughly with the modern forms of knowledge, as much as is necessary for the efficient discharge of their functions as preachers, legislators and interpreters of the divine commandments. They must simultaneously strive to present the teachings of Islam in modern day idiom, the academic parlance which youth can relate to and to address issues which have a living relevance to the society. English is undoubtedly the lingua franca of our times and no matter how much it be ignored, but the corpus of quality literature that has been generated in English in the past few decades is indispensable and invaluable to any scholar of Islam. How many of our Darul Uloom pass outs can read these books and how many of them have the primary skill of reading Basic English? This is said, not to demean or dishonour them in any sense, but to ring an alarm bell – to awaken them to the challenges lying ahead and to request them humbly to wake up to the call. To this end an active, continuous and positive exchange of ideas and individuals needs to be started between traditional Madrasas and modern day universities. A professor from University may be called upon for a lecture at a traditional seminary to make the students aware about the impulses and requirements of modern times.
We do not expect and nor is it sensible to expect Darul Ulooms to produce scientists and inventors, as some people often complain. It is only expected from Darul Ulooms to be true to their cause and impart in their students the knowledge that has contemporary relevance in addition to equipping them with an understanding of religious classics. It is only this medley of tradition and modernity which can appeal to youth and rationalise their adherence to Islam.
- Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
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