In the discussion on Central Madrasa Board, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad is often referred as the supporter of Madrasah Board. In this article, Maulana Wali Rahmani argues that Azad, instead of proposing a All India Madrasah Board under government, wanted to constitute an independent National Madrasah Board managed by Muslims themselves. All the excerpts, save the last one, have been taken from “Zikr-e-Azad” compiled by Maulana Azad’s close friend and rector of “Madrasah Alia Calcutta” Maulana Abdur Razzaque Malihabadi.
Contrary to common belief, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad never supported the formation of any madrasah board. It is amazing that some considerate writers too have the same opinion about Azad. Mr. Fairoz Bakht, in one of such articles has written, “Also Maulana Azad, along with Maulana Shibli Nomani, had tried to establish an All India Madrasah Board.”
My knowledge is limited; I could not know that Maulana Azad had ever proposed to constitute a board functioning as a part of the ruling system! Yes, I know Azad started a Madrasah when he was detained in Ranchi and during the period of Non Cooperation Movement, he had established a Madrasah in response to the Madrasah Alia Calcutta.
Notably, Madrasa Alia was considered a government Madrasah. Despite the madrasah being sovereign in its internal affairs, Maulana Azad was not satisfied with it at all. He believed that learning in Madrasa Alia (now Alia University) and having its degrees change the students’ direction of thought because Madrasah Alia does not aim at what the madrasa students are prepared for. Therefore, Maulana Azad instead of (supporting) “Government Madrasah” not only proposed for “Qaumi Madrasah” but also urged the students of Madrasa Alia through his influential speeches to detach themselves from the Madarsas. As a result, the students pledged to leave the Madrasa and they did.
The students of Madrasa Alia left facilities and opportunities over there and took admission in the ‘Qaumi Madrasa’ Maulana Azad had established in Masjid-e-Nakhuda. In his own words “it is the group which preferred ‘Deen’ (religion) to ‘Dunia’ (worldly pleasure) and left the splendid building and luxurious hostel of Madrasa Alia-having all means of comfort tools of adornment- merely to abide by the commandments of Almighty Allah and due to being true citizens of India. They left it while they had no clues as to where they were going and where they would stay.” The message, as his words convey, is crystal clear and why not when clarification and frankness was the nature of Maulana Azad.
The message Azad gave in the last of his statement must have been the result of his being influenced by the theme of the Qur’anic verse: “Whoever fears Allah- He will make for him a way out and will provide for him from where he does not expect and whoever relies upon Allah- then He Is sufficient for him.”(65-02)
This belief is the main treasure of a Muslim who, is provided with sustenance beyond the sources and means. It guides him on stranger paths and helps in critical situations. Maulana had a wish to see this faith stronger among the students of Madrasah; religious scholars and preachers of Islam in future.
Referring to what distinguishes these students from the government madaris graduates, Maulana says, “Truly this is the only group, which deserves to be called the true lovers of knowledge. They know that the modern education is a source of earning, it opens the doors to big jobs and posts and that only English can pave way to jobs ranging from a clerk post to the employment of Lord Sinha. On the other hand, religious education cannot guarantee for anything (material); even they cannot get adequate food through this. Yet, they have a secret but strong passion in their hearts which prevents them from running to the modern education. Though living with misery, they devote whole life for Arabic education.”
This “strong fervour”, is found only among Madrasah students and ulama. On this account, they have closed upon themselves all the ways of facilities and despite being aware of all the things, they preferred the Madrasah. The reason behind it, as Maulana says, is that “this passion aims at nothing save the quest for knowledge and the pleasure of Allah. It is the only Madrasah students all over India who seek knowledge for its real purpose.”
These attributes of madaris students and ulama Maulana have mentioned serves as an eye-opener. It does not only enlighten the situation but also gives the message that the knowledge should be sought for the sake of moral values and the pleasure of Allah, and that it should not be used as a bridge to achieve government jobs.
It does not mean that Maulana was not aware of the weaknesses of madaris or he was unfamiliar with the prevailing situation. Of course, these things were well known to him and he also pointed out them in his writing and speeches. Madaris should utilize them. Still there is a basic difference between the students of Madrasah and those who get knowledge from the other educational institutions, as Maulana pointed out. Remember the Non Cooperation Movement and read these sentences “No students of Aligarh left the college till they got satisfied after a two-hour long discussion with me whether they could earn money after leaving government education. Even some of them demanded I make a guarantee to this effect.”
A large number of high ranking students quit ‘Madrasah Alia’ and joined the Maulana’s ‘Qaumi Madrasah.’ Maulana said about them “Not one of them asked (whether their future would be dark). No sooner were, they were told about the commandments of the Shariah, they immediately surrendered and got ready to leave all worldly things.”
These words indicate what the view point of Maulana about these two kinds of educational institutions was. He believed there existed a basic difference between the products of both kinds of the institution: one is ever ready to accept the truth while the other is habituated to argue; one is obedient to the Shariah and the other is more concerned about their future instead of Shariah. In short, one longs for ‘wealth’ and the other one for ‘ends’. This is the view point of Maulana reflecting in his writings.
“The magnitude of the unfinished task can be seen from the fact that 46.8 crore (468 million) people over the age of 6 are still illiterate.” SACHAR REPORT
Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad has outlined the nature and characteristics of the two educational streams (governmental and private) in India. With this regard he wrote, “The biggest of the harms the government education in India caused to our national characteristics and identity is that the real purpose of education has disappeared from our eyes. Knowledge is a sacred trust from Allah and it should be gained only because that is knowledge; but the government universities have led us to a different path. It encourages knowledge as it is essential for government jobs. Now in India, knowledge is not sought for the sake of knowledge but for livelihood.”
On the contrary, Maulana found in Madrasah the gleams of hope and the true fans of knowledge. He said “I would like to bring this fact to your mind that in the darkness of this common insult to the knowledge, a light of the true love for knowledge has been shining. They are the groups of students in India who are seeking the ancient religious sciences and arts of the religious language in several Arabic Madarsas. Be sure! This is the only group which truly deserve to be called ‘the lover of knowledge.” This is his apparent view point which was repeatedly mentioned in his writings.
Unfortunately, the dream of Maulana could not come true. He had planned to make the Madrasah of ‘Masjid-e-Nakhuda’ a big ‘Qaumi Darul Uloom.’ For, the purpose, he had managed to enlist the services of the then prominent ulama. But due to his engagement in the freedom movement, the Madrasah failed to be a central Darul Uloom and gradually turned back to the previous form.
Maulana’s stand regarding the madaris is evident. I do not think, after these clarifications, there remains any need to say that Maulana did not nourish the proposal of ‘Central Madrasah Board.
Remember when Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru proposed the resolution to make education up to 7th standard compulsory for every child in government schools and thus pave way to its legalization, but Maulana opposed it and said “Education relates to zeal and tendency. It is such a delicate thing which cannot be forced.”
Maulana narrated this event to one of his friends, sighed and then spoke out “If this resolution is passed, madaris will be most affected by this. Muslims cannot tolerable this event.”
By: Maulana Muhammad Wali Rahmani
Translated from Urdu by Abdul Jaleel Qasmi
The writer is the Chairman of Madrasah Modernization Committee of HRD Ministry