Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

Religious Education in Pakistan: The Case of Mawlana Amin Ahsan Islahi

Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

Religious Education in Pakistan: The Case of Mawlana Amin Ahsan Islahi

Article excerpt

Religious education and institutions have been an issue of concern in Pakistan since its inception in 1947 on the premise that religion is the raison d'être of the establishment of Pakistan. However, the issue got more prominence after the tragic incident of 9/11 as the religious educational institutions better known as madrasahs have been linked to the growing tendency of terrorism among the Muslims in Pakistan.** The common perception among the modern educated ruling elite is that these religious educational institutions are impervious to change and thus represent and promote conservatism and obscurantism in Pakistan. While the upholders of present religious educational system blame the ruling elite of being irreligious and promoters of Western values and culture in Pakistan. Criticism made against madrasahs had not been given any heed by the ulama'. They took it as an unwarranted interference in their internal affairs. Consequently, any move on the part of government to reform the madrasahs met with failure.

However, the religious educational system functioning in the IndoPak Subcontinent has also been evaluated and criticised by some religious scholars for not meeting the challenges posed by the modern Western intellectual scholarship. Since the beginning of 20th century this system has been criticised by such religious scholars but unfortunately nothing happened positive to change the content, methodology and structure of the madrasah system. Religious scholars who expressed their views regarding reforms in religious education include Mawlänä Anwar Shäh Kashmiri, Mawlänä Abul Kaläm Äzäd, Mawlänä Ashraf Ali Thänawi, Mawlänä Muhammad Yüsuf Binnori,1 Mawlänä Sayyed Manäzir Ahsan Giläni,2 Mawlänä Abul "Alä Mawdüdi,3 and Mawlänä Amin Ahsan Islähi.

The ideas and thoughts of Mawlänä Islähi on religious education has an academic attraction for scholars on the basis of his being an important exegete and author of the Taddabur-i Qur 'an4 and being a scholar trained in traditional religious disciplines in the madrasah system.5 Criticism levelled against the madrasahs by the modern educated scholars has been rejected and scoffed at by most of our 'ulama'. However, they cannot reject criticism of those whose scholarship is recognised in the contemporary religious discourse in Pakistan. Islähi is one of them." Though alumnus of a madrasah and also a teacher of religious disciplines, yet Islähi did not hesitate to criticise the so called Islamic system of education in Pakistan. He maintained his position as an independent religious authority in the present division of religious and non-religious educational system in Pakistan. Secondly, unlike other religious scholars, whatever he believed or accepted, he implemented it with the available human and material resources and thus provided a model for the reformers of religious education. In the following pages an effort is being made to describe and reconstruct Islähi's religious views with reference to his educational ideas rooted in his God-centred philosophy of knowledge and how far the present 'Islamic' religious educational institutions are successful in achieving those ideals. It is a descriptive study of Islähi's ideas which have been elaborated and explained in the context of existing socio-political conditions in Pakistan. The assessment of Islähi's suggested course contents is broadly based on this researcher's personal experiences and observations.

Amin Ahsan Islähi (1904-1997)

With his familial background in agriculture, Islähi, after his primary education in the village Bamhore (district Azam Garh [U. R]), was enrolled in the Madrasatul lslah, Sara' i Mir, India. After completing his education he joined his alma mater as a teacher from where he also brought out a journal, Al-Isläh, for the dissemination of thoughts of his mentor and teacher Mawlänä Hamiduddin Farähi.7 When Jamä'at-i Islâmï was founded by Mawlänä Abul 'Alä Mawdüdi in 1941, Islahi's name appeared among the founders along with other important religious scholars like Abu al-Hassan Ali Nadvi and Mawlänä Manzoor Nu' mani. …

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