Ulema are considered as inheritors of the prophets. Ulema themselves explain their exalted position by saying that this is so because prophets didn’t leave behind any wealth except wealth of knowledge and ulema as a group have over fourteen hundred years preserving and propagating this prophetic knowledge. But what has been the role of Ulema in recent years?
If we go back hundred years, we will find a very active ulema group, active in politics and social activities. In fact, it was the Khilafat Movement that gave birth to India’s independence dreams. Till independence, we find ulema guiding and helping the community and the country in different spheres of life.
Flash forward to present times and you will see ulema who are related to each other through blood and marriages are fighting among themselves for their piece of Jamiat, to control Darul Uloom Deoband, or to gain some political benefits. All this is going on when just a few years ago Sachar Committee report put numbers on Muslims’ socio-economic backwardness.
Imam sahib of Kotla Jami Masjid.
Though no authentic information is available but it is safe to assume that thousands of madrasas produce at least tens of thousands of graduates every year. In recent years, some new sectors have opened up but still most end up serving as imams in mosques, teaching in other madrasas or starting their own maktabs. In all these cases, they live and work among the community and some ulema rightly point out that they are more connected to the people than Muslim intellectuals. But then I failed to understand how is that even after spending large part of their day among Muslims and some of the poorest one they are unable to comprehend their problems?
How is it that imam of a masjid do not see that Muslims are going through difficult financial condition or most of them are illiterate or that there are no good schools, hospitals, and other civic amenities around his masjid? I have seen lot of imams of small times mosques having a very good relations with local Muslim elites to secure regular funding so why not for other purposes that will benefit the community?
I can’t say that “modern educated” Muslims has better track record in helping their community but I will blame madrasa education for failing to develop critical thinking among its students. Modern discoveries and lot of literature (in science, social science, etc.) is not accessible to them and I am not sure how many can benefit even if it becomes accessible.
There are very few madrasa graduates that are able to get to modern universities like JNU, JMI, and AMU but madrasa authorities, instead of being proud of their alumni who have made a mark for themselves in the secular world, look down upon them as the ones who abandoned the mission.
Now, someone should tell me what is the mission? If Muslims position has deteriorated in the last 60 years then why can’t we blame our “ulema hazraat” for having an ostrich mentality?
To the “modern-educated” Muslims, my message is simple- if you don’t engage with the community, then don’t blame ulema for taking active role in social services and politics. They are doing the best they can given their limited world view.
What we need is actually an equal partnership between ulema and the “modern-educated “both balancing out each other’s skewed world and Islamic view and learning from each other.