Height Of Absurdity: Take Education Sportingly, But Treat Sports Like War

By Soroor Ahmed,

India has, of late, joined the leading nation of the world in making school education somewhat easy and simple. Though the Human Resources Development minister, Kapil Sibal, has brought about some radical changes and removed the Class-X board examination of the CBSE it is still a long way to go. Efforts are on to adopt playway system of education at the lower-level of schooling.

These steps are largely appreciated as unnecessary pressure on children was wreaking havoc among them and reportedly driving many teenagers to suicide.

But may one ask as to what has prompted sports to become more serious than war––not to speak of education. After all games are best form of entertainment and people play or watch them to get relaxed. But, in this age of capitalism sports are causing more tension and rancour not only in the mind of players, but all those involved in it as well as those who watch it in the field or television sets.

If two teams play, one is bound to lose. This is the only logical conclusion. Sometimes it may end in draw (tie-up), but that is not possible in one-day version of cricket. This is not because one of them played badly but because another one played better. With Cricket World Cup going on in Indian sub-continent the corporate media, like always, has turned the entire country mad––no, crazy would sound as euphemism.

The Indian media has debated and criticized Indian captain Mahinder Singh Dhoni’s decision to give last over to Ashish Nehra against South Africa so much that there is every reason to suspect that there is certainly some ulterior motive behind this whole sinister campaign. Now the BCCI too had asked Dhoni to explain this action, when the truth is that many of the Board officials have hardly any idea about cricket. Like Sharad Pawar they only play politics.

This is height of absurdity. Those who have half-baked knowledge of cricket and its history have started using this game as their tool to promote their respective business as well as agenda. Their agents in the media––commentators, experts, reporters and ex-cricketers––are all paid to fill round-the-clock space for discussion on all the TV channels just for the sake of advertisements and related business. This sheer wastage of time and energy of the people, especially the youth and children need to be questioned.

Scoring 13 runs in the last over to win the match is not at all an impossible challenge. When One-Dayers were not so popular in 1980s and rules not so much in favour of batsmen England––most of the time considered weak team in comparison to Australia––scored 18 runs to snatch a match from the arch-rival. Alan Lamb, the English batsman, in fact scored these runs in just five balls.

Even in the first World Cup in 1975 West Indian wicket-keeper Dereck Murray and last batsman, Andy Roberts, shared the last wicket partnership of 60 runs to win the match against Pakistan with just one ball to spare. Roberts, known for his poor batting skill, went to score 26 not out and cross the target of 266. Would you believe that at one stage the West Indies of that great era was 166 for eight.

Pakistani batsman Javed Miandad hit last ball six to ensure victory for Pakistan in 1986. Not only that, Pakistan won this match by one wicket when they were eight down for 137, still 100 runs away from victory. The bowler, who was hit for six was Chetan Sharma, who continued to play cricket even after that eventful delivery. Sometimes he is still hired as expert.

Not only that India won the first Twenty-20 World Cup Final by defeating Pakistan in the last over. Misbah-ul-Haque, the man in form, was caught at deep while repeating Javed Miandad’s performance. He chose to hit out relatively new bowler, Joginder Sharma, who after a few months sank into oblivion. A couple of years later nobody knows him. Had that catch been taken Pakistan would have won. Similarly, had Miandad failed to hit that six in 1986 India would have won.

This is sports and should be treated as such. But the corporate bosses, the match-fixers and betting mafia, who actually play the matches without taking to the field, have made the whole business extremely nasty, especially in the sub-continent. They have hijacked the game of cricket. It is at their instigation that mob turn violent and start targeting houses of players when the country loses any match.

True Nehra’s over cost 13 runs but after all it was not a semi-final or final match. If at this stage unnecessary pressure is being created then the players are bound to lose heart. After all in the last couple of years Nehra had ensured three victories in the last over and has been playing for the last over a decade.

The big question is if education can be regulated, controlled and given direction why is it that sports have been left unbridled. The Sports Minister has no role except to build stadiums. He cannot even check the illegal betting and match-fixing. The main stake-holder of the Royal Challengers Bangalore, Vijay Mallya, can pull up Rahul Dravid after he lost an IPL match but the Prime Minister of the country cannot dare to say anything on any illegal business going on in the name of sports. This is not democracy but plutocracy where the stranglehold of the rich corporate bosses over the games have rendered even powers that be powerless.

The rulers of the country are simply playing into their hands as was quite evident during the recent Commonwealth Games. In the electricity-starved country the government has been compelled to build huge floodlights for day-night matches for months together. No this is not for the occasional events like CWG or World Cup. We witness sheer wastage of electricity for months together for the IPL matches every year, yet our farmers would cry for power to irrigate land and school children would go to bed without studying as they have no light after the sunset. But if you have some money watch boring matches of IPL, most of them said to be fixed by the criminals and mafia-gangs.

After all sports is more serious than education.

For Educating The Muslims – Muslims Must Take The Lead

By Shahidur Rashid Talukdar,

Though the noble Qur’an professes the importance of education to the entire humanity, the irony is that beneath the lamp it is always dark. On actual count, due to some unfortunate course of action, Muslims are among the most educationally backward communities in India. Except a few states, the performance of Muslims reckon below the national average almost everywhere. While there are many reasons for the community’s failure in achieving a good educational profile and maintaining the progress, at least one apparent reason is that the community has, in the first place, failed to take appropriate and adequate initiatives towards education. Where there are well-established chains of schools from other communities such as Ramkrishna Mission schools, DAVs, Arya Vidayapeeths, Maharshi Vidyamandirs, host of Christian Missionary schools, to name only a few, imparting quality education among the masses, the Muslim community’s presence in this domain is hardly noticeable.

Unfolding the myth

Glibly put, one can say that the community has not cared enough for formal education rather it has channelized its resources towards religious education by setting up Madrasahs. There might be some truth in the claim, but as a whole it is far from the actual or sole reason. The Sachar Commission Report has revealed that the Madrasahs accommodate only a meager 4% of the total school going Muslim children while the remaining 96% go to secular schools. Besides, there are many who cannot manage to go, at all, to any school, owing to the lack of proper access.

Even this 4% of the children get enrolled in Madrasahs not necessarily by choice. The report points out that the reasons for enrollment into a Madrasah vary from lack of availability of other schools and linguistic bias to fear of communal harassment. Interestingly, it is found that in such areas where the secular private or public schools are not up to one’s avail, even children from the Hindu community also go to the Madrasahs. There might be a lack of initiatives on the part of the community to set up institutions of formal education, but the level of difficulty the community faces in setting up and getting recognition of such institutions not only daunt the feeble attempts but also deter the community’s motivation. This leads to further exacerbation of the situation.

Recent Developments and Awareness of the Problem

The public findings like the SCR and NSSO reports and individual studies coupled with widespread media coverage of the Muslim milieu, now almost everyone including the Governments, NGOs, and the society at large knows that the Indian Muslim community is far behind the mainstream in terms of educational achievement. Yet another significant development is that a large section of Muslim populace also is acknowledging this backwardness. Owing to such recent developments, now, among the Muslim elites, intellectuals, and a section of youth – a huge debate about the community’s poor performance in the field of education is underway.

An ever-increasing realization of the problem calls for urgent measures to solve it. Having touched the lowest strata of regression towards mediocrity, the community, more than ever, feels the need for a transition from a state of ignorance to participation and from darkness light. As the stakes are high, the efforts to ameliorate the situation must be quick, firm, visionary, sustainable and holistic. Now the question is what needs to be done and how it should be done to maximize the efficiency and return.

Muslims Need Schools and Coaching Centers, first

A realistic assessment of the situation offers a prompt solution that the community needs rigorous intervention at the school level, rather than college or university level. Well groomed, bright, talented and competent Muslim adolescents will find their way through the mainstream colleges, universities and other professional institutions of higher learning. Universities, engineering and medical colleges become relevant only when there is an overwhelming demand for such institutions. Such demand will sustain only when there is an abundant supply of high quality students for schools. Another such necessity is that of highly committed and professionally managed coaching centers. Coaching centers will be the best tools in this transformation process. Because they require less investment, and if efficient enough, they promise a high return – both in terms of improving the quality of students enrolled in a regular course as well success in various competitive examinations.

Muslims Must Take the Lead

Now it becomes important to see how this can be achieved. While the Governments need to provide a suitable platform for development, the community’s role in its emancipation cannot be overemphasized. The community must, at this juncture, resolve to bring a revolution among its members regarding the spread of education both in terms of quality as well as quantity. In order to initiate and sustain such an Educational Revolution there needs to be a movement from the grass roots up to the leadership. Although intervention at the policy level is imperative to bring a change, but people’s involvement in the change process is even more important. Active participation of the entire Muslim community, at each stage of transition, from planning through implementation is a must.

Now the question is how to garner such a participation without creating a mess? Well there could be many ways to develop awareness and motivate people to form special interest groups to create awareness among masses about the importance and expected return of education. While there can be many ways to do it, one way is to attach religious affiliation to education. Seeing the never ending zeal and overflowing passion of the Muslims in religious matters it can said that if the message of worldly education comes through any religious body, it is likely to have a far greater impact than any other secular body among the masses, especially in rural India. Another reason is that these organizations such as Masjid committees, Marqaz, or any other Muslim bodies active at local community level are already functioning, they have a strong network and above all they are inexpensive. Making use of established mechanisms should be easier than developing newer mechanisms for creating awareness or enhancing motivation.

The Muslim religious organizations must assume a more meaningful role in the reconstruction of the society rather than confining themselves to what they are currently preoccupied with. Instead of narrowing their focus exclusively on religious issues, the Muslim scholars should engage themselves towards socio-economic empowerment of the community. Because a community on the margins of the society is not what is recommended by Islam. The role of religious organizations, at this moment, should shift heavily towards disseminating the message of education, channelizing the community resources and monitoring the progress of education amongst the Muslims in particular and society, in general. Imagine the message “Read, in the name of Allah… teacheth man what he knew not” becoming a part of every Friday sermon, the prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) saying: “To seek knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim (male or female)” – becomes the subject of an Ishtema, Tableegh Jama’at moves with the mission of “spreading education across borders”! Imagine the potential impact of it. I am sure it will have much more penetrating effect than a million dollar campaign to spread education among Muslims.

This move, however, should not be viewed as radicalization of education or not to confuse attaching “religious importance to education” with religious or Madrasah education as such. Taking parallel from other communities, it is apparent that involvement of religious organization does not necessarily influence the curriculum in terms of radicalization. The schools or colleges will, after all, follow the mainstream formal curriculum recognized by the government.

Muslim Leadership Must Come Forward

Here comes the role of Muslim leadership, both religious and secular. The Muslim bodies like Jamiat Ulama – e – Hind and other Islamic bodies should come forward to guide and help develop regional and local bodies to conceive the message, crystallize a plan of action and pave the way for moving ahead with it. Further, even more important role for the leadership will be to advocate for the local bodies on higher platforms – state or national level agencies and lobbying for recognition and mobilizing resources for the Muslim educational institutions. Securing the Waqf properties and raising funds from individuals, Government and non-Government sources will be two most prominent issues to be handled by the leadership.

If the participation of the leadership at the top and the community at the bottom can be ensured then the middle level, that is, the technicalities of institution building can be managed by a third party. For effective implementation of the plans formulated by leadership, there needs to be professional agencies, such as Educational Consultants, which have special expertise to setting up schools, coaching centers, recruit teachers, and develop policies to efficiently run those institutions, and so on. These agencies will work as a bridge between the leadership and the masses. Such agencies can either be formed from amongst the educated and progressive community members or can be hired directly by paying for their services.
A three tier arrangement involving the Muslims masses at the bottom, professional agencies at the middle, and the community leaders on the top will greatly take care of the educational deficiency among Muslims of India.

(The writer is a Ph.D. student at Texas Tech University, Texas, USA. Originally he is from Assam, India)

Indian Muslims Should Emulate Super 30 Model

There is a view among a segment of Indian Muslim that instead of seeking favors from the government and hankering for reservation for shedding the burden of backwardness, some members of the community should come forward and emulate the Super 30 model of Bihar to uplift the fellow members of the community.

The Sachar Committee report reveals the abysmally low share of Muslims in professional courses, especially in institutes of excellence in the country. In 2006-07, only 3.3% of all students in all IITs and around 1.3% in all IIMs were Muslims. In IAS, the representation of Muslims was only 3% and it was 4% in IPS.

Super 30 is an initiative under which poor students are giving educational coaching free of cost to crack the highly competitive Indian Institute of Technology-Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE).

The coaching institutes takes 90 students every year divided into a batch of 30 students each and it has repeatedly demonstrated that how professional coaching can make the under privileged students crack the entrance test of the top engineering colleges of the country.

The 30 students are selected from among 3,000-odd aspirants who write the Super 30 entrance test. The entrance test is held in Lucknow, Agra, Gorakhpur and Varanasi in UP, Ranchi, Bokaro, Dhanbad and Jamshedpur in Jharkhand and Patna, Gaya, Muzaffarpur and Bhagalpur in Bihar.

Once selected, the students are provided professional coaching, food and lodging facilities, all free of cost. Parents of most of the students come from the bottom rung of the society, some being brick kiln workers, domestic help and doing menial jobs.

The institute was started in 2003 by two dynamic persons, one a mathematician and other a police officer. In the first year, 18 of its students made it to the prestigious IITs and the number rose to 22 in 2004 and 26 in 2005. In 2007 and 2006, 28 students made it through ITT-JEE. In the last seven years, 182 students out of 210 have made it to different IITs of the country. And for the last two years, all 30 students of Super 30 have made it to the IITs and this includes students from the Muslim community as well.

A British filmmaker narrated the success story of Super 30 trough the Discovery Channel and also a Japanese documentary film maker made a film on this innovative and successful attempt to send poor children to India’s top most engineering colleges.

The Super-30 success has made the government of Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh to replicate the model in their respective states. A team of government officials of these states are making a beeline in Patna to study this model of teaching and are preparing a blue prints for its implementation in their states.

Is the Muslim community in India being aspired by the initiative like Super 30? This is a big question mark as I have discovered that there are small and big, more than fifty coaching institutes run by the Muslim community in different parts of the country.

Many of these insinuations are receiving funds from the government, and are making tall claims to run the show and receive more funds but contrary to the claims these institutions are no more than government offices, providing employment and money to those who run them.

A close look at the functioning of Muslim run coaching institute provides a very unrealistic picture. Most of them have taken umpteen numbers of courses and they could hardly do justice to any of them. There is hardly any desire or inclination to provide a specialized training. No wonder, the bright students of the community keep themselves away from such institutions.

The Super 30 has provided a direction how a success story could be scripted in the most humble way. Now the onus is on members of the Muslim community to take this idea forward and replicate it for uplifting the not so privileged members of their faith. This they can do through professional approach and with utmost resolve and commitment and dedication to the cause.

The Rahmani Foundation, Munger, Bihar leads the way by adopting the Super 30 model for under privileged Muslim students of Bihar to crack IITs exams. The Foundations picked-up poor average Muslim candidates from Bihar and coach them in Patna providing them free coaching, lodging and foods to appear IIT Jee test. It costs Rs. 80,000 per year for each student’s expenses.

Additional Director General of Police Abhyanand, who coached and helped 30 students from poor families to join the prestigious IITs is heading this institution. Abhyanand began working for Rahmani 30 after disassociating himself from Super 30. The idea of coaching Muslim students to the police officer struck because Super 30’s successful students included Muslim students.

The Rahmani foundation announced that students who have scored more than 60+ marks in 12th can appear in the test at selected locations throughout Bihar. About 2,300 candidates appeared in the test and finally selected 10 candidates. All the 10 students enrolled in a special coaching institute passed the IIT-JEE exams.

It’s high time that some dynamic persons from the community should come forward and try to start specialized coaching institute in a professional way on the lines of Super 30 and Rahmani 30 in other parts of the country. They should hire the best faculty available and Muslim philanthropist should come forward to foot their bills. Similarly, the food and loading arrangement should made by members of the community.

A good administrator can do wonders, in running such institutions and there is no dearth of them in the community who can produce results. If this happens with missionary zeal, it won’t be long when Indian Muslims can too write a new script that can become a talking point in every nook and corner of the country.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted atsyedalimujtaba@yahoo.com

Link: Rahmani 30

Mewat Witnessing A Great Educational Revolution

Lying to the immediate south of Delhi, straddling the rocky outcrops of the Aravalli range, is the region known as Mewat, named after the Meo Muslims, the principal community living in the area. Mewat covers large parts of the Gurgaon and Faridabad districts in Haryana and Alwar and Bharatpur in Rajasthan. Recently, a separate district was carved out of the Meo-dominated parts of Haryana and also given the name of ‘Mewat’.

Two decades ago I used to regularly visit Mewat—for my Ph.D. dissertation, which was about the history of the global Islamic revivalist Tablighi Jamaat, now the world’s largest such movement, which had its roots in the humble hamlets of Mewat in the 1920s. It was the Tablighi Jamaat that put Mewat on the map of the world. Some months ago, I returned to Mewat, after a gap of fifteen years, curious to learn how much, if at all, the region had changed in this period.

Despite its proximity to Delhi, Gurgaon and Jaipur, Mewat is one of the most impoverished regions in northern India. When I did fieldwork in the region in the 1990s, the literacy rate among the Meos, more than a million-strong community, was estimated at less than 10 per cent, and that of Meo females at lower than 5 per cent. This was attributed to extreme poverty (most Meos being small peasants) as well as the influence of the ultra-conservative Tablighi Jamaat, which was seen as being opposed to education imparted in regular schools, particularly for girls, believing that this would lead the Meos astray from Islam.

Two decades later, the Mewat is still characterized by endemic poverty. The villages and towns I visited this time seem to have hardly changed in terms of looks since I saw them last. But for a couple of recently-constructed large, brightly-painted mansions and a few new shops (only a few of which were Meo-owned), Nuh and Ferozepur-Jhirka, the two largest towns in Mewat, seemed to be no different from what I remembered of them from my earlier visits. In fact, they only seemed to have become even more filthy and chaotic. The villages I travelled to seemed to have remained frozen in time—the same squalid mud huts, the same visible signs of neglect by the state, the same scene of Meo women labouring in the fields while their menfolk squatted on cots sunning themselves or sucking away at their hukkahs at roadside eateries. But one change struck me forcefully throughout my trip: a distinct thirst on the part of many younger Meos for ‘modern’ education—nothing short of a revolution in terms of demands, hopes, and expectations.

Meos breaking shackles to get education

This was quite in contrast to what I had witnessed on my first visit to Mewat, in the late 1980s, when there was not a single Meo-run school, when there were hardly a dozen or so Meo girls in government-run schools throughout the region, and when many local ulema or Muslim clerics, mostly affiliated to the Tablighi Jamaat, openly condemned ‘modern’ schools as dens of irreligiousness and licentiousness, insisting that the Meos should send their children only to madrasas instead. Today, however, literally dozens of ‘modern’ schools run by Meos have mushroomed all over Mewat; girls are enrolling in these and in government-run schools in rapidly increasing numbers; many ulema are in the forefront of promoting ‘modern’, in addition to religious, education among the Meos; and scores of madrasas have begun teaching English and Hindi, with some of them having actually transformed themselves into regular schools.

Located on the outskirts of Ferozepur Jhirka town is the sprawling 15-acre campus of the recently-established English-medium Aravalli Public School, the largest Meo-run school in Mewat. Founded by a retired Meo engineer, Muhammad Israil, this residential school has some 600 students on its rolls, 60% of whom are Meos, and roughly 10% Muslims from other parts of India, the rest being from other religious communities. 60 of the school’s 70 girl students are Meos. The costs of studying here are exorbitant by average Meo standards, but tuition fees are waved for girls in order to encourage more Meo girls, whose overall literacy rate is less than 15%, to enroll. The schools’ principal is a Hindu. Most teachers are non-Meos, including Muslims from other parts of India as well as non-Muslims from Mewat.

The school’s well-maintained campus is lined with fine buildings built around a vast playing field. The swank technical training institute was built with aid from the Japanese Embassy, so I am informed by a student who takes me around, and the girls’ hostel building that is still under construction is being financed by the Islamic Development Bank.

It is late in the afternoon, and the students pour out of their hostels and onto the playing field, forming teams to play football and cricket. They are dressed in jeans or shorts, and brightly-coloured T-shirts or jackets and sneakers. None of them sports the almost mandatory Tablighi-style beard that almost every Meo male in their fathers’ generation does. These students are nearly all Meos—I can hardly believe that at first, for hardly any Meo boys dressed like this when I last visited the area. A dozen girls, Meos all, take a sprint around the playing field, brandishing their badminton rackets. Needless to say, that would have been considered sheer anathema two decades ago.

I stare, dumbstruck, at the students, stunned at what I see before me. When I first visited Mewat, the parents of most of these students would almost all have been un-educated peasants—their fathers dressed in long kurtas, tahmats and ponderous turbans, their mothers, wholly illiterate, kept carefully cloistered in their homes when they were not compelled to work in the fields.

Watch: Interview of Mewat students

That a major section of Meo youths are today defying deep-rooted traditions by clamoring for ‘modern’ education is undeniable, and signs of this are today visible all over. I am not sure if this is an entirely positive development, though. Need ‘modernisation’ necessarily be equated with ‘Westernisation’? Does it have to also necessarily imply ‘secularisation’, in the sense of focusing wholly on worldly knowledge and ‘success’, consequently trivializing religion and moral values? These crucial questions are being raised by many Meos themselves, who fear that the irrepressible desire on the part of Meo youths for ‘modern’ education might seriously erode traditional, religious values and promote crass consumerism. This is summed up in a complaint of a maulvi attached to a Deobandi madrasa located adjacent to the Aravalli Public School—‘The school has no facility for teaching Islamic Studies. All that they are taught is about this world (duniya)—how to gather more information and degrees so that they can get highly-paid jobs and lead a life of ease and comfort.’

Schools imparting religious and secular education

Devising an educational system that balances the needs of the duniya and the deen or religion has been a longstanding concern for Muslim educationists. When I first visited Mewat, I came across almost ulema who were supportive of, leave alone actively engaged in, promoting ‘modern’ or ‘secular’, in addition to religious, education. In contrast, on this trip, I met with numerous maulvis, all graduates of what are commonly considered to be ‘orthodox’ madrasas, who have set up their own schools that impart a healthy mix of both sorts of learning.

Watch: Interview of Qari Sirajuddin of Al-Falah Model School

One of these ulema is an old friend of mine, 33 year-old Qari Sirajuddin of Bhadas village near the town of Nuh. The last time I met him was when he was 18 years old. He had just completed his religious education at the Jamia Sanabil, an Ahl-e Hadith madrasa in Delhi, and had returned to his village, where he had started a small maktab in a two-room tenement to provide basic Islamic education to girls. Today, what started off as the Madrasat ul-Banat Ayesha Siddiqa is now the Al-Falah Model Senior Secondary School. Affiliated to the Haryana Educational Board, it provides education till the twelfth standard. It has almost 700 students on its rolls, of whom almost a hundred are non-Muslims. Girl students number some 125, of whom 25 are Hindus, and the rest Meo Muslims. The school supplements the government-approved syllabus for modern subjects with compulsory Islamic Studies, Urdu and Arabic for Muslim students and Sanskrit, for Hindu students.

What, I ask Qari Sirajuddin, made him transform what began as a girls’ madrasa into a co-educational secondary school? ‘There are scores of madrasas in Mewat’, he answers, ‘but what we lack are sufficient general schools, for which there is now increasing demand’. Further, he adds, ‘I did not want to keep depending on people for donations (chanda), which I would have had to had I continued to run it as a madrasa. As a school it can generate funds for itself through the fees that it charges’.

Several other small madrasas across Mewat might, too, like to make the shift and become regular schools, albeit with provision for Islamic education for their Muslim students, Qari Sirajuddin tells me. However, a major hurdle in this regard are the government’s stringent norms for providing recognition to private schools that most such madrasas fail to meet. As per the existing rules, to qualify for official recognition an institution must possess a basic minimum plot of land (half acre for primary schools, one and a half acres for middle schools and two acres for high schools)—which effectively rules out most madrasas. Likewise, an institution must possess a certain number of rooms of a particular size, a library with a basic specified number of books and so on, which many smaller madrasas, that run small budgets based on donations, simply cannot afford. Were the government to lower these requirements in the case of madrasas, Qari Sirajuddin suggests, several small madrasas in Mewat might well transform themselves into regular schools. ‘That’, he says, ‘would be a much less expensive and controversy-free way to modernize madrasas.’

Qari Sirajuddin’s own family, whom he introduces me to over a hearty meal at his home, exemplifies the rapid transformation that the Meos are today undergoing in terms of their approach to education. Although himself a madrasa graduate, none of his children is training to become a traditional alim or Islamic scholar. The first two of his six children, including one girl, study in modern, privately-run ‘public’ schools, and the rest in his own school. His brother, also a graduate of a traditional Ahl-e Hadith madrasa (the Madrasa Riyaz ul-Ulum, Delhi) has just finished a degree in Social Work from the Jamia Millia Islamia and hopes to join the civil services.

His support for ‘modern’, in addition to religious, education, Qari Sirajuddin assures me, is something that he shares with increasing numbers of ulema today—not just in Mewat, but across other parts of India, too. ‘Even some very conservative Deobandi Meo ulema, who traditionally frowned on modern schools, have opened such institutions, fearful that otherwise Muslim children would study in non-Muslim schools, because of which they might, as they see it, go astray’, he tells me. Madrasas throughout Mewat, he says, have now introduced basic English, Hindi and Mathematics in their curriculum, mainly because they realize that this is what parents of most Meo children now also want. At the same time, he laments, few of these madrasas take the teaching of these subjects seriously. ‘Some of them claim to be teaching English and other such subjects simply to keep the mouths of their critics shut and to stave off criticism that they are not giving their students a well-rounded education’, he says. ‘The managers of most madrasas do not know English or other modern subjects themselves, and so are not in a position to prescribe a proper syllabus for these subjects and to supervise the teachers they appoint for teaching them.’ Many of them also feel, Qari Sirajuddin goes on, that if they were to deviate from the traditional Deobandi-style curriculum by giving more than just a basic attention to modern subjects they would be criticized by their religious ‘elders’. Typically, he says, the staff they employ for teaching these subjects are simple high school graduates, with no training at all, and with a very poor command of these subjects.

Be that as it may, the very fact that Mewat’s madrasas, once known for their visceral opposition to what they saw as the baneful influence of ‘Western-style’ education imparted in schools, are increasingly willing to incorporate these ‘Western’ subjects into their curriculum is ample proof, Qari Sirajuddin assures me, of the veritable revolution in the demands and expectations of vast numbers of Meo parents as regards the education of their children.

Qari Sirajuddin can be contacted on 09813790027 or at gwfmewat@gmail.com

(Photos and interviews taken by Mumtaz Alam Falahi of TwoCircles.net)

Rahmani-30: A school Of Hope

The Muslims of North India for historical reasons have not had very friendly relations with the local police. I was in Patna visiting Rahmani-30 when Abhayanand, Additional Director General of Police makes a visit in his official car. Rahmani-30 is set up on the pattern of Bihar Super-30 which is a successful experiment to pick and train 30 students from poor economic background and prepare them for entrance exam of famous Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).

Abhyanand waits while group of twenty odd Muslim students finish their afternoon prayers (Asr). These students have recently appeared for the class tenth exams and selected to Rahmani-30 after an entrance test and an interview. Entrance test was held in Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal – clearly a sign of increasing popularity of the institution that is barely a year old.


A year ago, Maulana Wali Rahmani, Sajjada Nasheen of Khanqah Rahmaniya, Munger and Secretary of All India Muslim Personal Law Board requested Abhayanand to help him set up Rahmani-30. Abhayanand was associated with Super-30 and readily agreed to the idea. The dearth of good quality students led them to start another batch of students who had just finished their tenth. So that they can be given quality education for two years and that way more students can be ready for the tough entrance exams of IITs (IIT-JEE).

I was visiting the institution just three days before the results of IIT-JEE were to be announced. No one could have imagined that all ten students would have qualified for India’s premier engineering institutions. At that time there were about twenty-five students who had arrived there from different districts of Bihar. A few students were from adjoining states of Jharkhand and West Bengal. These are the two years batch of Rahmani-30 that is preparing for IIT-JEE of 2011.

Abhayanand, who goes by only one name, arrived unannounced and a class was organized just after the Asr prayer. He went over some Physics problems for about 45 minutes. Students came out to see him off and he offered some words to inspire his young and eager students. Talks again turned to Physics and he continued the instructions on the back of his official car. This was a rare and a welcome sight to see police officers contributing towards the future of young Muslim students.

ADGP Abhayanand told me that he enjoys teaching and is now associated with five such experiments. Most of the students of these five institutions qualified for IIT. For economically and educationally backward state of Bihar this is very good news. And more than news, it is a hope that now even poor but meritorious students can achieve success with a bit of help. In Bihar, Rahmani-30 has given a new direction to Muslim students anxiously waiting for announcements of entrance exams and results.


Successful students of this year’s exam have already indicated that they will teach their juniors and once finished with their education will work for the benefit of the community. It costs Rs. 80,000 per year for each student’s expenses. Students are given free board, lodge and instructions. All expenses are met by Rahmani Foundation.

Rahmani-30 is a beacon of hope for Bihari Muslims not only because of the help it provides to meritorious students but also because a new generation of Muslims is taking up interest in the community affairs. Though Abhayanand and Wali Rahmani are the public face of Rahmani-30, volunteer team behind this institution consists of young Muslims in their 30s. These have jobs but volunteer their time to make sure that wheel of this coaching keeps turning. They make decisions for the day to day running to organizing exams.

With the successful result of this year’s IIT-JEE, Rahmani-30 and people associated with it have proved that they mean business and that with focused and sustained effort nothing is impossible.



Why Do Vice-Chancellors Fail At Aligarh Muslim University?

Aligarh Muslim UniversityIf we look at the tenures of Vice Chancellors (VCs) at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in the last couple of decades we find that most of them, even though they were distinguished and competent managers, ran into substantial problems of indiscipline, students’ strikes, violence, arson, forced shutdown of university, indifferent academic achievement, lack of pursuit of excellence and discontent in the community that AMU serves. That brings up the question as to why VCs fail at AMU. Continue reading Why Do Vice-Chancellors Fail At Aligarh Muslim University?

Let The Educated Class Come Forward

MS Karoly

Young Muslim WomanThe Muslim educated class is a mostly unnoticed section of the Muslim society. The role of the educated class and intelligentsia in protecting the interests of and providing dynamic guidance for any community cannot be over-estimated. Continue reading Let The Educated Class Come Forward

Muslims Should Adopt Advocacy Instead Of Protests

Hyderabad ProtestsThe number of Muslim students in India’s better universities, engineering colleges, medical colleges, IITs, IIMs, IIScs etc despite much growth of such institutions in recent years still hovers around a miserly two percent. Lack of education among the Muslim youth and their lack of competitiveness were recently pointed out by the Sachar Committee, who conducted a nationwide grassroots survey of the Muslim community, as a significant impediment to the community’s progress.
Continue reading Muslims Should Adopt Advocacy Instead Of Protests

My Travels to Delhi

When travels come, they come in battalions. Such has been the trajectory of my recent sojourns to Delhi. Travel to India can be, at best, random and left to a game of chance, given how the officialdom on both sides of the border ensures that people don’t cross real and imagined boundaries. Coincidence, or as my less rational side would say, the calling of the Delhi and Ajmer Saints, enabled me to land in Delhi twice in less than three months. Continue reading My Travels to Delhi

Should Clerics Dominate The Nation’s Muslim Leadership?

Anti-Terrorism Conference DeobandWhenever I look up the news reports on the issues and problems of the Muslim community, I find that often the Muslim leaders addressing these matters are clerics. The question arises, why is the politics of the Muslim community in India dominated by clerics, many of whom are not even Islamic scholars? Why is the proportion of the community’s leaders from the Muslim intelligentsia so small? Continue reading Should Clerics Dominate The Nation’s Muslim Leadership?