Madrassas: Religion, Poverty and the Potential for
Violence in Pakistan
 


Tariq Rahman
*

 

Introduction
 

T

he madrassas [Islamic seminaries] have been in existence for centuries in the Islamic world including Pakistan. But recently they have been associated with the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan some of whom were students of these institutions.[1] They have also been much in the news for sectarian killings and supporting militancy in Kashmir. They are considered the breeding ground of the Jihadi culture--a term used for Islamic militancy in the English-language press of Pakistan.[2]

There was not much writing on the madrassas before the events of Nine Eleven in Pakistan. J.D. Kraan[3] writing for the Christian Study Centre, had provided a brief introduction. Later, A.H. Nayyar[4], an academic, had updated this introduction arguing that sectarian violence was traceable to madrassa education[5]. Both had used only secondary sources. Later, the present writer wrote on language-teaching in the madrassas (Rahman 2002). The book also contained a survey of the opinions of madrassa students on Kashmir, the implementation of the Sharia, equal rights for religious minorities and women, freedom of the media, democracy etc.[6] The seminal work on the ulema, and also the madrassas in which they are trained, is by Qasim Zaman.[7] This is an excellent study of how the traditional ulema can be differentiated from the Islamists who react to modernity by attempting to go back to fundamentalist, and essentially political, interpretations of Islam.

The ulema or the Islamists in Pakistan have been writing, generally in Urdu, in defence of the madrassas which the state sought to modernize and secularize. Two recent books, a survey by the Institute of Policy Studies (patronized by the revivalist, Islamist, Jamaat-i-Islami) of the madrassas[8] and a longer book by Saleem Mansur Khalid[9] are useful because they contain much recent data. Otherwise the Pakistani ulema's work is polemical and tendentious. They feel themselves besieged increasingly by Western[10] and Pakistani secular critics[11] and feel that they should defend their position from the inside rather than wait for sympathetic outsiders to do it for them[12].

Type and Number of Madrassas

There is hardly any credible information on the unregistered madrassas. However, those, which are registered, are controlled by their own central organizations or boards. They determine the syllabi, collect a registration fee and an examination fee. They send examination papers, in Urdu and Arabic, to the madrassas where pupils sit for examinations and declare results. The names of the boards are as follows: 

Box 1

Central Boards of Madrassas in Pakistan

Name

Sub-Sect

Place

Date Established

Wafaq ul Madaris

Deobandi

Multan

1959

Tanzim ul Madaris

Barelvi

Lahore

1960

Wafaq ul Madans

(Shia) Pakistan

Shia

Lahore

1959

Rabta-tul-Madaris-al-Islamia

Jamaat-i-Islami

Lahore

1983

Wafq-ul-Madaris-al-Salafia

Ahl-i-Hadith

Faislabad

1955

Source: Offices of the respective Boards.

At independence there were 245, or even fewer, madrassas (IPS 2002: 25). In April 2002, Dr. Mahmood Ahmed Ghazi, the Minister of Religious Affairs, put the figure at 10,000 with 1.7 million students (ICG 2002: 2). They belong to the major sects of Islam, Sunnis and Shias. However, Pakistan being a predominantly Sunni country, the Shia ones are very few. Among the Sunni ones there are three sub-sects: Deobandis, Barelvis and the Ahl-i-Hadith (Salafi). Besides these, the revivalist Jamaat-e-Islami also has its own madrassas.

The number of madrassas has been increasing since General Zia ul Haq's rule (1977-1988). During the war by Islamic Afghan groups in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union the United States sent money, arms and ammunition through Pakistan which is said to have been used to support the madrassas. Later, presumably because religiously inspired and madrassa students infiltrated across the line of control to fight the Indian army in Kashmir, they were supported by the Pakistan army (specifically the Inter-Services Intelligence). However, both the ISI and the madrassas deny these links (see several issues of Wafaq al Madaris) and, therefore, the increase in the number of madrassas by financial aid provided by foreign donors or the Pakistan army cannot be ascertained. The increase in the number of registered madrassas is as follows (for details of increase in provinces see Annexure 4). 

Box 2

Sect-Wise Increase in the Number of Madrassas[13]

Deobandi

Barelvi

Ahl-i-Hadith

Shia

Shia Jamaat-i-Islami

 

Total

1988

2002

1988

2002

1988

2002

1988

2002

1988

2002

1988

2002

1779

7000

717

1585

161

376

47

419

97*

500

2801

9880

Source: For 1988 see GOP 1988; for 2002 Report of Sindh Police in Dawn 16 January 2003. The other figures have been provided by the Central Boards of the madrassas. *This figure in GOP 1988 was for `Others' and not only for the Jamaat-i-Islami madrassas. The figure for 2000 given in several sources is 6,761.

 P.W. Singer gives a figure of 45,000 madrassas but quotes no source for this number[14].

The Saudi Arabian organization, Harmain Islamic Foundation, is said to have helped the Ahl-i-Hadith and made them powerful. Indeed, the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, an organization which has been active in fighting in Kashmir, belongs to the Ahl-i-Hadith.[15] In recent years, the Deobandi influence has increased as the Taliban were trained in their seminaries. However, contrary to popular belief, it is the other madrassas and not the Deobandi ones which have either registered in large numbers since 1988 or actually increased in number.
The increase in percentages in the different madrassas of the major sub-sects or sects between 1988 and 2000 is as follows:

Box 3

Increase in the Madrassas between 1988 and 2000 in percentages

Deobandi

6%

Barelvi

90%

Ahl-i-Hadith

93%

Shia

532%

Others

Not known

Total

36%

Source:

Khalid 2002: 176. 

 However, it should be remembered that the number of Deobandi madrassas is the highest to begin with and they are the ones who are associated with militant policies and revivalist fervour. 

The Sectarian Divide Among the Madrassas

Because of the disintegration of the Mughal empire and colonial rule, Indian Muslims felt threatened, disillusioned and frustrated. Some, like Sayyid Ahmed of Rae Bareilly (1786-1831), responded militantly but were defeated. Others, like Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1808-1898) learnt English, entered the British bureaucracy and became junior partners of the British in the exercise of power. Still others, blaming Muslims themselves for their loss of power, tried to purify Islam in various ways. The Ahl-I-Hadith (also called Wahabis), the Deobandis, the Barelvis among the Sunnis as well as the Shias created madrassas to preserve and propagate what, in their view, was the correct interpretation of Islam (or maslak). These madrassas are described below. 

Deobandis

The madrassa at Deoband, a small town in Uttar Pradesh province of India (previously United Provinces ), was founded by Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanautawi (1833-1877) and Maulana Rashid Ahmed Gangohi (1829-1905). While earlier seminaries were loosely organized, Deoband had a rector (sarparast), a chancellor (muhtamim) and the chief instructor (sadr mudarris). Its income was derived from popular contributions and the curriculum was based on the Dars-i-Nizami which had been evolved by Mulla Nizam Uddin Sihalvi (d. 1748) at Farangi  Mahal, a famous   seminary  of a family of  Islamic scholars (ulema) in Lucknow.[16] The Dars-i-Nizami emphasized studies based on human reasoning (maqulat) but at Deoband the traditional sciences which were transmitted unchanged to the learner (manqulat) were emphasized. Thus Deoband taught much more hadith than what the Dars-i-Nizami had originally prescribed.

            The Deobandis opposed folk Islam in which intercession by saints occupied a major place, seeking initiation in a mystic order was considered the path to salvation and miracles etc were seen as the crucial and defining attributes of saints and prophets. They did not oppose mysticism altogether but did argue that adherence to the Islamic law (Sharia) was the path to mystical exaltation. They also opposed folk practices like fixing days for distributing food to gain spiritual merit and celebrating the days of religious personages (for details see Metcalf 1982).[17]

The Darul Uloom at Deoband was established in 1867 and after a hundred years it had produced 6,986 graduates and established 8,934 maktabs (schools) and madrassas (seminaries) teaching the Dars-i-Nizami. In 1967 the number of graduates from Pakistan was 3,191 (including those from East Pakistan)[18] while now the number of students exceeds 1,02,865 and the number of those who appeared in the Alimia (M.A) examination were 4,676. The number of registered madrassas in Pakistan is 7000, which shows how fast they have multiplied in recent years in this country (all these figures are from the central office of the Wafaq-ul-Madaris, Multan).

Barelvis

The Barelvi movement was inspired by Ahmed Raza Khan of Bareilly (1856-1921) who is highly revered by his followers.[19] The Barelvis justified the `mediational, custom-laden Islam, closely tied to the intercession of the pirs of the  shrines'.[20] They   believed  that Prophet Mohammad (Peace be  Upon Him) was made of Divine Radiance (Noor) and had knowledge of the unknown (Ilm ul Ghaib). Both these beliefs were challenged by the Deobandis and the Ahl-i-Hadith ulema. Relating to this was the debate on the issue of the imkan-i-nazir ---the question whether God could make another person equal to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). The Barelvis denied the possibility while the others did not. The Barelevi madrassas in Pakistan also teach the Dars-i-Nizami and appeal to the ordinary folk of the country (for the views of the Barelvis see Sanyal 1996).

Ahl-i-Hadith

The movement inspired by Sayyed Ahmed was called Wahabi because, like Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab (1703-1792) of Saudi Arabia, Sayyid Ahmed and his associates also wanted to purify and reform Islam. They claimed to follow no particular school of jurisprudence ---Hanafi, Shafi, Hambali, Maliki---and were called non-conformists (ghair muqallid  -- one who does not follow a fixed path) by their opponents. They used the term Jama'at Ahl-i-Hadith for themselves and appealed to the Government of India that the term Wahabi should not be used for them. The government ordered in 1886 that the term Wahabi should not be used in official correspondence[21] but it is still used by many people in Pakistan.

The Ahl-i-Hadith madrassas also teach the Dars-i-Nizami but they emphasize the Quran and Hadith and oppose folk Islam and common practices like the anniversaries of saints, the distribution of food on religious occasions and popular mysticism.

Jamaat-i-Islami

The Jamaat-i-Islami is a revivalist political party created by Abul Ala Maudoodi (also spelled Mawdudi) (1903-1979) whose life and achievements have been ably described by[22] Syyed Vali Reza Nasr (1996).

Maudoodi believed in borrowing technology and other concepts from the West in order to empower the Islamic community. As such he favoured more modernist education than any of the orthodox organizers of the traditional madrassas. He did, however, also emphasize upon the refutation of Western culture and intellectual domination and, therefore, his anti-Western critique is more thorough, trenchant and appealing than that of the traditionalist seminarians (Maudoodi 1974).

In the Jamaat's madrassas the traditional texts are taught but politics, economics and history is also emphasized with a view to preparing the young ulema for confronting the ideas of the West.

Besides the Sunni madrassas, there are Shia madrassas too as we have seen. The Shias believe that the successor of the Prophet (PBUH) was Ali Ibn-e-Abi Talib and not the first three caliphs whom Sunnis take to be his successors. They mourn the battle of Karbala, fought between the Prophet's grandson Hussain and the Omayyad caliph Yazid bin Muawiya in 680 A.D. This led to the birth of the supporters of Ali and the rise of Shia Islam which has been described very competently by[23] S.H.M Jafri (1979).

All the madrassas, including the Shia ones, teach the Dars-i-Nizami though they do not use the same texts. They also teach their particular point of view (madhab or maslak) which clarifies and rationalizes the beliefs of the sect (Sunni or Shia) and sub-sect (Deobandi, Barelvi and Ahl-i-Hadith). Moreover they train their students to refute what in their views are heretical beliefs and some Western ideas. All madrassas teach modern subjects in some measure and with varying degrees of competence. Let us examine the teaching in the madrassas in some detail. 

The Curriculum of the Madrassas

Before Mulla Nizam Uddin standardized the curriculum known as the Dars-i-Nizami different teachers taught different books to students. Shah Abdul Rahim (d. 1718) had made an attempt to create a fixed curriculum. It was taught at the Madrassa-i-Rahimiya and it emphasized the manqulat ( such as hadith). The Dars-i-Nizami on the other hand, emphasized the maqulat. Thus there were more books on grammar, logic and philosophy than before.[24] According to Francis Robinson: 

The significance of the enhanced emphasis on ma'qulat in the Dars-i-Nizamiyya lies in part in the superior training it offered prospective lawyers, judges and administrators. The study of advanced books of logic, philosophy and dialectics sharpened the rational faculties, and ideally, brought to the business of government men with better-trained minds and better-formed judgment.[25] 

While this may have been the intention of Farangi Mahal's ulema, it is also true that the Arabic madrassas were much fewer (150) than the Persian schools (903) in 1850 (Edn. NWP: 1850), presumably because they offered a more thorough grinding in Persian which facilitated entry into administrative jobs for their pupils. However, Farangi Mahal was established before the British created the category of `Persian schools' and it does appear that the Dars-i-Nizami educated men were sought for employment outside the domain of religion at that time.

            In Pakistan, however, the Dars-i-Nizami has been modified though the canonical texts are still there. In my view these texts are used as a symbol of continuity and identity. The madrassas saw themselves as preservers of Islamic identity and heritage during the colonial era when secular studies displaced the Islamic texts as well as the classical languages of the Indian Muslims---Arabic and Persian---from their privileged pedestal. Thus the madrassas, despite the desire to reform their courses, do not give up the canonical texts (for a debate on reform see IPS 1987). The greatest critic of the madrassa texts was Maulana Maududi who argued that, being based on memorization of medieval texts, the madrassas were not providing relevant education to the Muslim society.[26]

However, though old books like Sarf-e-Meer and Kafiya remain in the course, easier and more modern books are used to supplement them. Arabic, for instance, is taught through modern and much easier books than the canonical works mentioned in the Dars-i-Nizami (for details see Tariq Rahman 2002: 106-1-7). The canonical texts are taught in Arabic but, because students do not become really competent in the language, they are either memorized or understood from Urdu translations available in the market.

The Dars-i-Nizami has come to symbolize the stagnation and ossification of knowledge. It is taught through canonical texts which, however, are taught through commentaries (sharh); glosses or marginal notes (hashiya) and super commentaries (taqarir). There are commentaries upon commentaries explained by even more commentaries. For the South Asian students, they no longer explain the original text being themselves in Arabic. They have to be learned by heart which makes students use only their memory not their analytical powers. Indeed, the assumption on which the Dars functions is that the past was a golden age in which all that was best has already been written. What remains to the modern age is merely to preserve it.

It was this backward-looking nature of core madrassa texts which made Taha Hussain (1889-1973), the famous blind modernist scholar of Egypt, disillusioned with Jamia Azhar in Cairo. According to Abdelrarshid Mahmoudi, the writer of a book on Taha Hussain's education: 

On the collective level, entanglement in what was derivative and purely verbal, meant, among other things, the relegation of major and original works to oblivion. Thus a procedure whose sole raison d 'etre was the conservation of tradition, resulted in a grave form of collective amnesia concerning what was best in Islamic culture, namely the classical heritage.[27] 

What was true of Jamia Azhar in 1902 (when Taha went to that seat of learning) is judged to be true of South Asian madrassas, or at least the Dars-i-Nizami component taught there, even now -- and the judges are Arabic-knowing authorities such as Maudoodi and not only Western critics of the madrassas. 

The Refutation of Other Sects and Sub-Sects

Refutation (Radd in Urdu) has always been part of religious education. However, it is only in recent years that it has been blamed for the unprecedented increase in sectarian violence in Pakistan.

According to A.H. Nayyar `The madrasahs have, not surprisingly, become a source of hate-filled propaganda against other sects and the sectarian divide has become sharper and more violent' (Nayyar 1998: 243). However, it appears that there was much more acrimonious theological debate among the Shias and Sunnis and among the Sunnis themselves during British rule than is common nowadays. The militancy in sectarian conflict cannot be attributed to the teaching in the madrassas though, of course, the awareness of divergent beliefs does create the potential for negative bias against people of other beliefs.

The theological debate (munazra) is taught to students in madrassas. Barbara Metcalf describes the munazras between the Christians, Muslims and Arya Samajists (1982: 219-232) in her book. She says: 

The debates were, indeed, a form of social event, a public ritual, that took on new form and meaning in the late nineteenth century. In a society largely illiterate and equipped only minimally with modern forms of communication, they came to serve as a new forum for communicating issues at once religious and social.[28] 

             They were also very bitter as the Deobandi-Barelvi munazras of 1928 collected in Futoohat-e-Nomania (Nomani n.d) illustrate. Moreover, the pioneers of the sects and sub-sects did indulge in refuting each other's beliefs. For instance Ahmed Raza Khan, the pioneer of the Barelvi school, wrote a series of fatawa (plural of fatwa = religious decree) against Sir Sayyid of Aligarh, the Shias, the ahl-i-Hadith, the Deobandis and the Nadwat ul-`Ulema in 1896. These were published as Fatawa al-Haramain bi-Rajf Nadwat al Main (1900)[29]. The Barelvis, in turn, were refuted by their rivals. The followers of the main debaters sometimes exchanged invectives and even came to blows but never turned to terrorism as witnessed in Pakistan's recent history.

As the inculcation of sectarian bias is an offence, no madrassa teacher or administrator confessed to teaching any text refuting the beliefs of other sects. Maulana Mohammad Hussain, Nazim-e-Madrassa Jamiat us-Salfia (Ahl-i-Hadith) (Islamabad) said that comparative religions was taught in the final Almiya (M.A) class and it did contain material refuting heretical beliefs. Moreover, Islam was confirmed as the only true religion, refuting other religions. The library did contain books refuting other sects and sub-sects but they were not prescribed in the syllabus. Maulana Muhammad Ishaq Zafar of the Jamia Rizvia Aiz ul Uloom (Barelvi) in Rawalpindi said that books against other sects were not taught. However, during the interpretation of texts the maslak was passed on to the student. Students of the final year, when questioned specifically about the teaching of the maslak, said that it was taught through questions and answers, interpretation of texts and sometimes some teachers recommended supplementary reading material specifically for the refutation of the doctrines of other sects and sub-sects.

In some cases, as in the Jamia Ashrafia, a famous Deobandi seminary of Lahore, an institution for publication, established in 1993, publishes `only those articles and journals which are written by the scholars of Deoband school of thought.[30] Moreover, in writings, sermons, and conversation, the teachers refer to the pioneers of their own maslak so that the views of the sub-sect are internalized and became the primary way of thinking.

However, despite all denials, the printed syllabi of the following sects do have books that refute the beliefs of other sects. The Report on the Religious Seminaries (GOP 1988) lists several books of Deobandi madrassas to refute Shia beliefs including Maulana Mohammad Qasim's Hadiyat ul Shia which has been reprinted several times and is still in print. There are also several books on the debates between the Barelvis and the Deobandis and even a book refuting Maudoodi's views.[31] The Barelvis have given only one book Rashidiya (1672) by Abdul Rashid Deewan Jaunpuri under the heading of `preparation for debates on controversial issues.[32] In some of the madrassas the other traditional text used for this purpose is the Sharifiya (1413) by Meer Sharif Ali Jarjani. It is not true, however, that the students are mired into medieval scholasticism despite the texts prescribed for them. They do put their debates in the contemporary context though they refer to examples on the lines established by the medieval texts. The Ahl-i-Hadith have given a choice of opting for any two of the following courses: the political system of Islam, the economic system of Islam, Ibn-eKhaldun's Muqaddamah, the history of ideas and comparative religious systems. The Shia courses list no book on this subject.

Recently published courses list no book on maslak for the Deobandis. The Barelvis mention `comparative religions' but no specific books. The Ahl-i-Hadith retain almost the same optional courses as before. The Shia madrassas list books on beliefs which includes comparative religions in which, of course, Shia beliefs are taught as the only true ones. Polemical pamphlets claiming that there are conspiracies against the Shias are available. Incidentally such pamphlets, warning about alleged Shia deviations from the correct interpretations of the faith are also in circulation among Sunni madrassas and religious organizations.

Moreover, some guidebooks for teachers note that Quranic verses about controversial issues should be taught with great attention and students should memorize them. In one Barelvi book it is specified that teachers must make the students note down interpretations of the ulema of their sub-sect concerning beliefs and controversial issues so that students can use them later, i.e. as preachers and ulema.

The Jamaat-i-Islami syllabus (2002) mentions additional books by Maulana Maudoodi and other intellectuals of the Jamaat on a number of subjects including the Hadith. They also teach `comparative religions'. 

The Refutation of Heretical Beliefs

One of the aims of the madrassas, ever since 1057 when Nizam ul Mulk established the famous madrassa at Baghdad, was to counter heresies within the Islamic world and outside influences which could change or dilute Islam. Other religions are refuted in `comparative religions' but there are specific books for heresies within the Islamic world. In Pakistan the ulema unite in refuting the beliefs of the Ahmedis (or Qaidianis) (for these views see Friedmann 1989). The Deoband course for the Aliya (B.A) degree included five books refuting Ahmedi beliefs.[33] The Barelvis prescribe no specific books. However, the fatawa of the pioneer, Ahmad Raza Khan, are of the other sects and sub-sects. The Ahl-i-Hadith note that in `comparative religions' they would refute the Ahmedi beliefs. The Shias too do not prescribe any specific books. The Jamaat-i-Islami's syllabus (2002) prescribes four books for the refutation of `Qadiani religion'. Besides the Ahmedis, other beliefs deemed to be heretical are also refuted. All these books are written in a polemical style and are in Urdu which all madrassa students understand.

The Refutation of Alien Philosophies         

The earliest madrassas refuted Greek philosophy which was seen as an intellectual invasion of the Muslim ideological space. Since the rise of the West, madrassas, and even more than them revivalist movements outside the madrassas, refute Western philosophies. Thus there are books given in the reading lists for Aliya (B.A) of 1988 by the Deobandis refuting capitalism, socialism and feudalism. These books are no longer listed but they are in print and in the libraries of the madrassas. The Jamaat-i-Islami probably goes to great lengths -- judging from its 2002 syllabus -- to make the students aware of Western domination, the exploitative potential of Western political and economic ideas and the disruptive influence of Western liberty and individualism on Muslim societies. Besides Maudoodi's own books on all subjects relating to the modern world, a book on the conflict between Islam and Western ideas (Nadvi n.d) is widely available.

These texts, which may be called Radd-texts, may not be formally taught in most of the madrassas as the ulema claim, but they are being printed which means they are in circulation. They may be given as supplementary reading material or used in the arguments by the teachers, which are probably internalized by the students. In any case, being in Urdu rather then Arabic, such texts can be comprehended rather than merely memorized. As such, without formally being given the centrality which the Dars-iNizami has, the opinions these texts disseminate — opinions against other sects, sub-sects, views seen as being heretical by the ulema, Western ideas — may be the major formative influence on the minds of madrassa students. Thus, while it is true that education in the madrassa produces religious, sectarian, sub-sectarian and anti-Western bias, it may not be true to assume that this bias automatically translates into militancy and violence of the type Pakistan has experienced. For that to happen other factors — the arming of religious young men to fight in Afghanistan and Kashmir; the state's clampdown on free expression of political dissent during Zia ul Haq's martial law; the appalling poverty of rural, peripheral areas and urban slums etc.-- must be taken into account.

As for teaching modern subjects, the Ahl-i-Hadith madrassas have been teaching Pakistan studies, English, mthematics and general science a long time.[34] The Jamaat-i-Islami also teaches secular subjects. The larger Deobandi, Barelvi and Shia madrassas too have made arrangements for teaching secular subjects including basic computer skills. According to a report in the weekly The Friday Times from Lahore the Deobandi Wafaq-ul Madaris has decided to accommodate modern subjects on a larger scale than ever before. They would make the students spend another two years to give a more thorough grounding in the secular subjects. The Wafaq `has also formed committees to devise ways to capitalise on the government's US $ 255 million Madrassah Reforms Scheme for the transition.[35] However, at present, the teaching is done by teachers approved of by the ulema or some of the ulema themselves. Thus the potential for secularization of the se subjects, which is small in any case, is reduced to nothingness. This might change if the courses are extended by two years and the teachers come  from   diverse  backgrounds   but as yet it is too early  to say what might happen. 

Poverty and Socioeconomic Class of Madrassa Students

Madrassas were supported by land grants and wealthy patrons in medieval India. They have always been supporting the poor and the lifestyles of the ulema were spartan and closer to the poorer strata of society than the affluent ones. Maulana Abdul Ali Bahr al-Uloom of Farangi Mahal, for instance, `used in their support all but Rs. 40 of the Rs 1000 monthly stipend granted by Nawab Walajah. His `wife and family suffered and complained, as did those of his grandson, Jamal al-Din, who suffered in a similar way' (Robinson 2002: 81). Barbara Metcalf in her study of Deoband tells us that the pioneers of that seminary took no, or very modest salaries, and `lived like poor men' (1982: 167). The average expense of Deoband on each graduate between 1867 to 1967 was Rs 1,314 which is modest from any criterion.[36] The Ahl-i-Hadith madrassas, which were patronized by wealthy people in British India, nevertheless lived in the same frugal manner[37]

Madrassas in Pakistan are also financed by voluntary charity provided by the bazaar businessmen and others who believe that they are earning great merit by contributing to them. Some of them are also given financial assistance by foreign governments — the Saudi government is said to help the Ahl-i-Hadith seminaries and the Iranian government the Shia ones -- but there is no proof of this assistance. And even if it does exist, it goes only to a few madrassas whereas the vast majority of them are run on charity zakat  (alms), khairat (charity), atiat (gifts) etc.

The government of Pakistan gives financial assistance to the madrassas for modernizing textbooks, including secular subjects in the curricula and introducing computers. In 2001-02 a total of 1,654,000 was given to all madrassas which accepted this help. As the number of students is 1,065,277 this comes to Rs. 1.55 per student per year. An additional aid of Rs. 30.45 million is promised for providing computers and changing the syllabi in 2003-04 and this will come to Rs. 28.60 per student per year (these figures are from IPS 2002 table 1.17 and 1.19). However, as all madrassas do not accept financial help from the government the money is not distributed evenly as the above calculations might suggest.

According to the Jamia Salfia of Faisalabad, the annual expenditure on the seminary, which has about 700 students, is 40,00,000 rupees. Another madrassa, this time a Barelvi one, gave roughly the same figure for the same number of students. This comes to Rs 5,714 per year (or Rs 476 per month) which is an incredibly small amount of money for education, books, board and lodging. The expenditure from the government in 2001-2002 was Rs. 1,654,000 for all the madrassas in the country and about 32.60 per cent madrassas do not received any financial support at all, the total spending on these institutions is Very little[38] (IPS 2002: 33). However, as mentioned above, there are plans to change this in a radical manner.

As the madrassas generally do not charge a tuition fees -- though they do charge a small admission fees which does not exceed Rs 400 -- they attract very poor students who would not receive any education otherwise. According to Fayyaz Hussain, a student who competed his ethnographic research on Jamia Ashrafia of Lahore in 1994, students prefer the madrassa for the following reasons: 

Box 4

Causes of Joining Madrassas Given by Students[39]

Economic

48.95 per cent

Social

40.63 per cent

Religious

5.71 per cent

Educational

3.12 per cent

Political

2.09 per cent

The categories have not been explained by the author nor is it known exactly what questions were asked from the students. According to Singer, the `Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqania, one of the most popular and influential madrassas (it includes most of the Afghani Taliban leadership among its alumni) -- has a student body of 1500 boarding students and 1000 day students, from 6 years old upwards. Each year over 15,000 applicants from poor families vie for its 400 open spaces[40]. According to a survey conducted by Mumtaz Ahmad in 1976 `more than 80 percent of the madrassa students in Peshawar, Multan, and Gujranwala were found to be sons of small or landless peasants, rural artisans, or village imams of the mosques. The remaining 20 percent came from families of small shopkeepers and rural labourers' (quoted from Ahmad 2000: 185). According to a survey by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) 64 per cent madrassa students come from rural areas and belong to poor agrarian families.[41] The present researcher also observed that many students, upon probing, confessed that their parents had admitted them in the madrassas because they could not afford to feed them and educate them in the government schools. Even such students, while making this confession, also insist that they are in the madrassas because of their love for Islam.

In the survey of December 2002 and January 2003, madrassa students and teachers were asked about their income. Many did not reply to these questions but those who did suggest that they mostly (76.62%) belong to poor sections of society (see Annexure-1 for details). The teachers of the madrassas also mostly (61.11%) belong to the same socio-economic class as their students (see Annexure-1 for details). The madrassas provide sustenance for all these poor people.

In short the madrassas are performing the role of a welfare state in the country. This being so, their influence on rural people and the poorer sections of the urban proletariat will continue to increase as poverty increases.

Poverty and the Roots of Religious Violence

While it can only be speculated that there is a connection between poverty and religious violence, the proposition does have empirical backing. Qasim Zaman tells us, for instance, that in Jhang -- the birth place of the militant Sunni organization called the Sipah-i-Sahaba -- the proportion of Shias in the affluent urban middle class is higher than other areas of Pakistan. Moreover, the feudal gentry too has many Shia families. Thus the Sipah-i-Sahaba appeals to the interests of the ordinary people who are oppressed by the rich and the influential. Indeed, Maulana Haqq Nawaz, the fiery preacher who raised much animosity against the Shias, was `himself a man of humble origin' and `had a reputation for being much concerned with the welfare of the poor and the helpless, and he was known to regularly spend time at government courts helping out poor illiterate litigants.[42]

Another leader of the Sipah-i-Sahaba, Maulana Isar al-Qasimi (1964-1991), also preached in Jhang. He too denounced the Shia magnates of the area and the peasants, terrorized by the feudal magnates, responded to him as if he were a messiah. Even shopkeepers rejoiced in the aggressive Sunni identity he helped create. When the Shia feudal lords attacked and burnt some defiant Sunni shops this identity was further radicalized.[43]

In the same manner the Muslim radicals in the Philippines too attack social and economic privilege. Indeed, Islamist movements from Turkey to Indonesia talk of the poor and the oppressed and sometimes do take up their cause. This has won them votes in Turkey where they have been suppressed by the secular military. It was also a major factor for mobilization in Iran against the Shah who was seen as being rich, wasteful, corrupt and decadent. So, though difficult to demonstrate, Islamic militancy -- whether by radicalized madrassa students or members of Islamist or Jihadi groups in Pakistan -- has an element of class conflict. It is, at least in some part, a reaction of the have-nots against the haves. This is a dangerous trend for the country because madrassa students are taught to be intolerant of religious minorities and are hawkish about Kashmir. As they are also from poor backgrounds they express their sense of being cheated by society in the idiom of religion. This gives them the self-righteousness to fight against the oppressive and unjust system in the name of Islam.

The Worldview of Madrassa Students

The madrassa students are the most intolerant of all the other student groups in Pakistan. They are also the most supportive of an aggressive foreign policy. In the survey of 2002-2003 they responded to questions about these issues as follows:

Box 5

Militancy Among Madrassa Students in 2003 (N=142)

(In percentages)

What should be Pakistan's Priorities?

1.

Take Kashmir away from India by an open war?

Ye 59.86

No 31.69

Don't Know 8.452.

2.

Take Kashmir away from India by supporting  Jihadi groups to fight with the Indian army?

 

52.82

32.39

 

14.793.

3.

Support Kashmir cause through peaceful means  only (i.e. no open war or sending Jihadi groups across the line of Control)

33.80

 

54.93

 

11.27

 

Source:      Anexure-2

The views of the teachers were even more militant: 

Box 6

Militancy Among Madrassa Teachers (N=27)

(In percentages)

1.

Open War

Yes

70.37

No

22.02

Don't Know

7.412.

2.

Jihadi Groups

59.26

29.63

11.11

 

Peaceful means

29.63

66.67

3.70

Source: Annexure-2

 According to the IPS survey quoted earlier madrassa students are tolerant of the major Islamic sects and sub-sects. About 45 per cent, however, considered women as lesser than men and only 11 per cent considered them equal to men. To the question `how can Jihad be waged in Pakistan?' only 8 per cent students agreed with using force. However, 46 per cent Deobandi students favoured the Taliban as their model.[44]

While the survey carried out for this study gives somewhat different results, it is clear that most of the differences are because of the difference in questions. The madrassas are obviously institutions which have a blueprint of society in their mind. What needs explanation is that the madrassas, which were basically conservative institutions before the Afghan-Soviet War of the nineteen eighties, are both ideologically activist and sometimes militant. According to Peter L. Bergen, author of a book on Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda group: `nowhere is bin Laden more popular than in Pakistan's madrassas, religious schools from which the Taliban draw many of its recruits.[45] Even with the end of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the madrassas have plenty of zealous young people who can potentially act as crusaders against both Western interests and the moderate regimes, both military and civilian, whom they perceive as the allies of the West (for Central Asian parallels see Ahmed Rashid's [2002] excellent book on militant Islamic movements in that part of the world).

General Pervez Musharraf's military government, in an attempt to control religious extremism, made two laws to control the madrassas. The first was aimed to bring the madrassas in the mainstream by introducing secular subjects in them. This ordinance called, the `Pakistan Madrassah Education (Establishment and Affiliation of Model Dini Madaris) Board Ordinance 2001' was promulgated on 18 August 2001. According to the Education Sector Reforms[46] three model institutions were established: one each at Karachi, Sukkur and Islamabad. Their curriculum `includes subjects of English, Mathematics, Computer Science, Economics, Political Science, Law and Pakistan Studies for its different levels[47]. These institutions were not welcomed by the ulema (for opposition from the ulema see Wafaq ul Madaris No. 6: Vol. 2, 2001). After this another law was introduced to control the entry of foreigners in the madrassas and keep check on them. This law --- Voluntary Registration and Regulation Ordinance 2002 --- has, however, been rejected by most of the madrassas which want no state interference in their affairs (see Wafaq ul Madaris Vol. 3 No. 9, 2002 and unstructured interviews of the ulema). Indeed, according to Singer, `4,350, about one tenth, agreed to be registered and the rest simply ignored the statute.[48] The number of those who did not register is not known.

The madrassas became militant when they were used by the Pakistani state to fight in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation and then in Kashmir so as to force India to leave the state. Pakistan's claim on Kashmir, as discussed by many including Alistair Lamb 1977[49] has led to conflict with India and the Islamic militants or Jihadis, who have entered the fray since 1989. The United States indirectly, and sometimes directly, helped in creating militancy among the clergy. For instance, special textbooks in Darri (Afghan Persian) and Pashto were written at the University of Nebraska-Omaha with a USAID grant in the 1980s.[50] American arms and money flowed to Afghanistan through Pakistan's Inter services Intelligence as several books indicate (See Cooley 1999).[51] At that time all this was done to defeat the Soviet Union. Later, while Pakistan's military kept using the militant Islamists in Kashmir, the United States was much alarmed by them---not without reason as the events of Nine Eleven demonstrated later. After this catastrophic incident in which more than three thousand people died in New York, the Americans tried to understand the madrassas better. P.W. Singer, an analyst in the Brookings Institute who has been referred to earlier, wrote that there were 10-15 percent `radical' madrassas which teach anti-American rhetoric, terrorism and even impart military training.[52]  No proof for these claims was offered but they are credible given the fact that madrassa teachers often say that the U.S.A is at war with Islam.

Apart from the madrassas proper, religious parties—such as Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Harkat-ul-Mujahidin—print militant literature which circulates among the madrassas and other institutions. According to chapter-3 of a book entitled Ideas on Democracy, Freedom and Peace in Textbooks (2003) Ad-Dawah uses textbooks for English in which many questions and answers refer to war, weapons, blood and victory. According to the author: 

The students studying in jihadi schools are totally brain washed right from the very beginning. The textbooks have been authored to provide only onedimensional worldview and restrict the independent thought process of children[53] (Liberal Forum 2003: 72). 

Although these parties have been banned, their member are said to be dispersed all over Pakistan, especially in the madrassas. The madrassas, then, may be the potential centres of Islamic militancy in Pakistan. The government proposes to change this by teaching secular subjects in the madrassas, but change will come only when the level of pads reduced so that poor people can afford other systems of schooling. Above all, it will come when there is peace between India and Pakistan and the United States, as well as other Western powers, do not appear to oppress Muslims as in Palestine today. Such global changes cannot be brought about by any one government so it is futile to blame, or expect too much from, any one country as far as madrassa-based militancy, or merely intolerance creating a potential for such militancy, is concerned.

                                                                                                                           Annexure-1 

Monthly Income and Social Mobility of Students and Faculty in
 Madrassas in Pakistan
 

The following information has been collected in response to section 1 of the questionnaire which is given in Annexure-2. These questions are about the income of the family and, in the case of teachers, the medium of instruction of the school which they attended and their children attended. 

Section-1: Monthly Income

The figures below give the monthly income of the families of students and faculty as reported by them in our sample. Those who have written the income as well as those who have not written, have been tabulated separately. The correspondence with socioeconomic class, however rough, is as follows: 

Working (lower) class                 =          Upto Rs 5000 per month.

Lower middle class                    =          5001 - 10,000

Middle class                               =          10,001-20,000

Upper middle class                    =          20,001 - 50,000

Lower upper class                      =          50,001 - 100,000

middle upper class                     =          Above 100,000

The income is for the whole family and not of the individuals earning it. In most cases income of females has not been written, presumably because they are housewives and do not get paid. In case their income is written, the family income is calculated by adding their income to the income of the male earning member's income. 

Income of the Families of Madrassa Students
N = 142

 

Not

Upto 5,000

5,001-

10,001-

20,001-

50,000-

 

written

 

10,000

20,000

50,000

100,000

Pay father

65 of 142

59 of 77

10 of 77

04 of 77

04 of 77

Nil

 

(47.77%)

(76.62%)

(14.86%)

(5.19%)

(5.19%)

 

Pay mother

139 of 142

_(97.8_9%)

02 of 3

(66.66%)

1 of 3

(33.33%)

Nil

Nil

Nil

Father and

N.A

1 of 3

0l of 3

1 of 3

 

 

Mother

 

(33.33%)

(33.33%)

(33.33%)

 

 

Analysis: Most madrassa students belong to the working classes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Income of the Families of Madrassa Teachers
N=27
 


 

Not written

Upto

5,001-

10,001-

20,001-

50,000-

 

 

5,000

10,000

20,000

50,000

100,000

Pay self

09 of 27

13 of 18

03 of 18

02 of 18

Nil

Nil

 

(33.33%)

(72.22%)

(16.66%)

(11.11%)

 

 

Pay spouse

26 of 27

01 of 1

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

 

(96.30%)

(100%)

 

 

 

 

Husband and

N.A

Nil

01 of 1

Nil

Nil

Nil

wife

 

 

(100%)

 

 

 

Analysis: Most madrassa teachers belong to the working classes.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Section-2: Social Moblity

Social mobility has been measured in the case of teachers. The only indicators which have been taken into account are (a) the medium of instruction of the teachers themselves when they were students (b) the medium of instruction of their children. As English-medium school are more expensive than Urdu-or Sindhi medium ones, it is assumed that, when people get relatively prosperous, they tend to educate their children in English-medium schools. 

Medium of Instruction in School

 

Number of

Not written

Urdu

English

 

respondents

 

 

 

Own*

27

02 of 27

21 of 25

0 of 25

 

 

(7.41%)

(84%)

(0%)

Children's

27

12 of 27

13 of 15

2 of 15

 

 

(44.44%)

(86.67%)

(13.33%)

 

 

 

 



*NB: Out of 25 teachers, 2 (8%) wrote Pashto and 2 (8%) wrote Arabic as their medium of instruction.

                                                                                                                                      Annexure-2

 SURVEY 2003
Survey of Schools and
Madrassas 

This survey was conducted between December 2002 and April 2003 with the help of two research assistants Imran Farid and Shahid Gondal whom I take this opportunity to thank. The survey was conducted in Islamabad (myself), Rawalpindi (myself), Peshawar (myself), Karachi (myself), Mandl Bahauddin (Shahid Gondal), Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan (Imran Farid). It was a stratified, non-random survey because a complete list of all target institutions was not available. Moreover, we had to restrict ourselves to urban areas because we neither had the time nor the resources to venture into rural ones. The survey was financially supported by the Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC), Karachi, to which I am very grateful.

Institutions were used as clusters but only students of class 10 and equivalent were given questionnaires in Urdu or English. They were told that, since they were not supposed to give their names, they should not hesitate to give their real views. After this the questionnaire was read out and explained. The filled questionnaires were collected at the end of the session.

The major stratas (1) Urdu-medium schools, (2) elitist English-medium schools (3) Cadet Colleges/Public Schools and (4) madrassas. There is a further stratification between the students and the teachers of these institutions. Gender-wise breakdown is also available. The following chart helps explain these strata:

TEACHERS

 

M (ale)

F female)

Total

English-medium

18

47

65

Cadet college/public schools

51

Nil

51

Urdu-medium

42

58

100

Madrassas

27

Nil

27

Grand Total

 

 

243

 

 

 

 

STUDENTS

 

M (ale)

                    F (emale)

  Total

English-medium

62

 

52

116

Cadet college/public schools

130

 

Nil

130

Urdu-medium

123

 

107

230

Madrassas

142

 

Nil

142

Grand Total

 

 

 

618

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the views of each strata are taken separately, they do not represent their proportional share in the student population of Pakistan. The ages of the students are as follows: 

Institutions

Mean

Mode

Range

Cadet colleges

15.5

15

12-19

Madrassas

19

20

14-27

English-medium schools

14.1

15

13-18

 In the case of the madrassas the range is higher because some of the sanvia class groups had older boys who had joined the seminary late. In the `O’ level groups both 10th and  1lth were represented. Urdu-medium schools had only class-10 clusters.

There are two shortcomings: first, the number of madrassa teachers is very less; and secondly, the population of rural areas as well as Balochistan, the interior of Sindh, Northern Areas could not be represented. The first problem is because madrassa teachers were very reluctant to fill in the questionnaires. The second, as already mentioned, is because of lack of time and resources.

The questionnaires for students and teachers are reproduced here. Please note that -2 (on opinions) is exactly the same. Only part-1 is different for both.  

QUESTIONNAIRE (FACULTY)

Do not write your name to ensure secrecy. Write the name of the institution in which you teach with medium of Instruction

1.          Sex      (1)  Male           (2) Female

2.          Education: (1) Below B.A  (2)B.A  (3) M.A  (4) M. Phil  (5) Ph.D

3.          Which subject (s) do you teach?

What is the occupation of your spouse? Give his or her rank, title, occupational status; salary; grade; income from all sources etc.

What is your average total monthly income? Write income from all sources such as tuition, publications, consultancies, rent etc.

What is the medium of instruction of the school in which your children study (or studied)?

            What was medium of instruction of the school in which you studied most? 

QUESTIONNAIRE (STUDENTS) 

Do not write your name to ernsure secvrecy. Write the name of your school with medium of Instruction.

1.          age.

2.          Class

3.          Sex    (1)           Male     (2)        Female

4.          What is the occupation of your father? Give his rank, title, occupational status; salary, grade, income from all sources etc. 

PART-II
(for both faculty and students)
 

What should be Pakistan’s priorities?

1.          Take Kashmir away from India by an open war?

(1)         Yes       (2)        No       (3)        Don't Know

2.          Take Kashmir away from India by supporting Jihadi groups to fight against the Indian army?

            (1)        Yes       (2)        No       (3)        Don’t Know

3.           Support the Kashmir cause through peaceful means only (i.e. no open war or sending Jihadi groups across the line of control?).

(1)          Yes      (2)        No       (3)        Don't Know 

4.          Give equal rights to Ahmedis in all jobs etc?

            (1)          Yes      (2)        No       (3)        Don't Know 

5.          Give equal rights to Pakistani Hindus in all jobs etc?

(1)         Yes       (2)        No       (3)        Don't Know 

6.          Give equal rights to Pakistani Christians in all jobs etc?

(1)         Yes       (2)        No       (3)        Don't Know 

7.          Give equal rights to men and women as in Western countries?

(1)         Yes       (2)        No       (3)        Don't Know

Consolidated Data of Opinions Indicating Militancy and Tolerance Among three of Schools Students in Pakistan in Survey 2003
(in percentages)
 

Abbreviated Questions

 

Madrassas

 

Urdu-

medium

 

English-medium

 

Cadet

Colleges/

Public

Schools

Govt

Colleges

(326)

 

Public

Universities

(206)

 

Private

Universities

(133)

 

Open War

Yes

59.86

39.56

25.86

36.92

46.01

34.95

35.34

 

No

31.69

53.04

64.66

60.00

48.47

55.34

57.89

 

Don't Know

8.45

7.39

9.48

3.08

5.52

9.71

6.77

 

Jihadi groups

Yes

52.82

33.04

22.41

53.08

50.00

46.12

34.59

 

 

No

32.39

45.22

60.34

40.00

38.04

43.20

57.14

 

 

Don't Know

14.79

21.74

17.24

6.92

11.96

10.68

8.27

 

Peaceful means

Yes

33.80

75.65

72.41

56.15

60.43

58.25

57.14

 

 

No

54.93

18.26

18.97

36.92

22.70

28.64

35.34

 

 

Don't Know

11.27

6.09

8.62

6.92

16.87

13.11

7.52

 

Ahmedis

Yes

12.68

46.95

65.52

41.54

38.04

38.83

40.60

 

No

82.39

36.95

9.48

36.92

38.34

49.51

36.84

 

 

Don't Know

4.93

16.09

25.00

21.54

23.62

11.65

22.56

 

Hindus

Yes

16.90

47.39

78.45

64.62

59.20

54.37

69.92

 

 

No

76.06

42.61

13.79

31.54

31.90

38.83

21.05

 

 

Don't Know

7.04

10.00

7.76

3.85

8.89

6.80

9.02

 

Christians

Yes

18.31

65.65

83.62

76.92

72.09

66.99

78.95

 

 

No

73.24

26.52

8.62

18.46

21.17

29.13

14.29

 

 

Don't Know

8.45

7.83

7.76

4.62

6.75

3.88

6.77

 

Women

Yes

16.90

75.22

90.52

67.69

65.34

64.56

76.69

 

 

No

77.46

17.39

6.03

25.38

30.98

31.55

17.29

 

 

Don't Know

5.63

7.39

3.45

6.92

3.68

3.88

6.02

NB: Figures for (3) are uninterpretable because some respondents ticked opinion (1) and/or (2) while also ticking (3). 

Comparative Chart for Opinions of Faculty Members of Different
 Educational Institutions
 

 

Madrassas

(27)

Urdu-

medium

schools

(100)

English-

medium

schools

(65)

Cadet

Colleges/

Public

Schools

(51)

Govt

Colleges

(127)

Private

Univers

ides

(44)

Public

Univers

ides

(127)

1

Open War

Yes

70.37

20

26.15

19.61

20.47

20.45

14.17

 

 

No

22.22

70

64.62

68.63

68.50

63.64

77.17

 

 

Don't Know

7.41

10

9.23

11.76

11.02

15.91

8.66

2

Jihadi groups

Yes

59.26

19

38.46

39.22

18.11

34.09

25.98

 

 

No

26.63

68

50.77

52.94

63.78

45.45

62.99

 

 

Don't Know

11.11

13

10.77

7.84

18.11

20.45

11.02

3

Peaceful means

Yes

29.63

85

60.00

66.66

77.17

68.18

75.59

 

 

No

66.67

10

33.85

19.61

13.39

18.18

18.11