Quran and computers: Azamgarh madrassa with a modern touch (Feature)

July 8th, 2011 - 12:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Azamgarh (Uttar Pradesh), July 8 (IANS) Re-inventing itself to keep pace with the times, a century-old Islamic seminary in Azamgarh district not only has a broadbased curriculum with science and computers but also a polytechnic to equip its students with vocational skills.

Established in 1908 at Saraimir town in Azamgarh, Madrasatul Islah is one of the oldest Islamic religious schools in the region.

Apart from the Quran, the madrassa also imparts knowledge in English, science, mathematics, political science, economics, Hindi and computers.

About 1,000 students from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttarakhand and Maharashtra study here. Several alumni are doing research in various universities in India and abroad.

Fakhrul Islam Islahi, vice rector of Islah, says that modern education is not incompatible with Islam.

“We don’t believe in differentiating between education,” said Islah, who also heads the department of Arabic of Shibli National Post Graduate College in Azamgarh city.

“Science and mathematics are helpful to understand Islam and obey its commandments. It is difficult to solve inheritance questions and disputes without knowing mathematics,” he said.

The Islamic law of inheritance is an important subject of Islam that is necessarily taught in madrassas.

English has come a long way here and is no more viewed from the pre-independence lens as the language of the oppressor.

What makes the madrassa stand out is that it is located in a place often associated with terror and Islamic fundamentalism.

Azamgarh made headlines after the Batla House shootout of 2008 in Delhi in the immediate aftermath of the serial blasts in the capital. Two suspected militants, both Azamgarh natives, were killed in the incident.

Many of those accused of the Sep 13, 2008, Delhi serial bombings belonged to Azamgarh. Following the incident, many local youths were arrested in connection with different terror attacks across the country, which maligned the image of the district.

But Islah defies stereotypes.

Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli, a retired professor of history from the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and alumnus of Islah, thinks Islah’s educational system is both unique and practical.

“I have never faced any hesitation in the contemporary world because I learnt old, divine and modern education at the madarssa,” he said.

Zilli passed out from Islah in 1962 and did research in medieval Indian history. He also heads the century-old Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy. Several personalities, including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, were associated.

The madrassa’s polytechnic offers certificate courses in mobile operating and several other branches of electronics.

Zafeer Alam, who studied at the polytechnic, feels proud to have received both religious and modern knowledge.

“I am not an expert of mobile technology but with the knowledge that I have got at Islah, I can repair mobiles,” says Alam, who runs a mobile operating shop in his village in Bihar.

Nazish Ehtesham, another alumnus, is now a medical officer at the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.

“Islah helped me to take a great leap ahead in my career as it provides some of the best education in Arabic language and science,” said Nazish, who also studied Unani medicine at Jamia Hamdard university in Delhi.

The polytechnic is fast gaining popularity among students from nearby schools and colleges as well, and boasts of 500 students.

(Abu Zafar can be contacted at abuzafar@journalist.com)

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