Education in Afghanistan:
The Importance of qualitative professionals in imparting religious education:
By Sajjad Amin Bangash:
Education has been existed at every phase of human civilization since the birth of the universe. The importance of education can’t be neglected and ignored and it had been playing an active role in enlightening, development, prosperity, peace, economic, social, political and cultural awareness through the course of times and several societies died for they refused to embed education in their societal make ups and overall health of their systems.
Learning, understanding, utilization and spreading the knowledge is the hereditary of Prophets of God. Education is the most powerful tool for human development, emancipation and understanding life, nature and it’s a stimulus which beautifies human’s life.
Philosophy of Education is a term that can be used to refer to the academic field that involves applied philosophy. It can also be used to describe philosophies that promote certain visions of education, examining the goals, meaning and other aspects.
Although, majority of today’s society urge and acknowledge the dual importance of education and they’re highly proactive in channeling their resources to promote, prosper, uplift and spread the fruits of education all over their societies and readily fueling their resources in educational institutions, activities and research and at the same time, have developed highly robust system of examining, testing and awarding the degrees according to a well devised and defined system of certifying professionals, experts and practitioners successfully undergoing through this ‘examination process’ and eventually, start to work in their respective fields and contribute in the development of their societies and countries. Thus, becoming the active, productive and effective human force.
Quite obviously, every child is born innumerate and illiterate, quickly learns the culture and norms of the community they are born into, and they further enhance their learning aptitudes, acumen and ethical standards from their elders, siblings, surroundings and by the help of professional teachers. Gradually, they tend to develop their learning capabilities and within a short time, the children are able to read, write and act in an appropriate way. The skills improve as the child grows, and with time, they will have learnt enough to enable them to operate in the society without constant guidance.
Education today can serve as a mechanism for social sorting. People have different learning skills with some exhibiting more facility than others. Education plays a major role on the economic fate of every individual. Education helps to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills that allow them to be able to define and pursue their individual goals. It also allows people to participate in the community, playing their part to improve their conditions and the condition of the society at large.
But in few Islamic countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, the education system has been the obvious victim of recurrent deliberate alterations, modifications and systematic variances of loopholes occurred over the course of times.
To say, that the overall education system in those countries is transcending in an unparalleled directions, inappropriate testing and examining directives, and fragile shifts. For example, in Pakistan, there’s an English medium of instruction with Cambridge Syllabus while on the other hand, there’s an ‘Urdu Medium’ of instruction operated all over the country at government level. Similarly, the least one is “Islāmic education” operated by “Madaris” which impart “Quranic learning, and Islāmic education.”
Now, if you look at the syllabus, screening, recruiting and selection process and criteria of professional teachers and qualifications standards are concerned, then an obvious ‘diversion’ can be witnessed in the overall education system in these countries. ‘
While many may view education in a very individualistic way, it is important to look at the societal perspective. The more educated individuals there are in the society, the more developed that society becomes.
Unfortunately, most societies today are embracing the narrow view that encourages people to get an education as a way to enhance their own individual needs. This has led to a few individuals holding the view that they are autonomous. In the end, this same individual’s end up living very unfulfilled lives. Education should be able to create individuals who are assets to the society at large.
Formal education provided by the state, is an acknowledgement of the importance of Philosophy of Education for survival of the society. For example, if you’re to become and engineer, doctor, teacher, management professional etc. you’ve to undergo through the examination process, and conducts of tests and if you pass it, you’re qualified professional and the degree is awareded to you accordingly which will be recognized in practical fields everywhere.
But, the case is quite different when it comes to qualifying the ‘religious education’ since there is limited sets of examination authorities either in Pakistan or Afghanistan.
The 2013 Survey of the Afghan People by The Asia Foundation found that 72 percent of Afghans are satisfied with the availability of education for children. A strong education system that includes professional teachers and high-quality learning materials and methodologies is essential to Afghan economic growth, democratic development, and stability. Afghanistan has one of the youngest populations in the world, making quality education for rapidly growing numbers of school-aged boys and girls a top national priority.
Before 1969, schools existed, but whether or not a child attended school was completely up to his or her family. Some families thought that education was important and made sacrifices to secure their children’s education, including sending them away to relatives if local schooling wasn’t available. Other families provided religious training for their sons. Some families simply did not send their children to school.
It was still possible to receive an education, and determined families with sufficient resources could educate their children. There were secondary schools in urban areas and a university in Kabul. Since all education above the primary level was provided in Dari, all educated Afghans are fluent in that language, regardless of their ethnic group.
During the Soviet occupation, the Soviets were interested in building up the education system and extending education into the rural areas but their efforts failed. It was reported that in at least one area the Afghans responded to the establishment of Soviet-backed schools by killing the teachers, ostensibly because boys and girls were expected to sit in the same classroom.
After the Soviets withdrew, what was left of the education system fell completely apart in the ensuing civil war. Kabul University closed, its faculty members dispersing to Pakistan, Iran, or the West. Children were either taught at home, in the local mosque, or not at all.
Under the Taliban, secular education did not exist. Boys received religious education, but girls were forbidden education altogether. Parents who wanted their children educated had to arrange for private tutoring in informal groups at home.
As of 2013, more than 10 million male and female students were enrolled in schools throughout Afghanistan.
However, there are still significant obstacles to education within the country due to lack of funding, unsafe school buildings, and cultural norms.
A lack of women teachers is an issue that concerns some Afghan parents, especially in more conservative areas. Some parents will not allow their daughters to be taught by men.
Literacy of the Afghan population is estimated at 28.1% (male 43.1%; female 12.6%), although real figures may be lower. There are approximately 16,000 schools in the country.
Despite the dramatic increase in the number of schools in Afghanistan, many fall short, providing lackluster education in broken-down buildings, and undersupplied, overcrowded classrooms, teaching for only a few hours before the next shift of students arrives. Teachers are frequently unqualified, having never graduated high school themselves. There is an unfortunate tendency for well-meaning organizations to build schools and move on, leaving the school’s fate in the hands of haphazard local administration and chance. Sadly, many investments in Afghanistan’s education are short-lived.
But the general answer is education must in a real meaningful way which can reach a broad audience in a quick fashion. With the recent pervasiveness of satellite TV, having some sort of programming that forces the population of Afghanistan to re-think their long held beliefs in a real way could be the key and the people must have the passion, conviction and common sense to propose solutions. I hope they take a role.
People who may have spent a good amount of time in Afghanistan or have a solid understanding of the current sociopolitical climate there – but in trying to think up of solutions for Aghanistan then it is important to make sure of two things:
1. Recognize the privilege and position as people who live in safety and comfort and
2. Try not to fall into the “white savior complex” and but generally speaking, yes there has to be an entire overhaul of religious understanding in many places in the world. There should also be an entire overhaul of those whom power (no matter how small) has been given to.
Similarly, the concrete solution in spreading the education in Afghanistan would be more likely to come up with legal solution.
A real example would be of Egypt is trying this solution right now. Also, Afghanistan, like all countries has a system where someone can’t go around calling themselves doctor, lawyer, engineer or whatnot without going to university and getting a degree, why should imams be excepted?
The solution is to try to educate the youth over there by creating more facilities where literature and a learning environment is built. We don’t need to change the Afghan government because realistically that is very unlikely. Ignorance of our religion Islam is what allows this behavior to exist. People listen to these so called mullahs who practice sorcery and do taweez and they believe it’s the truth, because they have no other means of seeking the truth themselves. Our goal should to educate everyone, not just the mullah, thus creating a sense of balance.
We must first start with the younger generation to create this learning environment by establishing facilities such as libraries where kids can come and read books and borrow them. Facilities such as these are non-existent in Afghanistan, because we the people haven’t taken the initiative to create them. We have to realize there are self centered people everywhere unfortunately and some will disguise themselves as mullahs, our job is to educate the general public, so they can distinguish right from wrong.
▶ Women’s rights in Afghanistan.
Historically, women and men have been kept apart in every aspect of society in Afghanistan or in Islamic countries. Separate schools, separate work places, separate wedding events even, if you go to Masjid men sit in the front larger and more decorated area and women are sent to the back behind the walls in a smaller room, and so on. When do men and women in our societies get to sit and exchange their ideas, thoughts and feelings about aspects of their own society, or religion? they have always pointed at each other from a distance. Education does not come from text books only, it rather gets completed through interactions and involvement.
According to the Institute of Policy Studies Islamabad, Pakistan.
▶ Updating Aims of Religious Education Institutions (REIs):
Madaris need to realize that development of a balanced and an all-rounded personality who can boldly face the challenges of life should be the primary objective of their education and not simply production of khatibs and imams. The traditional approach is to limit the goal to the production of imams and khatibs; and while insisting on this view, Madressa is not willing to change its curricula which were particularly prepared to protect the cultural and religious identity of the Sub-continent’s
Muslims during the colonial period. The need therefore is to identify and develop a consensus on the aims and objectives of such education. In the past Muslim scholars produced commendable work on Greek sciences and learning from which the world is immensely benefiting. Islamic teachings also cover all aspects of human life and provide a comprehensive code of human conduct.
In view of this, in every age of Muslims’ political rise, the educational curriculum was aimed at thoroughly acquainting the youth with all the necessary sciences and arts keeping in view the requirements of that age in order to enable them to play their role efficiently and with confidence.
▶ Integrated Education System:
It should also be kept in mind that the entire educational system of Pakistan and Afghanistan needs overhauling. The present condition in these countries is highly alarming. Division of educational system leads to the division of the nation itself.
Consequently, this division has not simply created different classes in the country but is gradually widening the gulf between them. To bring unity and cohesion into the nation, integrated efforts at all levels and in all streams of education are required. While developing a viable program of educational reforms, the government may allow such educational institutions as are necessary to cater the divergent educational needs of the country on modern lines. However, they should be linked with a comprehensive national system to avoid emergence of class distinction and to develop a common national perception and identity. It is proposed that no educational institution up to matriculation/intermediate level be allowed to have affiliation with any foreign or private agency.
Religious Sciences be made a discipline up to this level. Beyond this, private institutions may be allowed to operate at graduate and post-graduate levels leading to specialization. Similar efforts should be made to introduce religious sciences in modern educational institutions. In such a case matriculation should be the requisite qualification for admission to Dars-e-Nizami. If this is implemented, there would be no need to introduce modern subjects separately in the curriculum.
To cope with the contemporary challenges in a befitting manner, madaris have to introduce certain reforms in their syllabi and teaching methodology. This is very much in their own interest if they really intend to play an important role in the socio-political development and religious upbringing of the masses in Pakistan or Afghanistan. These reforms, however, should not be foreign imposed at all. Such reforms are neither desirable nor long lasting. In stead, they should be home-driven and backed by different stakeholders in general and madaris in particular. It has to be realized fully that the true believers never cease the struggle for betterment since they have already been cautioned by the holy Prophet (PBUH) that ‘ruined is he whose today is not better than yesterday.”
While introducing different reforms, the government must also take into account the sensitivities and autonomy of the madaris. A benevolent government can help madaris introduce certain reforms in their internal system to shift the focus from sectarian education to the teachings of Islam in a broader framework. Similarly, it can equip them with the skill and techniques to prepare a lot well-versed in religious education as well as the mundane affairs. Further more, reforms are long over-due to bridge the widening gulf between different kinds of education systems prevalent in the country.
Last but not the least, Madaris must also realize that rejecting all government proposals for reforms out of nothing is never desirable. They need to judge things on merit before accepting or rejecting them. In the same vein, the government has to make it clear by its words and deeds that the real objective behind these reforms is not to appease foreign and domestic critics but to introduce an integrated education system in the country.
▶ Specific Measures:
As to the specific measures and initiatives to improve the religious education institutions in Pakistan or Afghanistan, following suggestions are noteworthy:
▶ Evolving a representative body: Presently, the religious institutions are affiliated with five different private boards called Wifaqs representing various schools of thought. These are simply examination bodies and by and large have no role in the administrative and internal affairs of the affiliated institutions. There is no single broad-based agency at the federal level representing all the Wifaqs to hold talks with government on their behalf and can act as a Syndicate as well to oversee and coordinate their activities. For mutual consultation among the different Wifaqs and effective implementation of the educational reforms, it is essential to establish an independent Syndicate fully empowered to hold talks with both the government and private organizations so that all the concerned parties accept its decision without any hesitation. The issues of registration and financial assistance can also be solved in coordination with this Syndicate.
▶ Institution of a curricula board:
Most of the Madaris are convinced of the need for reforms and revision in their curricula and syllabi. Some of the institutions have already introduced modern and social sciences in their syllabi, while some others have made special arrangement for their students to appear privately in the Matriculation, Intermediate and B.A examinations so that they do not lag behind in the contemporary learning and can keep pace with time. Almost all Wifaqs have such affiliated institutions who are offering coaching in modern disciplines to enable their students to appear in various examinations. Nevertheless, such efforts are in most of the cases purely on individual levels and where they are being made at Wifaq level they are without any consistent and coordinated Program.
There is, no authority or mechanism empowered to undertake the revision of Madressah curriculum at the national level which can come up with a consensus curricula acceptable by all Madaris of the country.
There is an imperative need to eliminate the present sectarian approach in the Madressah curriculum without prejudice to the various schools of thought in Pakistan. However, it needs to be emphasized that difference of opinion in itself is not harmful. It is a useful phenomenon and an evidence of intellectual life and therefore needs to be encouraged. It is the intolerance and hatred based on the differences that needs to be checked.
An important suggestion made in the IPS seminars was concerning the teaching of major books on Fiqh related to various legal schools in senior classes of all Madaris. Even in the present condition, the syllabi of the five boards are very much similar and do not depict any real difference. The only difference is in Fiqh. It is here that Madaris are required to show flexibility and broadness of vision. As regards introduction of modern subjects, it may be noted that Islam being a religion equally concerned with the welfare of mundane life cannot ignore the fact of modern sciences. Madaris are also conscious of this fact. The only thing needed is a proper procedure and mechanism to realise this goal.
Constitution of a broad-based curricula board can help achieve the aim of preparing a unified curriculum in the light of the Qur’an and Sunnah. The Board should consist of distinguished educationists representing all schools of thought, conversant with the problems of traditional and modern curricula and endowed with vision and practical insight. The curriculum so drafted and approved would be acceptable to all and could be enforced in all the institutions of the country. In the preparation of the curriculum, following guidelines should be kept in view:
▶ Six Dimensions of Life:
Drafting of any comprehensive curriculum should take cognizance of the following six dimensions of life:
-International community and society
▶ Basic Elements of the Curriculum:
An important conclusion on the evolution of curricula was that based on the needs and requirement of every age there has always been corresponding changes in syllabi.
Education demands dynamism rather than stagnation. Yet, such evolution always takes place under the basic elements of the curriculum. The more the knowledge shall expand, the more will be the need to amend the curriculum so as to make it fulfil the new demands. Some of these elements are vitally important and of permanent value such as the Qur’an, Hadith and Fiqh.
They form the nucleus of any religious syllabus and since they are founded on revelation, they cannot be changed. But other sciences derived from human experiences and intellect are bound to change, expansion and evolution and, therefore, need revision form time to time. An analysis of curricula remained in operation during different Muslim periods reveals that following elements have remained integrated parts of the curricula in every age:
-Faith/belief (they form the basis of -human personality )
-Acquisition of Arts
-Sciences (physical and social)
-Morality and Character-building
The three basic sciences: the Qur’an, Hadith and Fiqh
▶ Teaching of Modern Languages:
Teaching of various international languages and review of their literary heritage and richness are not simply academic requirements. They are indispensable for creating a broad and moderate outlook. Languages, being the repositories of sciences, arts, civilizations, cultures and specific approaches to life of the respective communities are extremely useful means to know and understand their national characters, interests, priorities, preferences, weaknesses etc. and help in ascertaining one’s own place in the comity of nations.
The religious institutions do not give importance to the learning of foreign languages, not to speak of reviewing their literary work.
It is however a matter of satisfaction that many religious institutions are now offering teaching of English in addition to Arabic, Urdu, Dari and Pashto. There is however, a need of improving the teaching standard of these languages including Arabic and introducing the teaching of some more languages such as English, German and French in different classes. Need was also stressed for providing adequate resources to religious institutions for realizing these objectives.
Departments of modern European and oriental languages may be opened in some major religious institutions for which necessary teaching staff and funds may be provided with the help of the government and the international agencies. Establishment of a special institute of languages on the pattern of NUML (National University of Modern Languages) for training in specific languages for Madaris students is also proposed.
▶ The West and Western Thought: Arrangement should be made to study West and Western thought and establish special department of Occidental studies in religious institutions on the pattern of the Departmental of Oriental Studies in the West. The comparative study of the world religions has always been a subject of the Muslim intellectuals. This tradition must be revived with due attention to the tolerance and pluralism aspects that would initiate cultural contact and religious and ideological dialogue among various communities of the world.
▶ Technical Education:
Muslims traditionally classify sciences into ‘Aleeyah (lofty and elevated) and Aliyah (instrumental).
This second type is what is now called technical education. Historically, this has enjoyed an important place in the Madaris curriculum. Unfortunately, technical education is almost non-existent in the present curricula of religious institutions. It needs to be emphasized that every individual is endowed by nature with special talent, bent of mind and capabilities. It is not necessary that if a student does not show much progress in a particular legal, social or physical science, he is also incapable of making progress in learning a trade or an art in technical fields. What is needed is simple: to recognize and spot talents and educate and train them in the fields of their aptitude.
Due to negligence in imparting the technical education, Madressa students have very limited scope in their practical life. If they are provided training in some technical skill or trade after completing certain stage of their religious education, they would not only be able to play more constructive role in social development but will also be better equipped to face emergencies and support their families. Once it becomes part of the curricula arrangement of mutual transfer of students from colleges and universities and religious institutions to each other (for religious and technical education) would become possible. This shall minimize existing gulf between them and society’s needs for both modern and religious knowledge will be fulfilled
Revision: Being a living reality, curriculum requires revision and improvement with the passage of time. In almost every country, the curriculum is revised at a regular interval. The syllabi of the religious institutions should also be reviewed and revised by the proposed curricula board at fixed interval preferably after every five years.
Standardization and facilities:
There is no well-defined system of grading students in most of the religious institutions – a matter which is directly related with the question of curriculum. Similarly there is no uniform system of entry and exit of students from such institutions. A single teacher looks after students of several grades simultaneously and student may leave an institution and join other merely at his whims. To achieve uniformity and standardization in education a well-defined gradation and entry-exit system is essential. No student leaving an institution should be allowed entry into another unless he/she produces some kind of NOC and educational certificate form the relevant Wifaq.
Attention should also be paid to providing better boarding facilities and quality food with focus on neat and hygienic atmosphere. Students need to be provided playing grounds and sports facility to promote co-curricular activities among them.
Any effort to improve the syllabi should take into account the above elements.
▶ Institutional development for specialization, Research and Ijtihad:
There are various forms of research and academic activities currently in vogue in Madaris. The most important of these is Dar al-Ifta – a unit which is available in almost every major Madressa. The function of this unit is preparing fatwa, formal legal opinions on queries received form public. The objective is to seek guidance on how to implement a legal injunction of the Qur’an or Sunnah in the contemporary perspective.
Translation of the Qur’an, Hadith collections and other useful literature from Arabic to Urdu and regional languages; writing commentaries on textbooks and classical works; conducting research on different aspects of Islam, publication of informative books on rituals, morality, social laws; and production of light informative literature to enlighten and educate the common man and publication of magazines and journals are also part of regular activities pursued by religious scholars. Letters and memoirs of distinguished personalities are also compiled and published with necessary commentaries on regular basis.
A considerable amount of academic works of high standard have been produced by the graduates of these Madaris in connection with their M.A, M.Phil and Ph.D. degrees form local and foreign universities. Nevertheless, apart form these individual efforts, most of the Madaris do not have congenial academic environment required for creative research work and independent Ijtihad to meet the challenges of the modern age.
Besides, devotion to one’s legal school and personality-cult dominate whatever little research activities are performed. It seems as if the objective of such academic exercise is not to develop understanding but only to gain victory over the rivals. Lack of adequate knowledge of contemporary languages is an important factor that prevents them from benefiting from the modern research methodologies and findings of researches of the international institutions. Another important factor that obstructs their academic development is the self-conceited belief of their intellectual superiority to the rest of the world. Consequently, instead of benefiting from the valuable academic and research works done in both the western and other parts of the Muslim world, scholars take shelter into a policy of reservation and withdrawal.
To achieve the objectives of improving the teaching methods of the Madaris, developing various sciences and promoting the general academic atmosphere, it is necessary to change the present attitude of academic superiority and to instill a genuine desire for serious academic pursuit on contemporary problems and issues.
For this purpose, special departments and units may be opened in major institutions to carry out specialized studies in different fields. This will also facilitate the process of Ijtihad on important contemporary issues. These units may also serve as forums where young Madressa graduates may be trained in research methodology and writing research works while seniors may be asked to contribute original writings. At another level, autonomous and independent research institutions focusing on specialized fields may be established under these Madaris.
There is need to carry out original research on different aspects of the western thought and sciences. However, non-availability of sufficient funds to meet the expenses of research on the one hand and lack of competent academic staff to supervise students in carrying out research are major hurdles in starting any regular research program in Madaris. It should be noted that like universities, the Madaris are not authorised to issue higher education degrees. In the absence of such a program, the research is bound to become purely optional. Nevertheless with a consistent and coordinated research program, efforts may be made to mobilize funds from both government and private quarters in this regard.
It is also complained that though a good number of Madressa graduates are enrolled for Ph.D. Programs in different Pakistani universities, they loose interest because of the lack of serious research spirit, environment and commitment in most of the universities.
This happens at every stage of their work; from the selection of topics till its final completion. As a remedy, it needs to be emphasized that the experts from Social Sciences, Islamic Studies, Comparative Religion, Culture and other relevant fields be included in the Board of Studies of different universities to propose new topics for research. Similarly assistance may be sought from various Islamic institutions such as Council of Islamic Ideology, Federal Shari’ah Court, Banking Council, Zakat Foundation, Bait al-Mal, etc., for suggesting practical problems and issues on which these students may be required to do research and write their M.Phil and Ph.D. papers. This will open the door for problem-oriented research in which the researcher enjoys necessary funds and guidance for his research from the sponsor. On completion of research, the successful candidate may also be absorbed in the sponsoring institution. He will probably be able to also get his research published with the financial assistant of the sponsor. In the West, social and financial institutions sponsor research candidates to work on their selected topics by providing necessary financial assistance. It is time to think and move in this direction.
Libraries play important role in creating a congenial academic environment and developing reading habit among the teachers, staff and students. Although all the big religious institutions have their own libraries, they encounter two major problems; selection of appropriate books and paucity of funds. Selection of the books is generally motivated by the sectarian bias and theological preferences. One will hardly find in such a library books and reading materials written from the perspectives of other religions and other schools of thought. This is partly because little attention is paid to research and as such reference and latest research works are rarely required; and partly because of the paucity of funds.
Lack of necessary knowledge and skill of library science is another major problem.
Libraries in Madressa not only require expansion but also re-organization on modern lines. For this purpose, the services of trained librarians shall be required at least in the initial phases of reforms. Besides, the principals of library science should also be included in the Madressa curriculum.
During the zenith of Muslim history, the collection, preservation and management of books in libraries had reached such perfection that elicited admiration from the whole world. Knowledge seekers flocked from all around the world to these libraries to benefit form their rare collection and the Muslim scholars as well. Contemporary Muslim scholars need to do their best to revive this old academic tradition and on the other hand utilize internet, CDs and other IT related facilities for research and educational purposes. However, this should be borne in mind that Madaris cannot do such work with their limited resources; other interested individuals and organizations should come forward to help achieve this goal.
▶ Religious Journalism: Launching of a high quality Journal:
Religious journalism include besides religious magazines special editions or reserve space in the dailies, magazines and journals for the publication of articles on religious subjects. Besides some major institutions have launched their websites containing information and question-answer series on Islam. However, a serious problem that needs to be addressed is the kind of widespread misperceptions about Madaris throughout the world including in their own circles.
In a way Madaris are themselves to blame for this situation. There are hundreds of magazines coming out from various Madaris with content that has little relevance to common man or pressing contemporary political, social and intellectual problems. They seem to mean only to further divide the society and hardened the sectarian differences. This has led to the rigidity of thought and lack of toleration and creation of a wrong image in the world. The result is the prevailing image of Madaris which accounts for the circulation of false impressions about Islam and Muslims also. Those responsible for the management of Madaris and publication of such magazines should bear in mind that whatever they publish is considered to reflect the position of Islam.
An important proposal is about the constitution of a Council of the editors and writers of religious magazines. The Council should be responsible for training and orientation of editors and writers in the principles and modern day techniques of journalism and media. This is to enable them to bring out their publications including journals in a presentable form and in keeping with the modern trends so as to make them more attractive and useful for the readers.
The Council can also undertake publication of a representative research journal to present its official view, improve global image of religious institutions and publish academic and research articles on contemporary topics and problems. It should make efforts to remove many of the misperceptions spread in the Western media about Madaris and their views. The magazine should also strive to create accord and harmony among the network of Madaris with different affiliations throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In addition to the publication of comprehensive reports on Madressa system and its problems, the journal may also serve as a forum for achieving consensus of opinion among religious scholars on important issues and having dialogue on both national and international levels. This will also go a long way in promoting proper research and academic atmosphere. Needless to say that such a journal be published both in English, Urdu, Dari and Pashto simultaneously right form its inception.
In spite of what has been said earlier, one should not hesitate in admitting that there are a number of religious journals currently being published that are looked with great esteem in academic circles.
By inclusion of articles on science and technology, culture and problems of common interest and by making them more interactive these magazines may be further improved. Besides attracting common readers, this will enlighten and educate the scholars of these Madaris and will also broaden their academic and intellectual outlook.
The poor quality of production, sub-standard language, expression and style also need immediate attention. Those responsible should focus on measures to improve these aspects as well.
▶ Female Education:
Islam enjoins acquisition of knowledge on both man and woman. The Prophet (pbuh) laid great stress on female education in his numerous Traditions.
The Prophet (PBUH) had personally reserved one day a week for the education and training of women. This is the reason why one finds a legacy of female scholars and teachers right from the inception of Islam. During the first few centuries, great focus was on the education of female child and equipping them with gems of knowledge in literature.
In view of the widespread illiteracy, education of Muslim women has assumed greater importance today. It is, however, pleasant to note the progress in this direction as numerous female religious Madressas have been opened and are being opened in different parts of the country .
In additions to these institutions, many groups and circles are offering female education on purely private level in Islamic and modern disciplines. Nevertheless, there is still much to be done in this neglected sector.
With the increased focus on female institutions, the proposed curricula Board will have to take measures for developing a special curriculum for female students so that such important subjects as social and family values, ethics and morality, health and hygiene, child education and psychology may be added at various stages of their education.
Additionally, this would require to include Arts and skills such as sewing, embroidery, cottage agriculture, marketing of home products etc in consonance with the aptitude and needs of women and the indigenous culture. Even the government has to change its attitude and take initiatives to attract women towards education and establish separate female madaris to cater the needs of religious education of women in the country. It needs not to mention that such institutions will also be helpful in accelerating literacy in the country.
So let’s contribute in the education of our future generations. Together, we can make this world a beautiful place to live in.
-Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad, Pakistan.
-Asia Foundation, Pakistan and Afghanistan
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