Last week, one of my Ustadhs tagged me in a thought-provoking Facebook post shedding light on the contemporary challenges faced by traditional Islamic schools. The post lamented, among other issues, the troubling reality of Islamic school graduates becoming liabilities to Islam.
The writer highlighted a disheartening example of a former Madrasah student who had transformed into a dreadful masquerade in Benin Republic. He also cited the case of Naira Marley, a self-proclaimed gangster now under investigation for murder, who had once been a Madrasah student and celebrated with a Waleemah ceremony in his youth.
In response, I shared my perspective on the matter with the following comment:
The situation is pathetic. We can only pray and hope that things change for the better. However, we must back these up with concerted efforts to achieve the desired change.
There are many factors responsible for this colossal mess. I’ll mention just three.
1. The erroneous thinking that the Madrasah is the dumping ground for rascals (or stubborn children) and dullards. If a child is struggling with Western education, they either send him to learn a craft or ‘condemn’ him to Ile Kewu just because he can’t cope. Many children with criminal tendencies also end up in Ile Kewu for reformation.
Unfortunately, the teachers at some of these Madaaris might not be equipped with an effective method of reforming these children. Their only answer to insolence is physical abuse. Why? Because they are also products of the same system. Eventually, no knowledge is acquired nor transformation achieved, as an embittered mind will never be receptive to learning. The students graduate with nothing upstairs and become more criminally minded.
2. The curriculum of the present-day Madaaris needs to be comprehensively reviewed. It may have been effective 20 or 30 years ago because, in all fairness, the same curriculum has produced Islamic scholars and eminent personalities who are making giant strides globally. However, things are fast-changing, and there is a need for a more holistic approach.
Apart from teaching the correct Islamic Aqeedah, the students must also be prepared to compete with the larger society by pursuing further education. What qualifications do the graduates of our various Madaaris have to create change in society? Have they taken enough time to study the Prophet’s dawah methodology, such that they can uproot Jaahiliyyah in society and build a replica of the ideal Islamic society created in Madeenah?
The truth is that without adequate knowledge and proper methodology of Islamic propagation, there will be chaos, confusion, and corruption, the like we are currently witnessing.
There is also the question of sustenance. Are our Islamic schools grooming their students adequately in terms of employability?
3. Lastly, our Madaaris need to start implementing a more progressive approach to Islamic education. The aim of establishing an Arabic and Islamic school isn’t just to teach theories and principles. The main objective is to groom Islamic personalities that will transform society and help Islam reclaim its dominance over other systems of life.
Allah says: He it is Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad SAW) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islamic Monotheism) to make it victorious over all other religions even though the Mushrikun (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, and disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah and in His Messenger Muhammed SAW) hate it. [Q 61 vs 9]
There is no doubt that to undertake this noble duty, Islam is in need of sincere, morally upright, pious, focused, serious, intelligent, and qualified individuals, not jesters, unserious, unsincere, and ignorant people who do not have Islam’s best interest at heart.
If we fail to do this, we will keep churning out the Naira Marleys and Bobriskys of this world, as well as the incompetent Alfas who serve as their enablers.
Note: While not ruling out the role of parenting and good upbringing in all of this, I decided to tailor my response to the role of the Madrasa because that was the focus of the original post.
May Allah overlook our shortcomings.
Hafiz Akinde writes from United Kingdom.