At a time when the Adityanath Government has started a controversial survey of unrecognised madrasas in Uttar Pradesh, it has come to light that not just thousands of small, irregular madrasas but even some of the biggest ones with international fame are not recognised by the State Madrasa Education Board. Among them are the historic Darul Uloom, Deoband; Nadwatul Ulamma, Lucknow; and Mazahir Uloom, Saharanpur.
None of them is affiliated with the Uttar Pradesh Madrasa Education Board or recognised by the State Government. Their students cannot aspire to sit for State or Central Government examinations for jobs unless they complete graduation from a recognised university.
Set up in 1866, the Darul Uloom, Deoband, has more than a thousand students passing out of its portals every year. Except for those who complete their school through correspondence and follow it up with graduation from say, Maulana Azad National Urdu University or Jamia Millia Islamia, most are destined to be associated with madrasas only where they can aspire for a teacher’s job or be an imam or muezzin.
With salaries being as low as ₹6,000 in some cases, their pay scales fall well short of the government scales which they would have got had the seminary imparted them both theological and secular education with due recognition by the State bodies.
It is said that these historic madrasas, including Deoband and Lucknow Nadwa, do not apply for recognition to avoid paying their academic and administrative staff according to the official scales of the State.
There is a feeling too that recognition by the Madrasa Board is a two-edged weapon. On the one hand, it can get madrasas some grant from the government, on the other, there is the risk of increased interference of officials in day-to-day functioning.
Noted Islamic scholar and former chairman of Delhi Minorities Commission, Zafarul Islam Khan, who has also been a member of a madrasa modernisation committee, says, “Any interference occurs only when a financial grant is given by the State, in which case the State is fully justified to ask for a report of accounts”.
There are no such rules if the madrasa, however big and influential, is not affiliated to the Madrasa Board. The wages of an imam who leads five daily prayers besides teaching children for at least five hours a day are far inferior to those of an unskilled labourer at a construction site.
“Administrators of big madrasas are oblivious to the problems their graduates face. Since their ‘degrees’ are unrecognised, they seek jobs as teachers, imams and muezzin of mosques. Salaries are so meagre that they hardly survive,” says Mr. Khan.
The Deoband seminary remains unflustered by the lack of official recognition. A Deoband official says, “Ours is an international seminary. Association with Darul Uloom, Deoband carries prestige, not affiliation to an education board. We have zero per cent unemployment rate for madrasa students. The country needs more imams, teachers and qazis than Darul Uloom and other madrasas are able to churn out. There is criticism that students with Aamil and Fazil degrees cannot apply for government jobs but the students who come here do not aspire to get into State civil services or take the UPSC exams."
Fazlur Rehman, a senior official of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, adds: “There are thousands of unrecognised madrasas in UP. Nobody knows their exact number. Darul Uloom has played a pivotal role in the spread of education. It is a completely different ideology.”
It is a point reiterated by Muhibullah Nadwi, chief imam of New Delhi Jama Masjid, “I passed out of Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow. The students and the faculty there have a different worldview. You cannot measure everything according to the scientific scales or mathematical calculation. The students there come with the mindset of graduating to be moral custodians of society, not CAs or MBAs.”
He feels the absence of recognition of Nadwa did not prove to be a hindrance in his career. “Anybody who is desirous of going to a university is free to take that route. Nadwa does not dissuade students from pursuing secular education.”
Like its Deoband counterpart, Nadwa too is steeped in history, having been established in 1894. Increasingly, even those Deoband and Nadwa students who join universities on their own initiative take up courses like Urdu, Persian and Arabic, streams faced with diminishing job prospects.
The Deoband functionary questions any possible gains with recognition by the U.P. Madrasa Education Board, "There are 16,000 recognised madrasas in Uttar Pradesh. Their teachers have not been paid for two years.”
Incidentally, the Manmohan Singh Government had proposed setting up an all-India Board where every madrasa was supposed to apply for affiliation. And each madrasa was to impart secular education, according to the CBSE pattern. However, the UPA Government backtracked under the pressure of some powerful madrasas. “The U.P. Government’s madrasa survey is a political stunt,” Mr. Khan says.