This is a very brief background regarding the Dars-e-Nizami system that we study in Darul Ulooms, I hope it will help us to appreciate it more.
Since the beginning of Islam, it has been a custom for Muslims to spread the religious knowledge in whatever manner possible. In the early days, due to the luxuries of today not being accessible, the Arabs would mainly preserve the Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet ﷺ by means of memory, as their memories were inimitable. Many had memorized the Qur’anic scripture and the prophetical sayings to memory, which in later times had to be conserved as many heretic and heterodox movements started to fabricate sayings of the Prophet ﷺ. At time, Islamic Education would transpire to Halaqat gatherings which would take place in Masjids, libraries and hospitals which slowly resulted in the forthcoming of Madrasah’s i.e. Islamic Universities, to master the sciences of Islam.
Mawlana ‘Abd al-Hayy Lakhnawi (rahimahullah), a great scholar of the Indian Sub-Continent writes in his article: “India’s medieval system of education and its modification” that the 7th century and the 9th century were a great build-up towards the Dars-e-Nizami system. In these eras the study of Arabic Grammar and etymology and especially jurisprudence took precedence and was perceived at the most important subject. Many scholars started to compile books and wrote extensive compendiums of which some were destroyed in 1258 C.E. The seige of Baghdad in 1258 C.E. was a cause of much Uloom in the India Sub-Continent. The Mongol destruction of the Abbasid Caliphate caused many Ulama and Sufis to migrate to these lands, although many works were left behind and were destroyed, some scholars were able to bring with them major Hanafi texts and commentaries in order to carry on the tradition.
Brother Hamid Mahmood says:
The incident of 1258 saw vast numbers of refugees seeking refuge in Al-Hind and among them were ulama and sufis.
These scholars were later employed by the state bureaucracy in various capacities, as judges, experts in offering legal opinions, censors of public morals, preachers and teachers.
As time elapsed, many people started to migrate to the Indian Sub-Continent, various colleges started to spread and teach different religions. Simultaneously, many Islamic colleges were uprooted, Hamid Mahmood says:
The British Raj (colonial terrorists) decided to uproot the madaris of India and hence Shah Waliullah (rahimahullah)’s madrasa in Delhi too became a victim.
Hamid Mahmood further describes the decline of the Muslims in India as much uloom has started to be washed away. He describes that there was a dire need for an uprise in the Muslim society.
Deoband Darul Uloom was also one of those institutions that was established for the education of Muslims to preserve the legacy of Islam.
After the attack of the British terrorists in India and the appearance of various heterodox movements, the social structure of India was damaged greatly creating much confusion in the minds of many not being able to differentiate between innovations and the Islamic creed. Hence Islamic scholars started Deoband Madrasah which is an Islamic University. Another reason for its establishment was to counter the British Education Ideology that aimed at spreading Christianity through various British colleges and other institutions. The educational system that was used to teach was the Dars-e-Nizami system which was initially set up by Mullah Nizamuddin Sehalwi (rahimahullah) who was a contemporary of Shah Waliullah (rahimahullah), and was worked upon during the years.
The educational system in Darul Uloom Deoband was a means to train people to be able to understand Islam and contribute to the society. Mufti Taqi Usmani writes in his Nazratun Aabirah in which he discusses in detail the Dars-e-Nizami system according to Mufti Taqi is to make people who are firm in their religion know the creed and know the proofs of the religion so that they can be satisfied themselves and also satisfy others. He states that this will help a person to understand the difference between his ego and the Islamic principles which will aid him to become a better person.
The Dars-e-Nizami consists of books relating to Qur’an, Hadith, Jurisprudence (Fiqh), Rhetoric, Arabic Grammar, Morphology, which gives students a basis to study further, rather than restricting them to only the books they learn in the system. This base allows them to grow in the field of Hadith through which one could become a Muhaddith and in the field of Tafsir through which one could become a Mufassir or the field of jurisprudence through which one could become a justice and much more as this is the opinion of Mufti Taqi. Not only does it increase a person’s Islamic understanding, it also focuses upon the spirit, how can a person become a good Muslim who aids the society. In the early stages of the establishment of Darul Uloom Deoband, the six major hadith books were not taught and were not of the Dars-e-Nizami system.
Deoband adopted Dars-e-Nizami in its Madrasa and they used to teach it, none of them included Hadith as a part of the syllabus at that time, except in some places that used to teach Mishkat.
The Madrasa had to reform their syllabus as they were facing two main attacks in the academic field. Maulana Nazir Hussain Ad-Dehlawi and the other by Ahmed Raza Khan from a town called Bareilly who were distorting Hadith & Fiqh to suit their own personal agendas respectively and criticizing some aspects of the Deobandis. The main person behind the change was Maulana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi (rahimahullah) who was well-educated and taught two of the major books, Bukhari and Tirmidhi.
One question may arise, that what was the reason for Islamic institutions to choose for the Dars-e-Nizami system, what was the objective behind it. Mufti Taqu Usmani explains in his book Nazratun Aabirah that after the Mughals took control over the sub-continent, the Dars-e-Nizami system became widespread in South Asia.
Hindustan became known for its Uloom around the group. It was this very system that pushed the Asian Muslim society towards great success. Mufti Taqi says:
It was most essential that we would adopt the Dars-e-Nizami system as it produced thousands of men that were experts in the field of knowledge. [Nazratun Aabirah, p.6]
This system was initially made to produce such people that were capable of leading a nation or atleast help the community. It was proven to be effective, as it produced thousands that were well educated in order to teach others.