[By Hakimul Ummat Hadhrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thaanvi — Rahmatullah alayh]
In the present age there are two kinds of corruption in the Talaba (Students of Daarul Ulooms): Corruption in relation to the quest for Ilm, and corruption in relation to Akhlaaq (Islamic moral character). Comparatively speaking, it can be discerned with great clarity that the difference between Talaba and Asaatizah of this age and those illustrious Mutaqaddimeen Ulama (of bygone times) is like the distance between east and west.
The enthusiasm for the quest of Ilm in those noble beings was such that they would undertake difficult journeys of hundreds of miles to gain the knowledge of one Hadith. They underwent extreme hardship in the mission to investigate even a single narrator of Hadith. If, inspite of all the hardship they did not attain the goal, they would not abandon the quest.
They spent nights investigating, researching and studying a single mas’alah, and they would fully engross their brains to unravel and understand every line (of their lessons). Volumes have been compiled on their selfless sacrifices in their true quest for the acquisition of Knowledge (of the Deen).
Their material state was such that they were without text books. They could not afford oil for the lamp. They had no sponsor to assume responsibility for the necessary expenses of their studies (food, clothing, etc.). They passed their days in hunger but diligently pursued the Path in the quest of Ilm. I heard from reliable authorities that there were 22 Talaba (Students) in the Bukhaari Sharief class of Hadhrat Maulana Shah Muhammad Ishaaq (rahmatullah alayh), but they had only one copy of Bukhaari Sharief.
To acquire the jewels of Ilm they dived deep into the ocean of talab (search). If the episodes of their search have to be narrated to present-day Talaba, it will not be surprising if they refute these as beingfar-fetched.
Everyone can testify to the wonderful fruit which their efforts had realized. They attained mastery and perfection in every branch of knowledge. In fact, they transported Tafseer-e-Hadith, Usool-e-Fiqh, Ma’aani, Tasawwuf, Nahw and Sarf— in short, every branch of Ilm — to realms beyond the limits of perfection. Truly, if they had not struggled and sacrificed so much in the quest of Ilm and in its formulation, today the world would have been dark with the zulmat (darkness) of jahl (ignorance).
Today, we have all the means and comforts for acquiring Ilm — affectionate Asaatizah, beautifully printed text books, exhaustive commentaries, elaborate boarding and lodging facilities. Everything has been made available for our comfort and ease. All means for the acquisition of Ilm have been presented to us. Inspite of this, the Talaba are not concerned with their kitaabs nor have they any affection and respect for the Asaatizah. They are bereft of eagerness nor do they have any enthusiasm for the quest of Ilm. Neither do they fulfil the rights of mutaala’ah nor takraar. They are devoid of the hue of Ilm.
The kitaabs will be completed and the Turban of qualification will adorn their heads while they are unable to write properly nor read the ibaarat (Arabic text) correctly except for a few.
RESULTS OF INABILITY
The consequences of this inability and incompetency are glaring. It is observed that when such incompetent Talaba issue from our Madaaris, they simply lack in ability. They have no ability to teach. They have no methadolgy in Ifta. Such incompetent ones either make lecturing their profession in which they also commit blunders, or they become Imaams of some Musaajid. If they have to take to teaching, they have to resign in humiliation.
In view of such results, the public due to little understanding, concludes that the aim of pursuing Knowledge of the Deen is merely lecturing and imaamate of the Musaajid to earn a livelihood. They therefore resolve to keep their sons away from the pursuit of Ilm-e-Deen. However, due to their inability to understand the reality, they fail to grasp that the lamentable plight of incompetent Talaba is not the consequence of Ilm (Deeni Knowledge). on the contrary, it is the lack of resolve of the Talaba.
I shall now turn my attention to the general public and say that even if we concede that this lamentable state is the product of Ilm, nevertheless, I claim with great emphasis and vociferously state that inspite of the poor quality of Ilm acquired nowadays, inspite of the shallowness of knowledge acquired, inspite of the lack of ability and competency, whether ability is gained or not, in fact, I shall expand on this and say that even if a student wastes his time in a Deeni Madrasah, it is infinitely superior than the pursuit of secular education (especially in the immoral institutions of this age). It is millions of times better to remain idle in a Deeni Madrasah than involvement in English (secular) studies which corrupt Aqaaid and Akhlaaq.
Even if excellence and perfection in Ilm are not acquired, at least correctness of Aqaaid will be ensured. Beliefs will not become corrupt. Living at the Madrasah will generate love for the People of the Deen. Even if the end result of studying at a Madrasah is to become a sweeper in a Musjid, it is superior than secular study, It is better than becoming a lawyer and a barrister, etc. and ruining one’s Aqaaid thereby shaking the very foundations of Imaan, and being disrespectful to Allah, His Rasool and the Sahaabah. Such evils are generally corollaries of secular education..
This preference, i.e. Deeni Knowledge over secular study, is exceptionally clear to those who love the Deen. Yes, those who have no relationship with the Deen, they will gorge out whatever drivel they wish. Nevertheless, there is the need to rectify and improve the standard of the ability of the Talaba. The consequences of lack of ability are not good. If this corruption (inability) is eliminated, a whole world will be reformed.
In the wake of reformation, the Ulama who will emerge from the portals of the Madaaris will be true servants of the Deen. Their Deeni services will then become conspicuous. I, therefore, submit my petition to the honourable Ulama who are engaged in the profession of tadrees (teaching the Deen) : Truly you are engaging in a noble profession—in a great occupation. The method in which you are teaching is in actual fact the right method. Great and illustrious Ulama were produced following this tareeq-e-tadrees. Even now too, albeit a few are produced in this system of ta’leem.
However, in this age, due to weakness of intelligence and deficiency in resolve, this tareeq-e-tadrees is not sufficient. There is a need for complementing this system and bringing about such a change which will create ability (isti’daad) in the Talaba. I am confident that you too feel this need. It is your duty to plan the system. This useless one shall also make some suggestions in this regard. Perhaps it will be beneficial.
There are several causes for this lack of ability (isti’daad). The general apathy of the Talaba. They have become indifferent to the goal of Ilm. Intelligent children are sent to secular institutions while parents divert their children of low intelligence to the Madaaris.
Besides the aforementioned, there is another cause. It is within the means of the Ulama to rectify this, and it is for this reason that I am presenting this discussion. That factor is that the ability of the Talaba is not being exploited. Hitherto the tareeq-e-tadrees is: The student recites the ibaarat (the text to be taught). The Ustaadh elaborates and expounds the text. If any student has a doubt during the course of the exposition, he poses a question The Mudarris responds. The Mudarris is unconcerned whether the Talaba understands the problem or not.
Some Asaatizah are concerned with only discharging of the Madrasah time (for which they have been engaged). Some lecture merely to present their eloquence. Some explain simply to display their ability and excellence. They do not think for a moment whether the students have understood or not, except a few. This method of teaching exists from the elementary text books until the end of the course.
I am of the opinion that this method of teaching is not beneficial for the beginners, in fact it is likewise of no benefit for even those of the middle classes. This system is effective for the students in the higher standards, and who are deriving academic benefits from senior Asaatizah. But for the beginners this system is very detrimental.
A rational principle is that a faculty or propensity which is not employed becomes deficient and redundant. This rule also applies to the faculty of intelligence. If it is correctly employed, it will be enhanced. In fact, this is the aim of studying the text books of the syllabus. The aim is that the Talaba should gain an excellent ability to research the kitaabs and understand these. The aim is not to memorize lectures. This is not possible. This ability is acquired by engrossment in study.
Talaba are nowadays indifferent. They do not make effort nor do the Asaatizah emphasise this. Hence, their faculty of intelligence becomes redundant and weak. Thus the ability of the Talaba remains stagnant even if the text books have been superficially completed. It is therefore necessary to effect some change in this tareeq-e-tadrees.
It is necessary to employ the latent ability of the Talaba. They should not be povided with solutions to problems without real need. They have to be made accustomed to juggle their brains. Every rule and principle should be grounded in them by means of plentiful exercises so that the student gains an excellent ability of applying the laws and principles (of grammar, Usool-e-Fiqh, Usool-e-Hadith, etc.).
While this method is very efficacious for the entire study course, it has greater emphasis and importance for beginners— for those doing the elementary kitaabs. It has been observed that the condition of beginners is exceptionally poor. They lack entirely in the understanding of the rules of Nahw and Sarf. If the elementary kutub have been mastered, all other kutub will become simple.
The method which Hakimul Ummat has suggested envisages the very same Dars-e-Nizaami syllabus which is being taught in our Madaaris. However, in view of the changing times and weakening conditions of the Talaba, there is a need for simplifying the method of teaching. While generally there is no emphasis on exercises and practice of the rules and principles, this has now become a necessity. Hadhrat Thaanvi (rahmatullah alayh) stresses that the pace of lessons should be slowed down while more attention and greater emphasis be accorded to ingrain the rules of Nahw and Sarf so that the Talaba become efficient in the application of the rules. Memorizing the rules is wholly inadequate, especially in today’s times. It is more efficacious to sometimes skip lessons and devote the time to exercises and revision. It serves no beneficial purpose to introduce more and more kitaabs in the syllabus and rush through the text books for the sake of having the ‘honour’ of having completed the year’s quota of books. Meanwhile the Talaba lack in almost entirety in proficiency and ability. They are extremely deficient in isti’taad. There is an inordinate rush in the Madaaris to complete the kitaabs whether students understand or not. Extremely little attention is given to ability and proficiency in Nahw and Sarf. Consequently, the Kutub of Fiqh, Hadith, Tafseer, etc. remain closed and incomprehensible books for these Talaba. The Asaatizah have the obligation of reassessing their methods of teaching.
Another evil which is plaguing some Madaaris, is the despicable attitude to emulate western styles and ways of teaching the Knowledge of Wahi. To conceal the lack of isti’daad, Talaba are exhorted to practise lecturing. Hence, if a so-called qualified student gives a bayaan in a Musjid, the public labours under the impression that he is a highly qualified Aalim while in reality he may not be able to even read the Arabic kutub correctly. The public speech acts as the camouflage for his inadequacy. Ilm cannot be judged by public speaking and ability to recite with Tajweed and in a melodious voice. In fact, in our illustrious Madaaris which had produced great Ulama, Auliya, Fuqaha and Mujaddideen, practising to give lectures was banned. Talaba in the early days were not permitted to engage in anything which was extraneous to the pursuit of Ilm. Public speaking is not among the goals of the quest of Ilm-e-Deen. The deteriorating standards in the Madaaris is cause for real alarm. It seems as if the Hadith predicting the disappearance of Ilm is attaining fruition right in the Madaaris. — The Majlis