Leaving Islam




The Institution called "Madrassah"

By: Shabbir Ahmed

The Institution called "Madrassah" has drawn attention worldwide in recent days. Specifically, after the capture of power in Afghanistan by the Madrassah graduates and teachers, the western media focused more on "Madrassahs" throughout the world. Some of the programs I watched in television on the Madrassah education in Pakistan and Afghanistan appeared to me very credible. The teachings were fully based on the primitive scriptures originated in Mecca and Medina about fourteen hundred years ago. In those programs, a few of the Madrassah teachers and students were interviewed. They were asked about their academic subjects and views about the non-Muslims based on their learning from the primitive books. The answers to the questions were mostly hateful. For example, they think that the non-Muslims must be converted to Muslims by applying force, if necessary. They also  think that the whole world should be under Sharia law. The implication of Sharia Laws in a society is barbaric to say the least. The abhorring rules of stoning to death, forcing women to wear burqah/veil (mobile prison), killing opponents (calling them by such name as Murtads), etc., are but a few of the barbaric rules of Sharia. All these Sharia Laws based on Quran and Hadiths are the areas of focus in Madrassah education. They read, memorize, and believe in the myths of Quran. Arabic language is taught for them to understand the essence of both Quran and Hadiths.

Some defenders of Madrassahs may raise question about the authenticity of the reporting of the western media about Madrassah education. For them, I would like to express my own experience about the products of Madrassah education. Whenever I found time, I wrote a few essays supporting the freethinkers (mainly in "News from Bangladesh"). In particular, I see the courage and intellectual strength in some of our brave Bangalee writers. They are well focused and they understand the root causes of ills of Muslim societies in many countries. I cautiously try to maintain the impersonal nature in all of my writings. So, I don't want to bring up my own identity or the identity of any of my near ones. After all, the subject of discussion is more important than the persons who are writing on the subject. Here, only for the sake of writing on Madrassah education, I'm just mentioning about one of my near relatives who unfortunately had studied in a Madrassah.

My grandfather was a Maulana. He worked as a "Head Maulana" in our local High School before he retired from there and established a Madrassah in our village. He studied in Calcutta Government Alia Madrassah during the period of British Raj in India. While he was alive, he used to tell me all kinds of stories about his education and stay in hostel in Calcutta.  Whenever we visited our ancestral home in the village, he used to teach me on the strict rules of Islam that he learned from the institution called "Madrassah."  He narrated glorifying stories of Prophet Muhammad, his wars, his wives, etc. Once he even told me how much the Prophet of Islam loved his youngest wife, Ayesha, whom the prophet called Ummul Mumeneen (the mother of all believers). I learned from him that she was one of the major sources of Hadiths because she lived a long time after the death of the Prophet. All that my grandfather tried is to teach and tell me only on Islamic history, rules-regulations, etc. I never learned or heard a sentence from him on science, Bangalee's culture, world history, music, arts, etc.  He didn't have any clue about how scientists in the world were discovering mystery of nature or exploring the evolution of lives in the natural environment. I doubt he even knew anything about Einstein, Newton or any other scientists. To him, everything including electricity, flying jet, automobile, etc. came down by the grace of Almighty Allah and through the teachings of his Rasul (prophet). He thought all the things of the whole world were compiled in Quran and Hadith. That is what they were taught in Madrassahs. He was highly antagonistic to music, songs, arts, etc.  Initially, he even didn't allow his son (my father) to hear music/songs in radio. However, later, he needed to hear the news in radio about Indo-Pak war that took place in 1965. Like many other Maulanas of his time, he probably believed that Pakistan would occupy the whole of India in 1965. To hear news of Radio Pakistan, he liked radio. But, he didn't like the songs broadcasted in radio. He was so antagonistic to music and songs that he issued fatwa against those who would arrange music programs in our village. He had overwhelming support from the common villagers to humiliate those who defied and arranged any cultural program in the village.

My grandfather was a person whom I would not hesitate to call a "Sharia Intellect" based on his Madrassah education and in many cases he used to issue mild punishment based on Sharia Laws to those who defied Islamic rules after Jumma Prayer occasionally in the village mosque. A fter seventeen years of his demise, I met one person in New York in 1987 who told me aboutthe threat of fatwa of my Madrassah educated grandfather. The gentleman was from our neighboring village. He came forward to meet with me after knowing that I was the grandson of that great Maulana ("Bara Huzur") of our village. He told me how they used to gather in one of the homes of our village to hear songs at night in a gramophone and how fearful they were about the Islamic ruling of my grandfather.  I felt sorry for those very cheerful younger guys who just wanted to enjoy their free time at night after daylong hard work in the village. Whenever we visited our village home, I still remember how my grandfather tried to implement strict Islamic rules upon the female members of our family. They weren't allowed to go out of home without proper veil and not allowed to make any sound while laughing. In fact, he tried always to establish Sharia rule in our village. My mind opened about the backwardness of Islamic rules and Madrassah education as I grew with secular education. But, this is a separate story on which I may write at a later time.

One of my friends recently asked me a question: "what my grandfather would do to me if he were alive now and if he could be able to know my secular philosophy?" I replied him that my grandfather would probably have issued a fatwa with tough punishment. According to his knowledge on Sharia Laws, I would have been labeled as a Murtad (an apostate). He would havegiven me the toughest punishment to show his unbiased devotion and love for Islam and its barbaric Sharia Laws. I remember reading the killing of a Saudi princess for her affairs with a westerner. She was excused. Inhuman Sharia Laws are so barbaric that the appeal of the love of a loving mind/heart doesn't matter at all. It teaches against the freedom of speech. It teaches against the choice of an individual. It teaches to crush the opposition. It teaches even to hate the loved ones having any choice not in conformity with Islamic rules. I'm giving my opinion from what I read about the stories of the ones terribly humiliated and crushed for their opposing views against Sharia. The implementers and the interpreters of Sharia Laws are always the Madrassah graduates. As it appears, that's all they learn to apply their knowledge for the betterment of a society. By implementing the barbaric Sharia Laws, the Madrassah graduates are doing more crimes against humanity everyday in the villages of Bangladesh. We observed how the Madrassah students acted violently on the street against High Court Judges for banning Fatwa.


I had a few other close relatives who finished their education in Madrassah. One of them was a Professor in government colleges and later retired as a Principal from one of the colleges. He was both a Madrassah graduate and a graduate (M.A. in Arabic) from the Calcutta University. Another member of my near ones retired from a government school as a "Head Maulana." A few others also got their education in Madrassahs. So far, I understand about them that given the opportunity, all of them would have liked to implement strict I slamic rules. I observed that their worldview was focused on applying Sharia Laws.  Implementing "Fardth" and "Sunnah" of Islam were their main targets. After all, they were taught only the two main books "Quran" and "Hadith." Many of them expressed their heartfelt desire to bring the whole world under the Sharia rule of Rasul (Prophet) and Allah. I don't think that the Madrassah educationists are all heartless people. I saw my grandfather how kind he was to a beggar. He used to feed by his own hand to any blind beggar. But, the same Maulana, my grandfather, would definitely have been very harsh/tough to an intellectual who would critique any rule of Islam. The Islamic teachings only want the followers to surrender without question. So far, these are the teachings they get in Madrassahs. The Madrassah graduates are kind to those who unquestionably surrender to their philosophy but they are very tough and violent to those who question the validity of the barbaric Sharia/Islamic rules.

One may investigate the Madrassah education now and will find that this education system has not been improved/changed/modified at all. While I went to Bangladesh in 1997, I happened to have some conversation with a Madrassah student. I asked him about the subjects they were taught. As expected and anticipated by me, he said that the subjects were only Quran and Hadiths. These  are taught in different years of their Madrassah education.  Different types of Tafsirs (interpretation) of Quran and different chapters of Hadiths are taught during their stay in Madrassah. They are not taught about subjects such as economics, science, etc. They don't know about modern economics, cost -benefit analysis, internal rate of return, etc. based on interest. According to their views derived from Sharia, these are haram (forbidden). In fact, the subject "Economics" will be totally considered Haram by some of the fanatic  Madrassah-educationists.

Considering all the deficiencies in Madrassah education, it's really alarming to know that the present Bangladesh government has decided to allow Madrassah graduates to join the civil service.

One should not mix up American Islamic schools with Madrassahs. In American Islamic schools, the students are taught science, mathematics, social studies, and literature. These students have to go through state and national examinations if they want to go to better colleges and universities. The curriculum in the Islamic schools in USA is not based on Hadith and Qur'an. The criminal nature of the modern-day Madrassah students will be exposed once any government decides to reform. I strongly believe that the graduates of Madrassahs learning only Qur'an and Hadiths should not be included in the Bangladesh Civil Service. This is an ill-conceived idea, which should be opposed by all decent Bangladeshi folks





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