In the Aftermath of Madāris

In the Aftermath of Madāris 

“If we have the slightest hope of preserving Islam for our children, we must invest in ʿUlamāʾ,” stated Mufti Amin Kholwadia to more than a thousand attendees at Masjid Zakariyya, a Deobandi Masjid, in Fremont, California. Mufti Amin’s lecture opened with critiquing the colonial assumptions anchored in our community vis-a-via the madrasa: that a madrasa is a site of medievalism, a cause for the ummah’s regression, and a school which offers nothing besides rote memorization. “The Madrasa is the center where scholars like Imām Ghazali, Imām Rāzī, Ibn Rushd, and Ibn Ḥazm cultivated their genius.”

Mufti Amin’s emphasis on rethinking what a Madrasa struck home, as he lamented that “we don’t see the Madrasa as anything but an after-school maktab here in America.” The Madrasa should be and is so much more — it is where dialogue, debate, writing blossom to their fullest extent, and as Mufti Amin said, it has served as the home of “law, language, philosophy, metaphysics, Quranic exegesis, Hadith methods for over a thousand years.”

This discussion twined well with his earlier lecture in the day at Stanford’s MSU, where a litany of undergraduate and graduate students at Stanford collected to hear Mufti Amin’s vision of Darul Qasim College, emphasizing the multi-disciplinary of the college and the wider Islamic tradition, and highlighting two fields abandoned in the Madrasa: Theology & Taṣawwuf. “Kalām is there to defend theology not to invent it, and it is succeeded by Taṣawwuf. Sufism, at its core, is post-politics and is the definition of activism- the linkage between ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī and Nūr al-Dīn Zenghī still offers a remarkable example of the role of Sufism in transforming the rhythms of the world.

When a question was asked about the role of ijtihād by a student in the audience, Mufti Amin explained the nature of legal reasoning in the Islamic tradition. “We don’t need to rewrite the law insofar as we need to enlist the legal reasoning of our previous jurists whose texts on law and judicial procedure is more than enough to enhance our modes of applying the proper ḥukm, or legal judgement.”

Near the end of his speech at Masjid Zakariyya, Mufti Amin concluded on the devastating need for institution building, couching his call with precedent: every ṣaḥābi was an institution, and quoted a vignette from the life of Sayyiduna ‘Umar, when he, as a caliph, appointed a designated role for major ṣaḥāba: financial, Qurʾānic, legal, and judicial. The precedent for institutions in our tradition is luminously bright, and only through a closer look, in a madrasa, may we begin to see the shimmers of it.

– Mawlana Saaleh Baseer | Lecturer, Department of Arabic