Darul Uloom Deoband: A breeding ground of academic excellence and political vision
It would have been hard to imagine that a Darul Uloom established under a pomegranate tree, in the courtyard of Chhatta (beehive) mosque, more than one and half centuries before would grow as one of the greatest Islamic universities of the world.
Foundation of Darul Uloom Deoband
In May 1857, Islamic scholars and anti-colonialist ulema issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to support the revolting sepoys against the British East India Company. Imdadullah Muhajir Makii, a well-known religious leader led jihad from Shamli district, Uttar Pradesh against the British in the First War of Independence of 1857.
As the rebellion was overcome by the British and the imperial British government took over the charge of India, the influence of Christian missionaries threatened Islamic education and culture. The Muslim scholars thought of safeguarding and reforming Islamic education to combat the challenge of rights of the Muslims curtailed in the new political system.
Therefore, on May 30, 1866, an Islamic Madrassa called Darul-Uloom was established at Deoband town in Saharanpur district, Uttar Pradesh, India. Darul Uloom Deoband deriving its name from the town where it is situated was founded by a group of Muslim scholars, including Muhammad Qasim Nanautawi, Sayyid Muhamad Abid and Fazlur Rahman Usmani.
The establishment of Darul-Uloom Deoband was not only a traditional Islamic institution. It was meant to be a part of a great movement for the revitalization of Islam and the center of political, training. The movement was inspired by the spirit of renowned scholar Shah Waliullah (1703–1762).
Darul Uloom Deoband started with Mahmud Deobandi being the first teacher, teaching his first student Mahmud Hasan Deobandi (1851 – 30 November 1920) known as Sheikh Ul-Hind. It was followed by 21 other students getting admission and the number reached to 78 (58 being from areas out-side Deoband) at the end of the first year.
Academic Greatness of Darul Uloom Deoband
In the first thirty years, from 1866 to 1896 the Darul-Uloom produced 277 Islamic Scholars, 1700 Scholars from 1896 to 1930 and 4483 Scholars from 1930 to 1981. All these Islamic Scholars went back to their countries and they had inspired Islamic education across the world. Darul Uloom Deoband became the second-largest center of Islamic teaching and research after the Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt.
Today Deobandi school of thought has inspired the establishment of Islamic universities in many countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, the United Kingdom, Canada, United States, South Africa, West Indies, Saudi Arabia, etc.
Students and degrees awarded here
Currently, more than 5 thousand students are studying in Darul-Uloom Deoband in different classes. The present syllabus taught is the modified version of Dars-e-Nizami which is the 18th-century Indo-Islamic curriculum. It consists of four stages Primary, Middle, High, and Post-graduate.
During these stages, the students learn Arabic grammar, language, Quran, Hadith and Islamic jurisprudence. The Darul Uloom awards graduate degree (Sanad-e-Faraghat) to the students after the successful completion of this 8-year course of the Arabic classes. Students who complete the advanced course called Takmil Ifta get the title of Mufti.
Political Vision of Deobandi Scholars
Darul-Uloom Deoband soon developed into a glorious movement upholding Islamic revivalist and anti-imperialist ideology. After the failure of Tehreek Reshmi Rumal, (The Silk Letter Movement) a large group of Deobandi scholars formed Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind as a political party in 1919.
This group of Deobandi Scholars included Husain Ahmad Madani, Maulana Kifayatullah Dihlawi, Ahmed Saeed Dehlvi, Muhammad Naeem Ludhianvi, Maulana Ahmed Ali Lahori, Anwar Shah Kashmiri, Abdul Haq Akorwi etc.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind opposed the partition of India. Towards the time of Indian independence, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind advocated an idea of composite nationalism in which Hindus and Muslims were perceived as one nation, united against British rule.
Stood against partition of India
Husain Ahmed Madani, a student of Shiekh-Ul-Hind wrote a book titled Muttahida Qaumiyat Aur Islam (Composite Nationalism and Islam) in 1938 to support the idea of composite nationalism. According to Husain Ahmad Madani, different religions do not constitute different nationalities. He thought both believers and non-believers in Islam can share the same territory and therefore the same nationality. A common motherland, language, ethnicity, which unite Muslims and non-Muslims sharing one or more of these traits in common constitute a nation.
He argued that the partition of India, therefore, did not have any religious justification and it was purely a political issue. The book emphasized that those who wished partition of India were secular elite, and not religious leaders.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind supported the Indian National Congress’ struggle for a united and secular India where all the communities were equal in the eyes of law. Therefore, it urged all people to struggle jointly for a democratic government in which Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians are included. They believed that kind of freedom was in accordance with Islam.
A small group of scholars changed their position and established Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam in 1945. They supported Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s Muslim League. Thus, the split in Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind was one of the main reasons that the Pakistan movement got the support of the larger majority of Muslim population.
(Written by Ijaz Ali, a freelance journalist. He holds a Master Degree in European Studies from Germany and can be reached at [email protected])