TAPSA talk: “Indian Madrasas and Change: Evolution of the Educational System and Curriculum of the Arabic Program at Dar al-‘Ulum Deoband, 1866 – the Present”

Thursday, October 10, 2019 - 5:00pm

Foster 103

Aamir Bashir, doctoral candidate in Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago

Modern scholarship on Indian madrasas has often deemed them to be beholden to an outdated curriculum first devised in the 18th century. Despite the sweeping nature of the claim, most studies do not engage with the actual contents of the curricula, and those that do fall short of providing a historical analysis of the development of madrasa curricula in the modern period (19th century – the present). This paper seeks to fill this gap by looking at the history of education at Dār al-ʿUlūm Deoband, the oldest and the most prominent of Indian madrasas. More specifically, this article focuses on two things, the evolution of the overall educational system at Dār al-ʿUlūm Deoband, and of the curriculum of its Arabic program (darajāt-i ʿarabiyya) aka dars-i niẓāmī. Using primary sources, I describe how Dār al-ʿUlūm Deoband’s educational system has evolved over time to become a 14 – 17-year long system in which the Arabic program is now just one component. Using seven curricula dating from 1870 through 2015, I demonstrate that Deobandī madrasas have been updating their curricula regularly. However, the pace of change is much slower than what the reformers (both insiders and outsiders) call for and is limited to the ancillary sciences (ʿulūm āliya) and introductory levels of the religious sciences (ʿulūm sharʿiyya or ʿulūm ʿāliyya). Furthermore, there seems to be an almost non-existent engagement with modern knowledge. I conclude by offering some preliminary explanations for the way these curricula have evolved, mainly focusing on the colonial and post-colonial contexts of South Asia.

Thursday, October 10, 2019 – 5:00pm
Foster 103