Traditionalist ulema lead educational revolution in Kerala

Written by Yoginder Sikand · December 13, 2007 · 452 views

December 13, 2007

Kerala’s Muslims are unique among their co-religionists in India in fashioning a system of education that enables their children to attend both religious as well as regular schools at the same time. Muslims account for around a fourth of Kerala’s population, and the state’s Muslims, known as Mapillas, are among the most literate of the various Muslim communities in the country. Madrasas and schools run by literally hundreds of Muslim religious organizations in the state have made this possible. A recent study by Zubair Hudawi, himself a madrasa graduate from Kerala and presently a doctoral candidate at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, titled ‘Development and Modernisation of Religious Education in Kerala: The Role of the Samastha Kerala Jameyyat ul-Ulama’, discusses this contribution in great detail.

The Samastha Kerala Jameyyat ul-Ulama (SKJU) represents a traditionalist theological position, quite opposed to Islamic modernists on numerous points. Yet, as Hudawi argues, it has not hesitated from championing modern education. Hudawi, who spent several years studying at the Dar ul-Huda Islamic Academy, the SKJU’s leading centre for higher Islamic education, seeks to explain this enigma through an in-depth analysis of the organisation’s evolution and development, arguing against the notion that the traditionalist ulema are necessarily and wholly opposed to ‘modernity’. He argues that the SKJU is an excellent example of a traditionalist Muslim religious organization that, rather than opposing ‘modernity’ outright, actually facilitates it, albeit selectively. Thus, today, he writes, the SKJU runs not just several thousand madrasas but also numerous English- and Malayalam-medium schools, and scores of women’s and technical colleges. Continue reading “Traditionalist ulema lead educational revolution in Kerala”

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