In the early and middle centuries, the Islamic sciences enjoyed the highest level of priority among Muslims. Islamic history is witness to a large number of scholastic centers throughout Muslim world. The central Masjid in every city and town housed an Islamic institute that would host hundreds of knowledge seekers. The legacy of knowledge that was initiated by the Qur’an and the Prophet [P.B.U.H] continued and spread far and wide, finding homes in the great learning hubs of Baghdad, Balkh, Nishapur, Herat, Isfahan, Basra, Merv, Amul, Mosul, Damascus, Cairo, Sanaa and Delhi. These centers of continued legacy not only preserved the knowledge, but also led and guided Muslims in their times of hardship. These educational centers were later termed as Madrasah (Plural Madaris).
In India the history of Madaris is very old. However, the number of Madaris has enormously increased during the post-independence period. In the past, these institutions have played an important role in imparting Islamic education, increasing the literacy, and strengthening the Islamic consciousness and most importantly, providing training to the prospective civil servants. In the pre-colonial days, a graduate equipped with mathematics, logic, philosophy and the other secular sciences, along with the religious ones had better chances to get employment in the imperial civil service or in the courts of the regional rulers and nobles. Historically, Islamic education was used to strengthen and maintain “specific discourses of power,” consequently curriculum was designed accordingly to fulfill the needs of those who were in power. At first, during Akbar’s reign (1556-1605) the Madrasah curriculum was redesigned by Fatah Allah Shirazi (d.1589), a great Iranian scholar of Akbar’s court. Being himself a great scholar of rational sciences, Shirazi put emphasis on the rational sciences (m’aqulat) by adding more books on logic, philosophy, mysticism and scholasticism. On the other hand, the tradition of teaching religious sciences also flourished. This tradition was nourished by Sheikh Ahmed Sirhandi (d.1624), Sheikh Abdul Haq Muhadith Dehlvi (d.1641), Maulana Abdul Rahim (d.1718) and his son Shah Wali Ullah (d.1762).
Darse Nizami (View all Dars e Nizami book here)
Later a new curriculum was formulated keeping in mind the requirements of the time by Mulla Nizamudin Sihalwi (d.1748), who was contemporary of Hazrat Shah Waliullah, for Madrasah at Farangi Mahal. Later this curriculum was named after him as Darse Nizami. It became a landmark in the history of Muslim education in India and was adopted by most of the Sunni madaris of the Subcontinent. Around 10 Million students in 30000 Madaris were studying this syllabus around the world. Some amendments were introduced, particularly after the second half of the nineteenth century. Darse Nizami was meant to train administrators and to fulfill the need of ‘increasingly sophisticated and complex bureaucratic system’ of India. Dars, itself, did not demand rote learning, though it preserved the century’s old tradition of oral communication and the memorization of texts. Being tilted in favor of M’aqulat, the curriculum developed the habit of self thinking. The number of books on sciences, which strengthened the power of thinking such as scholasticism, mathematics, philosophy and logic, was higher than any other branch of learning such as Tafsir (exegesis of the Quran), Hadith (tradition of Prophet Muhammad PBUH), and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). Dars was basically a standardized method of learning rather than a list of books taught to the students. The fundamental feature of this curriculum was its emphasis on widening the mental horizon and develops the habit of reading and research and analytical skills rather than rote learning, in order to develop masterly or two relatively difficult books on a discipline. However their mental ability was put to scrutinize before initiating them into that process. After completing the study they were able to comprehend other books on that discipline also. In order to promote logic and philosophy in the madaris along with religious sciences, the Dars was heavily loaded with the books on grammar and syntax, to develop language skill in Arabic, the language of the textbooks and a means for the transmission of the heritage of the Islamic tradition. All these subjects which include logic, philosophy, grammar or syntax were considered ‘Ulum-e-‘aliya, instrumental sciences.
Life sketch of Mulla Nizmuddin
Mulla Nizamuddin was an originator of a great system which had far reaching effect upon the Muslim system of education. It would be proper to give a brief sketch of his life and character. Born in Sihali, a town 28 miles away from Lucknow, Mulla Nizamuddin was an illustrious son of an equally illustrious father Mulla Qutubddin Shaheed. Mulla Qutubddin was a theologian of great repute and saintly disposition and had an institution of his own which attracted a large number of students from neighboring districts. When Mulla Nizamuddin was only thirteen years old, Mulla Qutubddin, who came of Ansari family, was brutally done to death by some miscreants belonging to Uthmani family which was in long feud with the Ansaris. It was a great blow to the family indeed, but since the eldest son of the deceased was in the service of Emperor Aurangzeb, he was able to secure a royal edict from the Emperor, According by severe punishment was inflicted upon the men responsible for the murder of Mulla Qutubuddin and a spacious house in Fargangi Mahal (Lucknow) was allotted to the family of the deceased. There the whole of the Mulla’s family migrated from Sihali and made it its permanent home. Mulla Nizamuddin received his early education from his father and after his death he studied at Dewa and Banaras. At Dewa he was the pupil of Mulla Daniyal Chaurasi who had studied under Mulla Abdus Salam and who is credited to have written notes on Tawdih, Talwih and Baidawi which are considered as classics. According to Mawlana Manazir Ahsan Gilani the main reason for predominance of secular subjects in Darse Nizami is that Mulla Nizamuddin was the student of Mawlana Chaurasi who had himself received education from Mulla ‘Abdus Salam, an authority on secular learning. It was at Banaras that he completed his education under the well known scholar Hafiz Amanullah Banarasi, a pupil of his father. But there is another version of Mulla’s education. According to the author of ‘Subhatul Mirjan’ by Ghulam Ali Azad, he studied at different places in Eastern U.P. and it was at Lucknow that he completed his education undeer Sheikh Ghulam Naqshbandi Lucknawi.
After completion of education Mulla Nizammuddin assumed the seat of his father and started his own institution which, within a short time, became a great seat of theological learning in Eastern U.P.
Mulla Nizamuddin led a quiet, simple and contented life, disdainful of riches and men of riches alike. Despite his great talents and learning which could have easily bought him a comfortable life he preferred a life of poverty and drudgery to that of opulence and luxury. Unlike other Ulama (scholars), he was the very embodiment of humility which would not allow him to enter into a discussion or debate with anyone on any controversial point. If anyone disagreed with his point of view he did not push it any further, rather he would remain silent.
Mulla Nizamuddin has written commentaries and notes on certain books which are scholarly and are of high standard. But he has not been the author of an independent book on any subject taught in the Madaris. Nizamuddin’s reputation does not lie in the fact that he was author of so many commentaries, and notes, but because of the fact that he introduced a system of education which even after more than two hundred years, is still followed in most of the Madaris of today in the sub continent of India and Pakistan. During the period of the later Mughals a time was when this Darse Nizami proved an effective system of traditional education. At that time since there was hardly any difference between religious and secular learning, this Dars was able to produce not only theologians and divines but also men of letters, businessmen and the administrators for running the machinery of the government of the day. Undoubtedly it served the educational interests of the Muslim society well. With the advent of the British rule it was no longer as useful as it used to be and required certain changes to meet new demands of the changed society. But these institutions refused to recognize the urgings of the new society and clung hard to their old ways. Now in independent India the need for their reorientation is all the greater. Their reorientation can be achieved only when drastic changes are introduced into Dars.
Latest version of Darse Nizami Below is given the latest version of Darse Nizami which is adopted by Deobandi Madaris.
- Tafsir (exegesis) Tafsir al-Jalalain Anwar al-Tanzil Al-Kashshafan Haqaiq al-Tanzil.
- Usui al-tafsir (Methods of exegesis) Fauz al-kabir fi usul al-Tafsir.
- Hadith (Prophetic traditions) Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Al-Muwatta, Al-Tirmidhi , Abu Daud, Al-Nasai, Ibnlbn Majah, Mishkat Al-Masabih.
- Usui al-Hadith (Methods of Prophetic traditions) Sharh Nukhbat al-Fikr.
- Fiqh (Islamic law) Sharh Wiqaya , Al-Hidaya, Khulasa Kaidani, Kitab Muniyah, al-Musalli wa Ghuniyat Al-Mubtadi , Nural-idah, Mukhtasar al-Quduri , Kanz al-Daqaiq.
- Al-Faraid al-Sirajiya.
- Usui al-fiqh (Basis of Islamic law) Nural-anwar, Al-Tawdih fi hall jawamid al-Tanqih, Al-Talwih ila kashf haqaiq al-Tanqih, Musallam al-Thubut, Husami al-Muntakhab fi Usui al-Madhahib, Usui al-Shashi ,
- Sarf (Grammars) Mizan al-Sarf , Munshaib , Sarf-e Mir, Panganj, Dastur al-Mubtadi , Ilm al-Sigha, Fusul-e Akbari , Zaradi or Uthmaniya, Al-Tasrif al-Zanjani or al-Tasrif al-izzi , SarfBahai , Marah al-Arwah.
- Nahw (Syntax) Nahw-e Mir , Kitab al-Awamil, al-Miat or Miat amil , Sharh Miat amil, Hidayat al-Nahw, Al-Kafiya fil Nahw, Al-Fawaid al-diyaiya or Sharh Jami , Tashil al-Kafiya Hashiya Sharh Jami .
- Adab (Literature) Nafahat al-yaman, Saba Muallaqat, Diwan al-Mutanabbi , Maqamat al-Hariri , Al-Hamasa, Mufid al-Talibin, Nafahat al-Arab,.
- Mantiq (Logic) Al-Risala al Sughra fil Mantiq, Al-Risala al Kubra fil Mantiq, Kitab al-Lsaghuji, Mirqat, Mizan al-Mantiq, Tahdhib fi ilm al-mantiq , Sharh al-Risala al-Shamsiya or Qutbi, Mir Qutbi Sharh, Sullam al-Ulum or Mulla Hasan Sharh Sullam, Hamd Ullah Sharh Sullam, Qadi Mubarak or al-Munhiya , Al-Hashiya al-Zahidiya, al-Qutbiya or Risala Mir Zahid.
- Philosophy Sharh Hidayat al-Hikmat or Maybudhi, Sadra, Shams al Bazigha, Al-Hidaya al Saidiya.
- Theology Sharh Aqaid al-Nasafi, Al-Hashiya ala Sharh al-Aqaid or Khayali, Mir Zahid Sharh Mawaqif or Sharh al-lzzi.
- Mathematical sciences Tahrir usul al-handasa li Uqlidis, Khulasat al-Hisab.
- Astronomy Tasrih fi Tashrih al-Aflaak, Sharh Chaghmini.
- Metrics Arud al-Miftah.
- Rhetoric Mukhtasar al-Maani , Talkhis al-Miftah , Mutawwal.
- Debate Al-Adab al-Rashidiya fi ilm al-Munazara.
By Zubair Zafar Khan, Research Scholar, Department of Islamic Studies, Aligarh Muslim University.