By Sayyid Mahbūb Rizwī
Translated by Prof. Murtaz Ḥusayn F. Qurayshī
On seeing the syllabus of Dār al-‘Ulūm Deoband, the question arises: ‘Why were the modern sciences, which had already reached India at the time this syllabus was compiled, not included in it?’ The reason for this non-inclusion, according to Mawlānā Muḥammad Qāsim Nānautawī, was that these subjects were being taught in the government schools that had been established in the country at various places and everyone could take advantage of these. On the contrary, the old (sacred) sciences were in a state of abandonment and there was not even an inferior arrangement for teaching these. Moreover, in this syllabus itself attention had been paid to the creation of so much ability in the student that he might acquire knowledge of other sciences through self-study. This question had also cropped up at the inception of the Dār al-‘Ulūm itself; on the convocation of 1290 AH Mawlānā Nānautawī threw full light on this question. He said:
“For the education of all the rational and traditional sciences and to acquire competency therein, this madrasah and the madrasah at Saharanpur (Maẓāhir ‘Ulūm) are, no doubt, an excellent provision; and if it please Allah, the alumni here, provided they complete the curriculum, can easily and quickly acquire the remaining ancient and modern sciences by dint of the power of their ability. The reason therefore is that in these madrasahs, the greatest objective, besides the religious education, is the attainment of the power of ability. We did not rest content with only the religious sciences but as per the old system, have also provided subjects that develop intelligence, an excellent result of which in the former times was that great savants and polymaths possessing prodigious abilities were produced in legions amongst the followers of Islam. Hence, we understand with certainty that though the students here may not have succeeded with some of the modern arts and sciences, the ability of theirs may prove sufficient like a perfect teacher for their education. In other schools, though, due to the teaching of some modern subjects, the students thereof may have acquired some new acquaintance of those subjects which the students here may be wanting in, the latter, in fact, in the eyes of the just, would be considered, by virtue of their ability, superior to the former in these subjects also.
“Notwithstanding all this, even if some loss is conceivable supposedly due to lack of practice in some of the modern subjects, then due to want of ability and absence of the knowledge of religious sciences the students of those schools ought to be considered inferior to the students of this madrasah.
“Now we also point out this thing so that it may be known why in respect of acquirement (of knowledge) this special method was proposed and why the modern subjects were not included. The main reason, inter alia, for this is that whether training be special or general that aspect should be borne in mind from which crack may have developed in their accomplishment. Accordingly, it is manifest upon men of intelligence that nowadays education in modern subjects is making rapid progress due to the outnumbering government-run-schools. Indeed the old sciences must never have declined so much as they did now. Under such circumstances the people looked upon the founding of schools for modern sciences as an exercise in futility. Hence, it was considered necessary to spend money for the traditional sciences, as also for those disciplines which certainly develop ability for the conventional (religious) as well as the modern sciences.
“Secondly, the acquisition of numerous sciences at one and the same time proves detrimental to ability in respect of all the sciences. Of course, after acquiring the knowledge of intelligence-developing subjects, which have been prescribed especially for the acquisition of ability, if the old and new arts (subjects) too are acquired, the span of time required for their acquirement will, of course, remain equal. The objective will be achieved well enough through its antecedence and subsequence, as the ability of each science and hence the reason-developing sciences were introduced, along with the traditional sciences, in the curriculum. Hereafter, if the students of this madrasah, joining government schools, acquire knowledge of the modern subjects, this thing would more shore up their accomplishment.” (Rūdād Dār al-‘Ulūm Deoband, 1290 AH, p. 15-6)
On another occasion, replying to the objection that modern sciences have not been included in the curriculum of Dār al-‘Ulūm, he says:
“There is no arrangement here at all for the teaching of the worldly sciences. The answer (to this objection) firstly is that there ought to be a treatment of the disease. To take medicine for a disease, which is not there, is useless. The crack in the wall should be filled in; it is necessary to fill the kiln. What is it but foolishness to be anxious about the brick that has not fallen down? Of what earthly use are the government schools? If the profane sciences are not taught there, what else is done?” (Rūdād Dār al-‘Ulūm Deoband, 1292 AH, p. 13)
Rizvi, Sayyid Mahboob (1981). History of the Dār al-‘Ulūm Deoband, Volume 2. Deoband: Idara-e Ihtemam. p. 211-3.