{In Part 1, the Madrasa Boards of India and their origin, history, and relevance were discussed.}

Despite their huge influence over Indian Muslims for decades, they have failed to modernise and bring their curriculum up to date with the challenges of democracy and modernism.

Two influential Muslim scholars whose famous and much discussed debates helped to shape the Islamic reform movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were Syed Jamaluddin Afghani, known for his criticism of the Ulema and Muhammad Abduh who advocated using reason and critical thinking to interpret Islamic texts and beliefs.

In their famous debate, both found common ground in arguing that Muslims should rely on their own reasoning, independent of tradition and authority, to interpret these sources.

Their differences lay in Afghanis believing that Muslims had deviated from the true teachings of Islam and that the solution was to return to the original sources of the religion, the Quran and the Sunnah (the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad) and Abduh countering that Islam was a flexible and dynamic religion that could adapt to changing times and circumstances.

He also argued that Muslims needed to embrace scientific and technological advancements and that the traditionalist approach to Islam was holding back the progress of the Muslim world.

Inspired by these reform movements in the 19th century was the Aligarh Movement, which led to the establishment of the Aligarh Muslim University in 1920. The university was intended to provide modern, secular education to Indian Muslims while also promoting Islamic culture and values.

But the glaring failures of Aligarh Movement are visible today in the self-inflicted injury of the creation of Pakistan and the Partition and the continued trampling of the rights of Muslim women and their pitiable status as “unequal citizens,” a reference to Zoya Hasan and Ritu Menon’s work A Study of Muslim Women in India, OUP, (2004).

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Since madrasas teach women to be ‘kamil moomina’ (Hem Broker, Madrasas and the Making of Islamic Womanhood, OUP, 2018) and become good mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives, it is time women were given access to mosques and madrasas as actual equals.

This will enable them to recognise their rights within Sharia and make them educated and empowered enough to fight for their rights in cases where the Sharia laws violate those very rights, and they can appeal to the secular constitution of the country—the Shah Bano case of 1985-86.

The induction of women in madrasas, or Islamic educational institutions, has been a topic of discussion and debate in Muslim societies for many years. Traditionally, madrasas were exclusively male institutions, and women were not allowed to attend or receive formal Islamic education.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement to promote the inclusion of women in madrasas and expand their access to Islamic education.

This movement has been driven by a range of factors, including the recognition of women’s rights and the importance of gender equality, as well as the need to adapt to changing social and cultural contexts.

Some examples of the inclusion of women in madrasas in different Muslim societies are in Pakistan where in recent years, there has been a growing movement to include women in madrasas.

Traditional Islamic education has been largely limited to men, so some madrasas have responded to this by establishing separate women’s sections, while others have opened their programs to women.

For example, in 2017, the Jamia Binoria madrasa in Karachi established a separate women’s campus, offering a range of Islamic courses for women.

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In Egypt, which has a long history of women’s education, many madrasas in the country have offered Islamic education to women for centuries. However, in recent years, there has been a renewed focus on expanding women’s access to Islamic education, including through the establishment of specialized women’s madrasas.

For example, the Dar al-Ulum al-Salafiya al-Misriya in Cairo is a women’s madrasa that offers courses in Islamic law, theology, and Arabic language and literature.

Indonesia, the most populous country of Muslims, has traditionally been open to both boys and girls, and women have played an important role in Islamic education in the country. However, there has been a growing movement to promote the inclusion of women in more advanced Islamic studies, including through the establishment of women’s madrasas.

For example, the Al-Mukmin women’s madrasa in Yogyakarta offers a range of Islamic courses, including Quranic studies, Islamic law, and Arabic language.

In India too, this movement has been driven by a range of factors, including the recognition of women’s rights and the importance of gender equality, as well as the need to adapt to changing social and cultural contexts. Some Indian madrasas have responded to these pressures by opening their programs to women, either by establishing separate women’s sections or by admitting women into existing programs.

Others have been more resistant to change, citing concerns about the potential for mixing genders and the need to maintain traditional standards of Islamic education.

The inclusion of women in madrasas is a complex issue that involves not only questions of gender equality but also issues related to Islamic law and tradition.

Some scholars argue that there is a strong precedent in Islamic history for the education of women and that excluding women from madrasas is a form of discrimination. Others argue that there are legitimate reasons for maintaining separate educational spaces for men and women and that the inclusion of women in madrasas must be done in a way that is consistent with Islamic principles and values.

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Despite these challenges, the movement to promote the inclusion of women in madrasas has continued to grow in many Muslim societies. This reflects a broader trend towards the empowerment of women and the recognition of their important role in shaping the future of Islamic societies.

The madrasa boards in India will have to reform and modernise to adapt to the challenges of the 21st century, and updating the curriculum to include the liberal arts and sciences is not enough.

They will have to promote critical thinking, liberal dogma-criticism, and the acceptance of dissent and unbelief, along with the inclusion of women in desegregated sections and empowerment with knowledge about their rights not only under sharia laws but also as citizens of a liberal, secular democracy of India where they have a right to choices that may not necessarily reflect their religious beliefs and identity.

The criticism from the usual suspects of the male ulema and AIMPLB that attracted the proposal to set up madrasa boards similar to CBSE on 20, 2009, cannot be extended into the decade of 2020, when Iranian and Afghan women are giving their lives to upturn the effect of religious laws under patriarchal beliefs masquerading as faith. The automatic slogan “interference in our religious beliefs’ is not going to cut it in 2023. ■ #hydnews #khabarlive

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A senior journalist having 25 years of experience in national and international publications and media houses across the globe in various positions. A multi-lingual personality with desk multi-tasking skills. He belongs to Hyderabad in India. Ahssanuddin's work is driven by his desire to create clarity, connection, and a shared sense of purpose through the power of the written word. His background as an writer informs his approach to writing. Years of analyzing text and building news means that adapting to a reporting voice, tone, and unique needs comes as second nature.