Madrassas: The Potential for Violence in Pakistan

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Dr. Tariq Rahman[1]


(Since 9/11 the madrassas of Pakistan have come into international focus although none of the hijackers were from the country or were students from its seminaries. Madrassas undoubtedly have an obscurantist worldview but are not necessarily militant. Some of them espoused militancy because they were used by the state to reverse the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and later in Kashmir. However madrassas  are not the exclusive source of political violence. For instance many of the suicide bombers and those fighting non-Muslims, for whatever reason, are dropouts or graduates of secular institutions of learning. Those attending madrassas are almost all poor and an estimated 1.5 million were enrolled in these institutions in Pakistan in 2005. If militancy is to be decreased, the government will have to take measures for equitable distribution of wealth and provide justice to the poorest who are compelled to send their children to madrassas. On a parallel track, the state must stop arming and training religious cadres to promote its security objectives. Editor).


The madrassas of Pakistan have been making headlines since 9/11 when the twin towers were attacked by Islamic militants in the United States. Predictably, when the London underground transport system was attacked on 7 July 2005, once again these institutions came into the limelight. While none of the perpetrators of 9/11 were students of Pakistani madrassas, one of the British terrorists had allegedly visited one. According to Maulana Samiul Haq, head of this own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam and of the Daral Uloom Haqqania in Akora Khattak (North West Frontier Province), ‘Linking London bombing with Pakistani madrassas is only part of a broader campaign against these madrassas’ (Ali 2005). But no matter what the Maulana says, the madrassas are widely seen as promoting Islamic militancy.

Recently (March 2007) a female madrassa, the Jamia Hafsa of Islamabad was in the news first for having occupied a childrens’ library to prevent the government from demolishing mosques built in green areas and then for having kidnapped a woman who allegedly ran a brothel in Islamabad. Another major madrassa, the Jamia Binoria in SITE (Karachi), has also been in the news – again for violence. On 23 June 2005, two of its clerics were gunned down by unidentified men. Later 10 students of this seminary were killed in a bomb blast.

In short, the madrassas, which were associated with conservatism, ossification and stagnation of Islam earlier, are now seen as hotbeds of militancy in the name of Islam. After 9/11, a number of authors, both western (Singer 2001) and Pakistani (Haqqani 2002), have connected the madrassas with militancy. At least three reports of the International Crises Group (ICG) – published 29 July 2002, 20 March 2003 and 16 January 2004 – have taken the nexus between militancy and the madrassas as a given. However, these reports do not take a simplistic view of militancy among Muslims and do point out that the military has strengthened the religious lobby in Pakistan, of which madrassas are a part, in its own political interests.

The madrassas are blamed for terrorism not only in Pakistan but in India as well (Winkelmann 2006). They are harassed by the police (Rahman, S. U 2005: 117-123) and by the Hindu right (Kandasamy 2005: 97-103). Thus, in India, as in Pakistan, the madrassas defend themselves against allegations of terrorism and remain deeply skeptical of bringing about changes which, they feel, would undermine their autonomy and the authority of the ulema who control them (Wasey 2005).

Review of Literature

There was not much writing on the madrassas before the events of Nine Eleven in Pakistan. J.D. Kraan, writing for the Christian Study Centre, had provided a brief introduction (Kraan 1984). One of the first scholars to write on the madrassas was Jamal Malik. In his book (originally a doctoral dissertation), Colonialization of Islam, he included a chapter (V) on ‘The Islamic system of education’, which explained how the state has dispersed alms (Zakat) to the madrassas only if they complied with some of its rules and conditions. This had succeeded, ‘at least partially, in subordinating parts of the clergy and their centres to its own interests’ (Malik 1996: 153). However, during this process the clergy had succeeded, though again partially, in increasing its presence and voice in public institutions of learning. Later, A.H. Nayyar, an academic but not a scholar of Islam, had opined that sectarian violence was traceable to madrassa education (Nayyar 1998)—a position which was becoming the common perception of the intelligentsia of Pakistan at that time. The present writer wrote on language-teaching in the madrassas (Rahman 2002). The book also contained a survey of the opinions of madrassa students on Kashmir, the implementation of the Sharia, equal rights for religious minorities and women, freedom of the media, democracy etc. (Rahman 2002: Appendix 14). By far the most insightful comment on the madrassa system of education and the world view it produces comes from Khalid Ahmed, the highly erudite editor of the Daily Times English daily from Lahore. He claims that the madrassas create a rejectionist mind: one which rejects modernity and discourses from outside the madrassa (Ahmed 2006: 45-67).

The ulema or the Islamists in Pakistan have been writing, generally in Urdu, in defence of the madrassas which the state sought to modernize and secularize. Two recent books, a survey by the Institute of Policy Studies (patronized by the revivalist, Islamist, Jama’t-i-Islami) of the madrassas (IPS 2002) and a longer book by Saleem Mansur Khalid (Khalid 2002), are useful because they contain much recent data. Otherwise the Pakistani ulema’s work is polemical and tendentious. They feel themselves besieged increasingly by western (Singer 2001) and Pakistani secular critics (Haqqani 2002; Ahmad 2000: 191-192) and believe that they should defend their position from the inside rather than wait for sympathetic outsiders to do it for them (as by Sikand 2001 and 2006). Reports on the increasing militancy with reference to Islam, especially its relationship with madrassas, have been produced by the International Crisis Group (ICG), which are documented in the bibliography. The ICG also proposes measures to reduce militancy in Pakistani society which include reforming the curriculum of these seminaries and greater control over them (ICG 2007: 22).

Studies relating indirectly to Pakistan’s madrassas are also relevant for understanding them. An important book, comprising chapters by scholars on different aspects of madrassas in India, has been edited by Hartung and Riefeld (2006). This book has an excellent historical section on the development of the madrassas in India and sections about these institutions in contemporary India. The focus of attention is on the changes (reforms?) which can be made in these institutions with a view to making them potentially peaceful and unthreatening. The seminal work on the ulema, and indirectly on the madrassas in which they are trained, is by Qasim Zaman (2002). This is an excellent study of how the traditional ulema can be differentiated from the Islamists who react to modernity by attempting to go back to fundamentalist, and essentially political, interpretations of Islam.

This section draws for data on my chapter on madrassa education in my book entitled Denizens of Alien worlds (2004: chapter-5, 77-98) While some of the information given there has been repeated here to provide the historical background, there is some new information and, more significantly, new insights provided by recent reading and the conference on Islamic education in South Asia in May 2005 at the University of Erfurt (Germany).

Type and number of Madrassas

There is hardly any credible information on the unregistered madrassas. However, those which are registered are controlled by their own central organizations or boards. They determine the syllabi, collect a registration fees and an examination fees. They send examination papers, in Urdu and Arabic, to the madrassas where pupils sit for examinations and declare results. The names of the boards are as follows:-

Box 1
Central Boards of Madrassas in Pakistan
Name Sub-Sect Place Date Established
Wafaq ul Madaris Deobandi Multan 1959
Tanzim ul Madaris Barelvi Lahore 1960
Wafaq ul Madaris (Shia) Pakistan Shia Lahore 1959
Rabta-tul-Madaris-al-Islamia Jama’t-i-Islami Lahore 1983
Wafq-ul-Madaris-al-Salafia Ahl-i-Hadith Faislabad 1955
Source:            Offices of the respective Boards.

At independence there were 245, or even fewer, madrassas (IPS 2002: 25). In April 2002, Dr. Mahmood Ahmed Ghazi, the Minister of Religious Affairs, put the figure at 10,000 with 1.7 million students (ICG 2002: 2). They belong to the major sects of Islam, the Sunnis and the Shias, However, Pakistan being a predominantly Sunni country, the Shia ones are very few. Among the Sunni ones there are three sub-sects: Deobandis, Barelvis and the Ahl-i-Hadith (salafi). Besides these, the revivalist Jama’t-i-Islami also has its own madrassas.

The number of madrassas rose during General Zia ul Haq’s rule (1977-1988) presumably because of the Afghan war and increased interest of the Pakistani state in supporting certain religious groups to carry on a proxy war for Kashmir with India (more details about this will follow). The increase in the number of registered madrassas up to 2002 was as follows:

Box 2
Sect-Wise Increase in the Number of Madrassas
Deobandi Barelvi Ahl-i-Hadith Shia Jama’t-i-Islami Total
1988 2002 1988 2002 1988 2002 1988 2002 1988 2002 1988 2002
1779 7000 717 1585 161 376 47 419 97* 500 2801 9880
Source:            For 1988 see GOP 1988; for 2002 Report of Sindh Police in Dawn 16 Jan 2003.  The other figures have been provided by the Central Boards of madrassas. *This figure in GOP 1988 was for ‘Others’ and not only for the Jama’t-i-Islami madrassas. The figure for 2000 given in several sources is 6,761 (IPS 2002: 25). The government census gives different figures (see annexures 2and 3).

The figures for 2005 given by the Ittehad Tanzeemat Madaris-i-Deeniya (ITMD) on 23 September 2005 is some 13, 000 seminaries (quoted from Ahmed 2006: 45). This is confirmed by the Ministry of Education which gives the figure of 12, 979 madrassas in its National Education Census (GOP 2006: Table 8, p. 22). P.W. Singer, however, gave the figure of 45,000 madrassas as early as 2000 but quotes no source for this number (Singer 2001). The enrolment figures of the Government census are 1, 549, 242 students and 58, 391 teachers for 2005 (GOP 2006: Table 9, p. 23). The enrolment in all institutions was 33, 379, 578 with a teaching staff of 1, 356, 802 according to the same source (Ibid, Table 3, p. 17). The madrassas are not easy to count because, among other reasons, if a trust registered under the 1860 (societies) Act or any other law ‘runs a chain of twenty madrasas, in government files it would be counted as one institution’ (ICG 2007: 5). Moreover, some seminaries, teaching only part of the madrassa curriculum, are registered as welfare or a charity organizations(Ibid, 5).

The Saudi Arabian organization, Harmain Islamic Foundation, is said to have helped the Ahl-i-Hadith and made them powerful. Indeed, the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, an organization which has been active in fighting in Kashmir, belongs to the Ahl-i-Hadith (Ahmed 2002: 10). In recent years, the Deobandi influence has increased as the Taliban were trained in their seminaries (for the Taliban see Rashid 2000). This increase, calculated on the basis of figures available up to 2000, is as follows:

Box 3
Increase in the Madrassas between 1988 and 2000 in percentages
Deobandi 294%
Barelvi 121%
Ahl-i-Hadish 134%
Shia 792%
Others 415%
Total 253%
Source:    These percentages are based on the data in Box 2.   Khalid 2002: 176 gives entirely different, and unbelievable, figures.

It should be remembered that the Deobandi madrassas are concentrated in the NWFP and Baluchistan which are ruled by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of religious political party, which is seen as a threat to liberal democracy in Pakistan. Moreover, the people of the NWFP, being of the same ethnic group as the Taliban, are closely engaged in military action against the latter. This means that resentment against the government of Pakistan’s policy about the Taliban, or al-Qaeda, are expressed in the idiom of Islam. This is a major source of anxiety as far as the Deobandi influence is concerned.

The Sectarian Divide Among the Madrassas

Islam, like Christianity and other major world religious, has several interpretations. The Sunni and the Shia sects made their appearance within less than a century of Islam’s emergence in Arabia (see Jafri 1979). But both these major sects have sub-sects or maslaks among them. The madrassas teach the basic principles of Islam as well as the maslak, the particular point of view of a certain sub-sect, to their students. For the Sunnis, the majority sect in Pakistan, the madrassas belong to the Deobandi, Barelvi or the Ahl-i-Hadith maslak. Briefly, the Barelvis give extreme reverence to the Prophet of Islam to whom they attribute superhuman qualities. They also believe in the intercession of saints (Sanyal 1996). The Deobandis, on the other hand, follow a strict version of Islam in which saint worship is discouraged (Metcalf 1982). The Ahl-i-Hadith are even more strict being fundamentalists—having fallen back to the Quran and the hadith—and, therefore, forbid the practices of folk Islam (Ahmed 1994). The Jama’t-i-Islami is a revivalist religious party inspired by Abul Ala Mawdudi (1903-1979) which aims at taking political power so as to create on Islamic state and purify Islam (Nasr 1996).

Besides the Sunni seminaries there are Shia also madrassas. All the madrassas, including the Shia ones, teach the Dars-i-Nizami though they do not use the same texts. They also teach their particular point of view (madhab or maslak) which clarifies and rationalizes the beliefs of the sect (Sunni or Shia) and sub-sect (Deobandi, Barelvi and Ahl-i-Hadith). Moreover they train their students to refute what, in their view, are heretical beliefs and some Western ideas.

The Curriculum of the Madrassas

The Dars-i-Nazami was evolved by Mulla Nizam Uddin Sihalvi (d. 1748) at Farangi Mahall, a famous seminary of a family of Islamic school (Ulema) in Lucknow (Robinson 2002; for its contents see Sufi 1941 and Malik 1997: 522-529).

The Dars-i-Nizami is taught for eight years. Students begin after the school (maktab). All madrassas do not teach the full course. The ones which do are generally called jamiat or Darul Uloom. The medium of instruction is generally Urdu but in some parts of the  N.W.F.P it is Pashto while in parts of rural Sindh it is Sindhi. However, the examinations of the central boards allow answers to be given only in Urdu and Arabic. Hence, on the whole, the madrassas promote the dissemination of Urdu in Pakistan.

All the madrassas teach some modified form of the Dars-i-Nizami which comprises: Arabic grammar and literature; logic; rhetoric and mathmatics among the rational sciences (maqulat) among the religious sciences are the principles of jurisprudence; The Quran and its commentaries; and the Hadith. Some madrassas also teach medicine and astronomy. However, the books on these subjects – indeed on all subjects – are canonical texts sometimes going back to the 10th century. For instance, geometry is still taught through an Arabic rendition of Euclid (Aqladees). Medicine goes back to Abu ‘Ali Ibn Sina (980-1037) whose Al-Qanun was written under the influence of the Greek theory of the imbalance of humours in the body creating disease. Similarly, the canonical texts on the Quran and the Hadith are texts produced during the medieval age which do not have contemporary relevance.

Indeed, most people who write about the Dars-i-Nizami complain that it is medieval, stagnant and, therefore, irrelevant to contemporary concerns. The typical criticism runs as follows:

Take, for instance, the case of the Sharh-i-‘Aqa’id, a treatise on theology (Kalam) written some eight hundred years ago, which continues to be taught in many Indian madrassas. It is written in an archaic style and is full of references to antiquated Greek philosophy that students today can hardly comprehend.

… So, it asks question such as: Is there one sky or seven or nine? Can the sky be broken into parts? Now all this has been convincingly refuted and consigned to the rubbish heap by modern science (Mazhari 2005: 37-38).

Similarly the medieval commentaries on the Qur’an (tafsir) drew for arguments on the social and intellectual milieu of their period as did the law (fiqh) (Sikand 2005: 70-71). There are, of course, works in both Urdu and English on all these subjects (Mawdudi’s Tafhim ul Qur’an being on outstanding example of a contemporary commentary (tafsir), but all of them would tend to expose the madrassa students to contemporary realities. And this exposure would make them question the hypocrisy and injustice of the Muslim elites of several countries—including Pakistan—who legitimize themselves in the name of Islam but exclude the ulema as well as the masses from the exercise of power and the enjoyment of its economic fruit. It would also make them question the hegemony of the West, and especially the United States, which allows the impoverishment of the Muslim masses in the name of globalization, market-oriented reforms and democracy. That this is happening is, of course, true but it is not because of the medieval Dars-i-Nizami. It is happening because of other influences and extra-curricular reading material which shapes the world view of madrassa students as well as other politically aware Muslims.

While it is up to the person teaching the Quran or the hadith to give it whatever interpretation and time he decides to give it and these vary according to the orientation of the teachers, but the Dars-i-Nizami, if anything, tends to disengage one from the modern world rather than engage with it. Moreover, the traditional orthodox ulema teach it in a way which is not amenable to contemporary political awareness. So, if it is not the Dars-i-Nizami which creates anti-Western, anti-elitist, sectarian militancy, what is it which does so?

One aspect of teaching in the madrassas which has received scant attention is that the students are taught the art of debate (munazara). This too is taught through canonical texts Sharifia of Mir Sharif Ali Jurjani (1413) and Rashidiya of Abdul Rashid Jaunpuri (1672). However, the art is actually practiced in such a way that madrassa students learn the skill of using rhetoric, polemic, intonation, quotation and arguments from their own sub-sect (maslak) to win an argument. This kind of real-life debating is not taught in any secular institution in Pakistan where, indeed, the so-called ‘debates’ are written by teachers and memorized by the would-be debaters. The munazara is important because it is the bridge between memorization and the use of knowledge to present an argument relevant to present issues. It is also the bridge between the medieval contents of the curricula to the concerns of the contemporary world. The preachers in the mosques of Pakistan, graduates of madrassas (called maulvis or mullahs), use all the flourishes of rhetoric, the skills learnt for munazaras, in their sermons. These sermons, as anyone who has been hearing them will testify, have been becoming increasingly politicized. They dwell on the heresies in the Muslim world, the conspiracies of non-Muslims against the Muslims and, in recent years, the ongoing crusades in the lands of Islam – Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq and so on. These are all contemporary concerns and completely unrelated to the Dars-i-Nizami. That is why it is not only the madrassa graduates but other Muslims too who have the maulvi’s political perspective. As the larger part of these sermons and the munazaras themselves consists of refuting other world views, I will now focus upon the texts used for refutation among the Islamic-minded people (whether from the madrassa or not) in Pakistan.

The Refutation of Other Sects and Sub-Sects

Refutation (Radd in Urdu) has always been part of religious education. However, it is only in recent years that it has been blamed for the unprecedented increase in sectarian violence in Pakistan.

According to A.H. Nayyar ‘The madrasahs have, not surprisingly, become a source of hate-filled propaganda against other sects and the sectarian divide has become sharper and more violent’ (Nayyar 1998: 243). However, it appears that there was much more acrimonious theological debate among the Shias and Sunnis and among the Sunnis themselves during British rule than is common nowadays. The militancy in sectarian conflicts cannot be attributed to the teaching in the madrassas though, of course, the awareness of divergent beliefs does create the potential for negative bias against people of other beliefs.

They were also very bitter as the Deobandi-Barelvi munazras of 1928 collected in Futoohat-e-Nomania (Nomani n.d) illustrate. Moreover, the pioneers of the sects and sub-sects did indulge in refuting each other’s beliefs. For instance Ahmed Raza Khan, (1856-1921) the pioneer of the Barelvi school, wrote a series of fatawa (plural of fatwa = religious decree) against Sir Sayyid of Aligarh, the Shi’is, the ahl-i-Hadith, the Deobandis and the Nadwat ul-‘Ulama in 1896. These were published as Fatawa al-Haramain bi-Rajf Nadwat al-Main (1900) (Sanyal 1996: 203). The Barelvis, in turn, were refuted by their rivals. The followers of the main debaters sometimes exchanged invectives and even came to blows but never turned to terrorism as witnessed in Pakistan’s recent history.

As the inculcation of sectarian bias is an offence, no madrassa teacher or administrator confessed to teaching any text refuting the beliefs of other sects. Maulana Mohammad Hussain, Nazim-e-Madrassa Jamiat us-Salfia (Ahl-i-Hadith) (Islamabad), said that comparative religions was taught in the final Almiya (M.A) class and it did contain material refuting heretical beliefs. Moreover, Islam was confirmed as the only true religion, refuting other religions. The library did contain books refuting other sects and sub-sects but they were not prescribed in the syllabus. Maulana Muhammad Ishaq Zafar of the Jamia Rizvia Aiz ul Uloom (Barelvi) in Rawalpindi said that books against other sects were not taught. However, during the interpretation of texts the maslak was passed on to the student. Students of the final year, when questioned specifically about the teaching of the maslak, said that it was taught through questions and answers, interpretation of texts and sometimes some teachers recommended supplementary reading material specifically for the refutation of the doctrines of other sects and sub-sects.

In some cases, as in the Jamia Ashrafia, a famous Deobandi seminary of Lahore, an institution for publication, established in 1993, publishes only those articles and journals which are written by the scholars of Deoband school of thought. (Hussain 1994: 42). Moreover, in writings, sermons, and conversation, the teachers refer to the pioneers of their own maslak so that the views of the sub-sect are internalized and became the primary way of thinking.

However, despite all denials, the printed syllabi of the following sects do have books to refute the beliefs of other sects. The Report on the Religious Seminaries (GOP 1988) lists several books of Deobandi madrassas to refute Shia beliefs including Maulana Mohammad Qasim’s Hadiyat ul Shia which has been reprinted several times and is still in print. There are also several books on the debates between the Barelvis and the Deobandis and even a book refuting Maudoodi’s views (GOP 1988: 73-74). The Barelvis have given only one book, Rashidiya, under the heading of ‘preparation for debates on controversial issues’ (Ibid, p.76). It is not true, however, that the students are mired into medieval scholasticism despite the texts prescribed for them. They do put their debates in the contemporary context though they refer to examples on the lines established by the medieval texts. The Ahl-i-Hadith have given a choice of opting for any two of the following courses: the political system of Islam, the economic system of Islam, Ibn-e-Khaldun’s Muqaddamah, the history of ideas and comparative religious systems. The Shia courses list no book on this subject.

Recently published courses list no book on maslak for the Deobandis. The Barelvis mention ‘comparative religions’ but no specific books. The Ahl-i-Hadith retain almost the same optional courses as before. The Shia madrassas list books on beliefs which includes comparative religions in which, of course, Shia beliefs are taught as the only true ones. Polemical pamphlets claiming that there are conspiracies against the Shias are available. Incidentally such pamphlets, warning about alleged Shia deviations from the correct interpretations of the faith are also in circulation among Sunni madrassas and religious organizations.

Moreover, some guidebooks for teachers note that Quranic verses about controversial issues should be taught with great attention and students should memorize them. In one Barelvi book it is specified that teachers must make the students note down interpretations of the ulema of their sub-sect concerning beliefs and controversial issues so that students can use them later – i.e., as preachers and ulema.

The Jama’t-i-Islami syllabus (2002) mentions additional books by Maulana Mawdudi and other intellectuals of the Jama’t on a number of subjects including the Hadith. They also teach ‘comparative religions.’

The Refutation of Heretical Beliefs

One of the aims of the madrassas, ever since 1057 when Nizam ul Mulk established the famous madrassa at Baghdad, was to counter heresies within the Islamic world and outside influences which could change or dilute Islam. Other religions are refuted in ‘comparative religions’ but there are specific books for heresies within the Islamic world. In Pakistan the ulema unite in refuting the beliefs of the Ahmedis (or Qaidianis) (for these views see Friedmann 1989). The Deoband course for the Aliya (B.A) degree included five books refuting Ahmedi beliefs (GOP 1988: 71). The Barelvis prescribe no specific books. However, the fatawa of the pioneer, Ahmad Raza Khan, are referred to and they refute the ideas of the other sects and sub-sects. The Ahl-i-Hadith note that in ‘comparative religions’ they would refute the Ahmedi beliefs. The Shias too do not prescribe any specific books. The Jama’t-i-Islami’s syllabus (2002) prescribes four books for the refutation of ‘Qaidiani religion.’ Besides the Ahmedis, other beliefs deemed to be heretical are also refuted. All these books are written in a polemical style and are in Urdu which all madrassa students understand.

The Refutation of Alien Philosophies

The earliest madrassas refuted Greek philosophy which was seen as an intellectual invasion of the Muslim ideological space. Since the rise of the West, madrassas, and even more than them revivalist movements outside the madrassas, refute western philosophies. Thus there are books given in the reading lists for Aliya (B.A) of 1988 by the Deobandis refuting socialism, capitalism and feudalism. These books are no longer listed but they are in print and in the libraries of the madrassas. The Jama’t-i-Islami probably goes to great lengths – judging from its 2002 syllabus – to make the students aware of western domination, the exploitative potential of western political and economic ideas and the disruptive influence of western liberty and individualism on Muslim societies. Besides Mawdudi’s own books an all subjects relating to the modern world, a book on the conflict between Islam and western ideas (Nadvi n.d) is widely available.

These texts, which may be called Radd-texts, may not be formally taught in most of the madrassas as the ulema claim, but they are being printed which means they are in circulation. They are openly sold in the market and sometimes in front of mosques. They are also available in the libraries of madrassas. They may be given as supplementary reading material or used in the arguments by the teachers which are probably internalized by the students. In any case, being in Urdu rather then Arabic, such texts can be comprehended rather than merely memorized. As such, without formally being given the centrality which the Dars-i-Nizami has, the opinions these texts disseminate – opinions against other sects, sub-sects etc., seen as being heretical by the ulema, western ideas – may be the major formative influence on the minds of madrassa students. Thus, while it is true that education in the madrassa produces religious, sectarian, sub-sectarian and anti-western bias, it may not be true to assume that this bias automatically translates into militancy and violence of the type Pakistan has experienced. For that to happen other factors – the arming of religious young men to fight in Afghanistan and Kashmir; the state’s clampdown on free expression of political dissent during Zia-ul-Haq’s martial law; the appalling poverty of rural, peripheral areas and urban slums, western domination and injustices etc.-  must be taken into account.

Another factor which must be taken into account is Khalid Ahmed’s thesis that the madrassas create a rejectionist world view. In his own words:

The danger from madrassa is not its ability to train for terrorism and teach violence, but in its ability to isolate its pupils completely from society representing existential Islam and indoctrinate them with rejectionism. A graduate from a madrassa is more likely to be persuaded to activate himself in the achievement of an ‘exclusive’ shariah than a pupil drawn from a normal state-owned institution (Ahmed 2006: 64).

Poverty and Socioeconomic Class of madrassa students

Madrassas in Pakistan are generally financed by voluntary charity provided by the bazaar businessmen and others who believe that they are earning great merit by contributing to them. Some of them are also given financial assistance by foreign governments – the Saudi government is said to help the Ahl-i-Hadith seminaries and the Iranian government the Shia ones – but there is no proof of this assistance. And even if it does exist, it goes only to a few madrassas whereas the vast majority of them are run on charity (zakat = alms, khairat = charity, atiat = gifts etc). The Zia-ul-Haq government (1977-1988) tried to gain influence on the madrassas by distributing the alms (Zakat) funds to them in the 1980s. The only scholarly study of this is by Jamal Malik who points out that most of the madrassas who received these funds were Deobandi. However, as the madrassas had to be registered, this increased the government’s influence over them (Malik 1996: 150-153).

The Pakistan government gives financial assistance to the madrassas even now for modernizing textbooks, including secular subjects in the curricula and introducing computers. In 2001-02 a total of Rs. 1,654,000 was given to all madrassas which accepted this help. As the number of students is 1,065,277 this comes to Rs. 1.55 per student per year. The government also launched a US $113 million plan to teach secular subjects to 8, 000 willing madrassas according to the US Congressional Research Service report (New York Times 15 March 2005. Quoted from Ahmed 2006: 47). In November 2003, the government decided to allocate US$ 50 million annually to registered madrassas. However,  all madrassas do not accept financial help from the government and the money is not distributed evenly as the above calculations might suggest.

According to the Jamia Salfia of Faisalabad, the annual expenditure on the seminary, which has about 700 students, is 40,00,000 rupees. Another madrassa, this time a Barelvi one, gave roughly the same figure for the same number of students. This comes to Rs 5,714 per year (or Rs 476 per month) which is an incredibly small amount of money for education, books, board and lodging. In India, where conditions are similar to those in Pakistan, the madrassa Mazahiral Uloom in Saharanpur (UP), has 1300 students and 115 employees and its income between 2000 to 2001 was Rs. 9,720, 649 or Rs. 948 per student per year (Mehdi 2005: 93).

The expenditure from the government in 2001-2002 was Rs. 1,654,000 for all the madrassas in the country and about 32.60 percent madrassas do not received any financial support at all, the total spending on these institutions is very little (IPS 2002: 33).  However, as mentioned above, there are plans to change this in a radical manner.

As the madrassas generally do not charge tuition fees – though they do charge a small admission fee which does not exceed Rs 400 – they attract very poor students who would not receive any education otherwise. According to Fayyaz Hussain, a student who competed his ethnographic research on Jamia Ashrafia of Lahore in 1994, students joined the madrassa for the following reasons:

Box 4
Causes of Joining Madrassas Given by Students
Economic 48.95 per cent
Social 40.63 per cent
Religious 5.71 per cent
Educational 3.12 per cent
Political 2.09 per cent
Source:            Hussain 1994 : 84

The categories have not been explained by the author nor is it known exactly what questions were asked from the students. According to Singer, the ‘Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqania, one of the most popular and influential madrassahs (it includes most of the Afghani Taliban leadership among its alumni)—has a student body of 1500 boarding students and 1000 day students, from 6 years old upwards. Each year over 15,000 applicants from poor families vie for its 400 open spaces (Singer 2001). According to a survey conducted by Mumtaz Ahmad in 1976 ‘more than 80 percent of the madrassa students in Peshawar, Multan, and Gujranwala were found to be sons of small or landless peasants, rural artisans, or village imams of the mosques. The remaining 20 percent came from families of small shopkeepers and rural laborers’ (quoted from Ahmad 2000: 185). According to a survey by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) 64 percent madrassa students come from rural areas and belong to poor agrarian families (IPS 2002: 41). The present researcher also observed that many students, upon probing, confessed that their parents had admitted them in the madrassas because they could not afford to feed them and educate them in the government schools. Even such students, while making this confession, also insist that they are in the madrassas because of their love for Islam.

In my survey of December 2002 and January 2003, madrassa students and teachers were asked about their income. Many did not reply these questions but those who did suggest that they mostly (76.62 percent) belong to poor sections of society. The teachers of the madrassas also mostly (61.11 percent) belong to the same socio-economic class as their students (for details see Rahman 2004: Annexure-1). The madrassas provide sustenance for all these poor people.

In short the madrassas are performing the role of the welfare state in the country. This being so, their influence on rural people and the poorer sections of the urban proletariat will continue to increase as poverty increases.

Poverty and the Roots of Religious Violence

While it can only be speculated that there is a connection between poverty and religious violence, the proposition does have empirical backing. Khalid Ahmed quotes the cases of jihadi leaders from Pakistan who had a madrassa background. He says that, because they reject all forms of governance after the pious caliphate, they are in a condition of perpetual revolt against the modern state. He mentions a number of cases: Qari Saifullah Akhtar (b. 1958) (head of Harkat-e-Jihad-e-Islami who influenced the  Islamist officers implicated in a coup in 1995); Maulana Masood Azhar (head of Jaish-e-Muhammad); Abdullah Mehsud (from Banuri Masjid in Karachi, he abducted two Chinese engineers in 2004); Mufti Shamsuddin Shamazai (d. 2004) (patron of Harkatul Mujahideen which has been known for fighting in Kashmir) (Ahmed 2006: 51-63). Qasim Zaman also tells us that in Jhang – the birth place of the militant Sunni organization called the Sipah-i-Sahaba – the proportion of Shias in the affluent urban middle class is higher than other areas of Pakistan. Moreover, the feudal gentry too has many Shia families. Thus the Sipah-i-Sahaba appeals to the interests of the ordinary people who are oppressed by the rich and the influential. Indeed, Maulana Haqq Nawaz, the fiery preacher who raised much animosity against the Shias, was ‘himself a man of humble origin’ and ‘had a reputation for being much concerned with the welfare of the poor and the helpless, and he was known to regularly spend time at government courts helping out poor illiterate litigant’s (Zaman 2002: 125).

Another leader of the Sipah-i-Sahaba, Maulana Isar al-Qasimi (1964-1991), also preached in Jhang. He too denounced the Shia magnates of the area and the peasants, terrorized by the feudal magnates, responded to him as if he were a messiah. Even shopkeepers rejoiced in the aggressive Sunni identity he helped create. When the Shia feudal lords attacked and burnt some defiant Sunni shops this identity was further radicalized (Zaman 2002: 127). Masood Azhar, devoted to Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, became an aggressive fighter against the Shia as well as in Kashmir (Ahmed 2006: 61).

In the same manner the Muslim radicals in the Philippines too attack social and economic privilege. Indeed, Islamist movements from Turkey to Indonesia talk of the poor and the oppressed and sometimes do take up their cause. This has won them votes in Turkey where they have been suppressed by the secular military. It was also a major factor for mobilization in Iran against the Shah who was seen as being rich, wasteful, corrupt and decadent. So, though difficult to demonstrate, Islamic militancy – whether by radicalized madrassa students or members of Islamist or jihadi groups in Pakistan – has an element of class conflict. It is, at least in some part, a reaction of the have-notes against the haves. This is a dangerous trend for the country because madrassa students are taught to be intolerant of religious minorities and are hawkish about Kashmir. As they are also from poor backgrounds they express their sense of being cheated by society in the idiom of religion. This gives them the self-righteousness to fight against the oppressive and unjust system in the name of Islam.

The Worldview of Madrassa Students

The madrassa students are the most intolerant of all the other student groups in Pakistan. They are also the most supportive of an aggressive foreign policy. In my survey of 2002-2003 mentioned earlier, the madrassa students were the only group of students – out of Urdu and English-medium school ones – who supported both overt and covert conflict with India over Kashmir in large numbers. They were also against giving equal rights (equal to Muslims) to non-Muslims and women (equal to men) as citizens. These figures and the survey itself are given in Rahman (2004: Annexure-2). However, an excerpt from the survey giving its gist is given as Annexure-1.

Madrassas and Militancy

The madrassas are obviously institutions which have a blueprint of society in their mind. What needs explanation is that the madrassas, which were basically conservative institutions before the Afghan-Soviet War of the nineteen eighties, are both ideologically activist and sometimes militant. This, indeed, is the major change which seems to have occurred in the Pakistani religious establishment. The British conquest was opposed with some armed resistance but mostly the ulema retreated into their madrassas where orthodoxy, conserving the legacy of the past, was the order of the day. Folk Islam in South Asia was mystical, ritualistic and superstitious. The Barelvi sub-sect, which was very popular, supported extreme reverence for saints and rituals – such as the distribution of sweetmeats (halwa) on certain sacred days. This type of Islam – low church as it may be called – was challenged by the Deobandis, the Ahl-i-Hadith and the Jama’t-i-Islami because none of these believed in the intercession of saints, the distribution of food on fixed days or other practices of folk Islam. These strict religious groups found unsuspected allies among the modernist Muslims and the westernized or secular urban people who were in a Muslim culture but whose world view was western. All these people opposed mysticism and folk Islam too which they considered irrational and retrogressive. The result of these tendencies was that Islam came to be defined more and more in legalistic terms and the conservative point of view come to be replaced slowly by the revivalist one.

As the Pakistani ulema came to be drawn more and more into the ideology of the state (by becoming teachers of Arabic in ordinary schools or minor bureaucrats, for instance (see Malik 1996: 273), they became politicized. They started thinking of how they could pursue power to make the society Islamic as they understood the term. The Iranian revolution of 1979, the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the late eighties and later the rise of the Taliban convinced the Pakistani ulema that Islam could be a power in its own right. In short, the ulema were drifting from conservatism to revivalism and activism. Surely the Deobandi and Ahl-i-Hadith ulema were more consciously revivalist as were the Shia ulema but, on the whole, the character of Islam, as preached in Pakistan, has undergone a tremendous change. As it happens even the Barelvi sub-sect, with the second-largest madrassa board in the country, is not entirely peaceful. The ICG report of 2007 says that the ‘Faizan-e-Madina chain’ of madrassas is ‘certainly militant in its approach.’ But adds that much of their hostility is directed ‘more towards the Deobandis and Ahle Hadith than Shias’ (ICG 2007: 11).

So, while the basic texts of the Dars-i-Nizami remain the same, what has changed is that the ulema are more conscious of world affairs which they see and describe with reference to the crusades. Indeed, Karen Armstrong in her book on the impact of the crusades on the world states clearly that ‘The wars in the Middle East today are becoming more like the Crusades in this respect, especially in the religious escalation on both sides of the conflict’ (Armstrong 1988: 530). And, it is not just the Israel-Arab conflict but other wars in the Muslim world which are seen in religious terms. Thus, even before Huntington presented his thesis about the ‘clash of civilizations,’ the imams of Pakistani mosques used to describe world affairs with reference to such a theory in mind. This political conciseness invoking the name of Kashmir and Palestine in Pakistan, has permeated much of the religious establishment and the middle class in Pakistan (see my survey of 1999 in Rahman 2002: Appendix-14). Thus, not just the madrassa teachers and students but people from secular institutions belonging to the lower-middle and middle classes respond to political Islam. Such people see the United States in particular and the West in general as the major forces for oppression and injustice in the world. According to Peter L. Bergen, author of a book on Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda group: ‘nowhere is bin Laden more popular than in Pakistan’s madrassas, religious schools from which the Taliban draw many of its recruits’ (Bergen 2001: 150). While it is not clear how Bergen obtained this information, my own impression is that it is largely correct but bin Laden is also popular among a number of non-madrassa educated young Muslims, especially the politically-aware ones too.

What Made the Madrassas Militant?

All madrassas are not militant. Those which are became militant when they were used by the Pakistani state to fight in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation and then in Kashmir so as to force India to leave that state. Pakistan’s claim on Kashmir, as discussed by many, including Alastair Lamb (1977), has led to conflict with India and the Islamic militants or jihadis, who have entered the fray since 1989. The United States indirectly, and sometimes directly, helped in creating militancy among the clergy. For instance, special textbooks in Darri (Afghan Persian) and Pashto were written at the University of Nebraska-Omaha with a USAID grant in the 1980s (Stephens and Ottaway 2002: Sec A, p. 1). American arms and money flowed to Afghanistan through Pakistan’s Inter services Intelligence as several books indicate (See Cooley 1999). At that time all this was done to defeat the Soviet Union.

The fact that till January 2002, when General Pervez Musharraf clamped down on Islamic militants, lists published by fighting group included madrassa and non-madrassa students, suggests that at least some madrassas did send their students to fight in Kashmir. This has been reduced considerably though The Herald, one of the most prestigious monthlies from Karachi, tells us in its July 2005 issue that ‘hundreds of young boys between the ages of 13 and 15 years make ready cannon fodder for violent militant campaigns’ (p. 53). These young boys, who do not necessarily belong to madrassas, belong to private armies – there are said to be fifteen of them – raised by different religious-political parties. The Herald’s implication is that, at some covert level, the state is still supporting these militant outfits so that they can be used to fight in Kashmir if the peace process fails.

However, while Pakistan’s military kept using the militant Islamists in Kashmir, the United States was much alarmed by them – not without reason as the events of 9/11 demonstrated later. The Americans then tried to understand the madrassas better. P.W. Singer, an analyst in the Brookings Institute who has been referred to earlier, wrote that there were 10-15 percent ‘radical’ madrassas which teach anti-American rhetoric, terrorism and even impart military training (Singer 2001). No proof for these claims was offered. However, fighters from Afghanistan, Kashmir and even Chechnya did come to the madrassas and may have talked with students inspiring them to fight against those whom they saw as the enemies of Islam.

More significantly, the private armed groups or armies associated with religious parties or acting on their own, mentioned earlier, train both madrassa and other school dropouts. They were financed by the intelligence agencies of Pakistan as the Herald, Newsline, Friday Times and a number of Pakistani publications have written repeatedly in the past few years. Some of these armies such as Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Harkat-ul-Mujahidin, print militant literature which circulates among the madrassas and other institutions. According to chapter-3 of a book entitled Ideas on Democracy, Freedom and Peace in Textbooks (2003) Ad-Dawah uses textbooks for English in which many questions and answers refer to war, weapons, blood and victory. According to the author:

The students studying in jihadi schools are totally brain washed right from the very beginning. The textbooks have been authored to provide only one-dimensional worldview and restrict the independent thought process of children (Liberal Forum 2003: 72).

Although these parties have been banned, their member are said to be dispersed all over Pakistan, especially in the madrassas. The madrassas, then, may be the potential centres of Islamic militancy in Pakistan not because of what they teach but because of the politically motivated people, committed to radical, political Islam, who seek refuge in them. However, such motivated people are to be found outside the madrassas also. It is to this aspect that we turn now.

Militancy and Islamist Fighters

Islamic militancy is going on in many parts of the world notable among which are Palestine, Chechnya, the Phillipines, Afghanistan, Kashmir and parts of Central Asia (for this last see Rashid 2002). However, what is surprising to many people is that secular institutions and western countries also produce Islamic militants.

As Olivier Roy points out, most young Islamist militants are trained in secular institutions. He quotes many names of the 9/11 militants concluding that:

None (except for the Saudis) was educated in a Muslim religious school and Jarrah even attended a Lebanese Christian School. Most of them studied technology, computing, or town planning, as the World Trade Center pilots had done (Roy 2004: 310).

Peter Bergen and Swati Pandey claimed that they examined the educational backgrounds of 75 terrorists behind some of the most significant recent terrorist attacks against westerners. They found that a majority of them were college-educated, often in technical subjects like engineering, About 53 percent of the terrorists had been to college while ‘only 52 percent Americans had been to college’ (New York Times 15 March 2005). This also seems to be true about the angry young British Muslims who struck on 7 July 2005 as well as the cadres of the Jama’t-i-Islami in Pakistan who support fighting in Kashmir though most of them come from the state education system and not the madrassas. Moreover,  Sohail Abbas, a psychologist who interviewed jihadis who were incarcerated in Pakistani jails after having been jailed and then deported to Pakistan from Afghanistan where they had gone to fight the United States in defence of the Taliban in 2001, corroborates the same finding. He says: ‘What we can say is that 232 jihadis out of the 319 in the Haripur group had attended school for at least five years or more. That means that most of the jihadis were in fact educated and that too in the mainstream education system (Abbas 2006: 84). In the Haripur group only 22.3 per cent had attended the madrasssa while in the Peshawar group, out of 198, only 70 (35.5 per cent) had been to the madrassa. But even in the latter case most (61.2 per cent) had attended only for one to three months. (Abbas 2006: 90-91). In short, mainstream education is no guarantee of preventing a person from joining militant groups. In this context the influence of Islamists, whether out of the peer group, family or teachers, is crucial.

Roy further points out that de-territorialized Muslims in western countries, being overwhelmed by the dominant culture around them, fall back upon the Islamic identity. They are not guided by traditional texts or the ulema; they find their own meanings from the fundamental texts of the faith (the Qur’an and the hadith). Their neo-colonial reaction to the injustice of the world order, the irresistible globalization which seems to inundate all civilizations under the banner of Micky Mouse, is to lash out in fury against western targets and elites in Muslim countries who support western policies. They use the idiom of Islam but the anger which motivates them comes from a sense of being cheated. There are, of course, pegs to hang this anger on: Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran – the list can go on. But essentially Muslim militancy is a reaction to western injustice, violence and a history of exploitation and domination over Muslims. This can only be reversed by genuinely reversing western militant policies and a more equitable distribution of global wealth.

Can Islamic Militancy be reduced?

In Pakistan, General Musharraf feels that Islamic militancy can be reduced as far as Pakistan’s madrassas are concerned, if secular subjects are taught in them and if foreigners are not allowed to study there. Let us take both these propositions in turn.

What are called secular subjects were taught as maqulat in Mughal madrassas because one of the functions of these institutions was to produce bureaucrats for the state. What is now being advocated is to add the social sciences, English, computer skills and mathematics to the curricula. General Pervez Musharraf’s military government introduced a law called the ‘Pakistan Madrassah Education (Establishment and Affiliation of Model Dini Madaris) Board Ordinance 2001 on 18 August 2001. According to the Education Sector Reforms (GOP 2002c) three model institutions were established: one each at Karachi, Sukkur and Islamabad. Their curriculum includes subjects of English, Mathematics, Computer Science, Economics, Political Science, Law and Pakistan Studies for its different levels (GOP 2002c: 23). These institutions were not welcomed by the ulema (for opposition from the ulema see Wafaq ul Madaris No. 6: Vol. 2, 2001).

However, some modern subjects have been taught for quite some time in the madrassas. The Ahl-i-Hadith madrassas have been teaching Pakistan studies, English, Mathematics and General Science a long time (GOP 1988: 85). The Jama’t-i-Islami also teaches secular subjects. The larger Deobandi, Barelvi and Shia madrassas too have made arrangements for teaching secular subjects including basic computer skills.  According to a report in the weekly The Friday Times from Lahore the Deobandi Wafaq-ul Madaris has decided to accommodate modern subjects on a larger scale than ever before. They would make the students spend another two years to give a more thorough grounding in the secular subjects. The Wafaq has also formed committees to devise ways to capitalize on the government’s U.S $ 255 million for the Madrassa reform scheme (Mansoor 2003). However, at present, the teaching is done by teachers approved of by the ulema or some of the ulema themselves. Thus the potential for secularization of the  subjects, which is small in any case, is reduced to nil.

I believe that all attempts at secularizing madrassas will probably backfire. First, the madrassas work on charitable donations so they will not buckle down to the government’s fiat. Secondly, they are not the only ones who produce militants. It is poverty and the fighting in Kashmir and elsewhere in the world which does so, so these external conditions – greatly dependent on government policy as they are – must be changed to produce peaceful people. Thirdly, the text books of the so called ‘secular’ subjects produced by the educational boards in Pakistan are anti-India and glorify armed conflict (Aziz 1993; Saigol 1995; Rahman 2002: 515-524 and Nayyar and Salim 2003). Moreover, the people who will teach them will be selected by the clergy and will be highly politicized Islamists who will be even more fiery in their denunciations of peace, liberal values and the West than even the ulema themselves. In any case, as we have observed earlier, Islamists from traditional educational institutions are even more prone to political violence than madrassa students. Thus, no amount of ‘secularization’ of the madrassas will eliminate violence.

The other proposal, that of not allowing foreigners to study in the madrassas may be more successful. There is now a law introduced to control the entry of foreigners in the madrassas and keep check on them. This law – Voluntary Registration and Regulation Ordinance 2002 – has, however, been rejected by most of the madrassas which want no state interference in their affairs (see Wafaq ul Madaris Vol. 3 No. 9, 2002 and unstructured interviews of the ulema). Indeed, according to Singer, ‘4,350, about one tenth, agreed to be registered and the rest simply ignored the statute’ (Singer 2001). The number of those who did not register is not known. However, on 29 July 2005 President Musharraf said in an interview with foreign correspondents that 1400 foreign students would be expelled and visas to aspiring students denied (The News 30 July 2005). If this policy is rigorously enforced, motivated extremists from other parts of the Muslim world may cease entering Pakistan. Certain other recommendations, for instance those coming from the ICG, need to be carefully studied for possible implementation (See ICG 2007: 11-12). For example, the state must impose law and order without fear of political fallout. In the case of the 29 March 2007 kidnapping of women by Jamia Hafsa students in Islamabad the state took no action on the plea that the kidnappers were women. This kind of dereliction of responsibility cannot but encourage the Islamic militants from taking the law into their own hands and increasing what has been described as ‘Talibanization’ of the country .


Madrassas are not the only cause of potential violence in Pakistan or the world in general. They always had sectarian as well as anti-modern bias but this did not necessarily translate into militancy. Nor, indeed, are the madrassa students the only ones who are militant. Indeed, most of those who indulge in suicide bombings and actual fighting against non-Muslims targets are young, radical, angry Muslims who are dropouts or graduates of secular institutions of learning.

The madrassa students of Pakistan were radicalized because the United States and then successive governments in Pakistan used them to fight proxy wars against the Soviet Union and India (for Kashmir) respectively. Other Muslims were radicalized because of the neo-colonial policies of the West which makes Muslims feel they are being unjustly treated.

Thus, if militancy is to be decreased in Pakistan the ruling elite of this country would have to spread out wealth more equitably and provide justice to the poorest who send their children to the madrassas or religious armies. It would also have to eliminate all policies leading to the arming or militarization of religious cadres. This can only happen when there is peace with India which is necessary if the world is to be at peace. Moreover, the Government of Pakistan must oppose American aggression in the Muslim world without, however, allowing the Islamic militant groups to ignore the writ of the state as is happening in FATA (the case of the kidnapping and murder of the principal of a school who had prevented the jihadis from recruiting boys from his school in March 2007). The use of religion to legitimize the rule of the elite, as has been happening so far, will also have to stop. This would mean the reversal of laws enacted during Zia-ul-Haq’s rule which are misused and give more power to the religious lobby. It also entails the rewriting of textbooks so that they promote tolerance, peace and human rights in the country. Above all, the state must establish the rule of law and economic justice because without them the anger which is built up in a society can take the form of a religious struggle to protest against the degradation and violation of daily life.



Survey of Schools and Madrassas

This survey is given in full in Rahman (2004: Annexures 1 & 2). The gist of the responses to some of the crucial questions on opinions of students is given below:

What should be Pakistan’s priorities?

1.         Take Kashmir away from India by an open war?

(1)        Yes      (2)        No       (3)        Don’t Know

2.         Take Kashmir away from India by supporting Jihadi groups to fight with the Indian army?

(1)        Yes      (2)        No       (3)        Don’t Know

3.         Support Kashmir cause through peaceful means only (i.e. no open war or sending Jihadi groups across the line of control?).

(1)        Yes      (2)        No       (3)        Don’t Know

4.         Give equal rights to Ahmedis in all jobs etc?

(1)        Yes      (2)        No       (3)        Don’t Know

5.         Give equal rights to Pakistani Hindus in all jobs etc?

(1)        Yes      (2)        No       (3)        Don’t Know

6.         Give equal rights to Pakistani Christians in all jobs etc?

(1)        Yes      (2)        No       (3)        Don’t Know

7.         Give equal rights to men and women as in Western countries?

(1)        Yes      (2)        No       (3)        Don’t Know

Consolidated Data of Opinions Indicating Militancy and Tolerance Among three Types of Schools Students in Pakistan in Survey 2003 (in percentages)

Abbreviated Questions Madrassas Urdu-medium English-medium Cadet Colleges/ Public Schools Govt Colleges


Public Universities


Private Universities


1. Open War Yes 59.86 39.56 25.86 36.92 46.01 34.95 35.34
No 31.69 53.04 64.66 60.00 48.47 55.34 57.89
Don’t Know 8.45 7.39 9.48 3.08 5.52 9.71 6.77
2. Jihadi groups Yes 52.82 33.04 22.41 53.08 50.00 46.12 34.59
No 32.39 45.22 60.34 40.00 38.04 43.20 57.14
Don’t Know 14.79 21.74 17.24 6.92 11.96 10.68 8.27
3. Peaceful means Yes 33.80 75.65 72.41 56.15 60.43 58.25 57.14
No 54.93 18.26 18.97 36.92 22.70 28.64 35.34
Don’t Know 11.27 6.09 8.62 6.92 16.87 13.11 7.52
4. Ahmedis Yes 12.68 46.95 65.52 41.54 38.04 38.83 40.60
No 82.39 36.95 9.48 36.92 38.34 49.51 36.84
Don’t Know 4.93 16.09 25.00 21.54 23.62 11.65 22.56
5. Hindus Yes 16.90 47.39 78.45 64.62 59.20 54.37 69.92
No 76.06 42.61 13.79 31.54 31.90 38.83 21.05
Don’t Know 7.04 10.00 7.76 3.85 8.89 6.80 9.02
6. Christians Yes 18.31 65.65 83.62 76.92 72.09 66.99 78.95
No 73.24 26.52 8.62 18.46 21.17 29.13 14.29
Don’t Know 8.45 7.83 7.76 4.62 6.75 3.88 6.77
7. Women Yes 16.90 75.22 90.52 67.69 65.34 64.56 76.69
No 77.46 17.39 6.03 25.38 30.98 31.55 17.29
Don’t Know 5.63 7.39 3.45 6.92 3.68 3.88 6.02
NB:     Figures for (3) are uninterpretable because some respondents ticked opinion (1) and/or (2) while also ticking (3).
Area No of Deeni Madaris Covered No of Deeni Madaris Refusal No of Deeni Madaris for which Data is Collected Enrolment Teaching Staff
Pakistan 12,979 826 12,300 1,549,242 58,391
Punjab 5,459 159 5,300 674,281 24,977
Sindh 1,935 119 1,816 312.693 11,951
NWFP 2,843 279 2,568 336,983 12,058
Balochistan 769 99 670 65,597 2,891
ICT 77 15 62 10,557 657
FATA 135 43 92 14,162 481
FANA 1.193 39 1,154 88,540 3,160
AJK 568 77 491 46,429 2,216
Source: GOP 2006: Table-9, p. 23

Area Total Affiliated with Not Affiliated
Wafaq Tanzeem Rabta Others
Pakistan 12,979 3,686










Punjab 5,459 1,518










Sindh 1,935 544










NWFP 2,843 1,086










Balochistan 769 201










ICT 77 36










FATA 135 31










FANA 1193 137










AJK 568 151










Source: GOP 2006: Table-10, p. 24



Primary Sources

Madrassa Books (Radd-Texts)

Qasim, Muhammad. n.d. Hidayat ul Shi’a Multan: Taleefat -e-Ashrafiya. [Refutes Shia doctrines].

Nadvi, Syed Abul Hasan Ali .n.d. Muslim Mamalik Mein Islamiat our Maghribiat Ki Kash Makash Karachi: Majlis-e-Nashriat-e-Islam. [historical and philosophical book about the conflict between Islam and Westernization in the Muslim world].

Nomani, Mohamad Manzur. 2002 Futuhat-e-Nomania: Manzir-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat Lahore: Anjuman-e-Irshad ul Muslameen [Discussions between Deobandis and Barelvis written by Deobandis to refute the Barelvis. Very polemical]


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Many ulema and most students of madrassas did not want their interviews to be recorded by name. Those who allowed their names to be mentioned are listed below.

Hussain, Mohammad. 2002. Interview with the Nazim-e-Daftar of Jamiat us Safia’, Islamabad, 13 December.

Zafar, Mohammad Iqbal. 2002. ‘Interview with the Head of Jamia Rizvia Zia ul

The author is a Distinguished National Professor of Linguistic History, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.

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