Translated and edited by Rizwan Shaik
I captured these photos of a Madarsa in Manbela Khaas, while on an assignment with Gaon Connection, in Uttar Pradesh. I was struck by the energy of the place and the how it felt like any other school where the fingers of the children ran as deftly over the keys of a computer as they do pages of the Quran.
Knowledge can help them become active and responsible elements in society and be a source of happiness for their parents and their communities.
Madarsa students are very enthusiastic when it comes to learning. They feel that the pursuit of knowledge in itself is a form of worship. According to Sahih Bukhari, Prophet Muhammad said: “Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim (male and female).” Education can help them become active and responsible elements in society and be a source of happiness for their parents and their communities.
“My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” (Quran 20:114)
God has repeatedly emphasized the importance of learning throughout the Quran. Ibn Sina, a famous 10th-century educator, thought of education as a way of preparing children to make a lasting contribution to their society. Along with Urdu, students learn English, science, maths and geography too. This enables the children to realize that the teachings of Islam are not isolated from the scientific world.
A head covering or a Topi is considered a suitable addition to a Muslim man’s outfit. The topi comes in many types, from simple prayer caps to highly decorative topis worn on the occasion of Eid. Students wear the topi during the five daily prayers and when they recite the Holy Quran to imitate the actions of Prophet Muhammad, who used to keep his head covered.
According to verse 33:21 of the Holy Quran, God says:
Indeed in the Messenger of God you have a beautiful example of conduct to follow…
Hafiz is a term used by Muslims for a person who has memorized the entire Quran. Such people command great respect within the Islamic community. The rhythmic style of the Quran and its eloquent expression make it easy to remember. Students also learn ‘Tajweed’ which is the art of correctly pronouncing the Arabic letters and words of the Quran. Constant practice is required to ensure the perfect recollection of all the learned verses.
Students don’t study the entire day; they also have fun while playing a variety of sports that help them stay fit. The traditions of Prophet Muhammad encourage participation in sporting activities as a means of promoting a healthy lifestyle and fostering brotherhood.
The characteristics demonstrated by Prophet Muhammad were precisely the opposite of pride and arrogance. Every aspect of his life reflected humility, even walking, talking, sitting or eating. He said: “There is truly no excellence for an Arab over a non-Arab; or for a non-Arab over an Arab; or for a white man over a black man; or for a black man over a white man; except through piety.” Students eat meals with their classmates to foster the spirit of equality and brotherhood.
According to Saheeh Al-Bukhari, “Prophet Muhammad would patch his sandals and sew his garments, milk his sheep, and do his chores.” So students wash their utensils after eating the food, to learn humility, which is one of the qualities of an ideal Muslim.
“We made from water every living thing.” (Quran 21:30). Water is a gift from God and a proof of God’s existence, magnificence and uniqueness. Water is necessary for maintaining health, personal cleanliness, and for ritual washing before prayer, known as Wuzu. There is a provision of drinking water inside the madrasa itself.
The rooms in the Madarsa are on a shared basis, and the students make their beds on the floor at night. Moments later, they’re fast asleep, dreaming of a bright future and how academic success is going to help achieve it.
Many students who join madarsas come from low-income families. Some students come from remote places too. Madarsas provide board and lodging for such students. This ensures that scholars not only get an education but also receive sufficient nutrition.
The clothes of madrasa students do not look like any school uniform. They wear kurtas and pyjamas that are loose-fitting and long, covering the body. Muslim men are expected to follow a modest dress code. They often wear traditional clothing, which varies from place to place, but always meets the requirements of modesty in Islamic garments.
Children love to take group photos as they help them preserve the memories of their time together. They came quickly and stood beside each other, looking at the camera for a group photo. Each child seems to have a slightly different expression, but they’re all glad to be in this photo.
A note about the translator:
Rizwan is an English Language trainer and runs a coaching centre in Hyderabad. He loves plants and animals, reading, music and TV and works regularly with The Slow Movement.