In a bid to attract more middle-class and affluent Muslims to religious education, a non-profit group has decided to launch a school in the city that combines an international syllabus with courses taught in conventional madrasas.
The Markazul Ma’arif Education and Research Centre acquired 7,000 square metres of land in Jogeshwari in June to build the Markaz Universal School of Theology, which will be a co-educational, residential school. Girls and boys will, however, study separately after class 4.
“Most Urdu or Arabic madrasas run on charity and don’t have facilities or hostels appealing enough for well-to-do, urban Muslims,” said Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, president of the Assam-based Markazul Ma’arif trust. “We want to bridge that gap.”
Ajmal gave the go-ahead to the school after a committee spent three years studying its feasibility. The committee has now begun the long process of formulating the dual syllabus.
It will be ready to start admitting students only three years from now, but a survey that the trust conducted in 2007 suggests that there will be many takers from Mumbai’s middle- and upper-class Muslim families.
“We sent questionnaires to 11,000 Muslim families whose children do not go to madrasas, and 96 per cent said that Mumbai needs such a school,” said Maulana Burhanuddin Qasmi, director of the centre and the school. “We think people will enroll because our school will give students many career options.”
The madrasa aims to give students degree-level training in Islamic studies by class 10. If they wish to return and complete the class 12 programme they will have to first complete post-graduate studies at one of the country’s advanced madrasas to become aalims or religious scholars. Girls will have to go to one of the handful of women-only madrasas in the country.