While Muslims across the country frown upon co-education beyond the primary level as un-Islamic, madrasas in Chandigarh are, in a clear break from tradition, encouraging girls to sit alongside boys to learn mathematics and science, besides the Quran.
The number of girls seeking admission to these madrasas has been growing with each passing year. The girls learning science, English literature and such other subjects outnumber the boys.
The heads of these madrasas argue that since Islam lays equal emphasis on men’s and women’s education, there is no reason why the women should be denied an opportunity to learn.
The three madrasas viz Madrasa Eizahal-Uloom Mujahidi, Manimajra, Madrasa Shirajul-uloom, Govindpura, and Arobia Faizal Islam, have a collective roll of more than 950 students. Their students come not only from the tricity but also from as far as Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Principal of the Govindpura madrasa, Shamim Ahmed says, “Our purpose is to encourage more Muslim girls to receive education. Those opposing the entry of girls in madrasas should visit us to see for themselves how girls have been outperforming the boys.” Ahmed says out of the 250 students in his madrasa, as many as 100 are girls. “These girls study all subjects like science and maths, besides the Quran and the Urdu language.”
At Arobia Faizal Islam madrasa in Sector 45, there are 150 girl students against 100 boys. The principal of the madrasa, Qari Shamsher Aalam says, “We at the madrasa strongly believe that the girls should never be secluded from childhood, instead, they should be encouraged to compete with boys from early on in life.”
A parent, Bilal Ahmed says seeing his children carrying English and mathematics books is a “matter of pride”. More so, he says, when “most of us” are illiterate.
What gives the parents of these girls greater satisfaction is that the girls are getting Islamic education as well. “They are receiving complete education”, says Ahmed.
Another parent Naasir Haque, a resident of Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, says the madrasa are “safer and better than the government-run schools in our area” which, he adds, is a “matter of great satisfaction.”