What constitutes ‘proper’ Quranic education?

Published: April 26, 2016

I’m curious to know; what constitutes ‘proper’ Quranic education and who’s to take a decision on the matter? PHOTO:REUTERS

In Pakistani schools, making it compulsory to study the Holy Quran is a bit like insisting the prime minister to take a cruise along the Panama Canal for his birthday, never mind that it’s supposed to be a beautiful spot.

Yet, compulsory Quranic studies is apparently in store for young Pakistanis according to a speech given by the Minister of State for Education and Professional Training, ‘Engr’ Muhammad Baligh ur Rahman.

Mind you, speeches given by government ministers are often so much chaff, but still, speaking at Al-Huda International School’s fourth annual day celebrations (where else?) ‘Engr’ Rahman said that;

“This process would be initiated after consulting all the provinces through the platform of Inter Provincial Education Minister’s Conference (IPEMC).’’

The minister explained that Nazra Quran (learning to read the Quranic script) would be taught from grade one to grade five, and ‘proper’ Quranic education with translation would be taught to students of grade six to grade 10 in all public schools.

I’m curious to know; what constitutes ‘proper’ Quranic education?  Whose interpretation takes precedence when our religious ideals constantly conflict with one another? Why on earth should one officially go down that road, when you’re bound to be stuck at an intersection?

It’s sort of like Alice in Wonderland, when Alice, wishing to know which road to take, asks the Cheshire cat:

“What sort of people live here?”

“In that direction,” the Cat said, waving its right paw, “lives a Hatter: and in that direction,” waving the other paw, “lives a March Hare. They’re both mad.”

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice protested.

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Seeing that we had little choice and were born here, you could wave your hand towards Gilgit and say,

‘Up that way lives one community of people,’ and this way’ waving your hand around Punjab, ‘lives a substantial population of another.’

‘Down that way,’ waving your hand towards Sindh ‘lives another group of others.’

‘And across that way’, waving your hand vaguely towards Afghanistan, ‘lives a group of people who, along with many of those living in this country think that every community but theirs is mad and bullets are the best way to eliminate the differences .’

The reader looks confused.

‘Does that make sense?’ you ask.

‘No,’ the reader says flatly.

‘Good! Good!’ you say with some satisfaction. ‘It only means you are mad as well, like the rest of us. Welcome to Pakistan.’

Which brings us back to the question; which of these people would you consult as to what constitutes ‘proper’ Quranic education? And what do you do about those segments of the population for whom the Holy Quran is not valid at all?

Well the government could and apparently does exempt this segment of the population, the non-Muslims, from studying the Holy Quran. Having said that, a little boy Naveed Rafique hailing from Chak-21 GB, Jaranwala enrolled in a government school near Faisalabad was recently barred from sitting the viva for Islamic studies because the examiner felt he must perform ablutions before the exam, and Rafique, being Christian, did not know how.

Now in Punjab, Islamic studies is already a compulsory subject. If you happen to belong to one of the hapless non-Muslim communities you can take Ethics instead. But Rafique’s school could not afford to hire an Ethics teacher for him – the only non-Muslim in the school. Rafique was therefore forced to opt for Islamic studies, but come exam time, he was unable to take the viva.

Question 1: How many schools are there in the country that can ill afford additional teachers like Rafique’s school?

Answer: Many.

Question 2: How many people do you suppose think the way the examiner did in Rafique’s school?

Answer: Many.

Question 3: Are they mad or are you?

Answer: I’m not, so they must be.

Well then, good luck for a consensus on what constitutes ‘proper’ Quranic education. Oh, and welcome to Pakistan. You fit right in.

Now duck, there’s a bullet headed your way. Or mine.


Rabia Ahmed

The author is a freelance writer and translator.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • pk

    To minorities whatever left in Pakistan, it’s time to pack bags.Recommend

  • Arman Zain

    Really, you are trying to say that we should stop teaching Quran recitation and translation in School to 98% Muslim student because 2% are non Muslims?

    There is nothing complicated about it; it is an effort to ensure that Muslims students should learn to recite Quran properly rather than going to shady madrassah and learn the translation so they can better understand their religion.

    What is complicated about this unless, so called liberals makes it complicated.Recommend

  • Laskero

    While the rest of the world is reaching out for the stars, we are discussing rote memorization of ancient religious texts.Recommend

  • http://www.quranful.com TALAL ITANI

    The simple and obvious answer: Understand the message of the Quran.Recommend

  • Sara

    History tells us that its better not to translate Quran if you want to stay a Muslim.Recommend

  • Subhan Ahmad

    There are more than 90% muslims in Pakistan. It is actually democratic and logical to develop polices and systems that make muslims a better muslims. The writer is dwelling in ifs and buts which shows a lack of will power. Picking up one case of non muslim student and saying that there are many interpretaions of Quran does not mean to wrap up the whole project. Have the writer ever evaluated that how these interpretions differ from each other? These interpretations are way more similar than they are dissimilar.
    The writer is rather happy of keeping the 90% muslims of Pakistan illetrate of Quran. It is time to end this crisis of parrot reading. And at the end, thinking that others are mad and while your the sane one is plain arrogance. Thank youRecommend

  • Parvez

    Nice…..and therein lies our problem.
    On this ET site I read something that I liked…. .. ask me a difficult question and from the scriptures I will provide you with two answers, one in favor and the other against.Recommend

  • Razia

    This article makes complete sense. Let’s say we agree with your concept of minority being unimportant.
    What about these hundreds of sects inside Islam we have created since Prophet PBUH. Who’s version of Islam are you going to teach?
    Sunni, Shia, Barelvi …..should i go on?????Recommend

  • Razia

    This article makes complete sense. Let’s say we agree with your concept of minority being unimportant.

    What about these hundreds of sects inside Islam we have created since Prophet PBUH. Who’s version of Islam are you going to teach?

    Sunni, Shia, Barelvi …..should i go on?????Recommend

  • talha usmani

    Quran is uniform for all sects, so at least Quran can be taught without any hassles. Trying to understand religion and Quran from a very young age is of utmost importance.Recommend

  • Rabia

    like with any debate this is very true. And what’s more, either answer could be perfectly rational. The deciding factor is faith which brings us back to the question: which faith? Which sect, su-bsect, etc? You can never really settle that one amicably, and the best thing to do is to allow the matter to rest in decent, private repose, and officially go with the most neutral policy available.Recommend

  • Arman Zain

    The topic here is teaching recitation of Quran and Translation.
    Where do sect dome in this? I am sure Shia, Suni, Barelvi and other recite the Quran same way. The issue of sects is about intrepation of Quran and hadith not recitation of Quran.

    I hope this clarifies to you what article is a non-sense article.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Yes I suppose discretion is the answer…..it should not be this way, but it is.Recommend

  • Kamath

    Right. A Holy book is like wet bath towel you can squeeze it nightly or hard and can get juice at any time! Study of religion or forcing textual stuff into a young mind in formative years is like giving Botox injections . In the right quantity it beautifies the beauty of face and in excess it can disfigure the face. Religion in moderation provides ethical and spiritual guidance and excess can make the mind of the person rigid, inflexible bigoted.Recommend

  • Kamath

    Can somebody tell me how many mini-Islamic paradises are created in the past 1400 years after Quranic studies by its followers?Recommend

  • Kamath

    Would you agree some parts of Quran can be edited to make it easy to understand?Recommend

  • Jibraeel

    Only Allah can translate Quran. Whenever humans try to do so they form a new sect.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I hope I understood you correctly….because if I did, all I can say is that you are so right and its so unfortunate.Recommend

  • Parvez

    In a way I’ll agree…..its not religion that’s at fault, it’s the misuse of religion by people and I like to call it ‘ the business of religion ‘ that is widely practiced today that is …… for want of a better word, bad.Recommend

  • Subhan Ahmad

    Quran is as easy to understand as any text book. All you need is qualified teacher.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The answer is neither obvious nor simple…….because what you understand is not necessarily what I may understand…….and therein lies the rub.Recommend

  • Rabia

    which leads to the question we’ve been debating: who is to judge who is a qualified teacher? What is it about all that’s happening today that leads you to believe the matter is as easy as you seem to think? Is there any consensus at all on religion?Recommend

  • Subhan Ahmad

    We can only answer such questions when we actually start the journey instead of trying to figure out everything before starting anything. It is an evovling process. Eductation is infact an evolving process in all fields

    As I have said above, interpertaions are more similar than they are dissimilar. We can actually develop a whole course on dissimilarities. The point of the course should not be make the student memorize all the different interpertaions. But to develop tolerance to different views. Personally i developed tolerance when my macroeconomic teacher taught us different economics theories for the same phonomenon. He would never told us which theory he is in favor of. He ecncouraged us to think and decide ourselves.

    So qualified teacher will not make the students believe only in the interpertations he or she believes in but to make them realize that a single issue can have more than one answer and they can all be equally correct.

    Qualified teacher will not teach a particular interpertation but will teach how to approach an evaluate interpretations. If we educate the students that not everything is mutually exclusive through Quran, we can actually address the religious divide and intolerance.

    I believe that it is very logical step to embrace quran. It is very possible and very important.


  • SamSal

    This brings you back to the same question. Message in whose interpretation? Arabic is not every muslim’s language – so whose translation should one refer to?Recommend

  • SamSal

    Translations of whom: Shia, Suni, Barelvi?
    If only recitation is concerned, then basically you want people to learn Arabic.Recommend

  • Arman Zain

    You are mistaken on both counts

    1 – Recitation is not teaching Arabic, Arabic is complex language with it’s grammar and literature. In recitation you just teach proper pronunciation of Quran Arabic and its rules.

    2 – Shai, Suni and Barelvi really don’t differ much on translation, the differences are in interpretation of translation, which is part of Tafseer not translation.

    Hope this helps.Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    Islamic education in Pakistan conceals the Sharia of Moses, conceals the Gospels of Jesus, does not teach the Qur’an. Instead the government pays illiterate ignorant people to teach children Hadith, and irrelevant information regarding who is so-and-so’s uncle, aunt, cousin. They spend so much time on false worship of Sayyeds, Quadris and other irrelevant nonsense. No wonder they are suffering for this abuse of the faith.Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    There in no Qur’an in any other language. Tampering with the Qur’an is cursed by God.Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    Sunni Shia Barelvi;They are either Muslim or they are some other pagan belief.Recommend

  • Danish Mustafa

    To be a Hafiz is a great thing and brings huge honor to you and your family, All muslims must try their best at this difficult task. Muslims are not materialsts. The goal in life is not reach the stars but to reach Jannah.Recommend

  • Rabia

    Danish, to memorize something and repeat it verbatim is a feat of the memory but it has no bearing on the person’s character. There are people who have memorized the Quran but whom you would not wish to deal with. If done with good intent kudos for the intent and to the person for the effort but ‘m sorry my friend the Quran is not magic. It is meant to be understood, not gabbled out.Recommend