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Religious Institutes in Pakistan

Madaris in Pakistan

In Pakistan, the madaris are based on sect, and every sect has its own madrassa network that is controlled by a board or Wafaq. Every board has its own system of education and they hold annual exams and distribute certificates among students.  There are five madrassa boards or wafaqs  in  Pakistan,  and  they  are  also  members  of  Ittehad  Tanzeemat  Madaaris  Deenia (ITMD), an umbrella organization of madaris, which was established in 2003. They are;

  1. Wafaq ul-Madaaris al-Arabia (Deobandi)
  2. Tanzeem ul-Madaaris (Barelvi)
  3. Wafaq ul-Madaaris al-Salafia. (Ahl-e-Hadith)
  4. Wafaq ul-Madaaris al-Shia (Shia)
  5. Rabita ul-Madaaris al-Islamia (Jama’at-e-Islami)

Among  the  five  above-mentioned  boards,  four  of  them  are  classified  on  the  basis  of  sects; Deobandi,  Barelvi,  Shia  or  Ahl-e-Hadith,  and  a  fifth  board  that  is  affiliated  to  Jama’at-e-Islami does not adhere to any specific sect. There are two primary sects in Pakistan, the Sunnis and Shias. The Shias makes up about 15% of the Pakistani Muslims. The Pakistani Sunnis are followers of the Hanafi school of thought. Among the Sunnis, the majority are Barelvi, a generally moderate group who seek to be inclusive of local rituals and customs. The Deobandi school of thought (originating in the Indian town of Deoband,  near Delhi),  seek  to  purify Islam by  rejecting  “un-Islamic”  accretions to  the  faith from  culture  and custom.  The Ahl-e-Hadith (followers of the way of the Prophet) have a similar emphasis on “purifying” the faith, but they do not follow any fiqh (religious jurisprudence), as opposed to the Hanafi fiqh. The details of the abovementioned boards with particular reference to their sect are as follows:

1. Wafaq ul-Madaris al-Arabia (Deobandi)

Central board of Sunni Deobandi institutions; established at Mulltan in 1960.

Although  within  the  Sunni  sect,  Barelvis  are  greater  in  number,  Deobandis  have  more  religious seminaries in Pakistan because they are more organized in the realm of religious activism. The registered number of Deobandi madaris is about 16,800 affiliated with Wafaq ul- Madaaris al-Arabia. Hifz, tajweed and dars-e-nizami madaris are also included in the total number. Jamia Ashrafia  Lahore and Dar ul-Uloom Korangi Karachi  are distinguished within Deobandi madrassas because they are operating independently, and their degrees and certificates  were  approved  by  the  government  during  the  Zia-ul-Haq  regime.  However, their students also appear in the exam board of Wafaq ul-Madaaris al-Arabia.

2. Tanzeem ul-Madaris (Barelvi)

Central board of Sunni Barelvi institutions; established at Lahore in 1960.

The total number of registered madaris affiliated with Tanzeem ul-Madaaris is about 8,000, which is less than half of the total number of Deobandi madaris. The Barelvi sect follows the creed of Sufism that prevailed in the sub-continent. Within the network of Barelvi madrassas, Dar-ul-Uloom  Muhammadia  Ghosia  Bhera,  district  Sargodha,  Punjab  which  has more  than four hundred branches, and Minhaj-ul-Quran,  which  has  schools and colleges equipped with modern education, make a distinction as they are not affiliated with Tanzeem ul-Madaaris and have separate education and examination systems.

3. Wafaq ul-Madaris al-Salafia. (Ahl-e-Hadith)

This board was established by the Ahl-i Hadith at Faisalabad in 1955.

The  other  Sunni  group  is  the  Ahl-e-Hadith,  a  small  minority,  which  holds  1,400  registered madaris affiliated with  Wafaq ul-Madaaris al-Salafia in Pakistan. The  Pakistanis often refer to  this  group  as  the  Wahhabis  and/or  Salafis,  as  their  teachings  are  close  to  that  of  Abdul Wahhab. They completely reject all schools of thoughts including the Hanafi.  The madaris of the controversial Jama’at-ud-Dawa are also registered in Wafaq-ul-Madaaris al-Salafia. Jamia  Salafia  Faisalabad,  founded  by  Hakeem  Abdur  Raheem  Ashraf is  the  only  madrasa within the  Salafi  school  of  thought  which  is independent  with  regards  to  examinations,  and distributes degrees with the approval of the government.  

4. Wafaq ul-Madaris al-Shia (Shia)

This board of Shia institutions was established in 1959 and has its centre in Lahore. Shia madrassas teach fiqh Jafariya named after Imam Jafer Sadiq, while other madrassas in Pakistan teach fiqh Hanafia.

Although  Shias  are  in  minority  in  Pakistan,  they  have a  considerable  number  of  Madaris; about 413 madaris are registered under Wafaq ul-Madaaris al-Shia. There is no distinct seminary  in  the  Shia  sect  of  Pakistan  that  has  authority  to  issue  a  degree  or  hold  examinations independently.     

5. Rabita ul-Madaris al-Islamia (Jama’at-e-Islami)

This board was established by the Jamaat-i-Islamiat Lahore in 1983, and recognizes the madrassas of all Islamic thought. They teach more modern subjects. The Jama’at-e-Islami, founded by the prominent Islamic thinker Ab’ul ala Mawdudi, is a revivalist and religio-political movement that considers itself as the “vanguard” of the Islamic revolution in Pakistan. It has an independent orientation, with no affiliation to any sect. There are about 1,000 registered madaris affiliated with Jama’at-e-Islami’s madrassa network Rab-ita ul Madaaris.

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