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70,000 Arabic teachers needed. Apply within

Last week, I came across an interesting news article on feedspot.com, an internet news aggregator. The article's title was "Pakistan: 70,000 Arabic teachers hired for compulsory teaching of Quran." The substance of the article is the capital city of Pakistan, Lahore has approved the appointment of 70,000 Arabic teachers for compulsory teaching of the Qur'an in all schools of the province. With a population of 11 million, Lahore is the capital of the Punjab province and the second-largest city in Pakistan after Karachi. Last year, Lahore made Quran teaching mandatory in all the universities located there. Now, they are taking it down to grades 1 through 5.

India went through the same cycle a decade ago and has shut down around 700 madrasas out of 24,000 in the past few years. What India found was that some schools often propagate the jihad ideology. One media probe found that even madrasas not involved with jihad theology still taught subjects where women are inferior beings and non-Muslims are "kafirs," initiating a "we against them" mentality.

Reciting the Qur'an is the backbone of Muslim education. Traditionally, madrasas are institutions of higher studies, where students learn sharia law, Islamic studies, and philosophy. With the Qur'an being the leading textbook, madrasas are created as needed to provide poor and needy students a means to improve their worth. Their education is to study, learn, and recite the Qur'an. There may be additional studies such as agriculture or basic sanitation and medicine, but this is education on the cheap, financed primarily throughout the world by rich oil-producing nations.

According to a conservative estimate, during the last two decades, Saudi Arabia alone has rolled out nearly 90 billion dollars for the propagation of Wahhabi Islam through the establishment of thousands of mosques and madrasas. On a rough count, more than 25 percent of the 90 billion petro-dollars are believed to have been pumped into India, Nepal, and Bangladesh to establish more madrasas. Additionally, huge sums were transferred from other Muslim nations, including Pakistan, to establish madrasas in India and other countries of South Asia to step up the campaign of global jihad.

Madrasas populate the entire Muslim world. The best and brightest from these madrasas can wind up in tournaments that can attract audiences in the hundreds of thousands – the Super Bowl, if you will, of the Muslim world. The winners' CDs and other audio and video recordings become instant bestsellers. It goes even further – it is also possible to get university degrees from your ability to recite the Qur'an. In the meantime, most students learn Islamic principles that reinforce its powerful belief system.

The angel Gabriel dictated the words of Allah to Muhammad in Arabic. Arabic has, of course, many different dialects, and Arab literature is full of poetry. During Muhammad's days, poetry competitions were frequent, as one poet would challenge another, usually from different tribes or clans. Pageants were held in the major markets of Arabia to determine whose command of the language was best. The Qur'an was known to have rhythm and prose that vastly surpassed the best poets of the day.

Recitation of the Qur'an in Arabic or even reading it in Arabic will work for the believer if they know and understand Arabic. As Islam spread, how would the holy book be disseminated? After all, the content was to be heard, not read. During the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries, few people could read or understand Arabic in the countries that fell to Islam during Islam's expansion phase. At the same time, Muslims were very possessive of the Qur'an and its knowledge. Three solutions to the issue of literacy evolved in the Muslim world. First, the madrasas, wherever they are, teach the Qur'an in Arabic. The student may not understand how to speak conversationally in Arabic, but they know how to recite the Qur'an in Arabic and what each chapter and verse means.

Second, Islamic clerics, all of them men – as women were and are still not allowed to enter the clergy (except in extraordinary circumstances) – are ordained to define the meaning and the message of the Qur'an. The Catholic priests were the only people to read the Bible in medieval times because it was written and spoken in Latin. Imams, usually ordained clerics trained to lead the prayers in mosques, and the ulama, trained religious scholars, know the law that stems from the Qur'an and the sunna.

Third, translations of the book gradually leaked out to the masses. To the orthodox faithful, this was a problem. The inherent sacredness of the Qur'an has historically created an unusual situation for the Muslim faithful. Based on its recitation in Arabic, the Qur'an has a significant impact on its followers; however, translation into any other language causes the material to lose its message. Muslims believe that translating the Qur'an into any different language will violate the divine nature of the text. Because translating the Qur’an caused the content to lose its divinity, the third solution that emerged was to consider a translation as commentary. It is as if one had written a hymn for a Christian service. The hymn might pertain to the holiness of God, but most people would not consider it sacred or holy like the Bible. It would be an opinion piece of the “real” thing.

Don't get the wrong idea that all madrasas are breeding grounds for radical extremism. Students attend to learn knowledge and make themselves employable. It is up to the governments in charge to ensure that is happening.

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