Education And Empowerment of Travancore Muslims: Rediscovering The Role of Vakkom Moulavi
Sajeena Beevi. A
University of Kerala
Prior to the origin of Islam as a new faith in Arabia in the seventeenth century A.D, Arabs had established their trading contact with coastal regions of Kerala. The native rulers of Kerala extended all facilities and protection to them because their presence was needed for the prosperity of the Rajas. Similar was the approach of the Maharajas of Travancore towards the Muslims there.
The Arabs and their religious scholars Rameswaram, Coramandal and Tirunelveli who came for trade and religious preaching are in fact sowed the seeds of Islam in Travancore. This resulted in emerging of a Muslim community in Travancore by combining these traders with the lower cast people as well as a few from higher cast also. The minor ports in Travancore had a regular trade relation with the Arabs which gradually lead to the flourishment of this community in Travancore
The Muslims continued to play a significant role in Travancore till the English began to control them indirectly. Even though the British had no administrative control over the Kingdom of Travancore, they established some contacts with them in the matters of trade and commerce. In course of time the rulers of Travancore sought the help of the British when they were threatened with other forces. Gradually the British were able to their influence in Travancore region by establishing a forth at Anjengo. They even supplied their Soldiers to help the rulers of Travancore in time of necessity. It was this growing influence of the British in the internal affairs of Travancore- that the role of Muslims was reduced in course of time.
The condition of the Muslim community in Kerala towards the close of the nineteenth century was pitiable. Muslims had lost their vitality and progress and had fallen into an abyss of ignorance and superstition. Because of their opposition to the British, they had set their face firmly against western education. The hostile attitude of the Government to the Muslims, on account of their violent opposition to their rule, and they are turning away from western education hindered the progress of the community.
Until the first decades of the twentieth century Muslim education in the state was mainly concerned with Dars, Othupallis, Maktabs and Madrasa’s – where traditional education is imparted and their education was mainly religious in character. The religious education to the Muslim students of Travancore was not proper. The students are leading to the Quran recitation after learning Arabic letters. The students repeated what the teacher read in the class rooms. The students are not trained to understand the meaning of the Quran except they can read it well. This education program did not give place to the knowledge of the worldly life. There were no institutions such as schools or colleges to impart modern education among the Muslims. This sad state of affairs pained the hearts of some enlightened leaders and scholars among them and they began to work for the deliverance of their community from their backwardness and degeneration. Vakkom Abdul Qadir Moulavi was the most important reformer who worked for the enlightenment and upliftment of the Muslim community in Travancore.
Vakkom Abdul Qadir Moulavi (1873-1932)
The Islamic renaissance in Kerala in the real sense began it Vakkom Abdul Qadir Moulavi. In fact it is from his that old Muslim reform movement which have been subsequently working in Kerala derived inspiration and guidance. At the time of his birth, the community was steeped in ignorance and superstition and resisted any call to take modern education. It fell to the lot of Moulavi Sahib to approach the problems of the Muslim community with deliverance tact and to plant his reform activities both with the cooperation of the authorities and the Ulama of the community who had yet to come to terms with modern education.
Moulavi started a campaign for the spread of education and restoration of pristine Islam. In his monthly journal the Muslim presented an educational statistics of the Travancore Muslims to convince them of their sad plight. Accordingly the literacy of Muslim men was 8.4 % and that of Muslim was 1.0 %. He also pointed out the fact that their traditional occupation like farming and trade, were in primitive style for want of scientific education. To rouse the community to the need for modern education was one of the aims of Moulavi in starting the different journals founded by him.
For the promotion of education of Muslim women, the contribution made by the Muslim was substantial and it produced everlasting results. Through the columns of the Muslim he exhorted the community to spread education among Muslim women.
While making the aware of their problems, on one hand the Muslim was exerting pressure on the Government to adopt liberal policies to promote Muslim education on the other. As a result of his consistent efforts and pressure exerted on the authorities, Government took steps to appoint Arabic Munshies in schools and Inspectors to oversee Arabic teaching. Scholarships and teaching grants were instituted to help Muslim students and to attract them to schools. Moulavi was empowered to issue certificates to qualify applicants for appoint as Arabic Munshi. When the Arabic Examination Board was constituted, he was made by the President and the Muhammedan School Inspector, the member of the Board. The text book Talimul Qira prepared by him was approved as the text book in the schools for teaching Arabic in primary classes and his Ahkamuttajwid was recognized as one of the text books for examination for Quran teachers. It was through his efforts that modern education spread widely in southern Kerala.
The tireless service Moulavi and his friends created wide interest in secular education among the Muslims. Within a short period, 75 schools were founded in different parts of Travancore to satisfy this new urge. The most spectacular effect was in Alappuzha, where the first Muslim school was established. Under the inspiration of moulavi several local organizations such as Lajanat Muhammadiya Sangam, Barakat- ul Muslimin, Manasid- ul Islam Sangam, Travancore Muslim Mahasabha, Chirayinkeezhu Taluk Muslim Samajam and Nilakkamukku Muslim Samajam were emerged for the promotion of modern education and socio-reform among the Muslim community in Kerala, especially in Travancore. Through the work of these organizations several schools, libraries and book stores were established, all of which provided opportunities for Muslims to embrace modern education and to digest the ides of Islahi Movement.
The extent of the impact of Moulavi’s reformist activities can be guessed from the following remark of Director of Public Instruction: “The services rendered by Moulavi and the Muslim in the case of Muslim education were greater than those of the Government. Perhaps, the Government was able to go forward much, on account of the support given by their work…”
Vakkom Abdul Qadir Moulavi did everything in his capacity to elevate education to the prime mover to economic development and social change. He realized that education could stimulate and accelerate the progress of Muslim society. Moulavi fought for a new system of education to be introduced among Muslims combining religious as well as secular knowledge.
In recent years, Muslims have made progress in leaps and bounds in the field of modern education. The great strides in secular education, which the Muslim women had made in the subsequent decades, were certainly the impact of the tireless and dedicated efforts of the reformers like Vakkom Moulavi.
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2 Abdul Aziz. M, Rise Of Muslims In Kerala Politics, P.17.
3 Jamal Muhammad. T, Swedeshabhimani Vakkom Moulavi, Trivandrum, 2010, P.77.
4 Mohammad U, Educational Empowerment of Kerala Muslims: A Socio-Historical Perspective, Calicut, 2007, P.56.
5 The Muslim, January, 1996.
6 Mohammad Ali. K.T, Development of Education Among the Mappilas of Malabar 1800-1965, New Delhi, 1990, P.145.
7 Abdul Samad M, Islam in Kerala Groups and Movements in the 20th century, Kollam 1998, PP.62-63.
8 Mohammad U, op.cit., P.57.
9 Jaseem. S, Educational Empowerment of Muslim Women in Kerala: A Historical Perspective, Nagarcoil, 2013, PP. 35-36.
10 Abdul Samad, op.cit., P.65