Fakhar Bilal

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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For much of Islamic history, the transmission of the central texts of Islam (the Quran and the Hadiths), and the skills needed to make them socially useful was undertaken primarily in the households of the ulama (learned men). In the classical Islamic era this process did come to be formalised for some in the madrasa or college. Such colleges slowly spread throughout the Islamic world. By the mid-twentieth century in South Asia, for instance, there were at most a few hundreds of them.
Since independence in 1947 the number of madrasas has increased exponentially. My focus is on Pakistan where the number has gone from 189 in 1947 to 10,000 in 2002. A large majority of these new foundations, namely over 7,000 in number, have been of the reformist Deobandi tradition. This raises the issue of how a reforming tradition, opposed to many expressions of Sufism, was able to expand in a region where Islamic mysticism was very strong. It is an issue that attains especial importance when we note that the dominant religious presence amongst jihadi Muslims of the NW Frontier has been Deobandi.
This study shows how a Deobandi madrasa came to be established in the city of Multan in southern Punjab. This is a case study of one madrasa Jamia Khair ul Madaris, which was established in 1931 in east Punjab in Jalandhar (present-day India) and then relocated in the Multan city in the Multan district, of the Punjab province in Pakistan in 1947. Multan is an urban developed area, which has supported the development of a major Deobandi madrasa and its education system amid its dominant sufi and shrine cultures which were once the symbol of the area. It was called Madina tul Aulia (City of Saints). Commonly, madrasas are community initiatives, working independently of the state sponsorship or funding but they are registered with their respective wifaqs (boards of education).
My study is divided into six chapters. Chapter One gives a background of Multan’s development into a mega city and hub for trade and the subsequent boost given to it by the Green Revolution. The second chapter explains the establishment of Khair ul Madaris and its growth in colonial India under the supervision of Maulana Khair Muhammad and its restoration in Multan in 1947 after Partition. In Chapter Three, I have explained how Khair ul Madaris strengthened itself in Pakistan and created Wifaq ul Madaris as major organisation serving as Board of Education in 1959. Chapter Four discusses life within Jamia Khair ul Madaris as part of the training of students for life. Chapter Five elucidates the curriculum and education reform attempts by the successive regimes in Pakistan and talks about the education imparted in Jamia Khair ul Madaris, Multan and the last chapter describes the sources of funding and public subscription coming to the madrasa.
Extensive government and secondary sources are used to create the social, economic and cultural context in which Jamia Khair ul Madaris grew. For the history and life of the madrasa itself, the madrasa archives and library as well as the personal libraries of the leading families in Multan have been consulted. Amongst the records we have been particularly interested in are the departmental records of the madrasa to work out how Khair ul Madaris re-established itself in 1947 and survived. Two major conclusions are already evident. First, the role of the followers of the Deobandi alim, Ashraf Ali Thanvi (d. 1943) in initiating the spread of madrasas throughout Pakistan; and second, the role of the Green Revolution in generating the extra financial wealth to support the massive expansion of madrasas.
Original languageEnglish
  • Robinson, Francis, Supervisor
  • Ansari, Sarah, Advisor
Award date1 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Pakistan, Islam, Madrasa, Deobandi, Multan

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