By Shuriah Niazi
NEW DELHI (AA) - India is perhaps the country outside the Arab world that has the highest number of Arabic language schools, or where the medium of instruction is Arabic.
Although there is no official data on how many madrassas, or Islamic education institutes, exist in India with Arabic as the medium of instruction, rough estimates place the number at 40,000.
As many across the world mark World Arabic Language Day on Saturday, Indian Arabic scholars believe the language is flourishing in the country and that madrassas have played a crucial role in bringing the language where it stands today.
"Madrassas have contributed significantly to the progress of Arabic in India. After learning Arabic in a madrassa, a student may start teaching at a university and become a professor, or he may pursue some other profession. But his foundation of the Arabic language is laid only in a madrassa. There, he learns Arabic and gains proficiency in the language," said Abul Qasim Nomani, vice chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband, a well-known Islamic seminary.
"Even in madrassas, we try (to ensure) that the prevalent local language is also taught according to the area. For example, we teach Urdu in some places and the Bengali language, along with Arabic, in the state of Bengal. But, the emphasis is on ensuring maximum teaching and learning of the Arabic language so that the students can speak Arabic easily," he told Anadolu Agency.
Nomani said the use of Arabic has increased over the last 50 years. While the language had in earlier decades been largely limited to the reading and writing of books, it is now also widely both spoken and written in many madrassas.
"You will be surprised that children in Darul Uloom are putting out their own Arabic newspapers," he said. "The newspapers are daily, weekly, and fortnightly. This is happening not only in Darul Uloom but in many madrassas of India so that the Arabic language can be promoted."
"We understand that the madrassas are playing an important role. Besides, all the people who are running Arabic magazines today have studied at madrassas only. Similarly, the former students of madrassas work in the embassies in the Arab countries and also do translation work."
- Madrassas play major role in keeping Arabic alive
Mohammad Faizan Baig, a professor at Aligarh Muslim University, agrees that madrassas have played an important role in keeping Arabic alive in India and making it popular.
"Arabic made a lot of progress after India got freedom from British rule in 1947. When India got independence and the country was divided, then Arabic was a very important language from the very beginning in universities like Aligarh and Jamia Millia Islamia," Baig told Anadolu Agency.
"After that, universities opened across the country, and a department of Arabic was established in them too. Because of this, the scope of Arabic widened, and it became popular," he added.
He said digital audio-visual language labs have been set up in Aligarh, where students of every level are taught Arabic.
"The role that madrassas play is very important because many of those who teach Arabic in universities and colleges come from madrassas," he said. "Earlier, the Arabic taught in madrassas was bookish Arabic. But later, the Arabic of everyday use began to be taught."
He said that if Arabic is learned properly, it opens up many possibilities for children in a country like India.
Children who study for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or tourism, if they also study Arabic, then their chances of getting employment increases, explained Baig.