Resources on Islamic Education (2007)

April 17, 2007

Allah in Arabic

The Carnegie Council has assembled a list of resources on Islamic schools with the goal of informing the public about the facts and views on madrassa education, the variety of education institutions and systems within the Muslim world, and the particular challenges that Muslim schools face today.

The materials below do not reflect the views of the Carnegie Council. They are deliberately chosen to present a wide range of perspectives.



Pakistan: Madrasas, Extremism And The Military
International Crisis Group, 2002
One of the first documents to describe madrassas as a major destabilizing factor in Pakistan and as an international threat, this influential report is sometimes blamed for creating much of the sensationalism surrounding the discussion of madrassas. The original version claimed that one third of Pakistani children attend madrassas, but this was based on a miscalculation. This number has since been corrected, without any changes in the main conclusions of the report.

Religious School Enrolment in Pakistan: A Look at the Data
Tahir Andrabi, Jishnu Das, Asim Ijas Khwaja, and Tristan Zajonic (funded by the World Bank), 2005
This controversial study argues that the number of Pakistani madrassas has been greatly exaggerated. The authors claim that "madrassas account for less than 1 percent of all enrollment in the country and there is no evidence of a dramatic increase in recent years." The findings are based on data found in the official 1998 Census; the 1991, 1998 and 2001 rounds of Pakistan Integrated Household Survey; and a 2003 census of schooling choice conducted by the project's research team. It also questions the link between poverty and the choice of madrassa education.

Juggling Figures, Ignoring Facts (Response to the World Bank report)
Samina Ahmed, International Crisis Group, 2005
The author questions the methodology and the sources of the World Bank report (above).

Pakistani Madrassahs: A Balanced View
Principal Investigator, Saleem H. Ali, University of Vermont and Brown University. Principal Collaborator, Dr. Syed Tauqir Hussain Shah (draft submitted to the United States Institute of Peace, 2005)
This is a study of madrassas' sociopolitical context and their connections to inter-sectarian violence. It concludes that there is evidence of a link between madrassas and sectarian violence, particularly in rural Punjab. The study contains a review of the literature on madrassas, a background section, a discussion of funding sources, some cross-country comparisons, and a section on education reform.

The Madrassa and the State of Pakistan: Religion, Poverty and the Potential for Violence
Tariq Rahman, Himal SouthAsian Magazine, February 2004
This is a good introductory essay on madrassas with useful data and a short literature review. It represents one of few resources containing a survey of opinions among madrassa students and teachers. Rahman emphasizes the link between poverty and extremism.

Unfulfilled Promises: Pakistan's Failure to Tackle Extremism
International Crisis Group Report, 2004
This report cites the Musharraf government's dependence on religious support as the main hindrance to genuine reform of the madrassa system in Pakistan.

Reforming Pakistan's Educational System: The Challenge of the Madrassas
Robert E. Looney, Center for Contemporary Conflict, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA
The Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, 28.3. 2003, pp. 257-274

Looney examines the history and functioning of the madrassa school system in Pakistan, which he sees as a fount of Islamic fundamentalism in that country, and a potential source of recruits for militant Islamic extremism.

Islamic Education in Pakistan: A Trip Report
Christine Fair, United States Institute of Peace
The author reports on a recent trip to Pakistan where USIP interviewed madrassa leaders on their views regarding recent attempts at reform and the main challenges facing religious education in Pakistan. (Audio of a discussion and PDF of the report)

The Subtle Subversion (Draft Copy)
A. H. Nayyar and Ahmed Salim , 2004, Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad
This analysis of the curricula and textbooks in Pakistan's national education system shows that they contain material "contrary to the goals and values of a progressive, moderate and democratic Pakistan." The authors argue that the 2002 Revision of Curricula has only worsened the situation.

Other Countries

The effect of School Type on Academic Achievement: Evidence from Indonesia
David Newhouse, Kathleen Beegle, The World Bank, 2005
This study shows that the academic results of students attending madrassas in Indonesia are similar to those of students enrolled in secular private schools.

Reforming the Indian Madrassas: Contemporary Muslim Voices
Yoginder Sikand, Chapter 8 in Religious Radicalism and Security in South Asia edited by Satu Limaye, Robert Wirsing and Mohan Maliki, APCSS, 2004
This paper presents debates regarding reform of the madrassa system in India. The final section of the paper discusses recent accusations of links between Indian madrassas and terrorism. The author argues that the current atmosphere of hostility and suspicion hurts the chances of reform.

Toward a National Education Development Paradigm in the Arab World: A Comparative Study of Saudi Arabia and Qatar
Sarah Yamani
The Fletcher School Online Journal for Issues Related to Southeast Asia and Islamic Civilization, Spring 2006

This study aims to address why Saudi Arabia strove to develop a comprehensive education reform while Qatar chose a more cautious approach.

Education and Islamic Trends in Northern Nigeria, 1970s-1990s
Muhammad S. Umar, Africa Today, 2001 
This article analyses three Islamic trends in Nigeria and their connection to educational background. Umar finds that Muslim fundamentalism is linked to Western education more often than it is linked to traditional Islamic education. One possible reason is that in order to gain legitimacy in the political arena, western-educated Muslims need to demonstrate their knowledge of Islam more strongly than other groups.

Islamic Education in Syria: Undoing Secularism
Joshua M. Landis, Prepared for "Constructs of Inclusion and Exclusion: Religion and Identity Formation in Middle Eastern School Curricula" Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University, November 2003
This article is based on a close analysis of a sample of Syrian textbooks. The author argues that reform of the curriculum to teach tolerance of religious diversity is needed, yet unlikely under current political arrangements.


Understanding Madrasahs
Alexander Evans, Foreign Affairs, 2006
This essay argues that madrassas present not a threat, but rather an opportunity for engagement and reform.

Islamic Religious Schools: Madrassas (updated 2006) [PDF]
Febe Armanios, Christopher M. Blanchard, Congressional Research Service (CRS), Library of Congress
This is a concise background document on madrassas.

Investing in the Children of the Islamic World
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), 2005
This report is not concerned directly with Islamic schools, but contains useful education statistics.

Islamic Education: A Brief History of Madrassas With Comments on Curricula and Current Pedagogical Practices(draft) [PDF]
Uzma Anzar, March 2003
This report examines madrassas in a historical context, and contains some cross-country analysis. The countries and regions discussed include West Africa, Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

Islamic Education, EFA and Millennium Development Goals [PDF]
Frank Method, World Bank, Summary Report, 2003
This is a summary of World Bank recommendations regarding Islamic education and the UN development goals.

Arab Human Development Report 2003: Building a Knowledge Society
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
The report includes a section on the state of education in Arab countries.

Religious Education and Extremism

The Normality of Global Jihadi Terrorism [PDF]
Marc Sageman, The Journal of International Security Affairs, Spring 2005
The author attacks some common explanations about the origins of terrorism, including the assumption that many terrorists have received a madrassa education.

Human Bombs: Rethinking Religion and Terror (PDF)
Nichole Argo, MIT Center for International Studies, 2006
The author explains terrorism through a "social-network theory" and argues that madrassas and other religious institutions in themselves are not centers of indoctrination or recruitment; Rather, social ties and emotion come before ideology; joining jihad is not an explicit decision but a "social and emotional process that happens over time."

A Hundred Osamas: Islamist Threats and the Future of Counterinsurgency
Sherifa Zuhur, Strategic Studies Institute, 2006
This monograph contains a section on education and terrorism and follows Bergen and Pandev, and the World Bank study (see above) in questioning the threat posed by madrassas. Zahur points out that Islamic schools are often a better option for students than overcrowded public schools, and argues that dogmatism and intolerance are often as much of a problem in the national educational system of certain countries as they are in the madrassas.


Teaching Islam: Textbooks and Religion in the Middle East
Eleanor Doumato and Gregory Starrett, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2006
This anthology of essays looks at the ways in which Islam is represented in textbooks across different countries of the Middle East. The chapters also provide a perspective on social and political priorities involved in religious education within nine specific countries.

Modernization of Muslim Education in India
Fahimuddin, Adhyayan Publishers, 2004
Based on a study of selected madrassas in Uttar Pradesh, this book looks at the madrassas in India and the different understandings of modernization. The author also provides an overview of madrassas and comments on the influx of money from the Gulf region to establish madrassas in India.

Islamic Education, Diversity and National Identity: Dini Madaris in India Post 9/11
Jan-Peter Hartung and Helmut Reifeld (eds.), Sage Publications, 2006
This edited volume provides different perspectives on the role of dini madaris (Muslim educational institutions, also known as madrassas) in the post 9/11 environment. The multi-national panel of scholars draws on insights from recent, original fieldwork to look at madrassas from an historical and regional perspective, to discuss the role of the media and gender, and to provide possible frameworks for change.

Schooling Islam: Modern Muslim Education
Robert W. Hefner and Muhammad Qasim Zaman, eds., Princeton University Press, 2006
A comprehensive work that brings together 11 scholars to examine the varieties of modern Muslim education and the implications for national and global politics. It looks at the past, present, and future of Islamic education.

Madrasa Education in India: Eleventh to Twenty-First Century
S.M. Azizuddin Husain, ed., Kanishka, 2005
This volume is based on a collection of essays from a national seminar held in New Delhi in 2002. It includes chapters on the education of women and girls in India. Other essays look at the impact of colonialism; brief histories of individual madrassa; as well as curriculum development and a general look at Islamic education.

Education and the State: Fifty Years of Pakistan.
Pervez Hoodbhoy, ed., Oxford University Press, 1998
This edited volume looks at the complex issue of education in Pakistan. Chapter 8 "Madrassa Education: Frozen in Time" by A.H. Nayyar provides a description of the historical development of madrassas and their evolution in South Asia, especially Pakistan. Nayyar looks at the curriculum and the possible tensions with modern society that result from following a curriculum filled with teachings and traditions which have had little change over the centuries.

Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism
Robert Pape, Random House, 2005
Pape draws on material from the first comprehensive database, which he created, of every terrorist attack from 1980 to the present. He provides a context to view this new threat, debunks many of the myths about the nature of suicide terrorism, and provides answers to many key questions regarding the war on terror.

Understanding Terrorist Networks
Marc Sageman, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004
Sageman uses biographical information on over 172 jihadists to provide a social explanation for the present global surge in terrorism. He looks at the growth of terrorist networks and provides an account of life within the cells in Hamburg and Montreal that planned attacks on the United States.

Bastions of the Believers: Madrasas and Islamic Education in India
Yoginder Sikand, Penguin Global, 2006
Sikand explores the complex and diverse function of madrassas in the lives of many Muslims by concentrating on the madrassas of India. The author describes the development of this educational institution, critiques the curriculum, and examines alleged links between madrassas and militant Islam.

Putting Islam to Work: Education, Politics, and Religious Transformation in Egypt (Comparative Studies on Muslim Societies, No 25)
Gregory Starrett, University of California Press, 1988
By looking at the intersection of public culture and power, Starrett shows how the mass media and mass education gradually changed the Islamic tradition in Egypt. The author also looks at the construction of national identities and the relationship of religion to state bureaucracies and political interest groups.

Madrasas in India: Trying To Be Relevant
Akhtarul Wasey, ed., Global Media, 2005
This is an edited volume with essays that look at issues confronting Indian Muslims and teaching institutions. In addition to assessing the role of madrassas in Indian society and politics, it also looks at religious training and controversies over the curriculum.

The Ulama in Contemporary Islam: Custodians of Change
Muhammad Qazim Zaman, Princeton University Press, 2002
This is a comprehensive study of the role that educated Muslim religious scholars (ulama), have played in society. Zaman focuses on the ulama of South Asia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and their religious and societal transformations. Central themes include the increasingly public and activist roles of today's ulama; and general changes ulama, Islam, and Muslim societies have experienced.


Studies in Contemporary Islam
Coedited by Professors Mumtaz Ahmad (Hampton University) and Mustansir Mir (Youngstown State University)
This is a semiannual journal published by the Center for Islamic Studies.

Islam and Education--Myths and Truths
Comparative Education Review, August 2006
In this special journal issue leading scholars examine education in Islam from medieval times to the present.

Pedagogy, Power, and Discourse: Transformation of Islamic Education
Aziz Talbani Comparative Education Review, Vol. 40, No. 1, Special Issue on Religion (Feb. 1996), pp. 66-82
In addition to looking at the historical development of knowledge and power linkages in Islamic societies, this article also looks at how Islamic education is used to reproduce and build discourses of power. Pakistan is used as a case study to discuss changes in the concept of Islamic education.

Inside Jihad U.: The Education of A Holy Warrior
Jeffrey Goldberg, The New York Times, 25 June 2000
This article takes a look inside the Haqqiania madrassa in Pakistan.

Islamic Radicalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Olivier Roy, Writenet for UNHCR, January 2002
This is an overview of the evolution of Islamic radicalism and it includes a section on madrassa networks.

Egyptian Education Minister Discusses Curriculum, Religious Education, Jihad, and Democracy
Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch Series, No. 684. 19 March 2004
This Special Dispatch excerpts portions of interviews with Egyptian Education Minister Dr. Hussein Kamel Bahaa Al-Din and the London Arabic-language daily newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and the Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Ahram discussing reform in the Egyptian curriculum.

Madrassas: Religion, Poverty and the Potential for Violence in Pakistan
Tariq Rahman, Islamabad Policy Research Institute Journal, Vol. 5, No.2 , Winter 2005
This article surveys madrassas, the curriculum, and students who attend these "Islamic seminaries."

The Impact of Political Islam on Education: The Turkish Revitalization of Islamic Education in the Turkish Educational Setting
I. Guven, International Journal of Educational Development, Vol. 25, No. 3, pp.193-208, May 2005
Guven studies the role of Islam in education during different periods in Turkey's history. He concludes that political Islam has indeed influenced the structure of the curriculum, as well as education policy and its implementation.

The Madrassa Myth
Peter Bergen and Swati Pandey, The New York Times, 14 June 2005
This op-ed piece looks at the influence of madrassas and briefly discusses a World Bank study on the subject.

The Public Debate on Kuwait's School Curricula: To Teach or Not To Teach Jihad
Y. Yehoshua, Inquiry and Analysis Series, No. 224, Middle East Media Research Institute, 2 June 2005
This report looks at the debate within Kuwait on the need for curricular reform. Many educators and intellectuals in Kuwait feel the curricula include extremist messages and encourage terrorism.

Tartarstan: Russian Main Islamic University to Offer Secular Curriculum
Valentinas Mite, RFE/RL, 31 May 2006
In an attempt to offer a more balanced education and curb the risk of religious extremism, the administration of Russia's first official Islamic university, founded in Kazan in 1998, decided to add secular subjects to the school's curriculum. The RFE/RL website offers additional articles on Islamic education.


9/11 Commission Report
The report provides an account of the circumstances surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It comments on madrassas and recommends an agenda of "economic and educational opportunity" as part of the global war on terror; "Education that teaches tolerance, the dignity and value of each individual, and respect for different beliefs is a key element in any global strategy to eliminate Islamist terrorism." (p. 378).

PBS Frontline: Saudi Time Bomb? Analysis Madrassa
This report provides an analysis of madrassas based on interviews with Vali Nasr, expert on Islamic fundamentalism, and Richard C. Holbrooke, former ambassador to the United Nations. It is part of the site dedicated to the Frontline program Saudi Time Bomb?" that looks at the effects of Islamic fundamentalism on Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's Curriculum of Intolerance: With Excerpts from Saudi Ministry of Education Textbooks for Islamic Studies
Center for Religious Freedom of the Hudson Institute and the Institute for Gulf Affairs, 2006
This joint report analyzes excerpts from some of the major textbooks on Islamic studies published by the Saudi Ministry of Education. It also reviews the need for educational reform in Saudi Arabia. (The Institute for Gulf Affairs provides information on the Gulf region and analyses of Gulf politics.)


Center on Islam, Democracy and the Future of the Muslim World, Hudson Institute
The Center's website looks at the dynamics of Islam around world and provides links to publications and resources. Hudson Institute also publishes the series Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, edited by Hillel Fradkin and Hussain Haqqani.

Council on Islamic Education (CIE)
The Council provides resources on Islamic history and philosophy within the context of the U.S. curriculum for teaching about world history and world religions.

International Relations and Security Network (ISN)
The ISN website offers free access to open-source digital resources. Their publishing house database also holds many related resources.

Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad (IPS)
IPS is a Pakistan-based think tank whose many research activities includes international relations, contemporary Islam, and Pakistani affairs.

The Muslim Educational Trust
This U.K.-based organization provides information on educating children living within a non-Muslim society. The organization publishes Islam: Beliefs and Teachings by Ghulam Sarwar (rev. ed.), which--according to an online description--is one of the best-selling books on Islam, provides a comprehensive introduction to the religion, and is used in many Islamic centers and schools.

United States Institute of Peace (USIP)
USIP is an independent, nonpartisan, national institution aimed at preventing, managing, and resolving violent international conflicts by empowering others with the necessary skills, knowledge, and resources, as well as by engaging in peacebuilding efforts around the world. USIP has two programs focused on issues related to the Muslim world and Islam:

  • Muslim World Initiative: Launched in the aftermath of 9/11, this program seeks to unravel the complexities of the Muslim world and to address challenges related to foreign policy and national security.

  • Religion and Peacemaking Program:This program builds on the capacity of faith-based and interfaith organizations and has stimulated discussion on Islam and reform in Islam. The program also has links to relevant articles and resources.

The World Bank: Building Better Schools in Pakistan Program
This article describes part of the World Bank's Pakistan education program.