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(RNS) — When Waqas Khan, a 29-year-old Pakistani, graduated from his madrasa in Karachi, he felt disillusioned.
Though he had earned top grades throughout his education, he felt confused about the role of religion and Islamic scholars in the 21st century. “I could not connect the learned knowledge with the world I am living in,” Khan told Religion News Service. “I needed to know what I am missing but I could not.”
Ebrahim - Moosa - Dots
Then he met Ebrahim Moosa, and the dots began to connect.
Moosa, a South African, had felt similarly disenchanted after graduating from the one of the most esteemed madrasas in the Muslim world, the famous Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama seminary in Lucknow, India. His curiosity pushed him to get a certificate in journalism, which led him to report on his native country’s struggles over apartheid.
Academia - Degrees - University - Cape - Town
He then pivoted toward academia, earning degrees at the University of Cape Town before moving to the United States to teach Islamic studies at Stanford, Duke and Notre Dame University in Indiana.
Those experiences, Moosa told RNS, helped fill in the critical gaps in his madrasa education and convinced him to help other highly but narrowly educated Muslims. In 2015, Moosa founded the Madrasa Discourses, a program of study based at Notre Dame that connects madrasa graduates — students like Waqas Khan —with the scientific and philosophical questions traditional madrasas often skip.
Madrasa - Arabic - Word - School - Kind
Madrasa is the Arabic word for a school of any kind but most often refers to Islamic seminaries, usually attached to mosques. They are invaluable, said Moosa, author of the 2015 book “What Is a Madrasa?” as “repositories of Islamic tradition.” But some orthodox Muslims, he says, “make an idol out of tradition, without recognizing that tradition is an active thing.”
Studying with Moosa and his colleagues, Khan said, has allowed him to understand “difference of perspectives.”
Moosa - Initiative
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