Urdu and the Madrasa in India


Article by Barbara Metcalf

University of Michigan


It is a truism today to say that Urdu has only two homes in India, the madrasa and Bollywood, where the spoken language, not the written, has long been the major language of the “Hindi” film. Even that formulation – the madrasa alone acknowledging the name of Urdu – suggests the extent to which Urdu, since Partition in particular, has been marked as an exclusively Muslim language. The issue of filmi language also raises the issue of whether “Urdu” is Urdu only if written in Perso-Arabic script, a subject taken up later in my comments. Urdu may be one of India’s official languages, but even in its core area of the north, Urdu has only in exceptional cases been transmitted to the second and third post-Partition generations, even of Muslims. It was of course not always thus, Some dimensions of Urdu’s trajectory from the colonial period to the present are evident in its use by the madrasa-based `ulama over the last century and a half or so. This brief essay identifies three significant moments in order to chart the changing contexts in which Urdu-speaking `ulama deployed their language:


1. The innovative use of Urdu in the Darul `Ulum Deoband, the leading example of the new-style colonial-era madrasas, at its founding in the 1860’s


2. Urdu in the interwar period, especially as represented in the language of the foremost Islamic scholar among the so-called “nationalist” `ulama, Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani (1879- 1957)


3. and, finally, Urdu among the Islamic religious leadership in Delhi today.




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Urdu and The Madrasa in India

  • September 18, 2013
  • Basooir
  • Lesson / Penyelidikan

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