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The Rational BelieverChoices and Decisions in the Madrasas of Pakistan$
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Masooda Bano

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801450440

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801450440.001.0001

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Religion and Change

Religion and Change

Oxford and the Madrasas of South Asia

(p.21) 2 Religion and Change
The Rational Believer

Masooda Bano

Cornell University Press

This chapter opens the debate on the religious actor by questioning whether religion, like other institutions, is open to change. It explores the relative strength of strategic versus evolutionary theories of institutional change in explaining the reversal in the fortunes of South Asian madrasas. Once responsible for grooming the elite in Muslim India, in recent decades they have primarily come to be viewed as a refuge for the poor. To further enrich the analysis, the experience of South Asian madrasas is compared with that of the University of Oxford—an institution that also has its origin in religious education. These two traditions started out in the twelfth century with a similar initial resource endowment and comparable supply and demand pressures, and followed a similar pace of consolidation over several centuries. Yet from the seventeenth century on their paths diverged: Oxford (with its Christian underpinnings) engaged with modernity, while madrasas (and Islam) opted for disengagement.

Keywords:   religion, institutional change, South Asian madrasas, Islamic schools, Muslims, Universitoy of Oxford, Christianity, Islam

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