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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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Explaining the Stickiness

Explaining the Stickiness

State-Madrasa Engagement in South Asia

(p.42) 3 Explaining the Stickiness
The Rational Believer

Masooda Bano

Cornell University Press

This chapter explores the factors contributing to the stability of religious ideas. It describes how South Asian 'ulama have resisted pressures for the reinterpretation of core Islamic precepts. It examines how religious ideas have persisted and thereby illuminate the factors shaping institutional stability through the study of state-led madrasa reform programs in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. As early as the 1950s, the states in these three countries have offered financial incentives to encourage 'ulama to complement the teaching of religious texts with secular subjects, in part due to the desire to produce a new class of 'ulama capable of interpreting texts in line with the demands of modernity. The reform programs met with different levels of acceptance, but a common outcome is that they failed to displace the traditional religious elite; the power to interpret Islam remains in the hands of orthodox 'ulama. In attempting to explain the madrasas' ability to resist state-led reforms and to preserve a traditional interpretation of text, the chapter considers the importance of informal networks among the elites of formal and informal institutions, the scale of financial incentives involved, the nature of the institution (i.e. Islam), and path dependence.

Keywords:   religious ideas, madrasas, Islamic schools, Islam, 'ulama, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, madrasa reform

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