What Is a Madrasa?

By Ebrahim Moosa

304 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 16 halftones, notes, bibl., index, 24 sidebars

Not for Sale in the British Commonwealth (except Canada), Europe, the Middle East, or South Asia

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5469-0
    Published: August 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-2013-8
    Published: April 2015
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-2014-5
    Published: April 2015

Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks

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Taking us inside the world of the madrasa--the most common type of school for religious instruction in the Islamic world--Ebrahim Moosa provides an indispensable resource for anyone seeking to understand orthodox Islam in global affairs. Focusing on postsecondary-level religious institutions in the Indo-Pakistan heartlands, Moosa explains how a madrasa can simultaneously be a place of learning revered by many and an institution feared by many others, especially in a post-9/11 world.

Drawing on his own years as a madrasa student in India, Moosa describes in fascinating detail the daily routine for teachers and students today. He shows how classical theological, legal, and Qur'anic texts are taught, and he illuminates the history of ideas and politics behind the madrasa system. Addressing the contemporary political scene in a clear-eyed manner, Moosa introduces us to madrasa leaders who hold diverse and conflicting perspectives on the place of religion in society. Some admit that they face intractable problems and challenges, including militancy; others, Moosa says, hide their heads in the sand and fail to address the crucial issues of the day. Offering practical suggestions to both madrasa leaders and U.S. policymakers for reform and understanding, Moosa demonstrates how madrasas today still embody the highest aspirations and deeply felt needs of traditional Muslims.

About the Author

Ebrahim Moosa is Mirza Family Professor in Islamic Thought and Muslim Societies at the University of Notre Dame.
For more information about Ebrahim Moosa, visit the Author Page.


“A moving and complex portrait of Muslim schools. . . . Wide ranging and eminently readable.”--Choice

“A useful introduction to madrasas in India and Pakistan and contributes a South Asian perspective to the rich scholarship on Islamic education.”--Journal of the American Academy of Religion

“Riveting....A nuanced and richly textured account of the place and importance of Madrasas in Islam both historically and in the contemporary moment.”--New Books in Islamic Studies

"A captivating journey….Brilliantly elucidates the madrasa curriculum."--Journal of the Society for Contemporary Thought and the Islamicate World

“This important book grapples with a large number of complex questions that pertain to the very core of the nature and role of Islam and its 14 centuries of tradition in today’s world.”--Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations

“A work of great effort and detailed scholarship, this book is a fine introduction to contemporary madrasa education.”--Word for Peace

Multimedia & Links

Visit tha author's blog at ebrahimmoosa.com.

Follow him on Twitter @EbrahimMoosa.