The Ulema of Nadwa attempted to Make a Synthesis of Aligarh and the Conservatism of Deoband in their Syllabus. Discuss.

The Ulema of Nadwa attempted to Make a Synthesis of Aligarh and the Conservatism of Deoband in their Syllabus. Discuss.

PMS Solved Pakistan Affairs Past Papers | The Ulema of Nadwa attempted to Make a Synthesis of Aligarh and the Conservatism of Deoband in their Syllabus. Discuss.

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Question Breakdown

The examiner seeks the insights of Ulema of Nadwa regarding their educational ideology as the Nadwa syllabus was the amalgam of Aligarh and Deoband institutions. It implicates enunciating the ingredients of Nadwa to demonstrate that Nadwa’s curriculum was a mix of the English language and Islamic education system.



2-The Curriculum of Nadwa at a Glance

  • The traditional Islamic education angle
  • The modern education system context

3-Nadwa syllabus in the context of Aligarh Ideology

  • Emphasis on Modern Education
  • English Language Proficiency
  • Engagement with Western Knowledge
  • Pragmatic Approach to Modernity
  • Empowerment through Education
  • Intellectual and Cultural Awareness
  • Emphasis on Rationalism and Critical Thinking
  • Embracing Modern Sciences
  • Exposure to Western Literature and Philosophy
  • Global Outlook
  • Focus on Personal Development
  • Vocational and Practical Skills
  • Advocacy for Educational Reforms

4-Nadwa syllabus in the context of Deoband Conservatism

  • Elevation of  Traditional Islamic Studies
  • Focus on the Arabic Language
  • Preservation of Islamic Identity
  • Conservatism in Islamic Jurisprudence
  • Emphasis on Personal Piety
  • Emphasis on Islamic Theology
  • Preservation of Classical Islamic Texts & Scholarly Tradition
  • The Role of Hadith in Jurisprudence
  • Preservation of Islamic Sciences
  • Islamic Morals and Ethics
  • Focus on Community Leadership

5-Critical analysis


Answer to the Question


The Ulema of Nadwa played a significant role in attempting to create a synthesis between the Aligarh movement and the conservatism of Deoband in their educational syllabus. The Aligarh Movement initiated by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan aimed to modernize the Muslim community in India through education and socio-political reforms. On the other hand, the Deoband movement, founded by Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanotvi, advocated preserving and promoting traditional Islamic teachings and conservative social values. At that time there was a need for a dynamic system that could facilitate the socioeconomic needs and educational needs of Muslims. In these circumstances, Nadwa appeared to be the only saviour. The Ulema of Nadwa attempted to blend the teachings of both movements, incorporating traditional Islamic studies while also including modern subjects such as English, mathematics, and sciences. This approach aimed to produce a new generation of educated Muslims who could engage with the modern world without compromising their faith and identity. Meanwhile it played a vital role in the cultivation of a productive generation via the Nadwa curriculum that imparted Muslims of the subcontinent with the traditional  knowledge as well as the scientific and modern studies. It was witnessed later when  Nadwa graduates went on to play influential roles in various fields, including education, law, and politics, while still maintaining their Islamic identity. On that wise, Nadwa curriculum has a  major role in the history of Muslims of the subcontinent despite the critics and debates regarding educational design.

Curriculum of Nadwa at a glance:

Nadwatul Ulama, commonly known as Nadwa, is an Islamic seminary and educational institution located in Lucknow, India was established in 1894. Fundamentally, Traditional education was an integral part of Nadwa and its objective was to integrate Muslims of the subcontinent via Islamic solidarity. The Muslim scholars worked a hard day at night at Nadwa to inculcate the knowledge of Quranic education with tajweed and tafsir to revive the Islamic spirit in Muslims. Hadith and fiqh were added to the Nadwa curriculum to induce the Islamic jurisprudence system to keep pace with the changing dynamics of Muslim society. To preserve the Muslim identity, Aqeedah was made the part of Nadwa curriculum so that Muslims can revive their self-esteem and character via self-actualization and faith. Meanwhile, Arabic language and grammar were made part of the Nadwa to make the understanding of the Quran easier along with Arabic language proficiency. On the other end, the ulema of Nadwa embraced modern subjects and got the idea that it is a dire need of time to equip themselves with modern and scientific knowledge to match British standards. for this purpose, the English language was adopted to make Muslim-Britsih communication better. Mathematics and science were made the part of curriculum to ameliorate the aptitude level of muslims of the subcontinent as they were only hired for petty jobs like sweeping, cleaning, house help and gatekeeper only. The ulema of Nadwa acknowledged the significance of knowledge of history, culture and contemporary issues to introduce the research and study trend to bring Muslims out of superstitions and misunderstandings. Demonstrably the aim of the Nadwa curriculum was the socioeconomic, ethical and political well-being of the Muslims of the continent.

3-Nadwa syllabus in the context of Aligarh Ideology:

Undergoing the Nadwa syllabus in the context of Aligarh ideology requires understanding the core principles of the Aligarh movement and how they influenced the educational approach at Nadwa. Nadwa didn’t copy the whole Aligarg education ideology instead it took some chunks of the Aligarh education system to improvise the Nadwa curriculum that could be pivotal in the upgradation of the downtrodden Muslims of the subcontinent.

The points explained below explore how the Nadwa syllabus reflects elements of the Aligarh ideology:

  • 1- Emphasis on Modern Education:

Like the Aligarh movement, Nadwa recognized the importance of modern education as a means to empower the Muslim community in the face of colonial challenges and modernization. Therefore, the Nadwa syllabus incorporated modern subjects like English, mathematics, and sciences alongside traditional Islamic studies. It has two main objectives: 1- to bridge the gap between the British and Muslims, and 2- to improve the personality and socioeconomic condition of the Muslims of the subcontinent.

  • 2- English Language Proficiency:

The Aligarh movement stressed the significance of English language skills for communication and engagement with the British colonial administration and the wider world. Thus Nadwa aligned the curriculum with the English language to keep pace with the multidimensional challenges ahead of the Muslims.

  • 3- Engagement with Western Knowledge:

One of the key aspects of the Aligarh ideology was the promotion of Western knowledge and sciences alongside Islamic education. Nadwa’s curriculum embraced this idea by encouraging the study of various subjects beyond traditional Islamic disciplines, fostering a well-rounded education for its students.

  • 4- Pragmatic Approach to Modernity:

The Aligarh movement advocated for a pragmatic approach to modernity, seeking to adopt useful aspects of Western culture and knowledge while preserving Islamic identity and values. Similarly, Nadwa aimed to strike a balance between traditional Islamic teachings and modern subjects, promoting the harmonious coexistence of both streams of knowledge.

  • 5- Empowerment through Education:

The Aligarh ideology emphasized education as a means of social and economic upliftment for Muslims in India. Nadwa, too, viewed education as a tool to empower individuals and the community and also to attain respectable and authentic jobs to fulfil their daily needs in society. It was aimed to change the exploitation of poor and illiterate Muslims at the hands of rich and elite Hindus as well as the British monarch.

  • 6- Intellectual and Cultural Awareness:

Both the Aligarh movement and Nadwa recognized the importance of intellectual and cultural awareness. The Nadwa syllabus included the study of Islamic history and civilization, providing students with a sense of pride in their heritage and cultural contributions.

  • 7- Emphasis on Rationalism and Critical Thinking:

The Aligarh movement promoted rationalism and critical thinking as essential components of education. Similarly, Nadwa encouraged students to engage in critical analysis and independent thinking while studying various subjects, including Islamic jurisprudence, history, and theology.

  • 8- Embracing Modern Sciences:

Aligarh’s ideology embraced the study of modern sciences as a way to bridge the gap between Islamic knowledge and advancements in science and technology. Nadwa’s curriculum integrated scientific subjects, fostering an understanding of the natural world and encouraging scientific inquiry.

  • 9- Exposure to Western Literature and Philosophy:

In line with Aligarh’s open-minded approach and liberal and progressive thoughts have influenced the Nadwa it exposed the students to Western literature, philosophy, and intellectual traditions. This exposure broadened their horizons and encouraged a comprehensive understanding of various cultures and ideologies. Therefore the cultural exchange opened the closed minds of the conservative Muslims and helped them to modernize themselves.

  • 10- Global Outlook:

The Aligarh movement sought to cultivate a global outlook among Muslims, emphasizing the importance of being aware of international affairs and engaging with people from different backgrounds. Nadwa’s curriculum also encouraged students to have a broader perspective on world affairs and fostered an appreciation for global diversity. The knowledge of contemporary issues brought awareness and acumen to the Muslims of the subcontinent to renovate their perspective towards the world.

  • 11- Focus on Personal Development:

Both Aligarh and Nadwa believed in holistic education, focusing not only on academic knowledge but also on character development and ethics. The Nadwa syllabus incorporated teachings on morality, etiquette (adab), and ethical behaviour in various aspects of life.

  • 12- Vocational and Practical Skills:

The Aligarh movement highlighted the significance of practical skills for personal and community development. Similarly, Nadwa aimed to equip its students with vocational skills, allowing them to be self-reliant and contribute positively to society.

  • 13- Advocacy for Educational Reforms:

The Aligarh movement was at the forefront of advocating for educational reforms in India. Nadwa, inspired by this spirit of reform, also participated in discussions on educational policies and reforms to address the needs of the Muslim community.

Nadwa syllabus in the context of Deoband Conservatism:

The exploration of the Nadwa syllabus in the context of Deoband conservatism provides insight into how Nadwa attempted to preserve traditional Islamic teachings while also incorporating some elements of modern education. The Deoband movement, founded by Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanotvi and others, emphasized adherence to classical Islamic texts and conservative social values to prevent Western culture assimilation.

The factors below explain how the Nadwa syllabus reflects elements of Deoband conservatism:

  • 1- Elevation of  Traditional Islamic Studies:

Just like the Deoband movement, Nadwa’s curriculum places a strong emphasis on traditional Islamic studies, including Quranic recitation (Tajweed), memorization (Hifz), and Tafsir (exegesis). Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh) and Hadith studies are given special attention, grounding students in the foundational sources of Islamic law. This step was taken to keep Muslims close to their Muslim culture and identity to prevent the Western cultural impact on the Muslim society as it was already facing British oppression as well as Hindu atrocities in the subcontinent.

  • 2- Focus on the Arabic Language:

Deoband conservatism holds Arabic in high regard as the language of the Quran and Islamic scholarship. Similarly, Nadwa places significant emphasis on the Arabic language, teaching grammar and literature to enable students to access classical Islamic texts in their original form. It was considered important to make the understanding of the Quran among the masses an easier task without perturbing the diurnal practices of Muslims.

  • 3- Preservation of Islamic Identity:

Both the Deoband movement and Nadwa seek to preserve and promote Islamic identity and cultural heritage. The Nadwa syllabus includes courses that foster an appreciation for Islamic history, civilization, and contributions to various fields of knowledge. This objective was attained by the inculcation of traditional Islamic education into the Nadwa curriculum. While Nadwa incorporated some modern subjects, its approach was cautious, aligned with Deoband’s resistance to excessive Western influence. The curriculum ensured that modern education did not compromise the core values and teachings of Islam.

  • 4- Conservatism in Islamic Jurisprudence:

The Nadwa syllabus reflects conservatism in Islamic jurisprudence, adhering to the teachings of specific traditional schools of thought (Madhhabs). Students are exposed to various legal opinions within these schools, fostering a comprehensive understanding of Islamic law.

  • 5- Emphasis on Personal Piety:

Both Deoband and Nadwa place a strong emphasis on personal piety and spiritual development. The Nadwa syllabus includes courses on spirituality, moral character, and self-discipline, instilling values essential for a devout Muslim.

  • 6- Emphasis on Islamic Theology:

Deoband conservatism places a strong emphasis on Islamic theology (Aqeedah) and the study of creedal matters. Similarly, the Nadwa syllabus includes in-depth teachings on the fundamental beliefs of Islam and the principles of faith. In this regard, Muslim scholars, Ulema and Mashaikh have a significant role to preach Islamic ideology across the subcontinent.

  • 7- Preservation of Classical Islamic Texts & Scholarly Tradition:

Deoband’s conservative approach involves the preservation and study of classical Islamic texts written by renowned scholars throughout history. Nadwa also emphasizes the study of these classical texts, ensuring that students gain insights from the works of distinguished scholars. The Nadwa syllabus incorporates lessons on the methodology of Islamic scholarship (Usul al-Fiqh), allowing students to understand the process of deriving legal rulings from primary sources. This trend was adopted by Nadwa from the Deoband institution demonstrably.

  • 8- The Role of Hadith in Jurisprudence:

Deoband conservatism relies heavily on Hadith as a primary source for Islamic jurisprudence. Similarly, the Nadwa syllabus places a significant focus on the study of Hadith, teaching students to critically analyze and apply Hadith in legal matters.

  • 9- Preservation of Islamic Sciences:

Deoband conservatism emphasizes the preservation and continuation of various Islamic sciences, including the study of Quranic sciences, Hadith, Islamic law, and theology. Nadwa’s syllabus is aligned with this approach, offering comprehensive courses in these Islamic disciplines for Islamic revivalism as well as for the upgradation and progression of Muslim culture in the subcontinent.

  • 10- Islamic Morals and Ethics:

Deoband’s conservative values include an emphasis on Islamic morals (Akhlaq) and ethical conduct. Similarly, the Nadwa syllabus includes teachings on ethical behaviour and the development of strong moral character. Nadwa’s syllabus is designed to produce scholars who can continue the legacy of Islamic learning and contribute to the intellectual growth of the Muslim community.

  • 11- Focus on Community Leadership:

Deoband conservatism stresses the importance of producing scholars who can lead and guide the Muslim community. Similarly, the Nadwa syllabus fosters the development of leadership qualities, encouraging students to play active roles in their communities.

Critical analysis:

The attempt by the Ulema of Nadwa to create a synthesis of the Aligarh movement’s modern approach and the conservatism of the Deoband movement in their educational syllabus is a subject of critical analysis. While their efforts were well-intentioned and aimed at addressing the needs of the Muslim community in India, the synthesis faced several challenges and criticisms. The Aligarh movement and the Deoband movement represented two distinct ideological streams within the Muslim community. The Aligarh movement advocated for a pragmatic and modern education that embraced Western knowledge, while the Deoband movement emphasized a conservative and traditional approach. Attempting to harmonize these divergent ideologies was no easy task, as they often held conflicting views on various aspects of education, culture, and engagement with the colonial administration. Finding the right balance between modern subjects and traditional Islamic studies was a delicate challenge. Some critics argued that the inclusion of modern subjects like the English language and sciences might lead to a dilution of Islamic teachings and cultural values. Conversely, proponents of modern education were concerned that an excessive focus on traditional studies might hinder progress and limit the community’s pace to compete and stand in a rapidly changing world. The long-term impact of the synthesis remains a subject of scrutiny. While Nadwa produced graduates who played influential roles in various fields, it is debated whether this synthesis truly achieved its intended goals of producing individuals who seamlessly integrated modern education with Islamic values. Critics argue that the synthesis might have led to a superficial blending of the two ideologies rather than a genuine integration but it was the need of the hour to rejuvenate the Muslims of the subcontinent.


Extract of the matter is that the efforts made by the Ulema of Nadwa to create a synthesis between the Aligarh movement’s modern approach and the conservatism of the Deoband movement in their educational syllabus were both commendable and significant. By attempting to strike a balance between these two influential ideologies, Nadwa aimed to produce a generation of educated Muslims who could navigate the complexities of the modern world while maintaining their religious and cultural identity. The Aligarh movement’s emphasis on modern education and English language skills has produced opportunities for Muslims to engage with the British colonial administration and to rejuvenate their community. On the other hand, the Deoband movement’s focus on preserving traditional Islamic teachings and values was driven by the desire to safeguard the core tenets of Islam and to resist the encroachment of Western influences. Recognizing the strengths and shortcomings of both movements, the Ulema of Nadwa aimed to create a comprehensive educational system that incorporated elements of both modernity and tradition. Despite the bombardment of debates, arguments and critics Nadwa produced the Graduates of Nadwa who became influential figures who played vital roles in various fields, contributing to the growth and progress of their communities. The quest for harmony between the Aligarh and Deoband ideologies in Nadwa’s syllabus symbolizes the broader pursuit of balance and cohesion in an ever-changing world, where the preservation of cultural identity and religious values can coexist with progressive learning and engagement with modernity.

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