By Sana Elouazi
Rabat – Ahmed Toufiq, Minister of Endowment and Islamic Affairs, revealed on the eve of Eid Mawlid celebration, that Morocco is home to more than 14,000 Quranic schools, which teach the Holy Quran to 450,000 beneficiaries, 40 percent of whom are women.
During his presentation on the annual report on the balance sheet of activities of the Higher Council and Local Councils of Oulemas before the King Mohammed VI, Toufiq highlighted the role of Quranic schools in Morocco.
He added that authorizations were granted for the opening of 300 new Quranic schools, which continue to benefit from the financial and educational support to all levels.
Many Quranic schools have been rehabilitated or newly built in Morocco to strengthen its strategy to combat extremism, as the Moroccan government considers them to be a bulwark against the spread of religious radicalism.
In addition, Morocco has gained religious leadership in the region owing to the country’s promotion of a moderate Islam under the Sunni Maliki School of thought, to Quran reciters and common Muslims in international competitions.
Brief history of M’sid in Morocco
Throughout the history of Islam, mosques have played a dual role as a place of worship and learning.
In Morocco, whenever a mosque was built, a large hall, called M’sid, was built next to it to teach the Holy Quran to children from the age of five, as well as the Arabic language, calligraphy, and other disciplines.
Quranic schools provides young children, regardless of their social background, with training based on the memorization of the Quranic verses.
At the age of 12 or 13, the most talented and deserving pupils can enter the second stage of learning in a mosque or zawiya, where they learn the fundamental principles of grammar and Islamic law, or Sharia.
A part of the Muslim culture since its genesis, Quranic schools are known by different regional names: in Libya they go under the name of zawia, while in Somalia the dox, in Senegal the daara, in Yemen the milama, in Egypt the kuttab, in Mauritania the mahadra, and elsewhere still some are known under the name of maktab or madrasa.
Classes in the Quranic school are always taught by a master called taleb, fqih, or sheikh, who leads the students in a mechanical and collective recitation of the alphabet and Quranic verses.
In the collective imagination, the M’sid remains not only a place of teaching Quran, but it is undeniably a place of punishment. Raising one foot for an hour without putting it down, “Falaqa,” “Tahmila” or even shots with a metal ruler on the tips of the fingers were usually on the “menu” of classic punishments, which only few could escape.
Today, this institution, which once had an important spiritual place among Muslims, is beginning to become marginalized and forgotten as the majority of families have opted for modern schools.