“This madrasa is not merely an educational institution but a fort for protecting Muslims’ religious and civilizational treasures,” said Shaikhul Hind Mahmoodul Hasan regarding Darul Uloom at Deoband. Mahmoodul Hasan [1851-1920] was the first student of Darul Uloom Deoband and later to become a prominent force in the Deoband movement.
But it is not true that Darul Uloom Deoband was the first of its kind. People like Shaikh Ahmad Sirhandi, Shah Waliullah, Shah Ismail Shahid or institutions like Farangi Mahal of Lucknow and Makhdoom’s Madrasa at Ponnani, Malabar served the cause of Islam in India but none had success like Darul Uloom.
Darul Uloom Deoband was a response to the British hegemony over India by a section of ulema but instead of retreating back to their cocoon this was a forward-thinking step by people without political patronage. Realizing that it is not possible to beat British by armed conflicts, some ulema who had studied British system of governance and education went about creating an educational system that will take the best of the British system but keep the Islamic spirit alive.