Holding the Quran in one hand and the Bhagavad Gita in the other, Mukhtar Ahmad conducts "a class of communal harmony" at a madrassa in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi district to enable students to draw similarities between Islam and Hinduism.
Welcome to Bahrul-Uloom madrassa (Islamic seminary) in Chittanpura town where like Ahmad several other Muslim teachers are involved in imparting lessons of brotherhood and unity to inculcate "moral values" in their students.
"Our main objective behind teaching Hindu scriptures along with the Quran is to undertake a comparative study of the holy books of the two religions to enable our students to draw similarity between Islam and Hinduism," Ahmad, a teacher at the Islamic seminary, told IANS.
"By drawing similarity between the two religions, students will be able to correlate the teachings of Quran with those of the Bhagavad Gita and other Hindu ancient text, which in turn would enable them to respect the two religions in the same manner," he added.
The Hindu scriptures were introduced one year ago in the syllabi of the Behroom-Uloom madrassa with an aim to spread communal harmony and brotherhood. The private Islamic seminary was set up in 1964.
"The management always asked the teachers to come up with ideas and suggestions for making students good in academics, improving their performance and inculcating moral values," 58-year-old Ahmad said.
"In our discussions, we unanimously agreed that apart from grooming students and preparing them for future challenges, our other main objective was to churn out good human beings from the seminary," he said.
"A few seminary teachers proposed to introduce the comparative study of the Bhagavad Gita with the Quran that was already being taught to students. The sole objective was to make students imbibe the teachings of the religious books," he added.
Today, not only the Bhagavad Gita, the four Vedas -- Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva -- are taught to the students along with subjects like Hindi, English and Computer Science.
The teachers first read the scriptures themselves for four-five months and then impart the knowledge to the students.
Seminary officials said the Hindu scriptures were initially introduced in the classes equivalent to 10-12 standards. But now they also form the course content of lower classes.
There are over 2,500 students -- both boys and girls -- enrolled in different classes of the madrassa.
"While we admit boys only till Class 8, we have the provision for enrolling the girls till Class 12," said Hadis Alam, another teacher at the madrassa.
As there is no Hindu student at the madrassa, the Islamic seminary officials believe they would soon get their first batch of Hindu students with the introduction of Hindu scriptures in the syllabi.
Ahmad said the location of the madrassa in a Muslim-dominated area could be preventing the Hindus from sending their kids there.
"But the introduction of Hindu scriptures in the syllabi has been considerably appreciated by our Hindu brothers. We believe we would soon have Hindu students seeking admission in Bahrul-Uloom," he added.
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