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Islamic institute in Kerala sets example by teaching Sanskrit

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Thrissur: Students dressed in long white robes and white headdresses in an Islamic institution relentlessly reciting “slokas” and “mantras” in Sanskrit under the watchful gaze of their Hindu gurus, this is what distinguishes a Muslim educational organization in the district of Thrissur, in central Kerala.

“Gurur brahma gurur vishnu, Gurur devo maheshwara, Gurur saakshaat param brahma, Tasmai shri gurave namaha”, one of these students recites at the request of his teacher in Sanskrit.

“Uttamam (excellent),” the teacher replies in Sanskrit, while another student finishes reciting another “sloka” that is asked of him.

All conversations between the student and the class teacher are in Sanskrit.

The objective behind teaching Sanskrit, Upanishads, Puranas, etc. is to instill in students knowledge and awareness of other religions, Onampilly Muhammad Faizy, director of the Academy of Sharia and Advanced Studies (ASAS) run by Malik Deenar Islamic Complex (MIC), said.

Another, and the main, reason for teaching Sanskrit to MIC ASAS students was Faizy’s own academic background, as he had studied Shankara philosophy.

“Therefore, I thought that the students should know about other religions and their customs and practices. But in-depth study of Sanskrit as well as ‘Upanishads’, ‘shastras’, ‘vedantams’ would not be possible during the eight-year study period,” he told PTI.

“Instead, the idea is to provide basic knowledge about them and to educate them about another religion,” Faizy said.

Significant parts of the Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads, Mahabharata and Ramayana are selectively taught in Sanskrit to students over an eight-year period after they graduate from class 10, he said.

The selective teaching of these texts is due to the fact that the institution is primarily a Sharia college where other languages, such as Urdu and English, are also taught in addition to an arts curriculum as it is affiliated with the University of Calicut.

“The academic workload is huge. Therefore, we welcome students who can handle it and also maintain high standards. There is an entrance exam to admit students,” he said.

Some of the students recently told the media that at first it was difficult to learn Sanskrit, just like Arabic, but with continuous study and practice it becomes easier over time.

“It’s a difficult task at the start. Just like Arabic. But if we study it continuously, practice it repeatedly, just like with Arabic, it becomes easier over time. Regular lessons and tests also help us learn it,” said one of the students.

Another student said he was delighted to learn Sanskrit and hear the ‘slokas’.

Just like his classmate, he too was of the opinion that, like Arabic, “if you put effort, it becomes easier to learn”.

Although there were no objections from the students’ parents or anyone else, a major challenge was finding good teachers to teach Sanskrit, Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads, etc., properly to students.

“That’s why we were able to start teaching Sanskrit only seven years ago and that’s also why it’s only taught in this branch – one of the seven,” Principal Faizy said. .

We have excellent faculty here who have designed a good curriculum for students, he noted.

The response from the students’ side was also encouraging as they showed interest in learning Sanskrit, the principal added.

One of the teachers, Professor KK Yatheendran, told the media when asked to teach there, Faizy “was worried if I would have any reservations about teaching in an Arab institution as I was a Hindu “.

“I said there is no Hindu or Muslim problem here. I come prepared to teach. So, I have no such reservations,” he told media.

He also said that when people see him walking towards the institute with sandalwood ’tilak’ on his forehead, they ask why am I going.

“I tell them I’m going there to teach Sanskrit and they say it’s a good thing I’m doing,” according to Yatheendran.

Faizy also said he hadn’t heard any negative or discouraging remarks from anyone.

“Everyone who heard of it only praised it and encouraged us,” he added.

Dr Ramesh, who also teaches Sanskrit at MIC ASAS, said students had never heard of Sanskrit before coming here.

“They didn’t even learn it in school. But as we go from one phase to another, students are able to speak a little Sanskrit, learn ‘padams’ and are able to understand some ‘slokas’ too,” he said. .

Other faculty members are Dr. CM Neelakandan – retired Professor of Sanskrit Literature, Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit – and Dr. Shamseer PC – Assistant Professor, Department of Sanskrit, University of Kerala – according to the Facebook page of MICASAS.

The visuals of the Sanskrit lessons are also posted on the institute’s Facebook page.

At a time when political parties in Kerala are at odds over the alleged saffronization of institutions of higher learning or their becoming centers of communism, this Islamic institution is setting an example by teaching its students Sanskrit and the Bhagavad Gita as well than Arabic and the Koran.

Hafiz Aboobacker, one of the coordinators of the institute, told a media channel that it was important to learn more about Islam, but knowledge of other religions was also important and it is also a reason for including Sanskrit in the curriculum.

“It would help students discover and understand another religion through their history and the Puranas. It would also help to synchronize our religious views with theirs. It would help create a fresh start for a new India. This is the goal behind including Sanskrit in the curriculum,” he said.