(Uttar Pradesh): Shortly after reciting 'Bismillah al-Rahman
al-Rahim' from the Holy Quran, hundreds of students at a madrassa
here fall in line for their first lesson of the day - yoga taught
by a Hindu teacher.
Imdadul-Jamia-Uloom Madrassa in Karari town in Uttar Pradesh's
Kaushambi district has introduced yoga lessons for its 600-odd
"The main objective behind starting the yoga class is to make our
students mentally and physically fit," Mohammad Imran, principal
of the Islamic seminary, told IANS. Karari is some 250 km from
"Besides enabling the students to counter their physical and
mental problems through yoga, our institution, we feel, is also
giving a message of communal harmony," he said.
"Yoga is primarily considered an integral part of Hindu
philosophy, but I personally believe there's nothing wrong if you
follow a practice from any other religion if it's aimed at serving
society and betterment of human beings," he added.
The madrassa, which came into existence in mid-1960s, started yoga
sessions Dec 19.
"You can ask why we started so late...but you will agree that any
decision that is related to religious matters takes time...to take
such an initiative is not an easy task," he said.
"I don't want to delve into the past during which we had to face
stiff opposition from members of different communities for our
decision to introduce yoga. At last, we managed to solicit support
from people and the rest is before you," said Imran, alluding to
the view expressed by many Muslim religious leaders in India and
outside that yoga was unIslamic.
"Normally, yoga sessions are started with the recitation of 'Om',
but as all the students in our seminary are Muslims it was decided
that the students would say `Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim' before
starting yoga sessions," he added.
Starting 6 a.m., a two-hour yoga session is organised in two slots
daily at the seminary.
"We have not made it compulsory for students to attend yoga
classes but we are getting a massive response from them. A
majority of students are from classes equivalent to Class 8 to
graduation," said yoga teacher Kuldeep Khare.
"Most of the yoga techniques being imparted to students are aimed
at improving their concentration level and de-stress them so they
can perform efficiently in whatever task they take up in daily
lives," Khare told IANS.
Girls also attend the yoga class. "At present, only girls from
junior classes are allowed to attend the yoga class," said Imran.
Locals have hailed the initiative taken by the seminary. "It's
good to see an Islamic seminary start yoga sessions like other
schools. I believe the move adopted by the seminary will be
followed by other Islamic schools in the state," said Chandrakesh
Sahu, a retired teacher and resident of the Kokhraj area.
Airing similar views, Prajapalan, owner of a cloth shop in
Manjhanpur, said: "In a way, the madrassa is propagating a message
of communal harmony by making students learn yoga from a Hindu
(Asit Srivastava can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)