A madrasa changes

Jamia Nagar seminary offers English diplomas, breaks stereotype.

After you get down at Batla House bus stop, cross the Nuh Masjid in Jamia Nagar and walk through a maze of narrow lanes, you will come across a four-storey grey building.

This is where Delhi Institute of Higher Studies, a madrasa associated with the Markazul Ma'arif, is situated. As you walk into the office on the fourth floor, what you see is not what you had in mind. The director is in a black suit, looking more like a corporate executive and less like the incharge of a traditional madrasa. An Oxford dictionary, a thesaurus and an English translation of Quran decorate the book shelf in the director's office.

The building has classrooms as well as living quarters for students. The carpet that covers the floor of the classroom is where a group of 17 students sit at their folding desks.

It is where they take their lessons in English language and grammar. Quiet and attentive as they are in the class, their eyes are fixed on the white board hanging on the window, as the teacher sits on the only chair in the room.

Wearing ankle-length pajamas and sporting a flowing beard, a Maulvi discusses Thomas Arnold and Khushwant Singh — with an ease that breaks the stereotype of a madrasa teacher.

Markazul Ma'arif and associated madrasas have taken to change, modernising the way lessons are taught.

Here, English is not viewed as something that is against the teachings of Islam, but is used as a means to dispel misconceptions about religion.

Mohammad Inam Qasim Nadvi, director of the institute, says, "Our motive is to enable Muslims to play a constructive role in community affairs. English is the medium to make people understand the true meaning of Islam."

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