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Published in the 16-31 Dec 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Darul Umoor

The Darul Umoor, in Srirangapatna, is an Islamic theology school with a difference. It exposes its students to the sciences, humanities and even other religions.

By M A Siraj

Umpteen eyebrows went up when a Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader was invited to an Islamic theological school at Srirangapatna to unfurl the national tricolour on Independence Day last year. But things soon cooled down. The VHP leader was full of praise for the wonderful work the school, namely ‘Darul Umoor’ was doing and assured all assistance. It was however not to attempt a novelty. Darul Umoor, the unique school, has been set up to expose the graduates of Islamic theology to modern sciences, humanities and other religions. 

Pathbreaking
Set up in the sylvan surroundings of Tipu Sultan’s mausoleum at Gumbaz, Darul Umoor is a path-breaking experiment. During the last three years, the institution has turned out 60 graduates who have acquired the basics of Information Technology, computers, picked up some proficiency in English and acquired the basic knowledge of how a modern democracy and its administration function. 

Not this alone, the school has teachers to impart lessons in the Vedas, Upanishads, the Gita, Bible, Talmud and other scriptures. The students are regularly taken to the Ramakrishna Ashram in Mysore, Mutt of the Sattur Swami, St Philomena’s Church and the Parsi Temple. 

But exposing them to the teachings of other religions is just a small part of the syllabus at Darul Umoor. They in fact receive an encapsulated preview of modern sciences within 11 months together with hands-on training on the computer and a level of Information Technology that should be enough to design a website. 

A brainchild of business tycoon Ziaullah Shariff, Darul Umoor is part of Tipu Sultan Advanced Study and Research Centre which Shariff wanted to build opposite the mausoleum of Tipu. It was basically aimed at exposing the madrassa graduates to secular sciences in order that they develop a well-rounded personality and be members of an informed Muslim clergy which addresses a captive audience of millions of people once every week through their Friday sermons. 

Sharief felt that the potential to utilise this opportunity to purvey new ideas, guide the community to socio-economic reform and promote scientific thinking was enormous. But unless a class of Islamic scholars with balanced education is produced, the opportunity would remain untapped.

Help from Lucknow
Shariff discussed the concept with several ulema (Islamic scholars). It could find approval from the late Abul Hasan Nadwi, Rector of Nadwatul Ulama, a seminary at Lucknow which provided the necessary impetus, legitimacy and actual help in fashioning a curriculum. 

The 11-month course provides the pupils basic lessons in life sciences, physics and chemistry, sociology, economics, political science and the Indian Constitution, media, management, computers and IT, scriptures of all religions practiced in India, together with insights from visits to several institutions. The faculty was drawn from among retired professors. Thus Prof Kareemuddin, former Kannada teacher at Mysore University and a resident of Srirangapatna was appointed as the Principal. Kareem teaches religious scriptures. Prof Bagsiraj from Belgaum lectures on economics while MA Ataulla, former Personnel Manager of ITI, Bangalore, imparts lessons in management and psychology. Prof Ramachandra teaches English. 

Says Darul Umoor director AR Kamaruddin, who was previously with the UNO as IT advisor, the students at Darul Umoor find the atmosphere free from suffocation normally found in madrassa classrooms. Here they are encouraged to ask questions. Fayyaz Ahmed who received a diploma from Darul Umoor now works in an hospital in Bangalore as a computer operator. He says, "I now have a very positive view of Hinduism. I appreciate the emphasis on non-violence in Hindu scriptures. Much of the violence in our society is politically oriented and has nothing to do with any religion."

Classrooms are tiled structures with only pillars and compound walls around with a lot of light and wind to circulate. Coconut groves and a maze of water channels provide a natural ambience and students are provided freedom to access the library, cull out information from sources of their choice and raise queries with teachers.

At a time when modernisation in madrassa curriculum is being urged and madrassas are resisting the change, the Darul Umoor has taken the unique step of providing an add-on course in a nutshell form. (Media Catalyst Features)

For more information on Darul Uloor visit: http://darulumoor.ibc.co.in

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