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Darul all ears as Brit imams bring it up to speed

delhi Updated: Feb 21, 2012 00:03 IST
Zia Haq

When some prominent British Muslims - two of them imams - visited Darul Uloom, Deoband, India's best known Muslim seminary, they found that the seminary's UK affiliates may have done a much better job in the business of religious education.

Islam has no Pope, no Vatican. For guidance, much of the Sunni Muslim world turns to India's Darul Uloom instead. Its affiliates in the UK include Darul-style schools in Leicester, Blackburn, Bury and London, among others. Muslim religious schools across the UK rely on Darul Uloom's religious curriculum, Dars-e-Nizami.

"Darul Uloom's curriculum is widely followed. This means surely something is working. But Darul Uloom may like to take [from the UK] the benefit of enhanced teacher training and technology," said Salim Yusuf Lorgat, the Midlands manager of international aid agency Islamic Relief.

For instance, unwieldy paper files in the offices of Darul Uloom, Deoband, struck Lorgat as something uncommon in Darul-affiliated schools back in the UK, which have moved online.

Lorgat pointed out that all Darul-style British Islamic schools compulsorily teach secular curriculum alongside and are duly checked by school inspectors for quality. "This model can be tweaked to suit India's needs," he said.

Yusuf E Ekudi, a member of the UK's Islamic Tribunal, studied in a Darul-style religious school in Varanasi to be a cleric. He said religious teachers needed to train in child psychology too.

A conservative institution, Darul Uloom has often ignored calls to tweak its academic model. However, the British seemed to have given it a wake-up call.

Darul Uloom rector, Abul Qasim Nomani, said he favoured tapping technology to spruce up the 143-year-old seminary's academic affairs, particularly through the internet, one of the visitors said.

The visitors were on a UK government-sponsored trip to interact with Indian Muslims.