The principal of a 130-year-old Islamic seminary, Maulana Shaheen Jamali “Chaturvedi”, surprises people with the Hindu surname.
That’s his badge of honour, a means to promote harmony in communally-sensitive Uttar Pradesh.
The principal and Sheikh-ul-Hadees of Madarsa Imdadul Islam, located in the Hindu-dominated Sadar locality of Meerut, teaches over 150 students, most of them from poor families.
The 68-year-old Maulana, who was born in Bihar’s Champaran district, went to study at Darul Uloom of Deoband after his primary education. He got the Alim and Mufti degrees but did not stop his education.
“Thereafter, I completed my PhD in the Quran Sharif. Then I took admission at Aligarh Muslim University for MA in Sanskrit,” he recalled. “At AMU, I got passionate about Sanskrit and studied the Vedas, Geeta and many other religious and spiritual books of the Hindus under the guidance of Pandit Basiruddin,” he said.
He described how former PM Jawaharlal Nehru conferred his teacher Basiruddin with the Pandit title for his knowledge of Sanskrit and ancient Hindu texts. The young Maulana accompanied his teacher to religious conferences and it was at one such function in Karnataka that scholars, impressed by his command over Sanskrit and the Vedas, called him “Chaturvedi” — a person who has knowledge of all the four Vedas.