At these Islamic Sunday schools, children do not pore over heavy copies of the Quran under the vigilant eye of a maulvi.
Instead, you might find them playing snakes and ladders, reading mainstream newspapers and flipping through glossy workbooks with colourful cartoons as they learn about the teachings of Islam.
This national chain of schools, called Burooj Angels, was launched in Mumbai in 2006 by Dawood Vaid, founder of the non-profit educational trust Burooj Realisation.
“Our aim was to make Islam attractive and relevant to the new generation through an interactive fun-learn approach,” said Vaid, an engineer who was drawn to the field of Islamic education more than eight years ago because he realised the need to revamp traditional and dull styles of teaching the religion.
Today, there are 30 Angels centres teaching more than 3,000 children in 17 Indian cities, of which six centres are in Mumbai.
Here, Islam is taught through a set of 24 age-appropriate textbooks created and published by Vaid and his Burooj team, and classes focus as much on the meanings of Quran passages as on general manners, hygiene and personality development.
“I learnt about good and bad deeds through a game of snakes-and-ladders in class,” said Zoya Ovais, 11, a CBSE school student who has been attending the Angels’ Nerul centre on Sunday mornings for a year.
Ovais chooses to wear a headscarf to the classes, but there is no enforced dress code at Angels.
Children from 5 to 14 are divided age-wise into three categories, and Burooj ensures that the teacher-student ratio never exceeds 1:12.
“Through games, quizzes and spontaneous activities, we allow children space to think for themselves rather than telling them what to think,” said Sahil Sayed, 23, a computer engineer and a teacher at the Nerul centre.
Sayed taught his class of nine-year-olds about the importance the Quran gives to reading by getting them to read the day’s newspapers and answer an impromptu quiz.
The Burooj textbooks are in English, but teachers are encouraged to teach in multiple languages.
The texts are now in the process of being translated into Urdu, Gujarati and even Chinese, after a request was made by a Muslim organisation in China.