Karari: Shortly after reciting `Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim` from the Holy Quran, hundreds of students at a madrassa here fall in line for their first lesson of the day - yoga taught by a Hindu teacher.
Imdadul-Jamia-Uloom Madrassa in Karari town in Uttar Pradesh`s Kaushambi district has introduced yoga lessons for its 600-odd students.
"The main objective behind starting the yoga class is to make our students mentally and physically fit," Mohammad Imran, principal of the Islamic seminary, told IANS. Karari is some 250 km from Lucknow.
"Besides enabling the students to counter their physical and mental problems through yoga, our institution, we feel, is also giving a message of communal harmony," he said.
"Yoga is primarily considered an integral part of Hindu philosophy, but I personally believe there`s nothing wrong if you follow a practice from any other religion if it`s aimed at serving society and betterment of human beings," he added.
The madrassa, which came into existence in mid-1960s, started yoga sessions Dec 19.
"You can ask why we started so late...but you will agree that any decision that is related to religious matters takes time...to take such an initiative is not an easy task," he said.
"I don`t want to delve into the past during which we had to face stiff opposition from members of different communities for our decision to introduce yoga. At last, we managed to solicit support from people and the rest is before you," said Imran, alluding to the view expressed by many Muslim religious leaders in India and outside that yoga was unIslamic.
"Normally, yoga sessions are started with the recitation of `Om`, but as all the students in our seminary are Muslims it was decided that the students would say `Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim` before starting yoga sessions," he added.
Starting 6 a.m., a two-hour yoga session is organised in two slots daily at the seminary.
"We have not made it compulsory for students to attend yoga classes but we are getting a massive response from them. A majority of students are from classes equivalent to Class 8 to graduation," said yoga teacher Kuldeep Khare.
"Most of the yoga techniques being imparted to students are aimed at improving their concentration level and de-stress them so they can perform efficiently in whatever task they take up in daily lives," Khare told IANS.
Girls also attend the yoga class. "At present, only girls from junior classes are allowed to attend the yoga class," said Imran.
Locals have hailed the initiative taken by the seminary. "It`s good to see an Islamic seminary start yoga sessions like other schools. I believe the move adopted by the seminary will be followed by other Islamic schools in the state," said Chandrakesh Sahu, a retired teacher and resident of the Kokhraj area.
Airing similar views, Prajapalan, owner of a cloth shop in Manjhanpur, said, "In a way, the madrassa is propagating a message of communal harmony by making students learn yoga from a Hindu teacher."