My Theology Teachers
There was something amiss in the teaching methodology.
NOSTALGIA BY Z.G. M
I was not blasphemous. It should not be read as sacrilegious: In theology class, I was an imbecile boy. Sitting in this class most of the times, my mind would be as blank as a white sheet of paper. The lectures by turbaned and henna-dyed bearded teachers on morality and fundamentals of religion were to me as good as heavy showers on corrugated galvanized rooftops of our home- creating lot of noise, leaving not a drop behind. I wish my mind would have been like the old- time birch bark-mud-roof of our latticed-window house that retained lots of rains and bloomed in spring blue, magenta and mauve irises and purple poppies.
More than often I was a cutup in my diniyat class. And my antics often annoyed teachers and many times, I would be pulled up for this. I received lots of ear bashing for not parroting the lessons taught in the class full-throat with other boys. I had become so familiar with ear-clippings by theology teachers that it now no more pained me. I was not the only boy who failed to remember the diniyat – many others joined me in the class during the Murgha punishment. I did not know who had introduced this corporal punishment in schools. And why it was named after the Rooster- the bird I admired for its plumage, crowing and strutting. It could only be an evil genius who had introduced such an elaborate corporal punishment in schools with all its variants; standing murgha, sitting murgha, jumping murgha and heels touching murgha. And our dinayat teachers had mastered at making it harsher by placing takhtee or a brick on the back. And I do remember a teacher who kept a cup of water filled to brim on the backs of the boys during the Murgha Punishment and if water spilled the boy would be cane charged.
Mostly it was believed that this corporal punishment was a South-Asian phenomenon and had arrived in our land with some alien rulers. The rulers used it against defiant subjects for not paying the taxes. The peasants were the favored victims of this chastisement. Compared to lashing for refusing corvee Murgha punishment was seen as the mildest—but how this feudal punishment got into schools and survived after the end of this rule even in our childhood is a question that haunts me to this day.
I am amazed what irked my diniyat teachers and earned their anger. I was not a bad student. I did my best to outsmart my classmates in writing Mashaq or Takhtee. My first task on waking up in the morning was washing my Takhtee, drying it up in the sun. Then rubbing it with Neej a wild shrub till its color turned green, rubbing it with a Mohara -the bottom of broken bottle or a glass tumbler till it sparkled and reflected brightly and thereafter writing deftly with a reed pen on it. My aversion to Diniyat had perhaps something to do with the stories I had heard about a theology teacher Abala Sahib much before I entered the gates of my school. He was known for biting the students with his teeth for not remembering the lessons he taught in the class. My failing to learn diniyat had nothing to do with my school; it had nothing to do with scholarly teachers but it perhaps had something to do with the teaching methodology.
There was something amiss in the teaching methodology. Our morning assemblies, which were then called as prayer meetings started with recitation from the Holy Book. This was followed by singing a hymn or a prayer in chorus from the school prayer book. It contained eight to ten poems from eminent Urdu and Kashmiri poets and cost two annas. Out of the collection the three poems that we mostly sang were: Woh Nabiyon mein rehmat laqab panay wala.. by Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali, lab pe aati hai dua banke tamanna meri by Allama Muahmmad Iqbal and Sahibo Sath Cham Chani Wath Maa Islach Hawatum by Ghulam Ahmed Mahjoor.
I joined the chorus with full passion but hardly understood even a single verse. I was not the only nincompoop who just parroted these great classical poems without understanding their meaning this was true of not only overwhelming majority but all boys in the school- I doubt if there was even an exception. It took me many years to understand a portion of this poem but the verses I did not understand, no teacher ever explained to me, still lurk in my mind:
Khatakaar say darguzar karnay wala
Bad-andesh kay dil mein ghar karnay wala
Mafasid ka zer-o-zabar karnay wala
Qabayel ko sheer-o-shakar karnay wala
Uttar kar Hirra say suy-e-qoum aya
aur ik nuskha keemiya saath laya
Mis-e-khaam ko jis nay kundan banaya
Khara aur khota alag kar dikhaya
Arab, jis peh qarno say tha jehal chhaya
Palt di bas ik aan mein us ki kaya.
Had our teachers just explained this poem to us at our prayer meetings- it would have been as good as reading volumes on seerat - life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Same is true about other prayers including those in my mother tongue. It may sound ironic but it is true; I did not even understand the whole of Mehjoor’s poem contained in our prayer book. No one ever during my school days explained me the word Sahibo- that sounded musical to me. No one ever explained us the yearning for the learning that is epitome of this poem.
It is not to say that there were theology teachers in our school lacked in knowledge. The names of theology teachers that to this day are as fresh as morning dew in my memory are Mama Sahib, Sadia Sahib, Kamali Sahib and Noor Sahib. Every one of them was a scholar in his own right but were not perhaps trained to teach faith and morality to tender minds.
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Lastupdate on : Sat, 12 Feb 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 12 Feb 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 13 Feb 2011 00:00:00 IST
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