Our Religious Schooling

The earth has changed and my childhood has fled



Reminisces how so sweet, have their own poignancy. Many a time writing about my childhood, I feel like Shelly that I am writing, an ‘epitaph of the glory fled’. Believing, ‘the loveliest and the last, is dead’, I hear the cry inside me, ‘Rise, Memory, and write its praise- for now the Earth has changed its face, a frown is on the Heaven’s brow.’
Truly, the earth has changed and my childhood has fled, it cannot be brought back.  Every year on sighting of the Ramadan moon this harsh reality dawns on me but still memories, make me to bask in the spiritual ambience that overwhelmed our part of the city on the commencement of the holy month. I remember, the Sahar Khawan during our childhood would not only just beat drums ferociously to wake up people for midnight meals and prayers but many times they also recited loudly manqabat and na’ts in melodious voice. 
During our childhood, there were hardly any Dar ul Ulooms with boarding and lodging facilities in the city. Our part of the city had remained fountainhead of Islamic learning during the period of the Sultans.  Hundreds of students from Central Asia studied in many religious schools, seminaries and universities that were in around the Jamia Masjid. The Sikh governors followed by Dogra rulers destroyed these institutions, leaving behind ruins only that spoke of their glory even during our school days. In our childhood only a few Islamic seminaries had remained, of these the most important was the Anjuman-i-Nusrat-ul-Islam. This institution founded in later part of nineteenth century was mother institution of my alma mater. It functioned from a building in our school and only few attained proficiency in Islamic studies in this institution. Largely most of the boys in our generation did not get any formal  religious education and whatever little bit we learnt about religion was in our school, where Deenyat was an important subject. I was not different from the lot- I got no formal education in religion.  Nevertheless, it was during the Holy month of Ramadan only that boys of my generation got a rigorous religious training.
I remember, many times, my peers and I supplemented the efforts of Sahar Khawan in waking up people for midnight meals by going around in our locality and knocking at the doors of the people. Sometimes, we picked up an old tin canister from the piles of them in our locality- our locality was famous for stocking and trading of old canisters and bottles. Stacks of them were found on every open space. Beating loudly the tin canister sometimes out of fun, we indulged in lots of jocular catcalls to the annoyance of some neighbors.
After having our Sahari, our morning journey for having fajar prayers started. Going for prayers had its own fun for us - we very rarely said  fajar prayers in  masjid of our Mohalla. At the very start of Ramadan, we drafted itinerary for full month- there was hardly an Astana or hospice in our part of city were we did not offer our fajar prayers. One of best pastimes after the fajar prayers was listening to the sermons on importance of the holy month from smalltime preachers on the lawns of Astanas or hospices and Masjids. Of all the places, were we enjoyed listening to sermons the most was under the canopy of big Chinar tree on Kastur-Pand, a small plateau overlooking the Nageen and the Dal Lakes on the Koh-e-Maran. Many a time, when I look back, Kastur-Pand, lawns of Khanqah-e-Moula and Jamia Masjid were for us open-air religious schools.
Listening sermons of one or other preacher, from small wooden pulpits under the shade of Chinars in Jamia Masjid, I remember many elders would feel nostalgic about Mirwaiz Yusuf Saib- and often tell us that we were unfortunate of not having heard his sermons… We as children also looked for the day when we would listen to his great discourses on Islam.
 It is fresh in mind, when I was yet to cross ten yes that was 1958,     there were rumors about the return Yusuf Saib from Pakistan. Three months after Ramadan in the month of July, he reached Amritsar with lock, stock and barrel. But, he was not permitted to visit Srinagar. For refusing to sign some documents brought to him by an envoy from New Delhi he was asked to return to Pakistan from Amritsar only ….  So children of our generation were deprived of getting religious education from this great religious scholar… then started another phase of religious schooling for the Downtown boy - tryst with Mirwiaz Muhammad Farooq.  

Lastupdate on : Sat, 20 Jul 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 20 Jul 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 21 Jul 2013 00:00:00 IST

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