Mumbai: With a few notable exceptions, most imams in India are too poor to create their own institutions. They are given a pittance by the trustees of the mosques, suffer in silence, and typically don’t hunt for other employment. In light of this, Mufti Raees Khan, an imam in Pune, is deservingly garnering attention for opening a school and a madrassa for youngsters who are deaf, hard of hearing, and unable to speak.
The Times of India reported that the Vision School started in 2013 in the Kondhwa area of Pune has just one student in the beginning. Now the school boasts a strength of 160 children with disabilities who are pursuing modern education along with classes in religious texts.
Khan has already begun giving inspirational speeches at mosques, encouraging people to search their community for youngsters with special needs. “I appeal to people to give me such children. We will empower them with education and training,” he said.
Some of the kids were recently taken to Mumbai’s famous Juma Mosque, which is close to Crawford Bazaar. Moreover, Islamic books are taught to kids, some of whom have gone on to become hafiz (those who have memorized the entire Quran).
“I saw many in the audience sobbing and crying as a visually-impaired student recited some verses from the Quran. One student recited the holy verses in the sign language which Mufti Raees Khan explained,” said Shoeb Khatib, president, of Juma Masjid of Bombay Trust which manages both the Juma Masjid and the Bada Qabristan at Marine Lines. Khatib also said that if someone wanted to organize specific classes for these disadvantaged kids, they might do so at the Juma Mosque.
Asif Farooqui, Bandra resident and court member, Jamia Millia Islamia University, said “Mosques in metropolitan cities must start classes for these children with special needs. This is not the job of one individual. A collective effort is needed.”
Narrating the story behind the Vision school, Mufti Raees Khan said “I worked as an imam for nine years before establishing Anwar-e-Hidayat Trust which runs the school and the madrassa. One day, while coming out of the mosque, I saw two visually impaired children begging outside the mosque. I began thinking and decided to do something about it.” He then hired a room and started searching for such kids.
Seven months of scouting later, I had one child and started a school with him. Currently, we have 160 students from 15 Indian states, including both boys and girls, he stated.
20-year-old Abdur Rahman Amaan Mukadam has had vision problems since birth whose dream has come true. Mukadam stated that although he attended a small school in Raigad, it didn’t meet all of his needs. He then enrolled at Khan’s Vision School, where he started his formal education in both secular and Quranic courses. He is currently a hafiz studying BA (third year).
“I don’t think I would have been trained the way I had stayed back in my village. Now I want to do a government job after graduating. I will sit for competitive exams,” said Mukadam who learned Arabic in Braille and got the Quran by heart.
According to the paper, ten students from the school recently participated in a computer education programme sponsored by the University of Pune. “These young people are incredibly intelligent and pick things up quickly. All they require is the proper training and guidance, “added Khan, who has arranged for these disadvantaged, youngsters with disabilities, to receive free tuition and housing.