An engineer by profession, a teacher at heart, Manzoor Ahmad Kachgar has established over two dozen Darsgahs in his locality, and a school that adopts its poor children. Majid Maqbool reports.
He is an engineer by profession, but a teacher at heart – a Quran teacher rather. Though his tryst with the Holy book began late in life, within years he not only learned, but also began to teach others and establish Darsgahs.
Hailing from Rainawari in Srinagar, Manzoor Ahmad Kachgar is synonymous with Darsgahs in the locality. He has established over two dozen of them – almost one in each mohalla (neighbourhood) of Rainawari.
Kachgar was first struck by the beauty of divine verses when he was a high school student. He saw a copy of Tafhemul Quran, (Quranic exegesis) at home and read it. It had been gifted to his father by a revered cleric neighbour who had also taught his father.
Tafhem inspired Kachgar to understand Quran and learn Arabic. Soon he began to take lesson from the cleric.
Soon after Manzoor was selected for BE at the Regional Engineering College (REC) now NIT. He passed in 1984, and had to wait another eight years before he could get a government job, but he was never idle. In 1984 he established a darsgah for teaching Quran in Saidakadal. He established a reading room and library in the premises of local mosque. He would bring books for the library and conduct weekly seminars, a practice he continues today. “I would teach Quran and hadith and also conduct weekly ijtimas between different Darsgahs I was looking after,” he says
The same year he began looking for a room to open a Darsgah in Jogilanker area. “It was a densely populated area we had to cater to. It later became an important centre for learning Quran,” he says.
For first two months, he recollects, no student turned up. “People starting coming and slowly I began teaching Quran,” he says.
He would encourage his students to open their own darshgahs after learning, and many of them did.
At present he is teaching five parts of the basic Arabic language book Minhajul Arabia. “Minhajul Arabia facilitates easy understanding of Quran,” he explains.
From 1984 to 1990 Manzoor helped establish around 25 darsgahs in Rainawari – one in each Mohalla. Manzoor looks after all the Darasgahs. He was also instrumental in establishing Darasgahs in the Dal interiors. “I would send my students there to teach Quran and bring students from the Dal area and teach them in our daresgahs,” he says.
Before the outbreak of militancy he encouraged sports activities in his daresgahs. “We had big section for sports related activities called Islamic Sports Association. We would organize football, volleyball and cricket matches between the students of different darsgahs.” Picnics and camps would be organized too. “We would conduct cycle tours before 89 to different places,” he recalls.
He was appointed as Junior Engineer (JE) in 1992, and serves as an AEE today. In the eight years of wait for his job after completion of degree, Manzoor says many of his classmates were depressed but his passion for teaching kept him going.
Manzoor developed a program for teaching Urdu to illiterate people. “I would teach five to six books of Urdu to unlettered people of all age groups. Then they would teach their kids and they also started reading Urdu newspapers,” he says.
He was instrumental in establishing a school named MUWEST (Muslim Welfare Educational Trust) in Saidakadel.
MUWEST has a scholarship scheme for poor students. The school collects donations from the locality. “First we adopted some 20 students and now we have more than 80 poor students whose education is sponsored under the scheme,” says Manzoor. At present 450 students are on roll in the school.
Manzoor’s Darsgahs are open to all. “Unlike Darul ulooms, where people are trained in a formal structure for years, our thrust is on teaching common people – working in shops, offices – the Quran,” he says.
He says the true picture of Islam should be brought before the common people. “Islam is not a violent religion as the western media projects it to be,” he says. “We should teach Islam on modern lines and all the technology should be used for its propagation.”
His love for the divine words, since he first caught by them has not waned, nor has his passion for teaching.
“Even now when I am in a Daresgah, teaching the Quran I forget everything. It’s a great feeling.”