Published On : Thu, Jun 4th, 2015

“Yoga is wonderful, why should anyone object to it?” Nagpur Muslims opine

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Nagpur: “My grand daughter Neeha is going to participate in the 4 day long Yoga camp organized by NCC; she loves doing Yoga. Why should we object to it? ‘Iska kissi bhi Majhab se kya taluq?'” Asks Shakeela Sajid Ali, who has taught at Bishop Cotton School for many years and since retirement still takes Maths tuitions at home. Her husband Sajid has retired from BHEL as GM; her brother in law is Justice ( retired) Jinwallah.

Shakeela’s family are all devout Bohra muslims. Except Shakeela, all will enthusiastically keep the ‘Rozas’ – fasting that happens during Ramzan. She is diabetic, so cannot fast but even her school going young grand daughters will practise fasting on Sundays and holidays so they can do it in a full fledged way once they are adults.

But it is also worth mentioning that when Eid comes around after the 30 days of fasting they have a big party for two days – and most of the guests at these parties are non-Muslims.

The only aspect Muslims object to is calling it ‘namaskar’ ( as in SuryaNamaskar Yoga) . Explains Shakeela ” our religion does not allow us to bow before anyone else except Allah. We do not touch even our parents feet.” (Muslim youngsters have an endearing ritual of hugging and then kissing the palms of elders to show respect).

Contiues Shakeela ” for us, Sun, Moon and Stars etc. are all ‘objects’ and we do not worship them, just as we do not believe in idol worship. For that matter, Muslims do not believe in Astrology and horoscopes either.”

But Yoga, all in our family like and respect. I would like all of them to practise it, she says finally.

This is a sentiment expressed by all the Nagpur Muslims I spoke to.

Hakimuddin Ali, MD of Calderrys and probably the highest ranking pvt sector executive in Nagpur also says emphatically that he has no issues with doing Yoga.

“In fact I have learnt it myself by hiring a Yoga Guru” ( he does not call him ‘instructor, but lays stress on word Guru) “My Yoga Guru came for a month to teach it to me. at home. I still do it on my own”. Says Hakimuddin Ali.

“Yoga is wonderful. Children should learn and practise it too. The younger you are when you learn it, the more you will benefit” he adds.

“But it should not be made compulsory in Schools or elsewhere. We are a democratic country – let everyone do what he/ she likes. Yoga; aerobics; athletics, there are so many forms of exercise” Hakumuddin adds in a soft tone, also saying ” I don’t think anyone is talking of making it compulsory. Are they? If it is offered as a choice, many children will opt for it and benefit.”

Ali Akbar Maimoon, who believes in Alternative medicine and Pranic Healing etc. goes to the extent of saying that Yoga and Meditation are very therapeutic and will benefit anyone of any age.

He is such an active advocate of it that he recently held a camp of ‘ Superbrain Yoga’ for children and adults of his community . Doing Yoga can definitely help children concentrate and do better in studies; it can also help mentally disturbed kids like those with learning disorders; even autistic kids.

” I do Yoga very religiously every day ” avers Ali.

When asked why some Muslim leaders are objecting to it, he replies –

“They may be against the ritual of chanting that goes with some Yogasans. Like saying the word ‘Oum’ though personally I do not mind that either. When I teach meditation I give my Muslim friends the choice of saying ‘Ameen’ instead of Oum which can have the same soothing effect”.

Ali Akbar goes a step further and enlightens me on “Arhatic Yoga” and persuades me to learn it!

He goes on to elaborate on ‘activating the chakras’ through meditation and other such concepts. By the end of this conversation I cannot remember whether I am speaking to some disciple of Ramdev Baba or my friend called Ali Akbar Maimoon.

Such are most Nagpur Muslims – unique like this city we live in.

Cannot but help repeating what Raje Bhonsles of our city had narrated to me when I met them
“The Nagpur kingdom owes its safety and identity to the large Arab” ( as Muslims were called then)” army contingent that came to our help when we were fighting the British. Our own Marathas ditched us, but these people came to our rescue.

Since then we renamed all our important structures after their sensibilities. The Mahal lake now called Gandhi sagar was called ‘Shukrawari talab’…our gates were called similar names. This was our way of showing gratitude.”