From madrasa students to MBBS doctors: The saga of an oasis of education in Karnataka’s Bidar

By Syed Zubair Ahmad,,

Tu Shaheen Hai, Parwaz Hai Kaam Tera; Tere Samne Asman Aur Bhi Hain…

(You are an eagle, flight is your vocation; you have other skies stretching out before you.)

This poetic couplet by Iqbal appropriately fits for the Shaheen Group of Institutions, which has been shaping the future of hundreds of students from the economically weaker sections of the society. In a unique but successful experiment, the institution is preparing hafizs (those memorise the holy Qur’an) for competitive examinations of medical and engineering.

At least 40 hafizs have so far cracked the entrance examination of medical and engineering and are studying in different government colleges of the country. As many as 900 students from the institution had qualified to the medical courses in the last one decade.

When the Shaheen Group ventured into education field in 1989 at Bidar in Karnataka, it had only 17 students. Now, it has more than 12,000 students from across the country with a host of educational institutions – including nine schools, 16 pre-university colleges and a degree college with branches in Bangalore and Mysore.

It also runs seven ‘Hifz–ul- Qur’an plus’ coaching centers in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and other states for bringing mainstream education to madrasa system students. The group is also planning to open residential schools in other parts of the country as well.

Talking to MuslimMirror, Shaheen Group founder Dr Abdul Qadeer said it was a humble beginning with just 17 students who were huddled in a single room with an aim of providing education to one and all. “I had not imagined that the humble effort would take the shape of the university-size educational institution wherein NRI students would also come for education,” he said.

Hafizs, who were till date used to be trained in tailoring or other skilled jobs after memorizing the holy scripture, have been given wings by the Shaheen Group to fly high and excel in the field of modern education.

“Hafizs are brilliant and hardworking. They just need proper guidance. The disciplined madrasa life help them get good grades in pre- university and medical and engineering college seats,” said Dr Qadeer.

“When you develop a confidence like a falcon (Shaheen) in the students of madrassa background, nothing can prevent them touching new heights in the future,” he underlined.

“Realising their potential and high intelligence quotient,” he said, “we launched Hifz–Ul- Qur’an plus course, bringing mainstream education to madrasa system students some six years ago. It’s an effort to impart them modern education and fortunately the experiment got success”.

Thanks to this project, now hafiz Abu Sofyan can offer both — Dawa and Dua (medicine and prayers) to his future patients. Sofyan is a second-year MBBS student at Raichur Institute of Medical Sciences in Karnataka who had never been to school before that, nor studied subjects like science, mathematics or languages other than Arabic and Urdu. His disciplined life of the religious seminary helped him fetch good marks in pre-university and secure a seat for himself in a medical college.

Ahmed Mehboobsaab, an engineering student, also extols his early education. “I realize that the basic principles of engineering are about the wholesome study of nature that the Qur’an emphasizes,” he said.

Coming from a poor family in Chikkabanavara, in north Bengaluru taluk, he spent nearly a decade in a madrassa. There are dozens of such examples.

Outlining the criteria for selection, Dr Qadeer said those hafizs who are in the age group of 14 to17 years are enrolled in the eighth and ninth standard. They undergo a 10-month bridge course so that they can learn Kannada, English, mathematics, science and social studies. Then, they are ready to face the SSLC board.

With rigorous working style, most of them get passed. Students from Bihar, UP and West Bengal pick up an alien subject like Kannada and get good marks. They also get focused training, with one teacher for every four students. The Bidar center has trained around 350 students since 2011.

The number of students in ‘ Hifz-Ul-Koran plus’ course have gone up from 12 in 2011 to 400 now. They are from 25 states and even Nepal and the the Middle East.

“We also prepare madrasa students for civil services examinations,” said the group’s founder who himself is a madrassa educated.

In addition, Shaheen schools also impart Islamic teachings and Qur’an to its students and “strictly” maintain the Islamic environment. “We do not allow co-education and use mobile phones, Internet and other gadgets with an aim to avoid the chances of distraction.

Because of its educational environment, the institute had attracted a large number of non-Muslim students as their parents appreciate the environment of the Shaheen’s campus,” said Dr Qadeer.

“We believe that diverse ethnicity would strengthen brotherhood in the country and cultural values as I believe Hindus and Muslims are two arms of Shaheen who would take this country to new heights,” said Qadeer who was conferred Honorary Doctorate by the Gulbarga University during its 33rd Annual Convocation.

The group’s saga of success has fairy-tale as numbers of successful students vouched for this. In 2012, it sent 71 students to government colleges that offer professional courses. The number went up to 89 in 2013, 93 in 2014, 111 in 2015, 158 in 2016 and 200 in 2017.

On an average, over 90% of the students studying here get success in securing seats in professional courses every year. Since 2008, a total of 1,764 students have obtained free seats in government colleges offering medical, engineering and other professional courses.

Over 900 Shaheenians have so far cracked MBBS, setting a new record of success. One of the Shaheenians secured third medical rank in the KCET last year.

For recognition of his services and contributions, Dr Qadeer was conferred on many awards such as Gurukul Award (2004), District Level Rajyotsava Award (2008), Shikshana Ratna Prashasti from Chitradurga math (2011), Dr. Multaj Khan Award (2012) for communal harmony, Karnataka Urdu Academy Award (2012).

However, he always remained down to earth and single-minded to his mission.

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