18-year-old Hindu girl Pooja Kushwaha has been teaching the Holy Quran to Muslim children in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
Speaking to the Times of India, she revealed how she learned to read Arabic and begin teaching the Holy Quran, despite being a Hindu. “Many years ago, there was another woman of mixed faith in our locality.
Born to a Muslim father and Hindu mother, Sangeeta Begum used to teach the Holy Quran to kids. I got interested in the holy book and started attending her classes. I made steady progress and was ahead of all others in her class soon,” said Kushwaha.
When a personal problem forced Begum to discontinue her classes, she requested Kushwaha to take her place. “She taught me an important tenant of Islam, that there is no point in gaining knowledge if you don’t share it,” Kushwaha recalled.
Since then, Kushwaha started free lessons at her house for children of the area, most of whom could not afford to pay for them. “Most of the kids are from poor families. They do not have money to offer and I do not want it either,” she says. But when her house became too small to accommodate the large number of students attending her classes, she was offered space at a temple. The open-air classroom at the temple now has Kushwaha teaching the Holy Quran to 35 Muslim students.
Reshma Begum, the mother of one of Kushwaha’s students, shared; “It is a marvel to see her achieve this rare distinction at so young age. I am very pleased to have her as my kid’s teacher. Her religion is the last thing on my mind or any other parents’ that I know.”
Kushwaha’s elder sister Nandini, who is a graduate, also teaches locals. Her lessons; however, are in Hindi as she teaches the Bhagwat Gita. “These children are from underprivileged backgrounds and giving education to them is a great work. I am proud of my daughters,” their mother Rani Kushwaha told Times of India.
One of the city’s most prominent Muslim leaders, 70-year-old Haji Jamiluddin Qureshi, who chairs many social forums and has a school of his own said, “It’s heartening to know that such rare examples of communal harmony exist in our city. A teacher is a teacher and her religion doesn’t matter as long as she knows the Holy Scripture well. Moreover, Islam doesn’t object to anybody learning Arabic or reading the Holy Quran.”
This article originally appeared on Times of India.