‘I don’t associate language with religion’

Interview with Raziya Mohammed Kutty, Sanskrit teacher.

Published : Dec 05, 2019 07:00 IST

Kerala schoolteacher Raziya Mohammed Kutty believes that languages open minds. She is of the opinion that students should be encouraged to learn new languages. Raziya teaches Sanskrit to middle-school students. She also takes Quran classes for adults. She finds no paradox or irony in this. Excerpts from her interview to Frontline :

When did you start learning Sanskrit?

Right from my childhood, I liked the idea of learning new languages. In 2012, I got a chance to learn Sanskrit. Some volunteers of the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, Kozhikode, visited our area in Malappuram. I was apprehensive initially, then I began to learn the language. Now I teach.

Was it a regular course?

It was a correspondence course, designed with four sections—Pravesh, Parichaya, Shiksha and Kovida. One can enrol for M.A. Sanskrit after completing this course. I plan to do my Master’s too.

A nd then you started teaching ?

No, I started working in an institute as a tutor.

Did the students have no reservations about learning Sanskrit from a Muslim teacher?

I do not think this thought crossed anybody’s mind here. In our area, there are so many Muslim teachers who have studied Sanskrit. In fact, if Muslims study Sanskrit, they get a job easily here. They land government jobs too. It is an easy way to bring about economic stability in life. Nobody looks at it as the language of Hindus here.

Was there no problem from the Muslim community when you chose to study Sanskrit and not Arabic?

As a Muslim I recite the Quran, I offer my prayers, all in Arabic. I even take Quran classes at Mother’s Institute in Edappal in Malappuram district. I see no contradiction between taking Quran classes and teaching Sanskrit. My students range from teenagers to those in their sixties. When I began studying Sanskrit, no imams or maulvis objected. Today, my day starts with the fajr [dawn] prayers. Then I recite the Quran. After that, I read Sanskrit books. My belief is that if I stop reading, I will stop growing.

Do you take Veda classes too?

No, I do not take Veda classes. But I am proficient in Sanskrit to teach up to the middle-school level. I teach nearly 60 students in every class. Every fourth student is a Muslim. They learn Sanskrit to understand culture, not just for improving their job prospects.

Can you speak in Sanskrit?

Yes, I can manage. But it is not easy to find people who can communicate in Sanskrit with ease.

Did your parents encourage you to study Sanskrit?

No, it was my husband who encouraged me.

Will you be happy if your daughters also start learning Sanskrit?

Yes, we all will be happy. I do not associate any language with religion. All languages belong to one God. I am a practising Muslim and I know Allah does not prohibit learning any language.

I am also trying to learn French. Like religion, language has no nationality. When we learn new languages, we begin to understand other people better. We realise we are, at the end of the day, all human beings with similar struggles, loves, joys and sorrows.

If Muslims learn English, nobody feels they have gone out of their religion or that the language belongs to another religion. But if a Muslim learns Sanskrit or teaches it, some people object. Likewise, if a Hindu learns English, there is no problem. But if he learns Arabic, people object. The problem lies with society and its mindset, not with languages. It is just politics.

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