Friday, June 10, 2011

Signs from the Holy Quran

“I learnt new English words,” writes Sajitha in my notepad. “I want to cultivate my mind. Kafeel has taught us how. I will do my best to spread this,” writes K.V. Karthikeyan. “I'm happy I came,” scribbles A. Abdul Rajeed. It's lunch break for Sayed Abdul Kafeel's class of 50-odd hearing impaired students. The just concluded session on lessons from the Quran has them all pepped-up. 

Value education

This is Kafeel's yearly session in the city organised by the Coimbatore Islamic Cultural Trust (Kafeel is from Kozhikode). He teaches values such as obedience, honesty, generosity, etc. in a way that is appealing. There are jokes and instances from day-to-day life, all woven together as a PowerPoint Presentation. Armed with his laptop and a few CDs, the 42-year-old travels across the country with a purpose — to teach Quran to the hearing-impaired people of his community. 

Speech and hearing-impaired himself, Kafeel has been doing this for over eight years now.

“I am a happy man,” he says in sign language. But, it took him a long time to get here. Kafeel is a school drop-out. “Our family lived in Mandya and I stayed with an aunt to attend school in Bangalore.”
Life was hard for the youngster as none of his relatives made an effort to communicate with him in sign language. “I was lonely,” he says. His family owned a travel company, and Kafeel tried to work there. But, his disability came in the way. “I did not have an interpreter back then, so communicating with customers was very difficult.”

“In 2000, I shifted to Kozhikode and married a hearing impaired girl.” Kafeel smiles at the thought of his marriage. “My wife's family knew no other language but Malayalam and my family knew only Urdu. Whenever they met, the two groups would communicate only in sign language!”

A chance to learn

It was in Kozhikode that Kafeel decided to take the Quran to the hearing impaired. “The hearing impaired in our community did not have a place to learn our scriptures and I decided to do something about it,” he says.
Kafeel approached ISM (Ithihadu Shubhanil Mujahideen), an NGO. With their support, about 300 deaf people from near-by villages were gathered. “Initially, a person read out portions of the Quran which was interpreted into sign language.” Classes were conducted for two hours every Friday. Kafeel watched from a distance. “But, I felt there was something missing. There were misinterpretations and mistakes. Our students had difficulty understanding.” Gradually, the numbers dropped. That's when Kafeel decided to take over. He pored over an English version of the Quran and selected portions of it for the benefit of the hearing impaired.
People came from all over Kerala for his classes. Carpenters, painters, daily wage labourers…Friday evenings with Kafeel became popular in the region. 

“In 2004, we registered our organisation, ‘The Truth of Deaf Da'wa Wings,” he says. Back then, Kafeel also taught value education to school children in the evenings. 

A good influence

“A lot of deaf teenage boys, who indulged in smoking and drinking just to be accepted by the other kids, changed for the better,” he smiles.

Kafeel put together a CD with verses from the Quran in sign language. “I've signed about 25per cent of the Quran so far,” he says. “I hope to complete it in about 20 years.” He has also trained some of his promising students to teach the hearing impaired in their areas. He has trainers in places such as Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, Patna and Chennai who take lessons from him every month.

A good response

During his travels Kafeel interacts with speech and hearing impaired people from all walks of life. “A lot of our people are uneducated. They lack any kind of support,” he says. He thus conceived the idea of ‘Ability Institute for the Hearing Impaired,' which was set up with the backing of ISM in 2009. “We have courses such as B.Com with Tally, BCA, BSc I.T, Indian Sign Language, etc. approved by the government of Kerala.” As the principal of the institution, Kafeel is now a busy man. “We have a stream of applications coming in,” he smiles. 

Kafeel is pleasantly surprised at the amount of support and positive response he got from people across the country when he approached them with a proposal to conduct Quran classes.
Akila Kannadasan's report in The Hindu. Here

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