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The Gita is his way of life & Islam his religion.

WITH a mini copy of the Bhagwad Gita in his pocket round the clock, acharya Mohammad Hanif Shastri does not miss a single namaz in the day.

Hanif, who has a doctorate in Sanskrit with a specialisation in the Gita , is an authority on the Hindu holy book. The Gita for him is the way of life, and Islam is his faith.

The Sanskrit professor at the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan ( RSS), Janakpuri in west Delhi, says the Quran and the Gita are two books that come from the same source ( one God) but were written in two different languages in two different eras.

Hanif was at the Sanatan Dharam Mandir in Noida on Friday as the chief speaker at a function organised to celebrate Gita Jayanti.

" We have met many acharyas , but never one like acharya Hanif.

His knowledge and understanding of the Gita is exemplary," said Viresh Tiwari, an executive member of the Om Kiran Foundation which organised the function.

Hanif, who has been selected for an award for national communal harmony by the Union home ministry, will now be working closely with the foundation for the next two years to spread the Gita 's message.

He first developed an interest in the holy book after he failed in his Class X examination in the late 1960s.

Coming from a poor family in the small town of Sonbhadar near Varansai in Uttar Pradesh, education was a luxury for Hanif.

" Even in my extended family no one had ever studied till fifth standard. My family had very high hopes from me. So when I failed in class X, I went into deep depression," said Hanif.

It was then that one of his teachers narrated a few lines from the Gita . This drew him towards the holy book.

" I then started reciting the Gita everyday and by the time I completed my M. A. in Sanskrit, I had decided to do research work in the holy book," said Hanif, who is said to be the only Muslim to have done this.

" When I went ( to the RSS) for a job, my interview was over moments after it started," says Hanif with a smile.

" My examiner wanted me to explain a Sanskrit shloka . However, before translating it, I corrected it for him. Noticing this, he was taken aback. I immediately took out my copy of the Gita and showed it to him. They were so impressed that I was selected immediately," said Hanif.

Hanif has received accolades for various books he has written on the Gita . In the recent past, he also wrote a book comparing verses of the Gita and the Quran.

Interestingly, Hanif did not how know to read Arabic until he married Kaisar Bano, his distant relative who is an expert in Urdu.

" Soon after the marriage, she started teaching me Arabic and Urdu, which gave me an opportunity to understand the Quran . I then began comparing the two," said Hanif.

While his family has been supportive of him in his love for the Gita , once in a while he has to face resistance from fundamentalist elements from both the communities. " I have, at times, faced awkward situations but I don't find them worth mentioning," said Hanif.

However, he is keen to recount that former Rashtriya Swyamesewak Sangh ( RSS) chief K. Sudharshan had called him a ' rare pearl'. " I loved my meeting with the RSS chief. He said I am the kind of Muslim they want India to have," said Hanif.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Dec 18, 2010
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