A mega class room at a madrasa | Ghulam Dastageer
A mega class room at a madrasa | Ghulam Dastageer
Muhammad Hashim appears much younger than he is. Wearing a light blue salwar kameez and a white skullcap, he looks boyishly innocent. Sporting a trimmed brown beard, he can speak only broken Urdu and converses mostly in Pashto, despite having lived in Karachi since his birth in 1989.

He, as well as his six brothers, received their education from Jamia Farooqia, a Deobandi seminary in Shah Faisal Colony, Karachi, where around 3,000 students are enrolled in courses ranging from the memorisation of the Quran to specialisation in Arabic literature and Islamic jurisprudence. After his graduation, Hashim decided to open a madrasa inside his house in Haider Chali, a mostly Pakhtun working-class neighbourhood in Karachi’s north-western Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (Site) area. The two-storey house was purchased in 1992 by his father, Haji Karim, originally a resident of the Swat valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Hashim shifted his family upstairs and turned the small bedrooms on the ground floor into classrooms. This is how Al-Karim Islamic Academy – named after Hashim’s father – came into being in 2007. The madrasa provides basic religious education to around 200 boys and girls who mostly live in nearby houses and streets, and pay a monthly fee of 150 rupees each. Being a teacher of the Quran, Hashim is known as Qari Hashim among his students and their families.

A small room that serves as the office of his madrasa has bare brick walls and cemented flooring. The only furniture in it is a tattered sofa and a small wooden table, a copy of the Quran placed on it. On the dusty afternoon of March 23, 2016, Hashim is sitting in this office, explaining how he does not have anything to do with his elder brother, 33-year-old Shakirullah. “He has a mind of his own,” Hashim says of Shakirullah, whose wife and children live upstairs along with the rest of Haji Karim’s family.

This is an excerpt from the Herald's April 2016 issue. For more, subscribe to the Herald in print.