VADODARA – As yoga remains highly controversial among Muslims, an Indian foundation has found a unique way to promote the practice among Muslim women by blending it with Qur’anic recitation.
“Generally, women from our community stay away from doing yoga believing that it belongs to a particular faith. But yoga is an age-old technique practiced since thousands of years and it is not a legacy of any one religion. Through Islamic yoga we are trying to blend the ancient practice with Islamic chanting,” Naasheta Bhaisaheb of the Tadbeer Foundation at Taiyyebi Hall on Ajwa Road, Vadodara, told Times of India on Monday, August 21.
“Islamic yoga is totally a new concept in which Qur’anic recitation is blended with yogic postures whereby physical benefits of yogic postures is enhanced by the spiritual effect of recitation,” she said.
“The yoga session was specially designed by our spiritual leader Saiyyedna Haatim Zakiyuddin Saheb and my homeopath husband Dr Zulqarnain Bhaisaheb,” she added.
On Sunday, the foundation’s first yoga session was attended by around 52 Muslim women.
The session was conducted by international yoga expert Shabanaben Lalawala from Mumbai, who targeted common problems faced by women, including back pain, hip pain, osteoarthritis of knees, and frozen shoulders.
“In this session, we focused on five ‘asanas’. From next session onward, we will be focusing on problems related to diabetes, thyroid and so on,” she added.
Yoga, an ancient Indian aid to meditation dating back thousands of years, is a popular stress-buster.
The controversy about yoga started in India several years ago following attempts to make it compulsory in schools.
But following opposition from Muslim parents, the Indian parliament amended the law to include a wording that exempts Islamic schools.
The council of Malaysian Muslim Ulema issued a fatwa against yoga, declaring it haram (forbidden).
The ruling followed similar edicts in Egypt and Singapore, where one of the earliest bans was issued in the early 1980s.
Those fatwas cited the Sanskrit chants that often flowed through yoga sessions and which are considered Hindu prayer.
According to Hindu traditions, yogic principles were first described in the Vedas, the Sanskrit scriptures that form the backbone of Hinduism.
The “namaste,” which is often used to open and close a yoga session, also invokes the divine.
Some Christian sects also oppose yoga practice.
In 2010, R. Albert Mohler Jr., an evangelical leader and the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, declared yoga blasphemous because of its pantheistic roots.
However, attendants of the session rejected the argument that yoga was un-Islamic.
“I am a very good believer of Islam but there is a myth that only Hindus can practice yoga. Since last four years, I practice yoga for which I get private yoga practitioner. But the Islamic yoga that we did on Sunday was meant for physical, mental as well as spiritual uplifting and added more to what I was practicing so far,” said Fatema Lokhandwala, 43, a masters in medical microbiology.
“I am practicing yoga since last five years, but Islamic yoga was a new concept for me. There is a taboo because of which some don’t practice yoga. Anybody can practice yoga for its health benefits,” said Shahina Chasmawalla, 41-year-old resident of Vasna Road.