CAIRO – Using communication technology to reach out to Muslim students in the west, a growing number of Pakistani centers are teaching Muslims how to pronounce the holy Qur’an correctly, overcoming length and language barriers.
“People in the US, Canada and UK are always telling us: We do have mosques, we do have proper setups, but we can never find one-on-one lessons,” Usman Zahoor Ahmed, 32, owner of ReadQuranOnline.com, told Toronto Star on Sunday, February 7.
“And in this current atmosphere, they want to know what kind of teaching is being provided to their children — they want the lessons in their home, where mom or father is always watching.”
Eight years ago, Ahmed started his call centre with two employees and just a few students.
Now, he employs 22 teachers who work all night speaking to 320 students, about 40 per cent of whom live in the United States.
Ahmed’s brother Saqib, who helps run the call centre, estimated that more than 50 similar centers operate in Pakistan, at least one of which has more than 1,000 students.
“I already got the education but now feel it’s my service to spread it and teach it to others,” said a teacher, Safeer Ahmed, 20.
Other online teachers have become a lifeline for some Western Muslims interested in studying Islam.
Using relatively new technologies such as Skype, Pakistan has become a global hub for computerized training courses on how to become a properly observant Muslim.
Each student is offered a 30-minute lesson five days a week against a payment of about $25.
The lessons focus on the proper pronunciation of Qur’anic verses. Later on, the instructor moves to translating and interpreting the Qur’an.
“If someone asks about jihad, which they rarely do, we would answer it with a strict interpretation of Islam,” he said.
“Jihad is something only allowed by a state — it’s not an individual thing where someone can resort to a gun and take up weapons.”
The business, run by the Ahmed brothers for years, is attracting new competitors who seek teachers for online Islamic study courses.
The competition does not worry Usman Zahoor Ahmed.
“There will be 3 billion Muslims around the world (by 2100), and they are all our market,” he said.
“All you need is a computer, microphone, headset and Skype.”