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Positively Muslim in the West (July 2009): Mona Minkara

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InshaAllah, this is the first of what we hope will be monthly recognitions of outstanding and inspiring Muslims, residing in the West. We hope to showcase the talents and contributions of these individuals to the Muslim Ummah. Feel free to nominate other talented Muslim individuals, who have made a positive contribution to the society.

Our first, “Positively Muslim in the West” recognition for July goes to sister Mona Minkara whose inspirational and beautiful commencement speech at Wellesley College is making the rounds on the internet. We spoke to sister Mona, who is legally blind, and asked her a few questions:

MuslimMatters Exclusive Interview with sister Mona Minkara: Wellesley College 2009 Commencement Speaker.

What are you aspirations for the future?

InshaAllah I would really like to go to graduate school and get my PhD. I don’t have a set path in life but I really hope that somehow I get to show a different face and be able to be in the public eye in a good way for the sake of Islam and please Allah azza wa jal. I would like to memorize the Qur’an one day. One step at a time inshaAllah!

Someone (a Non-Muslim) actually approached me about writing a book, and I think it would be such a great form of da’wah to show the positive influence of Muslim women in the West.

What message do you have for Muslim youth?

One message I have for Muslim youth is to be who they are and not to be shy of who you are. We all have a place in this society and if you stick to who you are as an individual, people will respect you for that. This is my experience as a Muslim.

As a muhajjabah, what message do you have for other young sisters?

Be who you are. People should respect you for who you are and they should not judge you for what you are or are not wearing. People will see that you are more than just the hijaab.

Here is her inspirational speech in written form and video:

Thank you, thank you. Welcome everybody. Are you ready?

As Wellesley women, it has always been expected of us to strive to our utmost to reach the top, to be the best that we can be. Time and time again, since the speeches of orientation week, we have been told that we have the ability to achieve whatever we set our sights on, that we can go wherever we dream of going, that we can overcome any obstacle to reach the summit. We are Women Who Will. I don’t doubt this for a second.

But I want to make sure that in seeking to reach the heights, I never forget where I once was and how I got here.  I hope that as we await to receive our diplomas today, we each remember where we came from and how we got here today.

Let me tell you my story. Apparently I’m going to be one of the first legally blind students to graduate from Wellesley College with a science degree. I’m not saying this to be boastful, but this was not what was expected of me. When I was seven years old, I was diagnosed with macular degeneration and cone rod dystrophy; doctors predicted I would be completely blind. Currently I have no vision in my right eye, and just peripheral vision in my left eye. Around the time of my diagnosis, during a summer trip to Lebanon, my mom and my uncle took me to one of the most prestigious eye doctors in Beirut. I remember that day so clearly; my mom came out crying, and my uncle was telling my mom that he would go to the ends of the world to help us. I found out only later that the doctor had told my mother that it wasn’t worth spending a penny on my education because I was going to be blind anyway.

But as my life went on to prove, it was not I who had limited vision, but he.
I have been blessed to be surrounded by people who believed in me, first and foremost my parents. My parents gave up their dreams of going back to Lebanon so that I could stay here and become educated. My mom would stay up all night going through projects with me. My dad would literally wake up at the crack of dawn to go through math and physics questions with me. But the list doesn’t stop there. There were many more individuals who were instrumental to my success.

As I await my diploma, I fully realize that I would not have been able to make it onto this stage today, if it wasn’t for the help of so many individuals who have aided me, every single step of the way. From my fellow classmates who would read to me on a daily basis to my professors who would regularly meet with me and go over concepts and were willing to adjust their teaching techniques, I was never alone in my journey. If it weren’t for these individuals—family, friends, faculty, staff, and even strangers along the way—who took time out of their lives and ambitions, I would not have been able to graduate with all of you today.  Their kindness and generosity have inspired me to strive to help others. As I approach the end of my time here, I see, or sense, to be more accurate, many of my supporters around me, and I would not have wanted it any other way.

As I share with you my story, I want you to reflect upon your own story. Because the truth is, no matter how independent we imagine ourselves to be, we’ve all been on the receiving end of someone else’s kindness and generosity. Every single one of us sitting here today has a story: a set of goals and ambitions that drives us. Some of these goals have been achieved, like waiting here today for our diplomas. Some have yet to be realized. Surely though, just like there were individuals who helped me get to this day, there were individuals who helped you. Family, friends, faculty, staff, and even even an invisible hand, have all played a role in making this day possible.

Sometimes though, to be honest with you, we get so caught up in our own ambitions and our own struggles that we don’t notice the people around us. We don’t notice those who need our help. We become so self-absorbed and oblivious to whose struggles are much greater difficulties than our own. We become so consumed by our drive that we might even avoid or look down upon those who do not measure up to our definition of success. But I have come to realize, that as Wellesley Women, we don’t only achieve what we put our minds to, but we do so while helping others achieve their own goals.  For how else could we claim to live according to our very own motto: Non Ministrari Sed Ministrare: Not to be served unto, but to serve?

Let me share with you another story: Over the past spring break, Wellesley sent a group of students to Utah for the annual American Chemical Society meeting, and I happened to be one of those students. On my way there, I had a connecting flight in Denver. So I was sitting in the airport, growing kind of thirsty, and I asked a lady, a stranger, where I could find a water fountain. The next thing I knew, she had bought me a water bottle. I asked how much did it cost so I could pay her back. You know what she said to me? She said, “You can pay me back by buying somebody else a water bottle.”  I can’t share enough with you how much her words struck me.  I have realized from this simple incident, that it doesn’t take something phenomenal to make a significant impact. But something as simple as buying a water bottle for your fellow human being. Or even planting a seed to grow. Done selflessly, a small gesture can have a powerful rippling effect.

So during my time in Denver, while I was discovering the power of generosity, a fellow Wellesley sister was flying down to Costa Rica. She was volunteering her time farming, to help the local community. Now she’s not going to be awarded for spending her free time toiling outdoors under the hot sun, planting seeds she will most likely never see the fruits of.  She did what we all should do, offering to lend a helping hand to those in need of support, to our fellow human beings, to make a difference in any way possible.

Let us ask ourselves, as we embark into the real world, how happy can we be if all we do is work for our own ambitions and our own goals, and don’t notice anyone around us? Is this a life worth living? Do you want to grow older and remember that you only concentrated on your own interests? Or do you want to remember that you have helped our fellow human beings, and reaped the harvests of seeds that have been planted not only for our own success, but for the success of others? Among my quotes that have inspired me throughout my time here at Wellesley has been a quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It’s been actually in my signature, part of FirstClass for the past four years. This is how it goes:  “Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime. And, departing, leave behind us, Footprints on the sands of time.”

Now I hope we can all leave footprints on the sand of time, whether they be big or small. Yes, I bet one of us might find the cure for cancer, and that would be an amazing achievement. But I’ve come to realize, that’s not the only way to make a difference. Giving a helpful hand or even just a smile is, in my faith, an act of charity.  Take it from me, it matters. An act of kindness or generosity goes a long way. And these are the acts that brought me here today. And for that I thank all of you, Class of 2009. Congratulations, Class of 2009! Thank you! Thank you, Momma and Papa! Thank you, Pam, Katie….thank you professors! (More shout outs).

I have something for the President. Where’s my President Bottomly? I have a water bottle. I have it for the symbolism. I hope you enjoy the water.

Part One:

Part Two:

We ask Allah ta’ala to bless sister Mona in this life and the next and grant her success in all of her endeavors. Ameen.

If you would like to share a positive story of a Muslim in the west, please email us at info (at) muslimmatters (dot) org.

Amatullah is a student of the Qur'an and its language. She completed the 2007 Ta'leem program at Al-Huda Institute in Canada and studied Qur'an, Tajwid (science of recitation) and Arabic in Cairo. Through her writings, she hopes to share the practical guidance taught to us by Allah and His Messenger and how to make spirituality an active part of our lives. She has a Bachelors in Social Work and will be completing the Masters program in 2014 inshaAllah. Her experience includes working with immigrant seniors, refugee settlement and accessibility for people with disabilities.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Avatar

    halalbuzz

    July 13, 2009 at 4:09 AM

    mashaAllah

    May Allah bless her and guide her

  2. Avatar

    vindicated

    July 13, 2009 at 5:06 AM

    masha’Allah, what an inspiring personality and an equally inspiring speech!

  3. Avatar

    midatlantic

    July 13, 2009 at 6:07 AM

    Lovely, inspiring article mashaAllah. And a great idea for a monthly feature.

  4. Avatar

    Nazihah

    July 13, 2009 at 12:42 PM

    I was reminded today: dawah is not just telling people about islam. the fact that a our muslim sister was chosen to address a commencement and she is role model for all to follow speaks 10,000 times stronger than just “talking” about Islam.

  5. Pingback: Muslim Matters debuts what is intended t… « Talk Islam

  6. Avatar

    usman

    July 13, 2009 at 9:17 PM

    Mashallah it is really nice seeing a sister accomplishing so much and being in a role model position. However, i would like to say i dont agree with the “be who you are” that is a very unislamic idea. Sisters wear hijab for Allah, and they and all of us for that matter should not strive to be who we are, but strive to be proper Muslims. Again very nice to see Muslims in good situations. Salaam

    • Avatar

      Amatullah

      July 13, 2009 at 11:50 PM

      I spoke with Mona on the phone and she did not mean “be who you are” in the context that you leave the obligations of the Deen. She meant that, for example, if a sister wants to be an engineer and is thinking how her fellow students will perceive her with a hijaab, that she should be who she is without worrying about their opinions. She should be herself, a good Muslimah working to please Allah azza wa jal, and not worry about pleasing the creation over Him.

      I hope that is clear inshaAllah.

      • Avatar

        usman

        July 14, 2009 at 12:12 AM

        Alhumdulilah, that is great to kno. Jazakhallah Khair

  7. Pingback: amazing muslimah! « monkeynurseMD => sum of me

  8. Avatar

    Shabana

    July 14, 2009 at 12:45 AM

    I was truly impressed with this young lady. Obtaining a college education while not being able to see well is an incredible accomplishment. May Allah SWT always preserve her vision. I definitely think her story is worthy of a book and a movie. :)

  9. Pingback: Positively Muslim in the West (July 2009): Mona Minkara « Thoughts from a Muslimah

  10. Avatar

    Amatullah

    July 14, 2009 at 9:51 PM

    As-Salaamu alaikum,

    Jazak-Allah khair for posting this. This sister reminds me of Asma Mirza. May Allah bless and preserve all of our diligent, hijabi sisters. How much would we pay for one eye? We can never thank Allah the way he deserves to be thanked.

    Amatullah
    http://sisterswithpower.blogspot.com
    EMANcipate yourself

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#Life

10 Steps Towards A Green Ramadan

Abu Ryan Dardir

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The holy month of Ramadan is upon us. While people get excited and dedicate every minute they can to worshipping Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), Ramadan is also a good time to create good habits that please Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), and to better oneself in our daily routines. Making your Ramadan a Green Ramadan, is a pledge to reduce bad habits from previous years that we do not see as a concern. Here are a few simple suggestions (that we may be otherwise unaware of) of how to go green this Ramadan:

  1. Start Ramadan by making the right intentions.

The first thing we do is have the right intentions. What is your intention this Ramadan? Create realistic goals for yourself, and your community!

 

  1. Give up your CO2 contribution by traveling light and smart.

During Ramadan, our visits to the masjid increases, and for some people they can be making multiple visits a day. While driving is unavoidable, try and carpool to reduce emissions that harm our environment and health. Additionally, make it into an act of worship!

“حَدَّثَنَا زُهَيْرُ بْنُ حَرْبٍ، حَدَّثَنَا جَرِيرٌ، عَنْ سُهَيْلٍ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ دِينَارٍ، عَنْ أَبِي صَالِحٍ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ الإِيمَانُ بِضْعٌ وَسَبْعُونَ أَوْ بِضْعٌ وَسِتُّونَ شُعْبَةً فَأَفْضَلُهَا قَوْلُ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَأَدْنَاهَا إِمَاطَةُ الأَذَى عَنِ الطَّرِيقِ وَالْحَيَاءُ شُعْبَةٌ مِنَ الإِيمَانِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“Faith has over seventy branches or over sixty branches, the most excellent of which is the declaration that there is no god but Allah, and the humblest of which is the, removal of what is injurious from the path: and modesty is the branch of faith.”

Other options can include walking and biking to the masjid. Walking to the masjid is great as you can increase in zhikr (remembrance) of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو نُعَيْمٍ، حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ دِينَارٍ، عَنِ ابْنِ

عُمَرَ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم كَانَ يَأْتِي قُبَاءً مَاشِيًا وَرَاكِبًا‏.‏

Narrated Ibn `Umar:

“The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to go to the Quba’ mosque, sometimes walking, sometimes riding.”

 

حَدَّثَنَا الْحُسَيْنُ بْنُ الأَسْوَدِ الْعِجْلِيُّ الْبَغْدَادِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ آدَمَ، عَنِ الْحَسَنِ بْنِ صَالِحٍ، عَنْ أَبِي بِشْرٍ، عَنِ الزُّهْرِيِّ، قَالَ تَسْبِيحَةٌ فِي رَمَضَانَ أَفْضَلُ مِنْ أَلْفِ تَسْبِيحَةٍ فِي غَيْرِهِ ‏.‏

Az-Zuhri said:

“A Tasbihah in Ramadan is better than a thousand Tasbihah in other that it.”

 

  1. Spend meaningful energy, conserve wasteful energy.

Another way to enhance our worship is to be diligent when making wudu. Do not be wasteful and open the taps full on. Water is becoming scarce, and the way we make wudu is not of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

حَدَّثَنَا أَحْمَدُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ حَنْبَلٍ، حَدَّثَنَا هُشَيْمٌ، أَخْبَرَنَا يَزِيدُ بْنُ أَبِي زِيَادٍ، عَنْ سَالِمِ بْنِ أَبِي الْجَعْدِ، عَنْ جَابِرٍ، قَالَ كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَغْتَسِلُ بِالصَّاعِ وَيَتَوَضَّأُ بِالْمُدِّ ‏.‏

Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah:

“The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to take a bath with a sa’ (of water) and perform ablution with a mudd (of water).” [A mudd is roughly two handfuls of water]

Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Al-`Aas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) passed one day by Sa`d ibn Abi Waqas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) while he was performing wudu. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) asked Sa`d, “Why is this wastage?” Sa`d replied “Is there wastage in wudu also?” The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Yes, even if you are at a flowing river.”

Consider conserving more water when making wudu. Conserve electricity by shutting off the TV and computer, and opening the Holy book.

 

  1. Have a healthy Ramadan through a proper diet.

Here we talk about our diets and how to implement a more prophetic one. We fast all day and can’t wait to eat. Our eyes become bigger than our stomachs. The sunnah is actually very different. It asks us for less not more.

حَدَّثَنَا سُوَيْدُ بْنُ نَصْرٍ، أَخْبَرَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ الْمُبَارَكِ، أَخْبَرَنَا إِسْمَاعِيلُ بْنُ عَيَّاشٍ، حَدَّثَنِي أَبُو سَلَمَةَ الْحِمْصِيُّ، وَحَبِيبُ بْنُ صَالِحٍ، عَنْ يَحْيَى بْنِ جَابِرٍ الطَّائِيِّ، عَنْ مِقْدَامِ بْنِ مَعْدِيكَرِبَ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ مَا مَلأَ آدَمِيٌّ وِعَاءً شَرًّا مِنْ بَطْنٍ بِحَسْبِ ابْنِ آدَمَ أُكُلاَتٌ يُقِمْنَ صُلْبَهُ فَإِنْ كَانَ لاَ مَحَالَةَ فَثُلُثٌ لِطَعَامِهِ وَثُلُثٌ لِشَرَابِهِ وَثُلُثٌ لِنَفَسِهِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

Miqdam bin Ma’dikarib said:

“I heard the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) saying: ‘The human does not fill any container that is worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat what will support his back. If this is not possible, then a third for food, a third for drink, and third for his breath.”

We eat till we can’t move, and this impacts our tharaweeh prayers and standing before Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Ramadan is meant to be the opposite of this; it is a time to be humble, not extravagant. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

يَا بَنِي آدَمَ خُذُوا زِينَتَكُمْ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا وَلَا تُسْرِفُوا ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ

“O children of Adam! Attend to your embellishments at every time of prayer and eat and drink and be not extravagant; surely He does not love the extravagant.” [Surah A’raf; 31]

Ramadan is a time to detox ourselves: mind, body and soul. Add more vegetarian options, do not over-eat, and use locally sourced foods. Avoid fizzy drinks, or anything high in sugar content – as an alternative use honey. Avoid deep-fried foods or enjoy in moderation (like once a week). Start and end your fast with green or herbal tea to cleanse the stomach after a day of fasting in order to help flush the toxins out.

We also don’t want to create more than what we could possibly consume, then the leftovers are at risk of being thrown out.  Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) have mercy on him) said:

“With regard to bread, meat and other kinds of food, it is not permissible to throw them in the dumpster; rather they should be given to those who need them, or they should be put in a visible place where they will not be mistreated, in the hope that someone who needs them for his animals will take them, or they will be eaten by some animals or birds.”

 

     5. Commit random acts of kindness

Try smiling at people that pass by, greet the street guards, or just randomly express your gratitude for a friend. Volunteer your time at the local mosque, or in the community for an initiative you are passionate about – or start a new one!

 

6.Celebrate Ramadan by breaking a bad habit

We all face our own challenges and bad habits. Ramadan is the perfect time to end that sugar or nicotine addiction, watch less TV, walk more, give up bad language, or even fix your sleeping cycle.

 

     7.Charity is more than giving money to a good cause

For zakat, consider a local organization that is doing good work to protect the under privileged or the environment. Starting an initiative at your school, workplace or local mosque to make a real difference.

 

     8.Host an eco-Iftar that will be the talk of the town

Show that you care for the environment and host an iftar that produces no waste, recycles, uses biodegradable cutlery and dishware, or invite others to bring their own dishware! Most importantly, serve a healthy, and locally sourced iftar meal.

 

 9.Green your Eid, celebrate in style

By all means, treat yourself to a nice new outfit. Just try and ensure that you are supporting local industry, and that the dyes used are not polluting the water streams. When giving Eidi to children, highlight the importance of using it responsibly: buying nothing unnecessary or anything that will harm planet, your body or community, and to consider paying it forward to a local charity to earn extra reward.

 

     10.Reflect on what you’ve achieved this month

By staying focused, observing your behavior, lifestyle and habits, you will have become much more mindful and aware by the end of the month. Make sure you stay consistent!

 

حَدَّثَنَا قُتَيْبَةُ، حَدَّثَنَا إِسْمَاعِيلُ بْنُ جَعْفَرٍ، عَنْ أَبِي سُهَيْلٍ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ إِذَا جَاءَ رَمَضَانُ فُتِحَتْ أَبْوَابُ الْجَنَّةِ ‏”‏‏.‏

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah’s Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “When Ramadan begins, the gates of Paradise are opened.”

Ramadan is the most beautiful month, a month of worship, good deeds, family, and community. The gates of Paradise are opened, so take advantage of it. May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) give us the opportunity to improve ourselves for His sake, to see Ramadan, and leave Ramadan with His pleasure upon us.

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#Society

Shaykh Dr Hussain Sattar : A Celebrity In Medical Education

Hena Zuberi

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By Nancy Averett

When Hussain Sattar, MD, took a leave of absence from medical school to study Arabic and Islamic spirituality in Islamabad, Pakistan, he spent his days in a classroom that had walls made of clay and would heat up to 120 degrees in the summer. In the winter, the unheated classrooms were freezing — Islamabad sits at the foothills of the Himalayas — and Sattar, who was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, sat on the floor with the other students shivering and dreaming of summer.

It was a far cry from the University of Chicago, where he earned his undergraduate and medical degrees and later did his internship, residency and fellowship. Besides the lack of creature comforts, his instructors did not have fancy diplomas from prestigious universities. But there was a Pakistani teacher who made an impression on Sattar — one that planted the seed for Sattar’s wildly successful textbook and video series on pathology known as Pathoma.

“This teacher always came to class without notes,” Sattar said, recalling the instructor with the gray beard who smiled often and dressed in the traditional Pakistani garb of loose pants and tunic-like shirt. “He would say, ‘If I can’t tell you about it from the top of my head, then I shouldn’t be telling you about it at all.’” The man lectured passionately, as if there were 3,000 people in the room instead of eight, but what the young American medical student found most impressive was his skill distilling colossal amounts of material. “He had this ability to take vast amounts of information and summarize it in the most eloquent, simple, principle-based method,” Sattar said.

“He has this amazing way of explaining concepts. He simplifies things to the most basic elements.”

Fast forward nearly 20 years and that is exactly what thousands of medical students who use Pathoma say about Sattar. “He has a remarkable gift for clarity,” said Palmer Greene, a third-year student at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. “He can take the pathophysiology of any organ system and present the information in a way that makes the entire mechanism click in your head.” Lucy Rubin, a fourth-year at Tufts University School of Medicine, has similar praise: “He has this amazing way of explaining concepts,” she said. “He simplifies things to the most basic elements.”

It took years, Sattar says, to get to that point. After two-and-a-half years in the Middle East — he also spent time in Syria — he returned to Chicago to start his fourth year at Pritzker, worried that he had forgotten what he had learned while he’d been away. “When I came back, that was the hardest month of my life,” he recalled. “I remembered very little and I was thrown back into that medical school environment, in which there’s not much forgiveness for not knowing things.” Each night he focused on what he needed to know to get through the next day, eventually catching up.

At the same time, he started to look at his medical knowledge differently, realizing he had been memorizing details but missing the big picture. “I began to think, ‘Why don’t I rearrange this and reprocess this in this way?’” he said. “I did a tremendous amount of reading so I could see how different people were saying the same thing until I had it organized into different folders in my mind.” For example, he said, understanding the pathology of the different anemias was challenging until he came up with this method: “The way I think about anemia is I go back to biochemistry and focus on hemoglobin. That’s what a red blood cell is. It’s just a ball full of hemoglobin with a membrane around it. So I teach anemia based on hemoglobin and talk about different things that can happen to hemoglobin from a biochemistry perspective, how it relates to anemia, and how you can organize much of anemia through this overlying principle of understanding the biochemistry of hemoglobin.”

Building a career, writing day and night

At the same time Sattar was reorganizing his understanding of medicine, he was also building his career. In his fourth year, he completed a pathology rotation and decided he liked the specialty, in part because patient interaction was minimal, affording him more time for reflection. “I’m someone who needs to digest something before I can feel comfortable with it,” he said. “Pathology sort of lent itself to that.”

Sattar completed his residency at the University of Chicago Medicine, eventually joining the faculty as a surgical pathologist specializing in breast pathology. He is associate director of Clinical Pathophysiology and Therapeutics, a second-year course at Pritzker. He has earned a number of teaching honors — including Outstanding Basic Science Teaching and Favorite Faculty awards — and became a top-ranked instructor for Kaplan Medical, where he taught review courses for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1.

It wasn’t until 2010, however, that he decided to try out the techniques of his Pakistani mentor combined with his own hard-won pathology knowledge. He asked Dean Holly Humphrey, MD’83, if he could teach an elective course for Pritzker students preparing for Step 1.

He sent out an email, imagining he might get 30 students to sign up. Instead he got 90. “I was teaching it the way I felt pathology should be taught, just me sitting and chatting with the students, no notes, nothing,” he said. “Just me talking about how I think about different principles of pathology and how I tie different basic science principles in with disease states. It’s about memorizing less and understanding more.”

After that, he decided to write the textbook that would become part of the Pathoma course, Fundamentals of Pathology. “I began writing day and night,” he said. “I literally hired someone to drive me back and forth from home to work so I could sleep in the car.” In his basement, with his wife and children upstairs asleep, he recorded the videos, turning off the furnace or air conditioner, depending on the season, so the noise wouldn’t affect the sound quality — he wanted to keep expenses low so that Pathoma would be affordable (it sells for about $100).

Nine months later, he published the book and videos — and no one bought them.

“I was so sad,” he recalled. “I hired my own editor, my own layout person, my own reviewers, I did everything on my own — to the extent of sampling the paper stock — because I wanted this to be exactly my vision.” After a few months, a student suggested that Sattar give sample lectures from Pathoma at other medical schools. The advice worked. Soon news of Pathoma went viral. Since 2011, more than 6 million hours of video lessons have been viewed online through the portal on pathoma.com. And students from all over the country and the world praise it on message boards, blogs and in social media:

Pathoma is the best thing i have ever done, i was an avg student that almost failed pathology in med school .. took step1 a month ago and ended up with above avg in path with star on the performance scale.

I’ll say it loud and clear: Pathoma is the best single patho(physio)logy system out there . . . It is well-organized, informative, and is as digestible as lactose to a baby.

The guy who made pathoma gets my kidney if he ever needs it.

 

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Mosque: Back To The Future

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On a scale of things that many non-Muslims wouldn’t want built anywhere near where they live, the mosque probably comes somewhere between a landfill and Ebola sanatorium. It’s not that they are racist, Islamophobic, or elitist (although a proportion are), but they are definitely afraid.

This stems from a fear of the unknown or a misunderstanding of who Muslims are. Mosques seem like strange places, where strange people dressed in strange robes go and recite strange words multiple times a day. They aren’t sure what exactly goes on in there, but their imaginations fill in the blanks. This is the same as when Harems in houses and palaces were imagined as degenerate pleasure dens as opposed to literally just the private section of a home. Because non-Muslims rarely ventured into one, their minds filled in the gaps and a trope was born.

Add to this the reality of violent atrocities carried out by Muslims ostensibly in the name of Islam and we have a recipe for disaster. After all, surely there must be terrorist sympathising mosque where these people are being indoctrinated, trained and sent out to carry out their carnage? What most people don’t realise is that extremism runs from the bricks and mortar of a mosque to the relative security of dark rooms or the anonymity of the internet.

So how do we reimagine the masjid into a place that people not only tolerate having in their neighbourhoods, but actually prefer? How do we achieve Mosques driving up house prices in a more pleasant way than the gentrifying Starbucks or Costa Coffee?

Well, the answer lies in the history of the Mosque itself. You see, to see a mosque as a place of worship is to see a smartphone as just a telephone. The original mosque, the mosque of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in Madinah, was so much more than just a musalla – a prayer space. It was a school, it was a community meeting place, it was a home for the displaced and so much more.

Mosques throughout the Muslim world continued this tradition and it reached its apogee in the Ottoman tradition of the Kulliye system where a Mosque complex would function on a variety of levels including hospice, hotel, soup kitchen, university, public baths, etc.

But somewhere in the chaos of the last few centuries, we’ve lost the versatility of the Mosque and turned it into a single function building. This had the predictable effect of making the mosque increasingly irrelevant to the lives of Muslims outside of prayer. It would be a place that you visited when you could for the sole purpose of prayer and if you didn’t pray – well then, there would be no need to visit it at all.

Non-Muslims had even less reason to visit a mosque. For a non-Muslim to visit a mosque, they had to go out of their way to humanise Muslims, to want to find out more and to have enough personal courage to overcome the fear of the unknown. As such, the majority of non-Muslims visiting mosques will either be tourists (if it’s a grand mosque), clerics from other religions (on an interfaith mission) or authority figures like politicians or police trying to get votes or reassure the community.

Enter the British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA.) Founded in 2013, BIMA aims to unite Muslim healthcare professionals in the UK and to inspire them towards service of the community. Not just the Muslim community, but the entire UK community.

So how does BIMA aim to achieve this? Well, there are many initiatives including conferences, diabetes workshops, creating a toolkit for Muslim female surgeons who need a hijab for theatre and health promotion activities, just to name a few.

One of the events that aim to get across the vision of BIMA is Lifesavers. This is a project in association with the British Heart Foundation, where we are working towards turning every mosque in the country into a training centre for Basic Life Support.

Britain, like most countries of the world, lacks a National Basic Life Support training programme. Some countries and states make sure it is taught in school like Denmark and the city of Seattle in the USA. The results from these few trailblazers is remarkable. In Denmark, out of hospital survival from cardiac arrest has tripled. Yes, tripled. [1]

More than 50,000 people have cardiac arrests in the UK every single year. [2] For the vast majority of these cases, there is no out of hospital CPR undertaken and it is solely down to the emergency services to initiate the chain of survival. If we were able to create the first and most comprehensive national CPR programme in the UK, it would undoubtedly save lives. This in itself would be a major achievement.

Making the mosques the venues for teaching CPR would have an added benefit in making the mosque not just a spiritual space, but a practical one. It would demystify the mosque to the surrounding community, it would encourage more Muslim healthcare professionals to get involved in their local mosque and it would show Islam and Muslims in a diametrically opposite light to what we are usually portrayed.

As is so often the case, we need to go back to our past to save our future.

If you would like to find out more or get your own mosque involved email lifesavers@britishima.org

References:

[1] https://www.resus.org.uk/statements/teaching-cpr-to-all-school-children/

[2] http://www.anaesthesiajournal.co.uk/article/S1472-0299(12)00265-2/pdf

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