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Dr. Tariq Ramadan on Islam in the West: advice & concepts for Muslim minority communities

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Alhumdulilah, I was blessed some months ago with the opportunity to interview Dr. Tariq Ramadan, a luminary thinker, academician and international speaker on Islam and Muslims in modern times. Below you will find the audio of that interview and a few of my thoughts about my time with him.

A note to our readers:

This interview was conducted in transit from one of his speaking events (a round table discussion with area interfaith leaders) to another (entitled Dr. Tariq Ramadan – Citizenship, Loyalty & Change: What is the Future for Muslims in the West?); I was driving Dr. Ramadan to his next engagement. Due to this setup there are minor sound quality issues (road noise) and me, your interviewer, having a hard time focusing. May Allah make this interview beneficial and give us the ability to take the good from it and implement it in our lives.

[audio:http://muslimmatters.org/audio/2011_TR_Islam in the West_ Advice & Concepts for Muslim Minority Communities.mp3]

A few observations:

In interpersonal communication Dr. Ramadan was very generous with his time. He was soft spoken, engaging and respectful. He gave his peers his full attention, showed them respect and smiled a lot.

As a speaker, Dr. Ramadan was very eloquent and yet humble. He started his talk with what is now one of his famous trademarks the “please, do not shout takbir” policy, stating that he would rather have the audience really pondering/considering his thoughts and challenging them in their minds than have the event turn into a slogan filled pep rally.

During the Q&A session, Dr. Ramadan was both thought provoking and steadfast. At one point a member of the audience lavished him with heavy praise, and then followed with a question that revealed a deep lack of knowledge of some of the basic tenets of our religion. Dr. Ramadan replied by saying we all need to learn more about our faith and then quickly moved on, not allowing the questioner to be embarrassed.

Lastly, while Dr. Ramadan has a unique celebrity-isque status among many in our community, he carried himself with a sense of “realness.” The best way I can describe him is somewhere between the local scholar/imam that is loved by his community and a childhood friend that you\’ve watched become famous.

Paul "Iesa" Galloway is a native born Texan. He was recently called "the Yoda of interfaith affairs" by a colleague from his daytime gig. After hours Iesa serves as a consultant, messaging strategist and trainer on media, government and community relations. Iesa is a product of the "Military Brat" experience of the 1990's on US Army bases in Germany he has traveled extensively, for extended periods in Kenya, Hungary and Communist Poland on missionary trips, visited Communist East Germany with the Boy Scouts of America, as well as enjoyed time in France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Holland and Austria. Since embracing Islam, Iesa was asked to be the founding Executive Director of CAIR-Houston, where he served the community from 2002 to 2006, he has completed the Hajj pilgrimage, participated in an interfaith pilgrimage to the Holy Land with the Society for Biblical Studies and completed a study abroad program on the history of Islamic Spain, Morocco and Andalusian Philosophy with the University of Houston. Iesa's education is rooted in History and Public Relations and he has a interfaith and multiracial background.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Muttaqi

    July 18, 2011 at 7:22 PM

    Though I’ve heard of Tariq Ramadan before this, I’ve never took the time to listen to him. For the most part I like what he’s saying, but I just don’t relate with much of it.

    Perhaps the questions being asked were more for immigrant and 2nd generation immigrant Muslims. These questions aren’t things that I find really problematic or significant in my life as a Muslim.

    Plus, when he mentioned that part about Christians and Jews following a “truth” he kind of lost me. That’s not the sort of plurality I’m interested in.

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    Not saying

    July 19, 2011 at 12:40 AM

    I absolutely hate it when a questioner is allowed to be embarrassed. Even more when they put their questions on paper and hand it to someone who is able to read it and prevent it from reaching the speaker beforehand.

    May Allah bless Tariq.

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    Omar

    July 19, 2011 at 11:45 PM

    Scholars like Tariq Ramadan are a blessing for the Ummah. He thinks outside the box, coming up with novel interpretations and ways of seeing things, contributing to the rich Islamic intellectual heritage. It also means he will make mistakes, some of them serious, which we ask Allah to forgive him for. But that is the price to pay for being a modern thinker. Eventually, the Ummah will ‘weed out’ the mistakes, and benefit from the good he came up with inshAAllah.

    I also really respect his disdain for applause, random takbeers, and the rock concert atmosphere that plagues many Islamic events. These are just distractions, and as he said, bad for his ego.

    May Allah guide us and accept from us all.

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    Christiana

    July 21, 2011 at 4:29 AM

    I just wanted to thank you for Dr. Ramadan’s message. As a Christian, I know very little about Islam, and what I do know primarily consists of that which shows up as headlines- and negative ones at best. I live in Chicago yet in spite of the fact there is a mosque nearby, the Muslims primarily seem to keep to themselves. I would like to get to know my neighbors and thought about attending a service at the mosque but realized I know nothing about day and time let alone the rituals and practices. (please excuse me that I wouldn’t know what to do:-) I especially appreciated Dr. Ramadan’s comments on truth for each individual within the context of plurality of religions, as within the USA. I absolutely agree that if each of us individually practices, models, and is accountable for the truths that our religions offer, whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian or other, our actions speak way louder than our words to those around us for whom our religion is alien. Individual accountability, as he points out, is extremely important. As an Evangelical Christian, my Truth is: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32), and “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 17,18,21) Such simple, lovely statements, but so hard for so many to follow. So much misunderstanding, hurt, and fighting can be replaced by friendship, healing, and tolerance. America is unique; it has been blessed by God and although we struggle to achieve it, peace and equality, life, liberty and happiness for ALL should always be our mutual goals. I know these are important truths of the religions within our communities.

    Thank you for refreshing my hope and prayers for America.

    • Avatar

      Sakina

      July 21, 2011 at 2:56 PM

      Hey Christiana,
      I’m so happy you benefitted from Dr. Tariq’s message – as a young muslim he continues to inspire me to this day!
      I absolutely loved the quotes you gave. Those powerful values are shared by all the Abrahamic faiths; take for example the quotes in the Qur’an which are just like the ones in the Bible:
      {Nor can goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (evil) with what is better: Then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate} Surah Fussilat: 34
      Plus the Prophet p.b.u.h said “Show kindness to the creatures on the earth so that Allah may be kind to you”

      I wish that England was more like America, where Christians practise their faith more confidently and openly. Maybe one day! :)

    • Amad

      Amad

      July 21, 2011 at 3:01 PM

      That was an excellent comment Christiana. Thanks

    • Avatar

      Melanie

      July 21, 2011 at 5:16 PM

      Hi Christiana!

      I also live in Chicago and wanted to extend an invitation to a service at the mosque if you are still interested! You can reach out to me at melturk6@gmail.com. Just as you would like to get to know your neighbors, we also want to get to know ours! So happy you were inspired by the podcast and much love to you.

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    Sebkha

    July 21, 2011 at 10:45 PM

    I always enjoy hearing Dr Ramadan’s take on things, and I always learn something new from him. And I’ll leave it at that and not say anymore, lest I be accused of having a “shaykhy crush”. ;-)

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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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#Current Affairs

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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