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By Arthur Richards

 

When I think of America, one word comes beaming at me like a star on the spangled banner: “Jihad.” As is always the case when this word is used, the uneducated (or those who wish to fill the world with hate) immediately think of a Holy War; a war against American values. However, the jihad I speak of here is a struggle that is going on within the borders of America. A struggle between those who have and those who have not. A struggle for those who dream to live the good that America has to offer, and a struggle within the ranks of the upper-class to determine whether or not they have a role to play in helping the less fortunate of them. As a child to Jamaican immigrants, I am intimately aware of what it is like to grow up unsure of whether you can call this country your own.

A lot of this has been fueled by the 45th (and those of his ilk) who have made it very clear that America is at war with the poor, the immigrants, and the other. They are the ones who are in a constant battle to preserve their mental state from the daily duress of keeping up with bills and with constantly questioning whether they are welcome in a country they wish to call home. They constantly aim to live a dream that seems more and more impossible to attain.

As a man of God, I oftentimes find my solace and direction in scripture. I turn to the Holy Quran as my guide, and I find the following verse: 

وَالَّذِينَ تَبَوَّءُوا الدَّارَ وَالْإِيمَانَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ يُحِبُّونَ مَنْ هَاجَرَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَا يَجِدُونَ فِي صُدُورِهِمْ حَاجَةً مِّمَّا أُوتُوا وَيُؤْثِرُونَ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ وَلَوْ كَانَ بِهِمْ خَصَاصَةٌ ۚ وَمَن يُوقَ شُحَّ نَفْسِهِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ

“And [also for] those who were settled in Madinah [the city to which became the hub of Islam] and [adopted] the faith before them. They love those who emigrated to them and find not any want in their hearts of what the immigrants were given but [instead] give [them] preference over themselves, even though they themselves are in need. And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul – it is those who will be the successful” [Surah Al-Hashr;9]

This verse from the Holy Quran refers to the men and women who accepted Islam during the time of the Prophet Muhammad . They were natives from the land in which Islam grew to become the religion we know today; Madinah. However, there were other men and women who had called themselves Muslims before the city of Madinah was established by Muhammad . They were men and women from a city called Mecca, and they wanted nothing more than to live their days out as believers with their families and friends. Unfortunately, the people of Mecca cast them out and left them destitute and unable to care for themselves. The people of Madinah would later be given the title of “The Helpers” because, ultimately as the verse from the Holy Quran states, they welcomed the men and women of Mecca into their city and their homes. They shared their food and sustenance. They gave and gave, even from what they themselves wanted to partake from. They sacrificed, and as a community they prospered.

So what can we do to help our immigrant brethren?

  1. Politics run America. If you wish to see real change then you’ll have to get involved. One such way is by picking up the phone or emailing your member of congress and demand from them a clean Dream Act (an act we need to support). Websites such as house.gov will help you find your representative by inputting your zip code.
  2. Do you have local organizations in your community that assist immigrants? Maybe the organization provides legal services to them, or some organizations like ICNA Relief attempt to provide them with homes upon arriving to the states. You may even have local immigration attorneys that you pray next to in the masjid! Reach out to them and ask how you can assist their work. Like the Helpers of Madinah, we support our immigrant brothers and sister with our finances as well.
  3. Educate yourself about their plight. Although media would like to frame many immigrants as gangsters or terrorists lying in wait, we should be the first to realize the stupidity of this claim. Many among the Muslim community are also immigrants, and like other immigrants from various countries they came here to serve America and their families. Take some time and read about the economic benefits of immigrants and share that with family members. We fight ignorance with knowledge.

We need to spread the message of comradery as it is so desperately needed in America. When messages of hatred towards Dreamers and other immigrants become normalized on social media, we need to fight back and struggle against a system that wishes to take away the future of people that deserve just as much as ourselves. We can empathize with those that have fears. People who believe that the more people we accept into our beautiful country could in turn mean less opportunities for us, but that’s exactly where this beautiful verse comes in to teach us a lesson. Islam teaches that success in this life and the next isn’t solely based on the wealth that we accumulate, but also on how much of it we can share with those who need it. Putting this into practice is the struggle that I speak of, it’s a jihad that we all have to face.

These teachings of altruism are not only found in the Quran but are also within the core of most major religious groups that dwells on this Earth. They are to be found in the heart of the humanist and the soul of the atheist. However, we as believers are to be a source of light that illuminates the falsities, and while others may also have truth, our very scripture and one of the characteristics of God is that He is Truth. The belief that we are beholden to the weak among us and that the stronger of us should pick up the weaker is a principle upon which we as Muslims aims to practice. We do not fear those who are foreign; the religion binds us as one. As for those who do not share our faith, we call to our faith through our love, care and protection of them. While some may attempt to distract us with fake news and insults, we will still struggle. While some may tell us that we should only look out for those of our faith, we will transcend such calls. We will struggle for the sake of those we love, those we know, and those we do not. We will struggle and give of ourselves like The Helpers of Madinah and hope to usher in a generation of young men and women whose dreams can come true.

 

 

 

 

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By Ibrahim Mohammad

The last two years have been surreal for me. When you’re imprisoned with no access to the outside world or to fresh air and sunshine, time ceases to have meaning. You measure time by weeks and months rather than hours and days. It’s as though you’ve entered an alternate universe, stuck in limbo.

When I was first arrested, I didn’t know what to expect. Naively, I asked if I would be back home that evening. I never imagined I’d still be detained more than two years later. It just made no sense. How could someone who has been living peacefully with his family, working productively and responsibly for more than decade, and has never been accused of any crime before, suddenly be whisked away and locked up with the most violent of criminals? I can understand having to face a trial to defend my innocence, but I don’t understand this pre-trial punishment. “Innocent till proven guilty” is such a basic universal concept that it seemed absurd I could be imprisoned and punished for this long – waiting, having to prove my innocence, rather than simply defend it.

Incarceration in county jails, I’ve come to understand, is actually much harder than real prison – which sounds absurd because most people being held in jails are considered “innocent” awaiting trial. In prisons, state or federal, convicted inmates have relative freedom: they eat better, have access to outdoor recreation as well as more avenues for entertainment, and better contact with their families and the outside world. Here in the county jail, you’re locked up in squalid cell blocks almost 24 hours a day, packed up like sardines in a can, with no windows, no outdoor recreation, and contact with family limited to one 30 minute “visit” a week over a grainy, dim, video monitor. The food is much worse than in prison and the only recreation offered is an hour of indoor recreation in the basement on week days and weekly trips to the jail library. Even a chance to sit on a simple plastic chair during attorney visits seems like a luxury in here.

The conditions being as harsh as they are, many inmates feel desperate to get out, and hence agree to the first plea offer they’re made, thus avoiding the many months of waiting a trial would take. Perhaps that explains the logic behind the conditions of jail detention. The excuse made is that jail detention is meant to be temporary, but in what world is two and half years “temporary”? It’s one thing if someone was caught red-handed, or is known to be dangerous. Here, the government, after years of close surveillance and scrutiny, has acknowledged that they don’t consider me a danger. The charges are from eight years ago, and my connection to the crime is so tenuous so as to be non-existent. I’m being accused of facilitating some financial transactions for a family member, who may have given some of those funds to an associate of his, who then allegedly gave it to someone else, who then may have given it to another person, who a year after these alleged events became designated as a terrorist. Yet, the government believes that I should be detained for a quarter of a decade prior to trial because of how heinous my “crime” is and because I’m a flight risk. This is despite no “smoking gun evidence”, according the government at the bond hearing in November.

It takes a while to come to terms with the idea that some people hate you so much, that they’re willing to go to great lengths to take you away from your family and imprison you for decades, knowing very well that you pose no threat and were not guilty of any crime, simply because of your faith. People who live ordinary lives like most of us do, and like I did until my arrest, do not normally experience that kind malice and spite, so it takes a little getting used to. Having spent more than a year discussing the case and the evidence with my attorney, it is abundantly clear that the government investigators and prosecutors know full well that I’m innocent, yet they still twist and distort facts in order to gain a conviction. They ignore those facts that don’t fit their narrative and misrepresent others to make them fit. Their goal is not justice, their goal is conviction. It is not prosecution but persecution.

How I’ve held up so far is something I myself cannot fully explain. I’m not a naturally strong person or a fighter. I’ve always been very non-confrontational, even passive. But I do believe strongly in truth and justice. More than anything else though, it’s been my faith and trust in Allah, based on the knowledge and understanding of Him that I had gained over the years, that has held me instead. We are taught that persecution is the wont of the believers throughout the ages. It’s happened to great people in the past – to the Prophets Yusuf (Joseph), Yahya (John), and Esa (Jesus), peace be upon them all. We are also taught that God places no burden on His servant greater than he/she can bear. So, every time I feel that I’d reached my limit of endurance, God All-Mighty and All-Merciful gives me a sign – some unexpected good news, some act of kindness towards me or my family, some words of encouragement – that reinvigorate and strengthen my faith and resolve.

The analogy I make is that of a reluctant worker who is being forced to do some heavy manual labor – his body is pushed till its limit and his muscles feel ripped and hurt. But once they heal, he finds himself stronger and more resilient. I am eternally grateful to God for having made me stronger in my faith and having provided for and taken care of my family and myself. As a husband and father who was the sole bread-winner of his family, the biggest burden on my mind from the moment I was arrested has been concern for my family’s well-being. Yet due to the Grace of Allah Almighty, and the unselfish efforts of some truly exceptional and generous people, my family has been well-taken care of, and that more than anything else has given me the strength to continue this long and grueling fight. For those people who have been helping take care of my family, God knows who you are, and your reward is with Him who is best capable of rewarding good deeds.

My faith, alhamdulillah, is stronger than ever, as is my relationship with my family. All my oppressors have succeeded in is making me a stronger believer in God, and the hardship they’ve caused us has done nothing except anneal and strengthen the ties between me and my family. They have not succeeded in changing me, except for the better. I have never hated anyone, and I don’t do so now, despite their efforts. I wish peace and happiness for all, even them.

I end with greetings of peace to all those who took their time to read these brief thoughts that I was able to compose from my prison cell. May Allah guide us all to the best of this world and the next. And indeed, all praise and thanks are due solely to God, the Lord of all people.

An unexpected ruling on the judge’s part earlier this week has greatly affected Ibrahim’s current detainment and has violated his constitutional rights. After more than 3 months since his third bond hearing, the judge has yet to make a ruling regarding his release on bond. Thus, at the pretrial on Feb 15, 2018, the #FreeIbrahimNow team asks you to pack the courtroom at 11 am. U.S. Courthouse, 1716 Spielbusch Ave. Toledo, OH 43604 and sign this petition

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By Gareth Bryant

The Bilal Movie is actually a Sucka-Emcee Production: Bilāl ibn-Rabāh (May Allah be pleased with him) actually was Arab via his father Rabah, from Banī-Jumah, one of the families of Quraysh, making Bilal tribally-related to Muhammad (The Sealed-Nectar).

The mere fact that Rabah is neither casted, mentioned, nor even referenced in the film, truly says a lot as per the agenda of the producers of this film: to do exactly what the Pagan Arabs did to Bilal, which was to deny him his Arabness and replace it with Blackness. I’ll speak more on this—the Reason why Blackness was imposed upon Bilal is because as a slave (prior to his liberation) he had zero-rights, not even the right to lay claim to his own paternal Arab genealogy. This, of course, was due to the fact that the Arabs possessed immense disdain for Abyssinia/Ancient-Ethiopia and its people, resulting from the generational military-conflicts between them, based upon religio-political and socio-economic dominance in the region, which of course was imposed upon Bilal, by virtue of him having an Abyssinian mother.

The political discord between the Arabs and Abyssinians occured as a result of the Abyssinians of Yemen, then a Colony of Abyssinia, wanting to divert commerce from al-Makkah to Yemen via making a church named al-Qullays, a Mock-Kabah, to draw Pilgrims to make al-Hajj/Pilgrimage in Yemen as opposed to al-Makkah. Once the Quraysh learned of this, a Man went to Yemen and desecrated this church, infuriating the People of Yemen, thereby inciting war…this became known as the War of the Elephant. After the War/Year of the Elephant, which an Abyssinian-Army with an Elephant-Cavalry failed to invade/conquer al-Makkah and were defeated (resulting from Allah casting upon them Flocks of Birds dropping Sijjīl/Firery-Stones [Noble-Qur’ān: Chpt.105; at-Tabarī; as-Suyūtī]), in retaliation, the Arabs of al-Makkah: the Quraysh and their many Allies in turn invaded Yemen. When this happened, countless Abyssinians were captured by the Arabs, including the Mother of Bilal, Hammāmah, of Abyssinian royalty, and human trafficked to al-Makkah. These people became slaves.(ibn-Ishāq, at-Tabarī, as-Suyūtī) And, this is actually why Bilal ibn-Rabah was referred to in a disrespectful way, by Abī-Dharr al-Ghifārī (May Allah be pleased with him)…by the way: the narration never states that he called Bilal “Son of a Black-Woman”…that was a translative add-on, as is commonly told concerning this story. Ironically, even Abū-Dharr al-Ghifārī is described as being darkskinned.(ibn-Ishāq, at-Tabarī, as-Suyūtī, Muslim, ibn-Sa`d, adh-Dhahabī, http://www.alajamwalarab.com)

This film also (subliminally) simply is a Muslim-version of 12-Years A Slave: it reinforces Subserviance, Destitution, Acceptance of Slave-Culture, etc. Why is it that Bilal is the only “Black-Companion” highlighted/depicted in film, Narrative, etc. as “the slave/ex-Slave”?! Why is it that none of Bilal’s military and statesmanhood accomplishments are ever highlighted/detailed in film/narrative?!!! For example, did you know that Bilal participated in all the known major-battles during the Lifetime of Muhammad ; did you know that Bilal was the first minister of Bayt-il-Māl/Secretary of the Islamic treasury. He was also the Chief-Administrator responsible for the collection of az-Zakāh/Taxation and distribution of as-Sadaqah/Philanthropy?!!! (Battles Of The Prophet, Lives Of The Companions, at-Tabarī, as-Suyūtī)


The only reason why Bilal is still inaccurately portrayed as being “Black” is because he was once a slave. Had he always been free, no one would’ve ever attributed “Blackness” to Bilal. Let’s actually take a look at what the skin-complexion of Bilal actually was. According to Ahādīth/narrations, recorded in various collections: Bilal really wasn’t any darker than any other Muslim/Non Muslim Arabs of his lifetime. In fact, it was common-place for Arabs to boast and laude their Dark-Complexions and ridicule the complexions of Non-Arabs described as al-Humrah (Reddish-White).(Lisān-ul`Arab: Lexicon of the Arabic-Language, ibn-Manzhūr)

However, ironically, almost every single portrayal of him in Literature, Film, etc. depicts him as “Shaka Zulu Black” and/or the Darkest-Person around. Like, in the Film “The Message” for example…the producers of this film (in both the Hollywood and Arab versions) purposely casted the Darkest/Blackest human being they could find to portray Bilal [ramhu] on screen…the question is why?!!! The answer is simple, to continue the Pseudo-Narrative of equating Blackness to slavery and servitude. Even in the Hollywood version of “The Message”, Bilal is emphatically called “Black-Bilal”…Word4Word…that alone should tell you something.

The Pseudo-Narrative of Bilal is directly paralleled with the Pseudo-Narrative of Sally Hemings: the only Reasons why either of them are ethno-historically falsely-portrayed as being “Black” is because they were both Born-slaves and both their mothers were Black (Hammāmah, Betty Hemings: even Betty Hemings herself had a European-Father but cause she was a alave she was considered “Black”). The Father, Paternal-Grandfather, Paternal Great-Grandfather of Sally Hemings were all White-Men/Slave-Owners. Her Slave-Owner, Thomas Jefferson (who essentially used her as a sex-slave) was actually her brother-in-law (Jefferson’s wife, Martha Wayles and Sally Hemings had the same father: John Wayles).(at-Tabarī; Hayāt-us-Sahābah; Virginia House of Burgesses: British Coastal Colonial Law of Slavery, 1660)

Muslim Matters actually published a review of the movie. [This] film commentary of Bilal not only reinforces my point, as per the continuation of a Pseudo-Narrrative, predicated upon al-`Asabiyyah/aenophobia, but also the major-themes of Islām aren’t even highlighted. Once again, the important narrative of Bilal has been shamefully compromised, at the expense of wanting to capitalize on “Blackness” being at the forefront of World/US Politics via Libya, police-brutality, racial-profiling, human-trafficking, etc.

Originally published on Gareth Bryant blog, edited slightly according to MM style guide. Read more articles and reviews here.

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Muslim Matters by Majed Mahmoud - 1w ago

“There is no good in her, she is one of the people of hell.” That was a statement said by Allah’s Prophet ﷺ about someone who got it all wrong. It was about a person who extensively used to pray, fast and give in charity yet they were disrespectful and harmful to their neighbors. Later on, we’ll cover the rest of hadith which ends on a positive note, in shaa Allah. But first let’s remind ourselves as to why on Earth, we are on Earth.

Upon the completion of the creation of Earth with its oceans, rivers, trees, mountains and all that which is on it, Allah told His infallible obedient creation, the angels, that He will assign a khalifah on Earth for whom He created all things on it for.

A Khalifah is a steward, a successive human authority, on Earth. That steward is assigned to worship and obey Allah which includes constructing on Earth and dealing with Allah’s creation in ways that are pleasing to Him.

Of the grave mistakes many of us have fallen into is not knowing or forgetting that the value of much of our acts of obedience and worship to Allah, The Creator, is tied to how we behave towards His creation. Many have perhaps forgotten that being conscious of The Creator includes being conscious of our behavior towards His creation as well. Just like how Allah has rights over us His creation has rights over us to the extent that at times Allah’s right would not be fulfilled correctly until the rights of His creation are fulfilled! One can clearly see this understanding in the advice given by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ to Mu’ath (may Allah be pleased with him) when he said:

“اتَّقِ اللَّهَ حَيْثُمَا كُنْت، وَأَتْبِعْ السَّيِّئَةَ الْحَسَنَةَ تَمْحُهَا، وَخَالِقْ النَّاسَ بِخُلُقٍ حَسَنٍ”

“Have taqwa of Allah (be conscious of Him and fear His punishment) wherever you may be and follow up a bad deed with a good deed which will wipe it out and behave well towards the people.” [At-Tirmidhi]

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ also said:

“…فمن أحبَّ أن يزحزحَ عن النارِ ويدخلَ الجنةَ ، فلتأتِه منيَّتُه وهو يؤمنُ باللهِ واليومِ الآخرِ. وليأتِ إلى الناسِ الذي يحبُّ أن يؤتى إليهِ…”

“…He who desires to be rescued from the fire of Hell and to enter Paradise, should die in a state of complete belief in Allah and the Last Day, and should do unto others what he wishes to be done unto him…” [Muslim]

Let’s all get it right and realize it is not one or the other; it is both. Take the example of the grandest act of worship and a pillar of Islam, the five daily prayers. It is implemented best when we keep in mind that we are caretakers of Earth and are to be respectful to the rest of God’s creation.

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:

“مَنْ أَكَلَ ثُومًا أَوْ بَصَلاً فَلْيَعْتَزِلْنَا، أَوْ لِيَعْتَزِلْ مَسْجِدَنَا”

“Whoever has eaten garlic or onion should keep away from us (or should keep away from our mosque).” [Al-Bukhari]

It is not prohibited to eat raw garlic or onion, but one should be aware of when they eat them and how they can freshen up their breath after having them. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is teaching us how we should be aware of our breath, body odor, smell of our clothes and so on, especially while attending the mosque for prayer, so we do not harm the rest of Allah’s surrounding creation on Earth from among the humans and angels.

Of the most amazing narrations that shows the real meaning of being a khalifah, a steward, on Earth, is the fact that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ rebuked Sa’ad (may Allah be pleased with him) for the amount of water he was using while performing wudu’, ablution, a prerequisite action for someone’s prayer to be accepted! Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:

“مَا هَذَا السَّرَفُ يَا سَعْدُ ؟ قَالَ : أَفِي الْوُضُوءِ سَرَفٌ ؟ قَالَ : نَعَمْ ، وَإِنْ كُنْتَ عَلَى نَهْرٍ جَارٍ”

“What is this waste, O Sa‘ad?” Sa’ad replied: “Can there be any wasting in (performing) wudu’?” Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) then said: “Yes, even if you are on the bank of a flowing river.” [Ahmad]

Allah says: “وَلَا تُسْرِفُوا ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ” “do not waste. Surely He does not like the wasteful.” [Qur’an 7:31]

The real steward on Earth is one who constructs and seeks to make this world a better place during their lifetime and beyond! Prophet Muhammad ﷺ encouraged us to view our life in such way when he said:

“إِذَا مَاتَ الإِنْسَانُ انْقَطَعَ عَنْهُ عَمَلُهُ إِلاَّ مِنْ ثَلاَثَةٍ إِلاَّ مِنْ صَدَقَةٍ جَارِيَةٍ أَوْ عِلْمٍ يُنْتَفَعُ بِهِ أَوْ وَلَدٍ صَالِحٍ يَدْعُو لَهُ”

“When the human dies, his acts come to an end (and would no longer be able to accumulate any good deeds), except (through) three (ways): (leaving behind a) recurring charity, or knowledge (by which people) benefit, or a pious child, who prays for him (after he passes away).” [Muslim]

Did you notice how all three actions that would help us accumulate good deeds even after our death have a direct relationship with continuing our stewardship and caring for those who come after us?

‘Amarah, the son of Khuzaymah said:

“سمعت عمر بن الخطاب يقول لأبي : ما يمنعك أن تغرس أرضك ؟ فقال له أبي : أنا شيخ كبير أموت غدا ، فقال له عمر : أعزم عليك لتغرسنها ؟ فلقد رأيت عمر بن الخطاب يغرسها بيده مع أبي”

“I heard Omar the son of Al-Khattab saying to my dad: “Why are you not utilizing your land with planting things? So my father replied: “I am an old man who will soon die.” Omar replied: “I urge you to plant things on it.” I then saw Omar, the son of Al-Khattab, planting things in the land with his own hands along with my father.” [As-Silsilah As- Ṣaḥīḥah]

Indeed, Omar the son of Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) knew what it meant to be a khalifah on Earth and construct on it. After all, no wonder he was among those promised paradise.

What if we were the last generation? What if as we were constructing on Earth, seeking to make this world a better place according to the way of Allah, we saw with our own eyes the day of judgment was about to take place and life on Earth was coming to an end? Would it not make sense to stop constructing on Earth? Never!

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:

“إِنْ قَامَتْ عَلَى أَحَدِكُمُ الْقِيَامَةُ ، وَفِي يَدِهِ فَسِيلَةٌ فَلْيَغْرِسْهَا”

“If the day of judgment took place during your lifetime and in your hands was a small palm tree (which still has a long way for it to be fruitful and grow) then plan it (regardless)!” [Ahmad]

We are in desperate need to revive the understanding of being stewards on Earth where we are to worship The Creator and deal with the creation in ways that are pleasing to The Creator.

“She is of the people of paradise.” That was a statement said by Allah’s Prophet ﷺ about someone who got it right. It was about a person who used to perform their obligations from prayer to fasting to giving in charity yet was respectful and peaceful with their neighbors.

I would like to thank Allah for giving me the ability to write up this article and then would want to thank my family, friends and colleagues who helped in the process of publishing it. The verbalization of my gratitude does not just stem from my consciousness of feeling blessed but was also reinforced by my belief in what the messenger of Allah ﷺ, the greatest khalifah and steward of all time, said:

“لاَ يَشْكُرُ اللَّهَ مَنْ لاَ يَشْكُرُ النَّاسَ”

“He who does not thank the people is not thankful to Allah.” [Abu Dāwūd]

Jazakumullahu khairun.

 

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By Wendy Díaz

As a mother of a preteen, who gets easily hooked on cartoon characters and conventional superheroes, I not only wanted, I needed the movie, Bilal: A New Breed of Hero, to work. I desperately wanted the hero in the film to replace his constant chattering about Superman, Dragon Ball Z, and Ninjago. I was looking forward to the lively discussions that this highly anticipated, animated masterpiece would spark. It would be magical. My son, who has been fixated on Captain Underpants and Lego characters in recent weeks, would finally have something more positive to obsess about.

Before you digress to judging my parenting, rather than understand my review, I want to offer some points for clarity:

No, we don’t allow TV at home. Whatever my children watch is limited and monitored.

No, my son does not play videogames.

No, my son does not own a smartphone, or any phone for that matter. Neither does he have a tablet nor any type of computer. His computer use is for school assignments only, with parental controls in place.

No, he does not spend days and nights at strangers’ houses or unsupervised where he has access to these things. Mostly, he has learned about mainstream cartoon characters at Islamic school.

We consider ourselves a moderately religious Muslim family; we believe in the Oneness of Almighty God, we pray, we fast Ramadan and some extra, we give in charity, and insha’Allah we will go for Hajj when we can afford it. When I say moderate, I mean we try our best, but we don’t consider ourselves perfect and acknowledge that there is always room for improvement.

Now, with all this in mind, let’s get back to the movie, Bilal: A New Breed of Hero. It filled me with excitement to think about watching it with my family. As soon as I saw the trailer, some time ago, it sparked my interest. I was only slightly skeptical about what I felt may have been the deliberate whitewashing of Bilal ibn Rabah, with his character’s soft, flowing cornrows of hair, light complexion, and honey brown eyes, he didn’t seem to be what I had envisioned Bilal to be; but admittedly, I don’t know how dark or light-skinned he really was. I only assumed because of previous portrayals of Bilal in films I had seen and ahadith that I had read.

I knew that there would be fictional elements in the film. This movie was made for a larger audience and with a more generally acceptable theme of racial equality, a lesson we all need now during these controversial times. However, I did not expect it to be completely disconnected from Islam or the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as it would be impossible to highlight the historical value and status of Bilal ibn Rabah without speaking about the very person who helped raise him to that rank.

Before purchasing our tickets, we read other reviews which provided some insight and fair warnings about the absence of the Prophet in the movie, and the benefit of teaching our children about the real history prior to viewing the film. I also knew that the film was rated PG-13, and I honestly thought that it was just due to the battle scenes, which were nothing new to us, after having already learned about and seen countless portrayals of famous battles between the Muslims and their opponents. Regardless of all of this, we were still amped to watch the movie because, whether Bilal stayed true to historical facts or not, it was still about Bilal, an unconventional Muslim hero of color.

After hurrying to buy our popcorn, pretzels, candy and drinks, we rushed to grab our seats, expecting a full house, but luckily, there were only a handful of people in the theater room for the 2pm showing. The kids knew that they may see things in the movie that differed from what they saw in the cartoon, Muhammad: The Last Prophet (Badr International, 2002), the movie, The Message (Akkad, 1976), and others. They were just happy to be at the movie theater and ready to see the famous Bilal from a whole new perspective. After enduring some grueling previews of mostly British family films, with some odd comedy which seemed inappropriate for children, it finally began.

My excitement turned into anxiety with the first scene. Huge, dark, red-eyed horses glared through a black night galloping wildly and viciously towards some unknown target. Their riders, ominous figures, clad in heavy armor seemed to have ill-intentions. It was an opening that I had not expected. I became uneasy and glanced at my children. They seemed fine so far. Then suddenly we got a glimpse at a young Bilal, pretending to be a brave warrior on a wooden horse. He and his sister play happily and their mother steps in when they get into a squabble. “Masha’Allah, just like my kids,” I thought, and I shot another glance at them, smiling. But then the shadowy horses took over the screen again, and the bright day became gloomy. Bilal’s mother instinctively runs and hides her children and then, we are given the impression, through sounds of her shrieking and the children’s looks of horror, that she is violently killed. Bilal struggles and breaks free from his hiding place, only to be snatched by the irate soldiers.

After this disturbing scene, we find ourselves in Makkah, getting a glimpse of the Arabian city in pre-Islamic times. We come to understand that this is a new home to a slightly older Bilal and his sister, where they are now living as slaves. The depiction of Makkah is darker than in other films, with demonic looking characters, and one of the things I found most thought-provoking was that some of the characters use wooden tribal masks, which resemble those used in African religious ceremonies. These masks are often used to represent spirits and demons, and to my knowledge, they were not part of Arabian culture. One character, apparently some type of soothsayer, is shown using one of these costumes with an evil-looking wooden mask and matching sharp nails, surrounded by the people in the marketplace urging them to give their money to the idols. His mysterious nature and eerie voice made me feel uneasy, and both my husband and I were convinced it was a representation of none other than Satan, himself. That was a turn-off.

Nevertheless, we endured, watching as they zoomed in on the Kaabah and its surroundings. Not surprisingly, it was encircled by the familiar idols we have all learned were revered during that time, but one stood out. It was a peculiar sight, for it stood not around or near the Kaabah, but on top of it. It was the most offensive thing that I saw during this whole experience. A statue of a bearded man, of muscular build, with the horns of a ram twisted around the sides of his head, sitting menacingly on top of the Kaabah, overlooking the city. The statue is very similar to what is known as Baphomet, a deity that the Knights Templars, better known as the Crusaders, were accused of worshipping in the 14th Century. It was, to us, a blatant and very deliberate Satanic symbol on what is the holiest place on Earth, the House of Allah. It is an utterly disrespectful image that I would not expect to see from an enemy of Islam, much less in a film produced by Muslims. As distasteful as it was, I continued to watch, hoping for something better to come, so as to outweigh the bad.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came when we were introduced to the character of a young Safwan ibn Umayyah, the son of one of the staunchest opponents of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and cruel slave master to Bilal ibn Rabah. Although he is a youngster, his appearance is sinister, and his personality is sadistic. His skin is pale and grayish and his eyes, black and full of malice. I found this to be offensive to the legacy of Safwan , who becomes a Muslim after the conquest of Mecca, and later lives on to wholeheartedly support Islam. Depicting him in his earlier years as a repulsive sociopath as this film does is detrimental to his reputation and character as a defender of the faith and an insult to any Muslim who respects the companions and their contributions to Islam. This is why scholars have warned against depictions of the companions, but unfortunately, we stubbornly continue seeking this type of halal “edutainment.”

When the young, gothic-looking Safwan and some of his friends, one of which is also wearing one of the mysterious wooden tribal masks, begin attacking Bilal’s sister for no apparent reason, Bilal steps in to help. A fight ensues and news of this reaches Umayyah, the father, who decides to punish both his son and Bilal. His words are severe and abusive to both children, which I also found very distressing and unsuitable. However, it was the physical punishment that finally led me to lean over to my husband and ask him if we could leave. The character of Umayyah throws Bilal to the ground in a manner so vicious and unexpected, that I had to look away.

I had hoped that the violence in the beginning minutes of the film would be the worst of it until they showed the torture of Bilal, something we were more familiar with, but unfortunately, it was only the beginning of the disturbing imagery that we would be subjected to. I find that 3D computer animated characters are so humanlike that our response to them is different than if they were a more traditional cartoon. It was almost as if I was seeing a real adult male brutally beating a young child, without being able to react. I feel like someone who has suffered through physical or verbal abuse or any childhood trauma may be sensitive to some of the content in this film.

When I whispered to my husband, “Should we go?” He immediately said, “Yes,” as if he had been hoping I would ask for some time. I looked over at the kids, and they looked pained and confused. This is what I had feared; they saw too much already. It was time to go. I quickly grabbed our belongings and told them to step outside. They followed us out of the theater, and when they asked us why we were leaving, we explained that the movie was too violent and it was not a good depiction of the companions. They didn’t complain.

I immediately wanted to warn others on Islamic forums not to make the same mistake I had, but I was met with resistance from families that have sat through the whole film and enjoyed it. As with all things in life, people have their own opinions and reasoning. However, all I can say is walking out of the movie was my own personal, quiet protest. I felt a sense of pride when my family and I stood together, mid-film, and walked away while others sat bewildered. Despite spending our money on tickets and popcorn, despite taking time out of our Saturday and driving all the way to the theater, and despite what anyone says about how great it may be to them, we could not sit through a movie that, just within its first 15-20 minutes, insulted the legacy of the companions and our beloved holy site, thus disrespecting Allah, the Prophet Muhammad, and Islam, itself.

And as the legacy of Bilal ibn Rabah’s life teaches us to never back down and to be proud of who we are, thus we celebrate our hero and stand to protect his honor.

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By Zeena Alkurdi

The first time I watched the trailer for Bilal: A New Breed of Hero, I felt a combination of curiosity, excitement, and a bit of confusion. I couldn’t tell off the bat that it was the story of Bilal Ibn Rabah , but it grabbed my attention and I knew I wanted to see it. Fast forward a year or two later, and I finally got to watch it during a screening this past Monday! And I’m so glad I did. I ugly-cried through a large majority of the film, and while talking about it for days after, but I managed to jot down 5 things to know about the film before going to see it.

The movie is based on the life of Bilal Ibn Rabah and stays true to it

While this may seem obvious to some, the film’s synopsis makes no specific mention of the time or place where the story is based:

A thousand years ago, one boy with a dream of becoming a great warrior is abducted with his sister and taken to a land far away from home. Thrown into a world where greed and injustice rule all, Bilal finds the courage to raise his voice and make a change. Inspired by true events, this is a story of a real hero who earned his remembrance in time and history.

For those unfamiliar with the story of Bilal Ibn Rabah, he was a slave of one of the most powerful leaders in pre-Islamic Arabia. He embraced Islam and became a follower of Prophet Muhammad when he learned that all people are equal in the eyes of God. He was publicly tortured for standing up against his master and refusing to worship idols, as was the practice at that time. Bilal was freed once Abu Bakr , a successful Makkan merchant who also embraced Islam, purchased him in order to rescue him from the torture of his master. He later became the first muathin (one who announces the call to prayer), hand-selected by the Prophet Muhammad himself.

Although the film’s trailer contains some mystical elements (which made me skeptical of its historical accuracy), it stays true to the story of Bilal in the Seerah.

Be prepared for some intense scenes

Although it’s an animated film, it is PG-13. I still decided to take Kenzi as I assumed it would be due to the showing of torture when Bilal claimed his faith. However, the movie also includes scenes showing Bilal, his mother, and sister being captured as slaves, as well as battle scenes and sword fights. There is little to no blood shown throughout, and isn’t anymore violent than a superhero movie, but it may be distressing for very young children. I talked through the scenes with my daughter, Kenzi, and discussed a bit afterward, too.

It is a slightly secularized version of the story

While the story of Bilal is accurate, it is a bit whitewashed (for lack of a better term). For example, there is not a single mention of Prophet Muhammad or Islam. Instead, the coming of the new religion is called “The Movement”. Abu Bakr (R), who is solely referred to as “Al-Sideeq” throughout the movie, plays the role of the figure who taught Bilal about the teachings of Islam and his value as a human being. Although “Tala’al badru alayna”, the famous song the people of Madina sang to the Prophet Muhammad to welcome him and the migrating new Muslims upon their arrival, plays during the hijrah scene, I was disappointed that the adhan was not called during the film at all. Although there are a couple of mentions of the fact that Bilal’s voice was beautiful and that the Prophet Muhammad chose him to call the prayer from the top of the Kaabah after the conquest of Makkah, the film ends right as he raises his hands to his ear.

While I admit I was a little disheartened at the omission of the adhaan and certain other key components of the story (such as uh, the fact that the whole story is based on Islamic history), I can understand why the producers decided to do it that way: 1) to avoid backlash from the Muslim community (we know how Muslims feel about cartoons) and 2) to make sure the story is enjoyed by all different kinds of people – not just Muslims. The film simplifies the concept of Islam to its core values – equality, honesty, righteousness, and monotheism – and shows that “The Movement” was revolutionary at a time when corruption was at an all-time high. It shows that Bilal not only embraced this new way of life, but that he bravely spoke up against injustice. Bilal, then, is a universal story about humanity and courage – that everyone, despite their background or religious affiliation, can enjoy and learn from.

Tell your kids about the story of Bilal before they watch the movie

While the film does a better job than I expected of telling his story, it may be difficult to follow for younger children as it includes many other characters. You can tell that the directors were trying to fit as much of the story in as possible in the 105 minute movie. I took Kenzi without any sort of context or background knowledge to see how much she would be able to pick up on just from watching the movie itself, and I feel like she would have understood it a bit better had she been introduced to Bilal through an oral telling of the story first. There are a many simple versions to refer to online.

It’s a great example of the type of entertainment young Muslims need

Growing up, my parents showed us “The Message”, a 3-hour biopic produced in 1976. I’ve seen it over 20 times. And while it’s outdated and much lower quality than anything on TV today (or even back when I was a kid), it played such an important part in my learning about the Prophet Muhammad and the history of Islam. I connected with the characters and their stories, and it truly ingrained in me the love of my faith, the Prophet , and his companions – more than any lecture or story in a book ever could. As everything becomes more and more about “the experience”, it’s important for us to keep up and provide our children with engaging, well-done content to help them connect with their faith, as well. Bilal is a wonderful example of that.

Find “Bilal: A New Breed of Hero” showtimes at a theater near you!

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Margari Aziza: Power of One

As grandma Sara’s memory fades, what remains are the stories she told us. My three other grandparents died by the time I was five and all I am left with are memories of the stories my mother told me about them. I was in graduate school when I gathered enough courage to ask grandma Sara what it was like when she was young in Jim Crow South. She recounted the fear she felt when encountering groups of white men on those country roads. She told me about her father, Carlos Hilton, the farmer who had the courage to stand up against white men who wanted to take what was his. “He didn’t take no mess,” she said proudly. He eventually migrated North because the threat of lynchings. Facing daily threats of violence and degradation, I wonder, how did my ancestors survive Jim Crow and slavery? What inner source of power gave them the fortitude to carry on? Reflecting on accounts of Bilal ibn Rabah’s life, I am finding my own strength in embracing struggle and in finding hope through unity. Read rest here

Critiques of the Movie:


Hype about Bilal: A New Breed of Heroes Kamilah Munirah Sayyidi

So incredibly excited to see Bilal: A New Breed of Hero – Movie this weekend!   

I have read bad press by those who hate anything with a religious- moral message.

I have read the racist comments of those who refuse to watch a movie about a Black Abyssinian- Ethiopian man.

I have read misinformation and false assumptions from those who looked at the preview and dismissed it, but did not do any further research because his skin was too light.

We are not going to let them stop us! When a movie like this gets attacked from all sides, you know it’s going to be good!

This is the Seerah, based off the true story of one of the most Eminent Companions: Bilal ibn Rabah 

What you see in this trailer is:
*Bilal ibn Rabah as a child
*Bilal and his sister being enslaved
*Bilal in the household of Umayya
*Pre-Islamic Arabia
*Abu Baker frees Bilal
*The Battle of Badr with the Angel army on White horses who helped 300 against 1000

So many more theaters and showtimes are now listed onwww.bilalmovie.com
Take your family, friends, co-workers and neighbors and fill up the theaters starting today!

Tariq Toure: The Power of Seeing Yourself on Screen Zeena AlKurdi :5 Things to Know About The Movie Before Watching It | Review of Bilal: A New Breed Of Hero Imam Dawud Walid on Lesser Discussed Info About Bilal

Lesser Discussed Info About Bilal رضي الله عنه - YouTube

Imam Omar Suleiman on Bilal Ibn Rabah

Bilal ibn Rabah (#Unbreakable) - Omar Suleiman - Quran Weekly - YouTube

Shaykh Yasir Qadhi | Lives of Sahaba 64 – Bilal Ibn Rabah

Lives of Sahaba 64 - Bilal Ibn Rabah - Sh. Dr. Yasir Qadhi - YouTube

Ustadh Mohamed Hoblos on Bilal and Abu Dharr

Forgiving Others Is NOT An Option! - Powerful Story Of Bilal & Abu Dharr - YouTube

Mufti Menk On The Muaddhin
18 Life of 'Amr Ibn Al-'As (R.A) and Bilal Ibn Rabah (R.A) - Mufti Menk - Ramadhan 2014 - YouTube
Shaykh Zahir mahmoud on Bilal Ibn Rabah

Bilal RadiAllahu Anhu: From Slave to Master - By Shaykh Zahir Mahmood - YouTube

Urdu Lectures on Bilal

Please leave favorite resources on Bilal in any langugae in comments.

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As a young perceptive boy, I looked for myself in almost everything I came into contact with. I was among countless other youth who saw characters from comic books and tv shows as symbols of triumph, of wherewithal. Like the Supermans, Spidermans and Wolverines, almost all depictions of Islamic fortitude were mostly attributed to people I could not identify with, given the complexities of race, ethnicity, and culture.

What these stories narrate, after a brief life of absorbing them, is from fantasy to faith, no one who looks as you do, has offered much to where your religion stands. They tell you in so many subtle ways, that a now 1.7 billion Muslim Ummah has been constructed with you just as a guest in mind. And the burden of Black resilience in the face of deliberate psychological and spiritual exclusion is a need to disconnect from parts of history where you don’t see yourself lauded. Art will always be mighty medium through which we can level this damage done by omission. That we’ve come to bring to light the story of Bilal ibn Rabah , a Black man responsible for issuing the first call to Allah’s prayer, is worth pause.

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero - Official Trailer (2018) - YouTube

So we celebrate him. We celebrate his journey from dwelling at one of the lowest man-manufactured rungs of civilization to one of the highest plateaus in Allah’s command. We celebrate his Blackness. We celebrate his beloved Abyssinian mother, who kindled the light of his life that illuminates ours today. We revere his numerous sacrifices for a faith we all call home. True Islam, exposes injustice, inequity, and indifference, for the abominations of the human soul that they are. And there are little stories in our history conveying the true significance of what it means when Allah raises the station of his servants like Mawlana Bilal’s. Those of us who make up numerous portions of the Islamic African Diaspora across the world have all existed during an era which continues to attempt to lay our heritages, narratives, and spirituality low, due to our pigmentation.

To see a production created exploring Bilal Ibn Rabah’s life as ultimately a soldier for dignity through Islam should power our souls. It should add firmness to the self we see in the mirror. Knowing it is portrayed in a format for our youth to grab hold of his legacy with their hearts is a crucial step in investing in the spiritual and psychological esteem of our future. Our children partly become what their eyes and ears encounter.

Movies like Bilal affirm their place in a rich history still occurring in the lifeblood of his descendants today.

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The Prophet Mūsā is the most commonly mentioned prophet in the Qur’an. His story is repeated numerous times and his names appears from the very first juz’ [part] to the very last juz’ of the Qur’an. In fact, his name is mentioned from the very beginning of the prophethood of the Messenger Muhammad . After the first interaction with Jibrīl in the Cave of Ḥirā’, Khadījah , the wife of the Prophet took him to her cousin, a learned man by the name of Waraqah ibn Nawfal. Upon hearing the Prophet’s story, he immediately recognised what had happened and said, ‘This is the same angel that came to Mūsā.” Notice how it is the name of Mūsā mentioned, not Ibrāhīm who is an ancestor to the Arabs and known to them or ‘Īsā who is the closest prophet to our Prophet chronologically.

From that moment onwards, it is this mighty prophet whose name and story keeps reappearing throughout our early tradition. During the Night Journey and ascension to the heavens, the Prophet met many prophets. He also received the greatest of commandments in the obligation of the prayer which was initially enjoined as fifty prayers every day and night. It is the Prophet Mūsā who encourages the Prophet to keep returning to Allah and seeking a lessening of the number of prayers.

Even on the Day of Judgement, when all of creation will fall unconscious with the blowing of the trumpet, the Prophet will be the first to awake and he will see Mūsā already clinging to the Throne of Allah . All of this is due to the many benefits and lessons we can derive from the story of Mūsā and his nation.

One of the greatest lessons is how the story of Mūsā is a story of optimism in the midst of the harshest of trials and difficulties. In this and the coming couple of articles, we will look at three instances from the life of this mighty messenger of Allah and how in the most difficult of circumstances, he was optimistic of Allah’s help and aid.

In this article we will look at the birth of Mūsā . Before the birth of Mūsā , Pharaoh issued an edict calling for the massacre of all male newborn children from the Children of Israel. Mūsā was born into this context. The soldiers of Pharaoh would periodically search the houses of the Israelites so as to carry out Pharaoh’s orders. Mūsā’s mother had formulated a plan. She would, upon hearing the approach of the soldiers, take Mūsā out in his basket and place him in the river Nile at the rear of her house. She would tie the basket to a post and then retrieve him after the soldiers had left. Allah says,

“And We inspired to the mother of Moses, “Suckle him; but when you fear for him, cast him into the river and do not fear and do not grieve. Indeed, We will return him to you and will make him [one] of the messengers.”[1]

The plan was simple and made sense. However, when the time came to put it into effect, through her sheer terror and panic she carried out most of her plan but forgot to tie the basket to the post. Oblivious of her oversight, once the soldiers left her house, satisfied there is no child to be found, she raced out to retrieve her son. Only her is no longer there. He has been carried by the current of the river. Rather than panicking and screaming for help, she remains calm and collected, trusting in Allah .

Allah describes her emotional state in the Qur’an with the beautiful use of the Arabic language. Allah says,

“And the heart of Moses’ mother became empty [of all else]. She was about to disclose [the matter concerning] him had We not bound fast her heart that she would be of the believers.”[2]

Allah describes the heart of Mūsā’s mother using two different Arabic words. The first is ‘fu’ād’ and the second is ‘qalb’. Both words refer to the heart but there is a subtle difference between the two. The word ‘fu’ād’ refers to a heart overcome by emotion and not thinking rationally. When Mūsā’s mother first discovered her son being carried downriver, she is described as having her heart emptied. Despite her best efforts to protect her son, he has still been lost. Such was her sense of loss that she was almost about to scream for help.

This is where the ‘qalb’ comes in. This heart is one tempered by rational thought and understanding. Mūsā’s mother realised that if she were to call out for help, the commotion would attract the attention of the departing soldiers who would come back. Even if Mūsā was rescued, the soldiers would take him and he would end up dead at their hands. Instead, she understood that she should trust in Allah and His plans.

Imagine how difficult this must have been for a mother with her newborn son. Imagine her panic and terror. And then, look at the strength of her faith and trust in Allah . In the most heart wrenching and trying of situations, she is calm and collected. The next time you find yourself in difficulty, remember this amazing woman whom all Allah mentions in the Qur’an due to her faith, and then read on to see how Allah helped her overcome this situation.

Mūsā is carried downriver and his basket stops at the very palace of Pharaoh. From all the places it could have ended up, Allah decreed for it to come to this house. Not only this, but Pharaoh and his wife would end up adopting Mūsā . This despite Pharaoh knowing his demise would be at the hands of an Israelite boy. After all, this was the whole reason behind massacring all of their newborn sons. Yet, he was powerless to do anything to this baby.

This is an amazing story. Not only does it show us Allah’s powers and abilities, and the wisdom of His divine decree in all affairs, it also shows us the power of optimism in trusting Allah . Such is Allah’s power and might, the strongest of people on earth at that time could not harm a helpless baby who is in his grasp. Mūsā’s mother in the middle of an extreme set of circumstances placed her reliance upon Allah , knowing that He would always do what is best for her and her son. Furthermore, as we know, mother and son are reunited as he will only accept milk from her.

We often find ourselves in difficult situations, not knowing which decision to take or how to resolve an issue. We need to find the path that is most pleasing to Allah , ask Him for guidance and trust in His divine decree. Allah will then always do whatever is best for us, even if we cannot see it.

[1] 28:7

[2] 28:10

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By Nancy Averett

When Husain 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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