The Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Truly there is a morsel of flesh in the body which if sound, the whole body is sound; and if unsound, the whole body is unsound. Truly it is the heart” (Bukhari , I.20: 52. S).
BY KAT STOEFFEL
By: Moutasem Atiya
A few months ago, I was sitting with Shaykh Mohsen Al’Najjar in the Mosque of our Messenger Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him and his family), preparing to make the blessed ziyara (visitation). As we sat, I could not help but marvel at the amazing Ottoman calligraphy decorating the mosque. My eyes and spirit quickly fixated on an ornate inscription from the Messenger ﷺ:
“My Intercession is for the Major Sinners of my Nation.” (Sunan Tirmidhi)
I contemplated this for a while. Why was the Messenger ﷺ pointing this out? We know his intercession is for his whole nation. Why then say it is for the major sinners?
I quickly turned to Shaykh Mohsen, posing this question to him. He reminded me how some, sitting on their high horses, look down upon their brothers and sisters in spiritual need. We box them into a category and quickly disassociate ourselves from them. We say, “He is a thief, she is a liar, they go clubbing,“ and the list goes on and on.
While we run away from them, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ is running to them on the day of Judgment. While we treat them as some band of zombies, the Messenger ﷺ treats them as his followers in need of aid. Being sent as a mercy to all the worlds does not preclude any of his followers from his intercession before Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He).
His concern during his lifetime was to reconnect people with Allah (swt), no matter how bad the spiritual times they had fallen on. His objective was not to just condemn, but to rectify. He once described himself by saying, “I am to you like a parent is to a child. I teach you,” (Ibn Majah). And taught us you have, O Messenger of Allah!
Unfortunately, many of us have forgotten that model. We often act on our perceived religiosity by quickly condemning others, as if it somehow comes with the territory. The length of my beard, the perfect placement of my hands in prayer and my impeccable recitation somehow puts me on the higher rank of the spiritual totem pole and I become the judge, jury and executioner of your spiritual life. Allah (swt) warns us of this attitude in the Qur’an when He says:
“So do not claim yourselves to be pure; He is most knowing of who fears Him.” (53:32)
It was narrated that during the time of Prophet Moses alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him) two men had passed away. One was considered to be righteous, the other to be a sinner. Allah (swt) revealed to Moses that the perceived righteous man was in damnation while the sinner had been forgiven. Moses decided to investigate the matter, visiting the widows of the men to see what they were like at home.
The widow of the “righteous” man said he was just as good inside the house as he was outside, except he would sometimes strangely say, “We will be successful if Moses is really telling the truth.” The widow of the “sinner” said he was just as bad inside the house as he was outside, except every so often he would cry himself to sleep saying, “Oh Allah, what level of punishment will you place me in?”
One man showed sincerity in his belief even though he fell short in action, earning him Allah’s mercy, while the other man showed doubt in his belief even though his acts were many. The realm of spirituality belongs to Allah (swt). Our goal is to call people to Him in the most beautiful of ways while taking ourselves into account first. So the next time you plan on judging your Muslim brother and sister, don’t, because that zombie you see just might be your own self.
Moutasem Atiya has been actively involved in the Metropolitan DC communities through classes, speaking engagements, and Friday khutbahs on a regular basis for the past 10 years. He has studied the Islamic sciences from three of the luminaries of our time, Shaykh Mohsen An-Najjar, Shaykh Mokhtar Maghraoui, and Shaykh Muhammad bin Yahya Al-Ninowy. He is a teacher at the Al-Madina Institute.
The Rahma Health Clinic, which recently opened its doors at 3100 S. Salina St., is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays. Rahma is an Islamic word that means mercy.
The Muslim religion places a strong emphasis on giving back to the community’s less fortunate, said Dr. Mustafa Awayda, the clinic’s volunteer medical director. That belief was the catalyst behind starting the clinic.
“We’re so fortunate because we have wonderful lives in the area, great jobs and we wanted to give back,” said Awayda, who works at the Syracuse VA Medical Center.
He and other Muslim Americans formed a nonprofit, the Muslim American Care and Compassion Alliance, which purchased a vacant former doctor’s office at 3100 S. Salina St. in 2009.
It took much longer than expected to open because the clinic applied for and received certification from the state under Article 28 of the state public heath law. Even though the clinic is operated entirely by volunteers and funded by donations, it had to comply with the same regulations that apply to hospitals and other major health facilities.
“Our policy on infection control alone is 59 pages,” Awayda said.
But he believes the extra work involved in becoming certified was worth it.
“It’s great to be able to say we passed all the scrutiny and regulations of the state,” he said.
The certification also means doctors who volunteer at the clinic will receive free medical malpractice insurance coverage under the Federal Tort Claims Act, he said. The certification also will make it easier for the clinic to apply for grants.
So far the clinic has four doctors, two nurse practitioners, a social worker and an administrator – all volunteers.
Rahma is not a walk-in clinic like Syracuse’s two other free health clinics, Amaus Health Services in downtown Syracuse and the Poverello Health Center on the North Side. Patients must call 565-5667 to make appointments.
Eventually Awayda said the clinic’s goal is to operate every weekday and for a few hours on Saturdays.
The group decided to locate the clinic on the South Side after doing research that showed a disproportionate number of people who live in that part of the city are admitted to hospitals for preventable illnesses such as high blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes, asthma and pneumonia.
Awayda sees patient education as one of the clinic’s most important roles.
“We tell people, ‘Come get your sugar checked. Come get your blood pressure checked. Do something before you end up in the hospital,’” he said.
Last summer the clinic and people from the neighborhood planted a fruit and vegetable garden. The aim of the garden is to teach people on the South Side the importance of healthy eating. The clinic is in a neighborhood where there are plenty of fast food restaurants, but few places to buy fresh produce, Awayda said.
The clinic’s social worker helps people find out if they are eligible for Medicaid or other health insurance programs. The clinic also helps patients who need prescription medications find low-cost generic drugs.
Mohamed Khater, who is president of the Islamic Society of Central New York, serves as chair of the clinic’s board.
“We as Muslims want to give back to our community,” he said.
While most of the Muslim-Americans who started the clinic are members of the Islamic Society, the clinic in not a religious organization and is separate from the Islamic Society, he said. The clinic is open to everyone and seeks volunteers of all faiths, he said.
Magda Bayoumi, Khater’s wife, said the clinic hopes to eventually expand to include dentistry and other services.
“We’re hoping for the moon, but we’ve started out taking small steps,” she said. “Failure is not an option.”
Call 565-5667 or email the clinic at email@example.com
How you can help
Call 565-5667 to learn about volunteer opportunities. To make a donation, send checks made out to Muslim American Care and Compassion Alliance, 3100 S. Salina St., Syracuse.