Fulfilling our commitment to serve humanity, the International Quranic Open University (IQOU), under the direction and guidance of His Eminence Vice Chancellor Syed Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani, will once again send forth competent students to provide assistance to our less fortunate brothers and sisters in Africa, a continent fraught with poverty, illiteracy, disease and high mortality rates. Mali, one of the poorest countries in Africa, has been selected to serve as the launching place of IQOU’s newest project: Mali Health And Development Initiative (MHDI).
Hakima Fatimah Ash-Shakur of Aliville, Georgia, and Mahmoudou Sidibe and his family, from Montreal, Canada, will be departing for the West African country to begin work on the project in the coming months.
Islam has long been present in West Africa, with a long-standing Sufi tradition. Due to this history, Mali represents a great base for IQOU to begin its work. Over the centuries, these Islamic spiritual orders were very instrumental in establishing true Islam.
The Malian and Songhay Empires have a great Qadri history with well known sufis from the regions of Timbuktu, Masina in Mali and Hausaland in Nigeria. Amongst them we find such names as Shaykh Mukthar Al-Kunti, Shaykh Uthman Dan Fodio, Shaykh Muhammad Bello, Shaykh Ahmad Al-Bakaa’i and Shaykh Ahmad Labbo – all well respected Qadri scholars and leaders in West Africa. The struggle to establish Islam in the region confronted a strong attachment to paganism and sorcery in the hearts of the people, resulting in an attempt to accommodate paganism within Islamic practice. True Islam triumphed after some time, with much of the credit going to the effort of the Sufi orders. However, there is a resurgence of this same darkness in the twenty-first century, in the region, which is actually a worldwide phenomenon. It is the hope, therefore, that this new Initiative by IQOU will continue the noble Sufi tradition in working to eradicate paganism and sorcery and their ill effects, while also catering to the everyday needs and struggle of the people.
This initiative will serve multiple functions: 1) establish a medical facility that will effectively and affordably provide medical assistance, health-care education, pre and post-natal services for women and infants and other services, with the goal of reducing mortality rates of infants and children (1 in 5 children die before 5 years of age). By raising the standard of health and nutrition, the life span of the Malian people, which averages about 45-47 years, will be increased; 2) provide the people of Mali with educational opportunities to learn English, computer literacy and other topics, broadening their chances of educational pursuits abroad.
Hakima Fatimah Ash-Shakur, known to many as Umm Tabari, will spearhead the medical aspect of this project, developing a clinic that will support the healthcare needs of members of the Malian community, with emphasis on the special needs of women and children. The people of Mali have great regard for traditional medicine and the traditional healers. This gives MHDI an excellent opportunity to develop an integrated health-care system that is unique among both governmental clinics and NGOs operating in Mali, ensuring accessibility and acceptability. Aminah, wife of Mahmoudou Sidibe, will be graduating from nursing school early next year and will be assisting in the development of MHDI . Other health-care professionals, educators and business leaders will be called upon as our project grows.
Mahmoudou Sidibe will spearhead the educational and business development aspect of MHDI. He is the son of Dr. Hamadoun Sidibé, a well known and respected figure in the Malian community in Canada. Mahmoudou has specialized in management and has worked as a consultant for a number of start-up businesses. He hopes to be able to use his knowledge and competency in the field to help young Malians develop strong business skills by initiating projects that will benefit them, their families and the country’s economy.
As editor of the French section of The Islamic Post, Mr. Sidibe will work towards the production of an African edition and will actively be looking for local and regional journalists who can enhance the content of our French and English edition. Future plans also include printing the The Islamic Post in Africa and finding partners on the continent to distribute the newspaper to make it the new jewel of Africa.
Having worked as a translator for IQOU, The Islamic Post and Zavia Books International, Mr. Sidibe looks forward to opening an English language school, in conjunction with the business center, for those striving to learn English for their personal and professional needs or to study abroad.
“FEN NYALEN: TIGI CAMAN
(a good thing has many associates).”
“BOLONDIO KELEN TE SE KA FOI TAA
(one finger cannot pick up anything).”
These Bambara proverbs, in the language of ethnic Malians – the Bambara people, speak to the realization that the success of this mission will depend on the aid of many. We hope that when the call comes many will answer.