Summer of Fun

July 5, 2007

Assalamu Alaykum,

I’ve finally decided to start updating my blog once again and insha’Allah, I will continue to update it regularly. Since I’ve been on hiatus for the last several weeks, I thought I’d update my blog with what’s been going on in my life.  Alhamdulillah, my last summer before medical school has been full of excitement and joy.  In the past three weeks, I’ve traveled to sooo many states, it’s been awesome. 

I started my journey (it wasn’t a real journey by any means) by going to Chicago for a friend’s wedding.  Devon Street is a pretty happening street.  I was fortunate enough to eat at the famous Usmanias restaurant.  My new recommended favorite dish has definitely got to be Chicken Makkni (a.k.a. Butter Chicken).  From Chicago, I continued to Michigan to visit a friend.  Michigan was awesome.  Subhana’Allah, I really loved Dearborn, there are sooooooo many Muslims there it feels like another country.  There are masajid everywhere to be found.  One masjid we went to had several hundred people attending for a regular salaat!  Additionally, most of the local eateries serve halal food (I ate at a halal Big Boys!). 

My journey continued as I flew to California.  There were about eight brothers from Hopkins who met up as a reunion (Classes 2004-2007) and subhana’Allah, it was soo fun.  We arrived in Los Angles and continued our trip north up to San Jose (via Pebble Beach and Monterray) and south down to Long Beach.  California was an amazing experience as the trip defined true brotherhood.  One thing I got to do is give a shout-out to the UCLA MSA.  Masha’Allah, they’ve really got it going on.  The undergraduate and graduate students really get along.  We prayed jummah there on a non-school day and there were still about fifty people there for jummah!  Their MSA produces the Al-Talib newspaper which has been in production for seventeen years.  Furthermore, they run a free clinic for the medically uninsured.  Masha’Allah, I’ve never seen an MSA so together and on top of things.  After California, I fly back home to Tampa, but I stopped in Dallas for several hours.  A friend of mine picked me up and showed me around.  Dallas is a really impressive city and one that I think I may have to return to in the future to get the Texas experience.

After returning to Tampa and spending some time at home, I headed to Richmond, Virginia to find a roommate and apartment.  It appears as though it is final that I am attending Virginia Commonwealth University for medical school.  The medical school application cycle has been long and tedious at times for me.  Nonetheless, I’m excited about the final outcome.  I did have a great experience in all the cities I was able to travel to during my interviews.  Subhana’Allah, I met some superb brothers and the hospitality some of them gave me is unbelievable.  I put the results from my medical school process up at  Insha’Allah, make dua for me that whatever is best for me and my family in the duniya and ahkira to happen for us.  We’ll see how Richmond treats me next year, insha’Allah, it goes well! 

I was also able to travel to NYC where I ate the famous Platters from 53rd and 6th.  Subhana’Allah, the gyros there were definitely on point.  That’s really been about it for me over the last few weeks.  Now that I’ve gotten through boring you about my journey, insha’Allah, future posts will be back on point in dealing with things that are more important.  Take care, insha’Allah.

Wa assalamu alaykum

Hookah (a.k.a. sheesha, waterpipe, nargila, argeela) has become very popular amongst college students nowadays.  Nevertheless, very little of the harms are known to its users.  It is often quite misunderstood as being harmless and not-addicting.  However, scientific research has proven otherwise as it is clearly established that hookah causes cancer and is, in fact, more harmful to one’s health than cigarettes.  Just this week, the WHO (World Health Organization) published a seven-page report claiming that hookah is just as hazardous to one’s health if not more hazardous than smoking cigarettes.

Hookah, in fact, actually does contain nicotine and one sitting of hookah is more hazardous to one’s cardiovascular system than cigarettes.  Cardiovascular disease is a serious threat to hookah smokers.  The carbon monoxide (CO) intake is also at a dangerous level when smoking hookah as it holds negative effects for those even exposed to second-hand smoke.  Second-hand smoke of hookah contains nicotine (which has shown to show addiction even through second-hand smoke), TAR, and even worse, heavy metals such as cobalt, arsenic, and lead!  These metals destroy a person’s body!  These findings were published in a scientific journal that was peer-reviewed and can be found on PubMed!

Hookah has shown to cause serious diseases.  Accepted scientific studies show that hookah causes an increase in the frequency of chromosomal abberations and sister chromatids.  This implies that the chance of our children having mutations is increased many-fold.  This is true for the man as well as the woman since a child receives twenty-three chromosomes from each parent. Therefore, this one fact alone should scare us from even being exposed to second-hand smoke of hookah and risking the health of our children!

In rats, hookah has shown an increase in hyperkeratosis and degeneration.  Moreover, a study in the Journal of Periodontology found that gum disease is five times more likely to occur with hookah smokers.  Other scientifically accepted journals have shown than hookah is linked with atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, decreased pulmonary function, various other cardiovascular diseases, TUBERCULOSIS, eczema, aspergillosis (through contamination), and postextraction alveolitis (of the teeth).

On top of all the above, hookah also causes cancer!  In a recent study, eighty-eight percent of those people with cancer in India were at one-time hookah smokers.  The risk for lung cancer is significantly increased with hookah.  A study in Pediatrics concluded that hookah is at-least the same, if not worse for one’s health, cancer-wise, than cigarettes.  Professor Thomas Eissenberg of Virginia Commonwealth University concluded through his studies on hookah that “every risk of cigarette smoking is also associated with water pipes (hookah).” 

Therefore, let us stay away from hookah.  There are no benefits from it whatsoever.  Let us stay away from it for the sake of our children and our health.  May Allah (SWT) guide us all.  Ameen.

I’ve left Baltimore.  Alhamdulillah, I graduated from Hopkins and it’s time for the next chapter in my life to begin.  Nevertheless, I’m sad to say good-bye to Baltimore.  It will always be very dear to my heart.  Living in Baltimore was a blast.  The two best parts of it were, of course, Masjid ul-Haqq and O’s Place.  Last week, I was fortunate enough to say by farewell to both of them.  In my last week as a member of the Baltimore community, I made several trips to the D.C. and Northern Virginia area to say farewell to my family and friends in those communities.

Last Thursday, I graduated from Hopkins.  Alhamdulillah, I was able to finish my classes and the university granted me adegree.  Football coach Brian Billick was the keynote speaker.  He was a decent speaker.  I thought we would have had a more notable speaker since people like Al Gore and Bill Cosby had been the graduation speakers in years past, but alhamdulillah, Billick’s speech was enjoyable though it definitely had a lot of football analogies in it.  He’s definitely a bright guy.  In a weird sense, I will miss Hopkins.  It definitely had a very competitive, cut-throat atmosphere, which I could not stand.  Nevertheless, I was surrounded with people that are unbelievable in what they do.  They are amongst the smartest people I have ever met when it comes to academia.

Then, last Saturday, Masjid ul-Haqq held a fundraiser on-site to raise money to build a school.  Speakers included Imam Safi Khan from Dar-us-Salaam, Sheikh Mutahhir Sabree from Columbia, South Carolina, and Imam Sahmuddeen Harun from Austin, Texas.  Subhana’Allah, Sheikh Yusuf Estes even came to the event as he made a guest-star appearance.  I believe he is good friends with Sheikh Sabree, who also works with Sheikh Adly in South Carolina.  At maghrib time, the masjid had raised about $60,000.  Subhana’Allah, after maghrib, one brother anonymously donated $100,000!  Imam Sahmuddeen was a phenomenal fundraiser-er (I’m going to say he’s better than ever Imam Johari!) and the total at the end of the night came to $220,000!  Subhana’Allah, that is an unbelievable amount for the community.  Indeed, the Masjid ul-Haqq community is one that is attached to the ahkira over the duniya!  I will definitely miss Masjid ul-Haqq.  May Allah (SWT) bless this community and allow other communities to take a lesson from the brotherhood that is present there.

Then, on Sunday, I went to O’s Place one last time.  We were able to meet up with some of the brothers from UMBC and Morgan State as we all enjoyed a nice lunch buffet together.  Obviously, you cannot go wrong with solid halal chinese food.  Afterwards, I said my salams to everyone as I was planning to leave the following morning after fajr.  Alhamdulillah, I made lots of good friends during my stay in Baltimore and there is no doubt in my mind that I will definitely miss each and every one of them.  They were all special to me and it is my hope that they will keep in touch with me.  Insha’Allah, I pray that Allah (SWT) blesses them and that if we do not meet again in this duniya, then, insha’Allah, we will meet again in paradise.

O’s Place

May 2, 2007

Type of Food: Chinese and South Asian
Location: Baltimore County, Maryland
Halal-ness: Legit except the music playing in the background
Go-to dish: Orange Chicken
Rating: Awesome

I thought I would share my reflections on what has become my favorite place to eat in the Baltimore-area.  Alhamdulillah, O’s Place is a splendid addition to an already awesome Maryland community.  It has halal chinese food as well as paki-indo food.  And get this, it’s a buffet!  Uncle and aunty are so nice and they look out for us whenever we go to eat there.  There have been times when we were there until closing time and uncle just let us take the food left-over in the buffet home.  How sweet is that! 

My personal favorite dish is the Orange Chicken available in the buffet.  The Orange Chicken is a go-to dish and now that it’s been discovered, rarely is anyone tempted to try something new.  There are a variety of Orange Chicken derivatives on the menu.  They include General Tsao Chicken and Sesame Chicken.  I remember Ramadan iftars at Hopkins, almost weekly, someone would cater from O’s Place.  Alhamdulillah, it was good times. 

O’s Place has also became a mutual point for Baltimore MSA’s to meet up.  I’ve gone to O’s with Morgan State University’s MSA several times as well as the UMBC MSA.  Alhamdulillah, O’s Place is soo cool and, in my opinion, it is one of the best things available to us here in Baltimore (after Masjid ul-Haqq, of course).  So, yeah definitely, if you’re ever in Baltimore, hit me up and we can make an O’s Place run.

Mukhtar Mai

May 1, 2007

Today, I had the fortunate opportunity to attend talk by Mukhtar Mai as she spoke here at Hopkins. The Foreign Affairs Symposium was responsible for bringing her. It was the first time this year I had attended an event sponsored by the Foreign Affairs Symposium as they usually bring in speakers who hold fairly liberal views, but alhamdulillah, I’m extremely glad I was able to attend Sister Mukhtar’s talk. So, today, I thought I’d write a little bit about Mukhtar’s story so that we can all become more familiar with what she has done for Pakistan.

Mukhtar Mai was gang raped on the order of village tribal council elders in a case of honor/revenge in 2002. Usually when cases like these go unnoticed, Mukhtar broke her silence and did the unthinkable and fought back using the legal system. She took the case to Pakistan’s highest court and won. With settlement money, Mukhtar was able to open up a school in her village. Originally, with only three students (two being her sister and herself), Mukhtar’s is now responsible for having opened three schools, which have more than 1000 students enrolled in them! Her dream is to continue opening schools and encouraging education in villages where no such institutions exist.

Mukhtar’s story was picked up by BBC. Later, Mukhtar Mai was named Glamous Magazine’s 2005 Women of the Year. Moreover, she was awarded the Fatima Jinnah gold medal for bravery and courage by the Pakistani government. President Pervez Musharraf even mentions her in his blog (it’s so weird he has a blog!). Furthermore, Mukhtar was awared the 2006 North-South Prize of the Council of Europe. She has also recently released her new book entitled In the Name of Honor: A Memoir.

Masha’Allah, I found Sister Mukhtar to be a very humble and courageous person. She spoke in Urdu and her speech was translated here today. I feel we can all benefit from the amazing story of Mukhtar Mai for she has surely benefited so many people in Pakistan.