By Yoginder Sikand, TwoCircles.net,
The Kerala Nadwat ul-Mujahidin (KNM) is one of the most influential Islamic reformist movements in Kerala, boasting of several hundred thousand members and sympathizers. Like many other such Islamic groups in Kerala, the KNM is also heavily involved in various forms of social work and activism. One of the many projects that the KNM has taken up in a big way, through its youth wing, the Ittehad ul-Shuban lil-Mujahidin (ISM), is providing free medical assistance to thousands of needy people, Muslims as well as others, in different parts of the state.
The central office of ISM’s medical aid programme that was launched almost 15 years ago is based at the KNM”s headquarters in Calicut. The programme is coordinated by Naufil, a young hotelier, who volunteers two hours of his time every day seven days a week. He is assisted by two paid pharmacists, providing free medicines to several hundred people from Calicut and surrounding villages.
In addition to this central office, the ISM’s medical aid programme is conducted through a unit in the government-run Calicut medical college hospital, manned by some 20 ISM volunteers, plus some fifty ‘pain and palliative centres’ across Kerala. Volunteers, many of them girls associated with the KNM’s women’s wing, the Mujahid Girls’ Movement (MGM), collect donations from KNM members as well as others, and this is used to buy medicines for free distribution to card-carrying patients who approach the clinics with prescriptions of medicines from doctors in government hospitals which they cannot afford to purchase themselves. In addition, some doctors pass on the free samples that they get and others contribute unused medicines which they do not need. These donors are not all Muslims. Several of them are Hindus and Christians. Collection boxes in KNM-run institutions are another means for generating funds for the programme.
The patients are selected after ISM volunteers examine their economic conditions and verify that they cannot pay for their own treatment. Patients who visit the ISM”s clinics are provided cards, which detail their ailments as well as the treatment that they receive and chart their progress. The cards are valid for an indefinite period, so that if a patient who recovers falls ill again he or she can again access the facilities of the clinic free of cost. Some 2000 people across Kerala have such cards. An estimated 40% of them are non-Muslims, explains Mujeeb ur-Rehman Kinalur, the amiable president of the ISM.
The central office in Calicut maintains a list of around 200 blood donors, mostly ISM volunteers, and patients with cards who need blood can access this facility free. ‘We plan to extend this programme across Kerala shortly’, Kinalur tells me. He also talks about the ‘Eye Donation Pledge Campaign’ that the ISM has launched. Aware of the controversy about organ donation in some Muslim circles, he says, ‘We have received a fatwa from ulema associated with the KNMs ulema board, the Jamiat-e Ulema-e Kerala, saying that it is permissible to pledge to donate one’s eyes to someone who is blind after one’s death. So, too, in the case of the brain and kidneys. If you die, your eyes die with you, but if you choose to donate them, you can bring light to someone’s life’.
Under its medical aid programme, the ISM has also been engaged in improving existing infrastructural facilities in government hospitals that cater to the general public. Says Shahjehan, a businessman who volunteers at the programme’s office in Calicut, ‘Last year we reconstructed 15 wards in the medical college hospital, spending some 70 thousand rupees on each ward. We also provided some badly needed medical equipment to the hospital’. ‘Before that’, he enthusiastically adds, ‘we provided linen, wheelchairs and stretchers to the government Beach hospital. Two years ago we celebrated Independence Day by cleaning government hospitals across Kerala in places where we have our units’.
‘We also organise annual campaigns on issues like AIDS or against smoking’, Shahjehan goes on enthusiastically. We’ve now started two clinics in the suburbs of Calicut, where, in contrast to our other centres that provide medicines to patients who come with prescriptions from doctors in government hospitals, we have our own doctors, who treat patients for a nominal fee of between five and ten rupees’. He tells me that they plan to establish a full-feldged diagnostic laboratory for medical tests. But, he says, the required funds are a major problem.
‘Our medical programme, as well as the other forms of social work and activism we are engaged in, are an expression of our commitment to society, not just to Muslims alone but to everyone, in general’, Kinalur stresses. ‘As Muslims’, he says, ‘we must help all those in need, no matter what their religion or caste’.
If you want to know how you could help the ISM’s medical aid programme, contact Mujeeb ur-Rahman Kinalur, ISM President, on [email protected]