Dinner talk at Kota Baru, Kelantan, on 17th August 2002 by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. EM omarkasule@yahoo.com.


'Islamic medicine movement' is used to cover all efforts by Islamic medical associations, universities, research centers, individuals, governmental and non-governmental institutions to identify and pursue a practical vision and expression of the Islamic revival (tajdid) in the medical and health fields. Islam is comprehensive and universal seeking to assure welfare for all humanity and is not confined to any place, time, or any particular ethnic or racial group. Medicine is a system of maintaining good quality-life by health promotion, disease prevention, and diagnosis & treatment of illness, and preventing or limiting disability. It covers physical, mental, and spiritual aspects.



The Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) is the mother organization of all Islamic medical associations. Started in 1967 as a professional branch within the Muslim Students Association of the US and Canada, it succeeded in bringing together many Muslim immigrant physicians in the US. It has published a respectable journal, held annual conventions, and assisted young Muslim physicians to settle down in North America. It has been involved in coalitions to fight for the professional rights of foreign educated Muslim physicians working in the US and Canada. It also has assisted American-trained Muslim physicians find positions in the rich Muslim countries of the middle-east.  IMANA was the pioneer that encouraged the formation of IMAs in other countries. At the moment there are IMAs in Nigeria, UK, Ireland, Pakistan, India, Sudan, Jordan, Malawi, Uganda, Egypt, Indonesia, and Mauritius. IMANA also pioneered the formation of the Federation of Islamic Medical Associations (FIMA) in 1981. It has continued to play a global role by holding its annual convention in a different Muslim country every year to encourage professional and social interaction in the ummat.


The Islamic Medical Association of South Africa (IMASA) has been a very active IMA. South Africa has always stood out as a unique Muslim community. Although Muslims are only 2% of the total population and are one of the small Muslim minorities in the world, their level of dynamism and contribution is very high; it may not be far from the mark to state that they are the most active and productive Muslim community in the world on a per capita basis. True to form, South African physicians have been very active in IMM. Starting as a physicians’ committee (lajnat al atibaa) in 1974 involved in running rural clinics, IMASA has now grown to have more than 1000 members and more than 20 branches all over the country.  Its activities within the borders of South Africa and the neighboring countries of Southern Africa include: mobile and static clinics, disaster relief, annual conventions, publications, and lobbying for moral issues during and after the apartheid era. IMASA has been an active member of the Federation of Islamic Medical Association (FIMA) since its inception in Florida 1981. The experience of IMASA illustrates the hopes, aspirations, and achievements of the Islamic Medicine Movement. IMASA has managed to mobilize and Muslim physicians and overcame initial opposition to a distinct Islamic identity within the medical profession. As a result many individual physicians came to know one another well and to cooperate professionally and socially. The association has published books, brochures, flyers, and handbooks on ethical and practical issues in medicine. Its clinics program for the medically-under served provided an opportunity for Muslim physicians to volunteer their time in a worthwhile endeavor. IMASA uses its bulletin to advertise positions and locums. The annual conventions provide an opportunity for direct person-to-person networking.


International Organization of Islamic Medicine (IOIM) and Islamic Organization of Medical Sciences (IOMS):

The Ministry of Public Health in Kuwait under Dr Abdul Rahman al Awadi played a leading mobilizing role in the early 1980s by bringing together Muslim physicians from all over the world in international conferences in 1981 and 1982 that were followed by conferences in Pakistan and Egypt. An International Organization of Islamic Medicine (IOIM) that was a result of these conferences did not persist. The IOIM had an original ambitious aim to build a 10 million Kuwaiti Dinar research center on traditional medicinal herbs. Dr Abdurahman al Awadi retired from government and  continued the effort under a more-modestly-named private foundation called The Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences (IOMS) which has continued holding seminars and publishing high-quality books on medico-legal and medico-ethical issues.



Mobilization: Over the past 3 decades, the Islamic Medicine Movement (IMM) with Islamic Medical Associations (IMA) at the forefront has been very successful in the following areas: mobilizing Muslim health professionals and strengthening their Islamic identity, establishing professional and social net-works among Muslim health professionals,  providing needed health and social services for the poor, championing ethical issues from an Islamic point of view, and lobbying for political or social agendas that promote the Islamic cause.


Medical Relief: The Islamic Medicine Movement has given a good account of itself in the field of medical and general relief. IMAs have established clinics for the poor in Egypt, Sudan, Mozambique, and South Africa. They have been actively involved in relief work. The Egyptian IMA was very active in that country’s earthquake disaster. Crises in Bosnia and Afghanistan provided a rallying point for bringing Muslim physicians together to be able to provide medical relief. Physician committees in middle-eastern countries have been very active in relief activities all over the world.


Medical Education: Islamically-oriented medical schools are a new feature of the Islamic Medicine Movement. The International Islamic University in Malaysia opened its new school in 1997 with a curriculum that integrates the Islamic input into the general medical course. The International Islamic Medical College in Pakistan attempts to incorporate Islamic teachings in its curriculum. Indonesia has medical schools in some of its Muslim-controlled universities. The emphasis is to prepare the future physicians to be practicing Muslims. Islamically-oriented medical educators have made several Islamic changes in existing public and private medical schools.


Bio-ethical issues, medico-legal, and Medico-social Issues: Yusuf al Qaradhawi in his land-mark book al halal wa al haram fi al Islam was a pioneer in discussing Islamic solutions to medico-legal and medico-ethical problems that arise in modern society. When the book was written in the 1960s the brave new world of biotechnology and all its complications had not yet fully unfolded. Since then a myriad of issues have appeared and continue increasing daily. Muslim physicians have been very active in discussions of these issues holding seminars and publishing books and pamphlets. The main issues of discussion and debate being: definition of the start and end of life, artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization, abortion, surrogate motherhood, organ transplantation, organ and tissue banks. Muslim intellectuals have continued to defend the holistic view of medicine that medicine is not practiced in a social vacuum and that social factors have to be taken into account in the cure and prevention of disease.


Two issues arise in the discussion of these issues. The first issue is that of ownership. It is unfortunate that these problems have largely been discussed out of context and without asking and answering the question of ownership. These problems belong to the contemporary western industrial society and have root-causes within it. Islam and its law was revealed to be applied in a particular moral and social context. Islam can not solve all problems that arise in the western society as long as fundamental aspects of that society are not changed. The Prophet started by establishing new moral foundations for the first state in Madina before extensive application of the shari’at.  The second issue is that these problems are artifacts of this age and cannot be resolved by direct reference to legal precedent. A paper presented to the International Seminar on Organ Transplantation and Health Care Management in Jakarta made the case that using the concepts of purposes of the law (maqasid al shariat) and the principles of the law (qawaid al fiqhiyyat) that are in turn derived from the Qur’an and sunnat can be employed more efficiently in balanced logical reasoning that leads to practical solutions. This approach will, however, help resolve some but not all the problems. The un-resolvable problems require social transformation first. When a moral social order is established the problems may become limited and of little consequence.



IMM as an idea and as a movement has matured and it is high time to define new challenges and new directions. Continuation of the past activities is still needed but will not suffice to maintain the enthusiasm and loyalty of the members as well as ensure sustenance of IMM as a vibrant and progressive movement. There are three outstanding challenges in which success still eludes IMM: (a) articulating a distinct paradigm of Islamic medicine at an intellectual level which is explained by the fact that it is rare to find persons who combine a deep understanding of the basic sources of Islam, the Qur’an and sunnat, with advanced medical knowledge. (b) Training physicians imbued with Islamic values (c) Participation on a large scale in providing quality health care services

Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. August 2002