Doctor ventures to change image of madrasas

Doctor ventures to change image of madrasas

After carrying out philanthropic work in dozens of countries over the years, he has set a goal to modernise madrasas (Islamic seminaries) in his native state Jammu and Kashmir.

The noble work, he says, has already begun from south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, where he was born “In the first phase two madrasas will be identified in each district. We will provide computers and other equipment to enable the students to earn an honourable livelihood besides serving Islam,” Sohail Nasti, a doctor-turned pilot settled in England, told Deccan Herald.

He says his aim is to revolutionise madrasas. “I don’t want people to say that terrorists are growing from madrasas. I want to take the stigma out of people’s mind. In the last two decades, I have travelled to over 120 countries for my professional and charity work. And being a Muslim I could see there is misconception that terrorists are coming out of madrasas. Islam never allows anyone to percolate hatred,” Nasti says.

Under madrasas modernisation

project, he wants to teach the students science and technology. “We want scholars. Tomorrow they can grow and work as professionals and have sustainable income. An imam shouldn’t be paid for leading the prayers. It is a voluntary and missionary work. If an imam is working in a masjid he should have his sustainable income from other source. I want to provide to madrasa students literacy and education through which they can earn their livelihood,” he said.

Nasti says the religious scholars can serve Islam better if they are assured of an honourable living after they come out of the madrasas. “There is lot of exploitation of the pass outs of madrasas by society in the name of employment and I would try my best to end this culture. People believe that a madrasa is a place where students are taught only religious subjects, and that it has no connection with modern education. I want to change this culture,” he said.

Asked whether he was inspired by former Pakistani president Parvez Musharraf’s same initiative in that country, he said, “I don’t care what Musharraf’s idea was. But yes if his idea was to modernise Muslims so that they understand the Islam in a proper way then I will salute him.” Despite all his success and fame in the West, Nasti has not forgotten his motherland Kashmir.

He is popular in more than 90 countries for his philanthropic work and heroics in different dimensions which has made him a role model for millions of youth across the globe. Though his philanthropic work has been appreciated worldwide, his love for the motherland brings him back to Valley regularly . His international charity organisation,
Mother Helpage Worldwide, has worked on several projects in Kashmir in the last two decades and provided succour to thousands of destitute.

As a teenager, Nasti set up Mother Helpage Worldwide in Anantnag district in 1994 after the death of his mother Jamilah Nasti. His work started by helping communities in a local village before using his medical training to support people hit by disasters. 

Presently he is one among the world’s highest paid professionals and he charges fee in thousands per hour. He claimed that it varied from Rs 80,000 to Rs one lakh. Asked what prompted him to take up the philanthropy, he said, “I wanted to return something to my mother, who brought me into this world, and taught me how to give respect to the elders. Life is very short and I was seeing so many deaths.”

Nasti, who started his career as a successful and renowned rheumatologist in Chicago and London, made a brave career decision to become a rescue pilot and a disaster medical specialist.

Nasti is a well-known philanthropist and one of the major donors for various projects in Jammu and Kashmir. In the past, his charity organisations has donated a state-of-art intensive care unit to the bone and joints hospital, Srinagar which he dedicated to his late mother.

His vision is to support his homeland, especially the youth who are in need of a sound professional mentoring. “I dream a lot about Kashmir. I am hurt to see the instability here. Personally, I would have focused on economic stability, healthcare, education, setting up small industries for job creation, creating student exchange programme with various countries, promoting research programmes in various fields, revival of cultural heritage and much more.”

His work has been widely hailed by the world press when he served in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and in the Andaman Islands during the devastating Tsunami in 2004. He raised the slogan “Let’s build the world together again” and managed to involve people of different faiths and cultures in the relief operations.

Pleased with his dedication and commitment, the then Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan honoured him at a special function. He is consulted by a number of countries and noted humanitarian agencies across the globe for training and expertise and is already a consultant for various countries on economic sustainability programmes.

Now, Nasti is associated with the United Nations and is working on various development programmes around the world. “To work with the UN is an honour by itself. To be where I am at present was not so easy. Almighty Allah’s blessings and my hard work paid off,” he says. “I am now looking forward to focus on how I can be more productive through my skills to make a difference in the global development programmes,” he added.

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