Hisham Krayem

Hanan Dover | PsychCentral, Mission of Hope & a few taboos.

Hanan Dover |Founder of PychCentral

In 1882, a small group of Italian men left Roseto Valfortore and set their eyes towards New York. The village they settled in remained relatively unknown until 1961, when a physician caught eye of a strange fact: People in this village had far fewer heart attacks than the normal population. After rigorous analysis of their diet, genetics and more, nothing could explain their health other than one key factor: community wellness.

The idea of measuring wellness in terms of community was a breakthrough. Many saw it with scepticism and many outright rejected it. Yet with the rise of mental health awareness today, our ears are far more open to listening. A community activist and clinical psychologist, Hanan Dover combines this concept of community and individual wellbeing in a powerful way.

Hanan initially caught interest of psychology as a teenager watching Oprah. Witnessing the power and impact that psychologists on the show had, just by changing people’s perspectives, Hanan knew exactly what she wanted to do. Looking around the Muslim community and the clear dysfunctions, stigmas and superstitions that existed, her journey was community oriented from the get-go.

Despite pure intentions and a passion to make a difference, a young Hanan was constantly met with backlash. As an undergraduate, Hanan would have to hear the well-known Muslim adages; “psychology is a haram field”, “there’s no point”, “people just need to pray more”. Lack of Mental wellness was little more than a talking point for how spiritually poor an individual was, or the punishment they were receiving from God. But it was abundantly clear that people were still suffering and that these explanations were simply not helping.

Hanan set out to change this. Alongside her studies, she went back and forth to multiple Muslim community organisations with one aim: placing Muslim mental health on the agenda. As we sit with Hanan on the Transit Lounge, she describes her thought process after being rejected time and time again: “If no organisation invites you in, you build your own house”. Now the founder of Mission of Hope, PsychCentral and the Vice President of the International Association of Muslim Psychologists, it’s clear that Hanan built several of these ‘houses’.

Central to these organisations is a focus on community health and wellbeing. There is no health problem that is too taboo for discussion. Like the town of Roseto, Hanan moves away from diagnosing problems based on individual actions, and toward analysing lifestyles, nutrition, community and more.

On episode 8 of the Transit lounge, we delve more into the deeper spiritual forces at play which motivate Hanan and try understanding how she plays the role of mother, psychologist and community leader, all the whilst having 5 degrees under her belt!

Listen to this episode & more of The Transit Lounge Podcast wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts & Google Podcasts.

Naz Shah | From Poverty to British Parliament

Naz Shah’s Story

The streets of the UK buzz with cars, laughter and excitement. From the outset, life goes on and everything seems normal. In a small household in Bradford West, however, things are far from normal. A confused 6-year-old Naz Shah sits contemplating the events that had just unfolded. Events which she would only later fathom the full extent of – Naz’s father had abandoned her family.

Living with a pregnant mother who could barely speak English and a younger brother less than 3 years old, Naz’s family found itself in an impossible situation. In pursuit of stability, her mother commissioned a neighbour, Azam, to secure a mortgage with the jewellery she had sold. Although supposedly religious-conservative, Azam raped her. And the abuse went on and on, taking many forms and wrapped in much manipulation, until a tipping point. Naz’s mother killed her abuser.

At this point, Naz went from being a teenage daughter to acting as a mother not only to her siblings, but in her words, a mother to her imprisoned mother. Her time was stretched between working odd jobs like packing crisps, campaigning with activist groups about her mother’s unjust sentence, visiting her mother in prison and dealing with her own abusive husband.

Whilst initially these circumstances brewed anger, hatred and an attempted suicide, eventually Naz steered her life elsewhere. Harnessing a deep strength, perhaps drawn from her mother, Naz said she had learnt to feel gratitude. So much was wrong in her life, but “there were others who had it much worse”. Of course, there was still a burning fire for justice which drove Naz to advocate for many oppressed minorities – but this now sprung from a philosophy of niyyah (intention) which we only discover later.

Her journey to politics was an unlikely but fascinating one. Bradford West faced many problems – a corrupt Baradari politics system, a harmfully patriarchal community, rampant Islamophobia and much more. The story of how Naz Shah went from the woman jumping from squalor to squalor, to the woman who would defeat George Galloway in Bradford West’s election, involves a great many fascinating details. It includes her losing a job over whistleblowing, self-representing an impossible legal case (and winning) and eventually crossing paths with an unlikely advisor. Join us on episode 5 of the Transit Lounge – as we unpack the incredible set of events that has made Naz the woman she is now.

Listen to this episode & more of The Transit Lounge Podcast wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts & Google Podcasts.

Mufti Ismail Menk | Struggles of a Worldwide Mufti

Mufti Menk talks about his struggles

There is a popular perception out there that the shaykhs and the mufti’s have it easy. In between the local masjid, the library and classroom, the question pokes at one’s mind – how hard could their life be?

We pose this question to Mufti Menk – a familiar name in any Muslim household in the 21st century – and for good reason. Having been on the ‘Top 500 Influential Muslims’ List 6 years in a row, Ismail Menk is in a good position to shed some light on this issue.

Although his life has been clear of nightclubs, smoking and even the cinemas, the Mufti’s wide reach means he is familiar with how things work on the ground. From the multicultural understandings of a Christian high school to the intimate moral discipline of Indian Madrasa and the unique University scene in Saudi Arabia, the Mufti has reaped rich ways of thinking from multiple institutions.

On the Transit Lounge – a podcast from Toledo Society- we sit with Mufti Menk to beyond his rich intellectual journey. What is it that makes the Mufti so sought after and relatable to Muslims across the globe? As we push further – we notice the Mufti’s life has been no easy journey. In that hardship, there is a wisdom that emerges from lived experience. The Mufti works occasionally at a family business, had felt quite isolated in his distance studying abroad, and has been through a difficult divorce in his life.

Divorce is a particularly intimate, real and raw reality. There are no ways of escaping its grief and regret and it is rare to find a heart at ease following one. As was the case with the Mufti – with a divorce after having 2 kids, there is frustration, animosity and uncertainty. Only after long years, as we learn from the Mufti, do one’s eyes begin to start seeing. Allah had a plan and its wisdom often shows only after a long time. In the case of the Mufti’s divorce, this translates into a contentment and maturity, as he thanks his divorcee for her goodness and raising their kids well.

With the emotional maturity and wisdom arising out of the struggles of the Mufti, his popularity becomes all the more understandable.

In the episode we pick the mind of Mufti Menk and uncover more about what made Ismail Menk who he is today as we trace his struggles, upbringing, intellectual life and some interesting experiences!

Listen to this episode & more of The Transit Lounge Podcast wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts & Google Podcasts.

Episode 1: 7 Stories – An Unexpected Adventure!

On episode 1 of 7 stories, Ayaa and Sammy fly to London to visit their families. Upon arriving in transit to Istanbul, Ayaa and Sammy’s family discover that their flight has been cancelled. So their trip takes an unexpected turn, where they spend their day discovering Istanbul instead, eating amazing food, visiting beautiful masjids and meeting new faces. Join Ayaa and Sammy for an episode filled with fun, prayer, adventure and excitement.

Listen of Apple Podcasts – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/7-stories/id1438674349?mt=2

Episode 3: Muslim Engagement & The White House – Dalia Mogahed

There are few Muslims who can say they had a seat at the President’s table, and Dalia Mogahed is one of those rare few. An Egyptian American at the forefront of Muslim Activism for over a decade, Dalia’s journey has seen her lecturing at colleges, training law enforcement and eventually, advising the Obama Administration. We trace Dalia’s life from a normal Egyptian American childhood to the banality of corporate life up until an event that radically changed the fabric of American society: 9/11. We dig deeper to uncover an inspiring mix of spirituality, hope, desperation and wisdom that drives Dalia to navigate the perplexing maze that is the life of an American Muslim.

Episode 1: Georgetown’s Unlikely Scholar of Islam – Prof. John Esposito

Professor John Esposito took on a master’s program and later a PhD – specialising in a strange and unpopular subfield of a subfield – Islam. To contextualise, during the 1960s, Islam wasn’t a hot-button topic like it is now.

Prof. Esposito talks with host Mohamad Zaoud about his unlikely journey to become Gerogetown University’s Scholar of Islam. He shares his formula for success, how his upbringing helped shaped his mindset, and delivers a powerful & pragmatic message to the next generation of Muslims.

One thing that can’t go unnoticed is Prof. John Esposito’s sense of humour. It makes for a great conversation and is guaranteed to keep you engaged the entire way through. Listen away and let us know what you think!