Dr Magda Amer obtained her PhD in Organic Chemical Analyses in her hometown of Cairo and mastered the science of alternative medicine, opening the first health shop and clinic for natural medicine in Egypt. For more than a decade, she has been working as a caller to Islam using English, French and Arabic.
(Timea Csányi): What made you interested in alternative medicine?
(Dr Magda Amer): Since my childhood, I have been trying to abstain from any medication. I lived in France for seven years after getting married and had my twins there with homeopathy and all kinds of alternative medicines surrounding me. However, being a housewife and a mother, I didn’t have the opportunity to study it. I just prayed to Allah to open this door for me in the future, because I was really fond of it.
The opportunity was given to me seven years after returning to Egypt. Some of my foreign friends and I, who were interested in natural medicines, invited teachers from the UK to give us intense courses at our expense. I studied homeopathy for five years, then for two years I prepared to teach it while learning other neuropathic sciences, such as reflexology, acupuncture, cupping, aromatherapy and herbal treatment. I received my certificate from London International College of Homeopathy and I am also a certified corporate trainer in Neurolinguistic Programming from the Canadian Center of Dr Ibrahim El Fiky.
While seeking knowledge, Allah opened another door allowing me to practice what I’ve learned. Thus, we used to go to small villages, spending the whole day treating patients. The results were incredible, leading me to become excited about natural medicines even more to the extent that I used to close the door on myself with my books to “experiment” and work out new practices. You can’t imagine how many things, for instance, cupping can be used for! Among them just some examples are healing serious problems like heart diseases, beautifying women’s faces from acne or even curing victims of spells.
So, I created my own gatherings where I transferred my knowledge without any charge to Muslims and non-Muslims, men and women equally, because, as they say, the best way to master a science is to teach it. In Cairo, I also studied “the other school” so to speak; I received my two Masters and then my PhD in biochemical analyses, but when it comes to healing, I only use natural medicines. How could I prescribe antibiotics to the patient while I myself wouldn’t use it? Now, I have my own pharmacy at home and I treat patients with self-made remedies.
(TC): Due to the dominance of the pharmaceutical industry in Egypt, I believe you had a hard time bringing alternative medicine into the country, didn’t you?
(MA): Indeed. I didn’t want to be a theoretical doctor who advises her patient, for instance, to change his/her lifestyle by eating whole-grain food, while I know well that such food is very expensive and hard to access. So, I opened the first waqf health shop in Cairo, offering all kinds of reasonably priced healthy food and remedies used in alternative medicine. After only a few months, it became very successful, alhamdulillah. Even the TV reported about it and I was a well-known doctor at that time. I don’t want to go into details, but then, 13 years ago, the government suddenly closed my clinic and banned me from practicing alternative medicines. Only my shop was left.
(TC): So, we can say that alternative medicine is on the blacklist in the Middle East…
(MA): Well, unfortunately, it is indeed hard to practice alternative medicine in the Middle East and, as I see, it will take a long time to reach the level of the West and Far East. For example, you can find centres in Saudi Arabia teaching alternative medicine, but its actual practice is banned. The only place allowing it is Dubai where you find the best clinics, including those of many of my students.
(TC): As a doctor and practitioner of alternative medicine, how does calling for Islam come into the picture?
(MA): I travelled to France at the age of twenty-two, living there for seven years due to my husband’s work. I wasn’t so religious at the time; let’s say my faith was in my heart. People around me were asking me lots of questions about Islam, which I couldn’t answer simply because I didn’t know how to talk about it with non-Muslims. Of course, I felt bad being unable to defend my religion but, at the same time, this encouraged me to read about Islam. One day, in the mosque I found a French lady praying beside me. She was a recent revert and eager to learn anything about Islam. Though I had very average knowledge, I started to teach her about the pillars, some short surahs of the Qur’an, etc. Then, she got married to a sheikh and travelled abroad. When she came back, she was wearing hijab and wanted me to put it on as well. “Anything else, just not the veil,” I told her, but she insisted. It was a huge battle with Satan, but I won at the end; I went back to Egypt wearing the veil.
It was a huge step in 1979 as only maybe maids and very old women were wearing hijab in Cairo then. My parents, who were from the high class, said they couldn’t accept me in the family and my husband asked for divorce. I was completely rejected, but alhamdulillah I had strong faith and didn’t want to displease Allah. Instead, I kept repeating “There is none worthy of worship except Allah.” My husband insisted on divorcing me and wanted to take my son. Then one day a car suddenly hit my son and he died. It was a huge calamity for me, but a turning point as well. We decided to stay together, but agreed that both of us enjoy complete freedom and live life in a way he/she desires. That’s when I started my “intense courses” on Islam. Between the ages of thirty to fifty-two, in addition to building up my career as a doctor, I obtained a BA in Shari’ah from Al-Azhar University. I used all my time making myself busy in every single second. I used to study hard while cooking or when the kids were playing in the club, while also working at ‘Ain Shams University Hospital a few hours daily. But I’ve always taken care of giving quality time for everything; for my husband, for my family, for my work and studies and for even the guests.
Today, I give lectures in a mosque of Cairo, I have a group of foreigner students to whom I teach tajweed and the science and interpretation of the Qur’an and I have a programme on International Nile TV.
(TC): What are you the most proud of in your da’wah career?
(MA): My books. They are the fruits of all I’ve done, dealing with issues like tolerance and etiquette in Islam or stress and positive thinking. There is a series, which I am the most proud of, highlighting the interpretation of Islamic teachings from the naturopathic perspective. It’s something people haven’t heard about before – a new way of calling to Islam if we can say so. The other book I worked hard on was about the system of Islamic inheritance which makes it easier for seekers of knowledge to understand. But, of course, without Allah, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve anything. I am very grateful to Him that He has always inspired and assisted me.
(TC): Having carried out great achievements, what do you advise for other seekers of knowledge?
If you want to master a science, teach it and never refer any success to yourself, because without Allah’s assistance, we’re lost. Just as the Qur’an advises, “And fear Allah. And Allah teaches you.” (Al-Baqarah:282) So, taqwa (God-consciousness) is the ultimate ingredient for success as anything we receive is from Allah. But it is not enough to seek knowledge. Real knowledge also means implementing what we’ve learned and being a role model for others.
Timea Aya Csányi is a reverted sister from Hungary living in Egypt with her husband. She works at Onislam.net as counseling editor of the family section; she is a freelance writer & art journalist in Hungarian and English, and an active blogger. You can contact her through her blog: magyarlanykairoban.wordpress.com