Why I Am a Doctor

In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved

This was published on Inside Islam: Dialogues and Debates.

“So, you are going to become a doctor, right?” This question, I am quite certain, has been asked of scores of Muslim children by their parents all across this world. Does Islam, somehow, motivate Muslims to become physicians? Perhaps slightly, especially since the Qur’an says that saving a life is like saving all of humanity. But I think that is more of a “fringe benefit” than a major motivation for Muslims to become physicians.

Most importantly, when the Lord blesses a person with being a physician, He gives them the opportunity to do His work on earth: help relieve the suffering of His people. Each and every day, physicians are given the honor and privilege to help people feel better, breathe better, feel less pain, and – through the Lord’s healing power – treat and even cure disease. If smiling to one another – as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once said – is a charity, then how about helping someone’s asthma attack? Or helping someone overcome a cancer diagnosis? Or relieving the pain and suffering of someone afflicted with a terrible infection? For me, as a Muslim, being a doctor goes hand in hand with my mission in life: to help God’s people be better.

I did not deserve this honor, and so that’s why I am thankful for it each and every day. God blesses men and women in becoming doctors in two ways. First, and especially in the United States, most physicians are blessed with a good, stable, and well-paying occupation. Additionally, although it has been eroded significantly, most people have enormous respect for physicians and the difficult job they must do.

Has being a doctor ever conflicted with my religious belief? Never. In fact, I hang my religious faith, as I hang my coat, on my desk chair before I see any patient in the office or hospital. My job is to take care of my patients and do what is medically best for them. Period. My religion has never entered into the equation, and that is how I think it should be. I would never, God forbid, impose my own religious belief upon my patients. To me, I would betray my mandate as a physician if I were to do so.

Was Islam a factor for my becoming a doctor? No, not really. For me, there was absolutely no pressure from my parents to become a doctor. Ever since I was a young boy it has been my life dream to be a physician, and I am eternally grateful to the Lord for His granting me my dream to be a doctor. I help people and, in the process, do God’s work at the same time, without ever preaching or even mentioning God at all. What a tremendous gift, Lord, and I thank you so very much for it.


Not Fasting…And Miserable (With Update)

In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved Lord

This was published yesterday on my Beliefnet blog, Common Word, Common Lord

It is no secret that I have approached this year’s Ramadan fast with an enormous amount of dread. I worried about the hot weather, the long days, the difficulty of having to forgo the things I love to do – eat and drink – for an extended period of time. And as the month started, the fast was – admittedly – quite difficult. But, I did it anyway, because it is one of the things I do for my Lord.

Over the last six weeks, I have been battling a knee injury that I must have sustained while jogging. I suffered through the pain, thinking that it will eventually go away, especially since I am not exercising during Ramadan. The pain, however, did not get better. It has, in fact, gotten worse. So much so, that I went to the Emergency Department yesterday to get it evaluated. I could barely walk into the ED yesterday.

Thank God, everything checked out OK, but I was still in pain, and so – thank God – my Orthopedic Surgeon could see me right away. He injected my knee, which gave me some relief, and I got an MRI which showed some soft tissue inflammation. My surgeon told me that I have to rest and ice the knee as well as take round -the-clock anti-inflammatory medicines.

And this meant having to break my fast to take the medicine. I was hesitant at first, but I knew it was the right thing to do. And my family really pushed me to not fast as well, seeing that my health is of utmost importance (and they are right). And so, today I am not fasting, and I may not fast the next few days either, as I nurse the knee back to health.

You would think that, given all the dread I have about fasting in August, I would be happy to be able to drink and eat during the daylight hours, if even for a short time. You would think that I would be excited to have water and yogurt and maybe even coffee again. You would think that I would be happy that I am not fasting for these few days.

You would be totally wrong. I feel absolutely miserable.

Leave aside the fact that any sudden jolt, and my knee pain becomes excruciating. I feel terrible that I am not fasting. This is not because I have no right to break my fast or am ashamed at doing so. On the contrary, the Quran directs that I should not fast if my health commands that I do not. But, I still feel totally abnormal that I am not fasting.

Not because everyone around me is fasting, and I am not. My colleagues are almost all not Muslim, and so my eating and drinking would not be out of the ordinary at all. Some, many in fact, do not even know that this is Ramadan. Yet, still, I feel weird and uncomfortable. I feel totally out of my norm not fasting during Ramadan. It is almost like my soul is yearning again to fast, even though sunset is almost at 8 PM.

I am completely surprised by this feeling. Yet, I totally can’t help it. Yes, I get tired while fasting; yes, I get thirsty; yes, I feel sleepy, sometimes. But my soul is invigorated while I fast, and now that I am not fasting, I can totally feel the difference.

God willing, my knee will get better soon, and I can resume my fasts. And whatever days I miss, I will have to make up later (probably in the short days of winter!). Yet, still – in a strange sort of way – I miss fasting, even though it is still August. Even though I can’t eat or drink until late, when I fast, my soul basks in the light of God’s Grace and Mercy, and I don’t like not being able to feel that any more.

Update: I talked to my own doctor, and he gave me a different medicine that allows me to fast. It feels wonderful. Indeed, I am thirsty right now as I write this, and I am tired because I had to get up and eat something so I can take the medicine, but I still feel fantastic. There is something to this fasting, and it is truly awesome.