Between Dusk and Dawn…

Some *scribble* *scribble* by Ameera

Monthly Archives: October 2008

The Medical Student & Her Family

“Don’t get too close!”
“Take your bag away!”
“Yuck, yuck… go take a dip in Dettol first!”

These are some of the reactions a medical student receives from his/her loving family on returning home.

It’s been almost a year now since I started clinical postings and from day one, I (and certainly my family) have started seeing my college stuff as extensions of the hospital. My college bag, lab coats, my own clothes – nothing has been spared.

Before you become all sympathetic towards me and rush in with handkerchiefs, I must make some confessions! The hospitals associated with my medical college are both government-run and are perfect representatives of the typical third-world country health care system (did I say system?). The concept of hygiene is a deeply muddled one… you might find sweepers ‘sweeping’… but don’t ask me the color of the sweep-water, much less it’s odor and constituents. In many wards, you’ll find maintenance to be so poor that apart from insects and such infesting the bedding, you’ll see a sizeable population of cats of all ages. There’s also the occassional rat scurrying away with bread from the patient’s lunch tray (I saw this myself!). I could go on and on…

You’re wondering HOW a hospital could possibly be that dirty? Wouldn’t that be completely opposite to what a hospital stands for – hygiene, health, healing? No doctor would approve of what’s going on but then, with a general lack of funds and more importantly, misuse of what we have, it seems to beyond anyone’s reach to fix things. People who visit these hospital are generally from the lower-middle class and even poorer, so they are not well aware of what counts as ‘clean’ and what counts as ‘dirty’. Chewing betel nuts and all sorts of addictive rubbish that’s sold in the markets, they spit wherever they like. That’s why, you’ll see every wall, footpath, staircase landing spattered with red marks – where do you start working when the people are spitting everywhere and no one’s bothered to check the sale of such garbage?

Coming back to the point – the public hospitals are no where close to the acceptable level of ‘clean’. If that wasn’t enough to warrant the exile of my college stuff from the general areas of the house, there’s also the fact that I mingle with the patients. As a medical student, or a doctor, conducting examinations of the patient is one of the main things we learn. An examination of the abdomen or the chest will, of course, involve contact too. Palpating the patient’s abdomen to examine the liver, spleen or percussing the chest wall to check for resonance are routine procedures. There’s also the General Physical Examination which includes everything from checking the patient’s hair, to checking out the state of his oral cavity and even – something my sisters thoroughly dislike hearing of – palpating for the patient’s lymph nodes… even those in the armpits!

See, after all that, even you could agree with my family. I don’t blame you!  I’m the medical student in question and with all due respect to my profession and the patients I must take care of, the  lack of hygiene even makes me take extra precautions with my things. My hospital clothes, lab coat, watch, stethoscope – once I return home – find themsevles shoved into a corner  untill the next day. I find this to be the best I can do. What was that you said?  No, I CANNOT take  Dettol dips everyday!

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Is she a disgrace?

This writer has made some very valid points in his article, “Is she a disgrace?” in ArabNews, a very popular English-language paper in the Middle East. Having gorwn up in Saudi Arabia, I could relate to what he’s saying about the Saudi family when seen in public. 

Saudi society, I know well, cannot be considered as one single unit when it comes to social problems. I wouldn’t generalize anything but from what I’ve seen, there are very strange contradictions in their social fabric. You’ll see really good practices and customs and then you’ll see things which will make you wonder if they have any basis in Islam. Indeed, many of the strange customs you might see in Saudi Arabia have very little to do with Islam. The writer of the article too has raised the same point.

A misplaced display of chivalry and misdirected obsessions characterize many Saudi men when it comes to dealing with their wives, sisters and daughters. I’m not seeing these from an ultra-liberal “I-hate-the-abaya” point of view. Rather, it’s about using the name of Islam for all sorts of silly activities that I really dislike in Saudi society. And the reason I dislike is that I really love the Saudi people, who’ve been my family for twenty years… it hurts to see them waging such silent wars within their own community.

As with many societies, there are double-standards when applying rules to men and women. Everyone will agree the woman should be covered from head to toe, hobbling around trying to make herself invisible, but few will point out to the men that they have roles to play too. Rules of morality and chastity were not made for women purely. And thus, when it comes to women, it has been drilled into the minds of the men that the women should be “handled with care”. They’d rather stay a few feet away from her to escape any potential “evil” that she may bring upon herself or him. For him, a wife, a sister or daughter  isn’t a loved and cherished member of the family but someone to guard and be perpetually worried about. If that had been the case in Islam, we’d  never read about  the exceptional and beautiful relationships that the Prophet(pbuh) of Allah had with his esteemed wives.

The Qur’an emphasizes the essential unity of men and women in a most beautiful simile:

“They (your wives) are your garment and you are a garment for them.” (Surah Baqarah 2: Verse 187)

What are the attributes/uses of a garment? A garment…

  • protects you
  • covers you (your faults)
  • beautifies you
  • defines you

Now, isn’t that something to think about?

Time for a U-turn

The Prophet(pbuh) said, “The one who holds Allah in remembrance as compared to one who does not, is like a living man as compared to one who has died.” (Sahih Bukhari)

Ever felt like you’re missing something? Like you need to be somewhere while you’re busy wasting time some place else? Ever felt like you’re on the wrong road and you need to take a U-turn quickly, back to the crossroads?

It’s cliche but our lives can very rightly be compared to a long stretch of road – a highway. No road is perfectly smooth all the way, there are good bits and there are bumps too. Sometimes, there are portions of uncarpeted road that really shake you up. It’s easy to grumble whenever you hit a bump in the road but to derive a real meaning from it is the difficult part. What did that have to do with wasting time, “missing” something, feeling unsure about yourself? There’s a very simple connection really.

For a few days now, I’ve been feeling very restless, often slightly sad. When I wake up in the morning, I’m not as cheerful as I was earlier. I go through my day like a machine – college, hospital, college, home, meals, sleep. Even bedtime has suddenly become very strange – it’s like I’ve stopped feeling any emotion. The reason for such distress is obvious – I’ve stopped making active effort to remember Allah. I’ll hum to myself but I won’t do Dhikr. I’ll yawn off to sleep but I won’t remember Allah as I should. Most of all, I’m not thinking deeply about anything at all – like the foam on the sea, I float on the surface, not satisfying my soul’s desire to reflect on my passing time.

I feel so guilty now at having done what I did that repenting and returning suddenly seems so difficult. How many times have you been through this yourself? The truth is, we’re all on the same road and we experience such trying times at different points. Yesterday, I felt my Iman growing strong and today, I can’t look myself in the mirror for having sunk so low in my own eyes.

What can be done now? Should I continue on the wrong path or take a U-turn? Where are the directions? Will Allah accept my late return? Will my Iman grow strong again?

“Say: O Ibadi (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Do not despair of the Mercy of Allah: verily, Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Surah Zumar 39: Verse 53)

This ayah gave me confidence and renewed my faith in the guidance of Allah through His Words. It taught me that whatever thoughts of “It’s too late now, I won’t be accepted in Allah’s Mercy again, might as well go on in this miserable existence” come to our mind are from Shaitan and reality is indeed very optimistic.

Now, is that enough? Should we simply stop after that ayah or is there a need to take practical steps to avoid another slip? And how will I climb the Iman ladder now that I’ve found it Alhamdolillah? The next ayah answers that directly.

“And turn in repentance and obedience with true Faith to your Lord and submit to Him before the torment comes upon you, then you will not be helped. And follow the best of that which is sent down to you from your Lord, before the torment comes on you suddenly, while you perceive not.” (Surah Zumar 39: Verses 54-55)

So, feeling sad or restless with one’s declining Iman is a mercy – a chance to change our lives and be reborn from the ashes. The bump in the road is not always a low-point.  For now, I need to go work to regain what I’ve lost, InshAllah. I’ll share  my experiences here InshAllah so that when you hit that road bump, you know exactly where you are and where you need to be. A Muslim’s life is not a deserted highway, Alhamdolillah!

After Sunset


Sometimes, the best pictures are waiting right outside your bedroom window. Sounds silly but it’s true – I looked out my bedroom window one evening and saw this spectacular scene MashAllah.

All About Stories…

I checked my email today and was pleasantly surprised (nay, shocked) to see an email informing me I’d won the third prize in Muslim Matters‘ short story contest that was held in Ramadan this year. Yes, you can imagine my shock! Alhamdolillah!

Once I got over the initial surprise, I was faced with the knowledge that my story would now be posted up on the website for everyone to read – everyone! The story had to be a real incident, inspiring, with Ramadan as the theme. One evening in Ramadan, after Iftar, I wrote a short piece about my own life before really knowing Islam and sent it in. Now, why am I slightly uneasy about everyone reading it?

That’s because it’s always weird to write about yourself and then to post it up for the whole world to read!

Now, my sister wants to know what I’ve written. I’m sure that’s even more difficult to imagine – I’m hoping she’ll forget all about it by tomorrow morning. Siblings know you inside-out, so well… it’s difficult for them to take an objective stand – they’d rather just laugh at you! 🙂

I’m hoping this little incident will buoy me sufficiently to carry ahead with a fledgling idea that I had – to write short stories for children/young adults from an Islamic aspect. I’m not referring to those bedtime “moral” stories but simple stuff you could pick up and enjoy. without worrying about unIslamic stuff coming in between. Stories, imagination shape the personality… I want to write something that enables people to imagine scenarios where Islam is being simply implemented. It might be the story of a small household struggling to raise ten kids (heheh) decently, with Islamic principles. Or, real-life school incidents with exam tensions, bullying, peer-pressure… all with practical, do-able solutions. Sounds like a truck-load but there’s a great big vaccum in this corner of Islamic literature – kids and us “growing-ups” have wild imaginations, inspirations that need good guidance in a language we understand easily.

Enough story-telling for today.

Assalam-o-alaikum!

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