Posted by: Dee | 30/04/2012

2*10 + 3

Before my niece was born, whenever I came across the verses in the Qur’an where Allah (swt) mentions that chidren are a trial to their parents, I didn’t contemplate. Eight months ago and counting, I went from contemplating to seeing it in action. For example, I’ve experienced how I can be holding my niece with her big, innocent eyes catching mine and her smile touching the deepest places in my heart, and be literally unable to let go of her and pray. (I recently tried to resist this temptation by looking her in the eyes and saying “I love you, but I love Allah more,” then planting a kiss on her forehead and getting up. Or I would simply take her with me and lay her on my bed while I finish praying.) Mind you, I’m not even her mother.

The point is, at times, as a mother, you’ll find yourself putting your children before Allah’s commandments and making sacrifices for them that you’re unlikely to do for the sake of pleasing Allah (e.g. waking up in the middle of the night or staying up all night). If you find yourself missing prayers more often, neglecting your well-being, and generally feeling distanced from God, know that the love meter is probably pointing in the wrong direction and it’s time to organize your priorities.

Using Yasmin Mogahed’s analogy, your children are a gift from Allah. Loving them more than Allah is like loving a gift watch from your spouse more than your spouse. It’s inconceivable; yet we do it with Allah, all the time because every blessing we have is a gift from Him that can be taken away from us anytime, especially if we aren’t grateful and thankful.

The next time you find yourself in this dilemma, remember to repeat this statement: “I love you, but I love Allah more.” Replace “you” with a name or pronoun. The more you repeat it, the more it will feel true until it becomes true, until you love your children in a way that brings you closer to Allah rather than take you away from Him. It might work, you never know!

I am writing this after a great experience I had, thanks to Susu and Beebo, aged 3 and 6. Thinking of them and how sad they were to see me go after a game of hide-and-seek, I lost concentration during a recitation of the Holy Qur’an. And I don’t even know their parents. It’s kind of scary, the effect kids have on adults.

P.S. The title of this post is how I explained to Susu my age in relation to hers using both my hands, not that she understood 🙂

Posted by: Dee | 23/04/2012

The Room

Take a good look at these people, dear. I’m afraid the path you’re taking will lead you here soon.

These were my nephrologist’s words on the few occasions he walked me over to the HD room after my blood results wiped the smile off his face. But I always said, “No, no, don’t worry. Won’t happen. I’m feeling great.” That was my problem. I was feeling great even when my kidneys were screaming for help. I was letting them get hurt.

Less than a year later, I had joined the club. It was early Ramadan, and I remember waiting for Muhammad Al-Awadhi’s program to start on Al-Rai TV, after which my family broke their fast in my room, almost everyday. I think I learned a great lesson in patience during those times, for it took about five hours from start to finish, and I could only afford to make small movements so as not to upset the machine. This was a big challenge for someone as active as I am, but with the occasional conversations with the nurses, afternoon naps, doctors’ visits, reading, and moments of silent reflection, time passed. Many times in my head I imagined pulling out the wires and escaping this place.

But as with anything painful or unpleasant in this world, it would always be over just when I felt it would never end.

Posted by: Dee | 19/04/2012

Med school

On this day last year I was in Doha interviewing for the Pre-Medical program at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q), one of several prestigious universities conveniently located in Education City. Being a branch campus of America’s Cornell, it’s ridiculously expensive. So a decent financial aid offer followed by an academic scholarship in my second year was what I hoped for.

I was afraid my nervousness would fail me at demonstrating my passion for medicine well, but the ice-breaker helped a lot. Sitting at a roundtable with another interviewee from Bahrain, the Admissions Director, and pre-medical student from my home country who grew up in Qatar, we started off by introducing ourselves, discussing campus life, and making light conversation. Then we were each taken to start our three scheduled interviews, after a tour of the state-of-the-art building.

My first interview was with a Maths professor who sensed my passion and felt I would have no problem with the pre-medical program since I already hold a Bachelor’s degree and have taken a Statistics course in particular. He asked me a few questions about my resume and personal essay, a probability problem to test my knowledge, and gave me a website to revise Calculus from, so that made me quite relaxed. Two to go.

My second interviewer was a Biology professor who after asking me a few questions got carried away describing his various research projects which I could be a part of! They had something to do with RNA and earthworms. He also showed me a sample exam, which seemed challenging, in contrast to the relatively easy exams I took at university. I was hooked.

We talked for an hour and would’ve went on had I not been picked up by the Admissions coordinator for lunch with a bunch of pre-med students. Turns out I had missed my next interview so they quickly managed to set up one with a final-year medical student. She was busy studying for her USMLE (U.S. Medical Licensing) exams and planned to specialize in Internal Medicine. Her questions revolved around my ability to handle the rigor of the 6-year program, drawing on my academic record and extracurricular activities. She also asked me how I felt about studying alongside younger students (they had come straight out of high school). She also noted that she’d rather do four more years of medical school than go through the pre-medical program again; it was that intense. I was in love by now.

All in all, I left there pleased and relieved. I called my dad to pick me up, snapped a picture with the sign in the background, and we headed to the hotel to grab our luggage and head to the airport.

I was accepted into the Pre-Medical program, but I received no financial aid. At that second, I wished I were Qatari; the government fully sponsors their education at Cornell. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed as I reluctantly rejected the offer, but I was glad I had reached this step. I proved to myself that I was medical school material. Touring the building with Ahmed, the pre-medical student who had volunteered his morning to be with us, I felt a sense of belonging. In fact, I felt like I had never been to university before.

Posted by: Dee | 19/04/2012

A day ruined

Sleeping in, a flat tyre, a minor accident, or time spent looking for your car key are all common occurrences that can ruin one’s mood at the start of the day. But nothing dampens my spirit like missing fajr prayer.

When I wake up to the sound of birds chirping and dreadfully turn my head to my bedroom window to the realization that the sun has risen before me, many thoughts race through my head as I desperately seek forgiveness:

  • The angels informed Allah, the All-Knowing, the Master of all masters, that they found His slave sound asleep;
  • All three knots Satan put at the back of my head are still tied*;
  • If it’s Monday or Thursday, when our deeds are presented to Allah, I screwed up by missing a prayer;
  • I must be committing a sin that is keeping me from this khair (good); 
  • There will be no baraka (blessing) in my day.

I also remind myself that if I had a plane to catch, an exam to take, a job interview to go to, or a meeting to attend, my internal state of alertness will awaken me even before the alarm goes off. And fajr prayer outweighs all that. It outweighs any worldly pursuit. In fact, the two rak’aat (prayer units) of fajr (this is the sunnah prayed before the fard but we use fajr to refer to the fard prayer–the correct term is subh) are better than this entire world, as Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) tells us. Yet time and time again we forget its importance, mainly by staying up late or not even making the intention of getting up to pray.

I know that over the course of one’s lifetime we are bound to miss fajr and other prayers because as humans we err and repent, but I’d rather be harsh on myself (nafs) and hold it accountable in this dunya to reform it before it’s held accountable on the day the scales are weighed. May Allah forgive us, for we have so much that needs forgiving.

*Abu-Huraira narrated that Prophet (SAWS) said: “Satan puts three knots at the back of the head of any of you if he is asleep. On every knot he reads and exhales the following words, ‘The night is long, so stay asleep.’ When one wakes up and remembers Allah, one knot is undone; and when one performs ablution, the second knot is undone, and when one prays the third knot is undone and one gets up energetic with a good heart in the morning; otherwise one gets up lazy and with a mischievous heart.” (Sahih al-Bukhary, The Book of the Night Prayer, Hadith No.1150)

Posted by: Dee | 18/04/2012

Reflecting on death

A few months ago, I spent a day at the cemetery. I had never been there before. My friend’s mum had passed away after a long battle with cancer. Our stay took longer than expected because we were waiting for the ambulance to bring her. We waited in a room right next to where the departed are washed and shrouded, and I couldn’t help but wonder which one of us would be carried next to this cold, heart-wrenching place. When the door opened occasionally, I would take a peek inside, curious to know what this room looked like. All it consisted of were curtains hiding elevated, flat tables. The strong smell of camphor penetrated my whole body.

When two washers, one of them pregnant, went for a lunch break in the afternoon I thought to myself “How can they have the appetite to eat after spending time with a lifeless body? Why aren’t they crying their eyes off?” This is what they did for a living. And they talked about it as if it were a simple undertaking—”It’s been a busy day…we washed a kid’s body this morning.” I thought they must be the most pious people on earth because they witness death everyday.

As I stood outside and looked at the graveyard in the distance I felt how near death is. How a person can be with you then without you in a matter of seconds, minutes, hours. In the place where the dead outnumber the living, I truly felt how worthless this dunya is, how stupid people are to vigorously seek money, status, and power, and how heedless we are to be more concerned about our homes on this earth than our final dwelling—under the ground I was standing on. I hoped everyone around me was in a garden of paradise. Perhaps we do need a trip to the cemetery from time to time to put things into perspective.

Posted by: Dee | 17/04/2012

Appreciate your scars

Maybe our old wounds teach us something. They remind us where we’ve been and what we’ve overcome. They teach us lessons about what to avoid in the future.”

Meredith Grey hit the nail on the head, for that’s exactly how I feel about my (two) scars, and more:

I love my scars because they remind me of my imperfections, which is humbling. I love my scars because they taught me how to patiently persevere. I love my scars because I love me and they are a part of me. I love my scars because when I’m too lazy to pop my pills, they keep my procrastination tendencies in check. I love them because they resulted from surgery and surgery rocks (especially in the fictional world of Grey’s Anatomy)! I love my scars because they occurred under the near-magical effect of an intravenously (IV) administered cocktail of anesthetic drugs, the greatest medical breakthrough, in my opinion. (Note: General anesthesia acts so quickly that there’s no time to even consider counting down, let alone do it, like TV drama misleadingly shows us!)

So, learn to appreciate your scars, whether they’re physically present or not. Don’t despise them. Love them and they will teach you great lessons everytime you see them with your eyes or heart.

Posted by: Dee | 16/04/2012


Okay, so a while ago I discovered my cool (pointless?) ability to memorize and quickly retrieve 4-digit and often 5-digit numbers (I tend to forget them with lack of use). But this number is an exception. This number changed my life in a matter of minutes. And it will continue to matter for the rest of my life.

1372 was, ahem, my serum creatinine level (creatinine is a waste product; its level indicates how well your kidneys are working to purify your blood) on the morning of August 15, 2010. And in case you’re not familiar with lab values, this was over 10 times higher than normal. My dad’s reaction was hilarious. When I asked him at the nurses’ station if the result was out, he went “Yeah, your creatinine is just slightly high.” Seriously? Haha.

Soon, I was hooked up to a machine and started on hemodialysis. This would serve as my artificial kidney for the next six months. But that’s a different story altogether.

The point is, today my creatinine stands at around 130, al-hamdulillah. And I can’t be happier or more grateful that God has given me a second chance to make it right. To look after all those wonderful organs that work around the clock behind the scenes. To learn, after a decade of non-compliance, to tie the camel then trust my affairs to Allah (tawakkul)*. After all, this body we constantly abuse, may God forgive us, isn’t really ours; to Allah we belong and to Him we shall return.

*In reference to Prophet Muhammad’s saying in which he (PBUH) tells a bedouin who wanted to leave his camel untied, thinking this meant absolute trust in Allah, that he must first tie his camel.

Posted by: Dee | 16/04/2012


A retreat I recently attended has seemingly awakened the amateur writer inside me. There’s a great chance I’ll regret it down the road, when juggling work, family engagements, and miscellaneous tasks becomes challenging, at which point I’ll be too committed to let go (as usual). So, at the peak of my excitement over this, fueled by 20-odd likes of my Facebook status announcing my decision to start a blog, I’m letting myself get attached. Enjoy the ride!