Monday, 8 November 2010

She who never disappoints

One might find it hard to believe that despite being a working mother, she made at least 4 trips (as far as I can remember) from Kuala Lumpur to the United Kingdom within less than a year. And no, the government doesn't pay her for the travel expenses, it all came from her own.

Just when everyone at home were making plans for the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr celebration, she decided to skip the year's occasion, just so that her son can cherish the holy celebration with her, in the foreign land of the UK. So that she could make him her own version of lemangs, rendang and kuah kacang that her son has been sorely missing for so long.

I remembered telling myself a few years ago that when I grow up, have my own job and a secured life, I want to look after my mom. I want to give her the love and care she deserves, like the times when she took care of me ever since I was a small kid. Yet, Allah certainly has His own plans.

26 years has passed on, a grown-up adult I may be now, yet I am still reliant on my mom just like during the times when I was a little child. Suffering from cancer has made me feel just like a baby yet again, given the amount of care my mom puts on me.

When my itchiness gets unbearable, mom will always be there to apply some cream and scratch on my back just so to provide some relief.

When I feel unwell and tired, mom would sit next to me, placing her tender hands on my forehead, her body language telling me that things will be alright.

When my coughs get so violent that I get really frustrated and despaired, mom just approaches, providing that hug I badly needed to keep me strong.

And the list goes on.

Whenever mom has to go out of KL for work purposes, I would usually come along. I would either be her driver, or accompany her on the plane. If the travel is by plane, mom would take the hassle to buy an extra ticket. Over the last few months, we've made those journeys together to quite a number of places in the country; Langkawi, Kuantan, Seremban, Melaka and Genting Highlands, to name a few.

I would come along whenever mom is away solely because mom is the best person to look after this 26-year old 'boy'. She knows what foods are best for me, my do's and dont's, and what to do whenever I have my so-called 'difficult times'. In a way, I am kind of looking forward to our next trip together, waiting for my mom to announce her next work out of Kuala Lumpur.

Sometimes I wonder where mom gets the energy, patience and strength to persevere in looking after me. Ask anyone looking after a cancer patient and you'll understand why. Mom would also make sure that she never puts up an angry face in front of me, keeping check of my emotions. She understands how pivotal it is for a cancer patient not to get entangled into a lot of stress and anger.

Sometimes my mom would joked, calling me her 'big baby' whilst chatting with friends or family members. Rather than finding that humiliating, I would concur with her, as I definitely feel pampered like one. I always wonder day and night, how will I survive without my dearest mom. I will always tell myself that I have Allah and He alone is all-Sufficient. But I will also pray that Allah grants my parents good health, and the ability to remain strong in putting up with this 'big baby'.

I'm not exactly sure why I have penned this thoughts down, but I just feel the strong urge to show my deepest appreciation to my mom. My guardian. The one person in life I know will never disappoint. The one person I know who will always provide me with that unconditional love, through the thick and thin. To everyone out there, love your mom and NEVER ever break their heart. Tell them, in your own way, that you love them and that you will never trade your mom with anything in this entire world.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

My 5 minutes with Dato' Haron Din

Ever since my return home from the United Kingdom back in early February 2010, a lot of friends and acquaintances have been recommending all sorts of alternative treatments for my condition. It amazes me upon hearing the plethora of possible treatments other than the conventional ones (ie chemo, radiotherapy and surgery) that are available out there for cancer patients to consider from. Some have strong evidences to work against cancer based on people's testimonies while other treatments' efficacy are based purely on hearsay. From herbal supplements to Ayurvedic treatment, the list just goes on and on. Nevertheless, one advise that we receive rather quite often from concerned friends and family members is to consider Shifa' treatment, practiced by our very own renown scholar, Dato' Haron Din.

Dato' Haron Din, the founder of Darussyifa'

In essence, Shifa' treatment centers upon the usage of specific verses in the holy Quran to treat specific ailments suffered by the patients. The use of Quranic verses in curing diseases is certainly not unfamiliar or unheard of especially among the Muslims, who believe strongly in its healing powers. As has been stated by Allah in his Holy Book,

"We sent down in the al-Quran that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe, to the unjust it causes nothing but loss after loss." [Al-Isra':82]

The headquarter of Darussyifa' is located in Bangi, Selangor, which is roughly a 20 minutes drive away from where I live in Sri Petaling (given that the traffic is clear). It also has numerous branches all over the country, Sabah and Sarawak included, with a huge numbers of practitioners, most of which are students of Dato' Haron Din. The clinic in Bangi is open throughout the week except for Monday, when Dato' Haron Din conducts classes for his students. Nevertheless, most of the patients would visit the clinic on Tuesday morning, as that is Dato' Haron Din's only session throughout the week.

The main centre of Darussyifa in Bangi, Selangor.

About a month ago, alhamdulillah, I had the opportunity to attend Dato' Haron Din's clinic session and was treated personally by the person himself. The atmosphere inside the clinic on a Tuesday morning will always be in stark difference to any other day of the week. On a normal day, the centre is rarely hectic and it doesn't take long for patients to be seen by a practitioner. However, on a Tuesday morning, the centre becomes packed with people filling every spaces available inside the building. The number of patients seen within that one particular session would rise from what is usually less than a hundred people on a normal day to a staggering 200 patients! Even though the clinic session only starts at 7 o'clock in the morning, patients would come to the centre as early as 4 or 5am to get their appointment numbers. My point is, everyone wants to be seen personally by Dato' Haron Din wherever possible!

I came to the centre around 8am with my mom and Jep, and we got the ticket numbered 137. Given the sheer number of patients for that morning session, we had to wait for more than 3 hours before our number was called. The waiting definitely felt forever, but none of us felt like complaining when we entered into the treatment room and witnessed what we saw. Inside the treatment room, we could see two other patients were being treated by Dato' Haron Din, and we couldn't help but admire at the sheer strength, patience and enthusiasm shown by this 70-year old scholar. There was hardly any break in between seeing patients, and some treatment also require quite a lot of effort from Dato' Haron Din as he pats on the patient's back, or presses on the person's abdomen, for instance. We really didn't have a clue as to where does he get the stamina and energy to see 200-odd patients within just a morning session and not being affected by it. What made it even more amazing was the fact that Dato' Haron Din had only just returned from the United States less than a month before for a heart operation. SubhanAllah. I guess it's true when they say,

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

When my turn came, I sat down right in front of Dato' Haron Din, as he read a small note containing the details of my ailment that I had filled in beforehand. I wrote in the note that I suffer from Hodgkin's disease since December 2008, had numerous chemotherapies throughout the year of 2009 but the cancer recurred in January 2010. That was all that I wrote. Having read my note, Dato' Haron Din almost instantly started his treatment by putting his hand on to my left neck, where the neck lump was present. That really surprised me as I wore a collared-shirt that morning, and thus anyone who had never seen me before would never notice the lump on my neck. But he apparently did, and I was totally surprised. Just how did he knew that I have a neck lump? Wallahua'lam!

The waiting room where patient is seated just before seeing the practitioner.

The treatment room, accommodating three patients at one time.

Dato' Haron Din currently treating a patient.

I was quite familiar with some of the verses recited by Dato' Haron Din when he placed his hand on my neck lump and one of them was from the first 2 verses of Surah al-Qalam,

"Nun. By the Pen and by that which the writers are writing, you are not, by the grace of your Lord, mad." [Al-Qalam:1-2]

I guess that is the miracle behind the verses in the Quran. From the verses recited above, nothing was mentioned about curing or healing an ailment, yet for the ones with the knowledge, they know such verses can be used in the treatment of cancer. SubhanAllah. May Allah grant all of the us the ability to understand and comprehend the meanings of the verses in the al-Quran!

The treatment session was less than 5 minutes, which didn't seem worth the waiting of more than 3 hours. Yet we would never complain, and were very thankful that we had the opportunity to personally meet Dato' Haron Din. We left the centre at about 1130am feeling grateful and satisfied, and we shall now leave all matters to Allah. Insha Allah, we would definitely consider revisiting the centre again sometime in the future as a follow-up to my treatment, should health permits.

A few interesting facts of note about Darussyifa; it doesn't charge its patients a single penny for all their treatment, and the centre is not only visited by Muslims patients but non-Muslims alike, as I have witnessed myself during my visit to the clinic.
I pray to Allah that He grants Dato' Haron Din good health, so that he can continue performing the noble work he does for the Ummah. Amin ya Rabbal 'alameen!


Monday, 18 October 2010

Ramadhan : My personal 'struggle'

"Ramadan is the month in which the Qur'an was sent down : this Book is a perfect guidance for mankind and consists of clear teachings which show the right way and are a criterion of Truth and falsehood. Therefore from now on whoever witnesses it, it is obligatory on hire to fast the whole month, but if one be ill or on a journey, he should make up for the same number by fasting on other days. Allah desires to show leniency to you and does not desire to show any hardship. Therefore this method is being shown to you so that you may complete the number of Fast days and glorify Allah for the Guidance He has shown to you and be grateful to Him." [2:185]


I could still remember vividly an ironically fond memory almost a year ago, when I was being told off by my housemate who disagreed with the act I had committed. It was the middle of Ramadhan during then, and I had decided to fast even though I was only just discharged from the hospital two days back for one of my chemotherapy sessions. Being a concern housemate, he thought I was not being fair to my body and reminded me of the leniency Allah has provided for the sick during the fasting month. He was right. My body was still so weak that I couldn't even last half a day fasting. In the end, I missed half of the Ramadhan as a result of my treatment.

A year on, and alhamdulillah I had the opportunity to embrace Ramadhan 1431. By the end of it, I am ever thankful to Allah that for His Mercy, I had managed to fulfill three main aims I had outlined prior to Ramadhan:

i. To make up for the whole 14 days of fasting I had missed during the previous Ramadhan before the arrival of Ramadhan 1431.

ii. To try and complete the whole 30 days of this year's Ramadhan.

iii. To fast for 6 days in the month of Shawwal

To some, achieving the aforementioned aims might be as easy as a walk in the park. But being in the state I am, I remembered how happy, relieved and thankful I was when the Athan for Maghrib was called upon on the 6th day of my fast in the Shawwal month. I had managed to achieve all three objectives I had set for myself. The athan signified a rather sweet personal victory, having inevitably experienced some difficulties during the fasting period.

Admittedly, during the fasting period, my body tends to get tired quicker and I therefore had to limit my physical activities during the day. As I find myself knackered quite easily by dawn, I had to content myself with performing most of my teraweh prayers at home rather than making the trip to the masjid. I was definitely not as strong as I was in the past, which frankly was quite frustrating. But I never let such thoughts to put me off from doing as much as I could during the blessed month. And by the end of it, I really thought I had fared better than what I initially expected in terms of the 'ibadah I had planned to perform. Alhamdulillah. The way I see it is quite simple; if you can't do some, don't leave everything. I was definitely not fit enough to make it for regular teraweh prayers at the masjid, but that didn't mean I can't perform it at home. I believed it was that simple principle that kept me strong throughout the fasting period, and it paid off by the end of it.

On a disclaimer note, I am in no way trying to advocate to anyone that one should still force him/herself to fast despite being ill. At the end of the day, only oneself knows his body better and he should make the decision as to whether he is fit enough to fast or not. The permissibility to abstain from fasting due to ill health is certainly a leniency Allah has provided for His servants, and one should never try to make things difficult. Allah stated clearly in His Holy Book:

يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلاَ يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ

"...Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you..." [2:185]

I believe that people living with cancer should never have a negative perception that they will never be able to perform fasting during Ramadhan any longer, or performing certain 'ibadah in the Deen that might seem to require a big portion of effort or energy from the person. The important thing that should be borne in mind is that all these acts can still be performed, but understandably there might be some shortcomings as compared to the ibadah of a healthy person. Thus, accept and embrace these shortcomings and insha Allah, it will not hit you too hard when you find yourself not being able to perform some of the things you used to do in the past, when you were free from the disease.

As I have always said in the past, cancer is a word and NOT a sentence. Don't let it control your life. What more the life of a Muslim.


Tuesday, 21 September 2010

A very special Eid

1. Customary it is in my big family in Bentong, Pahang that on the 1st day of Shawwal, after the Eid prayers, that everyone will gather at the main living room in the house. It is the time where Eid wishes are extended and everyone warmly embracing each other, seeking for forgiveness from any wrongdoings that one may have committed against another. For the young ones, it is also a time each of them would look forward most as they receive their 'duit raya'.

2. It had been 6 years since I was last involved in such a session, thus I definitely found the occasion this time around slightly more profound than usual. But the one very emotional moment that will forever remain ingrained in my memories was definitely the time when I shook my mom's hand and we hugged each other.

3. To me personally, the hug felt like a hug of sheer relief and gratitude. And I think my mom probably shared the same thoughts too. We just remained silent in our embrace, taking all our emotions in, letting the tears run down our eyes, sobbing heavily. It was sheer relief that after everything that has happened in the last 2 years with me being tested with the big C, I am finally reunited with my mom and dearest family for an Eid celebration. It was also a hug of gratitude, that despite the circumstance of my disease, Allah has allowed me to cherish yet another Eid with the ones I love most.

4. Celebrating Eid this year was like tasting a very sweet victory, having battled my way through the month of Ramadhan beforehand. Fasting during the recent Ramadhan was quite a battle for me, given my health. Although some suggested that I don't push it if fasting was affecting my health, I just couldn't tell myself to concede to defeat. What more having missed more than half of my Ramadhan last year as a result of chemotherapy treatments. That certainly spurred me a lot, and alhamdulillah, I succeeded in my so-called battle. Thus the celebration of shukr when Eid eventually came.

5. Insha Allah in the coming entries, I plan to share my personal experience of fasting despite my health circumstance, which I found was almost like a 'jihad' in its whole experience. I would also like to apologize for not posting any entries for quite a long while, which was down to commitments during Ramadhan as well as health circumstance. Nevertheless, I thank those who kindly dropped by with a message or email to check on my well-being, may Allah reward you for the actions. I seek everyone's support and du'a, may Allah provide us with the strength and istiqamah to remain as obedient servants of Rabbul Jalil.

6. May the momentum we have built during the blessed month of Ramadhan will be carried on not only in this Shawwal but also the upcoming months. May Allah accept our deeds and grant us His forgiveness, for only Him can save us from the torments of Hellfire, naudzubillah. I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone Eid Mubarak and Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

Happy Eid everyone!

p/s: Pictures courtesy of my dearest brother, Mas Jaffri Masarudin.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Ramadhan O Ramadhan!

"Allahumma balighna Ramadhan. Allahumma balighna Ramadhan. Allahumma balighna Ramadhan."

There I was all by myself, supplicating earnestly in my du'a, praying that Allah allows me to reach yet another Ramadhan in my 25 years of life. Living with cancer has made the du'a even more profound to me, as one becomes more uncertain as to whether he gets to live for yet another day. Having said that, such thought shouldn't just be borne in the minds of people with life-threatening disease but rather every Muslims. We all know that death can come to us at any point of time and without any preceding signs. Thus a perfectly healthy soul might just miss this upcoming Ramadhan when ironically a terminally-ill patient might embrace yet another.

I am currently still making up for the fasting days I had to miss last Ramadhan when I was having my chemotherapy treatment in late August 2009. I missed more than half of last year's Ramadhan as a result of my treatment. When people asked me how does it feel to fast in my current state, I admitted that it was slightly harder than normal at the beginning. The body just feels a bit weaker, and I could feel quite hungry even though it was just 12 o'clock in the afternoon. Nevertheless, I can only thank Allah that I am gradually adapting with time, and I just have to tell myself to slow down slightly during the day whenever I'm fasting. Insha Allah, come Ramadhan, I hope I will be strong enough to embrace the blessed month, just like anyone else!

As I was chatting with my mom during sahoor last Monday, I was reminded of the fact that this will be the first time after 6 years that I will be celebrating Ramadhan in Malaysia, insha Allah. A fact I had almost forgotten, and I must admit that it is an experience I really look forward to, having celebrated the fasting month in a foreign land for a relatively long period.

I genuinely feel that the opportunity to embrace this upcoming Ramadhan will provide me with the extra strength I sorely needed in my battle against this nasty cancer. The physical strength I needed to get on with my daily routine, and more importantly, the spiritual strength I needed to protect me from giving up against my relentless adversary, the big C. I wish I will be able to take strength from the fact that fasting in Ramadhan has never been a factor to slow Muslims down, as history has shown of the glittering success we achieved during this blessed month:

1. Muslims battled to glory in the Battle of Badr in spite of their numerical disadvantage. The battle took place on the 17th of Ramadhan, in the second year post-Hijrah.

2. The conquest of Makkah (Fath-ul-Makkah) happened during the month of Ramadhan, 8H. 10,000 Muslim soldiers, spearhead by our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, battled against the Mushrikeens of Makkah.

Alhamdulillah, yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend an enlightening talk in KGPA, Damansara by Imam Suhaib Webb, a renown scholar based in America, entitled "What if this is my last Ramadhan?". Suffice to say, the talk was very inspiring and insha Allah should spur everyone who were present to increase their deeds come this blessed month of Ramadhan. Thus, before I sign off, I thought it'd be a great shame not to share some important tips the shaykh has left us with:

1. On top of the specific ibadahs (ie solat, reading the qur'an, qiamullail, etc), don't forget to consider performing some of the other recommended acts including rekindling familial bonds and visiting the sick, among others.

2. Stay away from being involved in arguments, as such acts can prompt us to speak foul of others. One interesting argument that often occurs during Ramadhan is the number of rakaats one should perform in his/her Tarawih prayers. On whether it is 8 or 20. Avoid getting yourself entangled in such arguments, as it will bring few benefits and only bitter relationships of one Muslim brother to another!

3. To sincerely seek repentance (tawbah) from Allah. Encourage oneself to wake up during the early hours of the day to perform Tahajjud prayers, and seek for the forgiveness of Allah from the major sins we have committed. Being all alone with Allah during the darkness of the early hours should hopefully increase the khushu' (concentration and humbleness) in our ibadahs.

4. Set at least a few to-achieve-objectives during this blessed month. For instance, I want to be able to memorise the whole of Surah As-Sajdah and Surah Al-Mulk by the end of this month. Or I want to finish reciting the whole 30 juz of the Quran by the end of Ramadhan. Or I want to wake up for Qiamullail at every other day during this Ramadhan. Outlining objectives that need to be achieved should provide us with the extra motivation to increase our 'ibadah during this month of Ramadhan, insha Allah.

O Allah, let us reach this Ramadhan!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Losing a friend

I firstly would like to apologize for not posting any entries in my blog for the past 2 weeks. Not that I have lost the enthusiasm to write, or that time has been running rather tight lately. My health has not been at its best recently, and given the lymphoma I suffer from, it is understandably more difficult for the body to starve off any infections as compared to a healthy person. Sickness is always an opportunity for the cleansing of the sinful soul, and I pray that Allah forgives me for the wrongdoings I have committed.

Two days back, my heart wrenched with sheer sadness having heard that one of our fellow cancer fighter, Kak Dalilah Tamrin has passed on. Almarhumah Kak Dalilah, famously known for her Onebreastbouncing blogspot, will always be a person every cancer sufferers look up to for source of strength and motivation. Almarhumah died of breast cancer.

The one thing I will always remember of arwah Kak D was when she emailed to me a document containing the verses in the Quran that should be read by cancer sufferers as a form of remedy (shifaa'). During then, we had never met or known each other personally, yet having found out about my blog, she took the 'responsibility' to share. In Arwah Kak D, I found the marks of a true friend.

Losing a fellow cancer fighter is never easy to swallow for any of us with similar predicament. Cliche it may sound, her lost was similar to losing a fellow comrade in a war against your enemy. And losing Kak D, in particular, was almost like losing the one soldier you bet against faltering in any battle, the strongest soldier in your batallion. Her loss, somehow tainted the strong hope every cancer fighter has on battling against their disease, affecting our fortitude and perseverance.

To the family of almarhumah Kak D, many condolences and may Allah grant all of you the patience of a Mukmin (believer). Indeed, the passing on of Kak D serves to remind us yet again that death is a MUST for each and every one of us, and woe to those who remain oblivious to his/her preparation for the Hereafter having heard and seen such a clear SIGN from Allah. May we not fall into such traps, naudzubillah.

For such loss, never forget to say "Innalillahi wainna ilaihi rojiuun', reminding ourselves that we all belong to Allah and it is to Him indeed that we shall return. Emulating the story of Ummu Salamah (one of Prophet Muhammad's wife) as recorded in Tafsir Ibn Kathir, one should not forget to supplicate the du'a below whenever they are tested with the lost of their loved ones.

اللَّهُمَّ أْجُرْنِي فِي مُصِيبَتِي وأَخْلِفْ لِي خَيْرًا مِنْهَا

"Allahumma ajurnii fii musibatii wakhlifli khoironminha." [O Allah! Reward me for my loss and give me what is better than it.]

Ummu Salamah recited the du'a having heard the news of the death of her husband, Abu Salamah. By Allah's will, the loss of her husband was later compensated with a person better than she could ever imagine. It was the Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him. SubhanAllah.

To Arwah Kak D, the lost of you shall remind me that my time will eventually come too, and I hope that both of us will meet each other in Jannah, insha Allah. And to the family of arwah Kak D, may Allah reward all of you with what is better than the loss.


Friday, 2 July 2010

Can you feel His Love?

Now and again, I engage myself into a so-called 'retrospective session'. Thinking about the many whys for all the things that have been happening to me ever since I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma back in December 2008. Asking myself why have I suffered this disease at the first place, having been so fit and healthy previously. Asking myself why have the cancer relapsed so soon after my initial chemotherapy sessions finished back in June 2009. Asking myself why hadn't the stem cell transplant I had back in December 2009 work.

Not that I'm questioning Allah's plannings on me. Rather the whys I made up for myself were more towards making sure that I don't repeat the same mistakes that could have possibly lead to all this. Making sure that if 'X' had been one of the causes for the immediate relapse of this cancer, then I would need to eliminate 'X' as part of my holistic approach against the disease.

Try as I might, more often than not, I fail to figure out most of the answers to my whys. Which makes it quite frustrating, as it feels like you've run yourself into a stumbling block, preventing you from reaching the end of the path you're threading. Having said that, it's true when they say that in every cloud there will always be a silver lining. And I believe that I've found my silver lining.

I believed that, although I may never know the answer to all my whys, at least I do know that God has used this illness to show me His great love. Thus the saying, "Allah certainly has unique ways to show His love".

When I made the decision to continue my treatment in the UK back in July 2008, there were concerns financially. By July 2008, I was no longer funded through scholarships by my sponsor, thus I had to rely on the savings I have in my bank account. That was when Allah showed that I should put my trust on Him alone. My friends, all over the UK and Ireland, started a donation drive and by the end of it, managed to collect a few thousand pounds to help me during my stay in the UK for treatment. Not only that, I could use the money to support some of the travel expenses incurred by my family members who came from Malaysia to accompany me every now and again when I had my treatment.

Not only that, when I was recovering at home from a recent chemotherapy session, people would come on a daily basis to bring meals. I never had to worry about what to eat, as the Malaysian community in Sheffield had kindly prepared a roster-like list of people in charge of bringing over foods during my recovery period at home.

When I could not go to the masjid due to my health, I often felt like the masjid was brought to me. An astounding number of people supplicated for my well-being and continued to do so in each of their prayers. I can feel Allah's love showering down on me via the endless prayers of His servants.

The one day when I truly felt Allah's great love was the day when the masjid organised a farewell-like gathering for me the night before I left Sheffield for Malaysia back in January 2010. The main praying area of the masjid was full with people, you hardly notice any empty spaces. What made it more emotional to me was the fact that it wasn't just Malaysians who came, but also Arabs, Asians, Turkish, to name a few. All in the name of Muslim brotherhood. It certainly was a gathering I'd never forget, one that will remain embedded in my heart.

Even when I have returned to Malaysia for good since February 2010, I can still very much embrace Allah's endless love emanating through the support and assistance of His servants. Every now and again, friends be it old or new come by to pay a visit and say their well wishes. Not only that, a lot of the alternative treatments I'm currently on are recommendations I received through phone calls, emails and text messages from fellow friends and acquaintances. Some suggestions even came from people I hardly know of, who kindly offered their help having found out about my plight. I took all these as reflection of the beautiful blessings of Allah, one that teaches me a valuable lesson in life:

I can only find contentment in my trial and tribulation by putting any negatives aside, and start thanking Allah for the blessings He has showered me with.

Being able to feel Allah's love embracing me has been pivotal in keeping my strength during my times of ups and downs. Which is why I have always reminded myself to not act in ways where I might possibly 'lose' the eligibility of receiving such love. Therefore, I know I need to remain:

1. Steadfast, for Allah loves the steadfast.
…God loves those who are steadfast” (Surah Al-Imran, 3:146)

2. In reliance to none other but Him alone.
“…God loves those who put their trust in Him” (Surah Al-Imran, 3:159)

3. Avoid committing sins, and to immediately turn to repentance.
…God loves those who repent to Him, and He loves those who keep themselves clean” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:222)

When you feel like everything seems to go against your way, just take 5 minutes to sit down and reflect on all the blessings you have in life, and the things that actually went your way. May then, the smiles will return, the sun will break out, the music will play, and you will finally be able to move forward the life that God intended for you with grace, strength, courage, and confidence.


Monday, 28 June 2010

Thank you was all I need

"Thank you for contributing, Sir. And thanks for listening too."

I replied, briefly, "You're most welcome, do keep up the good work," and with a big smile, I left the Chinese lady I was talking to, who is a fundraiser for The Budimas Charitable Foundation. BUDIMAS is a renown organisation in Malaysia, heavily involved in the care of orphaned and underprivileged children in the country.

I was approached by the lady who was at her Budimas booth, just as I was about to enter into the Cold Storage supermarket in Subang Parade. As our conversation ended and I made my way into the supermarket, I suddenly thought to myself about her very last sentence to me before we parted ways.

"...And thanks for listening too."

Those few words might not mean anything to some, but I took it quite profoundly for unknown reasons. To me, it showed the deep appreciation of the fundraisers to the people who actually did spare a few of their precious minutes to stop, and listen to what they have to say. I'm sure the fundraisers must have gotten so used to people ignoring them, passing by them as if they are not there.

That was when I told myself, "I think I should I thank you instead. For persevering to approach people even though mostly ignored you. For persevering to do a noble cause for the benefit of someone else and not just for yourself.". I will always have a soft spot for altruism.


Last weekend, I was privileged to be invited as the main speaker in a summercamp event which took place in Sungai Congkak, Hulu Langat. The event, called "Weekend with AJ" with the main theme, "Transformers : Rise of The Fallen", was participated by Malaysian university students from both local and foreign (ie United Kingdom and Ireland) institutions. The event was organised by a group of aspiring Malaysian students from Cork, Ireland who named their association as AtapHijau. The other invited speaker was my dearest friend, Imran Koyube, who is the current President and co-founder of the impressive ILuvIslam.

I was entrusted with the responsibility of delivering talks on 4 different topics, with my sessions being on Saturday morning and evening, as well as Sunday morning. Even though I could claim to be quite used to giving talks to vibrant youths via my personal experiences in the past, never have I been asked to become the main speaker for an event, and to deliver as many as four talks. Given the fluctuating state of my health condition, I was slightly concerned that I wouldn't be able to live up to the expectations of the organizers. What more, the organizers seemed to have done tremendous work in ensuring that the event would be a successful one, thus I know the talks must be equally impressive to achieve the objectives already listed.

Even though there were slight doubts on whether I would be able to cope given my health condition, I believed I could do this. An immense task it seems, the thought of contributing my part in developing my society just seemed an opportunity too hard to resist. A similar situation happened back in December 2009, when I decided to accept the invitation to give a talk in a winter camp event in Birmingham, United Kingdom, just a few weeks after having my high dose chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplant. I just love the thought of 'giving' to others, thus providing me with the strength to withhold any challenges that might come my way.

The main challenge I discovered in delivering my talk in Sungai Congkak was the travels I had to make, which had its toll on my stamina. I decided to commute to Sungai Congkak on both days of my talk instead of staying at the event's accommodation for two reasons; i)my strict diet regime makes it easier for me to have my meals at home. ii)I was worried that I might not get good rest at the venue's accommodation and thus possibly affecting my performance to deliver the talks.

Every trip would take me about 45 minutes, longer if the traffic was congested. On Saturday, I made 4 trips altogether, back and forth, that by the time I reached home that night, I was totally knackered. Tired I was, I still had to finish up the powerpoint slides for the next day's talk and I must admit, a sense of frustration almost crept in. I almost blamed it on my cancer, believing that the Mas Afzal 3 years ago, free from cancer, would never struggle with this sort of pace.

But that was when I put such negative thoughts aside, and reminded myself to be thankful to Allah that in spite of my condition, I am not bed-ridden, in fact I'm well alive and kicking. That's more than I can ask, given my state. Eventually, I opened up my laptop and got on with completing my slides for the next day. Aiysha, my dearest sister, kindly enough gave me a therapy massage of my head and shoulder just to ease the accumulating tension building in my head. Mom, as usual, provided me with the words of encouragement. That's what families are for, aren't they?

Aiysha, my lil sis.

In the end, I was generally satisfied with the talks I've delivered throughout the two days. There will inevitably be some loopholes here and there in my presentation, but these are always rooms for improvements. All I can hope for is that the participants, the youthful leaders of our future, have benefited from the content of my talks and are inspired to play their part to the society.

I wish I could tell each and everyone of them, that

If I am not letting this terminal cancer of mine stopping me from 'giving' to humanity, then what more for them, all fit and well. Let us all RISE to glory!

When some of the participants came up to me personally before I left the place and said, "Terima kasih abang," that was all that I needed to rejuvenate my tired mind, body and soul. Looking at their bright faces and witnessing the exuberance radiating from it is a therapy to the pain I suffer from my cancer. I guess it's true what they say, it is in giving that we actually receive. We receive the satisfaction in life. We receive the true meaning of being alive, that is to be of benefit to others.

And the best people are indeed those who are most helpful or beneficial for other people. Allah knows best.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

The man of few words

When I was a young, innocent 7-years old boy, I remembered how unsure I was about what I wanted to become when I grow up. Back during our days in the primary school, there would be a time during the year when all the students had to fill in a card, where we would update our personal details, and list a few of our ambitions, among others.

Unlike some people who have always wanted to become a doctor, lawyer or a pilot ever since they were young, I was rather clueless. Thus, every year, my ambition was never the same, they kept on changing again and again.

Darjah Satu [Year One]
1st - Wartawan [journalist]
2nd - Polis [police]
3rd - Kakitangan Kerajaan [government official]

Darjah Dua [Year Two]
1st - Peguam [Lawyer]
2nd - Jururawat [Nurse]
3rd - Doktor [Doctor]

Darjah Tiga [Year Three]
1st - Askar [Soldier]
2nd - Perdana Menteri [Prime Minister]
3rd - Pelakon [Actor]

Obviously the one listed above was roughly what I could remember almost 20 years back and thus a possible discrepancy from what I actually wrote down. Nevertheless, it showed my take on what I would want to become in the future back then.

It was only clear that I wanted to become nothing else but a doctor when I was 17 years old, when previously I kept on changing from dreaming to become a judge, a lawyer, even a singer at times, etc. When I passed my SPM [GCSE-equivalent] with flying colors, it further reinforced my ambition to become a doctor and I never looked back ever since.

Ask every doctor and they'll have their own reasons why they wanted to become one. So did I. In fact, I have quite a few reasons. And one of it, is not just for my fulfillment, but rather for my beloved dad.

I believed, and purely assumed, since he never really voiced it in front of us, that he wanted to see a doctor among his children. Even till now, I can't really prove whether my assumptions are true or baseless. I never knew why he never said it straight to us [that he wanted at least one of us to become a doctor], but I believe it signifies the type of a person he is. High hopes he has on his children to become successful people in the future, yet he will not heap the unnecessary pressure on us. The pressure that many parents might put on their children's shoulder to be successful.

"You must be a doctor, just like your cousin, bla bla bla..."

"I want you to become a lawyer, so you should work hard at school and stop playing around!"

No wonder a lot of children faltered to the unnecessary expectations of their parents. Some even resorted to taking their own lives, naudzubillah! May Allah protect my family from such situations!

As Jep rightly stated in his entry, Papa allowed us the right to grow up at our own pace. Yes, when it came to our academics, he'd rarely compromise on success, expecting us to do well in our examinations. But at the same time, I would always remember Papa as the one who prompted us into loving sports so much.

Being a good footballer himself, Papa would bring us to the football stadium back when Malaysian football was relatively more entertaining than how it is now.

He would take us into swimming classes, tennis lessons, golf driving course and badminton courts. When we developed the interest on tenpin bowling, and became quite serious with the sport, Papa adapted. He went to play bowling with us, gradually improving with every game, even occasionally defeating us even though we were better trained in the sport than him.

That is our Papa. He, in short, is a man of few words. He rarely shows his emotions in front of his kids. He is not the type of person who hugs or embraces you with tears running down the eyes, nope. I guess he leaves that to Mama. Mama deals with the emotion-bit. =)

I am certainly not the type of person who fully approves on special days for your mom, or dad, or your grandfather, etc. Not that I am being an ungrateful son, but I believe such days actually stemmed from the shrewd ideas of some money-making people. Those involved in making cards, cakes, etc. When it's Mothers Day, people will flock these shops to get a card for their mom. And when it's Fathers Day, they'll follow the same routine again. Imagine how much money do they make at the end of the day.

Having said that, I am still quite thankful that such a day exists. Because I, rather shamefully, often forgets to appreciate how indebted I am to my parents. For their unconditional love. For the sacrifices they would take for their children's sake. For the prayers they make day and night for our success in this world and the Hereafter. And at least this day has reminded me again about my Papa.

I was watching a program on TV1 a few hours ago, and was left with teary eyes when they showed a clip containing the faces of fathers all over Malaysia, with the song "Lelaki Ini" by Anuar Zain on the background. I guess the song really goes well with the clip, and would touch the heart of anyone who listens to it.

Try watching pictures of you and your dad, and play this song as the background. I'd be surprised if you don't even feel like shedding a tear.

"Hanya dirimu, yang bertaktha dalam sanubariku..."

Thank you Mr Masarudin bin Yusof. Thank you Papa.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

To hope and pray

Alhamdulillah, the PET scan I underwent last Tuesday went well. The routine was pretty much similar to the ones I had back in Sheffield, except that I was being kept in the waiting room for almost an hour post-scan. I played that down to the fact that I was 'radioactively positive' and thus the need to be separated from the public for a while, in particular from pregnant women and babies. Whereas in Sheffield, I was allowed to be discharged right after the scan finishes. They only reminded me to avoid being in close contact with the two aforementioned group of people, and not to return home using the public transportation, ie bus.

Mom took a day off work, accompanying me to the hospital. She didn't have to do much, well, she couldn't even be next to me during the scan for obvious reasons, but her presence was enough to bring a calming influence in me. Things were obviously different when I was under treatment back in the UK. I obviously couldn't expect my friends to be around all the time whenever I'm in the hospital, and therefore there were many occasions when I had to face things all by myself.

That's what families are for. Through the thick and thin, you can bet your money on them putting their hands around your shoulder, always being there for you.

“When you look at your life the greatest happiness are family happinesses”

Nevertheless, there is something good about the healthcare system in the UK that I'm already starting to miss sorely here in Malaysia. Back in England, the National Heath Service (NHS) bears the full cost of my treatment. Be it the chemotherapies, the numerous PET and CT scans I had, and the countless days I spent in the hospital. Everything comes FREE of CHARGE. It's difficult to imagine how would I cope financially had the NHS not bear the full cost of my treatment, which in total must have been at least thousands of pound sterlings, if not more.

However, things are different here. Although the government still subsidizes a portion of the cost of treatment, most of it will have to be borne by the patients themselves. It's not too bad if one works as a government servant as they can then waive off the cost of treatment using their respective Guarantee Letter (GL). As for myself, I can't use my mom's GL due to my age. As far as I understood it, one is allowed to use his/her GL to cover the treatment cost of his/her parents or his/her children who are under the age of 21 (if I'm not mistaken).

Doctors working in public hospitals in Malaysia also have their respective GLs. Thus, the staff in the hospital was rather surprised when I told her that I wanted to pay for the PET scan.

"Doktor tak ada GL ke? Mahal juga nak bayar scan ni." [Don't you have a GL, doctor? This scan is quite expensive.]

"Saya tak kerja lagi cik. Jadi saya takde GL." [I haven't started work yet, thus I don;t have my own GL.]

I am still currently jobless for two reasons. Health reason is obviously one of it, although I believe that if given some leniency in my working hours and workload, I could still possibly serve the people. The second reason, however, is slightly beyond my control. The Malaysian Medical Council (MMC), have informed me that they will only grant me the license to practice once I show my updated medical reports and can prove that I am fit to work.

A lot of people have been asking whether I have started work. I wish I could say yes, but the circumstances are slightly difficult. It's not like I'm dying to start work, as obviously my health is the main priority at the moment. But I guess that's what happens when people kept on asking the same question again and again; "Mas dah start kerja ke?" [Have you started work, Mas?]

Now and again, on Facebook, I read posts by my fellow colleagues who shared their experiences at work, seeing patients, performing procedures, being told off by their seniors, etc. Or news about my juniors who have passed their finals, and have started talking about which hospital they would want to work in. Part of me is happy for all the good news of my dearest friends (or sympathizes for the bad days of the doctors I know personally), but the other half also wishes I could experience them myself.

Sweet memories of my graduation. July 2009, Sheffield.

But I know I need to get rid of such feelings, as it only makes me a very ungrateful servant of Allah. Have I forgotten, that by not working just yet, Allah has given more time for my body to get the rest it deserves? And that I get to spend more time with my family after being away for 6 years? And that it is possible that should I start work, the stress of my job will only exacerbate my condition?

All I can do now, is to keep praying to Allah, that He grants me cure from the disease if that is what He has planned for me. And difficult it might be, I just have to push myself to keep reading my medical textbooks, so as to prevent my knowledge from rusting. I am not going to give the time and space for myself to sit purposeless, wondering when will the time come when I will get to don the white coat again.

The results of my PET scan should be up in a week's time. Let's hope and pray that better things are to come. I'm quite eager to know the current state of my disease since the last time I underwent a PET scan, about 6 months ago. Wondering if the alternative treatments and my diet changes have provided positive responses or not.

O Allah, to You alone I seek help, and I leave all matters to none other but You!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Adapting to changes

"Makan buah je ke Mas?" [Are you just having fruits, Mas?]

"Ini je makanan yang boleh dimakan. Takpe, mak dah masakkan makanan kat rumah." [Well, these are the only foods I can have here. It's fine, my mom's made some foods for me back home.]

Such question very often would pop up during any of the kenduri kahwin (wedding receptions) that I've visited these past few weeks. And I reckon similar question might arise again in my next visit to a friend's kenduri.

Rendang daging.

Ayam masak merah.

Kari kambing.

Nasi minyak.

And the list goes on. The foods mentioned above are almost always the typical menu of a Malay's wedding kenduri. Mouth-watering they certainly are, I had to teach myself to abstain from eating such foods. Ever since I made the decision to adopt a rather 'healthier' diet regime back in March, I have started to develop a rather unusual routine whenever I attended a wedding kenduri.

Mom's always been the staunch supporter of my new diet regime. In every way possible, she improvises a lot in order to not let my diet regime affect my daily activities. When I want to attend a wedding kenduri, for instance, mom would usually prepare my foods in advance. So that I can either eat them before or after attending the ceremony, or sometimes even bringing the foods to the kenduri itself. If the ceremony is held in a way where it's inappropriate for me to bring my own foods, then I'll just have the fruits served during the occasion, even abstaining myself from the sweet air sirap in offer, taking plain water instead.

Foods served during a Malay wedding ceremony are usually iressistable!

Some might argue that wedding kenduri does not happen often, thus the license for people to just enjoy the foods in offer. But in Malaysia, I frankly feel that such rule doesn't really apply. Wedding ceremonies mushrooming everywhere, especially during school holidays. I sometimes joke to my mom, telling her that what we really need in a Malay wedding ceremony is a sphygmomanometer to measure the blood pressure, and a blood glucose measuring kit, to measure the sugar in the blood. Those with high blood pressure and blood sugar levels should then be told that they are only allowed to munch on the vegetables, rather than the sumptuous rendang daging or kari kambing! Well, I wonder if one would even give such an idea a consideration in their wedding kenduri!

Packing my foods whenever we go out is no longer an unfamiliar routine. I might have decided to adopt for a healthier diet regime, but unfortunately a lot of the restaurants and food outlets in most shopping complexes don't follow suit. Apart from only a few food outlets known to serve good foods (ie no additives, MSG, additional flavorings, etc), it's extremely difficult to find one that suits my diet.

I must admit, adapting to my new changes was initially difficult, and it actually still is. Imagine walking along in a shopping complex, on your left is Krispy Kreme, and on your right is Baskin n Robbins. As you march ahead, you drop by at a bakery shop, and all you can find are sweet pastries and cupcakes. Everything around you just seems so tempting, yet you know you can't have them as such foods are not going to be of any help in the battle against your cancer!

Sometimes even my family members are kind enough to make sure that they eat the 'junk foods' behind my back. It's funny how depressing it sometimes feel when you aren't able to enjoy the 'unhealthy foods' you used to love in the past. Difficult it might be, I know I have to adapt. Life is all about adapting to situations around you. As Stephen Hawking rightly says, the ability to adapt to changes is what defines intelligence.

But more importantly, the whines and complaints that I make whilst adapting to this diet change of mine prompts me into thinking, "What an ungrateful servant of Allah am I?!" It's not like I don't have enough foods in the kitchen, or that I am starving to death. How lucky am I compared to the so many unfortunate people out there?! Ya Allah, shame on myself!

People in Gaza are deprived of foods, clean water, or even a shelter to protect themselves from the adverse weather.

The children in Africa are malnourished, lying helplessly with flies all around them, surrounded by vultures waiting to eat them once they die.

They are never given the opportunity to enjoy the life I have. Yet they adapted, in a circumstance worse than yours truly. And yet, here I am, still complaining about not being able to enjoy the foods I used to love. How ungrateful am I when these people, amid their struggles, can still praise and thank Allah whenever they are blessed with a loaf of bread, or even a bottle of plain water.

It is true what Allah says,

Indeed, man has been created impatient.

When affliction befalls him, he becomes fretful,

and when good fortune falls to his lot he becomes stingy.[Al-Maarij:19]

So here I am, telling myself to be thankful for the blessings that Allah has given to me, rather than pondering on the ones I think I have lost. Only then will one find solace in life!

And remember also that your Lord forewarned, `If you be grateful I will increase My favors on you, and if you be ungrateful (you should know that) My chastisement is severe indeed'!" [Ibrahim:7]

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Me, Myself and I

When I found out that one of the Malaysians on board in the Mavi Marmara ship was Jamuliddin Elias, it brought back memories of our encounter in Sheffield, United Kingdom back in 2005. He was on a tour to several places within the country, and when he was in Sheffield, stayed for a night in my room.

Uncle Jamuliddin, clad in black jacket.

Since he stayed overnight in my room, I had the opportunity to hear a lot of his personal experiences being involved in humanitarian work. Uncle Jamuliddin is one of the backbone of Yayasan Amal Malaysia, a non-governmental organisation heavily involved in numerous humanitarian work all over the world. His personal account of visiting places such as Acheh, Afghanistan and Kashmir, to name a few, all solely for humanitarian causes, highlighted a lot of the difficulties these people have to go through for the benefit of others. Yet, a struggle it might be, Uncle Jamuliddin still found all the hardships rewarding in the end.

His stories has never ceased to amaze and inspire me. His work meant that he spends less time with his family and loved ones. His work meant that sometimes his life is being put on the line just to save the lives of people he doesn't even know personally of. He is one out of the many respectable people who find their satisfaction in life by serving others.

I personally believe that the best thing one can do in life is to give. At present, we hear about unfortunate casualties in the Zionist attack on the Mavi Marmara ship, and mourn for the losses. Having heard how some people would risk their own life to help others, I wonder how can there still be people so mindless of the things around them.

People who couldn't care less to play even the smallest of part for someone else. People with the "me, myself and I" attitude.

The atrocities committed in Gaza is clear for everyone to see. Normal human beings reacted, doing their own bit to help the oppressed. Donating money, holding demonstrations against the Israeli government, boycotting products proven to fund ammunitions for the Israeli army, to name a few. Doing whatever one can possibly do within their ability to at least ease the deep wound of the Palestinians.

Yet, there are still people out there who don't give a damn. Even worse, questioning the effect of boycotting Starbucks. Or making ridicule of people who sacrificed some time demonstrating against the Zionist government. To these people, all I can say is, the world will never be a better place with people of your attitude!

From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.

Palestinians deserve a life, just like anyone else. One can never achieve personal fulfillment in life until (s)he starts to satisfy the needs of others. I am telling myself, and others, let's start asking, "What have I done for the Palestinians? What have I done for someone else?"

If you still need to find a reason to start giving, then watch this video and listen what the late Rachel Corrie has to say.

"We have got to understand, that they are us, we are them."

By Firdaus

Menjadi fitrah manusia hidup di dunia
Perlu sesama begitu adanya
Pabila duka mengusik indahnya suka
Dan seharusnya bangkitlah di jiwa

Rasa peduli menolong sesama
Bukan hanya bicara
Tindakan yang utama

Di sini kita dengan segala yang dipunya
Semuanya fana, titipan semata
Lihat mereka saudara kita di sana
Dalam nestapa di manakah cinta?

Rasa peduli menolong sesama
Bukan hanya bicara
Tindakan yang utama

Cuba rasakan setiap tangisan
Tak berhenti berharap akan huluran tangan
Memberi cinta dan harapan
Bersama kita melangkah kaki
Menuju dunia yang lebih indah

Pernahkah kita bayangkan jadi mereka
Belum tentu kan mampu, cuba sedari
Tanya diri sendiri
Apakah ada simpati

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

It's ok to cry...

Sometimes, I wonder if I have given the wrong impression to the people who visited my blog. Reading some of the comments brings shivers down my spine. Especially the ones that come from people I don't know personally. I am worried that some people might look up at me as someone who is unbreakable, with unwavering mettle to face whatever adversity that comes my way. Someone who is very strong at heart, with an iron resolve.

In real fact, I am not. I am just like everyone else. I cry when things go beyond my control. I cry when trials just kept on coming over and over again. I cry when I feel helpless in the battle I face.

I remembered, when my doctor first broke the news about my disease back in December 2008, I was in a lost as to how should I convey the news to my mom, back home in Malaysia. I was in the mosque, having just performed my Asr prayer. From the main praying hall, I made my way to one of the area inside the mosque where no one was around. I called home, and as soon as my mom picked up the phone, I could hear from the background that my mom was trying hard to keep her tears. Apparently my brother, who found out about the news earlier, had told mom in advance before I made the call. Hearing mom crying broke my heart. Tears started to run down my face, I could barely say anything. Whose soul wouldn't break apart having heard the tears of his/her dearest mom?

The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears.

Even after I hung up, I just couldn't stop crying. I told myself,

"Cry Afzal, cry. Let it out."

There I was at a corner inside the masjid, wiping over my tears. That, admittedly was one of the most emotional moment in my life. Not because that I found out I have cancer, but because I felt so bad that the person I love so much in my life would have to hear such news, and not being able to hold my hand, and offer me a hug, as we were thousands of miles apart.

A few minutes later, I got up, picked up a Quran from the shelf, and started reciting one of the chapters in the Holy book. I was looking for a source of strength, and I looked at none other than Allah's beautiful words for it. Not long after, I managed to gather myself, and started to make plans of how I should encounter my latest trial in life.


Dearest friends,

It's ok to cry. Natural it is for a human being to feel sorrow over times of hardship. The heart doesn't have to be dead or numb. The act of crying does not necessarily denotes that one has not got the strength of patience and fortitude. Our beloved Prophet cried over the death of his son, Ibrahim, yet he is the epitome of strength in the face of trials and tribulations.

As long as crying doesn't turn into wailing, or sobbing loudly, as if we are venting our anger to the One who has decided on our destiny. Our Rabb. And that we don't remain trapped in this pool of sadness, acting like someone who is totally paralyzed by what has happened, as if it is the end of the world. Ibn al Qayyim, a respected scholar in Islam, beautifully describes how Prophet Muhammad cried over a sad situation;

"As for the weeping of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) it was in the same degree as his laughter. He wouldn't sob loudly and raise his voice, just like his laughter wasn't loud. However his eyes would fill up with tears, until they flowed out, and you would hear the sound like that of a whistling kettle coming from his chest. He would weep out of mercy for the dead, out of fear and compassion for his ummah, out of deep fear of Allaah (سبحانه وتعالى), upon listening to the Qur'aan. And it was a weeping of longing, love and exaltation, accompanied by fear and khashyah".

The important thing is how we reacted after we cried. The mistake that a lot of people often fall into is when they start to whine over the calamity that afflicts them, saying things like "Why has Allah allowed such a difficulty on me?" or that when they were supplicating, they would complain, " Why have you not answered my wish and prayers O Allah?". You might think that you won't fall into such traps, or utter such sayings, but believe me, the heart tells you to do and say all the strangest of things when you feel helpless or stressed up.

So a person with seemingly strong character does not necessarily mean that (h)she never shed tears over a calamity. Rather, after letting his/her heart out, there is a positive reaction that succeeds the sadness. That should be the attitude of every Muslim. In life, there will definitely be a day when you might fall down. You cried because you have a cut on your knee, or that the ankle is bruising up. But it isn't the injury or the nature in which you fell that matters, but it is how you get up from it.

And that, is the character of STRENGTH. To get up, when you have fallen down.

To cry over something that saddens you is a mercy which Allâh puts in the hearts of His servants. And verily Allâh shows mercy to those of His servants who are merciful. Insha Allah.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

If only...

In the UK and Ireland, this is certainly the time of the year when Malaysian students abandon a lot of their personal affairs and focus on nothing else but one thing; the examinations.

Some students calmly take things by their stride and wouldn't let the impending examinations take over their life. Whereas some are completely overwhelmed by it, worried that they might flunk and consequently getting very tensed-up.

This is the typical life of a student when examinations are just around the corner. No matter how traumatic your experience of preparing for an examination might be, I'm sure we cherish such moments. Especially those who have gone through the university life phase and are now on their respective career path.

Likewise, I will definitely miss the times when I had to prepare for my examinations. My final year as a medical student in the University of Sheffield, to be more precise. What made the experience even more profound was the fact that I not only had my final examinations to deal with, but I had cancer to battle against too.

Looking back now, I can only thank Allah, that by His Will, I managed to obtain my medical degree amidst all the sheer difficulties I had to endure for the last 6 months of my studies.

Success is a journey, not a destination...


When I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma back in December 2008, I only had roughly 5 months left before my finals, better known as OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination). I had to weigh my options; should I postpone my studies, having gone this far, so that I can focus on my treatments, or soldier on. The seemingly less arduous path was obviously to take some time off my studies. The representatives from JPA, the governmental department who sponsored my studies were also of the same opinion, ie to postpone my final year studies. It was a difficult decision to make, but I had to decide.

And I decided not to choose the primrose path.

I was definitely not trying to be a hero by doing the mission impossible, but deep inside me, I believed that I had the strength to reach the finishing line. Not only that, I was worried that I might just lose the will to continue my studies once I finish my treatments. I also pondered, that if things don't go well with my treatment, I will then need more time off for further treatment, thus further delaying the completion of my studies.

And I can only thank Allah, as I felt that I made the right decision, insha Allah.

My circumstances were clear then. I had roughly 20 weeks before my OSCE. During these last 20 weeks of my studies, I will undergo 12 courses of chemotherapy every fortnight. For each chemotherapy, it is expected that I will need a whole week to recover from its side effects. Thus in truth I have 10 weeks less than my colleagues to prepare for my finals.

Will I have enough time to prepare?

I must admit that at the beginning, I almost believed that this was indeed, just a step too far. The pressure just seemed too much for me to bear. But just before I crumbled under the immense pressure, I reminded myself of Prophet Muhammad's sayings,

“The strong believer is better and is more beloved to Allaah than the weak believer, although both are good. Strive to attain that which will benefit you and seek the help of Allah, and do not feel helpless.” (Saheeh Muslim, hadeeth no. 2664)

There are clearly 3 important steps the Prophet has taught us in the aforementioned hadith that we should take heed from during times of difficulty.

1. Strive to attain that which will benefit you

  • It's true that I have been disadvantaged by my circumstances, but I shouldn't waste the precious time I have left for my examinations by crying about it.
  • I might have lost a great deal of preparation time due to my treatment arrangements, but I told myself to look at the benefit of such plannings. The benefit was clear -- I had the opportunity to become more focussed and disciplined during my revision times.
  • Thus I strive to attain such opportunity, and I didn't fail. I was definitely procrastinating less, and optimized every little time that I had to revise. In the end, I made good use of the study times that I had, without having to affect the period that I needed to recover from my chemotherapy sessions.

2. Seek the help of Allah

  • Even when things are plain and easy, we should never forget to seek for Allah's assistance. What more in my circumstance. Of all the things one can do in preparing for an examination, you can never do wrong by asking for Allah's favor.
  • Whilst seeking for Allah's help, we should also try to avoid committing actions that displeases Him. Common sense teaches us that if you want to ask for something from someone, you would be nice to the person and would avoid doing anything that might offend him/her. Ironic isn't it, that one performs Solat Hajat (wish prayer) to ask for excellent results but at the same time abandons the obligatory prayers, not being concerned with looking after his/her awrah, or to continually speak bad of someone else?

3. Do not feel helpless

  • Even when things look extremely difficult, I told myself to never feel helpless. I questioned myself, what might happen if I decide to confront my difficulties by feeling that there is nothing I can do about it. Will the problem be solved, or is the burden any lesser?
  • I know that I don't have to face this battle all alone. On top of revising my medical notes, I also spent some time practicing my clinical examination skills with my fellow Muslim colleagues. I made it clear to them that I needed their help, and they were keen to lend a hand.

Having adopted all the 3 approaches as above, I entered into the examination hall with the belief that I couldn't have prepared myself any better given my circumstances. Thus all I had to do by then was to put all my knowledges into practice during the OSCE, and eventually leave all matters to Allah. Alhamdulillah, when the big day came where our results were posted on the medical school's announcement board, I could muster a smile and tell my parent over the phone,

"Mom, your son is now officially a doctor. Alhamdulillah."

To all my dearest friends who will be facing their examinations not long from now, I wish you all the very best. May Allah ease all your affairs and that you will stroll through your examinations with flying colors.

In the end, if you believe that you have put as much effort as you could but things still don't go as how you wish it would, then do not fall into despair. Avoid saying, "If only I had spent a bit longer in the library..", or "I should have listened to such and such's advice", for such actions are merely meant to find the scapegoat in your failure. Rather, keep on trying until you eventually succeed, as the only real failure in life is the failure to try.

“If anything befalls you, do not say, ‘If only I had done such and such.’ Rather say, 'Allah has decreed and He does what He wills.’ For saying ‘if only’ opens the door for the Shaytaan.” [Saheeh Muslim]

And Allah knows best.