Ahmad Sampang ibnu Hajiri, MD

A Personal blog by a Tausug medical student (now a doctor!) from Sulu and the stories that inspired him.
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Assalamu Alaykum. 

For a new Muslim here in Manila, there are indeed a lot of challenges that could come your way... Being alone is one and looking for Halal foods, looking for Musallahs to pray in, looking for Masjids on fridays, and the list goes on and on... But Alhamdulillah, meeting new Muslims friends here in Manila made me feel less lonelier. By attending simple Muslim gatherings and lectures I was fortunate to meet a lot of them whom I can now consider my family here in Manila. What is best is that we share the same beliefs and we understand each others problems and we help and try to support each other.

Last Saturday, after attending a lecture about Christmas <click here> I was able to spend the rest of the day with the other Muslim participants. Well, what we did was just the simple family gatherings a real family would do... Pray together, eat dinner together, and yes, we had our own "(unmarried) boy's night", too. haha. Just scroll along to see how I really enjoyed that company I have been looking for after months of studying in medschool. After all, I was a member of the Muslim community before I became a med student. :)

taking a break
Good (looking) brothers with beards
We are the "Beard Brothers" haha

Before finally going back home (to Sulu) for our year-end break, I attended a short lecture in Cubao organized by the New Muslim Care, a network of Muslims and New Muslims (or Balik Islam which they are more commonly called) in Manila. The lecture was indeed timely as it’ theme is about the “Celebration of Christmas and what Muslim should and should not do” and was delivered by one great brother Ustadz Muhammad Yahya of Sudan.

The following will be my own sharing base on what I grasped and learned in the 2 hour lecture by brother Yahya and some sharing by other brothers and sisters who attended the session. Pls do notify me if in case there are some errors in my part that I may correct them immediately. Some of these you are about to read might be painful and unacceptable to our not-yet-Muslim friends and even Muslims as well, so I am already asking you to please be patient and read all throughout until the end. These are not my own words and I, nor our lecturer, did not made it up on our own. They were all taught in our religion with strong basis from the scriptures of the Holy Qur’an and following the hadith of our beloved Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him).

What is Christmas?
We started by first defining what is Christmas so that we could understand this event that we are about to talk about. As Muslims living in a Christian environment almost all of us already know that Christmas is the “celebration of the birth of Jesus” (peace be upon him) every 25th of December each year. But what is the significance of this celebration to the Christians themselves? For them, this is what they believed to be the “day of the birth of God’s Son” or what they call “God Incarnate”. Thus this is not just a celebration or event from another Religion (Christianity) but is also a celebration that is based on a belief that is TOTALLY AGAINST the teachings of Islam.

 From the Islamic point of view, the concept of “God as Flesh” or the belief in “Son of God” is unacceptable and will be considered as one of the greatest blasphemy one can do in his life. For God (Allah) is Eternal and Absolute, He owns everything and never needed a son and none can be liken unto Him. And for Muslims, Jesus or Prophet Eisa (his Musim name) is no one but a mere Prophet of God, just like Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him), humans who lived to guide their people and humanity to the straight path. So Muslims should really be careful about this and always be aware of what is the essence why Christians celebrate Christmas.

Can Muslims Celebrate Christmas?
The answer is a clear NO. No matter what circumstances you will be in, a Muslim should never, ever celebrate Christmas by heart. For it was never part of the teachings of Islam, it was never done by the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him) and his companions and thus should be avoided at all cost. Even his own birthday (the Prophet Muhammad) was never celebrated during his time, what more of Prophet Eisa (Jesus). This is to avoid making such event part of the traditions and dangerously become part of our concept of doing “worship”.

Also, in Islam there are only two valid and authentic celebrations for Muslims, that is Eidul Fitr and Eidul Adha. Nothing more, nothing less. Not even your own birthday!

Can Muslims attend Christmas Parties?
Bonifacio and the Philippine Post Office
Earlier last Friday afternoon (a rarity that I have no more classes), I went to the Philippine Postal Office to claim a parcel package. It was sent by an adorable friend from Malaysia whom I met last year on her daring adventure to our hometown, Sulu.

She just got married last October and as much as I wanted to attend, I was sadly unable to for my schedules are already packed with my studies. And yes, there’s also the problem with my passport. And financial thing too. Aaand.. Anyway, so much for those excuses… as a sign of friendship, the couple sent a “gift” or “token” for me and other friends whom she (the bride) have been fondly get attached with during her short stay in Zamboanga and Sulu. And that’s what I was going to claim at the post office.

I wonder what's inside this gigantic building?
The post office, as usual, always gives me a lot of questions to ask (its my second time coming here by the way; cant remember the reason for coming there the first one though). First is the statue of Bonifacio. What does a revolutionary leader got to do with the post office? I have no idea. Then the big, old building itself. It is so huge and massive that you could imagine that the government is actually hiding some gigantic robot or dinosaur inside! (Hsssshhhh! Don’t tell them about it!). Oh well, that was just me and my poor little imagination working when I’m walking alone observing big, old buildings.

So, I received the package (aren’t they supposed to be delivered? Oh well), paid some amounts (I don’t know for what, just pay it man!), clung to it like a first trophy I just received and went directly to my place, excited to see what’s inside. (Plus, I can’t stay outside Manila for too long. I feel more… uneasy and longing more for my quiet neighborhood at home in Sulu).

At my room at last, I carefully removed the plastic wrapped in packaging tapes and immediately noticed the big, red letters written in the orange tapes that read: AL-QURAN. It was perhaps written there to inform the "carriers' to take extra care in handling the box because there's a Qur'an inside. It's supposed to be that way. I hope they did what they are supposed to do -_-. There were also some stickers that I can say coming from the Malaysian agencies just like the Phil.Post. 

The box from Malaysia :D
  After slowly removing the tapes, and finally opened the box, I saw this (in amazed expression):

Have you ever thought that upon waking up in the early morning hours, you were already blessed? That just by opening your eyes you are indeed given another day full of blessings? And from the moment you stood up and went to prepare your breakfast, did your things-to-do, prepare for school or work, wash yourself and wear your neat clothes, walk out your cozy home and went to your office from a high business-class buildings or to your well-known school; every step you take, you are blessed.

Blessed with a wonderful life. Blessed with something to eat. Blessed with a safe home to stay and rest and sleep. Blessed with neat and comfortable clothes to wear. Blessed with good shoes you walk with. Blessed with endless you opportunities that lay before your eyes. Blessed with every smiling face that meet you everyday. Blessed with the air you breathe and the life you have each day... each day a chance to be blessed and a chance to thank Him and Praise Him for these blessings. 

Yet why do we tend to forget? Astaghfirullah.

Why do we forget to praise the Almighty for every little thing we have that a lot of people do not have? Why to we forget that it was Him and not us who made all of these things with us possible? Why do we forget that we were dead when we are asleep and He wake us up once more each day, to give us another chance to ask for forgiveness and correct our wrongs, do things right, worship and praise Him in the easiest way we can? Sometimes we become so engrossed with our daily lives, our stressful works, our loads of readings and exams at school that we forget (even just for a moment) why we were here in this world in the first place: To worship Him and no one else.

And what's the best way to worship Him, to praise Him and to thank Him than to follow his commandments. To please Him by doing what He command us, His slaves, to do and avoid those He forbade us to do. And how best to do these than to approach Him and talk to Him directly without barriers? To praise Him and say His name again and again. To feel His presence with the silent serenity of Prayer? And what's best than doing it five times a day?

Assalamu Alaykum.

It's been a while since I last shared about life in Med-school... hope I could catch up with my schedule and write some of them here as the end of the year draws near... 

Aside from Fridays being my favorite day, there is yet another reason why I consider Fridays are great... No, it's not about the fact that we have exams every Friday (-_-), that one is just exhausting... But it's about out 2-hour session every Friday that makes a change for us. 

The Art of Medicine is a one unique course we have every Friday afternoons. For 2 hours, we will talk not about the complex pathophysiology of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, or the Cushing's Syndrome, or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or Kawasaki's Disease or whatever alien names and words only the medical student's can understand (or are still trying to understand). No, we don't even talk about the brain-bursting pharamakokinetic and pharmakodynamics of drugs of different diseases. Not even what you see in a histochemical assays or the pathognomonic signs of certain pathology (Yeah I know I am already speaking alien here, thanks to this life in Med we chose to be in). For once in our life, yes, even just for two hours, we never talk about those things mentioned above every Friday, every session of our Interdisciplinary Course or IDC: the Art of Medicine. Then what do we talk about you ask? What do we do during the IDC Courses?

We learn about different things, equally important to doctors and us future doctors (in shaa Allah). We talk about dealing with patients, listening and empathizing with them and their concerns, talking to families and friends of our patients, how to deal with death and suffering, how to deal with colleagues and superiors, how to work as a team, and how to make proper, timely and wise decisions when the time and need arise. 

I cannot share much of what we learned each Friday but I can as much say that Fridays are always a great chance for us to step out of the stressful box of medicine and see another world that we are not supposed to forget. It's a great way to remind us that we are not any learning robots reading hundreds of pages from books and transcriptions, listening to lectures of complicated diseases, cramming them all up in our tiny brains trying to remember them all at once. We are, in fact, still humans who should learn to listen and interact with other people. Deal with our colleagues and patients not with our brains but with our lending ears and our understanding hearts (naks). For Medicine alone was not created or discovered for the sake of its complexities and intimidating loads of information. It was created and formed with a single mission: To save a life. (in shaa Allah)

After all, Medicine in not just a Science. It is actually an Art. :)

[Okay, I admit that I missed some of my IDC classes, or slept through some of them (c'mon! IDCs come after our Friday Exams!), but I can attest to one thing: I enjoy what I learn in IDCs. They were "lessons for life" that I have to carry on learning until the end of my career as a Doctor-to-be in shaa Allah. Magsukul pa katan mga kamastalan namu' ha IDC hehe]

Class 2017 with Dr Tony and Dra. Leonila Dans after our IDC: Art of Medicine Class (one of the best lectures I attended :D) Photo from John Tanchuco

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just saying. -Dr. Ahmad