By Muneeb Nasir
Outside the sacred sanctuary of houses of worship, hospitals and health institutions are among places where the most sincere prayers are offered.
They are places where many people seek God for solace and comfort, and where they may rediscover and reconnect with God.
Many years ago, I would visit and sit for many hours with a close family member who was in the hospital.
These were daily visits so I would bring along a book to read.
At the time, I was reading the well-known, bestselling novel, ‘The Kite Runner,’ by the Afghan-American author, Khaled Hosseini.
In the novel, the main character and protagonist, Amir, is distraught when his nephew, the young Hazara boy, Shohrab, attempted to commit suicide.
Amir rushes to the hospital to be with Shohrab.
As the doctors and nurses attempt to save Shorab, Amir grabs a white bed sheet from the pile of linens in the hospital to be a makeshift prayer rug (jai-namaz).
As he stands on the prayer rug, Amir remembers he hadn't prayed for over fifteen years and had forgotten the words of the prayer.
All he could remember to say was ‘La ilaha illal Allah, Muhammadu-Rasul ullah” - There is no god but the One God, Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger.
Amir at that moment said, “I see now that Baba was wrong, there is a God, there always has been. I see Him here, in the eyes of the people in this corridor of desperation.
This is the real house of God, this is where those who have lost God will find Him, not the white masjid with its bright diamond lights and towering minarets.
There is a God, there has to be, and now I will pray.”
I remember reading these words from the ‘Kite Runner’, early on a Sunday morning, and I immediately recalled an Islamic teaching where the Messenger of God, Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, God Almighty will say on the Day of Resurrection:
O son of Adam, I was sick but you did not visit Me. He will say: My Lord, how can I visit You when You are the Lord of the worlds? God will say: Did you not know that My servant was sick and you did not visit him, and had you visited him you would have found Me with him?....... (Excerpt, Hadith Qudsi, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim).
As such, throughout recorded human history faith communities have had an affinity to support health care and build hospitals - for within these walls, while visiting the sick, is where ‘you would have found God.’
Indeed, Islamic civilization distinguished itself in the advancement of the medical sciences and in the formation of the modern hospital.
In Canada, religious orders and communities have played an oversized role in the healthcare of the country. Religious people have lived out their faith by responding to the calling to comfort the sick and to lift the sorrows of the sorrowful.
In my frequent visits to health institutions and hospitals, I have seen in the eyes and faces of people the most sincere prayers and entreaties being offered to God - and I sense that sacred connection to Him that the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, spoke about, “When a submitting believer (Muslim) visits his fellow sister/brother, he is harvesting the fruits of Paradise until he returns.” (Hadith, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim).
And finally - in all the joys and sorrows of life, and in good health and illnesses - we accept God’s decree as the great Muslim leader, Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, may God be pleased with him, used to say, “O God, make me content with Your providence and bless me in Your decree, such that I would not like to hasten what has been delayed, nor delay what has been hastened.”