International Affairs

“He needs to go to the hospital right now.”

by Bint Abu Yusuf

“I’m so glad it’s you!” the woman cried desperately, “it’s my son, Tariq, he’s been very, very sick. I’ve been waiting outside the masjid; I came here today to be able to collect enough money to take him to the hospital. I don’t know what to do!”

2543859325_0625d92b25_oCrying, she held Tariq in her arms while her two year old daughter, Samar, stood nearby. Tariq was having trouble breathing and looked very pale. I had greeted this woman on my way to the masjid daily in the country I was then living in and I used to play with her daughter on my way out from the salah. She used to sit with her daughter and son, hoping for a generous passerby. One time she wept bitterly after an old man shooed her away from the masjid. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have to be,” she told me between sobs, “I even went to school.” Another poor woman saw her crying and came to comfort her. “Say Alhamdulillah for everything,” she consoled her while describing her own destitution, “We only need Allah.”

That day, I was not supposed to be where I was; I had needed to run a few extra errands after Arabic class and I ended up running late and thus Allah had written for me to be with this woman at that moment. Subhan’Allah, how He plans everything; we never know what is in store for us only moments away.

“No problem! Don’t worry!” I tried to reassure her in my classical Arabic, “Let’s go to the pharmacy down the street and insha’Allah they’ll give him something!” We ran down the street, baby in arms, toddler straggling, and barged into the pharmacy.

The man from the pharmacy took one look at Tariq and gravely said, “He needs to go to the hospital right now.” The woman looked at me anxiously and the man gave instructions on what to do. He soon realized I was a foreigner with no experience in this country, especially having to do with the dire medical emergency we were in.

Realizing I was clueless, the pharmacy owner instructed, “There’s a government hospital nearby. Take a taxi there and they’ll treat him!” Another boy who worked there perhaps aged fifteen, looked at our perplexed faces, quickly offered to grab a cab and soon we were all running down the street. The boy grabbed a cab – “He’s going to take you to the hospital” – and paid the taxi driver. Subhan’Allah, may Allah reward this boy with the best rizq (provision) in this life and the next for what he did. He has no idea how much of a burden he had eased.

We piled into the taxi. Tariq was wailing from the pain. His mother tried to calm him while the taxi driver gave advice;  soon Sama also began to cry. I sat trying to figure out what had just happened and what in the world I was about to do.

I had to make a decision on whether or not I could just give her money and jump out of the taxi or go with her. I was worried though; I didn’t know if I had enough cash on me to cover what she might need. At least if I was with her, I might be able to somehow get more cash. It was maghrib time, soon to be dark; I was in a foreign land to learn a language I had just barely come to grasp, and without warning I was on my way to a government hospital with a responsibility towards a woman who seriously needed help. I had no idea what to do. I made the du`a’ for istikhara (guidance) and soon the cab turned away from the main road and into heavy traffic. Bismillah, our journey had officially taken off.

The taxi driver suggested, “Should I take him to the children’s hospital instead? They specialize in caring for children.” We soon agreed it would be the best option and we sped off into that direction. It was now dark.

We pulled up to the hospital rushing inside. The mother pulled out a prescription I had not known about, apparently from another time something like this had happened. The man at the counter said it had expired and the baby needed a new checkup. “But that’s going to cost more!” she protested to me. She was frustrated that they would not just give her baby the medication and she certainly didn’t have the money to pay for it.

Alhamdulillah, I had enough money to cover it but realized I only had a little more on me and as I had no idea how this evening was going to end I became concerned about our provisions. We waited for the doctor and soon we were called in. After quickly checking the baby, he said Tariq would need X-rays. We went down to the X-ray lab.

I tried to keep Samar busy while her brother went in for the X-ray. When it finished, the employees demanded the mother to “pay up.” I stepped in speaking in my Californian accented English – subhan’Allah, people view you so differently based on something so frivolous – “Can I use a credit card? I don’t have that amount of cash.” I didn’t even know how to use a credit card in this country but I had no other option. They denied my request.

“I’ll be back,” I told Tariq’s mom and I ran out of the hospital slightly dazed. It was dark and I had no idea where I was geographically. The hospital was basically behind a bunch of streets and there were piles of dirt and construction vehicles throughout the street. There was almost no one around. I started walking towards the light and soon found a guard whom I asked for help and who gave me directions to an ATM machine. Alhamdulilllah about twenty minutes later I was back with enough money and we were given instructions to go back up to see the doctor.

“He needs to be hospitalized,” the doctor told me in English. He did not say anything to his mother. “Subhan’Allah,” I exclaimed, “but what is the problem?” He replied curtly, “malnutrition.” My heart broke. This tiny infant was severely sick because he did not have enough or the right types of food. Why? I looked at his two year old sister and wanted to cry. What would become of their futures? What of their mother?

Tariq was soon checked in and hooked up to an IV. In the back of my mind, I could not help but worry about finances. The doctor said the baby needed to stay in the hospital indefinitely. I worried about how much all of this would cost.

After speaking to the hospital administrator, my Arabic teacher and a bunch of other people, I found out that this was a private hospital and it would cost more than one hundred US dollars per night, excluding medicines or food. The hospital administrator advised us to leave and go to the government hospital down the street… The hospital we were originally heading towards but detoured from after a suggestion from one sincere taxi driver, Subhan’Allah. I see that Allah had willed for me to see the reality of medical care in both worlds, for that of the rich and the poor, although insha’Allah that story is for another day.

So the story continues: we eventually went to the government hospital, dealt with the overcrowding which was nonexistent in the private hospital, had Tariq checked, received medication, purchased other vitals for the child and finally left.

I got home very late that night, exhausted after trying to figure out how to get back to my apartment using buses and walking through random streets. I recited Surat al-Mulk and reflected on all of the crazy events that I was honored to have experienced!

Alhamdulillahi Rabil`alameen, it was actually one of the most blessed experiences of my life as I was given one day of living life with a mother and her children in poverty, outside of my ‘comfort zone.’ Beyond that, I was so grateful alhamdulillah that Allah had bestowed me with the rizq to provide some financial help without which, as the mother explained, Taha may not have received any medication or recovered at all.

We’ve all heard stories of children in need; mothers who have to decide whether to give their child food or water; fathers who have to decide whether to buy food or medicine for their dying children. How many of these children have died from starvation because there wasn’t some random foreigner with American currency, who could tag along and help pay for the continually piling medical expenses, and the cost of transportation to get the child to an institution where health was charged by the night?

Then I ask us all: how many more children will have to endure the pains of malnutrition before they are given medical services – dare I say it – free? How many more parents have to shed tears from losing their babies to the common flu or diarrhea – curable illnesses – simply because they did not have the financial ability we have to protect their children?

You and I may not be on the streets of Bosnia or Sudan, Pakistan or Belize, Nigeria, Thailand or Mexico You may not even be on the same streets as those suffering in your American homeland. But your financial support can be. You can, with Allah’s Help and Will, literally improve and boost the life expectancy of a child in need.

Check out these facts from Islamic Relief:

  • $4 provides ambulances & health education to refuges in Darfur
  • $4 provides healthcare and medicine in Somalia
  • $30 provides access to education in Afghanistan
  • $280 provide psychosocial care to traumatized children in Palestine.

Our $1 is little to us, surplus change. But it is life to a mother whose child is limp in her arms, starving for days, dehydrated and in too much pain to cry. We can help them, with Allah’s Help! Learn from what Allah teaches us:


“And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent.” Qur’an, (65:3)

Be there to respond to their tears with the provision Allah has blessed you with!

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