During the course of my job, I have met a few of them who managed to get to this city, some of them many years ago.

There was a lady who was ill with cancer and longed to go back to Myanmar, but with her condition, it was not possible. We had difficulties resolving all of her symptoms as she could not speak our language. She had a difficult pain to control, I think we finally managed to reduce at least most of it. She passed away in this peaceful country of ours.

After a few years I met a middle aged Rohingya man. He was very friendly and cheerful, both of us yet to know what was going on inside him.

Naturally as a doctor I needed to find out his social and family background. At that time I have just heard about the situation in Myanmar. So we spoke a bit more.

He felt very thankful that he has reached this country many years ago. This peaceful country is so much unlike his. “The people around me are very nice. They helped me in every way. They were there for me with every difficulties I faced. The people in the masjid took me as their own.”

He told me that the imam of the masjid married him with an Indonesian lady. “They are very nice people, I am very thankful,” he said repeatedly, with a smile on his face.

When I asked him about what is actually happening in Myanmar, he did not want to explain in detail. “You don’t want to know about the horrors that has been happening, doctor.” One of his legs was amputated, he blamed it to the oppressing side.

So I asked him, “Why is it that BOTH sides seek refuge? You Rohingya people are here, and so is the oppressing side.” I gaped at the answer; it appears that there is another side who is lighting the fire between the Muslims and the Buddhists.

But it was all behind him. He has had a happy, peaceful life here in this country, and I can say he is one very grateful man. He kept on praising and thanking Allah for giving him the opportunity to live in peace, and appreciating the people around him who became his family when he has lost his own.

Sadly he passed away not so long after that with a ruptured cancer.

A year passed and I saw another man. Another colleague of mine was taking care of him. He was found having seizures and was brought to the hospital by an ambulance. He could not speak any Malay or English, he could only tell us he’s fron Myanmar. He said he is Muslim.

So my well-meaning friend called the Myanmar embassy to ask them to help this man get a place to stay when he’s discharged later. They told her, “He’s not from my country.” But this man kept on saying that he is from Myanmar. My friend and our specialist and consultant were bewildered.

When I was on call one weekend, I told the specialist. “He’s from Myanmar, but he’s a Muslim. I don’t think they want to take him back.” He asked me why.

I asked him back, “Do you know what is happening over there?”
“No, I don’t,” he answered.
So I told him about the crisis in Arakand and how the Rohingyans were oppressed. That’s why some of them ran away.
“Oh, I did not know all that.”

“If we send him back to his country, he might just be murdered as soon as he landed there. If we wanted to do that, we might as well have not saved his life at the first place. So he’s staying here,” I gave my opinion.

Two weeks down the line, he was well, but still in the ward, getting chubbier each day. “He eats a lot now, doctor,” the nurses told me. “We’d give him extra food from other people who did not eat theirs, and yes, he could finish two plates of rice at one sitting.”

I hope he has found somewhere to stay.

* * *

I hope and pray that our country will remain peaceful.

Any racist thoughts and ideas should be nip in the bud. Although in some people, racism has put a firm grip on their hearts.

The oppressing Myanmar who seek refuge here would find that he’s treated by Muslim doctors.

The same goes in our country too. No matter who you are, where you come from, what colour is your skin, if you come in with a heart that has stopped pumping, we would still do a CPR for you. We would still try to save your lives.

And by WE, it can mean people from different colours and belief system.

Because despite whatever difference we have, we are all still brothers in humanity.

So Happy Together

I could pretend
That we are together

I could pretend
That we love each other

I could always tell you all my worries
Coz I know you would listen to all my stories

Not only that, you would say beautiful words
So my heart would smile, the wounds no longer hurt

But you said it’s enough, you won’t give more than that
Although you don’t know, those gave springs to my steps

I’m sure you’ll be there when I needed to cry
But what’s the point, we’re floating in the skies

Coz when you have to go away
My heart would break

That’s why being apart
Would bring peace to my heart

Thank you for your smile
Thank you for saying hi
Thank you for leaving behind whatever that has passed by


The Inspiration to be Thankful

It takes a lot of effort to be thankful when so much of what you already have is being taken away one after another.

Your family, good companion, motivation, memory, energy, strength…

But when you start counting all your past blessings, and when you remember how all those good and seemingly-bad-but-actually-great things that has happened in the past made you the kind of person you are now, it gives you the strength to go on, one difficult day after another.

Nouman Ali Khan on 46:15


The Festival of Knowledge 2015: Optimism At Times of Tribulation

Disclaimer: This article is mainly about my experience attending the conference, rather than the contents of it. I have shared some of the contents elsewhere, and I will, insyaaAllah, write a few more articles about the jewels that I managed to pick up from there.

I may have mentioned this before, but I’ll say this again. Ilmfest 2015 was held in Putrajaya in May, at the same time I finished my neurology posting. It was also held after two emotionally and spiritually challenging months for me. I had the worst (best?) emotional roller coster ride since 6 years ago. It was a ride that had me asking “what is the point of all this, really?”, one that had me feeling that something shattered me as if none that I have worked for all this while has worked, one that had me open my eyes to hope, to the sunshine after the rain, and that had me look back and say “the hard work I put in actually paid, alhamdulillah!”.

With the theme of “Optimism At Times of Tribulation”, it was definitely what I needed the most.

All of us go through difficulties in life, in one form or another. It is the nature of this life in this world. It has been promised to us that all of us would go through tests, and the level of difficulty would depend on our views in life, our faith in what is going to happen next.

It does not matter whether you’re tested with problems of health, finances, knowledge, authority, marriage (or the lack of it), friendship, work or anything at all, the answers in the Quran are the same. We may start wondering why, but that is not the only question we should ask.

We shall all respond in a positive manner – to find the solution, fully believing that Allah has the answer to every problem. We just need to find it.

We shall also look back into ourselves, what did we do wrong? Why did we, as humans gifted with forebrains and a complex limbic system, let this happen? So that we could learn a lesson and become better people, and not to learn to blame others (including God, or for some, the absence of God), for whatever is happening around us.

It is only when we look into ourselves, that we could remain upright. It is only when we correct ourselves, that we could move forward. Nobody in this whole world will do that for us. Nobody in this world will prepare us the right environment for us to thrive. We need to do it ourselves, then only we could be at peace no matter what life throws at us.

Whatever calamity that occurred to us has only one purpose: to build us up. They are not there to bring us down to despair, not to crush us that we could no longer stay upright.

“Everybody grieves, but you should not let your grief paralyse you,” said Sheikh Abu Eesa.

They also taught us to focus. Not to let any of the trials deviate us from our goals. In fact, those tests could be reminders for us to refocus, to stay on the right path. If we are focused on our targets, the trials will appear smaller and easier to handle.

* * *
The speakers.

They are such amazing people. To see them lined up in the stage was one of the most life changing experience.


These are the people who spent hours upon hours studying the book of Allah. They studied the Quran, they memorised the Quran word by word, they studied about the entire life of Prophet Muhammad SAW, they studied the books written by the people who studied the Quran, and there are thousands of those books!

These are not the only books they studied, some studied psychology, social science in college, some pharmacy, arts and design, chemical engineering and many more.

We could see that they are in love of what they are doing.

The was they smile when they were giving their lectures.
The way their eyes light up when they spoke about our beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW.
The way their faces brightened up for just imagining having dinner with the Islamic scholars of the past.

The way their voice softened and that gentle gaze appeared when they mentioned their wives, who sacrificed by being thousands of miles away from them, so that the husbands could go around the globe and spread knowledge.

The way they joked with each other, those peaceful-no-trolling kinds of jokes that are funny but did not hurt anybody.

The way peace and serenity seemed to descend on this earth when Sheikh Yasir Qadhi gave the talk on the Parables of Light. It was an out-of-this-world experience for me.

The gentle, friendly way they spoke to each other, as if they were brothers from the day they were born.

Well, they are, and we are, brothers and sisters in Islam.

The different sizes, skin colours , original ancestries of each of them, each of us. We all look different but none of that mattered at all. We are one, because we believe in one God, and we believe that Prophet Muhammad SAW is Allah’s messenger.

I love the way they say their prayers at the end each lecture. Praying that we will all be continuously guided, that we will all be at peace with whatever life throws at us, that we will all become more united, that the world will one day achieve a peaceful state.

Most importantly, that we should all continue to increase our contribution to the people of this earth, and become better servants of Allah SWT.

* * *

I could not thank Allah enough for giving these speakers guidance, that they could spread the light to people like us.

I could not thank Allah enough for giving us the opportunity to attend this conference.

Words could never describe the gratitude I have for those who sponsored this event.

All praises and gratitude is to Allah for sending down the Quran, as the guidance for all mankind.

* * *

If you asked me, did the conference fulfil my expectations?

I’d say, it exceeds expectations. :)


The Doctor’s Advice

When the doctor tells you to quit smoking,
It’s up to you to follow his advice.
If you do not, you might or might not suffer the consequences.
It’s your choice.

When the doctor tells you to lose that extra weight,
It’s up to you to follow his advice.
If you do not, you might or might not walk with painful knees, get diabetes, or have sleeping problems.

When the doctor tells you to give birth in the hospital,
It is up to you where you choose.
You may or may not bleed to brain injury, and your child may or may not suffer even worse brain injury.
Your choice.

When the doctor tells you to vaccinate your kids,
You may think it is up to you.
But you have to know, it is a social responsibility to vaccinate, never really a personal choice.


If the doctor told you to come back and see your ill mother,
You would better do it.
You don’t have a choice.

Because it often means she is leaving this world.
If she does, and you did not follow the doctor’s order, you will regret it in your entire life.

Doctors could try to save lives.
But doctors could not wake up the dead.

They Were Upset and I Wondered Why

As with other doctors, I am no stranger to taking exams upon exams, some more difficult than the others, at times passing, but sometimes not making it through.

With that, my colleagues, senior colleagues and mentors would know my results, good or not as favourable.

Thing is, whenever I don’t get through the exams, some of them would recieve the news with fallen faces.

It often seemed like their response is worse than my own, when I looked at my own results.

I was never comfortable with it.

I never understood why they should be so upset when I have yet to give up on myself, and when I was not as frustrated as they appeared to be.

Until one day I heard about a dear friend. I have not met him for about a year.

A few weeks ago I saw another colleague who came to my ward to look for cases. So I asked her about him and some other friends who took the same exam at the same time.

“Oh, all of us got through, except for him. He had to resit that exam,” she said.

I felt rather sad.

The news bothered me. The fact that he did not go through the exam resurfaced a few times on that day, in between seeing patients.

I hoped and prayed that he will make it soon.

He was one to encourage me to focus on my exams and get through it quickly.

From that day, I understood how it may have felt like for all those people to hear my news.

I’m not going to ask why anymore.


Disclaimer: this is a story about my time spent with neurologists, and only a little bit about neurology as a field.

One of the reasons I asked to be transferred to the current hospital I’m working in is I wanted to do a rotation in neurology. I wanted to see whether I truly love this field.

I had interest in neurology since I was a student. I thought I wanted to be a neurosurgeon. Towards the end of housemanship, with plans of building a family, I thought of becoming a lecturer in anatomy with special interest in neuroanatomy.

However, after discussion with a few important people in my life and career, I chose the clinical path to become a physician with some thoughts of being a neurologist later. Some thoughts. I didn’t know for sure yet.

So after two years being in this place, I was posted for four months (like other rotations), into neurology department. Like the other colleagues, I was nervous but eager to learn new things.

You see, neurology is not a favourite subject for many doctors, even among physicians. The structure of the nervous system is complex, the functions even more so. There are so much that human beings still do not know about the human brain.

Hence there are so many neurological diseases of which the cause has yet to be found, and worse, the cure is limited and the hopes of recovery poor.

What is damaged would often remain damaged, although some may improve with training and perseverence. Some diseases like epilepsy could only be controlled, and for some others like multiple sclerosis, we could only hope that relapses don’t happen.

With that realization, many would think that neurology is a depressing field to be in. You speak to the patient and examine him, by then you already have an idea of the diagnosis. You confirm it with many investigations, some take many months to complete. When you finally clinched the diagnosis, you look at the patient and the family, wondering how they are going to cope with that illness, the uncertainty of whether or not there will be recovery, and if he has no hope for cure, there’s no way of telling how long he has left.

Unlike cancers, I personally found neurological diseases a lot more difficult to prognosticate.

After four months in the posting, I had mixed feelings towards the field itself. But it was sister Yasmin Mogahed who made me realise how amazing neurologists are.

Ilmfest Putrajaya was held right at the end of my neurology posting, when I was already having some withdrawal symptoms by thinking that I was not going to work with those people again. So sister Yasmin was talking about her friend who had four disabled children, when it hits me that some of the most amazing people in this world are those who fight for the people who could not speak for themselves.

Then I had a flashback of my four months there.

They would speak kindly to the patients, even when all they get back was just a blank stare.

They would try to examine every single part that they need to, because they wanted to make sure they don’t miss anything, and to make sure no new problems arise. Even when, or more so when, the patient is bedbound and fully dependant.

They would try to relieve every single physicial symptoms a patient have, even when the disease is incurable.

They are the happiest when a patients show the slightest improvement, even when it’s from a blank stare to an eye contact. Even when it’s a flicker of movement from no movement.

As seniors, they listen to every single word you say, every single question you ask, and answer you, even at 3am.

As seniors, they are such good judge of character, that they appreciate the hardworking ones.

They remain dignified no matter what kind of behaviour others show to them.

They are such compassionate people, they work as hard on weekends as they do on weekdays.

Their eyes are so keen and pair that with good hearts, they could see your pain and would try to help as much as they could.

They are such gentle people, I have never heard them shout. Perhaps only some firm voice when needed but nothing more that.

Combine compassion and perseverance, they have the patience to wait for patients to recover their function, of course after multiple physiotherapy sessions.

They would be the happiest people when the patients recover from not being able to swallow, to move, to speak, and a few tortuous months down the line, the patients would be talking and eating like they did before.

As seniors, they would make sure we get something out of our stay there.

“Maria, are you okay?” would be the question whenever I was in clinic, every time I was finishing with a consultation. Lengthy teaching would come after each patient, which I have so much gratitude for.
I know my fellow colleagues had that too.

* * *

I went into neurology posting to learn about neurological diseases.

I got a lot more.

Thank you so much for showing me patience, perseverance, dignity, gratitude, and compassion.

Thank you for your listening ears, and concerned eyes.

And of course, thank you for all the knowledge poured on to us. We all did learn a lot from you.

Thank you.