by Hurunnessa Fariad
I couldn’t get out of bed. My head was spinning and I was nauseous even though I had an empty stomach. Normally, I would have called in sick and spent the rest of the day in bed, nursing myself back to health. This time, though, I was in my hotel room in Texas, preparing for the Global Faith Forum. I thought to myself, “How will I get ready when I can’t even keep my eyes open?” But I knew I could not miss this event. It was a significant moment for our organization, and I had a list of things which I was responsible for. I didn’t want to leave my colleagues to handle my work because they each had their own duties as we made sure our 1500+ guests who had registered for the event were taken care of.
I somehow managed to get ready and made it over to the church where the two-day event was being held. It is also the church where Pastor Bob Roberts, my boss and our organization’s co-founder, started and served as the senior pastor for many years, not to mention the home of MFNN’s offices. I was hungry but didn’t have an appetite because of the nausea. I attempted to eat something small only to find myself sick again. Most of my colleagues didn’t know about my situation because they were all busy attending to their tasks.
I took a few sips of water just to keep myself hydrated while my head felt like a hammer striking it every five seconds. I really needed a way to make it through the event without suffering. I would usually take ibuprofen to help but on that day it wasn’t helping at all. In the middle of this, I received a text from my Christian colleague. He found out I wasn’t feeling well because of my migraine and asked me how I was feeling and how he could be of assistance. I thanked him for his concern but I didn’t know any other way to feel better except to just wait it out. He continued to check on me and within the hour he told me there was a doctor at the church who could see me and possibly give me something to help relieve my pain.
His concern immediately reminded me of verses in our holy Quran and the traditions of our Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). In the Islamic tradition, visiting the sick and taking care of the sick grants a person high status with God Almighty. One of the statements of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh), notes the position one could have with God Almighty. It is reported that Prophet Mohammed said, “On the Day of Resurrection, Almighty God will say, ‘O son of Adam! I became sick and you did not visit me!’ The person will say, ‘O Lord, how can I visit you and you are the Lord of all that exists!’ God will say, ‘Did you not know that my slave ‘so and so’ was sick, and you did not visit him? Did you not know that if you visited him, you would have found me with him?’” (Muslim)
If visiting the sick has such a status with God, imagine what God would say about going out of your way to care for the sick! I was so touched and relieved that some kind of help from God was coming my way and it was coming through my Christian friend. He met me in an area at the church with the doctor whom I had never met before. The doctor was a kind and attentive Christian man who genuinely looked concerned for me. He asked me a few questions and then said he would give me something to help with my migraine as well as something for my nausea. Within a half hour or so, the medications came and I was on my way to feeling better. By this time, my other colleagues had learned about my illness and were demonstrating concern for my well being. After an hour, my nausea was completely gone and I barely felt the throbbing in my head.
Being kind, thoughtful, caring, and empathetic is emphasized in each of the Abrahamic faith traditions, but it is action that lives out these words which makes people stand out. We say we believe, but how do we show up for people? How do we carry out the words of God, which means so much to us, to those who need them the most? Our multi-faith advocacy doesn’t have any value if our words are not followed by actions which impact the communities in which we live and work in. He showed me a core trait that Christians are expected to have. He didn’t just talk about compassion, he acted on his concern. It was this act by him that showed me that if I am ever in trouble or in need he would be one of the people I could reach out to. He showed his humanity to me that day. He might shrug it off as “no big deal”, but it made me feel seen and important. Even in the midst of all that was happening, he stopped to show who he is as a Christian man, trying to do God’s work. He saw me as a human worthy of getting help for, a Muslim woman who has beliefs which are fundamentally different from his. Yet, he knew what Jesus would expect from him, and he delivered it, above and beyond anyone’s expectations.