In Islam, illness is often seen as a blessing in disguise through which God cleanses, purifies and forgives.Visiting the sick also is an important tenet of the Islamic faith — viewed as an act of worship and mercy that brings comfort and blessings not only to the one suffering but also to those visiting.
Dr. Abdul-Majeed Azad, University of Toledo professor of chemical engineering, has put these core beliefs of his Islamic faith into practice by bringing gifts of healing to fellow Muslim patients at UT Medical Center. He believes this helps the patients keep connected to their faith while receiving medical help from dedicated physicians and nurses.
Inspired by a program at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center started by a colleague in August 2012, Azad contacted the Rev. Dan Deeter, the spiritual support specialist at UTMC, in hopes of creating something similar at the hospital.
Deeter was supportive of the idea and after completing hospital volunteer training, Azad started the service in January.
Each morning, Deeter gives a list of Muslim patients to Azad, and he visits them on his way home from work. To every newly admitted patient, he brings special gifts of healing.
Gifts include a bottle of water from the Well of Zamzam in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the holiest and most revered city in Islam; a packet of Ajwah dates planted by Prophet Muhammad in the city of Medinah, Saudi Arabia, the second holiest city of Islam; and a card printed with supplications in both Arabic and English from the Quran as well as from Prophet Muhammad.
Muslims believe that both Zamzam water and the Ajwah dates have health benefits and healing attributes. The water and dates come directly from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in certified packets and each bag of these healing gifts costs about $20.Azad said he feels blessed visiting these patients and providing support and encouragement because it gives him the feeling of kinship and reminds him to be thankful to God for his own good health.
“When I see a patient, I feel thankful that I am healthy,” Azad said. “It is a blessing of God to me that He has not afflicted me with any disease.”
He says his favorite part is meeting Muslims who come from places all over the United States and Canada. He also has reached out to surrounding hospitals, such as Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center and Flower Hospital, in the hope of growing this program.
Deeter said he is excited to see the program at UTMC.
“Many times what I find is people of similar religions are kind of like family, even though they may not know each other,” Deeter said. “For someone to come alongside them and be a caring presence is encouraging.”
Azad, who has been a faculty member at the University for 10 years, soon will be leaving.
Though he will not be around to continue this visitation program, he is optimistic that someone will step in to take charge and continue it. He encourages his Muslim colleagues to take over because he believes this volunteer service is invaluable.
To donate or volunteer, contact Azad at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419.699.9191 or Deeter at email@example.com.