March 24, 2017

When the time is right!

“Stronger than all the combined armies of the world is an idea whose time has come”. Profound as it may seem, these words of wisdom is timeless and is not tuned to a fact of ideas being big or small, menial or profound. Its sprouting is just when the time is right.

In the case of this flu epidemic that is raging through Maldives and our neighbors, it's such a moment to advocate for “prevention is better than cure”. Surely we have to deal with the part of the cure but it's a time to reflect and renew our commitment to prevention. For us to be aware that being healthy is everybody’s business. And everyone can participate and be effective. Not just to leave it to the physician or the health worker.

Our health system proved it unequivocally in the past and there is no reason why our health system can't make it happen again -- now in this present circumstances to institute a responsible system of prevention and awareness that will be sustainable even after this horrible event is a memory.

It requires us to be serious and make the commitment to attack the causes of ill health. In this given situation, it is the dirty and unhygienic personal habits. We need to know how this H1N1 germ (the virus or bacteria relating to other diseases also) gets into our bodies. How it is transmitted (yes, believe me, it's not rocket science), and then how to prevent getting sick.

The germ gets into us through microscopic droplets of body fluid that come out of the infected person when he/she coughs or sneezes. Someone else 5 or 6 feet directly from this sick or infected person may easily inhale the droplets that momentarily abound. Once these and the virus riding in it gets into our body we say we are infected. But the disease these cause does not manifest in fevers and similar coughs and body aches etc for about 3 or 4 days. This time-space is called the incubation period of the germ. That amount of time is needed for the germ to multiply and become a veritable force to the defense forces of the body we call ‘antibodies’. Since this new entry enemy has not been witnessed by the body’s present defence forces ever, it takes some time for them to build the skills needed to challenge the alien forces. Often the alien germ is much faster in this proliferation than the body forces be skilled. So we get sick because our forces lose are on the retreat - at least for the next few days. If we don't get the help of a treatment of some sort the alien forces will advance further and create havoc in the body. The temperature would rise, the body aches will begin, and the discomfort of a war going on inside of us become apparent by our disoriented state of being. Some people whose energy reserves are good can withstand till help arrives. Others with “less body immunity” dont have it that easy. Their inner organs a hurt and take longer to recover or even sometimes die to the enemy’s lethal barrage.

Secondary infections - those that the virus causes indirectrly, results in opportunities for ambient bacteria to attack also, and we have secondary infections that we deal with the use of  antibiotics. But we don't have to wait for this to happen. If we take remedial action such as taking panadol or such for lowering the fever and pain, do mouth-and-throat gargling regularly and inhale steam three times a day to disloge and expel the phlem that collects along our trachea and affect the air-sacs of our lungs (which can lead to pneumonia), we are perhaps in good flow of preventive action. However, advise of a doctor is wise to have because they may know more tricks on how to reduce our pain and shorten our suffering.

Yet, the main opportunity we must seek to deal with situations of impending disease is to take measures for not allowing the germ to enter the body. Besides the sure-fire way of inhaling the germs from another person’s immediate spewing droplets, there are three ways  the germ can get into our body. One is through our eyes as when we rub our eyes with contaminated hands. The other is through the insides of our nostrils as when we poke our infected fingers into it for dislodging bits of dried snot or relieve an itch. And the third is by soiled fingers entering the mouth as when we bite our nails or wipe our mouth with bare palm of our hands and when we eat without washing our hands and so on.

The sure fire way to protect is therefore to frequently and regularly wash our hands especially when we come home or to office or wherever after being out in the daily world; establish sanitary habits to prevent entry of germ through these above mentioned portals of entry to the body from soiled hands; and then to exercise conscious concern about coughing and sneezing in public. Please dont cough and sneeze without covering your mouth and nose - not with your bare hands but with a hanky or tissue. You can also sneeze or cough into your shirt sleeve or the upper arm or even into the inner crook of your elbow.

And this is a wonderful time also for the health authorities to strike when the iron is hot: to advocate and enforce measures on no spitting and no smoking in public. These behaviours have inherent dangers that need a much longer and deeper discussion. Just please believe me and other health professionals when they say it's dangerous. Much more danger than benefit to you. You will not look cool when it is time to close your eyes before your time.

Our concern in this life should not be about our life expectancy (how many years we want to live), but about our health expectancy (how productive and healthy these years will be). Therefore, prevention is always a wiser strategy than cure. All the hospitals in the world cannot make us healthy if we don’t take responsible steps to keep away from behaviours that make us sick.  

March 5, 2017

Readying for being a good parent or guardian

A good young person is the resource of a good society. A nation of good youth will form the great nations of tomorrow.  But how do we make this happen?
The beginning is always the home.  And thus parents have the brunt of the responsibility to make this happen.

A person’s goodness is defined by one’s character.  And the salient feature of good character is the mix of the right manners one possesses.  Personal hygiene, helpfulness, humility, love, patience, forgiveness, thankfulness and gratitude, ability to control anger, honesty, integrity, reliability, responsibility, kindness, sharing, and selflessness all combine to generate the best of character.

The pervasiveness of social disruption and lawlessness in society maybe quite rightly attributed to a lack of people of good character in a community or even society as a whole. Such a community is developed over time over generations; the result of successive generations doing their part to continue and enhance those values, mores, and sensibilities society sees necessary for its harmony. For closed communities this is relatively easier to maintain this than for those that are buffeted with external influences. This is why in modern societies, with the fast pace of change streaming from outside, it so difficult to keep old culture and creed sustained. Old values are constantly challenged and without the right social structure to explain the pros and cons of the consequences of accepting these, society soon develops the inevitable cracks.

Sadly what many of our newly modernizing societies find more attractive and lap up the fastest are those that seem most fashionable, not those that are developmentally useful. The clothes, the music, the conveyances, the infrastructure and sadly even the decadent stuff of gambling, drinking, sex and pornography, the use of narcotic substances and those values too that mark a break from the age-old timeless attitudes of caring and compassion for the young and the old, and those of helpfulness and gratitude. It is as if we have come to define development by the vestiges of the fringe behaviors that now plague the very industrialized nations that have given birth to the idea of capitalism, modernization and materialism.

While every global society is cracking on these fronts, in Maldives too, we see this same epidemic taking hold. Our extended family that has been the fountain that refreshed and energized successive generations with values and skills that keep a society together has been torn apart with the advent of the nuclear family (to jive with the norms of the materialistic lifestyle) leaving children to learn values from their peers or ayahs, rather than from responsible parents. Every generation witnesses a bit more of this erosion and our social fabric tearing ever more.

How can this process be halted? Can it ever? Will society reinvent itself as a whole new entity where morality has no place in it? Will we be controlled by alien forces and governed through the power of technology and its likes? Will parenthood as a nurturing force survive? Will it be deemed useless by the fact that parenting would also be transformed into a technical in-vitro process? What a world that would be!

To avoid the above and to be human in the ways that we were supposed to be as Allah SWA ordained us to be, we need to begin a process of personalized change right away. We have to begin thinking from the hollow life of a future we want to avoid, and fill it with the vibrancy of human life, as it should be lived

The question of caring for our children and instilling in them the character to live and succeed in this worldly life and the Hereafter must begin even before two people get married. This is because, nurturing a child with the right Islamic values and leaving behind a good human being who will remember and cherish the memories of parents and contribute to the good of society must have good role models.  That is the role of the parent.  For this, it is essential that we pick the right spouse. Just like having good fruits from a healthy and strong tree, we need the strength of character in parents too.

Islam teaches us that there are four criteria in selecting a spouse; beauty, wealth, family background, and righteousness. While most of us tend to gravitate towards beauty or attractiveness as the first criteria for selecting a spouse, Islam says that the quality of righteousness is the most paramount. This is because even as the other three qualities may dwindle or be taken away by the passage of time, true righteousness will always remain and be a beacon for our children and grandchildren. It can only rub off on the children and society will benefit in this world and in the Hereafter. To select or not select such a spouse is our test in this world, for what we do will constitute the merit of demerit that Allah will account for on the day of Reckoning. Just remember that the Shaithaan is always there to lead us down the garden path, and sadly, we only become aware of this when we are deep in the jungle of chaos.

Then comes parenting. Just as with the “garbage-in-garbage-out” adage, when we have “value-in”, we will have “value-out”. Good parents will bring up good children. So, Parents! You have twelve years only to mould your child as you like, just as the baker has time with the dough to mould before he puts it into the oven to bake the bread or whatever. Just like the bread or whatever once baked, our children once into teenage will not be ours to mould anymore. They will have their own ways to deal with what confronts them from then on. As is said in Islam, from then on we can only be our child’s friend – no more the mentor. Other metaphors people use to describe this process of change is that of the cocoon and the butterfly, or the potters clay and the finished jar. Once transformed for good or bad, we cease to be in control of the result. Unaware parents will lose this golden chance and the hurt will be theirs for life. Let’s pass our test of this world and bring up this child as the amaanaath (the trust) that it is from Allah SWA. Yes, we don’t own our children. They have been given to us to test us of that trust. We have to return them to Allah.

All is not lost however. Within the compassionate Design of Allah SWA, he has not left us hopeless. We, as aware individuals, still have means to mould our character over time; we have the choice to cut our path. And there are many ways. With some sense to guide us, we can actively reflect on our character and seek to find the glaring chinks and patch these up. The best way is by finding a peaceful moment in the day or night (as after prayer or meditation) to reflect on our behaviour and our attitudes that please of displease those we live with. How do we measure up to those attributes mentioned at the beginning of this write-up. Where are we failing? In addition, do we harbour hatefulness, resentment, jealousy, envy, or arrogance? We can be truthful to our selves in this personal reverie, because no one will know except you. This revelation will be the beginning of self-transforming. Self suggestion, mental imagery, and prayer and supplication and all such methods will help our subconscious mind to begin remoulding our old self-image to a new one. It may take a while, but change will happen when we are committed and dedicated. Begin in the name of Allah and the conviction of hope that He will surely deliver for us (inshaaAllah).

Supplement this with the following also. Don’t waste your time! Young people think that just because they are young, they have time. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Remember that the idle mind is the playground of the Devil. Do something productive and selfless; activities that will benefit others rather than just you. Every moment lost is lost time in this world as we travel towards our death which is inevitable. What lies from there on is the Hereafter and we need to collect the good from this world that will help us in that dimension. Do some kind of social service, join an NGO, learn a trade or skill, learn a new language, or perform the blessed task of memorising the Quran – at least some parts of it. And please shun bad friends. They do so much damage that we don’t even know, but Shaithan, with his clever design, draws such people to us to make us slip from the Path. Negative and opinionated people don’t allow you to grow in your spirit; Those friends who show off and do acts of pseudo-courage (like defacing property, breaking social rules and laws, and doing the things that Allah prohibited) will inevitably lead you onto the lap of Shaithan and get trapped.

Lastly but most important, please share everything with Allah and make Him your Walee. Never lose hope that Allah will answer your prayers. Be mindful of the ways Allah talks to us through “aha” moments. We will miss these if we are not mindful. Following that Path of Allah will not fail you. Believe in this truth!