Today has been a very meaningful day.
Though tired, I headed home feeling happy and fulfilled.
To give three lectures in a day is very exhausting. On top of that, today is actually a working day. However, the exhaustion is worth it, because today I gained some conviction. Conviction that contributes towards the strengthening of my ambition to lead a life that is based on the principle TO GIVE.
This afternoon I gave a talk entitled “Islamic Paradigms In Organ Donation”. This is a new topic for me, and therefore I had to work extra hard in order to make the best preparation I could. This time though, the preparation was not just so that I would be able to give a good presentation, a presentation of high quality to my audience, but it was so that I could build this conviction in myself.
The conviction to become an organ donor.
I was greatly touched when contacted by Sister Norsalina Osman, the Director of IJN’s Organ Donation Branch, who had gotten in touch with me to discuss this matter. She showed me photos of her team campaigning for organ donation at the Hindu Maha Vihara Temple during the last Wesak festival. The support they received was overwhelming that day, with 150 people registering as organ donors, two of whom were doing it on their birthday.
I am Muslim. It is a beautiful religion, a mercy to all mankind; a religion that came to benefit man; a religion that gives man a purpose in life, such that the focus shifts from individualism towards collective work. Islam is about collectivity.
But where did we go wrong, when the statistics of Malay organ donors shows that we form the smallest percentage of organ donors? 64% comprise of the Chinese, 22% Indian, and only 8% Malay, though Malays and Muslims also make up the list of those who need new organs. We too fall ill like everyone else.
Should I Donate? Or Shouldn’t I? Why?
I tried to dig deeper into these issues, and asked myself these same questions. Why was I not a donor?
Is it because of religion?
I have spent about a week analyzing discussions by ‘ulama from various countries, madhahib, approaches, and opinions. A majority arrives to the same conclusion, which is that organ donation is required (what’s the best translation for harus?) by Muslims. Are their arguments convincing? Yes, they are very clear, persuasive, and convincing. And in fact, their arguments are very well thought out, as there have been multiple meetings convened for the purpose of discussing this issue, and they are consistent in calling for its requirement (keharusan).
Therefore, from the religious point of view, the point is moot. Islam does not only require (harus) it, but sees it as a service that is of high value. Religion should thus not be used as an excuse for Muslims who do not want to donate.
When I go over statistics published by Malaysia’s Institute of Islamic Understanding (IKIM), I see that it is not religion that stops us from donating.
Table with percentages.
The main deterrent is FEAR. 56.3% admit to this.
The sources of this fear are many.
Sources of Fear
Some of the fear comes from the unknown. We are suspicious of that which we do not know. We are scared of things that we do not understand. This kind of fear could be due to lack of information; lack of exposure. Therefore, this kind of fear can be overcome by educating ourselves with the requisite pieces of information.
However, this kind of fear is difficult to cure if a majority of us are still incapacitated by the I-don’t-care attitude, the kind of attitude where we do not care what happens around us, do not care about anything. It is my belief that this factor is a large contributor to the lack of Malay Muslim donors. How sad.
Lack of Values
Some fear arises due to the lack of some particular value, some ‘thing’ inside us. This is where I try to test my own self.
I carry out a thought experiment. I imagine a piece of wood, a plank, which I position as a bridge that connects two desks. It is only 1 metre off the ground. Would I be willing to cross this bridge? Of course I would. There is no risk to it.
If I were to increase the height of the bridge off the ground, say to the height of a tall cabinet, would I still be as brave? I might be a little apprehensive, but I might be willing to give it a shot, if there’s a good reason for doing so. Maybe if I were paid for it. Maybe…
But would I be so daring if the cabinets were instead replaced with three-storey buildings? My answer is quick and clear. No. Never would I reconsider doing this. Never would I consider overcoming this fear.
But what if there were a need for doing so? A compelling reason?
What if on that 3rd floor across the bridge, my child were shouting for help? Flames are jumping out of the windows of the 1st and 2nd floors. The one way to save my child would be for me to cross over and grab him myself. Cross over by crossing the bridge. That bridge which is 3 stories above the ground.
Why the change of mind? Why NO before, and why YES now? What is it that drives me towards this bravery?
The Power of Love
That is the value of love and compassion. My love as a father towards my child compels me to do it.
It is clear that I need this motivating factor in order to carry out such a brave act. Riches alone would be meaningless to me. Praise and accolades would also be useless. But love brings out this burning desire in me!
What seems impossible is now possible, when seen from the perspective of love and compassion.
Is the statistical 56.3% fear due to the lack of values? Is there no longer any love for humankind in me, only a self-centered love for myself?
One cannot simply pretend to have these values of love and compassion. It is not possible that a person who lives his life being self-centered, selfish, and inconsiderate, would suddenly want to donate his organs on the basis of love and compassion, whether the person is indeed a loving being or not.
The feelings of love and compassion we have in ourselves should make us generous. We should like to give. We should feel that life is meaningful when we are given the opportunity to give, due to our feelings of love and compassions.
None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself. (Hadith Muslim)
The willingness to give, which arises from feelings of love and compassion, completes our belief.
As a mukmin, I should have the strength to love others too, not just my family members. In fact, I should feel compassion towards all believers.
This feeling of compassion I have towards other believers should make my life more meaningful. To give is to elevate the self if the giving comes from a feeling of love. Time, energy, brain power, money; all this while, these were the things I have tried to give to my fellow believers in the name of love and compassion. If I were now to include the donation of my organs, things that I do not need to take to the grave anyway, it would add to my feeling of completeness and will also be beneficial to my fellow man, those who are still alive.
It is my responsibility as a mukmin…
I naturally feel apprehensive at the thought of my organs going to a non-believer, as I would prefer them going to a fellow believer. But it is also my feelings of love and compassion towards all man that helps suppress this apprehension. It is up to Allah to dictate who the organs go to, depending on the needs of His creation.
If Allah gives life to His creation without choosing between believers and non-believers, who am I to behave otherwise?
In fact, my understanding of Islam as a mercy to all creation makes me compassionate towards all believers and concerned towards all others. Was it not Prophet Muhammad SAW himself who stood up in respect when the funeral procession of a Jew passed by him, on humanitarian grounds…?
Allah Repeats His Names of Mercy
Indeed, in order to inculcate the need to give in ourselves, our souls should be rich with feelings of mercy. To this end, Allah repeats His names, ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful, over and over again in the Quran. This is to help increase our own feelings of mercy. Allah, as a God full of Beneficence and Mercy, is also All-Giving to His creation. Thus, in order for His servants to lead a life of giving, we need to inculcate feelings of love and mercy in ourselves.
I was a little apprehensive when putting down my signature to the donation form. However, I was even more apprehensive at the thought of entering the grave with incomplete good deeds. I am more afraid of being punished for sins committed when alive than of the stigma of pain when my body is dissected after death. There is nothing to be afraid of. As death replaces life, none of it is of any use. Put yourself in the realm of death. That is when you would know the value of a life of giving.
A meaningful life is one of giving, a meaningful afterlife is one of accepting… the blessings of Allah Rabbul Izzati.
I pray that my decision to register as an organ donor convinces all who I meet that the pinnacle of life… is to make it meaningful by GIVING.
I have chosen to donate only my internal organs. As for my corneas and skin, I worry that my family might suffer from some trauma, even though I know that the process of organ and tissue removal will be carried out with the utmost respect, and that my body will not be unnecessarily mutilated.
As for the internal organs, it’s OK. My wife is a doctor who is used to seeing stitches on the body anyway.
I have however talked this over with my wife, and in terms of my corneas and outer limbs, she can be the one who decides whether or not she is willing to donate these body parts. To me, once the soul has been separated from the body, nothing physical is of use anymore.
I remember the words of the Quran, where it says that on the day all man is gathered (Mahsyar), mothers will be willing to sacrifice the lives of their own children, if this could be save their own. Thinking of these verses made me realize how desperate we will feel in the hereafter. If donating my organs can increase my feelings of safety in the hereafter, I would do it without a pause.
Besides, what is the value of a kidney, a heart, a liver, and bones, after death, compared to the willingness of a mother to sacrifice her own child, for the sake of the nafs in the hereafter.
It is from the bottom of my heart that I plea for all readers to register as donors.
I don’t even know whether my body parts would actually be suitable for organ harvest. I could die in an accident and suffer internal organ damage, to my heart, liver, kidney, etc.
I trust though that the act of registering, with the correct intentions, will bring with it boundless rewards in the hereafter, inshaAllah. I thus call to you, my fellow man, we who are continuously in sin, to increase our good deeds.
Are you willing to join me? <link>