Over 50 years ago, a twentysomething Pakistani from a small rural town clawed his entire family out of poverty by believing in grand dreams that could only be realized in a distant land called America. His ticket there came at the price of falling in love with the drive for an education, a privilege few could afford but one that he earned with true grit and divine opportunity. Outside his academia, he scavenged for time just to memorize the whole of the Qur’an, over 6,000 verses that carried a deep rooted love for humanity, service, and respect for people unlike him. So when he arrived on the shores of Norfolk, Virginia in the early ’60s, he came as a rigrously-selected university professor with hopes of teaching a people he could call his own. Within the years, he slowly brought his brothers and sisters so they, too, could be enriched by living the American dream. My grandfather, his brother-in-law, was among the first to be brought over. Despite his decaying health, my grandfather’s patience and hard work brought over my father and the rest of the family to build from a humble beginning. Because of this legacy, I was the first from my immediate family born in a land called America. I know no other home.
My granduncle passed away a month ago as we held his funeral service in the mosque he built brick by brick, cemented with interfaith dialogue and community service in the city that welcomed him 50 years before. He was Muslim. He was Pakistani. He was American. He left over 100+ family members in a land we call home because of him. We are grateful. We are educated. We are imperfect. We are career-driven. We are giving. We are Muslim. We are Pakistani. We are American.
The immigrant story is part of the legacy my granduncle has given me. I’m forever connected to any that arrive at these shores with a dream, to seek refuge in a place where an audacity for hope can build a better tomorrow. And even though bigoted policies have been signed attempting to tarnish that legacy, the outpouring of love and support people have shown in response can only renew it.
Keep loving. Keep renewing. Keep being.
Writer. Poet. Lyrical Artist. Student of Medicine. Muslim. Pakistani. American. I live these labels unapologetically no matter who’s president. So to take on 2017, I recorded this song on the fly last night with help from Abrar and Omar Huda from Huda Music Group (HMG). It’s God, positivity, optimism, and hope that fuel my drive for the future no matter the challenges ahead. Much love fam. #GreenLight
#78 // Growing up, "The Tortoise and the Hare" was my favorite story. The hare was praised by everyone for his speed when he raced the tortoise, so much so that he decided to take a nap when he was well in the lead. But the tortoise had what the hare took for granted: consistency, determination, and faith. Slowly but surely, the tortoise inched his way ahead of the hare until he crossed the finish line. He achieved his success at the time he was meant to receive it. The obstacles I've faced and continue to in my path to become a doctor has been no different. People continually question why I didn't start like the hare. It's because I can't help but finish like the tortoise.
#77 // In the past 5 years, I've met many people in my travels with stories that revealed a bit of my own. I've met a professor from the Carribbean who questioned my path in medicine by testing the depths of my character. I've met my twin from Hamburg that reminded me of gratitude when the world breaks your heart. I've met a brother from St. Lucia with a degree of spiritual courage you can't hang on a wall. No matter who God brings to your life, choose to learn and live from them. Alhumdulillah (Praise God) for everything.
#76 // I can't help but be a dreamer, seeing what I can't see only to live out my dreams imperfectly. It's why the timeline to my career in medicine hasn't been without its added length. It's why I leap forward with a smile despite the hurdles from my past. It's why I step like the tortoise in a world that praises the hare. No matter the year, embrace your genuine presence. Be compassionate to yourself, but be fair in your progress. Renew your intentions with God. He never breaks a promise He makes. So in this new year, put in the work not to break yours.
#72 // An excerpt from my spoken word piece "Move Forward." No matter what it contains, let the past be the reason that you're present. When you love, just love. Whatever the outcome, know that it was already written. If you must feel, than feel. Trust in God and He will show your soul Who it truly loves.