“Can you come tomorrow for a short meeting with me?” asked Dr. Capers, the Dean of Admissions at Ohio State University College of Medicine (OSUCOM). I had barely reached two-thirds of my tasbeeh (rosary) when my phone buzzed. It was Thursday night and I was attending dua Kumail at a community member’s house. I sat in the dimly lit living room, separated from the crowd, shifting the clay beads between my fingers. With every bead, I recited the dua that Imam al-Hussein taught Imam Zain Ul Abideen when leaving for his martyrdom in the baking afternoon of Ashura. The preceding Monday, I had received an email from The Ohio State University declaring that my application for admission to their medical college was rejected. What followed was a week that reinforced my knowledge that Allah is in control.
In the United States, a degree in medicine is equivalent to a PhD. and is pursued after a bachelor’s degree. Most people apply for medical school in their fourth undergraduate year and many pursue a master’s degree before applying to boost their application. Because I had taken undergraduate courses during high school and planned to finish my bachelor’s degree in two years, I applied to medical school only after one year of college. It was risky but I had invested my year in building a strong resume. My MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) score was competitive, I had worked in a neuro-immunology research lab, volunteered at Noor Free Clinic, greeted patients at Grant Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Room and taught at Ahulbayt Society of Columbus’ Weekend School. I was thrilled when OSUCOM invited me to interview in September; an early interview meant a higher chance of acceptance. At the interview, I spoke about my passion for the art and science of medicine, shared my creative portfolio and smiled. I spent the next month anticipating an acceptance letter and planning my celebration dinner. I was not accepted at OSUCOM.
On Monday morning, I found an email from OSUCOM stating their decision. The email ended by inviting me to discuss my file with the admissions committee to refine my resume before reapplying for medical school. So, immediately after receiving the email, I called the admissions office. This being such an immediate request, the secretary volunteered to read off the comments written in my file by review committee members. The comments highlighted the concern of my reviewers that, even though my application was competitive, one year of undergraduate study and extracurricular activities was not sufficient proof that I will continue a trajectory of excellence and was committed to medicine. Medical schools are looking to enroll highly motivated individuals who can persevere through a long era of training. Their reason to reject me was legitimate. I submitted to OSUCOM’s decision and decided to attend another medical school that had accepted me.
I narrated the review to my parents but they refused to submit with me. They pushed me to email the Dean of OSUCOM asking him to reconsider my case. Having little expectation for any change in disposition, I complied with my parents’ wish and emailed the dean on Tuesday. As I typed the email highlighting my worth for the program, a desperate energy blanketed me, raised my hair follicles into goosebumps, pushed my typing-fingers into a frenzy, and tore me into tears. For the first time, I realized how intensely I wanted to study at OSUCOM. The medical college I was accepted at would turn me into a physician but I would miss out on the rigorous academia, the ocean of opportunities and culture of excellence at OSUCOM. I didn’t just want to earn the suffix “MD” but wanted to invest my four years to reach my maximum potential. I funneled this energy into my words and sent the email. I did not receive a reply.
On Thursday night, I secluded myself in the lonely living room to complete a tasbeeh of Imam al-Hussein’s dua. I imagined Imam al-Hussein entering the tent to bid farewell to his family, holding his sick son’s hand, pressing it against his chest and saying “whenever you have a special need…or are inflicted with any grief or hardship, recite this supplication. (Duas.org)” I was not in a hardship but I was grieved. I had a special need. I began to recite “Oh He Who is able to fulfill the desires of those who ask. O He Who knows what is in the heart.” I had realized my heart’s yearning for OSUCOM only two days ago. Allah knew it all along. I could no longer sit upright. I hunched over my knees, raising my hands to the sky, offering my anguish to God. “O He Who banishes sorrow from the sorrowful. O He Who dispels grief from those who grieve.” Every word tied my heart into a tighter knot and wrung my soul till tears dripped from it. “Oh He who needs not to be explained.” He felt my heart’s ache with me. The phone rang and brought me back to Earth from that moment of ascension. It was Dr. Capers. The Dean had forwarded my email to Dr. Capers who wanted to meet me the next day.
At the meeting, Dr. Capers asked me why I wanted to become a physician? Why was I in such a rush to enter medical school at eighteen? Who had influenced my decision? How did I perceive death? What was my moral compass? He wanted to ensure that I, at my young age, was mentally and emotionally ready for the challenge of medical school.I gave him my honest answers and left the meeting for a day of scheduled classes. On Friday evening after sunset, I received Dr. Capers’ call who said “Yusra, I thought about you some more after our meeting. I think we would miss out on you greatly by not accepting you at OSUCOM. I want to offer you a seat at OSUCOM Class of 2017 on the term that you earn all B-grades or higher in your remaining undergraduate courses.”
This May of 2017, I will graduate from OSUCOM. When I sat down to worship on Thursday night four years ago, I did not foresee this end. I did not expect Dr. Capers’ call. I did not step on the prayer mat to make a trade deal with Allah, giving him my sincerity and tears in return for admission to OSUCOM. I entered prayer because I was broken. I needed Him for He alone could mend my brokenness. I conveyed to him my heart’s deepest desire and acknowledged his ultimate control over my life. The bounties of this world were clenched in His fist. My tears dripped on His heart and loosened His grip. In a single moment, with that phone ring, the entire picture turned. I secured a seat at one of the finest and most competitive medical schools in the country. I often think about that night and, every time, I’m left speechless by Allah’s magnificent authority. Indeed, when He intends a thing, He says “Be” and it is (Quran 36:82). Turning the weight of affairs from one end to the other is as simple for Him as playing See-Saw. But He only shifts the weights if what we seek is beneficial for us. There have been times when I have prayed in a similarly desperate way as that Thursday night. But what I asked for has still not materialized in the form I requested. Often when that happens, we feel betrayed and lose faith in Allah, jeopardizing our relationship with Him. In those moments, I remind myself of Dr. Caper’s miraculous phone call as proof of Allah’s supreme capacity in my own life. I repeat to myself “Allah can turn the hearts of Kings. If what I desire is favorable for me, Allah will drop it from His clutch. I am satisfied in His decree.”
Dua of Imam Hussein: http://www.duas.org/Moharram/gift_from_imam_husain.htm