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Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

Learning to Walk with King Solomon in the New Year

In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

At first blush, it may seem strange that I would want to walk with King Solomon. The picture painted of him by many is unflattering to say the least. Yet, Muslim belief about him is that he was a pious Prophet of God and a mighty King. And the statements about him in the Quran teach me a lot of how I should conduct my life as a physician:

And indeed, We granted [true] knowledge unto David and Solomon [as well]; and both were wont to say: All praise is due to God, who has [thus] favoured us above many of His believing servants!” And [in this insight] Solomon was [truly] David’s heir; and he would say: “O you people! We have been taught the speech of birds, and have been given [in abundance] of all [good] things: this, behold, is indeed a manifest favour [from God]!”

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And [one day] there were assembled before Solomon his hosts of invisible beings, and of men, and of birds; and then they were led forth in orderly ranks till, when they came upon a valley [full] of ants, an ant exclaimed: “O you ants! Get into your dwellings, lest Solomon and his hosts crush you without [even] being aware [of you]!”

Thereupon [Solomon] smiled joyously at her words, and said: “O my Sustainer! Inspire me so that I may forever be grateful for those blessings of Thine with which Thou hast graced me and my parents, and that I may do what is right [in a manner] that will please Thee; and include me, by Thy grace, among Thy righteous servants!” (27:15-19)

King Solomon was granted powers that no one else in history had: power to understand the speech of the birds; power over invisible beings to fight in his army and do his will; his kingdom was like none other in history. And when the Lord gave him the ability to hear the speech of ants living in the valley through which he was passing with his army, he responded with total humility, saying: “O my Lord! Inspired me so that I may forever be grateful for those blessings of Thine…”

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This teaches me a lot, as a physician. By the grace of our Lord, a physician working in critical care like myself can do a lot of good: with the click of a mouse, a treatment plan can be enacted that most times takes someone from the brink of death and makes them better. When this happens day in and day out, it is easy for someone to become deluded into arrogance, to think that life and death is in her or her hands.

Here is where King Solomon’s prayer comes in: “O my Lord! Inspire me so that I may forever be grateful for those blessings of Yours with which You have graced me…” When I am successful, then I should be grateful to the Lord for His grace: the grace of medical knowledge imparted to me; the grace of knowing which treatment to use at which time; the grace of having a clear mind to make the right diagnosis at the right time to help my patients.

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And although it is thankfully rare, sometimes, despite everything the medical team does, a patient does not do well. This makes me even more humble, keeps me more honest, because I realize that, despite what many people may say, life and death are not in my hands. I simply do my best, work as hard as I can to help – by the grace of God – the patient feel better. The fact that we – as well as most doctors across the country – are successful at helping our patients feel better and be cured of disease is a tremendous blessing and grace of God, and it is one that I must never take for granted.

It is a constant struggle to maintain humility as a physician, to not let the great work we do in helping people feel better delude me into thinking that I am more than what I truly am: a servant of God doing his best to serve His children by making them – by His grace and power – feel better and live healthier. May the Lord God inspire me to forever be grateful for the blessings with which He has graced me. Amen.

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