04-21-2007, 01:10 PM
First published: Saturday, April 21, 2007 Reply
Issam Koleilat: Third-year medical student and a leader of Friday services at Albany Medical Center. Member of the Muslim Community of Troy.
Background: 23. Koleilat was born in Montreal and raised in Miami, New Jersey, Illinois, Georgia and Calgary, Canada, before finishing high school in North Dakota. He graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Do you feel there is a conflict between religion and medicine?
I see the practice of medicine as an opportunity to see God's work every day and praise him for his blessing. I don't see myself as a source of cure, but as a tool by which I implement God's cure through me. I see it as a fulfillment of basic Islamic tenets. Also, something I learned from my father and Dr. Bob Paeglow is that they both pray for their patients. My father, a pediatric urologist, did not pray out loud like Dr. Bob, but he did pray.
What have been your sources of religious knowledge?
I try to be the best to my personal self and in my dealing with other people.
Until I went to college, my parents imparted most of the religious knowledge in Islamic and Arabic studies. My mother would have my grandfather send us the curricula of other institutions. I attended Sunday schools, but often I already knew what was being taught there. Since I started college, I have been seeking knowledge through seminars, conferences, religious classes at area mosques and also audio-lectures. Right now, I am refreshing my memory of the stories about all the prophets. Peace be upon them all.
What principles do you live by?
I try to be true to what I believe pleases God and try and minimize those situations and things that are going to be heavy on my heart and will cause spiritual concern. For example, hugging a member of the opposite sex, which has become the social norm. On the one hand, I want to be polite. But according to Islamic , it is not appropriate. I would rather shake her hand. In Hamlet, the father said, "This above all: to thine self be true." I try to live by that. Sometimes I fail, but I do try.
You seem comfortable speaking in public.
My parents always pushed me toward being my best and seeking knowledge so that, if need be, I can be placed in a leadership position.
When I was in high school, I was a debater and did speeches. My dad would ask me to be part of the rotation of speakers to give khutbas, the sermons on Friday. He was also one of the speakers. I got involved in the Muslim Students Association at RPI and was treasurer for two years. Someone figured out that I was a reasonable public speaker.
What do you want others to know about Islam?
The beauty of Islam is in its simplicity and its ability to lead a person to establish a life of love for all of God's creation and God also. Islam is not a religion that is relevant to only part of life. It is a unification of all goals and beliefs. There is one God and one creation and we strive toward that which makes us unified as a nation and as a species.
Even pre-9/11, Muslims were not well-understood and my parents made sure I knew I was always going to be a representative of Islam.
-- Azra Haqqie
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