You’ve finally made up your mind and decided to pursue a career in medicine, a field that you feel passionate about. As you announce the news to your friends and family, you receive numerous responses that aren’t all positive. Your parents are proud and pleased that you chose a “useful” career. Your extended family is curious about the amount of debt that you will be in after completion of medical school. Your friends want to know why you are willing to give up your social life and spending your life in the library. And finally, the ladies of the community. Their questions range from exclamations that you will be at an unmarriageable age by the end of your residency, while others attempt to dissuade by informing you that it is improper and indecent for a young lady to perform surgery or to witness someone bleeding profusely. There are those who cluck their tongues and predict that you will not be able to survive the premedical courses, some who will calculate the age you will be when you graduate from med school and finish residency, and others who have the audacity to loudly whisper to your mother that it’s a smart strategy to send your daughter to medical school because it’s easier to catch a husband there. I’m being serious, these are all issues that I personally experienced and which I’m sure many sisters have endured once they have decided on the medical field as their career of choice. How does one deal with these issues without insulting anyone?

Number one rule is to stick to whatever you decide to do, no matter what anyone says. If you are confident that this is what you want, then it should not matter what people say. I always knew that I wanted to be a physician, and by the grace of Allah SWT and the support of my beloved parents, I will be one inshaAllah because that is my dream. Do not allow anyone to change your mind because they feel like they know what’s best for you, that honor is reserved for your parents, the only people who truly want you to be better than them.

For those who are attacking you with a “its haram and indecent”, politely educate them with the story of Rufaida (RA), the first Muslim woman doctor, who was appointed by the beloved Prophet Mohamed (peace and blessings be upon him) to treat wounded and injured Companions in their battles. She set up a field hospital, and overlooked the care of a large group of men. If the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) thought a woman could do perform the job and that it was not haram nor indecent, then why should anyone else think so? In the history of Islam, and in the books of the great scholars, there is nothing to discourage woman from pursuing higher education in the fields of science and medicine. A nice question to also pose as a rebuttal would be that if women should not become doctors, then will you be comfortable allowing a male instead of a female to be involved in your healthcare, especially in obstetrics and gynecology?

My favorite question is the marriage one, as that is the easiest and yet most controversial issue. Every woman has to understand that this is naseeb, and that if she is meant to marry at a certain age, no matter what the circumstances are, what Allah SWT has decreed is what will occur. A lovely way to answer those sisters concerned about your future wedding date being pushed back is to allow them to calculate your age when you will finish medical school and/or residency. Then, calmly ask them that if a woman’s naseeb is meant for her in her late twenties or early thirties, would it have made a difference if she had stayed home, worked or completed her education? And if you are meant to be married while in medical school, then Allah SWT chose that for you because he knows that you will be able to balance both schoolwork and a family life.

To answer your friends’ jokes about the next time you will have lunch with them will be ten years from now, reassure them that medical students have lives too. InshaAllah I will have a separate post discussing what to expect in med school academically and socially, but realize that there will be time to meet up with your friends and socialize. Unfortunately, this will also be a time when you will discover your genuine friends and those who are shallow. Your true friends will stick with you throughout your road to success, and will be your cheerleaders. Understand that some people will be jealous, especially since their parents may start using you as an example of the “perfect child” and compare their children with you. Don’t be upset with those friends, they are great at what they do and study in their own fields of interest. Maintain a good relationship with them, and make duaa that Allah SWT grants you all success in your future endeavors.

I apologize if this sounded more of a rant, but I’m sure there are many people out there who have dealt with one or more of these issues. It’s tough when religious and cultural expectations become tangled, and you are unsure of how to unknot yourself without making a bigger mess. Ask Allah SWT to grant you patience and politeness of speech, and remain steadfast to your hopes and dreams.

“Good things come to those who believe, better things come to those who are patient, and the best things come to those who don’t give up”-Unknown