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The woes of being a superhuman

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Added 7th December 2016 10:11 AM

Pain is not a word that can be misunderstood. No matter how one uses it, it could only refer to an unpleasant sensation.

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Sheikh Muhammad Ali Waiswa is the Second Deputy Mufti of Uganda Muslim Supreme Council

Pain is not a word that can be misunderstood. No matter how one uses it, it could only refer to an unpleasant sensation.

By Sheikh Muhammad Ali Waiswa

The world has witnessed in the past and present people, nations who claimed to be super humans yet they ended up a disaster either to themselves or to others; apart from those who were divinely guided. But what is it to be a super human?

Pain is not a word that can be misunderstood. No matter how one uses it, it could only refer to an unpleasant sensation.

But the four letter word is profound. Pain is unique in its integrity and formation. It can be acute, short-lived and excruciating, or chronic, long term and debilitating. And the misery of a man in pain is known to him and his Lord.

The process of its perception by the human being is equally remarkable. Within seconds of an injury, special cells send an electric signal to the spine, where it is processed; from there, an impulse leads a person to reflexively retract to avoid further injury while another impulse reaches the brain where it is analysed as pain.

Pain is no stranger to us. Allah says, “We have certainly created man into hardship.”(90:4) in a way, life is not life without pain; coming to life and departing it are the acmes of pain and all in between are but stages of hits and misses with that sensation.

However, if we had a choice, would we opt to not feel pain? Does no pain equals an uninterrupted life’ sound as tempting as it does to the youth increasingly abusing prescription painkillers as the new drug of our times?

In answering those questions, I came to learn that pain is actually meaningless to some because they have never felt it. Ever for a split second, the prospect of never having to feel the ache of cuts and bruises seemed idyllic. But a rare disorder opened my eyes; being superhuman belongs only in the fantasy world.

Sufferers of Congenital Insensitivity to Pain (CIPA) with Anhidrosis, or do not cry, fear or flinch; not because they have supernatural powers to dodge getting hurt, but they just cannot feel the hurt. So, they never know when their bodies require medical attention; a simple abrasion can land them a visit to the ER(American medical drama television series created by novelist and medical doctor Micheal Crichton), because they never sensed it or the possible warning signs of resulted infections and serious diseases.

Without supervision, they do not eat because hunger pangs are as foreign a concept as pain from a bitten tongue. These people do not know, if they are cold and need to wear a sweater or why they should rest that swollen and discoloured wrist. Their lives must be under 24hours surveillance, to save them from their own selves.

Like these several hundred victims, millions more experience a variation of their ordeal: paraplegics who would give the world to regain sensation in their extremities, even if it is to feel the pain from a contusion and the burn that forms on a foot that did not feel the hot bath water in the first place.

After reading this, one might be elated to be able to feel the pain of a gash and cramps might not seem as intense. Maybe one could empathise with the terminally ill patient who refuses painkillers, because it is only the pain that makes him or her feel alive.

While, that enables us to give thanks due to Allah for the harsh, yet beneficial reality of pain, Islam does not deny the agony it causes or celebrate it like those who practice self-mutilation. It teaches us that even an intangible thing such as pain does not go unrewarded by Allah, as the Prophet (P.b.u.h) said, “no fatigue, nor disease nor sorrow nor sadness nor hurt nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.” (Bukhari)

It is said that “you have not felt pain till you have given birth”, which is why a mother has been given such a high status in Islam for the great pain she endures. Yet, even she will tell you that though feeling pain is tough and so is looking at it as a blessing when one’s body is screaming at her; nothing is more painful than not feeling it at all.          

The writer is the Second Deputy Mufti of Uganda Muslim Supreme Council and the Imam of Makerere University Business School (MUBS) and a national population champion and executive board member of the Interreligious Council of Uganda.                                  

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