Laal, a young Afghan girl l met at the primary school for Afghan refugee girls, suffers from epilepsy. In Pashto, there are no equivalent words for medical jargon and terms like epilepsy, so her mother described it in terms of shaking, or the “illness of the brain” as she called it.
“She collapses on the street, into the gutter sometimes. She has no control over herself, it’s so humiliating. Isn’t there something you can do?”
I asked about whether she had seen a doctor. One of the health workers accompanying me told me how some private medical practitioners in Pakistan are like modern day equivalents of the Sheriff of Nottingham. They suck the poor dry of what little money they have because they know they can. Even 20 rupees (about 18p in British currency) is a large sum of money. There was nothing I could do. Hell, if I were armed with a medical degree, I would try.
I told her mother how bubbly and energetic she was despite her illness, and she only beamed as mothers do when you compliment their child, asking me if I wanted to take Laal’s photo. Laal of course was only too happy to pose for me.
There I was, frantically trying to think of some way I could give to them. But true to the prophetic narration, when the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) stated that even a smile is considered charity, it was Laal that gave me something with her smile.