World Cancer Day – An Interview with Baraka Khan

HOTD spoke to Baraka Khan, from the UK, who is fighting lung cancer. The story of her strong spirit in accepting her illness and holding strong to the rope of Allah is a beacon of light and inspiration for all of us.


How did you find out you had cancer?

I had a chesty cough for a very long time before I saw a doctor – more than a year. I later discovered that you shouldn’t leave a cough of more than three weeks uninvestigated. But I was in my final year at university and didn’t think it was serious. It was immediately clear from the x-ray that something was very wrong though. And so began a process of testing and treatment for various respiratory conditions. It was Ramadan, and for the first time I was unable to fast. I was also quarantined away from my family. I remember when a doctor first mentioned the slight possibility that it was cancer – I stared determinedly into the distant skyline but later cried briefly in private. I prayed that it would be something treatable. As the weeks wore on, I eventually consented to more invasive procedures to get a tissue sample. I had an operation which ran the risk of my lung collapsing. Fortunately, it went smoothly: I was so happy and relieved! Two days later I was gently but clearly informed that I had advanced lung cancer, and that it was incurable. I was twenty-two.

What has this experience taught you?

Good health is a gift from Allah. We so often take it for granted, until we experience some loss. I had a relatively clean bill of health my entire life. I had never spent a night in hospital. I learned to be grateful for each unassisted breath after living on oxygen support, and for being able to leave my bed after being confined to it. Despite all of my suffering though, I have found it’s all too easy to forget these many blessings when things improve.

I’ve also learned how very little even the most knowledgeable of us know – of the human body, the miracle of life, and the timing of death. At one point in hospital I was told that I might never come home – but it wasn’t my time yet. That knowledge, as with knowledge of the Hour, belongs to Allah alone. It is for us to prepare for it. My diagnosis reminds me that I am mortal and makes me constantly re-evaluate how I spend my time and what I prioritise.

Where do you find the strength to keep going?

One of Allah’s beautiful names is ‘Al-Qawiyy’, the All-Strong, and we turn to Him in our weakness as the greatest and truest source of any strength we find in ourselves.

I also draw strength from the people Allah has placed in my life – part of my ‘rizq’, my provision, ordained by Him. From the creation of Adam, who had Eve, we none of us are alone in the battles we face on this Earth. I am blessed with parents of deep faith and a large and loving family. I am also incredibly fortunate in my friends, who have been like family to me, supporting me through some of my darkest days and longest nights.

What gives you hope?

The hadith of RasulAllah SAW that “There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He has also created its treatment” is a great source of hope. My cancer may be incurable at present, but boundaries are constantly being pushed back and new treatments found.

The stories of the Prophets, the most beloved to Allah, also give me hope: they were the most tried and tested, and in their lowest moments could scarcely have imagined the success Allah had in store for them. Their experiences and suffering made them who they were, and they reformed communities and shaped history. Our trials too are custom-made, and as the last verse of Surah al-Baqara states, “Allah does not burden any soul with more than it can bear”.

What would you say to someone else who is in a similar situation to you?

Hold fast to the Qur’an. It contains everything you need. Send Salawaat abundantly. It brings about its own healing and takes away all kinds of pain. If the fear of death overtakes you, remember the second verse of Surah al-Mulk: Allah created death. It is part of this world, a respite and, insha’Allah, a gateway to something infinitely better and more lasting. And yet be hopeful for this life too, remembering the hadith qudsi: “I am as my servant thinks I am…” Consider that each day is a gift rather than a given for everyone. We are all terminal!

Your story is mine and yet utterly your own. Share it if you wish to, if you feel it might do some good. Remember that you are the narrator, even if you don’t get to choose all of the twists and turns, or the manner of its ending.

Do your bit for Baraka’s causes and earn Sadaqa Jaariya.

Since You’re Here… we have a small favour to ask.

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