Sanabel Abu-Baker is a great inspiration. On top of suffering from Cystic Fibrosis, Thalassemia, and Diabetes, Sanabel’s family has suffered political persecution from which they are still undergoing. Defying her doctors who all said she wouldn’t make it to her seventh birthday, Sanabel continues to show that she will not be restricted by other people’s assumptions. Now nearing her 25th birthday, she has received her bachelors degree in child development and dreams of giving back to her community. Mashalloah may Allah bless and strengthen her.
|1. Where do you get your strength from?
I think it has a lot to do with being born into a difficult situation that automatically shapes you into being strong. Also the people around me always make me stronger. I am blessed to have great family that is always there for me and I couldn’t ask for any better friends than the ones I have. The Dallas community is so great for when you are in need.
|2. How do you feel Islam helped see you through your most difficult times?
First and foremost I think I get strength from Allah. Knowing that Allah has bigger plans than AL-Dunia makes me want to be strong and get through all the rough times, so I can see what is in store for me in AL-Akhira Inshallah. Remembering what the Prophet ﷺ went through and how he was chosen by Allah helps me see that Allah will not give you a problem without giving you the strength to handle it.
|3. Why did you choose study child development?
I spent a large part of my childhood in the hospital where I saw how there were specialists for every little thing. One of them was Child Life Specialists who worked with the sick children to help them understand what was wrong with them and what is going on. They do it with play therapy, music therapy, etc. I know they helped me a lot during very tough times at the hospital. I just wanted to be like them.
|4. What do you hope to accomplish with your education?
I want to just give back to my Muslim community as much as just give back to society in general. I really want to reach all kinds of children. I am trying to come up with ideas for an organization for sick children.
|5. What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my Bachelors degree and my determination to finish my education in spite of my health and other obstacles that I have faced.
|6. How do you feel we can change the misconceptions non-Muslims have about us?
By going out there and getting involved! I was doing a research project and I needed some input from elementary teachers. I have a lot of Muslim friends that are teachers, but none of them worked in public schools. I am all for giving back to our communities, but I feel we can benefit by reaching out beyond that. I am impressed by all the Muslims going into medical school and other varied fields. I think there needs to be more encouragement by our community leaders and parents to go out and experience new opportunities. Expanding our fields of work and engaging in more diverse environments can help bring a new level of professionalism to our community.
|7. What or who has been your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspiration is my Father. Funny thing is that he said I was his inspiration for starting his charity. He saw the kind of care I got when I was diagnosed- the hospitals, doctors and everyone caring for me. He wanted to do the same for children that were not as fortunate. He saw an area of need and went after it.
|8. What advice do you give to someone who is also dealing with an illness?
Never dwell on the fact that you are sick. I have never taken advantage of my illnesses and I think that’s how I have gotten this far. Don’t let people feel sorry for you, demand that you are treated equally.
|9. Do you feel there is enough support and awareness in the Muslim community of genetic diseases?
There is and there isn’t. It is a very weird thing; I think it comes down to culture about this issue. Like in some cultures for some reason it’s a shame to have a child with special needs or that has a disease. The newer generations are better at acknowledging the fact and learning more how to deal with them. I was lucky to have great parents that, even though they were young and did not know anything about my illnesses, made sure they learned everything they could to give me a full life.
|10. What do you feel the Muslim community can do better in terms of support and awareness of certain illnesses?
I think just being educated about the different illnesses out there and the occurrence rate of genetic diseases. We should practice genetic testing, especially if you are from a family that tends to marry within the family.
Mashallah may Allah help her achieve her dreams and bless her and protect her.
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