‘Why I took the vaccine, why it gives me hope…’

When senior Durban journalist Ismail Suder lost his brother and sister through Covid in a span of nine months, he realized he simply had to vaccinate. This is his story.

“Am I going to be okay”, I asked nervously, the words barely sputtering out of my dry mouth.

‘Oh you’ll be just fine, the nurse said in a sing-song way while trying to aim the Covid vaccine needle on a spot on my left arm.

So many terrifying thoughts were going through my mind in the minutes preceding the Pfizer vaccine shot. What if my body has an allergic reaction to the vaccine…and that I die an instant death. Did I read my Kalima? What if all the whatsapp videos and messages that preached doom for those opting to take the vaccine were TRUE; that it will change my DNA forever, that I could drop dead soon after the shot, or worse, that I would be mentally crippled; that I might end up as a Zombie and Lord knows what. The thoughts came fast and furiously.

By this time, the nurse was loading the syringe. “Will I be okay”? I muttered again for any scrap of reassurance. ‘I mean, er… has anyone become sick after the shot?’ The nurse flashed a knowing smile. “Never happened,” she said grinning. Is she enjoying watching me squirm? This was no consolation. My thoughts again turned to all the things that could go wrong minutes from now. I thought of my flat that I left in a rush for my vaccine appointment. “Darn, I hadn’t made my bed and the kitchen sink had unwashed pots and plates piled up. What would my loved ones think when they came to clear out my stuff should I die today”.

By this time, the nurse was rubbing some kind of spirit on my arm to prepare for the shot. My mind was now on overdrive. I felt like a man who was facing death by lethal injection with only a few breaths to spare. “Hey wait, am I going to be okay?”.

‘Relax, it’s over,’ she said.

What! I blurted in elation. She smiled – the kind of smile when one is satisfied with one’s artistic work. Honestly, I didn’t feel a thing!

Months of stressing over whether I should take the shot had weighed heavily on my shoulders. I braced myself for side effects. You know, the flu-like symptoms and the fever they say you might have after taking the injection. Well, it never came – Alhamdulillah. Apart from a slight pain on my arm from the injection, I felt great.

For months before my vaccine shot, I agonized over whether I should take it or not. I remember how my nightly conversations revolved around who had passed on after contracting the virus. Friends would call and say ‘so and so’ contracted Covid and passed on. I apologise. I know I had faked sadness and surprise at the ongoing despairing news of people near and dear passing away, but within me, I knew I was just too numb to show any genuine emotion.

I remember reading a statement in March where Ulama had sanctioned the taking of vaccines as a means of cure. But I was not ready to walk that road. Not just yet. Then on Jumu’ah a few weeks ago, the phone rang. The news hit me between the ribs – the painful news came that my beloved sister had passed away just a few days after catching Covid, and my brother-in-law – a well-known retired medical specialist was gravely ill. That was the moment that reality hit home and I realized that I just HAD to take my shot and that it was worth the risk.

Needless to say, the passing of my sister had come as a shock especially that she was in good health despite her senior years. The sad reality was just too much to bear considering that nine months earlier, I had lost an older brother, Mohammed, to Covid. He had struggled for almost a month while on a ventilator at Johannesburg’s Sunning Hill Hospital. But it was Allah’s WILL that he succumbed to join the ranks of the Shaheeds, InshaAllah.

In a few weeks from now, I hope to take my second shot of the Pfizer vaccine if Allah spares me.

The army of naysayers who once bombarded me with doomsday mail that petitioned against the vaccine, well…they don’t call anymore. And to the relative in Pietermaritburg who tells me the vaccine is not for him and that he was “Leaving it to the Will of Allah. “Very noble of you Ahmed Bhai, but let me quote you a paragraph from a statement that the Jamiatul-Ulama had put out encouraging the taking of vaccines: It quoted Rasulullah Sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallamin when he said: “Allah has revealed the sickness as well the cure, and has committed a cure for every sickness. So, make use of medical treatment, and do not treat using Haram.” (Abu Dawood)

In the meantime, I am counting the days to when I can take my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. I will have no trepidation like the first time. In fact, I will take the shot calmly knowing it would be my gateway to fulfill my big dream of performing Umrah when the Holy Land opens up to vaccinated South Africans only.

I will be there, InshaAllah, and I hope to see you there too!

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