Struggling to define life and death in a different world

By Aine Cryts

It is just sad when a 13-year-old boy dies while doing backflips with his brothers. What's complicated about Ezadin Mahmoud's passing, reports The Atlantic, is his family is Muslim, and they rely on Sharia Law to guide them through life's most difficult decisions.

To Ezadin's father, his son's heart was still beating when he saw him in the hospital after the tragic accident. A respirator kept him breathing. His father's immediate concern: Had Ezadin's soul--or nafs in Arabic--left his body and was he in fact dead?

According to the medical team at Maine Medical Center in Portland, Ezadin was dead: His brain stem had been severed, his pupils weren't responding to light and he couldn't breathe without the respirator, according to The Atlantic.

Integral to bridging the cultural gaps between the medical team and Ezadin's family was a respiratory therapist named Ahmed Abdirahman, who helps Somali refugees who have settled in southern Maine navigate through the complexities of Western medicine, according to the article.

Over the course of three days--even after the medical center had produced a death certificate--a system of Islamic jurisprudence called Ijtihad was used to navigate through this difficult ethical dilemma, according to the magazine. The difficulty was deciding how to reconcile ancient religious teachings, written long before anyone ever thought about how respirators can keep people breathing, with modern medicine.

Ezadin's father ultimately decided to rely on an opinion based on both Islamic law and medical knowledge. He asked the doctors to monitor his son's brain activity one more time to determine if he was in fact dead, reports The Atlantic.

Ultimately, Ezadin's heart stopped beating before doctors were able to monitor his brain activity. He was buried within a few days.

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