Faith and the flu

Marvin Joseph MARVIN JOSEPH/TWP One doctor sees the practice of medicine as a great interfaith activity. Let me guess; a … Continued

Marvin Joseph


One doctor sees the practice of medicine as a great interfaith activity.

Let me guess; a flu-like illness inflicted you or someone you know in the past three weeks, regardless of your faith background.

What else would you expect? CDC is now reporting widespread influenza (flu) activity in over 41 states. Unfortunately, thousands will succumb to this deadly virus.

Being an infectious disease specialist, I have passionately provided free flu shots for over a decade. Mosques, churches, homeless shelters, private schools, you name it. For many, the sweetness of “free” mitigates the soreness of the needle.

My philanthropic passion stems from my faith: Islam. Our Muslim youth group has cleaned over 50 highways nationwide under the “Adopt-a-Highway” program, raised over 2,000 units of blood, fed over 60,000 people, and logged over 30,000 man-hours in community service. So when people ask us: where are the moderate Muslims? We say: Where have you been?

Just as raising 2,000 units of blood could potentially save 6,000 American lives, providing free flu shots could also prevent thousands of lives. Remember, flu’s annual death toll ranges between 3,000 – 49,000 people, depending upon the viral strain.  

I was once invited by a friend to perform vaccinations after a Christian worship service. But for inexplicable reasons, the pastor, though he was aware of the plan to vaccinate, never shared that information with the congregation. His explanation to me afterwards made little sense and once he started inquiring about my faith background, I think his motivation emerged. He wasn’t comfortable with me, a Muslim, in his church. He said he’d call me. He never did.

The American in me thought of my non-Muslim friends who have supported me in this growing Islamophobic atmosphere. I thought of my secretary who prayed for my safe return when I was leaving for a vacation in Pakistan. I thought of my Christian friend who traveled with me to Wisconsin to attend a Muslim youth retreat. I thought of pastors who have invited me to talk to their congregations to build interfaith harmony! Aren’t most Americans magnanimous people?

And the Muslim in me – who simply wanted to help the needy – was not dejected either. Prophet Muhammad taught, “Deeds are judged by motives.” In Islam, intentions are rewarded even more than the actions. Cleaning dishes in a soup kitchen is worthless if the intention is a photo-op.

So after waiting for a couple of weeks to hear from the pastor, I moved on. The ruthless flu virus was not going to screen Americans for their faith before attacking. I gave the flu shots to the worshippers at Bait-ur-Rehman mosque located in Silver Spring, MD. Free of charge. Free of expectation. Free of faith.

Charity begins at home. But that’s not where it should end. Thus, I will continue to reach out to soup kitchens, churches, and synagogues only as a part of my civic duty.

It’s probably late to get a flu shot this year but if your congregation is interested in faith neutral, free flu shots next year, please let me know. Supplies are limited.

Dr. Faheem Younus is a clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland. He is the founder of He can be reached at [email protected]; you can follow him on Twitter at @FaheemYounus.


Dr. Faheem Younus is a clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland. He is the founder of He can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @FaheemYounus
  • BeyondTheology

    Thank you for living and sharing your faith tis way!

Read More Articles

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.