​Reconnecting to my Faith: A test that I can pass

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on July 25, 2022 # Lifestyle, Community Education

KareemEditor’s note: Kareem Proctor - (It may be said) is a Peer Mentor with the Peer & Family Support Program.

For practicing Muslims, Eid al-Adha, or "feast of the sacrifice," is the most sacred time of the year. It took place on July 9 this year, and the celebration includes charity, prayer and feast. For Kareem Proctor, the holiday is one of the many aspects of the Islamic faith that he has had to revisit since he sustained a spinal cord injury eight years ago.

“In 2014, I decided to convert to Islam after years of research, study, reading and conversations.,” says Proctor. “It made more sense to me, and it felt right. Not long after my declaration of faith as a new Shahadah, I was injured.”

That same year, at age 30, Proctor sustained a C4 incomplete injury from a stab wound. The lesion in his spinal cord caused him to develop Brown-Sequard syndrome. This rare neurological condition results in weakness or paralysis on one side of the body and a loss of sensation on the opposite side. Proctor lives with paralysis on his left side.

“I’ve had to relearn everything, including my religion, and my mobility challenges make everything harder. The mosque I was attending before my injury was not accessible. I have since moved, and I’m able to attend a new, accessible mosque,” says Proctor, who lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and relies on public transportation. “You have to figure out what works for you. It has taken a while to develop the process of ensuring I’m following the right standards to pray.”

Eid al-Adha is the second and final holiday of the Islamic lunar calendar and denotes the willingness of the Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son to Allah. In Christianity and Judaism, this is told as the story of Abraham and his son Isaac. While the first of the two holidays, Eid al-Fitr, marks the end of Ramadan, Eid al-Adha marks the end of Hajj, the last of the five pillars of Islam, which are the core beliefs and practices that define the religion.

The Hajj is an annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca and its nearby cities and symbolically commemorates the life and trials of the Prophet Abraham and his family. About two million people participate in Hajj each year, and every healthy adult Muslim who can afford to travel is obligated to perform Hajj once in their lifetime. While the Hajj pilgrimage only takes place in Saudi Arabia, Eid al-Adha is celebrated by Muslims worldwide.

“At one point, I had planned to make Hajj, but that has become more difficult from a cost and mobility perspective,” says Proctor. “It is always in the back of my mind. The meaning of the holiday doesn’t change because I live with paralysis. Being in a wheelchair wouldn't stop me from going to Mecca because it's a special feeling in the heart that I get no matter if I'm walking, crawling or flying.”

Islam teaches that one’s faith will be tested throughout one’s life, and tests are given according to one’s capacity. The tests are meant to bring one closer to God, and Eid al-Adha serves as a hopeful symbol for Muslims going through their own difficult tests. For Proctor, these tests still often include trying to work out life’s daily essentials.

“I haven’t done as much traveling as I’d like to since I was injured. I’ve only been to two states,” says Proctor. “I need to travel with a companion, and all the logistics make everything more difficult. Last year, I took a trip to Georgia, and the plane was too small to fit my chair. It became quite a challenge.”

Another Muslim holiday in which Proctor has needed to make accommodations is Ramadan, a holy month of fasting, worship and prayer. It celebrates the creation of the Quran, the holy book for people who practice the Islamic faith. Fasting during the daylight hours of Ramadan is another pillar of Islam and is a spiritual and meaningful practice for Muslims.

“With the medications I’m taking, I’ve had to change my amount of fasting,” says Proctor. “I try to push myself to fast as much as I can, but I can’t fast as much as I’d like to because of my disability.”

Yet Proctor remains determined to celebrate his Muslim faith. He also gives back as a disability activist and peer mentor. One of the several people he mentors is a fellow comedian in the Baltimore area who also uses a wheelchair.

Proctor’s advice to others who may be struggling to find connection is to take it step by step and incorporate as you go. When he gets frustrated with these limitations, his thinking comes full circle back to his faith.

“I know that Allah knows best, and Allah doesn’t make mistakes,” says Proctor, and these two tenets of his belief give him confidence as he tries to find his way through his religion. “You have to continue pushing forward. Don’t lose focus. It will take time to slowly incorporate faith, like everything else, back into your life. Take it day by day, little by little, step by step.”

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.