Behind the pupil of the human eye is a layer comprised of light-sensitive patches known as rods and cones that help the eye to focus on light and darkness. Rod-cone dystrophy is the underdevelopment of rods in the back of the eye, which results in a diminished ability to focus light properly.
This state of near-blindness is what Umair S. Ibrahim, a Muslim American has been battling since he was born. A native of the United States, Ibrahim, of Pakistani descent, now lives in the West Hills in Canoga Park. With a double major in business and music, the 25-year-old has continued to thrive as an ambitious college student hoping to land a career in music once school is out. He is now a senior.
“You can do so many things with music,” Ibrahim said. “I’m just like anybody else, trying to make the grind.”
Throughout his life, music has been intensely influential as well as therapeutic in helping him to cope with the abnormal troubles with which he is faced.
“I have three doctors. It’s very annoying,” Ibrahim said, highlighting one of the many burdens he deals with throughout the day.
Ever since he was two years old, Ibrahim has been fascinated with the sound of a drum beat.
“When I was two, I stumbled upon a hand drum at my aunt’s wedding which I was absolutely crazy about,” Ibrahim said. “My mother reminds me of how relentless I was with that thing.”
At a young age, Ibrahim’s fascination with the drums led him into learning to play the drum set along with the piano which he uses to express himself. Now he composes music, which he says brings happiness to his life. He is considering steering his interest towards the field of Music Therapy, something that has affected his life tremendously for as long as he can remember.
“What better way to give back to people than doing what I love and what has helped me throughout my life in order to help someone else?” Ibrahim said, certain that music is his true passion in life.
It is also claimed that music therapy has cured people from depression and even suicide. One of his favorite quotes from the Muslim holy book called The Quran states as follows: “…and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people” 5:32.
Although Rod-cone dystrophy has caused major blurriness in Ibrahim’s vision throughout his childhood, it was not until two years ago that he was diagnosed with cataracts which caused his academic abilities to suffer significantly. With a new school policy increasing the requirements to keep a double major in music and business, and an even greater loss of vision as a college student, he was no longer able to maintain the double major and was not allowed to continue his major in music.
“It broke my heart,” Ibrahim said, as he is reminded of the cold but not-so-distant feeling.
Steadfast in motivation, Ibrahim plans on finishing his degree in business and resuming studies in music thereafter. Until then, he continues his passion for music through his band named “Nasaal” in which he plays the drums. The band focuses its genre on a combination of a Middle Eastern vocal sounds accompanied with Western influences such as rock and metal composition.
With the process of stem cell research under consideration by the Obama Administration, there may be a hint of light at the end of the tunnel for Ibrahim’s impairment. However, it would be years or even decades later until the effects would take place. Nonetheless, he lives his life with as much energy and aspiration as the next student.
“God made me the way I am for a reason,” Ibrahim said. “If it wasn’t for the way I am, everything about my life would not be the same. I am thankful for my life.”