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The Muslim Patient

This is a copy of the pamphlet "The Muslim Patient" distributed by the American Muslim Foundation.

Muslims & Medicine

The efficiency of medicine and the skill of the physician are fully appreciated by all Muslims, as is the importance of preventative medicine. According to tradition, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) urged Muslims to develop the medical profession, because "for every sickness God created, He created a cure: some already known and others are not."

The Religion

What is Islam?

Islam is a universal monotheistic faith addressing all humanity. The most important component is the belief in One God, and in Muhammad as His Prophet (peace be upon him). The word Islam is Arabic for "submission" to God (Allah in Arabic). Muslims believe that His word was revealed in the Qur'an to mankind through His messenger Muhammad, the last of the prophets (peace be upon them all).

Muslims believe that Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), and 'Isa (Jesus) were also God's prophets (peace be upon all of them). They preached moral values, upright conduct, faith in One God, and passed along His revelations to the rest of mankind. Muslims believe that the Qur'an, as the last revelation, completed the prior revelations that constituted the basis of the Jewish and Christian faiths. Members of these faiths are therefore considered to be part of the same family of religions: the Ahl al-Kitaab, or "People of the Book."

Who are the Muslims?

A Muslims is a person who practices the Islamic faith by submitting to God and accepting divine guidance. With more than 1.2 billion adherents worldwide, Islam is second only to Christianity in terms of the number of adherents. The areas of the largest concentration of Muslims are Central and East Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, and the South Pacific. In the United States, Islam claims over six million adherents, making it the country's second largest religion.

The Importance of the Family

The family is the central foundation upon which Muslim society is built. Governments may come and go in the Muslim world, but the family endures. For Muslims, the family is as much the source of love, nurturing, and solace as it is of pride and motivation. The vast majority of Muslim immigrants to the United States continue to maintain close ties with their extended families, whether they live here or back in their home countries.

Physicians treating Muslim patients should make a special effort to reach out to their families. Family members should be consulted and kept informed of the patient's condition on an ongoing basis.

Accommodating the Islamic Lifestyle

Prayer

Muslims conduct prayer five times daily: pre-dawn, noon, late afternoon, dusk, and evening. They perform thorough ablutions before each prayer and take great care to maintain a high state of physical hygiene and cleanliness at all times. The daily prayers may be performed in a sitting position or, if necessary, lying in bed. For more information, read Prayer for the Sick.

A close related form of worship, and one particularly suited to the person taking bed rest, is the recitation of the Qur'an and reflection upon its meaning. This practice also serves to uplift the morale of patients who are critically ill.

Fasting

During the entire month of Ramadan, which comes eleven days earlier each year, Muslims fast from dawn until dusk. When a Muslim is ill, however, he or she is exempt from fasting.

Dietary Considerations

In addition to the prohibition of consuming alcoholic beverages, Muslims are forbidden to eat pork or lard. It is also important that cooking utensils used to prepare pork or lard not be used in preparing food for Muslim patients until they are thoroughly washed.

Even medicines intended for internal consumption that contains pork (e.g. insulin) or alcohol (e.g. certain cough syrups) should not be prescribed to Muslim patients unless absolutely necessary.

Circumcision

There is no reference to circumcision in the Qur'an, but according to the tradition of Prophet Muhammad and all of the Prophets (peace be upon them all), male infants should be circumcised within the first seven days of life. Female circumcision is not an Islamic requirement.

Modesty

Since Islam teaches the importance of modesty in all social relations, Muslims of both sexes are not comfortable about removing their clothing even for the purpose of a medical examination. This is despite the fact that Islam allows them to do so. Appropriate coverage should be a consideration during any medical examination.

Attention should be paid to the patient's privacy in other ways as well. For instance, in a hospital room the curtains should be drawn and the history taken should be muted. Some Muslim patients are shy to be examined by the opposite sex and may feel more comfortable with doctors and nurses of the same sex. The virginity of the unmarried girl is a matter of great importance. Vaginal examinations should be avoided unless of vital importance. A rectal exam is alright.

Right to Life

Euthanasia

Active euthanasia is banned by Islam. Any treatment that carries no promise of eventual success ceases to be mandatory, but without abrogation of the usual rights of hydration, nutrition, nursing, and pain relief. Recent conferences of notable scholars have accepted complete brain death (including brain stem) as indicating death. Artificial animation in medically hopeless cases is not a requirement.

Abortion

Abortion is not permitted by Islam unless the life of the mother is in danger or the fetus is afflicted with gross abnormalities incompatible with future life. Family planning by natural or medical contraception is acceptable.

Organ Donation and Transplants

Organ donation and transplant within current ethical guidelines are permissable and even encouraged.

Related Sites:

  • Information for Healthcare Providers Regarding their Muslim Patient


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