MUSLIM HEALTH NETWORK
Guidelines for Health Care Providers Interacting with Muslim Patients and their Families
Background & Introduction
Health care providers need to have an understanding of and appreciation for the beliefs and religious preferences of their Muslim patients
in order to provide optimal care for them. As the population of Canadian Muslims increases, physicians, nurses and chaplains associated with
hospitals and hospices will more frequently encounter Muslim patients who require contact with the health care system including those with
terminal conditions, either acute or chronic. The information in this document is applicable to all communities of Muslims.
The fundamental belief of Muslims is the oneness of God and belief in Muhammad as the last Prophet of God. “Islam” means submission and
obedience to the will of God, and aims at achieving peace with self and the surroundings. The Five Pillars of Islam are Declaration of
Faith, five daily Prayers, Fasting (for the entire month of Ramadan from dawn to dusk), Charity and Pilgrimage to Makkah.
Beliefs Related to Health Care
During illness, Muslims are expected to seek God’s help with patience and prayer, increase the remembrance of God to obtain peace, ask for forgiveness, give more in charity, and read or listen to more of the Qur’an (the Muslim spiritual text).
Muslim patients do not consider illness to be a punishment from God. They also believe that dying is a part of living and an entrance to the next life;
a transformation from one life to another, a part of a journey, and a contract and part of their faith in God. The Qur’an says, “They (true believers)
say: To God we belong and to Him is our return.”
General Beliefs and Practices (Individual Practices May Vary)
• The sanctity of life is an injunction.
• Abortion is not advised except to save the mother’s life or in very limited circumstances in early pregnancy due to medical or fetal indications.
Individual decisions may vary.
• It is a religious custom that an elder says the Islamic prayer call in an infant’s right ear shortly after birth.
• Circumcision of male infants is recommended and is universally practiced.
• Blood transfusions are allowed.
• Artificial reproductive technology is permitted only during the span of intact marriage between husband and wife.
• Organ transplantation, both donating and receiving, is allowed with some restrictions (donor material of porcine origin).
• Genetic engineering to cure a disease is acceptable. To date, Muslim jurists have called for a ban on human cloning.
• Islam does not prohibit Muslim physicians from caring for AIDS patients or those with other sexually transmitted diseases.
• Assisted suicide and euthanasia are not permitted.
• Maintaining a terminal patient on artificial life support for a prolonged period in a vegetative state is not encouraged.
• Autopsy is not encouraged. However, it is permitted if required by law.