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Caring for muslim patients

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A free resource for hospices and care centres providing insight into caring for Muslim patients with terminal illness. This was developed in partnership with Luton Council of Mosques and South England hospices.

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Caring for muslim patients

  1. 1. Discover Islam Luton 37c Upper George Street, Luton, LU1 2RD | contact@discover-islam.org.uk Caring for Muslim patients with terminal illness Summary Guidance February 2014
  2. 2. Discover Islam Luton 37c Upper George Street, Luton, LU1 2RD | contact@discover-islam.org.uk CONTENTS Who are Muslims? ............................................................................................3 The Islamic view of life and death.....................................................................3 Taking comfort despite loss ..............................................................................3 Observing Mourning .........................................................................................4 Visiting the ill ....................................................................................................5 Euthanasia........................................................................................................5 Some common needs.......................................................................................6 Prayer............................................................................................................6 Food and drink ..............................................................................................6 Communication .............................................................................................7 Hygiene .........................................................................................................7 Modesty.........................................................................................................7 Rituals surrounding death .............................................................................7 Funeral ..........................................................................................................8 Religious leadership......................................................................................9 Muslim Funeral directors...............................................................................9 Further information, training or consultancy services....................................9
  3. 3. Discover Islam Luton 37c Upper George Street, Luton, LU1 2RD | contact@discover-islam.org.uk Who are Muslims? A Muslim is anyone who believes in the statement: “There is none worthy of worship except Allah (God) and Mohammed is His slave and last messenger,” then acts according to the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). Although, it may seem that Muslims are of Arab or South Asian background only, the Muslim community is very diverse, including people from the Far East to Africa, and native communities in Europe and the Americas. It is not unusual therefore to find differences of opinion and practice due to cultural differences. Also, we may often find cultural practices among some Muslims that have no basis in Islam but have been inherited from their ancestors. In mainstream Islam, juristic differences of opinion have always been welcomed, when scholars have exerted themselves to apply the principles of Islamic teachings to new circumstances. Based on this diversity, it is important to recognise that not all Muslim patients will have identical personal needs although the core beliefs and ritual practises are consistent. It is also possible that some Muslims are unaware of the position of Islam on a particular issue, oftentimes, because it is a new experience such as dealing with terminal illness personally or in ones family. The Islamic view of life and death The Qur’an states that whoever saves one life it is as if they had saved the whole of mankind, hence the great value placed on caring for others regardless of their belief. We believe that the soul continues to live after the ‘death’ of the body and, on the Day of Resurrection, the body will again be reunited with the soul. God will judge all of humanity based on how they lived their life and the righteous will be rewarded with Paradise and bliss eternally. Muslims believe that the Hereafter is better and more enduring than this life on Earth. This knowledge also gives Muslims hope and comfort that we will be reunited with our loved ones in an everlasting life to come. Taking comfort despite loss Illness and loss in this life are a test of ones faith and character. For those who patiently persevere through illness there is reassurance of purification and good reward. In the instance that someone innocent is beset with great trial, God –
  4. 4. Discover Islam Luton 37c Upper George Street, Luton, LU1 2RD | contact@discover-islam.org.uk through His Mercy – will admit them to Paradise without reckoning or worry. Specific examples are mentioned in the Prophetic narrations and include children, those who drown, who are caught in a fatal fire, those with stomach diseases or beset by a plague amongst others. Also, if a Muslim woman dies while giving birth she too will have the same status. Observing Mourning Muslims are generally allowed to observe three days mourning for close relatives. A widow has 4 months and 10 days grieving period. In this period, they are expected to refrain from normal routine. The widow may not remarry until this period has finished although she may visit doctors for emergency medical care and the like. Grieving and weeping is acceptable but wailing, beating the chest are signs of despair that are discouraged. In some cultures, women are discouraged from visiting the graves for these reasons. Generally, extended family and local community take care of the needs of the bereaved family providing food, support and counsel. After the 3 days of mourning, the family should start to resume their daily activities. This does not mean that they have to forget about their deceased loved ones or that they need not deal with their feelings and emotions. Rather, this is a way to encourage people to not become consumed by grief and begin the process of recovery. Islam encourages that the deceased should indeed be remembered and loved ones are encouraged to do good actions on behalf of the dead such as donating charity or performing good deeds on their behalf. All such acts should be viewed in the sprit of compassion. A widow has a special place in this regard. The extended period is to protect her interests (personal, financial etc) so that unscrupulous people do not take advantage of her vulnerability during this period. Secondly, to be absolutely clear that she is not pregnant from the deceased, in which case, she will have additional rights from the husband’s estate. This is a time people with her interests at heart should comfort her; this is a time for reflection, prayers, looking ahead etc. In this period she may not remarry. Generally, she will refrain from normal activities and can consult a religious leader (Imam) if she needs to enquire about specific circumstances. After this period, she may remarry if she wishes. But this does not mean she will automatically overcome her feelings of love for her departed husband. These rules do not prevent her from seeking professional help if she needs it.
  5. 5. Discover Islam Luton 37c Upper George Street, Luton, LU1 2RD | contact@discover-islam.org.uk Visiting the ill The Prophet Mohammed has encouraged Muslims to visit the sick. However, the visitors should not sit for too long with the sick person so as to inconvenience the patient or their family. As it is not always possible to maintain Islamic dress code during illness, visitors and those working with them should be mindful of safeguarding patients’ privacy and dignity. Muslim patients may feel uncomfortable receiving visitors from the opposite sex, who are not close relatives. Islam encourages visiting the sick to offer solace, support and reassurance. Through kind words and caring, a pleasant visitor can fill sick patients with hope, comfort and good cheer. Visitors will pray for the patient by sharing some words of supplication. Euthanasia Mercy-killing or physician assisted suicide is considered impermissible in Islam. Similarly, it is not permissible to remove or withhold the respirator from a patient except in the case where it has been definitely established that s/he comes under the ruling of one who is dead, because all brain function has completely ceased, or her/his heart and breathing have completely stopped in such a way that the doctors have determined is irreversible.
  6. 6. Discover Islam Luton 37c Upper George Street, Luton, LU1 2RD | contact@discover-islam.org.uk Some common needs Prayer • Muslims may want to pray five times a day, so they may request information about compass bearings and may need help to rearrange furniture to enable them to face Makkah (which is the direction of prayer). • Ritual purification is necessary before prayer requiring washing of key body parts unless the patient is unable to do so because of their illness. • Usually one stands up to pray facing the Qibla (direction of the Ka’bah in Makkah) although there is leniency for the ill as stated in the statement of the Prophet Muhammad: “Pray standing; if you cannot, then sitting; and if you cannot, then lying on your side.” • Patients may request copies of the Qur’an (Holy Book) and prayer mats. If you have any difficulty in sourcing these, please contact us and we will make these available. Food and drink • Muslims are only permitted to eat meat that has been prepared while mentioning the name of God and releasing all blood from the animal deeming it halal. For this reason, a family may wish to bring their own food in for the patient. • Like other faiths, pork and alcohol also prohibited for Muslims to consume. • During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual activity. The very young, elderly, sick, menstruating women and pregnant women are exempt from fasting, however the patient may still wish to observe the fast as best they can. • Any medication which reaches the stomach, whether administered orally, anally or by injections into the blood vessels, is not permitted during the fast. If the individual requires this for their health, they are not required to fast as stated above. • Muslims eat with their right hand and will need to have the table arranged accordingly (see further note in Hygiene advice below).
  7. 7. Discover Islam Luton 37c Upper George Street, Luton, LU1 2RD | contact@discover-islam.org.uk Communication • Depending on where they are from, Muslims speak a variety of languages including Punjabi, Urdu, Pushto, Bengali and Arabic. • Although many speak English proficiently, others may rely on family members or request an interpreter. Hygiene • Muslims prefer to use free flowing water in order to bathe, so may wish to use the shower rather than a bath (this may also have implications for bed baths – ask the patient or family for advice). • After using the toilet, Muslims prefer to wash, rather than use toilet paper alone – again this will have implications when using bedpans. • Ritual washing is required prior to prayer and a patient may need help to do this. Patients who are medically advised not to use water may perform dry ablution. • In common with most Asian cultures, Muslims use their left hand for washing private parts and their right hand for eating Modesty • Modesty in dress is important to Muslims – a man must cover his body from the navel to the knees and a woman may cover her body entirely except for the hands and feet. • A patient may prefer to be attended to by medical staff of the same gender, but where this is impossible they may wish to have their spouse or a member of their family of their gender present during examinations or treatment. Rituals surrounding death • The patient may wish to sit or lie on the right facing Mecca when approaching death. • Prayers or reading from the Qur’an may be read by a religious leader (Imam) or a family member. These can also be supplied in audio format on request by contacting us at the Discover Islam centre. • Following death, normally non-Muslims may not touch the body (except to remove medical devices or where it is necessary). • Family members of the same gender may wish to wash and arrange the body – if it is necessary a nurse may be asked to do this, or assist:
  8. 8. Discover Islam Luton 37c Upper George Street, Luton, LU1 2RD | contact@discover-islam.org.uk • Once the soul has departed from the body, it is important to close the eyes and mouth of the deceased, straighten their limbs, bandage the lower jaw round the head and tie the two thumb toes together with a cloth. • The nails of the deceased should not be cut or the body washed without seeking permission from the family and Muslim funeral provider. • The whole body should be covered with a white sheet. Funeral • The funeral should be undertaken as soon as possible following death (usually within 24 hours) once the cause of death has been established. • Like other faiths, invasive autopsies are not permitted on the body of the deceased and there is provision in South-East England and London for non- invasive post mortems to establish the cause of death. For further details, contact us at the Discover Islam centre and we can advise families or practitioners on the process. • Women are not allowed to attend the funeral although may wish to see the body prior to the funeral • The Islamic mourning period lasts 3 days for family with the exception of the widow who mourns for 4 months and 10 days. Some South-Asian traditions also hold a communal supplication and meal 40 days after the passing away of a family member.
  9. 9. Discover Islam Luton 37c Upper George Street, Luton, LU1 2RD | contact@discover-islam.org.uk Other useful contacts Further information, training or consultancy services Discover Islam Luton 37c Upper George Street Luton LU1 2RD Email: contact@discover-islam.org.uk Religious leadership • Council of Islamic Scholars Contact: Imam Saqib Mahmood, Zuhri Academy • Luton Council of Mosques Email lutonmosques@gmail.com Correspondence address: 95 Maple Road Luton Bedfordshire LU4 8BQ Muslim Funeral directors (Who can accommodate non-invasive post mortems) • Bismillah Muslim Funeral service 81 Montrose Avenue, Luton, Bedford LU3 1HP 01582 514646 • Bury Park Funeral services 21-27 Bury Park Road Luton 01582 725412 Haji Abul Hussain: 07984 720039 Haji Anwar Hussain: 07958 069012 Other services included with the funeral provision include: • Arranging burials • Providing Coffin, casket and funeral cars • Embalming • Repatriation service • Washing and storage facilities

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