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Sickness and pain in Islam: humanity, Islam and the Care Setting


As Islam is seen by Muslims to be a complete way of life, and an integrated whole, it is necessary to provide a short preamble to the
specific subjects of “sickness and pain” as they are treated in Islam. Similarly, throughout this tract, Islamic concepts and precepts are
used which will apply throughout a Muslim chaplain's working and personal life, outside of the subjects under discussion.

Islam means, “peace through the submission of one's will to Allah”. It is considered to be a complete way of life. In Islam, the
circumstances in which a person perceives pain and sickness are ultimately ordained by Allah – God Almighty. The way Islam
teaches us to deal with all affairs in life is through the holistic implementation of the knowledge of which it is constituted – to the
best of our abilities, through ourselves and through the abilities of all others around us.

There is no distinction between physical and non-physical causes or cures in Islam, in that they are all considered to be real, where
specifically identified or defined. When implemented as a whole, Islam is considered by Muslims as THE cure for ALL sicknesses
and pain (specifically or generally, by extension). Islam accommodates everyone in its framework, regardless of who they are or what
they believe. The aim of Islam is the establishment of peace and order (and therefore truth and mercy) in society by first cultivating
peace from within the individual in ALL spheres of human activity and then dispensing and it to and maintaining it practically within


Please note that the following lists are not exhaustive, and have been produced to provide a cursory overview only of the subject
under discussion. It could be asserted that they provide the reader with a caveat with which to understand something of the
psychology of both the (generic) Muslim patient and the (generic) Muslim chaplain.

General principles

● The first command the Prophet Muhammad made upon establishing an Islamic state over 1,400 years ago was: visit the
sick, feed the poor and free the captives. This command gives us a glimpse perhaps of how to deal with people already
physically sick or mentally constrained and “nip things in the bud” before they even develop into illness or deprivation
● Each of us has a degree of responsibility over either someone or some other people in society and each one of us has a duty
to monitor, warn and protect society whenever that which is detrimental is detected.
● If you eat to your fill while your neighbour remains hungry, you are not considered to be a believer, so checking on
neighbours regularly is considered an absolute duty by Allah
● Starting with yourself: a person is considered to be blessed if he is so concerned with his own faults that he does not
consider the faults of his brother or neighbour, and thus, Islam teaches a Muslim chaplain to get himself in order before
ever trying to assist a patient; it guides him to “know himself” first
● Keep your life and working habits in perspective: Islam advises a Muslim to live in the world as though they will not
survive until the end of the day and work in the world as though they would live forever; and if they are planting a tree and
the Day of Judgement comes upon them, they should continue to plant the tree
● Allah likes that which is done little but often: the way to effect a positive change within realistic human abilities is to do
little but often – exactly how Allah perpetuates and then sustains his creation on a daily basis and from season-to-season

The Chaplain

Rationale for being a chaplain

● If Allah wants to do good to someone, he makes them a benefit to the people (i.e. Society at large), so becoming a chaplain
is a sign for a Muslim that Allah has given them a gift, which they should honour and respect
● We are following the example of the Prophet Muhammad and in doing so, we are fulfilling our duty to please our Creator
● Visiting of the sick is a right which the sick Muslim has over the healthy Muslim; it is considered hated by Allah not to
visit a sick person when you are made aware that they are sick: the hospitals of Bradford are KNOWN centres of people
with ailments, so there is no excuse for the Muslims NOT to engage in the chaplaincy work, where able
● (previously mentioned: The best person is someone who brings a benefit to the people)
● Allah gives a tremendous reward and forgiveness of sins for visiting the sick person
● The Prophet Muhammad used to visit his sick neighbours who were Jews and Christians


● Actions are by intentions

● You are only a true believer when you love for your brother or neighbour (of any faith or none) what you love for yourself
● Avoiding possible hypocrisy towards a patient: make sure you are not doing bad things yourself and are ready to take your
own advice, if given to others
● An in-depth, practical understanding of Islam (i.e. The Quran and Hadith [authenticated statements from or about the
Prophet Muhammad]) as it applies to the particular patient in their understanding of contemporary society and its
● Allah made us into tribes and nations so that we might recognise one another, not so that we may despise one another: it
may be highly desirable to consider learning and understanding the culture (as appropriate, by direction or otherwise) of the
patient to whom you will be talking
● Consulting with chaplains is commanded before you undergo any novel experience: you are not permitted to knowingly
“go it alone” with a patient
● Islam is all about compromise – within specified limits; this extends onto the relationship with the patient: where the
patient indicates (in whatever fashion) that they find something difficult, then within reason - and where permissible - we
are required to actively compromise.
● All bad personal qualities and habits are identified and forbidden in Islam: main examples are lying, cheating, bearing false
witness (this is one of the most serious crimes in Islam), insincerity, hypocrisy (in both faith and deed – to both Allah and
the society) and bribery and treachery

The Patient


● Remind the patient that their sins drop away with pain and sickness, like leaves fall from a tree in Autumn
● Remind the patient that sickness and pain are part of life: Allah will test each one of us with fear, hunger, loss of life and
loss of goods and that he expects us to remain patient throughout these times and that if we do this, he will give us rewards
in this life and the next life; Allah has created life and death to TEST who is best in word and deed and he is the Most High,
the Most Forgiving, over his servants; life is a testing ground for the “Hereafter”
● There are concessions for sick people in all matters; some, for example are proscribed (e.g. canonical prayers, fasting)
while others are indicated generally, i.e. Allah does not burden a soul greater than it can bear

General considerations: the patient-chaplain relationship

● There is no compulsion in someone accepting Islam, however there is an obligation in Islam to treat all peoples extremely
● Allah has forbidden oppression for himself and he forbids it for his creatures, so a Muslim chaplain is not allowed to
oppress a patient or anyone else in any way whatsoever, small or large.
● If Allah loves a person, he puts them to trials and the most severely tested people were the prophets
● The religion is sincere advice to the leaders of the Muslims and the common people
● A patient cannot be forced to take treatment against their will, except where it is judged by a recognised authority that to
not provide such treatment would cause greater harm to that patient
● In Islam we are commanded to make things easy for people [sorry about all the bullet points but this is a big subject :) !]
and not make them hard; to give people good news and not to make them run away
● When two Muslims part, what they have said is taken by Allah to be a sacred trust and all trusts will be asked about on the
Day of Judgement
● Confidentiality: A Muslim – above all other “citizens” in the UK - has an absolute allegiance to the recognised,
supreme authority, in our case, Her Majesty The Queen: they are not allowed to betray the Queen or break the Law.
This means that in the case of confidentiality, if a patient discloses activities which the Law (i.e. The Laws of the
United Kingdom – there is NO Islamic Law (or “Shari'ah”) anywhere in the UK) states must be disclosed – illegal or
otherwise, then these matters must be disclosed, irrespective of confidentiality: also, and by extension, numerous
secondary protocols make it a requirement of a chaplain (especially in cases where a chaplain feels it may suddenly
become necessary) to remind a patient that confidentiality will always be maintained, except in cases where the Law
requires otherwise.

Specific Considerations: the patient's condition

● Islam recognises that pain and sickness can be either mental (also referred to in a purely spiritual, analogistic context) or
physical and that (only) physical sickness can be contagious.
● Islam has a range of solutions for sickness and pain. These can be broadly divided into six categories, which have an effect
on the patient:

● Bodily positions
● States of mind
● Surroundings
● Specific chapters and verses of the Quran which have a designated effect when read in a specific, proscribed
● Specific non-canonical prayers that have one or more specific, proscribed, physical effects
● Substances (e.g. foods, drinks, ointments, medicines)

For more information on the subjects of sickness and pain - as detailed in Islam - a chaplain is directed to access the relevant sources.
As is mentioned below, however, Islam is as concerned with prevention as much as it is with cure.

A Model of Health

● Learn worldly knowledge from the person most knowledgeable in that field
● It is forbidden to harm anyone or to harm someone in return for being harmed
● Cleanliness is half of faith:
● Keeping one's clothes clean from urine and faeces at all times
● Washing the head and the whole body together at least once in seven days
● Washing the private parts (and then the hands) after going to the toilet; using only the left hand to clean private
parts with
● Washing (ritual) body parts before prayers, five times a day
● Washing the hands before and after eating food; drying the hands only AFTER eating food; eating only with the
right hand
● Brushing the teeth regularly, especially before prayers or when entering the house
● Cutting the nails regularly
● Trimming the moustache regularly
● Removing the hair from under the arms and removing the pubes – both at a maximum of forty days
● Complete bath (ritual) is obligatory after sexual intercourse or having seminal emission or vaginal discharge
(such a bath is required before canonical prayers can be performed)
● Wearing perfume regularly


● Stand out for the truth, even as witnesses against your own selves: both the chaplain and the patient should be constantly
steered towards telling the truth, which ultimately equates to accepting the reality of a given life situation;only when an
individual comes to terms with their situation, can they begin to heal
● If you see something harmful, you should stop it with your hand, and if you cannot do that, then speak out against it and if
you cannot do that then at least hate it in your heart.
● A Muslim is a mirror for a Muslim; if you see something bad in him, strike it out
● Diseases spread, so physically sick people must be kept away from healthy people and vice versa
● Eating in moderation; eating good and wholesome foods that Allah has provided for us; avoiding blood, dead animals, pork
and alcohol and non-halal or non-kosher meat (the name of the Most High must be pronounced over animals and all the
blood drained out to make them permissible for a Muslim to eat, and by extension, all meat-derived products must have
also come from animals slaughtered in this way – N.B. Muslims can eat the meat of the Jews and the Christians)
● Giving up smoking is advised, as Allah commands us thus: “ not bring your hands on towards your own destruction...”
and also, the Prophet Muhammad has said, “There shall be no harm [even to yourself] and no reciprocating of harm...”
● Fasting in Ramadhan and optional fasts outside of Ramadhan
● Praying five times a day


● A smile is considered charity and is encouraged and the Prophet Muhammad is known to have engaged in light talk and to
engage in light, clean humour with his wives and companions, to alleviate heaviness or stress in a situation
● A Muslim should try to become as proficient as possible in all things and continually strive (“jihad”) to improve her or
himself in a progressive manner, to benefit themselves, their family, neighbours, friends and society
● Speaking pleasant words; shunning bad speech, for example back biting and slander, insinuation and suspicion, mockery,
using bad names, allusion; Allah commands us to use upright speech, so that he may make our conduct whole and sound
● Remind the patient about Allah and how his 99 names impact on their situation in a positive manner; remembrance of Allah
makes the heart feel at rest
● Listening appropriately and giving feedback; sharing: The story of Gabriel
● Trying to help the patient see things in a positive light, using stories from the comprehensive accounts given of the Prophet
Muhammad's life and stories of the prophets (e.g. David, Solomon, Joseph, Abraham, Job) from the Quran
● Exercise: Engaging in physical activity, e.g. Sports and running; taking long steps to the mosque for prayer and the prayer
And finally...

● All mistakes in this short tract come from me alone, and I ask Allah's forgiveness for my shortcomings in this regard.
● All good comes from Allah, my best friend - The Almighty, The King, The Most Majestic, The Owner, The Only One True
Object of Worship Worthy of Being Worshipped by All of His Creation, The Most Wise, The Most Kind, The Most
Merciful, The Most Loving, The Guardian Lord, Lord and Owner of the Supreme Throne, Infinite, High Above His
Creation and Owner of All the Most Beautiful and Absolute Names. And the start and end of my tract is: All praises and
thanks are due to Allah, the Lord of Everything.

Abdul Majeed
February 2007