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Male Doctors - Female Patients Haram?

Not surprisingly another facet of daily life has been, too quickly, labeled haram by many Muslims. The label of "haram" that is so easily placed is a very serious matter and should be one that is seriously considered before being uttered so quickly. As we come to learn, in Islam, everything is halal unless made haram. And in short a Muslim woman being treated by a Male doctor is not outrightly haram.

There are, however, obligatory courses of action to be taken when seeking medical treatment, according to the scholars.

Both (looking and touching )are permissible for medical blood letting, cupping and medical treatment. When there is a real need a muslim woman needing medical attention must be treated by a Muslim woman doctor, or if there is none, then a non Muslim doctor. If there is none then a male Muslim doctor may treat her, while if none of the above are available then a male non Muslim doctor. If the doctor is of the opposite sex, her husband or an un-marriageable male relative must be present. It is obligatory to observe this order in selecting a doctor. The same rules apply to Muslim men with regard to having a doctor of the same sex and religion. The same sex takes precedence over the same religion. (1)

One would have to ask if this these are the only considerations to take into account when chosing medical treatment. Are Muslims limited to the matter of gender and religion, without taking into consideration the other very important aspects when choosing a doctor. Do we not question the capabilities of the medical doctor who we are entrusting our health with? Health is a blessing from Allah, any illness should not be taken lightly and surely should not be left to treatment by one solely on gender. Something which should be of a concern to both Muslim women and Muslim men when it comes to the ability of a doctor to treat a patient.

What are some concerns when we choose a doctor? Education and training is a major factor when choosing a physician. Choosing one that is educated in the proper field of study, and well as training he/she has undergone. Certification from the proper boards of medicine in each state, recommendations of local medical organizations. One should also consider the availability of a physician, are you treated by them or staff? Does it take you weeks to see the doctor? Is the doctor willing and capable of addressing any questions or concerns that you may have? One should also consider that the physician is in agreement to your choice of medical options, rather than keeping you limited to only what he/she feels is best. Also checking on the reputation of the physician is important, we all hear horror stories of certain doctors in our area, this is not an issue we should ignore.

We have to remember that Islam is a balanced religion. Allah gave us Islam as an easement and not a hardship. It appears to be questionable why Muslims, particularly women, would be so limited in their choice of medical treatment. Taking into consideration the male/female ratio within the medical field. One would also question why Muslim women feel so obligated to remain with an incapable doctor just because the doctor is of the same gender. And husbands, understanding that they are the protectors of their wives,  would actually encourage a woman to remain under such treatment. Is it that we do not understand the severity of the situation? Is it that we are so limited in understanding that we assume everything is sexual, even medical treatment? Is it just not common sense when placing our health in the hands of others that we would want the best in order to have the best outcomes Inshallah? I have struggled with these questions, and turned to look for the words of those  more knowledgeable than I to shed some light on such an issue. So I will leave it to the words of Ibn Qayyim Al Jawziyya.

In this hadith: That in every science or industry, the most skillful, most proficient persons should be referred to as they are closer to pertinence. Thus the seeker of recourse to the persons who are well-versed and who are more well-advised than others. Moreover, the one to whom the Qibla is concealed from him imitates the more expert. This is the way allah created His servants. The traveller by land or by sea who had recourse by the most skillful doctor will benefit from calm and quietude. This is approved by the law, the instinct, and the reason.(2)

Being treated by the most skillful in an area, brings about a calmness so necessary to our healths. Not only does one have an illness but unnecessary worry will in no way help any situation. As so well pointed out here, that the seeking of the most qualified, is not only approved by the law, but it is a matter of reason (common sense) and instinct. It is my sincerest hopes that my fellow Muslim sisters do not sell themselves short and settle for a Woman doctor just because she is a female. It is my sincerest hopes that Muslims would take more core in their health than that, and would seek out the very best in which they can find. It is my sincerest hopes that Muslim men would protect their wives in this matter, as in all matters, and choose nothing but the best for their wives, for this is their duty. This is a matter that should be discussed between spouses and logically handled. The guidance of Allah should be sought, Istakarah should be made, for Allah's guidance will never lead astray.

(1) Reliance of the Traveller by Ahmad ibn Naqib al Misri  Translation by Nuh Ha Mim Keller ISBN 0-915957-72-8 Page 515 Section m2.10

 (2) The Prophetic Medicine by Ibn Qayyim al Jawziyya Translation: S. Abi Azar Published  by Dar el Fikr Chapter 31 pg. 160

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