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Muslims

Daily Prayer and Worship

For Muslims, prayer is a regular and disciplined act of worship in which they humbly submit to God (Allah) both mentally and physically.

In prayer they praise and glorify God. They seek mercy, forgiveness and guidance from Him. The prayer takes the form of a series of rites which include standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting, and where memorised verses from the Qur'an are recited.

Prayer is obligatory five times a day at a stated period; at dawn (Fajr), at mid-day (Zuhr), late afternoon (Asr), after sunset (Maghrib), and late evening before going to bed (Isha). Muslims pray in the mosque in congregation where they assemble and stand in rows behind the Imam who leads the prayer.

Prayers can also be conducted at home or any place where it is convenient and clean. In the hospital, it would benefit Muslim patients (and hospital staff) if a quiet, clean room was allocated to them for this purpose.

If a patient is not mobile he or she may wish to pray on the bed in a sitting position or pray near the bedside using a prayer mat. The patient may wish to draw the curtains during the prayer for privacy. This would usually take no more than 10 to 15 minutes.

Ablution Facility

An Ablution is the term used for ritual washing. This is nothing to do with the Ablution vessel. Ablution must be carried out before touching the Qur'an.

It takes the form of washing the hands; gargling; rinsing the mouth and nostrils; washing the face; the arms; passing wet hands over the hair; and lastly washing the feet.

All mosques have a special area where a person can carry out the Ablution. This facility is purpose built and takes into account the need to wash the feet, hence seating is usually lower.

A normal wash hand basin is adequate for performing the Ablution but a person may need help if they are frail and elderly or weak. Also, Muslims prefer to wash in running water for bathing purposes i.e. would prefer a shower to a bath. A bucket and jug would also serve the purpose. After menstruation women are required to wash their whole bodies.

The Prayer Mat

A person who offers five times obligatory prayer may bring his or her own Prayer mat, but keeping a few in stock will mean that the hospital is being courteous, and demonstrates a religious awareness.

In the case of emergency admissions, the patient may not have had the opportunity to pack their belongings properly. Praying, as mentioned earlier, is one of the fundamental duties of a Muslim. If a prayer mat is not available a clean towel or clean folded sheet can be used instead.

The Direction of the "Qibla"

For a Muslim to be able to pray, they must face the South Easterly direction towards the Qibla in Makkah, which is in Saudi Arabia. Hence, keeping a compass is essential for this purpose.

Once the direction of the Qibla is known, it may be beneficial to put a sign up on the wall showing the direction of the Qibla permanently. This saves duplication and the need for a compass each time a new Muslim patient is admitted. Some Muslims may wear a religious article known as Ta'weez (amulet) with Qur'anic verses for protection from evil around the neck.

Holy Books

The Holy Qur'an is the most important book for Muslims. The Qur'an should only be handled after performing the ablution (ritual washing). Copies of the Qur'an are available at the Chaplaincy Office and Prayer Rooms.

Although the Qur'an in the Arabic text is mainly used for recitation for spiritual benefit, some keep the English translated versions as well. It is important to handle the Qur'an with care and respect.

Holy Days and Festivals

Friday prayers - patients may wish to discharge themselves for approximately an hour.

Ramadan: The 9th month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims fast for the whole month from dawn to dusk. Fasting means abstension from food and drink, smoking and sexual activity.

Fasting is not obligatory for the sick, the very old, the very young, for pregnant or breastfeeding women, if detrimental to their health. The sick may wish to try to fast a little if possible, and will need a meal before dawn and another after Sunset. The sick should make up the days they have missed at some other time.

During Ramadan Muslims will spend many hours in prayer or reading the Qur'an.

There are two major festivals in the Islamic year. The first is celebrated on the day immediately after the end of Ramadan. Thus it is known as Eid-ul-Fitr, Festival of breaking of the Fast.

Eid: Muslims put on their best clothes and attend the Mosques in the morning to pray in thanksgiving for the blessings they have received from God in the form of the Qur'an and the keeping of the Fast.

They also pay the Sadaqah al-Fitr (welfare due) for the poor. This is paid by the head of the family on behalf of all the members of the household, including a newborn baby, and given to the poorest members of society to enable them to participate in the festival. Currently, the rate is around £1 per individual.

The second major festival is Eid-ul-Adha, which is celebrated to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham)'s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail (Ishmael), in obedience to God's command. God accepted a ram as a symbol of his devotion. This festival falls on the day after the day of Hajj.

On this day also Muslims put on their best clothes and attend the congregational prayers in the morning. Also those who can afford to sacrifice an animal and share the meat among family, friends and the poor.

Muslims offer their greetings of Eid Mubarak (Happy Eid) and Assalamo Allaikum (peace be upon you). Eid-ul-Fitr is the Muslim community's assertion of unity and family solidarity.

It is a community and family celebration where Muslims cook food, and visit each other. It is also a special occasion for the children, who receive presents, new clothes, money and greetings.

Diet and Hygiene

Halal Meals

Many hospitals with a large Muslim population now provide Halal meals. However, despite the availability of Halal meals many still bring their own food from home. This is because the homemade food is not only Halal but also more "culturally" appropriate. For example, Pakistani Muslims eat more Chapattis with curry as their staple diet whilst Bangladeshis will have rice as their main meal.

It is important to bear in mind that some second generation Muslims will have an English meal; i.e. vegetables, fish, rice etc. but they will need to avoid pork and other impermissible foods.

It is important to be aware that even in the cooking process, any meat or meat products such as gelatine are avoided. The use of separate utensils when cooking or serving the Halal and non -Halal food is essential.

A Cleansing Vessel

Muslims attach great importance to cleanliness. Many Muslims regard the use of toilet paper as insufficient in terms of hygiene and wash with water after using the toilet. Therefore a cleansing vessel is used for this purpose.

This is a simple vessel which has a long spout like a watering can for plants. However, in the absence of one, a plastic jug or an ordinary plastic watering can may be used. This vessel is used in the toilet for washing the private parts with water after urination or defecation.

Hospital staff may already be aware of this requirement and some hospitals have now seen the importance of this need and have established this facility. Muslims will always use their left hand for toileting and their right hand for eating etc.

This information is useful, therefore, for medical staff when choosing the patients' hand for intravenous drugs etc. (Many Muslims would prefer the right hand to be used but it would be advisable to ask). If a bedpan is used, it is preferable to ask the patient if water is required.

Gender Issues

For Muslims modesty in dress is very important. A male must cover his body from navel to knees whilst the female is required to cover her whole body, apart from the feet and hands.

The clothing must not be see-through nor tight fitting and must conceal the shape of the body. Headscarf is worn by women, men may cover their heads with a hat.

It is therefore very important to adopt operation gowns which respect the above requirement. This problem can cause concern for female patients when they are in transit from their bed to the operating theatre.

The clothing should be such that it can cover the body of the patient to avoid any discomfort and embarrassment. Some hospitals have allowed for this requirement. Women are required to only uncover part of their body to be examined at a time for physical examination.

The intermingling of the sexes is not allowed in Islam, unless closely related, and a practising Muslim will feel very uncomfortable if their bed is next to or near a patient who is not of the same gender.

Where facilities exist Islam requires male patients to be seen by male staff and female patients to be seen by female staff. Where this facility does not exist it is preferable that a female member of staff is present when a female patient is examined.

Visiting

Visiting a sick relative or friend is a faith obligation and is regarded as a virtuous act for Muslims which is greatly rewarded by God. For this reason there may be a large number of people visiting the patient.

It is part of the Muslim culture to visit the sick either in hospital or at home, to pray for and with the patient, and to attend the funeral of those who have died. In fact to gain the spiritual benefit most people will attend a funeral of a Muslim even if they are not acquainted with the person.

For this reason, hospitals may need to take into account the large number of people visiting at the same time. Of course a standard needs to be set and certain criteria established to avoid disruption.

Birth

Birth ceremonies include the rites of Adhan and Iqamat, shaving of the head, naming and circumcision.

The Adhan is the Muslim call to prayer. When a Muslim baby is born, it is bathed and the Adhan is called softly into its right ear. The Iqamat is said into the left ear. Soon after birth, something sweet is placed in the baby's mouth (traditionally a tiny, symbolic amount of date or honey).

The baby is named on the 7th day after birth. On the 7th day after the birth the head of the baby is shaved and all boys are circumcised. However, Islam does not sanction female circumcision.

Death

Where the death of a Muslim patient appears imminent, the relatives, or in their absence a member of the local mosque committee, should be informed and be given facilities to perform the customary religious rites.

At this stage, the simple practice which is followed is to sit near the bed of the patient and read some verses from the Qur'an to pray for the peaceful departure of the soul.

The patient on the point of death should, if possible, be turned to face in the direction of the ka'bah in Makkah. (A south easterly direction in the U.K.) The patient should be turned onto their right side facing south east. When a patient is unable to be turned, they may be placed on their back with the feet in the south easterly direction and their head slightly raised.

If the patient is in a state of consciousness, those present at his bedside will encourage him to recite the Shahadah - the declaration of faith: "La-ellaha ill lallahu, Muhammadur rasul lullah" (There is no God except Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah).

This is done to invoke the blessings of Allah and in the hope that Allah will accept his life as a Muslim and forgive his sins in the hereafter.

When a patient has passed away, recitation of the Qu'ran ceases in their presence. Immediately after death, relatives will want to:

  • Close the eyes of the deceased
  • Turn the body to the right and if possible towards the Qibla, the south easterly direction of prayer
  • Bandage the lower jaw to the head so that the mouth does not gape
  • Flex the joints of the arms and legs to stop them becoming rigid to enable washing and shrouding

At all times the deceased's body must be modestly covered. If no relative or community member is immediately available, they will appreciate nursing staff undertaking the above.

The corpse should be handed over to the relatives or the Muslim community of the locality who will make arrangements for the washing, shrouding and burial according to Islamic regulations.

Any tubes etc. or artificial limbs should be removed and incisions plugged so as to prevent or stem a flow of blood. Muslims do not usually bury the corpse in a coffin, but if special circumstances apply or if the law requires this, then Muslims will not object to this.

Islam requires that burial take place as soon as possible. Family and community members will be grateful for the rapid release of the body. A post-mortem should not be carried out unless required by law as this causes delay and distress.

In fact, post-mortems without the existence of compelling medical or legal circumstances amounts to desecration of the body. It's for this reason that Muslims like to take custody of the remains as early as possible.

There are different interpretations to organ donation and individuals may wish to contact their religious leader (Imam/Mufti) for advice. If relatives or members of the Muslim community are not readily available to take charge of the body, it may be kept in the hospital mortuary for a short period of time.

The female body should be handled by the female staff and the male corpse by the male staff where at all possible. Funeral will take place within a mosque yard or such a room where the five daily prayers are not normally prayed or at the graveyard.

Muslim Chaplains

The chaplaincy has a contact name(s) and number (call 01274 365819) or alternatively the Muslim chaplains male and female can be contacted through the switchboard on 01274 542200. The importance of the visiting Muslim chaplain means the patient can benefit from seeing someone sharing the same faith and therefore able to meet the patient's spiritual and religious needs.