“Islam does not specify which parties are to be involved. However Islam does make specifications regarding which parties should not be involved. The question of switching off the life support system for vegetative or brain-dead patients is not a religious matter. It is a medical one. Therefore, medical officers are the ones who should play a role in this. Religious officers merely oversee and advise”, thus I concluded the presentation of my working paper.
That afternoon, I was presenting a working paper that centered on the Islamic perspective regarding euthanasia and vegetative or brain-dead patients. The discussion was organized by the medical students at The Queen’s University, Belfast, who were taking the subject Medical Ethics.
I had explained to the participants that Islam has similar perspectives with Christianity and Judaism regarding the nobility of human life. However in the case of Euthanasia and the Vegetative Patient, Islam does not centralize the question of which parties are to be involved in making the decision to turn off the life support system when the patient is brain-dead. The reason is clear. This is a medical case. Therefore it is those in the medical field who should be making this decision.
This is in contrast to the Protestant and Catholic representatives who time and time again express dismay when the hospital Chaplain is not involved in the decision-making process. They pin this slight on the effects of secularism, which removes religion from playing any role in everyday life.
On the contrary, Islam specifies the parties who should not be involved in this decision. In general, those who have a vested interest must be prevented from influencing the decision. These include financial inheritors and beneficiaries, organ donor authorities, etc. This ensures decisions regarding the termination of life support are 100% for the benefit of the patient.
What attracted my attention were the reactions of the Protestant and Catholic representatives. They both were shocked by my explanation.
“We should take into consideration your view, Mr. Imam Hasrizal, to be included in our current system!”, said the Reverand representing the Protestants.
This is what I would like to bring your attention to: their willingness to accept my Islamic, non-Christian opinion. They are not prejudiced against the ideas I presented merely because it comes from a different belief system.
What is important to them is to seek the methodology that is best for the patient. Therefore, regardless of the source of said good suggestion, it should be accepted. That is their way.
The willingness of Western society to accept that which is beneficial to has contributed to their advancement, not just today, but for the past few centuries now.
Europe During the Dark Ages
When Europe was prejudiced against Islam and when they were completely inward-looking and insular, they were plunged into the Dark Ages. It encompassed everything, from their stupidity in considering inquisitiveness as being sinful, to their brutality during the Christian Inquisition in Spain where they massacred the developments and contributions of Islam, solely for the promotion of their very constricted version of religion.
Their refusal to open their eyes, both physically as well as the eyes of the mind, caused them to be trapped by their own stupidity. I have touched on this in great extent in the article: Menjahilkah Diri Terhadap Musuh.
It was only after Europe was willing to accept all things beneficial to them that rays of hope lit up their minds and led to the ignition of the Enlightenment.
I had previously enquired from Prof Abdullah al-Ahsan, when taking the subject Modern History of Europe, “did thinkers such as Rene Descarte, Immanual Kant, Adam Smith, and early Christian humanists like Desiderius Erasmus, learn about Islam and borrowed Islamic ideas in order to rejuvenate their societies?”
“I encourage you to find answers to those questions. It is not impossible. Voltaire in fact researched Zoroastrianism in order to support his theories regarding Deism”, replied the Prof to me.
What is obvious to us is that there are many, many works of literature produced in the dawn of the Enlightenment that seem very religious and do not vary much from the values of Islam, even though the end product is very European.
What is therefore obvious too is that it must mean that they took what they saw as being beneficial and used this as the seeds that were sowed to strengthen Europe and bring it out of the Dark Ages, into continuous advancements that go on to today.
What about Us?
Islamic sources clearly state that:
“Hikmah (Wisdom) has been lost from the (hands of) Mukmin. Wherever he finds it, he is therefore most worthy of it”
Hikmah (wisdom) is simply defined as that which is good and sufficient for the needs of the Mukmin. It is seen not just as something that should or could be, but in fact we are urged to seek and grab it, as is emphasized by the phrase which says: whichever Mukmin finds it is the one most worthy of it.
Thus the believer is urged to make full use of all that is beneficial. Goodness does not have an Eastern or Western identity, neither Northern nor Southern. If it is good, then it is Islamic. In other words, Islam succumbs to the Sunatullah (way of Allah).
How should this be applied to our lives?
Well, let’s take the example of a medical system and its institution, the hospital.
Islamic and UnIslamic Medical Systems
Is that which is termed Islamic medicine, restricted only to methods related to ruqyah treatment using Quranic verses? Is it constrained only to treatments that relate to jinn exorcism? Is it only for the use of herbs with names related to the family of the Prophet SAW like Ali and Fatimah?
Is the use of medication like paracetamol and insulin unIslamic? Is in unIslamic to seek the help and diagnoses of doctors, and to consider Islamic doctors only the learned experts in Quranic ruqyah?
If we utilize the knowledge contained in Kumar & Clark’s book, Clinical Medicine, is that considered unIslamic? Are only the texts of al-Tibb al-Nabawi by Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya considered valid Islamic medical texts?
I am not merely being cynical, but am honestly asking each one of us to reevaluate the methods we use to define that which is Islamic against that which is unIslamic.
Let us look back at this world. Fire, regardless of its origins or location, contains certain properties, among which is that, it burns. Who is it who made fire burn?
The answer is: ALLAH.
And in fact, when Allah commanded fire to not burn, it went against its burning property, the property bestowed upon it by Allah:
[Surah al-Anbiya, 21: 69] We said, “O Fire! be thou cool, and (a means of) safety for Abraham!”
When a pharmacist looks to the measurement charts in order to determine the paracetamol dosage suitable for a patient, is it that he himself was the one who created the measurement chart? Was it he who discovered it?
If it is the result of research, who is it that set the standard as such, before it was discovered? Is it not true that all medical practices are laws of Allah? Is it not true that insulin standards suitable for a diabetic are laws of Allah?
It’s all Allah’s laws.
That two hydrogen and one oxygen molecules come together to form water is Allah’s law.
Therefore, products and systems built upon these principles are also from Allah. It is Islamic, even though discovered by Alexander Fleming.
This is the Sunatullah, ways and processes set by Allah as the governing laws that control all worldly interactions. Intra-worldly interactions, inter-human interactions, worldly-human interactions. These are all tied to a fixed set of laws, the name of which is Sunatullah.
Sunatullah cannot be replaced, cannot be changed.
[Surah Fatir, 35: 43] On account of their arrogance in the land and their plotting of Evil, but the plotting of Evil will hem in only the authors thereof. Now are they but looking for the way the ancients were dealt with? But no change wilt thou find in Allah’s way (of dealing): no turning off wilt thou find in Allah’s way (of dealing).
Therefore, Islamic medicine is the medicine that cures, regardless of whether it is a product of Ireland, Germany, China, or Malaysia. As long as it cures, it is Islamic medicine. It is a hikmah (wisdom) that the mukmin should utilize.
If we are still caught up with the idea that Islamic medicine is available only in Muslim institutions, and that medicine dispensed at hospitals does not constitute Islamic medicine, then we are caught in a secular paradigm. Whether secularist thought rejects religion, or whether secularist thought rejects the world, the result is the same. Both are secular.
A doctor who rejects the role of ruqyah and Quranic verses as an aspect of medicine is the same as an ustaz who rejects hospital treatment. Both are believers of a secular paradigm.
We extend the above-mentioned matter now to Islamic Hospitals.
Does an Islamic Hospital have to be named with an Arabic or Islamic name before being classified as an Islamic Hospital? Barakah Hospital, Hikmah Hospital, Islamic Hospital. Are only these classified as Islamic? Are Georgetown Specialist Hospital, Synergistic Treatment Hospital, Kensington Hospital (names are the author’s creation. Any similarities are coincidental) unIslamic?
Exactly what is required by Islam from a hospital?
A hospital’s function is to treat patients.
Is a hospital still Islamic if a patient treated in a hospital named Islamic Hospital loses his life due to severe misdiagnosis or due to the negligence of its Muslim staff?
Islamic values exist not only in the utterance of the Basmallah during injection. They exist not only in the hijabi nurses’ uniforms. Neither do they exist only in a building with ‘Islamic colours’ (what are these, really) and an Arabic name. Islamic values exist in all of the best things offered to humankind.
Islamic Values in a Hospital
For a hospital, its Islamic values come from effective treatment options, excellent patient care, competent staff members, and efforts to help its Muslim patients carry out their ibadah. In fact, an Islamic Hospital should also be one which offers help to its non-Muslim patients to obtain services from their own religious chaplains. These are the Islamic values a hospital should espouse.
When Rasulallah SAW taught us the rules for the slaughtering of cattle, Islamic values existed not only in the utterance of “Bismillah, Allahu Akbar”, but also in the use of a sharp knife. A sharp knife increases productivity during this slaughtering process. The process becomes faster, less laborious, saves time, increases yield… this is what our Prophet SAW taught us.
If it is only the Bismillah we see as Islamic, whereas the sharpening of the knife is considered not from the Sunnah, then we are the secular ones.
Every Hospital Has Potential
In this case, all current hospitals have the potential to become Islamic Hospitals. In order to Islamize a hospital, we do not need to reshuffle the methodologies of the OT, or change the way in which diagnoses are carried out. In order to Islamize a hospital, it is not that we need to repaint it with the colors of Islam, or change its name to an Arabic name. And in order to Islamize a hospital, it is not necessary to limit staff intake only to Muslims.
And it definitely is not characterized such by an intake policy of only Muslim patients!
An Islamic Hospital is one which dispenses the best services to its patients and customers. That is the main criterion.
An Islamic Hospital has workers who hold on to the values of Islam. What are these values? Integrity. Competence.
The Source of Integrity
Wherefrom does a Muslim obtain integrity?
It comes from their strong belief in Allah, a belief that says they and indeed all of us, are His servants. The work that we undertake, whatever it may be, is our way of surrendering ourselves to Him. We work not only to seek His reward but also to stay away from sin.
The dual concepts of sin and reward are excellent motivators, as compared to the carrot and stick analogy.
Work not only to fulfill a purpose in life, but to prioritize it as THE purpose in life.
The Source of Competence
And wherefrom does a Muslim develop competence?
Indeed, it comes from that same strong belief in Allah. Belief in Allah compels us to do the best in this life. It is not Islam’s way to work on something haphazardly and incompletely. To work on things such that the result is only so-so, can even be seen as being a disease of belief. If we are Muslims, we have to ensure that our civilization is advanced, our science is up-to-date, and all that we do is of the highest quality.
One of Islam’s commands is that we give the best of our services. It is not just to beautify the masajid, but it is that we beautify all aspects of our life. Our whole life is ibadah.
[Surah al-Mulk, 67: 2] He Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deed: and He is the Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving
What about the Question of Profit?
Rasulallah SAW taught us that caring for the welfare of our family members and those under our care is the part of our religious responsibility. This principle is what should be held by the management of an Islamic Hospital towards it workers.
Hospitals, whether Islamic or not, require large amounts of money in order to finance its operations. The costs and expenditures of an Islamic Hospital cannot be solved simply with the misapplication of the concepts of zuhud, tawadhu’, thrift, and working for the sake of Allah.
Islamic Hospitals need not be run as a welfare institution, in order for it to be categorized as Islamic.
One of the diseases that plague our Islamic paradigm is that everything should be cheap, everything must be donated, and everything should be on charity. What is wrong with charging hospital fees in a similar way to other hospitals? If we do not address this question, then we need only sit back and wait for the failure of these hospitals as they one by one go bankrupt!
Even though businesses are profit-driven, an Islamic Hospital will not discriminate against patients who are not so well-off. The emergency care facility of this hospital will not turn away emergency patients who are unable to fulfill their financial obligations. An Islamic Hospital will not replace PURPOSE with NEED.
It might be that an Islamic Hospital needs to be more creative in broadening its financial sources in order to cater to those truly in need. One such method might be to channel its business zakat obligations towards a money pool dedicated solely to help the truly poor.
More importantly, Islamic Hospitals should be able to spend wisely. It does not need to waste money on carnivals and karaoke parties to celebrate its employees. It should find its own ways to celebrate and show appreciation to its workers. It should not needlessly waste its resources in the same way of current corporate trends. The needs of the destitute are large enough that resources should be conserved and allocated to them.
In principle, all hospitals have the potential to be Islamic Hospitals, as long as the current divisive secular paradigms are overthrown or fixed.
I have some personal experiences to compare with, since my wife gave birth in the Belfast Royal Maternity Hospital in Northern Ireland.
There were no male workers, from the delivery room all the way up to the wards. All medical doctors and support staff were women, as the hospital was a women’s hospital. The only male staff was the anesthetist who applied the epidural.
After the delivery, the nurse checked the medical records which stated that 10 minutes should be given to the patient and family in order to complete some religious obligations and rites. She therefore left us for a moment by ourselves in the delivery room. That was when I said the azan in my son’s ear and made a prostration of thankfulness (syukr), for the safe delivery of this new soul. When the nurse came back, all patient information was examined carefully and duly noted.
My request that the placenta be given back to us was well-received, with some advice to dispose of the placenta well.
We also did not have to trouble ourselves with a trip to the registration office, as an officer would make the rounds everyday in order to register the newborns. Even halal food was provided as best possible. The wards were not divided into classes, one, two or three. All patients were given the same treatment. With a bit of extra money, one could obtain insurance that affords one treatment from a specialist, but the basic amenities of the hospital were the same all round.
In short, in this ‘Christian’ hospital, I met ‘Muslims’ who were not categorized as such.
When our second child was born in a hospital with an Islamic-sounding name, my presence as a husband in order to help my wife was not well-tolerated. I had to ignore the sour faces that looked my way, in order to preserve my temper.
After the delivery, I had to request that my baby be given to me for a short while for the azan, as almost a whole hour had passed since my baby was born. After some time, my baby was fed formula milk without even mentioning this to me or my wife, much less asking us about our preferences.
The one ‘Islamic value’ that I found were the supplications (doa) written on cardboard paper and pasted on the walls.
If Islam is supposed to be a salvation for all of mankind, would you as a Muslim want to only spread Islam in name, or in substance and values?
I dream of both. However, the first step should definitely start with substance and value, not empty slogans and rhetoric.