Reprinted with permission of Spirituality and Health magazine.

Last summer pollster/priest Andrew Greeley reported that a whopping 91% of medical doctors in the U.S. believe it's important to understand the religious beliefs and spiritual practices of their patients.

Last spring Harvard's Diana Eck pointed out that the U.S. now has more Muslims than Episcopalians, and as many Muslims as Jews. So what do most American doctors know about Muslims? Practically zilch. But now there's help.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group, has just published a booklet designed to sensitize medical personnel to the religious needs of Muslim patients. The 20-page "A Healthcare Provider's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices" condenses the basic Muslim views on the role of faith in treating illness, dietary requirements, circumcision, autopsies, and funeral rites. Islamic perspectives on abortion, organ transplants, and reproductive technology are discussed, and there's also a helpful glossary of Muslim terms.

Contemplate, for example, this powerfully important saying by the Prophet Muhammad: "There is a cure for every disease. Whenever an illness is treated with its right remedy, it will, by Allah's permission, be cured."

And here are a few of the practical suggestions:

  • Have nurses assist in the daily washing prior to prayer (a requirement also explained in the booklet).
  • Consult Muslim patients about requirements for fasting during Ramadan.
  • Avoid food and medications containing pork or pork by-products.
  • Seek the input of Muslim patients on issues such as modest clothing requirements and comfort levels when dealing with healthcare providers of the opposite sex.

    Copies of the guide, as well as copies of an employer's guide and an educator's guide to Islamic practices, are available for $3 each from CAIR (202-488-8787), e-mail, or check their website.
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