بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم

اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِيْن،وَالصَّلاۃ وَالسَّلامُ عَلَی النَّبِیِّ الْکَرِيم وَعَلیٰ آله وَاَصْحَابه اَجْمَعِيْن۔

What is Shari’ah point of view about women getting examined and treated by male doctors for medical conditions specific to them?

Women getting attended by male doctors for their specific medical conditions such as pregnancy related follow up or childbirth and similarly, men getting some of their ailments attended to by female doctors wherein inspection of their genitals is necessary are the issues for which we must have a proper understanding of Shari’ah point of view, especially because of several Shari’ah restrictions being followed these days. An informed awareness of these situations is necessary because they imply coming together of a man and a woman in a setting where either of the two sees the genital of the other, something that is forbidden under normal circumstances. Moreover, in terms of modesty and decency as well it is required that such medical conditions of men (where their genitals are to be examined) are treated by male doctors only, and for those medical conditions of women where they have to get their genitals inspected, female doctors should be consulted so that no evil springs out of that matter and modesty and decency is also observed and followed. This issue is not limited to pregnancy and childbirth but also stands true for other diagnostic tools such as X-ray, Ultrasound, ECG, MRI, CT Scan and several other surgeries. In the light of the verses of the Holy Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the learned scholars of the Muslim community have held that in relation to giving a bath to the dead, women should give a bath to a dead woman and men should give a bath to a dead man. This is to preserve the modesty and stature of the human beings bestowed upon them by Lord Almighty. Issues pertaining to pregnancy and childbirth are distinctly important because in these conditions that part of a woman is repeatedly seen which is not to be seen by anyone except her husband and not even by her parents.

As per the absolutely clear instructions laid down in the verses of the Holy Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the actual and appropriate code is that the woman should not reveal her genitals before anyone else except her husband. Similarly, a man should not reveal his private body parts (from beneath the navel till the knee) before anyone else. However, in the case of several diseases, there is a provision that may vary from case to case. With reference to those medical conditions of women where they have no other option but to reveal their private parts, to the extent possible, we must try to get the treatment or inspection done by a female doctor. In this effort of ours lies the well-being of ours as well as our society’s. However, what needs to be specially kept in mind is that only that part of the body is shown to the doctor which is necessary. Moreover, at that moment, other than a female nurse, there ought to be the female patient’s husband or one of her blood relatives (Mahram) or some woman. For such kind of treatment or medical inspection, a woman should never visit the male doctor by herself. Similarly, with reference to such medical conditions of a male patient wherein the treatment is contingent upon an inspection or check up of the private parts, only male doctors should be consulted. In case one does not find a male doctor, there is provision for consulting a female doctor in the presence of a nurse and the male patient could show his body parts, even the portion from below the navel till the knee. The crux of the matter is that we must try to the extent possible to find a doctor in terms of the gender of the patient (same gender doctor is to be looked for). For instance, let us say, the hospital in which one is getting his/her treatment done, there are two people who look after ultrasound, one male and another female. However, when a female patient went to get her ultrasound done there was a male doctor to attend to the patients. In case there is no urgency as such to get the ultrasound done the patient and her family should wait for the female doctor so that her ultrasound is done by a female doctor. That said, if it is urgent to get the ultrasound, X-ray or some other test of the same nature done and not getting it done will cause serious damage to one’s health, in that case, there is permission to do so because of the circumstances. Similarly, under restraining circumstances, a male patient’s ultrasound or X-ray can be carried out by a female doctor too. However, under those situations, it is exceedingly necessary to be fearful of Allah.

On the other hand, it is also the moral responsibility of the doctor that in case he/she is treating patient of another sex, remaining fearful of Allah, he/she should use gloves and examine only that part of the body that must be inspected, and ensure that the nurse is involved as much as possible.

With reference to people pursuing medical education, male students are requested to do specialisation in the treatment of diseases or ailments more frequently found among males. Similarly, female doctors are advised to gain specialisation in the treatment of diseases or medical conditions more frequently found among females, such as pregnancy and childbirth. Owners or management heads of hospitals are requested to ensure (to the extent possible) that for the treatment of diseases and ailments more frequently found among females they should hire female doctors only, even if they have to bear more expenses for that. People who are trusted with the responsibility of cities (mayor etc.) are requested to ensure the setting up of hospitals and nursing homes in their cities wherein male and females doctors are available for consultation and treatment for medical conditions specific to males and females respectively. Common people are requested to provide their female children an education that specialises them in ailments and diseases specifically associated with women so that our mothers and sisters are not required to go to male doctors for such medical conditions. In the end, the male and the female patient are to be informed that in case of dire emergency, if they have no other option but to consult a doctor of the opposite sex, they must be fully aware and conscious of the fact that Allah is exceedingly strict and uncompromising when it comes to holding His bondsmen accountable for their sins, deviances and transgressions. The One who has created this entire universe has forbidden every human being, except husband and wife, from looking at the private parts of another human being. There is also an exception in the case of treatment, that too when the treatment or inspection is urgent and the patient has no other option but to get examined by a doctor of opposite sex. With reference to medical conditions specifically related to women, female doctors must be consulted so that the patient is able to narrate her illness or medical issue properly and, consequently, her illness or medical condition is suitably attended to.

Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi (