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Islam And End Of Life Care

"Allah" in Arabic calligraphy. Courtesy WikiMedia Commons
“Allah” in Arabic calligraphy. Courtesy WikiMedia Commons

Islamic ideas about death and the afterlife influence adherents’ attitudes towards end of life decision-making, because they hold that faithful Muslims return to Allah. For a believer in the afterlife who tried his or her best, death signals a transition from one form of existence to another (Journal of Islamic Medical Association of North America, Gamal Badawi, 2011).

Most Muslims oppose euthanasia and maintain that all human life is sacred, because it is given by Allah. Only Allah chooses how long each person will live (Qurʼan 4:29).

Devout Muslims contend that do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders represent a soft form of euthanasia– Muslims cannot kill or be complicit in the killing of another, except in the interests of justice (BBC: Religion and Ethics).

However, it is permissible for doctors to stop trying to prolong life in certain cases in which there is no hope of cure.

The Islamic Code of Medical Ethics states “it is futile to diligently keep the patient in a vegetative state by heroic means… It is the process of life that the doctor aims to maintain and not the process of dying.”

According to the Islamic Medical Association of America (IMANA), when death is determined by a physician to be inevitable, the patient should be allowed to die without unnecessary procedures.


ISLAM AT A GLANCE

Islam is a monotheistic and Abrahamic religion with more than 1.6 billion adherents worldwide.

Islam was promulgated by the Prophet Muhammad in Arabia during the seventh century CE. Islam is an Arabic term meaning “to surrender” – a fundamental idea of Islam is that a believer (Muslim) accepts and surrenders to the will of Allah (Encyclopedia Brittanica).

The will of Allah (God) is made known through the sacred scriptures called the Qurʾān. Most Muslims believe that Allah revealed the scriptures to Muhammad, his messenger and last prophet. For believers, the Qur’an is the unaltered and final revelation of Allah.

Pilgrims at the Masjid al-Haram on Hajj. Courtesy WikiMedia Commons.
Pilgrims at the Masjid al-Haram on Hajj. Courtesy WikiMedia Commons

Islam is considered to be the complete version of a primordial faith that was revealed many times before through prophets, who were often misunderstood. The Qurʼan mentions Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus.

The Pillars of Islam are five basic acts considered obligatory for all Muslims. The Qurʾān presents them as a framework for worship and a sign of commitment to the faith (The Oxford Dictionary of Islam). They are the creed (shahadah); daily prayers (salat); almsgiving (zakah); fasting during Ramadan; and pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) at least once.

Most Muslims are of two denominations: Sunni (75–90 percent) or Shia (10–20 percent), according to PEW Research Center. Both sects agree on the fundamental components for the completion of the five acts.

Twenty percent of Muslims live in the Middle East, 15 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa and 13 percent in Indonesia. Islam is one of the world’s fastest growing religions.