Domestic Affairs

The Public Health Care Option Is An Islamic Issue

Al-Hajj Malik Al-Shabazz (Malcom X) once described the impact a hadith had on him when he first heard it (during his turn toward orthodoxy) because its implications were so profound. He states in his autobiography in his meeting with Dr. Shawarbi, “he dropped on me something whose logic would never get out of my head. He said, ‘No man has believed perfectly until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.’”1

This oft-repeated statement of the Prophet Muhammad (saw)2 needs deep appreciation today, perhaps the type of appreciation that our social reformer Malcom X had for it. Some of the scholars commented on the word “brother” in the hadith, and said this means not only our Muslim brothers, but actually is referring to all of our brothers and sisters in humanity!3 It is applicable on an individual level, as well as a societal level. Wanting a public health care option for those who are in need of medical attention and are being denied, is part of perfecting the iman (faith/belief) of those who would call themselves Muslims. Furthermore, protecting life, and thereby health is one of the Five (agreed upon) Primary Objectives of Islamic Law, known in Arabic as “Maqaasid Ash-Shariah.”

There is an Islamic legal maxim which states “Maa laa yatim al-waajib illa bihi fahuwa waajib.” This means: That which is needed in order to accomplish something obligatory, becomes in and of itself obligatory. If in order to protect life, we need hospitals, doctors, nurses, clinics, functional medical educational institutions, affordable healthcare, etc. then all of this becomes a communal obligation (Fard Kiffayah) for the society. It is mentioned that in the time of Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazzali, many people were sending their children to study Islamic Jurisprudence to the point that he feared a shortage of those in the field of medicine, so he encouraged people to become doctors so that this Fard Kiffayah would be met.4

Healthcare is a human right. Protecting access to healthcare for everyone is an Islamic obligation, incumbent upon our communities. If some people are establishing a communal obligation, the responsibility is lifted from everyone else. However, if no one is establishing it, all the Muslims share in the sin.5 In our case, we have alhamdulilah, Muslim organizations on the scene, but they are also asking for our help. They need our participation for the will of our community to be represented in the healthcare debates.

As a community, let us take this Ramadan to better understand the beautiful guidance we have within Islam. Let us understand the statements of the Prophet (saw) not only as commanding excellence in perfecting our souls, but also as commanding excellence in perfecting our civilization. Islam encourages organization and structure, as this hadith could not be implemented without it. Taking care of the needs of large numbers of people means Muslims must be organized and trained to fulfill the humanitarian, social, economic, political, educational and spiritual needs of the societies in which we live. This is what it means to wish well for one another! Subhan Allah, Ramadan is not only a month to purify ourselves spiritually, but also to prepare ourselves for living and conveying the moral message of Islam in all aspects of our lives. May Allah help us!

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About the author

Muslema Purmul

Muslema Purmul

Shaykha Muslema Purmul was born in Raleigh, North Carolina and raised in San Diego, California. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in the Study of Religion and a Bachelor’s in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of California at San Diego. She was a scholarship student with the Islamic American University and participated in the International Union of Muslim Scholars “Future Scholars Program” in 2008/2009. She has completed the Bachelor’s degree program in the College of Shari`ah at al-Azhar University in Cairo. Currently, she is a busy new mom and gives weekly classes at the Islamic Center of Irvine.

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