As I drove my car into the premises, I noticed a beautifully structured mosque at the entrance of the gate. I parked my car, got down and went into the reception area. When I entered the main building I noticed two rooms, each with a sign post at the entrance; FEMALE ONLY and the other MALE ONLY. As I walked past the first room I noticed two men sat behind the reception desk, I entered the ‘Female Only’ and I was warmly welcomed by the receptionists who were neatly dressed in hijab. The room was well arranged, I noticed a shelf at the corner of the room and neatly arranged on it were Islamic books and magazines, and at the center of the room was a television showing an Islamic programme. As I approached the receptionists, one of them asked me what I wanted and I told her I wanted to see a doctor. She took my details for registration and I paid my registration fee. I walked to the shelf, picked a magazine, sat down and waited for my turn to see the doctor.
This was my first time in Al-Mustashfatul-Islamiyyah; an ‘Islam-oriented’ hospital that was introduced to me by a friend who was very familiar with my ‘complains’ the ‘usual hospitals’ that were in our neighbourhood. In this hospital, the management were Islamically ‘gender-conscious’; male patients were attended to by male doctors, male nurses, male lab scientists, male radiologists, male…just mention it, male health workers attended to male patients likewise female patients were attended to by female health workers. At last! I was glad I found a hospital where I could visit without those annoying thoughts of taking and exposing my body to someone who ought not to see my ‘privacy’; the opposite gender! Oh! Wait a sec! Don’t get carried away. This is just a fantasy about my DREAM HOSPITAL. Actually, the truth is that I am pissed and fed up of having a male doctor examine me whenever I go for my ‘check-ups’, it is very annoying and intruding when I go for a pelvic or abdominal ultra-scan that requires me to expose my stomach and pelvic regions to a male sonographer or when I go for an ‘ECG’ or ‘ECHO’; both chest examinations, and I have to expose my chest to a cardiologist, often a male, who uses an object that looks like a ‘massager’ to examine every part of the chest after a messy ‘jelly-like’ substance had been applied on you and ‘electric wires and clips’ attached to the wrists and feet. These are just a few examples of ‘embarrassing’ and invasive medical examinations of one’s ‘intimate’ parts; x-rays, vaginal examination, child delivery process are not left out. Psychologically, all these are depressing and at times demeaning, no wonder some people prefer to suffer silently when ill. But this can’t always be, depending on the kind of illness. I keep asking myself, ‘why can’t we have hospitals that will be gender-sensitive? Why can’t there be hospitals that will observe the Islamic etiquette? What really are our challenges? Financial, human, intellectual resources, and…? Out of every ten doctors I see in a hospital, about three will be female, and out of these three, one may be a Muslim. I have worked in a hospital where we had only one female doctor in the Obstetrics and Gynecology unit (all pregnant women pass through this unit).
Though, I have visited many medical schools and I notice that there are many female students, and several female Muslim medical students and I can’t help but wonder what happened to them along the way. Anyway, this is just my observation which is not necessarily true! However, this article serves to call our attention to one of the challenges our Ummah is facing. The health sector is one of the areas that needs to be addressed urgently by us. Some Muslims have realized that there is a challenge in this sector; some are just waking up to it while many are yet to realize it. The low number of Muslims (especially females) in the health sector is having its ‘toll’ on us; the embarrassment our sisters, especially those who observe the Islamic code of dressing, get from non-Muslim health workers and sometimes from Muslim health workers who choose to be ‘liberal’ cannot be overstated. It’s high time we started to create awareness and look into this ‘troubling issue’. How do we harness our resources towards a better health establishment for the Muslims? For those who want to study medicine or who are in the process, how do you become more focused in the course of the study and change your intention for studying this course to serving Allah by being a part of the solution to the Ummah’s challenges and not just because you desire to be addressed as ‘Doctor NAME’ or because you want a ‘fat’ salary. How do you ensure that you study, specialize and become consultants in different areas in Medicine? I do know of some sisters who have gone back to school for second degree medicine because they want to be a part of this ‘struggle’.
However, the truth is that not everyone can or will study medicine and be a doctor, but we can choose to be a part of the solution in several other ways; it may financially (through donations, sponsorships, building and equipping hospitals), morally, spiritually and every other halal way. Also, let’s not forget that medical doctors alone do not make a medical team. We need Muslims to specialize in paramedical areas such as radiography, sonography, physiotherapy, nutrition, nursing, dietetics, medical lab sciences, pharmacy etc. Some of these courses are even studied under shorter durations as compared to medicine. I believe that someday, in our Ummah, there will be many well-equipped, functional, and ‘Islam-conscious’ hospital and ‘Islamic ethics-conscious’ Muslim health workers, males and females, who will treat and respect us as Muslim patients. I believe that someday, I will live my ‘fantasy’ of being in one of our hospitals, attended to and treated by Muslim health workers in sha Allah, and then I will come to know that my dream for us have come to be. May Allah bless our Ummah and assist us to overcome our challenges and strive in His path. Amin! Hafsah Babatunde is a nutritionist, writer, poet, blogger and a social entrepreneur. She values good health and loves to share healthy tips for healthy living. With a passion for the pen, she believes ideas can be shared to make a difference and to create positive impact on many lives