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ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES 04

0410-ETIQUETTE WITH THE DYING: AN ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE

Paper presented at the 6th International Nursing Conference held in Brunei 10-13 October 2004 by Professor Dr Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. MB ChB (MUK), MPH and DrPH (Harvard) Deputy Dean for Research Faculty of Medicine UIA Kuantan Malaysia omarkasule@yahoo.com.

COMFORT:

Narcotics are given for severe pain. Drugs are used to allay anxiety and fears. The caregivers should maintain as much communication as possible with the dying. They should attend to needs and complaints and not give up in the supposition that the end was near. Attention should be paid to the patient's hygiene such as cutting nails, shaving hair, and dressing in clean clothes. As much as possible the dying patient should be in a state of ritual purity, wudhu, all the time.

 

‘IBADAT:

The dying patient should as far as is possible be helped to fulfill acts of worship especially the 5 canonical prayers. Tayammum can be performed if wudhu is impossible. Physical movements of salat should be restricted to what the patient's health condition will allow. The prophet gave guidelines on salat even for the semi-conscious patient, salat al mughma ‘alayhi. The terminal patient is exempted from saum because of the medical condition. It is wrong for a patient in terminal illness to start fasting on the grounds that he will die anyway whether he ate enough food or not. Illness does not interfere with the payment of zakat since it is a duty related to the wealth and not the person. The terminal patient is excused from the obligation of hajj. It is also wrong for a patient in terminal illness to go for hajj with the intention of dying and being buried in Hejaz.

 

SPIRITUAL PREPARATION.

Spiritual preparation involves allaying anxiety, presenting death as a positive event, thinking of Allah, and repentance. Caregivers should allay fear and anxiety about impending death. Death of the believer is an easy process that should not be faced with fear or apprehension. The process of death should be easier for the believer than the non-believer. The soul of the believer is removed gently. Believers will look at death pleasantly as an opportunity to go to Allah. Allah loves to receive those who love going to Him. The patient should be encouraged to look forward to death because death from some forms of disease confers martyrdom. The patient should be told that Allah looks forward to meeting those who want to meet Him. Dying with Allah's pleasure is the best of death and is a culmination of a life-time of good work. Thinking well of Allah is part of faith and is very necessary in the last moments when the pain and anxiety of the terminal illness may distract the patient's thoughts away from Allah. Having hope in Allah at the moment of death makes the process of dying more acceptable. The dying patient should be encouraged to repent because Allah accepts repentance until the last moment.

 

 

 

 

 

LEGAL PREPARATION

During the long period of hospitalization, the health care givers develop a close rapport with the patient. A relationship of mutual trust can develop. It is therefore not surprising that the patient turns to the care givers in confidential matters like drawing a will. The health care givers as witnesses to the will must have some elementary knowledge of the law of wills and the conditions of a valid will. One of these conditions is that the patient is mentally competent. The law accepts clear signs by nodding or using any other sign language as valid expressions of the patient's wishes. The law allows bequeathing a maximum of one third of the total estate to charitable trusts, waqf, or gifts. More than one third of the estate can be bequeathed with consent of the inheritors. Debts must be paid before death or before the division of the estate. A terminal patient can make living will regarding donation of his organs for transplantation. The caregiver must explain all what is involved so that an informed decision is made. The caregiver may be a witness. It is however preferable that in addition some members of the family witness the will to ensure that there will be no disputes later. The caregiver may be a witness to pronouncement of divorce by a terminally ill patient. The pronouncement has no legal effect if the patient is judged legally incompetent on account of his illness. If the patient is legally competent, the divorce will be effective but the divorcee will not lose her inheritance rights. The caregiver should advise the terminal patient to remember all his outstanding debts and to settle them. The prophet used to desist from offering the funeral prayer for anyone who died leaving behind debts and no assets to settle them. He however would offer the prayer if someone undertook to pay the debt. If the deceased has some property, the debts are settled before any distribution of the property among the inheritor.

 

DEATH, BURIAL, and MOURNING

The last moments are very important. The patient should be instructed such that the last words pronounced are the kalimat, the testament of the faith. Once death has occurred the body is placed in such a way that it is facing the qiblat. Eyes are closed and the body is covered. Qur'an and du’a are then recited. The health care giver should take the initiative to inform the relatives and friends. They should be advised about the shari’ah rules on mourning. Weeping and dropping tears are allowed. On receiving the news of death it suffices to say 'we are for Allah and to Him we will return'. The following are not allowed: tearing garments, shaving the head, slapping the cheek, wailing, and crying aloud. Relatives are comforted by telling them hadiths of the prophet about death. These hadiths talk about the reward of the person who loses his beloved one and he is patient. The health care team should practice total care by being involved and concerned about the processes of mourning, preparation for burial and the actual burial. They should participate along with relatives as much as is possible. The preparation of the body for burial can be carried out in the hospital. The body must be washed and shrouded before burial. Perfume can be put in the water used for washing the body. The washing should start with the right. The organs normally washed in wudhu are washed first then the rest of the body is washed. Perfume can be used except for those who died while in a state of ihram. Women's hair has to be undone. After washing the body is shrouded, kafn, in 2 pieces of cloth preferably white in color. As many persons as possible should participate in salat al janazat. Burial should be hastened. Following the procession is enjoined. There is more reward for accompanying the funeral procession and staying until burial is completed. The funeral bier is carried by men. Hurrying in marching to the grave is recommended. The body should be buried in a deep grave facing Makka. After burial, the relatives are consoled and food is made for them. Women in mourning should not touch any perfume. Only good things should be said about the deceased.

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule October 2004