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Navigating Healthcare In The US: A Muslim’s Guide To Advocacy


Navigating healthcare as a Muslim

My sister died from healthcare negligence. Here’s what I learned.

My sister had died due to negligence in a hospital in the US. In her full niqab and while pregnant, my sister was neglected in several ways that led to the loss of both her and her child. It was one of the saddest days of my life.

She was only recently married and we were all excited, days away from seeing our family’s first grandchild. However, despite her cheerful nature, beautiful personality, high education, and abundant generosity, she endured several negligent care provider decisions that led to the death of her and her unborn child. Decisions that could have been easily avoided.

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The tragedy of losing my sister was mired by the discrimination that our family felt. Her death and the loss of her unborn child marked one of the most difficult periods of my life and sent me on my own difficult journey in my youth. My experience in non-Muslim environments where Islamophobia can brim just beneath the surface, has taught me valuable lessons on how to navigate the healthcare systems of the West and call for proactive advocacy for Muslims. I hope the following points help anyone fearing such discrimination.

Understanding the Challenge

For many Muslims, the healthcare environment can be fraught with the potential for bias, misunderstanding, and discrimination. Whether it’s due to visible symbols of faith like the hijab or niqab, or simply the cultural nuances that accompany our interactions, the impact on the quality of care and the dignity afforded to us can be profound. It’s essential that we, as a community, understand how to advocate effectively for ourselves and our loved ones, maintaining our moral agency and ensuring our rights are respected, especially during critical times of emergencies.

Here are some expanded strategies to help our communities step confidently into these often intimidating settings, ensuring that we can advocate for ourselves and our families effectively, and overcome biases.

  1. Ask the Right Questions

Engage actively with healthcare providers by asking detailed and far-reaching questions about treatments, preventative measures, and all possible outcomes. This not only demonstrates that you are intelligent and involved in the care process, but also establishes a precedent of accountability. Your questions should be persistent yet respectful, showcasing a professionalism that demands attention but also respects the expertise of the staff so as not to alienate them further.

  1. Learn to Speak Legalese

It’s crucial to convey an understanding of the legal implications of healthcare decisions.

Remember that Muslims navigate the world with Taqwa. We fear Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), while a non-Muslim typically fears liability. Healthcare professionals generally operate within a framework of liability; showing that you are knowledgeable about legal consequences can ensure more meticulous attention to the care provided. Familiarize yourself with relevant healthcare laws and patient rights. Do not hesitate to mention that you are documenting interactions and care processes, as this can often prompt more diligent responses.

  1. Smile, it’s Sunnah!

Maintain a positive demeanor! A smile can be a powerful social signal in disarming potentially defensive or biased healthcare staff. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reminded us of the virtues of smiling, and patience in challenging circumstances. Use kindness and a positive demeanor as your driving energy in your interactions. This approach does not diminish the seriousness with which you treat the care of your loved ones; rather, it opens channels for more humane and considerate interaction.

  1. Know Provider Biases

Oftentimes, care providers demonstrate biases that are arguably rampant in the West where exorbitant educational loans required to attain medical degrees can lead to slanted decisions that are financially beneficial for doctors and hospitals, but may not necessarily prioritize or encompass patient needs.

Navigating healthcare

Navigating healthcare [PC: Towfiqu Barbhuiya (unsplash)]

For instance, more typically, a patient may require only simple preventative care and advice, whereas in the fee-for-service and value-based care models, patients can receive unneeded prescriptions and services that aren’t necessarily harmful, but at least maximize hospital revenue. In another example, in specialized care units, empty patient beds do not guarantee hospital income—meaning doctors and hospital administrators may decide to keep a patient in their care, to try their best, deciding to not transfer a patient to a better-equipped hospital where more crucial care instruments may be available to maximize care.

  1. Seek out Advocates

Patient advocacy networks are usually in place to help patients in decision-making.

Many hospitals offer Patient Advocacy services. Engaging with these advocates can provide an additional layer of support and oversight, particularly useful in navigating complex and stressful situations. Ask information desks about patient advocacy services and the role of patient advocates in assisting with navigating the healthcare system, including how to find advocates who are sensitive to or share the patient’s cultural and religious concerns.

It doesn’t hurt to get acquainted with hospital administrators either. Ask information desks about escalation pathways, what the accepted channels are, and how to reach administrators, especially in crucial emergency and intensive care matters.

  1. Tap into Local Community Support Systems

Leverage the support of local Muslim communities and religious organizations which often have resources and experience in dealing with similar situations. They can provide both emotional support and practical advice. Community leaders typically have contact with lawyers, doctors, and other impactful members who can give advice or further aid you in your critical situation. Hospitals also can have Muslim Chaplain services that can further your advocacy needs. In a robust and diverse Muslim community, no one must suffer their crises alone.

Remember that as famously generous as Muslims are in charitable causes, they too can be generous to individual community members, even if you have little reach or acquaintance with leaders or members. Feel free to contact an Imam with regard to your situation; you never know what help or solutions can come about. You can also look for legal support in dire situations from Muslim Advocacy Law Groups such as the Council for American Islamic Relations.


In conclusion, while the challenges are real and sometimes daunting, there is much that can be done to ensure that as Muslims, our interactions with the healthcare system are dignified, respectful, and just. By employing strategic advocacy, building robust support networks, and maintaining our composure and kindness, we can protect our rights and those of our loved ones effectively. In doing so, we uphold not only our individual dignity but also contribute to the broader struggle for fair and just healthcare.

InshaAllah, this guide serves as a beacon, empowering you to navigate these turbulent waters with confidence and faith. May it help you, and anyone else who might find themselves in similar circumstances. Ameen.

[Legal Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article. The content in this article does not purport to offer legal or medical advice. We do not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned in this article. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.]



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Abdul Muhaimin is a dedicated, contemplative writer and developer with a background in professional finance, software engineering, journalism, and political science. As the founder of Ummah Apps, he focuses on leveraging software solutions for challenges facing the ummah. A student of knowledge, he researches ummatic issues for Ummah Analysis, brainstorms solutions, authors and publishes books, and develops community apps, all while cherishing time with his family.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Nasreen

    May 22, 2024 at 1:08 AM

    This was a wonderful article although very brief, I found myself struggling to understand some of the topics you addressed and I really wished you delved further so the average lay person could understand.

    I am super sorry about your sister and her baby’s loss, may ALLAH s.w.t grant them maghfirat. Ameen.

    I am super wary of doctors because of their lack of bedside manner, discrimination and just plain rudeness towards me as a patient. I wish this article delved further, I wish you went into more details about legalese, approaching doctors and staff about documenting processes and care interactions and what you meant by escalation pathways and what the accepted channels are.

    Sorry but it didnt make sense, this is such a critical issue in the Ummah, especially for those of us who arent wealthy and influential, we get treated like dirt not patients. So could you flush out some of these topics in a more fluid way so we have practical tips on how to go about them.

    JazakALLAH khair

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