Role of Muslim Chaplains in Hospitals

Over all, Muslim and non -Muslim chaplains agree that having Muslim chaplains on the hospital team is very important. As a non-Muslim chaplain stated “I would love to have an imam who could come, but nobody wants to volunteer their services”. Another chaplain perceived the importance of the Muslim chaplains as providing a more culturally sensitive role. “For example, halal meat, services during holidays, sensitivity for Muslim issues, and fasting during Ramadan. It has to come from outside, not inside”. One Muslim chaplain suggests that Muslims chaplains need to take responsibility for increasing the supply such as Qur’an, prayer beads, and halal food.
A non-Muslim chaplain assigned what would seem like an unusual role for Muslim chaplains to take on themselves, which was overcoming negative stereotypes about Muslims among staff: “It would be so great to have more Muslim chaplains to counteract how people feel about Muslims post-9/11.There’s fear out there about Muslims and chaplaincy canchange this and serve to counterbalance this perception. If you had an Imam/Muslim chaplainsitting in the CPE group, people would get to know him. If he made rounds, people would seethat Muslims are not so bad”.

One Muslim chaplain perceived the role of a Muslim chaplain as an educator, and reported being asked to explain to hospital staff about fasting and taking medications, and about head coverings and beards. While another perceived the role of Muslim chaplain as a counselor, “talking with patients about the meaning of their illness,” a non-Muslim chaplain viewed the role as that of an educator on organ donation. Another suggests that the role of Muslim chaplains is cultural brokers who can overcome some barriers to interaction with Muslim patients. Although some boardcertified Muslim and non-Muslim chaplains report that they are trained to overcome any such barriers between Muslim patients and non-Muslim chaplains, a Muslim chaplain stated that these barriers are easier to overcome for imams or a Muslim chaplain than for non-Muslim chaplains: “Once a chaplain was making the rounds and visited a female Muslim patient. He felt that she was not being receptive to him. He informed her that there was an imam here, and she wanted to see him.”

At least three non-Muslim chaplains perceived the Muslim role as helpful on providing prayer services, especially in dealing with Muslim patients and because of their “lack of knowledge, lack of specific training in Muslim culture and prayer, no comfort level with prayers,” or due to the “certain restrictions” in Islam. Muslim and non-Muslim chaplains agreed that one of the most important role and activity of the Muslim chaplains is providing prayer services. All ten Muslim chaplains report that they have very distinguished roles in praying and reciting the Qur’an with patients, and two say they offer literature they can find in a patient’s language. One Muslim chaplain sees the role of Muslim chaplains as an adviser. For example, he advises Muslim patients on alternative forms of performing ritual worship when disabled by illness or constrained by medical devices.

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