According to Abdel-Khalek and Naceur (2007) Muslim women who are more religious are also happier and healthier both physically and mentally. The Islamic perspective of health takes into consideration “the physical, psychosocial, spiritual and environmental needs of people and their communities” (Rajaram & Rashidi, 2003, p. 88). The common beliefs among Muslims that illness is God’s will and one should accept everything “with trust and serenity” (Farooqi, 2006, p. 402) may lead fewer Muslim women to seek health care. Further, some cultural practices across the world may put Muslim women at risk for more health problems and less access to appropriate health care.
In rural regions of Pakistan (Critell, 2010) Muslim women marry early and experience frequent pregnancies increasing maternal mortality rate to 1 in 38 pregnancies. Forty percent of Muslim women are anemic in Pakistan and their roles of wife, mother and worker cause increased physical hardship (Critell, 2010). A family’s control over a women’s sexuality, economic well-being and mobility, may also place a Muslim women in Pakistan at risk especially in rural areas. Domestic violence and other culturally related aggression against women in Pakistan also place Muslim women at risk. Nearly 80% of women in Pakistan have or will experience domestic violence (Critell, 2010). Other acts of aggression experienced by Muslim women in Pakistan are “rape, forced marriage, child marriage, so called honor killings, acid attacks, and trafficking and abuse while in police custody” (Critell, 2010, p. 241).
Some of the central concepts of Islam that are shared by Muslims around the world may also interfere or create barriers for Muslim women when they do wish to seek healthcare. The concept of modesty provides a challenge for physicians whose diagnosis requires a physical examination, especially in the case of a Muslim woman who wears the traditional burqa, which covers her head to toe (Arif, 2010). Also Islam forbids men and women from being alone as well as forbids private body parts from being exposed to persons of the opposite gender (Rajaram & Rashidi, 2003). Therefore Muslim women require female physicians who are not always available especially in countries such as Pakistan. Other considerations are medications that cannot be taken during Ramadan and special diet requirements for Muslim women who may require hospitalization (Rajaram & Rashidi). Muslim women in the U.S. may experience language barriers (Rajaram & Rashidi, 2003) along with the above mentioned barriers.
Many of the same barriers experienced by Muslim women who require physical health care are the same as those faced by Muslim women who require mental health care with the added belief that many mental health issues are caused by personal weakness (Farooqi, 2006). Muslims believe that mental illness “is caused by doubt and dissociation due to one’s own compelling needs or outer pressures that are counter to the teachings of the prophet and Quran” (Farooqi, 2006, p. 404). As a result anxiety disorders are highly ignored and under-treated in Pakistan (Farooqi, 2006). Muslim women who do wish to seek mental health services must be accompanied by a male escort, who may be hesitant to do so due to shame and embarrassment associated with mental illness (Farooqi, 2006). Further, it is common for Muslims to refuse to discuss mental problems with a non-family member due to guilt and shame (Farooqi, 2006). However, in the case of more severe mental issues such as schizophrenia, a Muslim family is more likely to seek professional services due to the level of seriousness of symptoms and the danger that may be associated with the persons behaviors (Farooqi, 2006).
Abdel-Khalek, A & Naceur, F. (2007) Religiosity and its association with positive and negative
emotions among college students from Algeria. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 10(2).159-170.
Arif, Z. (2010) Veiled challenge. Nursing Standard, 24(26), 26-27.
Critell, F. M. (2010) Beyond the veil in Pakistan. Journal of Women and Social Work, 25(3), 236-249.
Farooqi, Y. N. (2006) Traditional healing practices sought by Muslim psychiatric patients in
Lahore, Pakistan. International Journal of Disability, Development & Education, 53(4). 401-415.
Rajaram, S. S. & Rashidi, A. (2003) African-American and health care. Women & Health, 37(3), 81-96.