Medicine was defined by Muslim physicians such as Al-Razi (841)-926
A.D.) and Ibn Sina (Avicenna, 980-1036 A.D.) as the art concerned with the
preservation of good health, combating of disease, and restoration of health
to the sick. For several centuries, the world has witnessed and benefited
from the great advances made by Muslim physicians in the area of health
sciences. These advances were not just based non technical skill or intellectual
superiority. They were equally well founded on a clear understanding of the
role of the Muslim physician as derived from Islamic teachings and
philosophy. For thousands of years, ethics have been recognized as an
essential requirement in the making of a physician. Although the ancient
codes of ethics have to some extent stressed this requirement, they were
still deficient and contained grave errors. Contemporary codes of ethics
tend to be more liberal and less restrictive. The Qur'anic ethics, on the other
hand, stand out as a perfect model for all mankind, all professions, and all
The medical ethical requirements proposed in this paper are primarily based on Qur'anic ethics. They include guidelines for the physician's behaviour and attitude, both at the personal and professional levels. The same standard of moral and ethical values should guide the physician in his private life and while conducting his professional business as well. A person who lacks moral values in private life cannot be trusted in professional activities, even with the highest professional and technical qualifications. It is impossible for a person to have two different ethical standards. Truthful is God the Almighty when He says:
The following verses from the Qur'an are most suited as guide for the personal characteristics of the physician. "Luqman admonished his son: 'My son', he said 'Serve no god besides God for idolatry is an abominable injustice. We have enjoined man to show kindness to his parents, for with much pain does his mother bear him, and he is not weaned before he is two years of age. We said: Give thanks to Me and to your parents: to Me shall all things return. But if they press you to serve besides me what you know nothing of, do not obey them, be kind to them in this world and follow the path of those who submit to Me; to Me you shall all return and I will declare to you all that you have done. 'My son, God will know about all things be they as small as a grain of mustard seed, be they hidden inside a rock or in heaven or on earth. God is wise and all-knowing. My son, establish regular prayer, enjoin what is just and forbid what is wrong; endure with fortitude whoever befalls you, for this is firmness of purpose in the conduct of affairs. Do not treat men with scorn nor walk proudly on the earth; God does not love the arrogant boaster. Rather, let your gait be modest and your voice low; the harshest of voices is the braying of the ass'."
God also says:
God further states:
Based on the above, the Muslim physician must believe in God and in
Islamic teachings and practice, both in private and public life. He must be
grateful to his parents, teachers, and elders. He must be humble, modest,
kind, merciful, patient, and tolerant. He must follow the paths of the
righteous and always seek God's support.
The Physician equipped with the above-listed virtues is capable of complying with the needed professional requirements. The first professional requirement is to acquire and maintain proper knowledge. God makes it clear in the Qur'an:
God also states:
Therefore the believer is encouraged to always seek knowledge.
The physician must also abide by the legal rules regulating his profession
provided they do not violate Islamic teachings. The need to respect law and
order is reflected in the following, verse:
Recognizing God as the maker and the owner of both patient and
physician, it is only logical that the care provided by the physician to his
patient must be in accordance with God's guidelines.
A subject of great importance is the subject of life. Life is given by God and cannot be taken away except by Him or with His permission. God says in the Qur'an:
He also says:
God further states:
The physician therefore has no right to terminate any human life under
his care. This also applies to the unborn baby since clear evidence indicates
that human life starts at the time of conception. Consequently, the physician
has no right to terminate the life of the unborn baby unless it constitutes a
definite threat to the mother's life.
The physician must realize that God is watching and monitoring every thought and deed. This was clearly indicated in the verses quoted earlier from Chapter 31 of the Qur'an. The same verses also indicate that the parents' demands are not to be obeyed if they are in violation of God's orders, in spite of the fact that parents are considered to be the most important persons to their children after God. Following the same principles, the physician has no right to follow popular demand or his patient's wishes if they are in violation of God's orders.
Based on sound logic and clear Islamic teachings, the physician has no right to recommend or administer any harmful material to his patients. The most concise yet comprehensive guide in this matter is found in the following verse of the Qur'an:
Qur'an: 7/157This implies that anything forbidden by God must be bad or harmful; anything proven to be bad or harmful must be forbidden.
When entrusted with the care of a patient, the physician must offer the
needed advice With consideration for both the patient's body and mind,
always remembering his basic obligation to enjoin what is just and forbid
what is wrong.
The physician must protect the patient's confidentiality, reflecting God's description of the believers:
The physician must adopt an appropriate manner of communication
and be reminded of the ethics of speech referred to in the Qur'anic verses
quoted earlier in this paper. God also describes the good believers in the
Qur'an and says:
Situations requiring, the physician to examine patients of the opposite
sex are always a test of his moral character and his strength. A basic
instruction is found in the following Qur'anic verses:
God further says:
It is therefore advisable that the physician examine patients of the
opposite sex in the presence of a third person whenever feasible. This will
be an added protection for the physician and the patient.
The physician must not criticize another physician in the presence of patients or health personnel, remembering the Qur'anic advice.
God further says:
The physician must refuse payment for the treatment of another
physician or his immediate family. There is no specific instruction regarding
this particular matter in the Qur'an or Islamic tradition. However, reference
is made to another situation which may be used in analogy. God says
regarding Zakat money:
Here is a situation where the persons providing a certain service are
entitled to the use of the same service at the time of need. Applying the same
principle, the physician who provides the health services to others is entitled
to the use of the same service at the time of need.
Last, but not least, the physician must always strive to use wisdom in all his decisions and the reward will be great. Truthful is God the Almighty when He says:
In closing reference is made to the Muslim Physician adopted by the
Islamic Medical Association in 1977, and which reflects the spirit and
philosophy of the Islamic Code of Medical Professional Ethics proposed in
In summary, the Muslim physician must believe in God and in Islamic teachings and practice in private and public fife; be grateful to his parents, teachers, and elders, be humble, modest, kind, merciful, patient, and tolerant; follow the path of the righteous; and always seek God's support. The Muslim physician must stay abreast of current medical knowledge, continuously improve Ms skills seek help whenever needed, and comply with legal requirements governing his profession; realize that God is the maker and owner of his patient's body and mind and treat him within the framework of God's teachings; realize that life was given to man by God, that human life starts at the time of concep6on, and that human life cannot be taken away except by God or with His permission; realize that God is watching and monitoring every thought and deed; follow God's guidelines as his only criteria, even if they differ with popular demand or the patient's wishes; not recommend nor administer any harmful material; render needed help regardless of financial ability or ethnic origin of the patient; offer needed advice with consideration for both the patient's body and mind; protect the patient's confidentiality; adopt an appropriate manner of communication; examine a patient of the opposite sex in the presence of a third person whenever feasible; not criticize another physician in the presence of patients or health personnel, refuse payment for treatment of another physician or his immediate family ; and strive to use wisdom in all his decisions.