End of Life Care

According to The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JACHO), the assessment of patient’s spiritual needs is required on patients receiving end-of-life care (PC.01.02.01 EP4).

Muslim leaders (chaplain, Imam, etc) are ideal individuals to provide end-of-life care to actively dying Muslim patients. A non-Muslim  chaplain can provide comfort, but will be unable to fulfill the religious needs of a Muslim patient.

End-of-Life care includes the following:

A Muslim chaplain, a volunteer, or an Imam are ideal to be present at the time of death and offer support to the family, read the Quran, and comfort the dying Muslim patient.

Decedent Care: A non-Muslim chaplain can be an excellent source of support to Muslim families and patients.  The presence of a chaplain may bring comfort, help address grief, sadness, provide the family a list of Islamic cemeteries or Islamic centers, or expedite the release of the deceased for burial.  A support staff may turn the bed towards Mecca prior to the death of the patient and contact a Muslim chaplain or an Imam for same-faith support services.

Examples of services that only Muslims can provide to dying Muslim patients:

  1. Tashahud:  It is highly recommended to encourage the dying Muslim to affirm his/her faith prior to death by pronouncing Shahada or testimony of faith.  The phrase “Ash-hadu an Lᾱ Ilᾱha ilᾱ Allah, wa ana Muḥamadan rasūlu Allah” is what a person says when embracing Islam.  The statement affirms the Lordship of God and Prophethood of Prophet Mohammad. The affirmation is usually done by a Muslim chaplain or a family member who initiates the Shahada and gently encourages the patient to repeat it. It will be impossible for a non-Muslim to initiate Shahada.
  2. Dua:  Dua or supplication is an intercessory prayer that the chaplain invokes on behalf of the patient and asks God to heal, accept or show mercy on the patient. The generic, non-denominational prayer of a non-Muslim chaplain is welcomed, yet insufficient!Traditionally, A Muslim chaplain will pray the dua of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) asking God to overlook any sins the patient may have done in the past, make his grave a garden of paradise, comfort the patient and his/her family, cleanse the deceased of any impurities and elevate their ranks among the righteous and the believers.
  3. Qurᾱn Recitation: A non-Muslim chaplain may provide the family with a copy of the Quran.  On the other hand, a Muslim chaplain will read the Quran to comfort the soul of the patient and bring peace into the hearts of those in the room. It has become a custom of Muslim families in the US to read Sura 36 (Yᾱsīn) at the time of death or immediately after.  Other recitations may include the opening (Sura al-Fᾱtiḥa) and a set of the Mo’awithat suras of (Sura al-Ikhlᾱṣ), (Sura an-Nᾱs), and (Sura al-Falaq). The recitation is often followed by a brief advice on the virtues of patience and prayers for the deceased and the family members.
  4. Burial Preparation: A non-Muslim chaplain can expedite the release of the deceased to be buried.  Only a Muslim team (same-sex Muslim chaplain or volunteers) will be able to wash and shroud the body of the deceased Muslim in preparation for burial.  Family members are highly encouraged to provide this service, yet many might lack the knowledge of how to cleanse, or how to wash and shroud the dead.