Monday, August 27, 2007

Healthcare and Islam

Michael Moore’s documentary, “Sicko” discusses the failure of healthcare in America.Whether private or public, the failure of the healthcare system resides in man-made legislation. Only a system revealed by Allah (swt) will truly meet the needs of each and every individual.
In Late June of this year, Michael Moore released his latest documentary, “Sicko”. In it, he focuses on the failure of the American Health Care system. Particular attention is given to the Insurance Companies and how their purpose is not to help people in need but rather to increase profits. The solution proposed is to have a public health care system similar to those in Canada, Britain, France and Cuba.

Man-made legislation equals failure

The documentary reveals the following facts about America:

50 million Americans do not have health insurance
Approximately 18,000 of the 50 million will die this year because they do not have health insurance

For the remaining 250 million people who have health care, their situation has not improved. For example, Larry and Donna Smith purchased health insurance. Both of them had established careers (Larry was a Union Machinist and Donna a newspaper editor) and raised 6 children. In time, Larry suffered from 3 heart attacks and Donna was diagnosed with cancer. The co-pays and deductibles for health insurance amounted to such an expense that Donna and Larry had to eventually sell their home and move in with their daughter.

In highlighting key individuals (in America) within the health industry and government – responsible for maintaining a private health care system that extorts the general public – the documentary provides the alternative view of public healthcare similar to that which is in place in other countries, including Canada. Although it appears that public healthcare works perfectly, it is not without its own problems. According to the Fraser Institute, total wait time for medical treatment ranges from 14.9 weeks in Ontario to 31.9 weeks in New Brunswick. Clearly the needs of the individual are not met by either private or public health care.

All of the countries addressed in the documentary have a common shortcoming: they rule by man-made legislation. Human beings laying down a system for life’s affairs are vulnerable to flaws since the individuals, no matter how intelligent, will create a system that is based upon their limited knowledge and experience. The flaws will surface once the system is confronted with the realities of man’s nature. The limits and flaws of a man-made system will allow those in authority to conduct the country’s affairs in a manner that will suit their own perception of personal benefit – most often to the detriment of the nation.

“Rulers usually appoint people to watch over their subjects. I appoint you a watcher over me and my behaviour. If you find me at fault in word or action guide me and stop me from doing it.” - Khalifah Umar ibn Abdul Aziz

Taking care of the affairs of the people

Islam is a unique system revealed by Allah (swt) that provides the needs for both the individual and society. Allah (swt) being Al-Khaliq – The Creator of all that exists – will evidently know what is best for us. With His infinite knowledge, His system will be able to provide solutions to any problem that human beings have or will encounter. With regards to governance, the Khalifah is entrusted in applying the laws of Allah (swt). The Khalifah is directly responsible before Allah (swt) for any issue that affects citizens in the Islamic State.

The Prophet (saw) said:

"A ruler who, having control over the affairs of the Muslims, does not strive diligently for their betterment and does not serve them sincerely, will not enter Jannah with them.'' [Muslim]

The ruler does not only have to respond to the people under his care but must also answer to a higher authority, Malik-al-Mulk (The Owner of All Sovereignty). As such, he must fulfill the obligations placed upon him as this is not only a mandate of the state but is the Ahkam of Allah (swt). Therefore the Khalifah must care for every citizen’s need and ensure that they are not facing any undue hardships such as lack of access to healthcare or even long wait times.

The Prophet (saw) also said:

"If Allah invests to someone the affairs of the Muslims and he (i.e., the ruler) ignores their rights, denies their access to him and neglects their needs, Allah will not answer his prayer or realize his hopes and will act towards him with indifference on the Day of Resurrection.'' [Abu Dawud & Tirmidhi]

The above hadith clearly shows the weight that lies on the shoulders of those in authority. When Umar ibn Abdul Aziz became the Khalifah, he was seen to be rather gloomy. His servant asked him why he was so sad and worried. Umar replied, “Anyone in my shoes should be so; I must deliver and grant all the nation’s citizens all their rights, whether they demand them or not.”

The care of those under the authority of the state is not judged based on the annual budget or political aspirations but rather it is based on the rights afforded to them by Allah (swt). This obliges the Khalifah to provide them with the utmost care to the best of his ability regardless of whether the citizens are aware of this right or not and whether they have asked for it or not.

Medical excellence of our past

When Islam is implemented as a complete system, it provides a means to excel in all fields such as science and technology. In the past, individuals under the Khilafah made a tremendous contribution to the medical field.

The Khilafah was blessed with many first class hospitals and doctors in several of its cities: Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Cordova, Samarqand and many more. Baghdad alone had sixty hospitals with in-patient and out-patient departments and over 1,000 physicians.

Public hospitals like the Bimaristan al-Mansuri Hospital, established in Cairo in 1283, had accommodation for 8,000 patients. There were two attendants for each patient who did everything for his/her comfort and convenience and every patient had his/her own bed, bedding and vessel for eating. It treated in-patients and out-patients giving them free food and medicine.
There were mobile dispensaries and clinics for the proper medical care of the disabled and those living in the villages. The Khalifah, Al-Muqtadir Billah, ordered that every mobile unit should visit each village and remain there for some days before moving to the next.

From the above historical accounts, we see that when the Khulafaa’ properly implemented the rules of Allah (swt), then and only then did a society truly thrive and succeed. However, it is important to keep in mind that material advancement does not equate with true success – seeking the pleasure of Allah (swt). For the Khulafaa’ it was not about simply providing medical services, rather it was to fulfill the needs of the citizens entrusted to them for which they will be held accountable for.

Healthcare in the Khilafah

Healthcare is one of the services that the government must provide when the Khilafah is re-established Insha-Allah. Islam views healthcare as a basic need of every human being: Muslim or non-Muslim. The Prophet (saw) said:

“Each one of you is a shepherd. And each one of you will be asked about your flock. A ruler also is a shepherd and he will be asked about his flock…” [Bukhari & Muslim]

The Khalifah like a shepherd must attend to the affairs of those entrusted in his care. These affairs encompass the essential needs afforded to the citizens by Allah (swt).

The Prophet (saw) said:

"The Son of Adam has no better right than that he would have a house wherein he may live, a piece of clothing whereby he may hide his nakedness and a piece of bread and some water." [Tirmidhi]

These essential needs are afforded to each individual and if they cannot fulfill these needs and if their close relatives cannot fulfill them on their behalf, the obligation will fall upon the Khalifah as he has been entrusted with attending to the citizens’ affairs.

The Prophet (saw) also said:

“Whoever wakes up secure amongst his people, (physically) healthy, and has food for his day, it is as if the whole world had been gathered for him.” [Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah]

Health is a necessity for each human being. Since the Khalifah must take care of the essential affairs of its citizens, healthcare is a service that the state must deliver in the same way food, shelter and clothing is provided.

The Khalifah is obligated by Sha’r (Quran & Sunnah) to spend whatever is required from the wealth of the central treasury (Bait-ul-mal) of the Khilafah to provide an efficient public healthcare system that is sufficient for the needs of the people no matter what the cost.

Unlike current systems today which charge regressive taxes, the funding will originate from various sources allowed in the Shariah, including natural resources. The Prophet (saw) said:

“Muslims are partners (associates) in three things: in water, pastures and fire.” [Abu Dawud]

Natural resources, such as oil, are public goods for which the revenues can be used to fund the essential needs of society.

The Islamic system views the provision of healthcare to its citizens from a human perspective and not an economic aspect. This means that the leader of the Islamic State looks to provide adequate and good quality healthcare to the people, not for the sake of having a healthy workforce that can contribute to the economy but for the sake of fulfilling his duty of looking after the needs of the people in obedience to Allah (swt).

May Allah (swt) return the ‘Izza to the Muslim Ummah who longs for His justice under the banner of Laa 'ilaaha 'illallaah Muhammadan Rasoolallah.


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