Unfair Treatment of Women in the Muslim World

Woman and Islam

Islamic religion has its established guiding teachings and principles that ensure its followers submit totally to the will of Allah for all the adherents. In effect, Islamic religion recognizes the fact that people and things around them affect their survival irrespective of their age, community, families, and the nation. The quality of life of the Muslims invariably affects the existence of the Islamic nations and religion as a whole. Muslim women are highly vulnerable to various health problems due to the strict religious ideation of most of the conditions that affect them. Islamic women as most of the women from other contemporary communities face numerous health challenges, including reproductive health problems such as increased cases of maternal death, destitution, poor access to maternal health services, and social violation of their human rights. As such, the health challenges make it necessary for the adoption of policies that recognize their critical value in the society. In addition, it necessitates the need for the adoption of social-cultural values, beliefs, and practices that recognize sustainability of the health of the Muslim woman (Suad and Najmabadi 54).

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Structure of the research paper

This research paper analyzes different health issues that affect the health of the Islamic women from a religious perspective. In specific, the analysis focuses on the ways in which Islamic religious and cultural practices affect negatively the health of the Islamic woman. The essay also discusses the perception of the Muslims towards medication. The paper extends to analyze the various health issues affecting the Islamic woman and having a strong relationship with Islamic religion. The health issues analyzed include obesity and diabetes, vitamin D deficiency, and acts such as abortion and their influence on different Islamic doctrines. The analysis also provides ways in which people respond to these health challenges and religious solutions alongside the ways in which the U.S. health care system can be transformed to gather the needs of the Muslim standards to their expected level (Cortese and Calderini 67).

How Islamic religious and cultural practices affect negatively the female health

Religious and traditional practices reflect the values held by the members of the community for the duration that span generations. Muslims have specific religious and cultural practices that influence the health outcomes of the people in the society including the women. Harmful traditional practices of the Islamic religion that affect the health of the women negatively include female genital mutilation (FGM), early marriages, restriction from using reproductive health methods to control birth, and early pregnancies. The cultural values and beliefs affect their health outcomes in a variety of ways. It increases their risks of infections (FGM), maternal morbidity, maternal mortality, and lack of self-expression in the society. Similarly, the above stated cultural practices signify the violation of their human rights and freedom of speech, expression, and decision. The inequality caused by the unfair treatment of the Islamic women in the society increases their vulnerability to various health factors that affect their well-being (Weigl 65).

Islamic religious beliefs also influence the health of the Islamic women. Islamic religious holy days such as Id al-Fitr and Id al-Adha provide the Muslim women and the society opportunities to re-unite, promoting their mental well-being. Islamic religion recognizes that life begins 120 days of gestation. It prohibits abortion of the fetus after this period. However, the fact that it allows abortion before the above days puts the health of the Islamic women at risk. In addition, Islamic religion restricts the use of birth control methods by its women. The restriction makes them play a little role in making decisions related to their reproductive life; hence, their vulnerability to maternal mortality and morbidity. The Islamic religious belief that allows men to marry up to four wives also makes the health of the Islamic woman vulnerable. The belief places the women at risk of health problems such as sexually transmitted infections due to the polygamous nature of their families (Suad and Najmabadi 84).

What do Muslims think of Medication?

The Islamic religion is opposed to its followers using any drugs apart from those prescribed for medical purposes. For example, Prophet Muhammed said, “all intoxicant is Khamir (alcohol) and all Khamr are Haram (not permitted by the doctrines of the religion). In addition, Islamic religion recognizes that Muslim should seek medical attention since Allah did not let any disease exist without giving its cure. As such, it shows that the religion recognizes the importance of medication for treating health problems except in cases of diseases associated with old age (Piedmont and Village 102).

Health Issues

Obesity and diabetes

According to Islam, health is the greatest gift from God to humankind. Human beings should express the gratitude of giving them health by taking care of it. The religion also recognizes that God will hold the Muslims accountable for the ways in which they looked after and utilized their bodies. Obesity and diabetes are majorly lifestyle diseases. Islamic religion has no unique perception on the condition, but some consider as a violation of the God’s laws. For example, religious analysis shows that obesity and diabetes signify the violation of the Islamic doctrine “do not cast yourselves into destroying your bodies by your own hands (2:195)” (Siddiqi and Zuberi 24).

Obesity and diabetes have a significant effect on the health of the Muslim women. Islamic religion recognizes that human behaviors have consequences to their health as shown by obesity and diabetes. Significant evidence shows that the obesity alters the body image of the Islamic women affecting their mental well-being. However, wearing hijab has been shown to improve the confidence of the Islamic women towards their bodies (Cortese and Calderini 38). Women who wear hijab have a more positive image in situations where the society and the religion consider ideals of the body such as beauty and appearance. Similarly, wearing hijab has health implications, including obesity and diabetes. Empirical evidence shows that Muslim countries lead in the rates of obesity with women being the highly affected. Hijab discourages the performance of activities including practical and psychological exercises that contribute to their well-being (Booth et al. 119).

Conservative Muslim countries often ban their women from engaging in exercises that promote their well-being by reducing lifestyle related conditions. The burka also plays a role in contributing to constraining the Muslim women to a variety of exercises that affect their health and well-being negatively. Cultural restrictions against women activity compound to the risk factors that cause high rates of obesity and diabetes among the Muslim women. Islamic culture takes that physical activity of the Islamic women results in the loss of the hymen; hence, the loss of their purity. In addition, the cultural belief that a woman should not participate in any physical activity, in the presence of the men complexes the factors that predispose the women to obesity and diabetes among them. The decision to introduce the single-sex gym increases the risk by predisposing the Islamic women to psychological inactivity that contributes indirectly to the health challenges. Therefore, combining these religious and cultural factors make an Islamic woman more vulnerable to obesity and diabetes (Weigl, Constanze 65).

Vitamin D deficiency

The adherence to wearing hijab prevents Islamic women from acquiring adequate vitamin D Lack of an adequate supply of vitamin D results in various health effects that affect their life outcomes negatively. Among the health, the effects brought by inadequate production of Vitamin D include misshapen, weak, and brittle bones vulnerable to breakage, osteoporosis in old age, cardiovascular diseases, and type 1-diabetes. As such, these effects raise concerns on the health status of Islamic women who abide by this law alongside the health of the children born to a mother deficient of vitamin D (Booth et al. 26). If the children born to these mothers observe hijab in their childhood, the risk of them failing to reach the desired body height in their adulthood becomes high. Therefore, a significant proportion of the Muslim women face the challenge of vitamin D deficiency and its associated health complications. The health effects brought by wearing of the full hijab by Muslim women create significant implications to the Islamic religion. Many consider Islam as the perfect way of life for the human beings. However, if Allah mandated the Muslim women to observe hijab, he could not have come up with the creation that depends on sunlight for Vitamin D (Siddiqi and Zuberi 55).


Muslims have doctrines related to abortion that are based on opinions from Hadith, religious, and legal scholars. According to its doctrines, the fetus becomes a living being after 120 days of gestation. Abortion is considered impermissible after this period. However, some circumstances might make the prohibition inapplicable. For example, Hadith states “Apostle of Allah gave the judgment that a slave must be given Quisas in a case of abortion in cases of a woman from the tribe of the Bani Lihyan.” As such, the sentiment translates to the acceptance of abortion in unavoidable circumstances only. Extenuating circumstance and time are among the factors that influence permissibility of abortion in the Islamic religion (Piedmont and Village 87).

Islamic culture recognizes that the life of the pregnant woman precedes that of the fetus. As such, decisions regarding abortion, often take into consideration the life of the mother rather than of the fetus. Islamic culture and religion considers pregnancy out of rape legitimate. However, it can be terminated when less than four months old (gestation). Fetus identified to have any form of deformities can be aborted irrespective of the age of the fetus. The permissibility considers different factors like whether the deformity will hamper the parents to provide the required care to the baby alongside other suspected health effects including mental retardation. Therefore, the Islamic religion prohibits abortion and allows it under unique conditions like signifying its consideration of the health of the Muslim women (Joseph 39).

Ramadan and its health effect on the female

Ramadan has a significant effect on the health and health outcomes of the Muslim women. The duration of fasting during Ramadan and the health status of the woman, influence the severity of the effects. Significant evidence shows that fasting during Ramadan acts as a form of depriving the body its nutritional requirements. Fasting in pregnancy alters the consumption and behavior of the mother, a fact that creates a significant threat to the health of their children that might extend to their adulthood (Booth et al. 56). Muslim women subject themselves to a significant fasting that often compromises the health of the fetuses with the severity of the symptoms increased in pregnant mothers with advanced age. It is shown that a pregnant woman who fasts during the period of Ramadan may give birth to small babies with possible health and learning disabilities. In addition, fasting increases the risk of giving rise to a population considered less productive to meet the needs of the state. The effects also extend to lactating mothers who are affected by the reduction for daily dietary supplies (Atighetchi 101).

The duration of the fasting also has a significant effect on the health of the Muslim women. Long-term fasting has been shown to cause significant dehydration to the Muslim women. Restricted intake of fluids that results in the alteration of the normal fluid balance of the body predisposes them to dehydration and hem-concentration. The dehydration experienced by individuals varies significantly depending on the sex of an individual (Piedmont and Village 56). Significant evidence shows that women are the most affected by dehydration that often causes migraine headaches on the affected. Other effects caused by the prolonged duration of fasting during Ramadan among the Muslim women include tachycardia, circulatory collapse, nausea, and vomiting. The Severity of these symptoms might lead to depletion of the body fluids; hence, affecting negatively on the health of the Muslim women (Joseph 77).


Muslim women face the challenge of early marriage in their society. Marrying a young girl before her puberty is highly permissible in Islam as stated by Allah. Similarly, the Quran claims that a Muslim girl can be married when she reaches puberty. The permit to marry them at their tender ages is traceable in different excerpts of the Quran. For instance, Allah says, “and those women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them then? Iddah (prescribed period), if you doubt about the periods, is three months, and for those with not courses, they are immature? Iddah is three months likewise.” The sentiment shows that the Islamic religion considers suitable for girls to be married before and after their puberty (Aswad and Bilge? 98).

However, the earlier marriage permitted by the Islamic religion has significant negative impact on the health of the Muslim women and girls. The young girls often face the challenge of complications during pregnancy and delivery. The complications occur due to the inadequacy of their reproductive systems to allow the passage of the fetus. As such, they become victims of maternal morbidity and mortality associated with pregnancy, delivery and after delivery. Significant evidence shows that pregnant girls aged between 14 years to 20 years are two times at risk of developing birth complications as compared to those aged above 21 years (Suad and Najmabadi 16).

In addition, pregnant girls aged 15 are five times at risk of dying from birth complications as compared to those aged above 15. A majority of the mortalities and morbidities occur due to the immaturity of the pelvis and the birth canal. Teen pregnancy increases their risk of being affected by obstetric fistula during delivery due to the inadequacy of their pelvis. Occurrence of obstetric fistula often leaves them with complications such as fecal and/or urine incontinence that complicates into chronic pain, smell, and infection. Other health effects associated with early marriages to the Muslim women and girls include their high predisposition to marital violence, psychological trauma secondary to the experiences, and violation of their human rights (Agnew 24).

Dealing with the above health issues (religious interventions)

The issues facing the Muslim women are almost similar to those facing other women in most countries across the world. Muslim leaders should make the need for wearing hijab a personal decision made in good faith of woman’s understanding of the God’s commands. The religion should focus more on emphasizing on women’s dressing, but consider providing them with the freedom to decide on their resulting in empowerment. Islamic religious leaders should shift their focus from sex segregation to creating an environment that ensures equity in access to available resources in the society (Cosslett 32).

Religious bodies must also lobby for the modification of the Islamic laws to address the problems that face women in the current society. The law should have features such as the flexibility to ensure the recognition of the contribution of women to the well-being of the society. Similarly, restructuring of some of the marriage laws should be made to provide women with opportunities to make decisions on issues affecting their health and life outcomes. Islamic religious leaders should lobby for the prohibition of early marriages. This will reduce maternal mortality and morbidity alongside allowing their inclusion in social activities. Religious bodies must collaborate with other organizations when lobbying for the adoption of policies that foster equity in the Muslim societies (Booth et al. 56). Such actions include promoting the inclusion of Muslim women in activities like enhancing their physical and social activity. This will reduce the incidences of sexual segregation in the Muslim society. Other ways in which the Islamic religious leaders can respond to these challenges include educating the society on the negative effects of the Hijab despite its religious significance and prohibiting the participation of the pregnant women in fasting during Ramadan (Cortese and Calderini 45).

Treatment facilities and changes needed for proper care

Growing number of Muslim population in the U.S.

Cultural competence is among the changes required to provide the Muslim population with the required care. Health care providers in the U.S. should adopt specific congruent behaviors, policies, and attitudes that will enable them to work efficiently in presented cross-cultural situations. The U.S. treatment facilities need to invest their resources in providing training for the healthcare providers to improve their attitude, knowledge, and skills. Such practices will significantly improve the quality of health care provided to the Muslim population by reducing and eliminating ethnic, religious, and racial disparities in health care provision. Alternatively, Muslim religious leaders such as the Imams should be incorporated into the provision of health care in the U.S. Incorporating them will ensure bridging of the existing gaps in the provision of healthcare to patients from different religious backgrounds (Aswad and Bilge? 89).

Problem of U.S. health care for Muslims in the U.S.

Muslims face significant challenges when accessing healthcare services in the U.S. Increasing the number of Muslim healthcare providers can help solve the challenges facing the Muslims in the U.S. Prioritizing equity in the provision of health care can also help reduce the challenges Muslims face when accessing health care services in the U.S. (Piedmont and Village 45). Prioritizing enables the health care providers to identify the occasions considered critical for the need for quality care by the Muslim population e.g. during Ramadan. Gender concordance care and ensuring collaboration will also help reduce the challenges faced by the Muslims in the U.S. while accessing health care services. Increasing interaction between the healthcare providers and the Muslim patients also prove effective in eliminating the challenges (Atighetchi 41).

How to change the U.S. health care system to meet properly Muslim standards

Some of changes to be adopted to meet completely the health care needs of the Muslims in the U.S. are enhancing cultural competencies among the health care providers. Cultural competencies will equip them with the necessary skills, values, and attitudes required for effective provision of the required health care. The U.S. health care system should ensure equity in the health care providers from all the religions to allow for the recognition of the varied needs of the patients. Health care policies should be strengthened to reduce the incidence of disparities in health care provision due to religious differences. Above all, collaboration will significantly reduce the disparities facing the minorities in the U.S. (Agnew 29).


In summary, the Muslim women face numerous health challenges that affect their life outcomes. Majority of the health problems have cultural, social, and religious roots that make their eradication a complex process. Among the challenges facing them, include social isolation, violence, violation of the rights, and inadequate access to resources including health care services. The increasing cases of problems facing the Muslim women in the recent past necessitate the adoption of strategies that improve their health outcomes. Therefore, it is highly recommendable that Muslim religious leaders adopt collaborative strategies and policies that aim at reducing the challenges that face the Muslim women in the society; hence, social justice.

Works cited

Agnew, Vijay. Racialized Migrant Women in Canada: Essays on Health, Violence, and Equity. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009. Print

Aswad, Barbara C, and Bilge? Barbara. Family and Gender among American Muslims: Issues Facing Middle Eastern Immigrants and Their Descendants. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996. Print

Atighetchi, Dariusch. Islamic Bioethics: Problems and Perspectives. New York? Springer, 2007. Internet resource.

Cortese, Delia, and Calderini Simonetta. Women and the Fatimids in the World of Islam. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 2006. Print.

Cosslett, Tess, Alison Easton, and Penny Summerfield. Women, Power, and Resistance: An Introduction to Women’s Studies. Buckingham [England: Open University Press, 1996. Print.

Booth Joseph, Marilyn, Davary Bahar, Gualtieri Sarah M.A., and Elora Shehabuddin. Women and Islamic Cultures: Disciplinary Paradigms and Approaches, 2003-2013., 2013. Print.

Suad, Joseph, and Najmabadi Afsaneh. Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures: Vol. 3. Leiden: Brill, 2006. Print.

Piedmont, Ralph L, and Village Andrew. Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion: Volume 20. Leiden, NL: Brill, 2009. Print.

Siddiqi, Zakia A., and Zuberi Anwar Jahan. Muslim Women: Problems and Prospects. New Delhi: MD Publications, 1993.

Weigl, Constanze. Reproductive Health Behavior and Decision-Making of Muslim Women: An Ethnographic Study in a Low-Income Community in Urban North India. Berlin: Lit, 2010. Print

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