Is Medical Treatment Between Opposite Genders Permissible?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick

Question 

I have been diagnosed with Varicose veins, and it requires me to show my nakedness (‘awra) to my doctor. I have refused to go ahead with it unless I made sure it was lawful. The specialist who deals with my condition is a male. For the examination, it would be tight clothing. Am I allowed to show my nakedness (‘awra) for medical purposes?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. Salutations and blessings on our Exemplar, the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). May Allah alleviate our difficulties and guide us to live lives that please Him. Amin.

According to the preponderant view in the Shafi’i school, medical treatment between opposite genders is only permitted in the absence of the same gender. A male may only treat a female if no female doctor is available and vice versa.

After that, if you still have a male doctor, exposing your nakedness to him within limits is permissible, and Allah knows best.

When opposite gender treatment takes place, the following conditions should be kept in mind:

  • preference should be given to a male doctor who is a mahram (unmarriageable),
  • females (doctor or patient) should be accompanied by a mahram or another trustworthy female, and
  • viewing and touching should be limited to necessity. [Shirbini, Mughni al-Muhtaj]

The 4th-century jurist, Ibn Al-Qas, held that treatment between opposite sexes would be permitted even when a same-gender doctor is available [Nawawi, Rawdat al-Talibin]. Though not the official view within the school, his position may be practiced. The conditions mentioned above must also be adhered to according to his position.

Doctors Treating Patients

Looking and touching are permissible for medicinal bloodletting, cupping, and medical treatment when there is a real need. [Keller, Reliance of the Traveler]

If the doctor is of the opposite sex, her husband or an unmarriageable male relative must be present.

Necessary treatment of her face or hands permits looking at either. As for other parts of the body, the criterion for permissibility is the severity of the need for treatment, meaning that there must be an ailment as severe as those permitting dry ablution. If the concerning part is the genitals, the need must be even more acute though it includes gynecological examinations for women with fertility problems (which are permissible). [ibid.]

I pray this is beneficial, that Allah guides you and accepts your repentance.

[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan. 

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.