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Report of Meeting on July 17th 2018

A talk by Rehanah Sadiq - Muslim chaplain in two Birmingham hospitals

We welcomed back Rehanah Sadiq, who came in 2014 and told us about her life story and her journey in the Muslim faith. This time she told us about her work as a Muslim chaplain in two Birmingham hospitals, the Queen Elizabeth and the Womens’ Hospital (now joined with the Children’s Hospital). She recounted how Muslim chaplaincy there had been pioneered by the Revd Stephen Barton, an Anglican chaplain, who also encouraged her to apply for the post – something she would not have thought of herself. She initially received training at the (Christian) College of Health Care chaplains’ course, and now teaches a comparable course herself at the Markfield Islamic foundation in Leicestershire. Despite the label of a ‘Muslim chaplain’ she regards herself as providing pastoral care to all members of the hospital, patients, medical and administrative staff, from cleaners to management. While giving specific care and advice to Muslim patients and staff she is therefore a ‘generic chaplain’ for others, offering a spiritual perspective to anyone ready to receive it. Often people are simply looking for someone they can talk to confidentially and are not bothered about what religious label they wear. Chaplains are continually referring people to each other.

Rehanah told us a number of stories about patients facing particular crises. One concerned the Christian wife of a Muslim husband who was in a coma and unlikely to live very long. She very much wanted the proper Muslim rituals to be observed for him, and was thrilled to see what she was sure was response from him when Rehanah recited the Ya Sin sura (36) from the Qur’an. Often she is asked about the Muslim attitude to organ donation, and will describe the different views of Muslim scholars, but always leave it to the family to make the necessary decision. She also recounted the case of Muslim parents facing the birth of a child who could not live more than a few hours, and the possibility of terminating the pregnancy to avoid that harrowing outcome. Having stated the various Muslim views of the situation she was asked the difficult question ‘Yes, but what would you do?’ She said that she could not put herself in their situation: ‘I am not you’, but offered the istikhara prayer, which asks God in a time of great uncertainty to correct or over-ride any wrong decision which is made in good faith.

We ended by assuring Rehanah of our prayers for her and her colleagues in their vital and demanding work.

Christopher Lamb

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