Working as a carer for male patients


 What do the scholars and experts of shariah say regarding my situation? I am a Muslim woman who works in care profession. I have been told by my employer to care for male patients. I don’t feel comfortable with that. What do the scholars of Shariah say about my case?

Abida Haider Nottingham


A Care Assistant/ care worker provides help and support to one or more clients, either in a care home or in their own home. They do an amazing work making better the lives of elderly, disabled, and chronically sick people, they provide:

  1. Personal Care – washing & dressing
  2. Companionship – being a friendly face
  3. Domestic Care –laundry, cleaning & tidying

The care offered by carers is a noble job. Sometimes it involves doing tasks that a female carer would not be comfortable with. In principle, a female carer is allowed to work with the mentally ill man or an elderly disabled man. The basic principle concerning the ‘awrah’ (the private parts that must always be covered) of the disabled clients is that it is not allowed to be looked at or touched. There should be a screen and gloves must be worn.  It is permissible to clean, and bath them while keeping the ‘awrah covered from behind a barrier like a cloth. The reward of such work is immense, “Allah does not waste the reward of the righteous”. (Al-Tawbah:120)

The mentally disabled and elderly men who have no lust for women are included in the category, “those male attendants who lack lustful desires”.  (Al-Nur: 31)[i] The woman carer can attend all their needs, as she would for her mahram (close relatives whom she may not marry). In this case she can expose her hair, face, forearms, and feet. “The majority of jurists say that the men who have no desire for women are like the mahram, they can look at their hair or exposed forearms. In your work, if you need to look or touch the ‘awrah’, then it is permissible. This is a necessity, like a doctor who sometimes must look at or touch the ‘awrah of a patient to make diagnosis.  The jurists agree, “looking at the ‘awrah’ of another person is not allowed … except for the married couple, the doctor and the carer who assists a client to do ablution, washing private parts after toilet. Similarly, the midwife is permitted to look at the ‘awrah’ of pregnant women.”  This is based on the Juristic principle “for the purpose of treatment or care, what is necessary, even the forbidden becomes permissible”. (Al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah:14/19)

The general principle of segregation of men and women in Shariah

Some people may object to this fatwa based on Prophetic order, “He who believes in Allah and the life-hereafter should not be alone with a strange woman unless her mahram is present, when they are alone the third will be the Satan.”This is the general Islamic rule about a man and woman that they must not meet in seclusion without a chaperone-type guardian (mahram). However, even here there are exceptions, when there is large group, or the door remains open so that those outside the room can hear and see.

Sahih Bukhari has a chapter, ‘Women can go to visit men when they are ill’. Aisha (RA) said: When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ migrated to Medina, Abu Bakr and Bilal fell ill with a fever. So, I visited them, and asked, dear father, how are you? I asked Bilal, how he was.” Here Aisha the mother of believers visited her father and Bilal happened to be there, that’s permissible because Abu Bakr was Aisha’s father. In the Prophet’s time women would nurse the wounded in the battle. The difference is that this was in open, public view and an emergency. Something that did not compromise women’s modesty, nor was there any danger of closeness.

Ultimately, whether a Muslim woman can care for male patients is a matter of applying these general Islamic principles in the context of British healthcare, and it should be done with a strong commitment to professionalism and adherence to Islamic ethics. The British employment law also allows the men/women to decline to work with clients of opposite gender.

We recommend the employers, create working environment where women look after women, and men carers look after men.  This gender segregation would solve lot of issues for the carers.

Allah ﷻ knows best.

May Allah ﷻ give you success.

This fatwa was written by Dr Musharraf Hussain Al-Azhari OBE, DL, D.Univ

[i] “Tell the believing women, they should lower their gaze, protect their chastity and not expose their beauty except what is visible, and their head covers should be stretched over their breasts. They should only display beauty to their husbands, fathers, father-in-law, their sons, husband’s sons, brothers, nephews, nieces, women, maids, elderly, male attendants who lack lustful desires, and children who are naive of women’s nakedness”. (Al-Nur:31)

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