Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 269–280 | Cite as

Observations of Muslim Physicians Regarding the Influence of Religion on Health and Their Clinical Approach

  • Nada A. Al-Yousefi
Original Paper


Although most patients report wanting their physicians to address the religious aspects of their lives, most physicians do not initiate questions concerning religion with their patients. Although religion plays a major role in every aspect of the life of a Muslim, most of the data on the role of religion in health have been conducted in populations that are predominantly non-Muslim. The objectives of this study were to assess Muslim physicians’ beliefs and behaviours regarding religious discussions in clinical practice and to understand the factors that facilitate or impede discussion of religion in clinical settings. The study is based on a cross-sectional survey. Muslim physicians working in a tertiary care hospital in Saudi Arabia were invited to complete a questionnaire that included demographic data; intrinsic level of religiosity; beliefs about the impact of religion on health; and observations, attitudes, behaviours, and barriers to attending to patients’ religious needs. Out of 225 physicians, 91% agreed that religion had a positive influence on health, but 62.2% thought that religion could lead to the refusal of medically indicated therapy. Over half of the physicians queried never asked about religious issues. Family physicians were more likely to initiate religious discussions, and physicians with high intrinsic religiosity were more likely to share their own religious views. Residents and staff physicians tended to avoid such discussions. The study results highlight the fact that many physicians do not address patients’ religious issues and that there is a need to clarify ethically sound means by which to address such needs in Islamic countries. Medical institutions should work to improve the capacity of medical personnel to appropriately address religious issues. The training of clinical religious advisors is a promising solution to this dilemma.


Religion and medicine Muslim physician Religious services Faith healing Prayer 


  1. Abdel-Khalek, A. M. (2008). Religiosity, health, and well-being among Kuwaiti personnel. Psychological Reports, 102(1), 181–184.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adib, S. M. (2004). From the biomedical model to the Islamic alternative: A brief overview of medical practices in the contemporary Arab world. Social Science and Medicine, 58(4), 697–702.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allport, G., & Ross, J. (1967). Personal religious orientation and prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 5(4), 432–443.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Armbruster, C. A., Chibnall, J. T., & Legett, S. (2003). Pediatrician beliefs about spirituality and medicine: Associations with clinical practice. Pediatrics, 111(3), e227–e235.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Asman, O. (2008). Qur’anic healing for spiritual ailments: Between tradition, religious law and contemporary law. Medicine and Law, 27(2), 259–284.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Asser, S. M., & Swan, R. (1998). Child fatalities from religion-motivated medical neglect. Pediatrics, 101(4 Pt 1), 625–629.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brokaw, J. J., Tunnicliff, G., Raess, B. U., et al. (2002). The teaching of complementary and alternative medicine in US medical schools: A survey of course directors. Academic Medicine, 77(9), 876–881.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Curlin, F. A., Chin, M. H., Sellergren, S. A., et al. (2006). The association of physicians’ religious characteristics with their attitudes and self-reported behaviors regarding religion and spirituality in the clinical encounter. Medical Care, 44(5), 446–453.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Curlin, F. A., Lantos, J. D., Roach, C. J., et al. (2005). Religious characteristics of US physicians: A national survey. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 20(7), 629–634.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Curlin, F. A., & Moschovis, P. P. (2004). Is religious devotion relevant to the doctor-patient relationship? Journal of Family Practice, 53(8), 632–636.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Curlin, F. A., Sellergren, S. A., Lantos, J. D., et al. (2007). Physicians’ observations and interpretations of the influence of religion and spirituality on health. Archives of Internal Medicine, 167(7), 649–654.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ellis, M. R., Vinson, D. C., & Ewigman, B. (1999). Addressing spiritual concerns of patients: Family physicians’ attitudes and practices. Journal of Family Practice, 48(2), 105–109.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Hassan, R. U., Corkindale, C. J., & Sutherland, J. K. (2008). The reality of religious labels: A study of muslim religiosity. Australian Religion Studies Review, 21, 188–199.Google Scholar
  14. Hoge, D. R. (1972). A validated intrinsic religious motivation scale. Journal of Scientific Study of Religion, 11, 369–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Koenig, H. G. (2007). Physician’s role in addressing spiritual needs. Southern Medical Journal, 100(9), 932–933.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Koenig, H. G., Bearon, L. B., & Dayringer, R. (1989). Physician perspectives on the role of religion in the physician-older patient relationship. Journal of Family Practice, 28(4), 441–448.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Koenig, H. G., George, L. K., & Peterson, B. L. (1998). Religiosity and remission of depression in medically ill older patients. American Journal of Psychiatry, 155(4), 536–542.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Luckhaupt, S. E., Yi, M. S., Mueller, C. V., et al. (2005). Beliefs of primary care residents regarding spirituality and religion in clinical encounters with patients: A study at a midwestern US teaching institution. Academic Medicine, 80(6), 560–570.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. McCullough, M. E., Hoyt, W. T., Larson, D. B., et al. (2000). Religious involvement and mortality: A meta-analytic review. Health Psychology, 19(3), 211–222.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Momtaz, Y. A., Hamid, T. A., & Yahaya, N. (2009). The role of religiosity on relationship between chronic health problems and psychological well-being among Malay Muslim older persons. Research Journal of Medical Sciences, 3, 188–193.Google Scholar
  21. Monroe, M. H., Bynum, D., Susi, B., et al. (2003). Primary care physician preferences regarding spiritual behavior in medical practice. Archives of Internal Medicine, 163(22), 2751–2756.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Puchalski, C. M., & Larson, D. B. (1998). Developing curricula in spirituality and medicine. Academic Medicine, 73(9), 970–974.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Thoresen, C. E. (1999). Spirituality and health: Is there a relationship? Journal of Health Psychology, 4(3), 291–300.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Tiliouine, H., Cummins, R. A., & Davern, M. (2009). Islamic religiosity, subjective well-being and health. Mental Health Religion and Culture, 12(1), 55–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Family and Community MedicineCollege of Medicine, King Saud University (KSU)RiyadhSaudi Arabia

Personalised recommendations